Category: television

2022 Media Review

2022 is come and gone now, and I wanted to take some time as I usually do to go over the best (and worst) of what I read and watched. All told, I made my goal of 52 books for the year. I watched 27 television shows in their entirety, and I watched 103 movies. I gave books an average rating of 7.74 and movies and television an average of 7.59, indicating I generally stop reading things I don’t like more than I stop watching stuff I don’t like. Those averages are honestly a bit on the high side, though at the same time, I generally only watch and read things that look like they’ll appeal to me, so maybe that makes a bit more sense.

With that stated, here are the highlights:

Books

I gave 6 books a perfect 10/10:

  • Eye of the World: I know The Wheel of Time isn’t for everyone, but it is very much for me. I’ve reread this book more times than I can remember, and I still love it. I still remember seeing it for the first time on the library shelf, and how hooked I was as I started reading it. I waited for this series to be finished for years and years. So happy it ended well.
  • The Gathering Storm: Brandon’s first Wheel of Time book was such a breath of fresh air. He managed to do what seemed impossible: seamlessly edge his way into a long standing series successfully. And for a series that had seemed for a long time to be wandering somewhat, he gave a real sense that this was going to have an end, and it was going to be a good one.
  • Memory of Light: The final book of Wheel of Time. Absolutely fantastic. Big pay offs left and right for fans of the series, and a conclusion that felt right.
  • The Princess Bride: Another reread, this time with Daniela. The book is fantastic. Right up my alley.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: My second time through this one as well, meaning up until October, I hadn’t had a single new 10/10. Still, this is a lovely book. So well written, with such vivid characters. My friend Sue pointed me toward it back in college, and it still is wonderful.
  • Lonesome Dove: The last book I read last year was a real doozy. Talk about a tour de force. I don’t care if you don’t like westerns, if you like literature, I have a hard time thinking you wouldn’t like this book. Great plot. Great characters. Great prose. Well worth your time.

I only gave one book a 9.5/10. Lord of Chaos, another Wheel of Time book. Go figure.

I gave 6 books a 9/10

  • Fires of Heaven: Wheel of Time strikes again. It was a fun way to start the year off, let’s just say.
  • Harriet the Spy: Finally got around to reading this one, and it was such a pleasant surprise. I knew nothing about it going in. I just assumed it would be about a young girl who’s a spy. I was wrong. 🙂
  • Fifteen Lives of Henry August: This was a great surprise. A fantastic premise, and well-executed.
  • The Godfather: It’s clear why it had such an influence on movies. Not a complicated read, but very visceral.
  • Gwendy’s Button Box: Really more of a novella, but I still counted it. I’m always a sucker for Stephen King.
  • Slade House: A very fun, creepy book. This was a fast read for me. I read it in a day.

What were the worst books I read? I usually hold back from naming them, but I’ll actually go public with one this time. Crossroads of Twilight got a 4/10 from me, despite being a Wheel of Time book. It seemed like an experiment to me: could Robert Jordan write a whole book that only tracks a few days in the lives of his characters? Yes, he could. No, it wasn’t interesting. It felt like a one-off TV episode. Blarg. Other than that, I gave two books a 5/10. One was the third book of a series that started off great, by an author I really enjoy, but it just couldn’t sustain itself. The other was a classic science fiction novel that I had a very hard time connecting with.

TV Seasons

Only two shows got a perfect score from me this year. Both fantastic.

  • The U.S. and the Holocaust: There are few TV shows that I would recommend to watch just to become a better person. This is one.
  • The English: Fantastic. Beautiful and brutal to watch. So well acted. I loved the whole thing.

I gave no seasons a 9.5/10.

I gave 7 seasons a 9/10:

  • Gilded Age 1: Historical drama in time period that’s often overlooked, and just so happened to be in a time period close to one I’ve researched for writing. Very well done. American Downton Abbey, though more adult.
  • Peacemaker 1: Over the top ridiculous. I watched it while I had COVID, and it made COVID that much more bearable. Definitely not for everyone, but I thought it was very funny. The opening sequence each episode was perfect.
  • Severance 1: Great premise, lots of great mysteries, and a fair number of them explained in the first season instead of being kicked off for later seasons. I’m looking forward to the next season.
  • Stranger Things 4: Did just what I wanted it to. I love this show.
  • House of the Dragon 1: Does a great job extending the Game of Thrones universe while dialing way down on the fantasy elements.
  • The Devil’s Hour 1: Intricately plotted, with a premise that only makes more sense the more you find out about it. Very worthwhile.
  • Wednesday 1: I just blogged about this.

