February 7th Update:

Just a quick update to keep things rolling here on the blog. I consume a lot of media and information on a weekly basis, and it’s really hard to keep up. And between being sick on and off for a week, miserable winter weather, and general seasonal-affective-disorder-type symptoms, it’s been a whirlwind. If by whirlwind I mean an unbudging stalemate between a dead whale and a dead manatee.

wtf does that even mean?

HEY! SO …YEAH! MOVING ON!

Things!

One of the things I’m starting to realize these days is that I’ve become less of a film-buff and more of a tv-series buff, thanks to Netflix/hulu, etc. I’ve seen soooo many complete series (a lot of which were good!) that I really need to start making posts specifically about them. I don’t watch actual television networks or even have my cable connected. I watch everything online, so unfortunately even though I want to watch Hannibal because I hear it’s so good, I can’t. Yet. I might tune in to the Olympics in Sochi this week despite a questionable lack of free-to-everyone coverage …or just lurk on Reddit and hear about it there.

But I’ve been keeping up on a few things. Some spoilers ahead, somewhat, because why not.

Series:

Downton Abbey

Downton has become a bit weird over the past season (4). I know from experience with the show that at least one main cast member is going to die soon. At least by the end of the season finale or the Christmas Special. “Christmas Special” in Downton is like a code-word for “bad things are going to happen to people you like.” The whole show has turned into less of a character study and more of a soapy murder-mystery in the making. Plotting, scandal, murder, rape! They’re pushing buttons in places that probably ought to have been left alone. (Leave Anna alone, for goodness sake!) Since I am an American, I’m behind and the details are already out there, so don’t spoil it for me. It’s still incredibly addictive, though I feel as though there were a few character changes that don’t make a ton of sense. For instance, it didn’t make sense to me that Barrow’s character continued down his prior trajectory, even after the events of the Christmas Special. Either way, the Crawleys are seriously cursed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only surviving member at the end of this show is Edith. I could totally see Mary just offing herself before the series is over.

Bates Motel

Just started watching this the other night, and I actually really like it. While the acting is a bit lackluster at times, the writing, cinematography, and pacing are really keeping my attention. There are a few times when I feel like the writers are pulling some overdone tropes out of their hats for the sake of making the Bates seem justified in their actions, but the fact that the show has begun to start making it seem like they actually are less at fault for their actions is what is really making it interesting. They’re instead being portrayed as survivors in a much more evil, predatory town. And that’s cool. I am constantly impressed by the Hitchcock references throughout, homages to the original Psycho, and some perfect shot recreations. It’s not that it’s really that hard to do, but it constantly reinforms the viewer that it’s thinking about the source material. And that’s a really good thing, despite its bold liberties.

Acting-wise, it wasn’t until about episode 5 that I thought Freddie Highmore’s Norman felt right. It wasn’t until he was crying with tears streaming down his face and a nearly blank expression that I thought “Damn, that’s… creepy.” His brother I could do without, honestly. What’s weird about him is that if you’ve seen the Jennifer Lawrence remake of House at the End of the Street, he’s in it, and it’s basically the same story. There are even moments where I think “They did this scene in that movie!” But then it’s all forgotten when weirder things happen in the town, and the introduction of additional murder mysteries and intriguingly untrustworthy characters. There’s a constant feeling while I’m watching when I think to myself “Are they really gonna go there!?” And then sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. It finds a way to lead you up to a certain level of predictability, and then smashes your expectations, or makes you uncomfortable that you had been right. I like it. And I think in time the characters can only get better as the actors begin fleshing out their roles.

The Blacklist

I tried to watch one episode, but I had an overwhelming impression that despite it being full of potentially good actors, the writing felt forced and the scenarios felt a bit too coincidental. Too many overly useful conversations and perfect encounters. For instance, a character slips up and mentions something that leads the investigators down the right track. On top of that, the characters talk to each other as a service to the audience rather than sounding natural or interesting. Things like “I don’t think you should be doing this thing I am about to describe to the audience, I asked you to be researching the other thing which is important to this case; you’re such a loose cannon.” Too much telling, not enough thinking for the audience to do. I do think James Spader’s Red is quite good though. But I think he carries the weight of the entire show, its shock-value, voice, and ruthlessness. I might give it another chance eventually but I think I would need to watch it from the beginning.

