Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reaper: "I Want My Baby Back"

The Devil sends Sam after a vampiric soul, whom he quickly dispatches back to hell. In a back room, though, Sam finds the soul's newborn baby. He and the guys know nothing about raising a child, but Tony the demon (Ken Marino) takes right to it. The Devil orders Sam to send the baby to hell as well, but Sam resists, arguing that if the baby is destined for evil, the Devil should want her to stay on earth.

Meanwhile Morgan tests Andi's faith in Sam by telling her Sam is a son of the Devil, and Sam's zombie dad wants to spend some quality time together. One of the richest episodes yet. Kudos to writer and co-producer Thomas Schnauz.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I've Finally Seen: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

My brother and I watched The Incredible Hulk from Netflix yesterday. I was a fan of the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno show, but otherwise am not wild about the Gamma Green Giant. I tend to lose interest in live-action-and-CGI movies if there's too much CGI, and because the Hulk is so much larger than life, CGI is a must.

William Hurt and Tim Roth made great adversaries for the Hulk. Edward Norton and Liv Tyler did not annoy me as Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. I enjoyed the clip of Bill Bixby in "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," Lou Ferrigno's cameo as a security guard, and the use of Joe Harnell's iconic TV score "The Lonely Man". Marvel really put its stamp on this movie, and that more than anything else interests me in a sequel.

Spring 2009 Mysterical-E

Editor Joe DeMarco has posted the latest Mysterical-E, including my Mysterical-Eye TV/film column rounding up my thoughts on Quantum of Solace, Grand Torino, and Leverage, and looking forward to Dollhouse and Castle.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Castle: "Hedge Fund Homeboys"

Beckett and Castle uncover who's responsible for two deaths in a circle of wealthy prep school students. The character dynamics continue to find their way. This episode, the preppies' partying is juxtaposed with Alexis Castle's personal scruples.

It's nice to see Castle not chase and physically disarm bad guys as he did in the pilot. This fits his observer status, but I wonder if an observer would be allowed to question suspects to the degree he has. I guess the alternative is for Castle to sit or stand by quietly while Beckett does the talking, and we don't want a lead actor to do too much of that. If Avery Brooks had been as calm and quiet as Hawk is in Robert B. Parker's Spenser books, we wouldn't remember his performance twenty years later.

I thought I'd seen the sociopathic punk culprit before, and I had. Nolan Gerard Funk was in the pilot of Lie to Me as Dan, of whom Lightman asks, "Are you going to have sex with my daughter tonight?"

He also played the timid, well-meaning Zach Greenfield, who nonetheless helped train Kryptonite-enhanced dogs in the Smallville episode "Krypto".

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dollhouse: "Echoes"

A drug that overrides inhibitions is accidentally unleashed on a college campus. Victor, Sierra, Dominic, and Boyd are sent in by the Rossum Corporation, developers of the drug and backers of the Dollhouses, to contain the outbreak. Echo is off on another engagement, but when she sees the campus on TV, she's drawn there.

This episode went a long way toward revealing several dolls' backstories and the corporation behind The Dollhouse. As many have said, it is similar to the Buffy episode "Band Candy", but not overly similar to me.

Personality-changing episodes are usually at least a little fun, but with the dolls changing personalities every week, such an episode seems redundant. If Dollhouse wasn't finished shooting for the season, I'd think this was a quickly produced episode to explain a lot just prior to cancellation.

Reaper: "The Favorite"

Sam is saddled with Morgan, a charming but unmotivated son of The Devil, while tracking a materialistic soul who has returned to claim all his earthly possessions.

I've always enjoyed how Sam is written and portrayed, decent without seeming too noble or capable. It's also good to see Sock and Ben get richer storylines of their own, Sock trying to subcontract his work to Ted, disgraced former manager of The Work Bench, and Ben trying to figure out why his demon girlfriend is holding back.

