Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Battlestar Galactica: "Scattered" - Yay! The first episode of season 2! No quick fixes in this episode. I wasn't sure about the flashbacks... when we watched the deleted scenes the flashbacks made MUCH more sense.
  • Smallville: "Bulletproof" - Clark gets into uniform! This one actually has a bit of a moral depth to it. Just a bit.
  • Numb3rs: "Trouble In Chinatown" - If he was really a psychic, he would have seen it coming. And Don is becoming Fortean. I like how Larry clears up the custom that was perverted at the end of the episode.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Restless Souls of Sweden" - Nice location for the first hunt, not in the middle of a city like the last few. Good stories, too. The second place... 650-year-old hair! I like the debunking in this one. Well done.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Journey to the Center of the Bat!" - I'm still not loving this version of Aquaman. His superego is annoying to watch. But every once in awhile he breaks through with a moment that I can see my Aquaman in there. So I don't hate him. Just find him mildly annoying.
  • Primeval: "Episode 12" - Familiar name writing it... and wow, lots happen in this one. And fantastic cliffhanger as well. I wanna see next week's episode now! (I suppose I could download it, but where's the fun in that?)
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Valley of Darkness" - Keeping up the intensity. I'm constantly surprised by the pace of this show. It's exhausting to watch at times. Again, watching the deleted scenes on the DVD made the episode make more sense.

Comics this week:
  • Green Lantern Corps #32 - Have I mentioned that I'm getting really bored with the GL saga? The only saving grace of this issue is that Soranik appears in it. Unfortunately, it looks like she's destined to hook up with Kyle, so she's headed for a refrigerator. Boo.
  • Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy - Hubby-Eric likes his original GL, so we got this book, since good ol' Grundy is a GL villain. I don't have much to say about the book. Except that I keep thinking "Solomon Grundy want pants too!"
  • Captain Britain and MI13 #9 - Do these guys really know what sort of artifacts they are playing with? I get the uneasy feeling that this team is riding on the edge, and I like that feeling with a comic book.
  • Supergirl #2 - Um. Right. Ok. Mildly amusing.
  • Super Friends #11 - Love the cover. Love the guest appearances. Heh. Jellyfish riding bicycles. Heh.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #2 - This is following closely the book and I love how they've played up the very real concerns of Dorothy as she travels on the road (like food!). Love it.
  • Doctor Who Classic Series 2 #2 - I've only read the stories in this one maybe once before, so we're getting near the stuff that's new to me. I recall the final one in this issue having an unhappy ending though.
  • DMZ #38 - I really like Wilson. He's got good style. The dude that turns up at the end is bad news for Matty, though. Brian Wood is really putting his character through the grinder here.

And I just want to point out that after finishing these issues, I looked for the next pile of comic books I had to read and discovered that I'd actually caught up on my reading! That's right. Almost the first time since I went to mail order that I'm actually caught up on my comic books. And no more coming until Tuesday. Wow.

This week's movie was Brother Bear. I went into this expecting a typical talking animal movie, so I was a bit surprised when the movie started out as a prehistoric story featuring humans more in the style of Mulan than Jungle Book. However, the movie does turn into a typical talking animal movie, and my interest dropped a little at that point. It wasn't bad, just predictable. Right up until the end. Which wasn't quite as predictable. Until the very end. Which was entirely too Disney for my tastes. So... certainly not a bad movie. Just not a great one.

My library book this week was The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau. This is the third book in the Book of Ember series, and is a prequel to the previous two books. A very-pre-prequel, set generations before the other books, and a good 50 years before the disasters that caused the City of Ember to be populated. It's a fairly standard children's novel, with strong lead characters who work to solve problems and understand the world around them. It's not hard for me to imagine that last week's novel, The Road, was what happened between this book and City of Ember (although The Road allows for no hope for the future). Not the best book, but not a waste of time. I still want to read the fourth book in the series, so that must be a good sign, right?

