What the heck has been going on?

May 15, 2013 in Blogging, Exercise, Misc

spacetimecontinuum

I checked my blog this morning and saw that the last time I posted was May 1, or two weeks ago. That is not acceptable. It’s not like I have nothing to write. I saw Trance a couple of weeks ago, and of course, Star Trek: Into Darknesslast week. There are two books I need to review, and the final posts from the back end of my trip to Japan in MARCH are still outstanding. So what the heck has been going on?

I don’t really know. It’s like I’ve been sucked into a vortex where the space-time continuum is all out of whack. The other day my sister responded to an email I sent her. I thought it had been more than a month, but as it turned out it had only been a week. Same thing with this new credit card I signed up for. I was fretting about not receiving a bill for the first month, which I was convinced had passed ages ago, but again, it had only been a couple of weeks. It’s like I’m living day by day without being conscious of the passage of time. I’m enjoying life, but I’m also in a weird daze where all days kind of melt into one because of the familiarity of my schedule.

I have also been busy with a couple of freelance cases. I started my first subtitling gig, for a short film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing better than watching movies while you work. The other thing is a pain in the assbender that had been dormant for a couple of months, but suddenly decided to pop up just when I was ready for a break. And there is a bit of a pay dispute too, so hate is all around for those douchebags. (They take more than 10% of the agreed payment, and when I ask they call it “taxes” and say I’ll get it back next year when I do my tax return. Why has this never happened before?)

Apart from that, not much else. My growing son takes priority, of course, and then whatever free time I have left I have invested in my renewed exercise regimen. I’m officially back, and I’m feeling much fitter, even though the schizo weather has been leaving me restless and deprived of quality sleep. I’m watching more TV shows — Game of Thrones, Touch, The Mentalist, The Good Wife — and I’ve recently ventured into the world of free classic books available on my new iPad mini. First up, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The 2009 film version starring Prince Caspian sucked, so I am hoping the source material will turn me around.

It is my hope that whatever I still need to get out of the way will be settled by the end of this week. Then shall begin a glorious Golden Age of blogging. Stay tuned.

Breaking Bad: Too Good

November 30, 2011 in Best Of, Entertainment, Misc, On Writing, Reviews, Shows

The unfortunate thing about American cable television is that certain shows, certain utterly brilliant shows, can get lost in the mix in foreign countries, relegated to expensive local cable channels (only 6.8% of Aussies have cable), late night slots nobody knows about, or obscure digital stations with little to no advertising and about two seasons too late.  You could always browse the DVD store, but with so many shows out there, just how do you separate them without some serious research?

I recently watched all four seasons of Breaking Bad (the fifth and final season is due next year), undoubtedly one of the best dramas I have seen in years, if not ever.  Shockingly, I had never even heard of the multiple award-winning show until a friend of mine and I were discussing how important it was to have a ‘good concept’ when trying to write a script (we used to think witty dialogue was enough — damn you Tarentino!).  And as soon as he mentioned the story of Breaking Bad — an underachieving chemistry teacher who discovers he has lung cancer and turns to making and selling crystal meth with a drop kick former student in order to provide for his family, with his DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) brother-in-law hot on his trail — I was hooked.

Bryan Cranston in season one

I’m not sure if Breaking Bad is the type of show I would have appreciated in my youth.  It is filled with tension and keeps you on the edge of your seat, but in a slow, insidious kind of way unlike the ‘pure adrenaline rush’ shows (such as say 24 and the first season of Prison Break).  It’s a drama but the unexpected black comedy keeps making me laugh out loud, while the grotesque violence and depravity keeps making me squirm.  It grabs you in with this compelling idea and pulls you deeper and deeper into the world of drug dealing and the horrific impact it has on the lives of everyone around it.  Creator Vince Gilligan said he wanted to follow a character as he gradually descends from a morally upstanding person into a total badass.  And after four seasons, Breaking Bad‘s protagonist Walt is well on his way.

Walt may have gone into meth making because of the purest of intentions — but because of the constant lies and deceit, the dark (and darker) moral decisions and judgments he is forced to make, combined with a massively suppressed ego that is finally released — he finds himself regularly pushing the boundaries and crossing lines you could never have imagined him crossing at the beginning of the show (or even a season ago).  And yet, despite who he is and who he has become, deep down you still find yourself rooting for Walt, which is really at the heart of what makes Breaking Bad so freaking good.