The episode ended with the reappearance of Sam's earthly father, now a zombie.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Smallville: "Hex"

Entertaining at Chloe's birthday party at The Ace of Clubs, young Zatanna Zatarra (Serinda Swan) grants Chloe's whimsical wish to have Lois's life at the Daily Planet working with Clark. I expected a Vice Versa, Freaky Friday-like switch, with Clark revealing his secrets to Lois-as-Chloe. Instead, Chloe wakes up the next morning looking like Lois, but Lois herself is unaffected, conveniently away on assignment.

For a while, Chloe gets to see how Clark interacts with Lois on the job, but soon enough she wants to undo the spell, just not enough, according to Zatanna, to actually undo it. Zatanna is after her father's book of magic, appropriated by Lex, which will allow her to resurrect her father. To stop this, Chloe must help Clark, who has wished himself no memory of his alien origin or powers. Strange to her Lois's voice and remember it's Chloe's sentiment.

As part of the resurrection spell, a soul must be exchanged for Zatanna's father. Zatanna plans to sacrifice herself, but Chloe gets in the way, and I wondered if she was being written off the show. Allison Mack was absent most of the episode, after all, with Erica Durance playing Chloe-as-Lois.

Exemplifying how uneven Smallville is, Clark, who two episodes earlier didn't have the wherewithal to deal with mudslinging Linda Lake, convincingly talks Zatanna out of her plans by drawing on his own loss of Jonathan.

"I'm finally the man my father wanted me to be."

Kudos to writer Bryan Q. Miller and director Mairzee Almas.

Lining Up Again

I've sent a PDF of The Lineup: Poems on Crime 2 to the contributors for proofing. For a look at the front cover and our ad coming to Crimespree, visit The Lineup blog. Issue 1 is still available from Murder By the Book in Houston, TX and Lulu.com.

Crimespree #29

I received Crimespree #29 yesterday, featuring my DVD review of Bones: Season Three on page 44. Thanks again to Jeremy Lynch and the Jordans.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Feeling on Flash Fiction

Responding to Patrick Shawn Bagley's blog post on flash fiction, I commented:

I'm a concise writer in general, agreeing with your sentiment that every word of finished prose or poetry should be meaningful.

Few of my stories feature the surprise twist that thematically identifies flash fiction, but several are categorized as flash by length. I participate in flash fiction events to challenge myself to pack a fully developed story into a few words. It's a skill I don't want to lose.

There's practically no money in flash fiction, poetry, or short stories, but if I chose not to write them for lack of pay, I'd write a lot less overall. I'll continue to write what comes, be it a poem, story, or novel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NCIS: "Hide and Seek"

The team is called to investigate the presence of brain matter on a gun found by the son of a Naval officer. Written by co-exec producer Dan E. Fesman, this episode had the classic local crime, deceptive plot and office banter, while showcasing what McGee and Tony currently bring to the team. I was impressed with Rebecca Creskoff's performance as the mother and with the actors playing her pubescent son and college-age daughter, both of whom broke into tears believably.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Castle: "Nanny McDead"

I missed the first fifteen minutes last Monday, but caught up last night. Beckett investigates when the body of a nanny is found stuffed into a laundry room dryer. This episode seemed less jokey than the pilot, and Castle seemed more like a writer in an early scene where he enthralls the squad room with a story of what might have happened to the nanny. I approve.

Castle also held steady in the ratings in Week 2. A good sign, I hope.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Watch Closely

JAG Season 8 went on sale last week on DVD, memorable for the introduction of Lt. Cmdr. Tracy Manetti (Tamilyn Tomita) as SecNav's spy on the JAG staff, and also for the two-parter "Ice Queen"/"Meltdown" introducing NCIS's Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Abby Sciuto, and Ducky. Robyn Lively played Special Agent Vivienne Blackadder, formerly of the FBI, who joined NCIS after her brother Rex was killed in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Viv pleads with Gibbs to take her with him when he interrogates one of the masterminds behind the Cole bombing. Gibbs sternly warns her not to use NCIS as her personal instrument of revenge. His words resonated as I realized Gunnery Sgt. Gibbs himself used information from Special Agent Mike Franks to avenge the deaths of his first wife and daughter.

