That’s it. I’m done. Tap me the hell out. Pack my bags and send me home. The season 7 premiere was an hour of sadism, misery, and over the top violence stitched together by padding and shouting. I don’t care what happens next, where Carol and Morgan are, or even how that damn tiger from the commercials will come into play. I. Don’t. Care. There are better ways to spend Sunday night.
And we’re back with the second edition of the Fall 2016 “Don’t Touch That Dial.” In this very special episode we’re looking at DC on TV, specifically Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. None of these series are new this fall, but all have had major overhauls since their first season, so let’s see what’s working, what’s not, and where we go from here.
Mild spoilers for previous seasons.
Welcome to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. All four shows here are new this season and while they vary in subject and tone, all fill that SFF niche we call home. In this edition we’re looking at shows where the dead commune with the living (Frequency), the dead commune with each other (The Good Place), demons commune with priests (The Exorcist), and a history professor communes with famous historical figures (Timeless).
In this new translation of Mariko Koike’s famous 1986 horror novel The Graveyard Apartment, the Kano family’s darkest secrets come back to haunt them. When they move into their brand new apartment, the young family thinks they hit the jackpot. The unit is spacious and underpriced, sitting at the top of a newly constructed building in an soon-to-be-gentrified neighborhood in Tokyo. Teppei loves the convenience of the building to the train he takes to the advertising agency he works at, Misao enjoys the feeling of a fresh start, and little Tamao finally has other kids to play with. Even their mutt Cookie likes having plenty of room to roam. The only member of the family who doesn’t get the chance to settle in is poor little Pyoko, their java finch who dies mysteriously the first night they move in. Misao thinks nothing of it until Tamao tells her Pyoko is visiting her at night and warning her about the evil in the building.
In fact, the only bad thing about the building is its location, framed on three sides by a graveyard, Buddhist temple, and crematorium. As the Kanos move in, other occupants begin moving out, having had enough of the spooky malevolence permeating the atmosphere. Sinister coincidences and terrifying experiences pile up as the Kano family descends further into madness and fear. There’s something in the basement, something that wants out, and the Kanos are unlucky enough to be in its way.
Here’s the thing about Lila Bowen’s Conspiracy of Ravens, the second book in her YA western fantasy Shadow series: it’s frakking great. You can stop reading right now. Go to your local library or independent bookstore, pick up a copy, devour it whole hog, and thank me later. But if, for whatever reason, you need more convincing, hopefully what follows will do the job.
Some spoilers ahead for Wake of Vultures, book 1 in the series.
Into every generation a slay— wait, let’s try that again. Into every generation triplet queens are born. Each sister specializes in one of three magics: Mirabelle is a fiery elemental with the ability to command earth, wind, fire, and water; Arsinoe a naturalist who communes with plants and animals; and Katharine a cunning poisoner able to consume toxins as if they were sugar pills. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. Instead, Mirabelle is the one with all the power and her younger sisters more or less giftless.
For decades, the poisoner faction has defeated the naturalists and elementals and retained control of the throne, yet with the backing the Temple of the Goddess and her priestesses, this year the elemental is the favored champion. No one thinks Arsinoe, the plain country mouse of the trio, even stands a chance. Nevertheless, all three will square off at Beltane on their sixteenth birthday. Three queens enter, only one will survive. Years of training in their arts has brought them to this moment, yet none of them are prepared for the chaos that ensues. Hearts are broken, loyalties tested, schemes foiled, and friendships betrayed. The queens must decide if they want to play by the rules and murder the only family they have left or take matters into their own hands and defy the Goddess and their kingdom.
It may only be September, but the Halloween season has already begun for me. The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack has moved up in rotation and the stack of horror movies is piling up on my DVD player. Afterlife with Archie has been out since 2013—counting a few breaks—and yet for some inexplicable reason, especially given my vocal and undying love of the Archie and Jughead reboots, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until recently. Now I wish I’d been reading it all along, but at least I got in when I did. Pop culture is oversaturated with zombies as of late and where most new content comes preloaded with diminished returns, Afterlife with Archie soars with refreshing originality.
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Delilah S. Dawson—aka Lila Bowen, aka Ava Lovelace—but it’s a damn shame if you haven’t. I first encountered her a little over two years ago when she did a guest blog for John Scalzi’s “The Big Idea” series for her then new book Servants of the Storm. She wrote about how writing a character like Dovey, one strong enough to stand up for herself and refuse to accept violence, manipulation, and abuse, was a means of catharsis for the terrible things that happened to Dawson at a young woman. Not only did the book sound like exactly the kind of fantasy story I’d always wanted, but Dawson herself was the kind of author, kind of woman I knew I needed to get to know better. Within days I’d followed her on Twitter and consumed Servants of the Storm and added everything else she’d written to my To Read pile.