I love this poster of the 'breaking bad' Walter

The show is brilliantly constructed from top to bottom, inside out.  The quality scripts produced by American writers on such shows never cease to amaze me.  Sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying, always riveting.  The direction and the pacing are measured, allowing the story to unfold in a deliberate fashion.  The use of cinematography is probably the best I’ve seen in any TV show.

But of course, the show would not be where it is without the characters and the actors portraying them.   Bryan Cranston (prior to Breaking Bad, best known as the dad in Malcolm in the Middle, though I was stunned to discover that he was actually smug dentist Tim Whatley in Seinfled!) deservedly won three consecutive Emmys for his astonishing portrayal of protagonist Walter White (and it probably would have been four straight had the scheduling not precluded the show from this year’s Emmys).

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Cranston grabs the spotlight with his award-winning performance, which makes people forget how magnificent and equally irreplaceable Aaron Paul is as the insufferable yet lovable Jesse Pinkman.  I’m glad to see Paul, whose character was almost killed off in the first couple of episodes, be rewarded with an Emmy of his own in 2010.

This drug-making duo drives the show, but every key supporting character, from Walt’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and disabled son Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) to brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) and sister-in-law Marie (Betsy Brandt), is multi-dimensionally crafted.  And what about sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)?  Everybody has their own motives, weaknesses and demons.  Special mention has to go out to Walt’s boss and intellectual equal Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who absolutely ignited the screen in season four.  It’s not often that all the core characters from a show are this interesting, dynamic and ever-evolving.

And now we wait for the final season, season five, which is reportedly going to be 16 episodes (season one had seven episodes, and seasons two through four each had 13).  I for one am eager to see where the show heads after the way season four ended.  Will Walt keep falling deeper and deeper or will he try to turn back around (if he can)?  What will happen to his explosive love-hate relationship with Pinkman?  Will Skyler become an official part of the family business?  And will Hank finally realise the man he’s after has been right beside him all along?

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about an idea for a TV show.  It’s about a meth cooker who, after discovering that his cancer has been cured, decides to quit to become a high school chemistry teacher.  I think it’ll be a winner.

Forcing yourself to finish movies and novels

September 20, 2010 in Blogging

That's James Franco, by the way

Here’s a random one.  Do you force yourself to finish a film or a novel simply because you started it?

I do.  As far as I can recall, I have never started a novel without sticking with it through to the end (case in point: I was stuck on a single page of The Fellowship of the Ring for a whole month — every time I started reading it before bed I would fall asleep before I hit the end of the page — and yes, it was Tom Bombadil.  I still ended up finishing it and the other two eventually).

Similarly, I have never walked out of a movie or turned off the TV either (I have fallen asleep before but I consider than an involuntary act).  No matter how boring or crap it is.

Is this rational?  Probably not. My logic is that since I have already spent so much time on something, I might as well finish it off.  There’s also a hope (almost always a stupid one) that the book or the film will get better — especially if it has been well-received or recommended.

Others remind me that the time already spent on a crap movie or book is a sunk cost.  You’re not going to recover that time, so why waste more time?  I actually know quite a few people that have walked out of a movie within the first 10-15 minutes and requested a refund (which apparently you can get).  I’ve seen people walk out even halfway through the movie, never to return.  Books go without saying — I know plenty of people who finish about 1 in 10 books, if they’re lucky.

What do you think?  Which camp do you belong to?

Series Finales: Lost and 24

June 1, 2010 in Entertainment, Shows

Well, I finally finished watching the series finales of two of my favourite shows of all time, 24 and Lost. Here are some thoughts.

24

“Dammit!”

I started watching 24 from the beginning while the show was in its fourth season (2005) and have watched every episode religiously.  To me, it’s one of the most addictive TV shows of all time.  It’s the only non-comedy show that I can watch episode after episode all day long without wanting a break.