Unrelated, on the latest episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Jason Blood summons Batman to the 19th century when he is accused of draining people of their souls. Sherlock Holmes and Watson help prove Blood's innocence, and it took me a while to remember that Holmes and Watson were as fictitious as Batman and Blood.

Quantum of Solace Blu-ray

Crimespree Cinema's Jeremy Lynch has posted my Blu-ray review of Quantum of Solace.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ILLEGAL by Paul Levine

Darker and wider-ranging than Levine's Solomon vs. Lord series, Illegal follows Marisol Perez and her twelve-year-old son, Tino, forced to flee Mexico after Tino runs afoul of Marisol's boss. When Marisol and Tino are separated crossing into the U.S., Tino follows his mother's instructions and searches for Van Nuys lawyer J. Atticus Payne.

Unfortunately, since coming to the aid of some illegals two years earlier, Jimmy Payne has lost his son in a hit-and-run accident. Closing himself off, Payne engaged in extreme denial, leading to the breakup of his marriage.

When Tino finds him, Payne is on the run after being forced to cooperate with a bribery sting gone bad. After hearing Tino's story, Jimmy's ex-wife Det. Sharon Payne lets Jimmy and Tino go retrace Marisol's path to the States.

Each character's journey unfolds vividly and believably. Levine's short chapters keep up the pace, yet are nonetheless captivating reading. On sale March 24.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"A Twist of Kate" at A Twist of Noir

Editor Christopher Grant has reprinted my second C.J. Stone story, "A Twist of Kate" at A Twist of Noir. I'm writing my seventh C.J. story now, so polishing one for reprint was a way to reacquaint myself with the characters. I welcome your comments.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I would say to Lois Lane if I were Superman

On tonight's episode of Smallville, "Infamous", Tori Spelling returns as gossip columnist Linda Lake, who has the ability to dissolve into and re-form from water. When last we saw Linda, she had the scoop that everyone's favorite farmboy was a strange visitor from another planet. Chloe electrocuted her, and Lana ran her down with an SUV, but apparently Linda is still dripping.

Once again faced with exposure, Clark turns to Lois to write the story of "the Red-Blue Blur". It's a promising storyline, but you know the writers will backtrack from it some way, just as they've done multiple times with Lana.

What if Clark told Lois he was Superman and there were no take-backs? Lois and Clark explored this in the Season 3 premiere, when, after an ordeal, Clark proposes to Lois and she says, "Who's asking? Clark or Superman?"

Anyway, here's what I would say:

I know you must be mad. At me for not telling you sooner, at yourself for not seeing it, maybe not wanting to see it. We've been hiding from each other, haven't we? Me because I actually trusted you way sooner and way more than I thought possible. I wouldn't be telling you now, bringing the story to you, if I didn't.

You might look at me differently now, but you don't have to. I'm the guy who grew up in Smallville with Jonathan and Martha Kent. Clark Kent is who I always wanted to be, who I know I can be with you.

I'm not saying this would win Lois over. I'm single, after all. But it's how I would tell her.

UPDATE (9:14 PM): As we should expect from the super-oaf who is Smallville's Clark Kent, he didn't match wits well with the conniving Lake. After she turned the world against him, he decided to use the Legion's time travel ring to undo things.

Caroline Dries is one of the best writers of Lois and Clark dialogue, A shame in this case "it didn't really count." Smallville's draw has always been its different take on a classic mythos, but Clark too often seems far off the track to becoming the man he's supposed to be. At the same time the show never fully commits to its own direction. Clark can't be both indecisive and admirable, bashful and brave.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Big Bang Theory: "The Terminator Decoupling"

On a train to San Francisco for a conference, the guys spot Summer Glau playing herself, star of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. While Sheldon frets about a flash drive he forgot to pack, Howard and Raj take turns hitting on Summer.

While this was an episode of TV, it made me feel sorry for Summer and other celebrities who get this treatment more often than they'd like. I also wondered what I'd do in the guys' place. I'm a loyal Browncoat, but I don't feel the need to actually meet anyone from Firefly. If I had the chance, I'd say, "I really enjoyed the show and the movie and everything you've done since. Good luck." I'd shake hands, and then I'd walk away. No autograph or photo necessary.

