Category: television

Some Thoughts on Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power

I have been watching the new Lord of the Rings show on Amazon since it premiered, and I wanted to take a moment to say how much I’ve been enjoying it. The acting has been great. The characters are complex. It’s beautiful to watch. The songs have even been top notch. (Special shout out to This Wandering Day, which was perfect.)

I’ve loved how so much of the show resonates with Peter Jackson’s movies. Yes, the characters are played by different actors. Yes, the politics are all different, since it’s thousands of year before LOTR, but the dwarves feel like dwarves. The elves feel like elves. The armor, the scene design, the world building: all of it fits for me.

Of course, there have been a vocal few who have been frothing at the mouth that there are elves and dwarves and ur-hobbits of color. They’re not all white. And to some, apparently that’s just sacrilege. Except elves and dwarves and hobbits are all counterparts to humans. There are humans of multiple races. Why in the world wouldn’t there be dwarves or elves or hobbits of the same? And why in the world should it matter? (But mind you, I also didn’t have an issue with the elf/dwarf romance in the Hobbit movies, because if you can have elf/human, why not elf/dwarf? So maybe I’m just a heretic.)

It’s disappointing to me that so many have somehow reduced the show to a horse race with House of the Dragon. Yes, they are both fantasy movies, but their audience only partially intersects. There are many people I wouldn’t recommend House of the Dragon to at all. HBO may pride itself on how “gritty” and “adult” its shows are, but due to those very qualities, they aren’t shows I’d ever watch with my kids, and they aren’t for anyone who’s turned off by extreme violence and sex. (And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the extremes of the show are unnecessary to tell the story the show wants to tell. I don’t think they’re necessary to tell any sort of story. But that’s a post for a different day.)

Rings of Power, on the other hand, is a show I would recommend to just about anyone. Well, probably not small children, but teens and up? Easy. It’s got humor, adventure, wonder, and more. I’m having an absolute blast with it, and I hope they get to see it through to completion.

What have you thought so far?

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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.

Obi Wan Season 1: Review

I’m finally catching up with some of the different shows I’ve been missing out on for the last ever, so I assume most people who wanted to watch Obi Wan have already watched it. But for those of you who might have been on the fence and still haven’t pulled the trigger, allow me to save you some time. Overall, I found it better than Boba Fett, but still leaving much to be desired.

The sad thing is that there are some genuinely cool moments sprinkled throughout the series. Some really great lightsaber duels and force battles, but in between is just a bunch of padding that goes nowhere.

With that said, I’m going to head into some spoilers now to discuss just what went wrong for me. If you want to avoid them, stop reading here.

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Okay, so here’s a quick rundown of the bad of the series:

  • Leia’s whole plot line is way too contrived. She doesn’t come across as a character, she comes across as a device. A reason to get Obi Wan into trouble. She’s being chased by the bad guys, and she randomly does things like run away from Obi Wan for no real reason. Some of this is probably from the fact that getting a solid acting performance from someone so young is very difficult. No one expects much out of Baby Yoda. Little Leia has a higher bar to get over.
  • The Force is wildly inconsistent across Star Wars canon at this point. Darth Vader basically yoinks a spaceship from the sky without breaking a sweat, but then moments later he lets another one go. The first one posed no problem. Why did the second one trip him up? Often the Force comes across as “let’s have some cool special effects now,” without any real rhyme or reason. That’s wearing thin.
  • Weak Obi Wan is just . . . not that fun to watch, it turns out. Some of that might be because when he tried to get his powers back, he always was able to do just enough to do whatever he wanted to do. That’s not really failing, so it never felt like it was a true struggle for him. Yes, he had a showdown with Vader early on that he soundly lost, but he didn’t lose it to any disastrous length. The stakes never felt that big.
  • The inquisitors all felt pretty toothless, with no real character development. So instead it was “weird guy who speaks low and wears a funny hat” and “strange woman with a pointy face.” So what? They made some effort with Reva, but even then, her story was just too little substance to carry what the show seemed to be trying to pull off. Maybe a little less Obi Wan cutting up meat and a little more developing her backstory would have helped?
  • While I’m at it, I’m wondering why in the world stabbing people through the stomach with a lightsaber is even a thing in Star Wars. It doesn’t do a blessed thing to the person, apparently, except slow them down for a while. So if you’re an evil Sith or whatever, wouldn’t you take a moment to lightsaber their face in half, just to be thorough? Seriously. They ought to have a class on that in Sith school and everything.
  • They missed the set up of all time. Obi Wan’s in a pit, and Darth comes to stand over him and stare down. This is where Darth should have said, “It’s over Obi Wan. I have the high ground.” Instead, he just dumps rocks on top of him and walks away, because Darth apparently skipped “how to effectively kill your nemesis” class as well. Sigh.

