I might have mentioned it a couple times before but Fall 2013 has proven to be a really good season for television, I feel. So many great shows got their start in September/October last year and while a few have fizzled out on their initial promises, far more have gotten better with each episode, developing and solidifying themselves, you could say. And NBC’s The Blacklist is one of those shows. Its a spy action-drama, but it flips the genre on its head and does something rather unique with it. And in a way, I can’t help but make comparisons to Fox’s Fringe, which too was a genre-flipping show that’s been really good, what little I’ve seen on it.
The first three episodes of The Blacklist did a pretty good job of laying out who all the main characters were, what their relationships to each other were, and what the overall premise really was. We also got introduced to a fair amount of mysteries, both professional and personal as far as the two leads Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington were concerned. Thankfully, the next set of three episodes carried on from there and were even better than the previous three. While also advancing the season story-arcs, we got some great one-shots and I’m definitely in love with both the actors and the characters.
After yet another break, one of Image’s newest titles returned to shelves this past week with its sixth issue. Across the five issues we’ve had previously, writer Greg Rucka and artists Michael Lark and Santi Arcas built up a well-defined post-apocalyptic (of sorts) world around the protagonist Forever Carlyle, a genetically engineered and conditioned woman who acts as her family’s ambassador and head of security. Its been a fairly good series thus far, and I’ve enjoyed what the creators have done. This isn’t the type of story that would ever be told at the Big 2 and Image is a perfect fit for this title.
In the new issue, we continue to get a wider perspective of the world and the setting itself. We are able to see just how the world works and how the Serfs and Wastes are treated by the Families. This is by no means a happy setting, bleak in the extreme actually, and this issue shows that off nicely. In fact, it highlights how ruthless this world is. And the art is quite decent. No big scenes here this time, and everything is more or less a subtle play on the larger themes.
Recently, and starting with Homeland, I’ve come to take an interest in contemporary espionage shows. There’s something quite fascinating about FBI, CIA agents and others of their kind taking down the bad guys, mass murderers and terrorists and more. After having seen the first three episodes of Homeland a while back however, I’ve kind of fallen off due to other shows (not that Homeland is boring or bad or anything, quite the contrary), but watching The Blacklist recently has gotten me really interested in the whole genre once again.
The reason that I started watching The Blacklist in the first place is because of the lead actor James Spader. I’ve seen a lot of his films, especially the sci-fi flick Stargate that spawned no less than three spin-off shows, and have seen him in Boston Legal as well where he was just amazing alongside William Shatner. Spader is a great actor and I dived into The Blacklist last week nothing about the show. It so happened that I loved it, and now, having seen the first three episodes, I can say that the show is really good. Almost all the actors are top-notch and the plots are quite interesting as well, which always helps.
And so we finally come to it. This week, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with a special two-hour episode. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, this is a show that I’ve really come to enjoy and the previous two episodes have been some of the best work on the show yet. Sure, some subplots have been sort of ignored and so have certain characters, but overall, I can definitely say that each and every episode has been a joy to watch. It avoided many of the pitfalls of a team-up show in its first season, or just first season blues in general, and that’s been the best thing about it, among others.
There have been a damn load of revelations in all the previous episodes. In episodes 10-12, all the revelations finally begin to make sense and they come together to deliver more revelations on top of all that. Another thing is that these three episodes allowed the full cast to get their day in the sun. The writers touched on pretty much every subplot here, although I think that the finale could have done with a lot more, but still, the finale mostly left me with my jaw hanging open all the time. It also helps that the acting has been great, with Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie being the breakout actors of television in 2013 for me.
Note: This review contains spoilers about these three episodes.
Once again, a very light reading week, with no graphic novel reading at all. I took a trip to India and back over the weekend, mostly because preparations for a cousin’s upcoming marriage and mom’s treatment, so reading time was extremely limited. I’m even behind on my novel reading at the moment, so I’m generally not doing well on that front at all.
Some really fun titles launched this past week, such as Night of the Living Deadpool, so it was an entertaining week at least, for the most part.
Its been an interesting year for the movie industry, whether we talk Hollywood or Bollywood. Big tent-pole movies were the norm at the box office, and there were both successes and flops from each region. It can’t be denied either that some of the box offices successes have proved to be quite surprising, such as the runaway hits Frozen and The Hunger Games #2: Catching Fire, which continue to tell studio executives that female-led movies, especially action movies, CAN be successful if given a chance and that hiding behind ridiculous sexist attitudes and thinking just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Or let’s talk Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim which underperformed in the US but was a big hit in international markets and the reason for the former can no doubt be laid at the feet of the subversive trend in American media of trash-talking movies that are different.
