For fans of Urban Fantasy, I recommend The Dresden Files

For those who have never heard of it before, but are wondering “what is Urban Fantasy?” it is a fiction genre that takes fantastical elements (magic, vampires, werewolves, demons, etc.) in a modern urban setting. Buffy, Supernatural, True Blood, Diana Tregarde are all examples of urban fantasy and The Dresden Files is the one I love best.

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The Orville is back! Yay!

Season two of Seth MacFarlanes Sci-fi drama (not a comedy) began last week with a special Sunday premiere followed by the second episode airing in it’s regular Thursday spot.

I think a lot of people were confused by season one.  They were expecting a pure comedy from the creator of Family Guy and Ted.  Most of the articles about the series, before it came out, were calling it Galaxy Quest the TV show.  Instead audiences were treated to an episodic Science Fiction series that has more in common with Start Trek: The Next Generation than Star Trek: Discovery does, and that makes The Orville AWESOME!!!

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I started to watch The Rookie

I like Nathan Fillion. I enjoyed the short lived Firefly and loved Castle (well, the first seven seasons anyway) and always enjoyed seeing him in guest appearances on shows like Brooklyn 99 or Modern Family, but when I heard he had a new regular show coming out, I had no strong desire to watch it. The commercials made it look kind of gimmicky and just the same old, same old in police procedurals.

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The Vietnam War, a Ken Burns documentary series

I’m a big fan of documentaries, one of the things I like most about Netflix is the large number of them on available and Ken Burns is my favorite documentary filmmaker.

The Vietnam War is a ten part documentary series written by Geoffrey C. Ward, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Like most documentaries with Ken Burns name attached, it is thorough. The series covers everything. Not just the sixties and early seventies, but goes back to the French Colonial period and the First Indochina War and continues all the way to the fall of Saigon, then follows up with Vets going back to see how things have change since the war and sometimes meeting their former enemies.

Being Canadian and born around the time the US was withdrawing from Vietnam, all I knew about the war was what I saw on TV shows and movies. I didn’t know the U.S involvement spanned twenty years and five presidents, or that it involved traditional armies on both sides. TV always made it look like it was a purely guerrilla war.

That’s what I like most Burns’ documentaries. The level of detail and comprehensive coverage he gives to the subject. You aren’t given simple dates and anecdotes, but first hand accounts from civilians and soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Volunteers and draftees. Draft dodgers and POWs. There is no agenda in this series, notspecific narrative being pushed, just a presentation of the history delivered with peoples personal experiences.

It was an incredibly informative series and I’m glad I watched it. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people who had to live through it.

started watching Penny Dreadful

Penny-Dreadful-cast-photo-HQ-penny-dreadful-36910119-3600-2446It’s Downton Abbey with monsters, blood and vertical sex!  Okay, I’ve never watched Downton Abbey, so it’s probably nothing like it, but it does take place in England.  It’s actually a lot more like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, taking 1800s literary characters and populating the story with them.

“Which girl is Penny?” my wife asked while we were watching the 2nd episode.  Showtimes new series actually gets its name from the cheap pulp publications,  characterised by violent adventure and crime, that were popular with the working class and poor of 19th century Britain.  The tone is dark and has a deeply suspenseful mood.  The pacing is slow, but never feels like it drags, there is an atmosphere to this show that made me feel like it should be Halloween outside my door.

The acting is exemplary.  Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, hell even the corpses do a great job here.  The controlled rage that emanates off Daltons Malcolm, while Vanessa is possessed and accusing him of leaving his son to die, can almost be felt through the TV screen.

I don’t know how long John Logan has been working on this series, but it looks to me that this first season is well planned out.  They don’t give you everything right away,  but do a slow build so that you are eager for the next episode to reveal things a little at a time.  What’s the relationship between Vanessa and Malcolm?  What did Chandler do that he had to flee America?  Where is Mina?  Is she a vampire now,  is she dead?