The last time I had jitters meeting someone I admire, it turned out better than I could possibly imagine.

Castle: "Flowers for Your Grave"

The police consult bad-boy author Rick Castle when a series of murders seems copied from the pages of his books. Castle is paired with straitlaced Det. Kate Beckett. The premise is familiar. The dynamic is familiar. Or maybe these seemed familiar because I'd seen all the punchlines in commercials and online. Any lasting interest will come from how well the writers flesh Castle out and how well Fillion plays him.

There isn't much to ground Castle in the pilot besides his oddly responsible daughter, and we don't see what's made her so level-headed. As a writer, I like to see fictional writers portrayed more or less accurately, but more often than you'd think, characters who are writers just go through the motions and don't otherwise show many writerly traits. (Recent examples include Bones's Temperance Brennan and NCIS's Timothy McGee/Thom E. Gemcity.) I mean, screenwriters are writers themselves. You'd think writer characters would be easiest for them to write. I hope Castle's screenwriters and Fillion make the most of this opportunity, and I hope people watch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Is Anyone There?

Blogging today on Murderati, Pari Noskin Taichert asks:

Is frequency of public response synonymous with worth?

The contemporary feedback phenomenon fascinates me. I am convinced that today's writers are becoming more dangerously cognizant and dependent on automatic/quick public input than our predecessors ever were.

...Nowadays, if our prose doesn't yield fan emails, online reviews at booksellers, or discussion on fan sites/listservs -- we wonder what's wrong with our writing.

...And I think it's because we all know how very easy it is to take that little step of offering feedback. When we don't get it, we can't help but wonder why.

Do these expectations affect our work?

Do we seek out particularly incendiary topics in order to prove to ourselves that someone out there cares? Do we censor our stories and novels because people Twitter negatively about prefaces or books with serial killers or talking cats?

I commented:

Awareness of my potential audience is second nature by now. I've never been one to rant, confess, or otherwise gush in writing. The act of writing helps me focus all that appropriately.

I appreciate comments, but I don't write anything expressly to get a reaction. I write because I'm moved, and if I'm moved, others will be, too.

The fact that comments are archived forever (or until some server crashes) doesn't influence my commenting. All a comment means is that I felt that way and had to say something at that moment. It's wrong to hold people to their comments forever, but then, the commenter had the chance to decide what to say/write at the time.

Technology only increases the speed at which we write. It shouldn't and really doesn't speed up our decisions what to write and send out.

UPDATE (03/11/09): Yesterday, Josephine Damian blogged about the dangers of authors revealing too much on their blogs, citing a Globe and Mail article by Guy Gavriel Kay. I commented:

Sure, blogging isn't for everyone, but in my case organizing my thoughts into more or less daily posts has helped my writing. I could write without blogging, but one feeds the other.

If blogging didn't exist, authors would still speak at signings and events, and people come to the same conclusions about them from their comments. Not blogging only delays the inevitable.

Kay's article seems to say authors have brought negative attention on themselves by making themselves available. If a fan takes a blog post the wrong way or chooses to use his Net access to bash an author, that's the fan's, not the author's responsibility. Authors may choose to use their Net access to try and rally fans, but each fan makes the final decision to do as the author says or not.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Dollhouse: "Gray Hour"

Echo takes on the identity of a safecracker named Taffy to steal a piece of the Parthenon. When one of her crew rabbits with the piece, she calls Boyd for backup, and with the sound a connecting modem she's remotely wiped. Scrambling, the Dollhouse people turn Sierra into Taffy, and she calls Echo with a way out.

I preferred this episode to last week's backup singer identity, but the series' larger problem remains. How can audiences relate to characters whose identities change multiple times per episode? I get the feeling this is some grand experiment of Whedon's, to go against every convention of character and see where viewer loyalties lie. If it's not an experiment, it's just bad TV.