Season 8 is the final season for the series, and while it doesn’t have the freshness of the earlier seasons, this one was by far the most explosive (well, at least since the third season when we found out the President was the baddie!) and the most strenuous for Jack (with the exception of that time when he died for a while).  In the 24 hour time frame, Jack was stabbed (twice), shot, tortured, beat up, lost the woman he loved, committed treason (technically) and almost single-handedly started WWIII.  Not bad for a day’s work.

I would rank Season 8 up there as one of the better seasons of the show, probably somewhere around the middle.  It’s probably a good time to end the series, given there are only so many national security threats writers can come up with.  There have always been minor variations on the plots but honestly it’s pretty much all the same.

As for the ending, there was no big battle scene where Jack saves the day, but it does finish on a more subdued note that went for the emotional angle.  At the same time, it opened up the potential for a full length feature film.  I’m not so sure how well that would work though.  The previous experiment, 24: Redemption, was not totally horrible but there just wasn’t enough time to give justice to the plot or the characters.  Unless the film is effectively an immediate continuation of Season 8 then I think it would be extremely difficult for them to pull off.

That said, I’ll still watch it if it is ever made!

Lost

The most apt title for a series ever.  I started watching Lost from the very beginning in 2004 and have endured every single episode up to the bitter end.  It’s been one of those shows that blew me away at the start with all its intrigue, compelling characters, mysterious setting and hidden dangers.

However, as the show dragged on, it also became one of the most frustrating shows of all time, as questions were answered with more questions and flashbacks became flash forwards then flash sideways (WTF?).  All I ever wanted was some answers, and thanks to my stubbornness and stupidity I stuck with it, hoping that in the end all would be revealed.

How naieve I was.

The sixth and final season of Lost brought back an excitement I hadn’t experienced since perhaps Season 2, back when the storyline was not so convoluted that I had trouble remembering what the heck had happened before, in the future, and in all the different parallel worlds they existed in.  This was the final season, and we were finally going to receive some answers to questions that have lingered for 6 years.  Or so I thought.

Alarm bells started ringing when halfway through Season 6, we were still getting more questions than answers.  That’s not hard when you’re not getting any answers at all.  I started to fear that the rumours were true — that the writers, despite saying they knew how it would end, were simply winging it this entire time.  Or perhaps they were telling the truth in that they knew they would end it with a big fat question mark and leaving audiences more confused and “lost” than ever.

If that was their intention, then they certain succeeded.  The lengthy finale I suppose was satisfying on an emotional level.  We got to see most of the characters over the years come together in one cheesy, quasi-religious reunion full of hugs and kisses.  Yay.

But what I really wanted, just a couple of freaking answers, never came.  The only thing that became apparent was that the flash sideways in Season 6 were a kind of purgatory, a limbo world where each of the characters went after they died, whenever and wherever that may be.  But what about all the other million unanswered questions from the previous 5 seasons?  What the heck was the island in the end?  What the heck was the Dharma Initiative?  What the heck is the smoke monster thingy?  What the heck is the light?  Where did all these people come from and what the heck are they doing?  Why did I watch this show?

I’m lost.

What’s going on with Heroes Season 4 (Volume 5)?

January 22, 2010 in Entertainment

I started watching Heroes right from the beginning.  Seasons 1 and 2 were awesome, but Season 3 started getting a bit old.

I recently started watching Season 4 (Volume 5: Redemption), and I still have a bit of catching up to do.  But seriously, what is the deal?  When did Heroes get so…’meh’?

I always thought the Sylar as Nathan thing at the end of Season 3 was a big mistake, and I think I am being proven right.  Matt Parkman has always been an annoying douche, but now even the normally likable Hiro is getting on my nerves.  And the whole Claire lesbo thing was just a ploy to score some viewers.

Oh, and don’t get me started on T-Bag, LOL.

I guess the writers kind of backed themselves into a corner by making certain characters too powerful, and now have no choice but the fudge things to make them ‘weaker’ or lose their minds so they aren’t at their full potential.  However, for some reason it just feels like things keep going in circles and there’s no real sense of direction.

I’m only about 6 eps in, so there is still a chance for things to turn around.  Hopefully it will, because I’m the kind of idiot who will keep watching no matter how bad things get (case in point: I still watch Smallville).