But enough of that. This post, the first such that I’m doing, is meant to celebrate the movies that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, whether Hollywood or Bollywood, and that’s what I’m going to focus on here. So let’s have at it.
I usually prefer the comics and novels I read to be fast-paced and with lots of action as well. Sure, I like having the character moments sprinkled here and there, but overall I like something that keeps moving and that keeps throwing things at me to sink my teeth into, to latch on to (if that makes sense). This is one of the reasons why I generally don’t read horror because its almost always slow-paced and I have trouble connecting. But, Vertigo’s Coffin Hill series has changed that around, and this is a series that I’m definitely enjoying, largely because its an excellent slow-burn story.
Writer Caitlin Kittredge with artists Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz have created a really great setting in this series that has seen some spectacular moments in the first three issues. Month after month, this has been a series to read and I haven’t really been disappointed with it. With the new issue I was expecting more of the same, but the creative team still managed to come up with quite a few surprises and finally delivered on the identity of the big bad of the story, and gave us a tiny glimpse into the objective of this big bad.
Sleepy Hollow is one of those shows that kind of slips under the radar for a while before quickly coming out explosively. The first six episodes, while really good in almost all respects, still skirted with some expected stuff. The stakes were high, the tension was always high, but still the show felt somewhat limited in scope. As you’ve no doubt seen from my previous reviews, I really enjoyed the six episodes, in particular the chemistry between the two leads Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison, who might as well be the 2013-2014 television programming season’s breakout stars for me.
Episodes seven to nine did much to up the tension even more, and increased the scope of everything, whether we talk about character backstory, or the stakes involved, or just the character drama involved. Additionally, episode eight in particular hinted in a big way that there is a very big story arc involved for the first season. Additionally, episodes seven and eight marked the return of the Horseman to the show and that in itself is worth every single second of those episodes. And episode nine really did a number with giving us more of Katrina’s backstory and had a huge reveal for Ichabod. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed these three episodes.
A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Last year, I blogged over at The Founding Fields about 25 book series from various genres, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, etc that I wanted to read in 2013. The intention behind that particular reading challenge was to read a broad variety of some of the most popular names in those genres as well as to try out several new authors and revisit some favourite classics. While I wasn’t as successful in the challenge as I might like, I’ve made it a new year resolution to make sure that I do indeed repeat the challenge in 2014 with new books, new authors, and finish it this time.
To that effect, here are the 25 book series I’ve picked for this reading challenge for this year. You can see the previous list for 2013 here.
Almost Human is one of the newest shows to join the Fall line-up of television entertainment and it is yet another police procedural. But where it departs from the norm is that it is also an SF thriller through and through. It is set in the future and in this setting, each cop is paired up with a synthetic, an android cop. The ever-fantastic Karl Urban and the excellent Michael Ealy are in the lead roles here and much as with Fox’s Sleepy Hollow pairing of Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, the interaction between the two leads is what really helps sell the show.
I’d seen the trailer for the show a few weeks ago when io9 ran a round-up of the debut shows, but I’d forgotten about it since then. But a couple friends on Twitter were talking about them recently and I got interested all over again. So I decided to watch the shows, and came away with yet another big hit for myself. With Arrow, Sleepy Hollow and now Almost Human, my TV viewing has never been better. Almost Human hits pretty much all the right notes for me and the storytelling, the visuals, and the acting are all top-notch in here.
It is quite fitting that I post this review today. I’ve just finished watching a movie that had me really emotional in its final act, and Ive been going through some rough times lately which means that my emotional bar is pretty low at the moment. And yet, this is the holiday of good cheer, and its the day of good cheer too, what with Santa dropping by shortly to deliver some Christmas presents for people who believe. In many ways, Frank Herbert’s sequel to his award-winning, critically-acclaimed and completely untraditional Dune is perfect reading material for Christmas because of what it symbolises.
I’ll admit that three weeks back is the first time that I ever read Dune: Messiah. Since my high school library never had the book (the one copy we did have was extremely battered and completely unreadable as a result) and I never went back to read it for some reason. Always skipped it when I read the other books. Then last year I listened to the audiobook from Macmillan, and I was blown away by how poignant it was. The second half of the book really hits you hard with the emotions, and it never stops, even unto the end when you turn the last page. Its a novel about sadness and hope and a resurrection of sorts even. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, comparable to to Dune itself.