Movies

Five movies got a perfect score. Only one of them was a first time watch.

  • Return of the King: Still a fantastic movie. The end.
  • Groundhog Day: Yes, this will appear on my list every year. Kind of appropriate, and self-explanatory.
  • Shawshank Redemption: Again, I don’t feel like this needs an explanation.
  • Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes: I watched it twice within a week. The second time wasn’t as amazing as the first, but I was still wowed by how they pulled off an entire plot around the ability to see two minutes into the future.
  • Back to the Future: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is a perfect movie. Perfect cast. Perfect plot. Perfect soundtrack. Chef’s kiss.

I gave 2 movies a 9.5/10:

  • Encanto: Delightful, and the soundtrack only got better with time.
  • West Side Story: Spielberg’s new version was amazing. Different than the original, but in a very good way. It felt less like a musical, and more like a movie, if that makes sense.

I gave 17 movies a 9/10:

  • The Two Towers: No explanation needed.
  • The Party: This Peter Sellers movie is hilarious, but I have a hard time recommending it to people, because he does brownface the whole time, playing the role of an Indian for comedic effect. I would argue that he uses it to show a person who feels completely out of place, but it could have been done without the ethnicity change, and that’s disappointing.
  • Free Guy: This had no right being as good as it was. It felt like it should have been a throw away video game movie, but it ended up being smart and tons of fun.
  • Turning Red: A fun movie that got more people upset than I would expect, showing people will get upset about lots of things that are surprising these days. (I’m probably included in that statement, though this movie did not upset me.)
  • Moneyball: Fun look at baseball, statistics, and human nature.
  • The Breakfast Club: Not perfect, but still a great slice of life of high school, and still relevant today, even if there are pieces of it that haven’t aged well.
  • Joe vs. the Volcano: My personal favorite Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan pairing.
  • RRR: Jaw dropping action scenes. Musical numbers. Crazy plot. This one was a real experience.
  • Fitzwilly: Dick Van Dyke as a thieving butler trying to make enough money to fund his boss’s charitable work? How can you not watch this?
  • A Beautiful Mind: Yup. Still great.
  • The Wedding Singer: It’s not highbrow cinema, but it’s still fun.
  • The Map of Tiny Perfect Things: Time loop romantic-comedy? How can it go wrong with me?
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: I think this one suffered from being too hyped up before I watched it. I still really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t left amazed. But definitely should be watched.
  • Shop Around the Corner: Classic.
  • Dunkirk: I liked it more the second time than I did the first, when the timey-wimey didn’t completely make sense to me.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy: I love the Coen Bros. This is an oft-forgotten gem.
  • Glass Onion: People keep comparing it to Knives Out, saying it’s worse. I really enjoyed it, and I liked it even more once I realized that the entire answer to the mystery really had been on screen the whole time. No sneaky cuts to not show things. If you’d been paying attention all along, there was no mystery at all.

How about the worst things I watched?

  • On Stranger Tides got a 5/10. It was a Pirate’s movie too far.
  • Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows also got a 5/10. A Sherlock movie too far.
  • Wayne’s World got a 5/10. Not nearly as good as I remembered
  • Christmas Story Christmas was another 5/10. Should have been better. Wasn’t.
  • The King’s Man got a 4/10. Unnecessary and stupid prequel to an action series, though it had a few good sequences.
  • Mortal Kombat (the new one) was another 4/10. Just plain stupid, even if it had some good effects.
  • Obi Wan Kenobi 1 got a 4/10. It was the chosen one. It was said that it would destroy the doubters, not encourage them. Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness. Lies. All lies.
  • Alone 8 was a 4/10. I’ve never seen the struggle to survive seem so boring.
  • The Eagle got a 3/10. Historical action movie about Roman soldiers. Avoid.
  • The live action Pinocchio got a 3/10. Waste of time.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven got a 1/10. Awful awful awful, and worse because they kept trying to insist it was an accurate portrayal of what happened.

All told, it was a good year. I like looking back and seeing the highlights like this. Anything stand out to you (good or bad) from what you read or watched last year?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: Wednesday

It’s been a bit since I finished watching the first season of Wednesday, but I’m just catching up with a lot of things now that we’re in the new year, and this show was good enough that I wanted to be sure to point it out to people, even if it seems to me like everyone and their brother has already heard about it. (Often things I take for granted end up being very wrong. You can feel like everyone’s seen or done something, only to find out a lot of people haven’t.)