There is the larger mystery of who Caroline is, but because we saw so little of her personality in the pilot, a larger serving will probably come off as just another imprint. I was in no rush to watch this episode. My only loyalty is to the promise of Alan Tudyk playing Alpha.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wonder Woman (2009)

I watched the new DC animated Wonder Woman movie on Blu-ray yesterday. After depicting a bloody battle between Ares (Alfred Molina) and Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), the movie presents Diana's origin, shaped by Hippolyta from clay, and her meeting Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion), who crash-lands on Themiscyra after a dogfight.

When Ares escapes Amazon custody, Diana must venture into man's world to return Steve and stop Ares before the psychic energy of the world's wars and hate give him limitless power.

The movie was a fine epic fantasy with a good voice cast, particularly Fillion as the comic yet courageous Trevor. I found the picture a bit too soft-focused. This may have been meant to enhance the fantasy feel or give a sense of depth, both of which work at times.

I own Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: New Frontier, but skipped Batman: Gotham Knight because I'm not a fan of anime-style. Still, one of the goals of these direct-to-DVD features is do what hasn't been seen before.

Next in line (Summer 2009) is Green Lantern: First Flight, starring Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber as Sinestro, and Michael Madsen as Kilowog.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Burn Notice: "Lesser Evil"

Having captured Victor (Michael Shanks), Michael decides to take him on as a client, protecting him from Carla's pursuit, while continuing to get answers. Burn Notice's second season finale was a breathless, exciting, bullet-ridden chase. Michael finally meets the man who burned him, who claims Michael is better off under his protection. Still, he offers Michael a chance to go it alone, which Michael takes.

Once again, this season has had great continuity and a sense of real progress. I look forward to what's next for Michael this summer.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nominations open for 2009 storySouth Million Writers Award

The sixth annual Million Writers Award is now open. Complete information on how to nominate stories is available here. The reader and editor nomination process, along with regular updates on the award, will appear through the blog and website of Jason Sanford, who runs the award. The list of notable stories of the year, and the top ten stories, will appear on this storySouth page.

Due to the economic downturn, the award no longer has a monetary sponsor. To compensate, Jason Sanford is putting up $50 of his own money as prize money, while storySouth's new publisher, Spring Garden Press, is putting up another $50. However, they'd like to give the winner more, so please consider a $5 or $10 donation to increase the amount of prize money. To donate, please go here.

Reaper: ...A New Hope

In the wake of his earthly father's apparent demise, Sam goes on a month-long road trip with Sock and Ben. He gives Sock a letter to mail to Andi, but instead Sock opens and reads it. Sam rushes home to find himself out of a job, in the doghouse with Andi, and tasked with capturing thirty musclebound souls with a cattle prod.

In the larger scheme of things, Sam discovers he isn't The Devil's only son. Old Scratch has been deflowering maidens since time began. He also encounters a soul (Sean Patrick Thomas) who seems to have gotten out of his deal with The Devil.

Many are predicting Reaper won't stand a chance against NCIS and American Idol, but I'm just glad it's back and hope The CW takes the competition into account. In terms of quality, I think Reaper is more deserving of renewal than Smallville and Dollhouse, to name just two.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Monday, March 02, 2009

Letting Go of Videotape

Over the weekend, I finished boxing up videotapes and moving books from my bedroom/home office bookcase into the former TV room. Checking the blog archive, this move has taken about four months, but at last my bedroom closet is uncluttered, and there's room on my bookshelf for incoming DVDs and Blu-rays.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


The fifth TV movie based on Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone opens with Stone helping State Police Capt. Healy (Stephen McHattie) with a stakeout that ends with them both shot. Healy is wounded more severely than Jesse, and for a while it isn't clear he'll survive. A member of Paradise's town council council comes down on Jesse for moonlighting and threatens to suspend him. Jesse goes after the shooter anyway.

The main plot involves a woman (Camryn Manheim) who has come to Paradise from New Mexico looking for her son, kidnapped five years earlier. While Jesse isn't too hopeful about finding the boy, he lets Rose (Kathy Baker) pursue the case.

This is the first Stone movie not based on an existing Parker title. It's more noir than Parker has ever been, yet true to Stone's flawed upstanding character.