Vikings

Did I talk about this before? I swear I did. But if you are able, and you like things like Game of Thrones or The Tudors (and maybe even some Spartacus), you should watch Vikings. I loved it, and looking forward to a new season. I am completely shocked that The History Channel (of all places) was able to snag this one. It’s been a little bit since I’ve watched it, but the way its filmed and the character development has made it a real treat. Also, it can’t hurt that their themesong is by Fever Ray.

Bob’s Burgers

Oh God. I avoided this show for ages for some reason. Mostly because it’s just so poorly drawn. I have no idea why I didn’t look at the creator (Loren Bouchard) and immediately realize its connection to Home MoviesHome Movies is a bit outdated now, and the sense of humor feels very 10-years-ago, but Bob’s Burgers has the right pacing and the right level of quirk to feel like a natural upgrade from Home Movies, and not a Family Guy clone. I love it, and I think the writing and humor is actually improving as I work my way into the first season. Kristen Schaal’s Louise is hilarious, and has some of the best one-liners. Her aggression cracks me up. The other two children are gaining steam as well, though they were a bit more forgettable in the first few episodes. Either way, it’s got a similar grounding to reality that Home Movies had, in the way that even though the characters make ridiculous decisions, they still seem like they could exist and do the things they do. Sorta. Maybe not the children.

Also, Tim Gunn’s Armed and Ready, er, I mean… Under the Gunn:

This (fourth?) spinoff of Project Runway focuses on a competition headed by Tim Gunn that brings in three former winners from Project Runway and pits them against each other with teams of talented new designers who have much less time to create garments than any other year of Project Runway. The first two weeks dragged on a bit, as the three winners had to pick and choose between the designers, blah blah. There’s a lot of rushing around, a lot of crying, a lot of excuses, and so far a lot of Tim Gunn being really irritated by people who think they can just keep working on their garments after he’s called time. I dunno if I really like the show yet, but mostly because not a lot has really happened. The challenges have been generally “here’s some random fabric, make something!” I still enjoy it because it’s Project Runway, but it is missing some of the creative magic that makes Project Runway work, and they focus too much on the “mentors” opinions of the new designers. I know that’s the point… but I dunno if I’d want to see another season of this. It reminds me a lot of Fashion Star, that one with Jessica Simpson, except that I liked that Fashion Star had a Shark Tank element to it where the judging panel would bid on the designs and actually put them up for sale in stores. That’s what Under the Gunn is missing: A weekly payoff that makes me excited about these individual designers and their careers.

Games:

Fallout 3: GOTY:

I caved and scooped up Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (Gotye?) the other day because it was ridiculously cheap at Big Lots, and has all of the expansion packs that I had wanted to play more than the actual game. I’ve been playing it every few nights and am up to Level 9, and I will say it’s a lot more fun than the vanilla Fallout 3 I had started playing years ago on the PC. It looks a lot worse, but the expansion packs seem to have filled out a lot of the sparseness with more encounters and more quests. So, now instead of walking all the way to Minefield without seeing aaannnnything but naked mole rats and bloatflies, I pick up a few quests, get attacked by random hostile robots, and seemingly run into way more Super Mutants than I would prefer, but it’s totally worth it.

But I’m committed to finishing the main questline, explore the Pitt expansion pack (which takes place in Pittsburgh, which is where a lot of my family is from, so I know it well!), and maybe pursue that android questline.

Either way, my issues with the game’s dreary atmosphere and blow-the-head-off-of-everything attitude still stand. Not terribly enjoyable or rewarding, but at least now I have a list of things to do that present an actual challenge beyond “sneak past lots of Super Mutants because I’m out of grenades.”

Music:

Ugh. I’m struggling here. With the exception of a new track/video (“fountain”) by iamamiwhoami, I really don’t know what to listen to anymore. Everything has started to sound the same again, and nothing is giving me those good-music feels. I’ve tried listening to Miss Li and Oh Land and they’re just not quite getting to me. Pandora Radio is a complete waste of time these days, and I don’t think I could bear to hear another Ellie Goulding song. Granted, I still quite like Bastille, but there’s a time and a place for that. I need some music advice, some inspiration… Any great new music out there? Lately all I can handle is stuff that sounds like Fever Ray…

That’s all for today. Haven’t really seen any movies since the last post other than The [forgettable] Croods. I’m contemplating making a post about series I’ve enjoyed in the past and where I think the shows jumped the shark, so that might be the next one. It’s probably going to be an ongoing multi-part post too, because seen so many tv series it boggles my mind.

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