The latest adaptation of the Addams Family franchise is on Netflix and focuses on Wednesday Addams and her time off at a magical school for the gifted. Yes, it has strong Harry Potter vibes, but that’s to be expected any time you’ve got “magic” and “school” in the same sentence. The show is significantly different than the Potter franchise, even if some of the same elements are shared.

I loved the whole season, up until the last episode, at which point I just really liked it. More on that in a moment, because I don’t want to get into spoilers just yet.

Wednesday carries the show. She’s a delightful character to root for, and she’s played perfectly by Jenna Ortega. The whole style of the show is strong throughout: the settings, costumes, makeup, etc all come together to give it a wonderfully creepy vibe. But time and time again, I enjoyed watching Wednesday be cool and confident in even the worst of circumstances. She didn’t get scared. She didn’t panic. She just was extremely capable. (In that way, she almost reminded me of James Bond. She knew what she could do, and she did it. Bravo.)

The effects are great as well. Thing is delightfully disturbing, and the callbacks to the original show are always welcome and a lot of fun. True, there’s also a fair bit of “teenage television show” running throughout the series, but . . . it’s a show about a teenager, on television? To me, that’s like complaining my mint chocolate chip ice cream has chocolate chips in it.

In the end, I gave it a 9/10, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season. (It’s already been renewed, thankfully.) It’s creepy, and not for young kids, but teens on up should all have a lot of fun with it.

With that all out of the way, I want to address some of my gripes with the last episode. These will contain spoilers, so I’m giving you fair warning.

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

Still with me? Great. As I said in my review, I loved how capable Wednesday was throughout the show. But then we get to the last episode, and everything changed. She stopped being capable. She ended up messing up again and again, and she had to rely on other people to step in to fix things. The Big Bad guy shows up (and starts using evil magic so he can . . . destroy all the evil magic he doesn’t like???), and Wednesday doesn’t do anything special to beat him. She even fails in her sword fight with him. For a show with a teen protagonist, having her not actually be the real hero just felt very, very wrong. Especially when she’s been giving off the “I can do anything” vibe all along.

I get it. She was up against a real big problem. But as a creator, you need to take the time to figure out how your main character can defeat that problem without relying on a whole slew of lucky breaks.

I still loved the show, and I still look forward to the next season, but I’m hoping they back Wednesday up better next time. Show us why she’s so confident, and why she’s right to be that way. Here’s hoping . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Upgrading to 4k

I’ve had my projector for around . . . five years now? Something like that. And I’ve been very happy with it. I remember when I first switched from standard definition to HD. It felt like I’d been seeing the world through blurry glasses all this time, and suddenly I’d gotten my prescription fixed. Since then, film and TV have continued to evolve, with offerings now that are 4k or even 8k in definition. (For a full explanation of the different definitions, see here.)

I’d held off upgrading for a number of reasons. First, it would be a real pain in the rear to do. My A/V receiver only did up to regular HD, so I’d have to swap that out, and that’s a lot of wires you have to futz around with. Second, I wanted to wait until I could upgrade one last time and then not worry about it anymore. While TV resolutions might keep increasing, the human eye’s ability to tell the difference does not. With a 105″ screen, as long as you’re sitting closer than 14 feet to it, you can see a difference between HD and 4k. To see the difference between 4k and 8k, you’d have to sit around 3 feet away. That ain’t happening, so there’s no practical need for me to get any higher resolutions.

Also, I didn’t have a 4k projector. I wanted to switch to a laser projector, because those are brighter and don’t need the bulbs switched out. And as long as I was doing that, I wanted to upgrade the sound in the room to the latest surround platform, which is Atmos. (With Atmos, you install speakers in the ceiling, so sound isn’t just coming from around you, it’s coming from above as well.) Again, I doubt I will need more speakers than that for my space. Any more speakers, and it’ll be more speaker than walls.

But upgrading all of that is expensive, and so that was another thing holding me up. I’d done the research, and I knew what I wanted to buy, but I was going to wait until I had the funds.

Then the royalty check for The Perfect Place to Die came in, and suddenly I had the funds I needed to make the change. I decided that would be an excellent way to celebrate the success of the book, so I pulled the trigger and have spent the last week swapping out most things in my movie room. A new A/V box, brand new speaker wire, four new surround speakers, two ceiling speakers (yet to be installed. I have to cut into the ceiling . . .), and a new projector.

Can you tell a difference? Definitely. The picture is crazy sharp. Daniela described it as feeling as if the people were literally in the same room with you. We watched the climax of Avengers Endgame, and it just looked incredible. I’ve watched some World Cup in 4k as well, and you can see pretty much everything.