My only trouble with Penny Dreadful so far is the accents.  Well, not so much the accents, it’s the mumbling and the accents combined.  I watch Coronation Street religiously, and grew up with a grandfather whos first language was Gaelic, not English, so I have no trouble with accents, but Billie Piper mumbles most of her lines making about half of what she says incomprehensible to me.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the episodes, and glad that Showtime has already renewed it for a 10 episode 2nd season.

started watching Secret War

Nothing to do with the Marvel Comics event of the same name, this is a documentary series about espionage and covert operations during the second world war. Stories of missions done by groups like the SOE, SIG and Double X.

The history is incredible. I’ve only watched six episodes so far, but each and every one could easily be turned into a feature film.

Tales like that of the SIG, a group of German speaking jewish volunteers who undertook missions of sabotage disguised as German soldiers. Their missions had everything you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster. A small group of underdogs on an impossible mission, betrayal and sacrifice.

The story of Dusko Popov, a double agent who tried to warn the FBI about an attack on Pearl Harbour only to have Hoover himself threaten to have him arrested under Mann Act if he didn’t leave the US. A man Ian Flemming was once assigned to keep an eye on, and who may have been the inspiration for Casino Royale.

Then there are operations Grouse and Gunnerside, efforts by the SOE to delay the Nazis from developing the atomic bomb.

Monty Woodhouse, who helped provide weapons and resources to Greek guerillas, only to have those same people turn around, once the Germans were driven out, and try to pull off a Communist coup that led to three years of civil war.

The tales are gripping and fantastic, but utterly factual. I highly recommend this to any history buff or fan of spy stories, hell, even if you aren’t, these are stories worth hearing. I don’t know where or if it is airing on TV, I’m watching it on Netflix, so you may be able to get it on DVD.


Watched Arrow

When I heard the CW was doing a Green Arrow series, but that it would not be a Smallville spinoff with Justin Hartley, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. Smallville itself was pretty, uh, uneven the last couple seasons, but I liked Hartleys take on Green Arrow. I let the first three isodes of Arrow accumulate in the PVR, then watched them all last night. I will definitely be tuning in to the rest of the season.

The series is much darker and far more adult than Smallville was. It kind of reminds me of the difference in tone between Angel and Buffy, although, that may not be entirely fair, as Angel was true spinoff, and Arrow is an entirely new take on the Green Arrow character.

I don’t know how much of the character has been changed from the comic book, I was always more of a Marvel fan and have only been reading DC since their New 52 reboot. This Oliver Queens personality seem fairly different from the one on paper, but I actually prefer this one.

So the premise is this. Oliver Queen is kinda like a male Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. He’s on a yacht with his Dad, a bunch of servants and crew, plus his girlfriends sister (bad Oliver!). They hit bad weather, the yacht sinks, the only people to make it to a life raft are Oliver, his Dad and a guy with no lines who may or may not have been wearing a red shirt. As they are starving and dehydrating, Queen senior confess to his son that he isn’t the man he’s been pretending to be. His father and a bunch of other high profile people were bad people and did bad things (kind of reminds me of the Court of Owls storyline that recently ran in Batman) and he wants Oliver to survive, and try to right the wrongs he’s done. Mr. Queen then shoots the expendable crew member and himself. Five years later, Oliver makes it off the island with a little black book, containing the names of people he want’s to meet when he gets home, and some mad parcour skills.

So far I like this show for several reasons. First the writing is pretty tight. The dialog, characters and plots all work well. Second, the action is great, well choreographed and highly believeable. Best of all, they are doing mystery better than any show I’ve seen in a long time. We don’t know what happened to Oliver on that island, there are a LOT of secrets to uncover and unlike Fringe, Lost, Alias (notice a pattern here?) or the X-Files, I believe the people behind this show really have a grip on the backstory and that it will make sense. I could be wrong, but this is the feeling I get when watching Arrow.