It was a frustrating show, and after each episode, we generally talked about all the things that irritated us about it. That’s a bad sign. I have higher hopes for Andor, but we’ll see how that goes. Overall, this one was a 4/10. The cool scenes just aren’t enough to make it worth while. Maybe there’s an hour long highlight edit out there that would be awesome . . .

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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.

TV Review: Moon Knight

We live in a pretty crazy time, when it comes to television series. It feels like there’s always something new coming out that I really want to see, and if I miss out on one show, then there’s a good chance I won’t get back to it, just because there are so many other things coming down the pipeline. I’m not really complaining; having a wealth of riches is a problem you like to have. But one of the consequences of this is that I tend to rely on word of mouth when it comes to deciding what I want to spend my time on. If I hear enough good things, I watch. If the buzz turns sour, I avoid.

Moon Knight was a show I’d been looking forward to. I’ve enjoyed the other Marvel offerings on Disney+ so far, so why wouldn’t I give this one a shot? Except then I heard some decidedly bad things about the show. It had been billed as being grittier than the other Disney Marvel shows, and fans were loudly decrying that claim. To listen to some of the loudest, the show was too tame, with bad special effects, and a boring plot.

Seeing as how I had some issues with some of the Book of Boba Fett’s pacing and story choices, this buzz around Moon Knight was definitely believable. For a while, I debated even watching the show at all, but I finally decided to go for it, and we watched it with Tomas and Daniela.

I’m very glad we did. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and I have no real complaints about the show. The effects were great, the story was strong and mysterious, and the acting was top notch. It wasn’t hyper violent or anything. In line with most Marvel movies, really. Perhaps it got some people’s expectations to go in a certain way, and when it didn’t do that, there was a backlash.

It’s basically the Egyptian flavored Marvel movie. Thor among the pyramids, though that’s not really accurate at all. The show runs in part on mystery, so I don’t really want to talk about the plot too much. Oscar Isaac plays a down on his luck museum gift store attendant. He loves the exhibits on ancient Egypt, but he doesn’t have the qualifications to work outside the gift shop. Also, he’s been having issues sleep walking . . .

Isaac does a really great job in the show, and watching him navigate the hand that’s dealt to him was one of the best things about it. Overall, I gave it an 7.5/10. It tends to suffer from Marvel-itis, a disease similar to Pixar-itis. When a company has a lot of experience making good, solid shows and movies, you stop really being able to appreciate just how good the shows and movies are.

So why all the hate on the show? Some of it is likely because some people were expecting over the top violence and were disappointed, but I think another significant part of it is that the show actually tries to break Marvel into some more diverse casting and locations. Other than Black Panther.

It’s sad and depressing, but it seems like there are some very vocal pockets of fandom that are dead set against diversity. Any attempts to diversify a franchise are met with cries of derision and outrage. Black characters in Star Wars? How dare they! A black Heimdall? Sacrilege! And then there’s the following Twitter screeds and social media attacks on the actors behind those portrayals. The hissy fit some people had over Rose in The Last Jedi is just ridiculous.

