Friday, February 11, 2011

You're dead to me, Robin Hobb

Previously, I relayed my obsession with some of Robin Hobb's earlier books. In spite of my searing disappointment with the ending of Hobb's Tawny Man Trilogy, I decided to give her Soldier Son Trilogy a try.

Shaman's Crossing - Book 1 of Soldier Son Trilogy
Reminiscent of Assassin's Apprentice, this is a beginnings book. We are introduced to Nevare Burvelle, who is also the narrator. Unfortunately, Nevare is stupidly obedient and dull, to boot. He stoically endures abuse from humans and supernatural forces, then manages to see the end of a series of painful trials due to dumb luck. The book ends with Nevare happily ensconced in the status quo, dreaming of marriage to a boring girl.

Forest Mage - Book 2 of Soldier Son Trilogy
Whereas Book 1 was dull and painful in turns, Forest Mage is like militant fat camp propaganda. Nevare spends the entire book being called a fatty and trying to prove that he has no control over his obesity. He bungles his way into being accused of murdering a prostitute and necrophilia, which the mob is eager to believe, because he is fat. Nevare is supposed to be a forest mage, but he really only commands his power in the climactic final scene, before severing ties with his few loyal friends. What a loser.

Renegade's Magic - Book 3 of Soldier Son Trilogy

Joe has been reading Hobb's latest, the Rain Wild Chronicles, and he says that there is a lot of whining in that one, too.

Robin Hobb, you had a good thing going with The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy, but you appeared to be in such a hurry to finish the latter that you tacked on a false happy ending and made me want to cry. Now, you spend your time and energy writing about long suffering, boring protagonists who can't seem to get out of trouble except by the mercy of dumb luck.

Until you choose the rewrite the ending of The Tawny Man Trilogy, I will not be reading your books, any more.

Friday Night Play List: hot docs

During my time away from Xiao Pangzi, not only did I watch a lot of TV, but I also viewed numerous documentaries on Netflix, because their movie selection leaves much to be desired. I can recommend two that continue to prey on my mind.

Dear Zachary (2008)
I won't include a hyperlink to the film's website, because it is best viewed without much prior knowledge. The documentary starts out as an ode to the filmmaker's late friend, Bagby, and a cinematic portrait for Zachary, the baby boy who will never know his father. Matters are complicated when the baby's mother is charged in the brutal murder of Bagby. The story takes dramatic turns that are shocking and heart wrenching, yet the most astonishing outcome is a testament to the power of love.

Cropsey (2009)
An investigation into a classic Staten Island urban legend that challenges the notion of monsters and community responsibility in their creation. A truly creepy film that only grows more frightening as the truth behind the fables become open to debate.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I like to watch

I'm back, and let me apologize in advance for the rusty prose to follow. For the past four months, I have been obsessed with weight loss and television. But, enough about my back fat. Here's some of what I've watched since October:
  • "Top Gear" - Who could have predicted that I would love a car show? I've never even owned a car. Yet, the tomfoolery of hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have made me very, very happy. I still chuckle when I reminisce about Jeremy and Richard propping up James's crippled baby grand with a stack of porno magazines, right before James unknowingly backs a truck onto his precious piano. I can't recommend this show enough, even with the current anti-Mexican controversy.
  • "Being Human" - I was prompted to watch the original BBC show, currently in its third season, after the American series premiere ended on a cliffhanger. Whereas the American version has felt forced, the UK series has been easy to watch, with great actors and a more charming approach to the exact same storyline as the US show. It just proves the adage that the difference is in the details.
  • "Mad Men" - After absorbing the hype for years, we finally gave in, and now, I know why busty women are back in vogue and everyone thinks Jon Hamm is hot. The complexity of the characters, and their varying moods and intentions, are what make the show so fascinating. The most recent fourth season was a gamble, and has cooled my enthusiasm for the show. Still, the first three seasons were very watchable.
  • "The Cape" - The production values are high, and the actors are decent (Summer Glau is working again!), but the show is hindered by a formulaic storyline, and the survival of the hero's family. While the hero is pining for his living wife and son, he is not inflicting violent vengeance, struggling with his morals, nor developing sexual tension with Summer Glau. The jerky circus midget character should get his own show. Such a waste of a good production budget.
  • "Damages" - This was the drama series that I felt the most ambivalent towards, despite tearing through the first season. Glenn Close's character veers too much into pure villainy, and it is hard to sympathize with a character as naive and bland as Rose Byrne's ingenue lawyer. The first season's dramatic plot twists kept me going, but the second season has failed to latch onto me, despite the hardening of Byrne's character, accompanied by a much improved wardrobe.
I've just started watching "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena", a mini-series created while Season 1 lead, Andy Whitfield was being treated for cancer. Since then, Whitfield has had to withdraw from the show to focus on his health, and I must admit that "Gods of the Arena" is missing a spark without him. All the sex and violence are present, but without a sad gladiator with tiny, leather shorts to anchor them. I can only hope that when Season 2 returns with Whitfield's replacement, the magic will return.