Agatha Christie this week was Black Coffee from 1934. This was originally a play, and adapted into novel form by Charles Osborne in 1997. You can tell it's not Agatha writing, but he makes a good effort trying to ape her style. The result is an almost satisfactory Poirot novel. The mystery is all Agatha, but the words aren't quite right. I wouldn't be inclined to recommend it as a taste of Poirot, but it isn't a bad book. It's just not Agatha Christie's writing.

Fortean Times #245, March 2009. The cover story is the tale of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, which is a creepy mystery that I'd read about before (probably in FT). To sum up the story: in 1959 a group of experienced skiers went on a trip up into the Ural Mountains in Russia. When they didn't return, a search was conducted. All nine skiers were found, but in such odd circumstances that no one has been able to totally explain what must have happened to them. The best theory is that an avalanche frightened them from their tent (it was cut open from inside), and they wandered in the freezing temperatures and died there. But four of the bodies were found far away from the tent, with injuries that suggested they couldn't have gotten there on their own *if* they had been injured in an initial avalanche. Perhaps there were multiple avalanches, or something else scared them from the tent first. Add in that high levels of radiation were found on the bodies, and the theories multiply like flies. I tend to believe the causes were completely natural, not supernatural, but it's still a compelling mystery.

Also in this issue... more on Hemingway's cats, and fungi that produce biofuels. The Second Life marriage that failed when the husband was caught cheating (in the game) and a man who wants to marry cartoon characters. A short article on Eugenics discusses the danger of declaring any one trait superior to another in humans. There's an excellent article on a "garden shed forgers" who fooled lots of experts in the art world. Another article talks about sleepwalkers, and superstitions attached to them in the past (I had a sleepwalking roommate in college, and one of my brothers slept-walked out the front door one night, so I found this one to be funny). There is a great article of a man tracking down reports of a feather from the wing of the Archangel Gabriel said to be held as a relic at a monastery; the article demonstrates the process of research beautifully, in my opinion (and no, he didn't find any actual angel feathers, but he found more references to them along with hints of what they actually were). An article on ghosts discusses the many types of hauntings, including ghost cats that have to learn to be three-dimensional. Lots of good reviews, including one of Hellboy II that was far superior to my own weak attempt at reviewing. The Simulacra Corner in this issue is particularly good. All-in-all, another solid issue of this magazine.

A Farewell
And here's a special re-review of a book that I just can't get enough of: The Arrival by Shaun Tan. I checked this book out of the library some time ago and enjoyed it enough that when an opportunity came to get my own copy, I jumped at it. This is a book meant to be read, then reread, and savored (then read again and again at any opportunity). Every page has something on it worth studying or just plain thinking about. Every image contributes to the whole.

And the people! There are no words in this book (at least, none that you and I can read) but the people shine through with a clarity that many novels cannot match. You feel for these people. You feel for the girl caught reading, who escapes her fate to the new land. You feel for the couple who run from the giants. You feel for the man who marched off to war and returned home to nothing. But most of all you feel for the main character, who is away from his wife and daughter in a strange land where he doesn't speak the language and can barely get by. You feel for his confusion at the strange objects and foods. You feel for his search for a job that he can do. You feel for his fear at things that seem partly recognizable (including one moment where the horrors of home seem to return). And you feel for him when he writes to his family.

This book is about new beginnings and hope. It's about people coming together for a greater good. It's about helping each other. And by the end of my reread, I had tears in my eyes, because this book is about humanity and somehow manages to catch the best of it.

This is a book that I would not hesitate to give to a child. They may not understand it, but the images are so strong and beautiful, and the final page so clear, that I think kids would love it. If I had the money, every one of my nieces and nephews would have a copy (regardless of age). You may not love this book as much as I do, but in case you might, go out and find a copy and read it. Library, store, borrow it from an intelligent friend, whatever. Just sit down and linger on this one. It's worth your time.