In the end, I’d say give the show a shot if you like Marvel. It’s only 6 episodes long, and it’s a fun ride. Don’t listen to the naysayers, and just enjoy yourself.

Isn’t that what pop culture is all about?

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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 PERFECT PLACE TO DIE 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.

Under the Banner of Heaven Episode 1 Review

I’ve already had a couple of friends ask me what I thought about Under the Banner of Heaven, the new mini-series that’s out, adapting Krakauer’s book of the same title. It’s focused on a murder investigation in 1984 in rural Utah, and it very much delves into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, portraying events both from the church’s history and its “present” (in 1984). As an active media review and active member of my religion, it makes sense people would ask for my take.

I’d read a fair bit about the show before I watched the first episode last night. All about how much effort had been put in to “getting it right” when it came to how my religion is portrayed. I was hopeful, based on many of the reviews I’d read, as they said the faith was treated quite favorably in some aspects. I haven’t read the book, but I know there’s a fair bit of “not favorable” in it toward Latter-day Saints, arguing that much of the church’s history has a direct impact on some of the bad things in the church’s present. I actually agree with that premise: I do believe there are things in the faith that can lead some to get really carried away into whackadoodle land. You just have to look at the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping to see that’s still going on. I also acknowledge that for a long time, the church at best looked at its history through rose-tinted glasses, and often actually just ignored some of it, or claimed it was misinformation. So I don’t have anything against a show that explores how the history of the church can relate to the present.

I say that on the offset, just to put it out there. I didn’t go into the viewing loaded for bear. With a solid cast and creative team around the show, I expected to like it.

What I got, instead, was something that’s very hard for me to accurately review. I realize that my religion is large enough that many people will have many different impressions of what it actually feels like to be a member. How things were in Utah in 1984 will be different than how they are in Maine in 2022. However, I lived in Utah for stretches of time in the 80s. My family out there is large and sprawling and tight knit. Almost all of them are active members. My mom literally grew up with the Lafferty’s. They’re from Payson, though the town’s never mentioned in the show. She knew them. The murders happened in American Fork, about 10 minutes north of where I lived in the early 2000s. In other words, I don’t feel like I’m so far out of touch with the source material that I can’t evaluate it at least to an extent.

Black (the writer) might have done a lot of research into the religion. He grew up a member, but left years ago. But regardless of the amount of research he put into it, the end result leaves much to be desired.

To begin with, the use of Latter-day Saint lingo by all the members in the show is just off. Perhaps if you’re not a member, it all sounds like how we talk, but it’s sort of like having Google translate do your interpretation of a novel. Yes, the words are technically correct, but they’re used in ways that don’t ring true. At one point, Brenda says “The Savior would want me to go to BYU.” But we view Christ and God as distinct beings. We pray to God for guidance, not Christ. I’ve heard plenty of people ask “What would Jesus do?”, but I don’t remember anyone asking “Where would Jesus want me to go to school?” Again, maybe there are some that do, and so I just am out of touch there, but that’s simply one example.

Characters use the term “Heavenly Father” like it was on sale at Walmart. All the members are throwing it in left and right, to an extent that just doesn’t happen (in my experience). They talk about “vows” and “oaths” and generally come across as wide-eyed idiots, even in the cases where they’re supposedly sympathetic.

I get it. Plenty of people think we are wide-eyed idiots. The religion is definitely on the “Religions we can make fun of as much as we want list,” even with many or most who would staunchly defend any who might try to ridicule Judaism, Islam, or mainstream Christianity. But I’m here to say that while we might have a few whackadoos in the religion, they’re not the flavor of whackadoo being presented by the show, if that makes sense.

Every single member shown on screen acts off. The show doesn’t hesitate to show how strange we are, right down to our garments and (from the screen shots for upcoming episodes) temple rituals. I don’t know who they got to do their cultural sensitivity consulting, but it feels like they were asleep at the wheel. The closest analogy I can think of is a show focused on Islam that has an actor portraying Allah. Yes, you can do it for the shock value, or to really “explore the subject,” but you better realize that what you’re doing is stomping all over many people’s sacred beliefs, and it would be nice to ask yourself if the price is worth the end product.