Outside producing some of the best underappreciated books of the last few years, she also teaches writing classes and workshops, blogs thoughtfully about the craft of writing, and speaks out on topics like grief, depression, and sexual assault. Her stories are all over the subgenre map in the best way possible while remaining solidly in the realm of SFF. Dawson writes with bite, passion, and all the intensity of a geek bubbling with excitement over some obscure piece of fandom. She inspires me to be a better writer and to tell my own stories without worrying about what publishers or booksellers might scoff at.
And we’re back with my semi-annual television schedule of what’s new, what’s old, and what’s best forgotten. The 2015-2016 season had quite a few new and returning geek and geek-adjacent shows on the docket, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) a lot of them didn’t make it through the summer. With Castle, Galavant, and Person of Interest KIA and The Muppets, Containment, Minority Report, and Limitless DOA, there’s plenty of room for the 2016-2017 freshman group.
So what looks good to you?
I absolutely adore this trend in comics of showing superheroes off duty and dealing with day-to-day issues, where it’s less about physical prowess and more about the ramifications of using their abilities. It’s more interesting to me to see the powerful confront their powers and the effect their powers have on the powerless. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye is hard to beat, but Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s The Vision comes close. This isn’t a story about Vision kicking ass and taking names but a smaller scale tale of ethics versus morality, family versus friends, interlopers versus denizens.
Ok, so there’s this guy and he’s dead, killed by a horde of ants. And not just any ants, no, these ones have been Frankensteined together into a devilish hybrid, one that swarms its victim, stings it into paralysis, then cuts off pieces of skin while the victim is still alive. Agent Hollis Copper, last seen recovering from the events in Zer0es, is tasked with sorting out the who, when, where, and why. He brings in Hannah Stander, a futurist consultant for the FBI with a penchant for anxiety attacks and a doomsday mindset. Hannah was raised to fear the future by her apocalypse prepper parents, but now instead of preparing to weather the end of times she aims to defend against it.
Hannah leaves the study of the little formicidae monsters to her BFF, entomologist Dr. Ez Choi, who discovers a connection to Arca Labs, a company owned by billionaire Einar Geirsson. This sends Hannah off to Arca’s secret biotech lab off the coast of Hawai’i. Nothing is what it seems at the lab, and the more holes Hannah pokes in the scientists’ stories the more terrors crawl out. It’s up to Hannah to save the world, but first she has to survive the island.
I never would’ve expected a movie like Pete’s Dragon to be so divisive in reviews, but here we are with many critics lavishing it with praise and a few grumpy stalwarts like me far less impressed. While there was plenty of enticing adventure, beautiful cinematography, and winks to the original to keep even the most uninvested viewer interested, the combination of underdeveloped characters, fizzled out action sequences, and not enough story to span a nearly two hour running time left me unimpressed.
In a few days time, Disney is releasing a remake of the 1977 movie Pete’s Dragon. While it’s a stretch to call the original film a classic, it’s definitely endearing in its own clunky, inoffensive, cheerful way. I’ll be reviewing the remake, but before I line up to have my childhood plundered I wanted one last look at one of my all-time favorite movies.
One afternoon Ben wanders off to take a hike in the woods, a decision he quickly regrets. A spontaneous turn down the wrong trail draws him away from the seedy hotel his company put him up in on his business trip, away from the picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, away from everyone he’s ever known or loved. What was supposed to be a leisurely loop becomes a harrowing journey through the darkest recesses of his psyche. As he is pulled deeper into the nightmarish, two-mooned alternate dimension where physics are merely a suggestion, men with the skinned faces of Rottweilers stitched over their own hunt him down, a giant woman threatens to turn him into stew, and monsters enslave him until he’s little more than callouses and sinew.
In his new book The Hike, Drew Magary tells the story of how Ben is ripped from his suburban Maryland family and forced onto a path he cannot veer off of nor escape. The past, present, and future fold together until time has no meaning. It’s all Ben can do to keep his sanity intact as he recreates and rectifies his worst memories and personal demons. Along the way he befriends a snarky Crab who dispenses words of wisdom and a hopeful 15th century Spanish sailor with dreams of glory and honor. Sinister cohorts of the Producer, the man who set this whole play in motion, attack, derail, and imprison him while taunting him with all-too-brief moments of joy and respite. The Producer has grand plans for Ben and Ben better pray he survives long enough to confront the manipulative bastard.
If you looked up “uneven” in the dictionary, Preacher would be one of the first entries, right next to The Walking Dead. Developments that feel organic to one viewer come off as forced plot necessities to another. Where one character moment may seem powerful and heartbreaking, someone else only sees a sudden out of character shift lacking prior groundwork. Sure, there’s a lot of great work coming out of the writers’ room, but there’s also an increasing number of troublesome issues bogging down the story. No one seems to have figured out what sort of show Preacher is supposed to be, to the detriment of the characters, narrative, and series arc.
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