So now I’m selling my old stuff and no longer worrying about upgrading anything again. Would I recommend 4k and Atmos to everyone? Probably not. For one thing, you have to have a big screen and be sitting not too far away for you to really tell the difference. (You can read all about that here.) Just because a TV can be a certain resolution doesn’t mean you’ll notice. For another, it’s quite tricky to set a system like this up on your own. You need to really want to do it, and do a lot of research to find just what you want. (On the plus side, I’ve spent this time rewiring me room so that most of the cables on the walls are hardly noticeable.) So in the end you have to balance between how hard it is to do it versus what you’ll get out of it.

But personally? I’m very happy with the result, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: 1899

Would you look at that? I finished another TV show a week or so after finishing a different one. That’s usually a very good sign that I enjoyed it, and I very much did this time, but that comes with some caveats.

The first season of 1899 is on Netflix. It’s follows a group of people on an Atlantic cruise ship from London to New York City in (you guessed it) 1899. The group (generally) doesn’t know each other, and most of them are from different countries. (The show has Spanish, Cantonese, Dutch, German, French, and English on a very regular basis. The characters often don’t understand each other, but subtitles are given for everything, so the audience knows what everyone is saying.) The ship encounters its sister ship in the middle of the Atlantic, four months after that ship had disappeared. Mystery and intrigue ensue.

The show is from the same folks who did Dark, which I really enjoyed. (If you haven’t seen that series, you should definitely check it out, if you like science fiction and time travel. Great stuff.) The same sort of unraveling mystery premise is at work in 1899, and this is very much the first season of the show. That means it does a fantastic job of asking lots of questions, setting lots of riddles, and answering those questions with even bigger questions. If you loved Lost and the experience of watching Lost unfold over the years, then this show is for you. If Lost infuriated you, probably avoid this.

Of course, since I have no idea what the answers to the show’s questions are, it’s hard for me to really say one way or the other if it’ll all pay off. When people found Lost’s answers, many didn’t like them, and thus didn’t like the show. (I personally enjoyed the answers, even though I wish we’d gotten more of them.) On the other hand, Dark was able to ask big questions and deliver on answers, so I’m optimistic for 1899’s future.

It’s got some language and steamy scenes, but nothing in the ballpark of an HBO show. Denisa and I both enjoyed it, and now we’re both impatient for the next season. (That’s the Catch 22 of shows like this. On the one hand, it would be nice just to watch it all at once, and never have to wait. On the other, if enough people don’t watch the first season, then we’ll never get a second season at all . . .)

It’s 8 episodes, and it moves quickly. Very bingeable. Give it a shot. 8/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: The English

Westerns just don’t get made as much as they used to. There was a time when the genre was everywhere you looked, but good westerns only come out now and then. The English, streaming now on Amazon Prime, does a great job taking tropes from westerns and blending them with a more modern approach, and the result was really fantastic.

Starring Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, the six-episode series traces the efforts of a woman to find revenge on the man who killed her child, and the journey of a Pawnee veteran trying to make a place for himself in the new normal of America in 1890. The acting is superb, the characters complex, and the cinematography is gorgeous. I also enjoyed the soundtrack, especially the credits number for the final episode. (A cover of Paul Simon’s American Tune by Crooked Still, linked at the bottom of this post.)

The series feels very real, depicting life on the frontier with no filters. Is it accurate? Hard to say. I know the creators worked with Pawnee advisors throughout the filming, so I’d say it’s definitely more true to life than the classic Hollywood western. I’d like to think the west wasn’t so bloody and dangerous, but having written books set in the late 1800s and done a fair bit of research into the time period, I tend to think it was more violent than not.

As I said at the start, The English injects some modern storytelling approaches, slowly unspooling its plot by showing things in the present and the past. It’s easy to make assumptions about character early on, only to discover later how wrong you were. Again, this felt true to life. All we see is a snapshot of each other’s lives. Look at any one snapshot, and the same person could seem a hero or a villain, depending on your interactions with them. I enjoyed the mechanic in the series, especially how it kept me guessing and wanting to know more.

It should be said the series isn’t for everyone. It’s violent and bloody, though not pervasively. There are some gory scenes, and it touches on some unsettling subjects. That said, if you’re up for it, it really is a fantastic show, and better still for being entirely self-contained. You don’t get to the end of the sixth episode and reach a huge cliffhanger. It’s one story.

10/10 I loved it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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