But like I said, maybe this is how the rest of the world looks at me and my family. There’s a scene where the Lafferty family gets together to clear a field of rocks, and it’s done almost like an Amish barn raising. The men are out working, and the women are providing food. I don’t object to showing that some Latter-day Saint families can be very restrictive when it comes to how they treat their wives and daughters. (Though I’d point out that’s not unique to the faith.) But the show makes a point of saying how respected the Lafferty family is. “They’re like the Kennedys,” is how the main character puts it. And when you say that, and then show the Lafferty family all behaving very bizarrely, then you’re saying that’s the norm for members out there. That’s the ideal we’re all shooting for.

And it just plain isn’t.

Besides, “the Kennedys”? The Lafferty family might have been well known in Payson, but Payson was anything but the center of the religion.

Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t. This isn’t a show (so far) that I would really recommend to anyone. Perhaps it gets better. If my opinion changes, I’ll write about it, but I’ll be surprised if it does. And please, if you’re watching the show as a non-member, don’t assume what’s being portrayed there is par for the course. I can’t say authoritatively that it’s never like that, but I can say I’ve never seen it like that in my 40+ years of living in it. To make it seem like it’s the norm is disingenuous at best.

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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 PERFECT PLACE TO DIE 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: Gilded Age Season 1

For all its frustrating flaws, I remain a big Downton Abbey fan. When it was really at its best, it was a delight to watch how different classes lived and interacted in areas that seemed commonplace to them, but were anything but to me, a middle-class white guy in 21st century Maine. (Of course, there were the other plot lines that focused instead on bizarre things like murder investigations, which always just seemed so idiotic. But let’s not talk of those.)

So when I heard Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, had created a show around late nineteenth century America, I was intrigued to say the least. The Gilded Age was on HBO, though, and I wondered it they’d just take Downton and give it an “adult” twist. It was TV-MA, after all, but Denisa and I decided to give the first episode a shot. We blazed through the rest of the season soon after, finishing the final episode last night.

Like Downton, it follows people of multiple classes, from servants to the middle class to the noveau riche and the established families. It adds in a Black character as well, allowing the show to explore race relations back then. The central plot is how the Russell family moves to New York City and tries to insert itself into the established upper crust circles. The Russells are filthy rich. The husband is a railroad tycoon, and quite ruthless in business, though he’s much nicer when it comes to personal matters. His wife, on the other hand, is desperate to be accepted by the upper crust, and the upper crust are just as set on ignoring her. Drama ensues.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The TV-MA rating is a bit baffling. Over the course of the entire season, there was one risque scene, and one scene with brief nudity that had no real reason to be there. It was almost like HBO told Fellowes they wanted the show to have a TV-MA rating so that people would take it seriously, so he threw in a short scene to justify it. You can skip those parts easily and not miss anything significant.

It’s well plotted, avoiding some of the obvious lines that it could have taken, so that you’re never entirely sure what will happen with any of the stories. I won’t go into spoilers, but there was one plot that seemed very clear would go one way, but then when the time came to go that way, it veered off in an unexpected, refreshing direction instead.

It’s well acted, though most of it is “stuffy nineteenth century,” which feels a lot like Downton. Trying to convey the whole range of emotions in people who made it a point never to show emotion is a trick and a half, but the show pulls it off.

But really, the star of the show is the set design and costuming. It’s simply a pleasure to look at, one scene after the other. The time period comes alive in a way Downton Abbey never really was able to pull off. We see different parts of New York, and the city itself feels far more alive than Downton ever really got. In that show, you’d have the village life come up now and then, but the city plays just as much a part of this as the characters do.

Overall, I gave it a 9/10. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but if it’s for you, you likely already know it after reading this, and you should give it a shot if you have HBOmax. Any of you already seen 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 PERFECT PLACE TO DIE 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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