Book Reviews: X Files, Sherlock, and Serial Killers

In honor of absolutely nothing, there will be no opening joke in this review. You’re welcome.

The Complete X-Files : Revised and Updated Edition
No doubt done just after the nick of time of the series’ return, this retrospective is a nice trip down memory lane, but not much more than that.
It starts out with tons of photos, and carries on throughout. They don’t look all that great in digital, but they get the job done. The best part is that every episode gets at least a paragraph, though nothing in-depth. There’s really nothing wrong with this book, but it pales in comparison to similar ones on Twin Peaks, Back to the Future, and so on that I’ve read recently.
3.5/5

The Whole Art of Detection
This book is a series of short stories set in the Sherlock Holmes universe, and trying very hard to read like Arthur Conan Doyle.
Holmes and Watson take turns in the first two chapters telling each other stories to get them out of the doldrums; the buddy vibe is well done. At other times this writer overdoes it, putting in extra stuff not needed; doesn’t have the economy of Doyle. Most were good mysteries, but the one about the twin brother was woefully obvious. The last one had Sherlock narrating, and just like Doyle’s version, it’s the weakest.
3.5/5

Outsider
In this sequel to Insider—as you might guess from the title—the Exodus End tour continues, this time with the emphasis on Reagan, the new rhythm guitarist, and her relationship between not one but two men: the guy who plays rhythm for the opening act and her bodyguard.
Enjoyed the first one so much I was looking forward to this one, and was so glad to find Toni, the main character from the first, is in this one too. This story takes place concurrently with the other, particularly the big plot twist involving Toni.
This one is slower to get going, as the start is all long talks and three-way sex; nothing wrong with that, just wished there was more to it. Eventually it does pick up, with scandals and misunderstandings and families and a lot of soul-searching between the three. It is an unusual romance, with unusual sex scenes, but like the first its draws are the humor and the behind the scenes look at a rock tour. Don’t think it was quite as good as the first one, but still enjoyed it a lot. And as before, eagerly awaiting the next one.
4/5

Bitter Moon
The fourth in the series featuring FBI profiler Roarke and serial avenger Cara, though this one is quite different from the previous three. It almost felt like an interlude in the main plot, with Cara’s origin story featured and better explained, showing how she became a protector, or revenger.
As with the previous books, it switches chapters between the two protagonists, in this case between Cara as a teen—suspected of more murder—and Roarke looking into that cold case. So with that there’s a lot of new characters, the most intriguing being the nun; never thought I would like a religious Batman dresser, but this is no ordinary bride of Christ.
At the end of each book I wonder where the next one is going to go, and I’m always surprised when I read it, doubly so in this case, as adult Cara doesn’t show up at all. Neither does Roarke’s team, though that’s to be expected, as he’s on leave. There’s a few calls to Singh and the techie, but that’s it.
4/5

;o)

15 Fave TV Actresses of 2015

Unlike previous years, I’m not going to bother ranking them. And as usual this is only broadcast TV; no cable allowed.
This list is apparently brought to you by the number K.

Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
Karen David—Galivant
Krista Allen—Significant Mother
Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
Kirsten Kreuk—Beauty and the Beast
Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Alana De La Garza—Forever & Scorpion
Jaimie Alexander—Blindspot
Molly Quinn—Castle
Melissa Benoist—Supergirl
Jennifer Carpenter—Limitless
Darby Stanchfield—Scandal
Rachel Skarsen—Reign

First 5 almost in
Bellamy Young—Scandal
Adelaide Kane—Reign
AJ Cook—Criminal Minds
Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
Rachel Bloom—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

;o)

Book Reviews: 60s TV Show, Old West Romance, and Another Bush

Andrew Ross Wynn
Physical comedy is the most immediate way to get a laugh. The first time a Cro-Magnon fell down, I’m sure the other Cro-Magnons watching burst out laughing.

Cold Girl
To put it succinctly, Cold Girl left me cold.
For one thing, it has the longest chapters ever! A Mountie who is the foremost expert on a serial killer goes further north to investigate another murder, leaving his wife and child behind for a few weeks, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s also a cop up from North Vancouver—never did find out what interested him so much in the case—and another policeman damaged by something in his past, though no one knows that, resulting in him being treated like an idiot. Not all the local cops play nice either.
The victim was a musician, so all the bandmates are the likely suspects, especially the boyfriend. Things are of course never that easy. Halfway through, Dion—the damaged guy—becomes the main character, and manages to liven things up a bit, but despite some parts I liked, most of the didn’t engage. My main problem with it was how the murderer was uncovered; I couldn’t follow it at all. There’s also a point where the author calls a particular character “the killer,” even though it wasn’t. Some of the psychological insights were interesting, and the dialogue wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t help feeling this should have been over a lot faster.
2.5 rounded up to 3/5

Five Fingers
This is a book about the making of a TV show from the early 60s, starring two favorites from James Bond: David Hedison, the most famous Felix Leiter; and Luciana Paluzzi, Fiona Volpe from Thunderball (and my all-time fave Bond girl, but I digress).
I thought I knew a lot about this period of television, but I’d never heard of it, possibly because it was cancelled before it reached the half-season mark. . . which begs the question why there would be such a big book about it (never mind, it happened with Firefly). It was a spy thriller before such things were the rage, in fact failing because it was in the same time slot as the two biggest shows of the era, both Westerns.
At first, seeing the length of this book  felt rather daunting, but by page 129 there are episode synopses, followed by actor and crew bios, all of which total nearly half the book. At least there was some fun stuff in the first part; I love how the author writes Miss Paluzzi’s accent, as in “Luciana doesn’t agree that she sizzles. She only agrees that she can be ‘saxy’ when the ‘screept’ calls for it.”
But it’s the second half that leaves the biggest impression. After the episodes there’s a paragraph or two on everyone–except the caterers–who received any kind of credit. Following that is a chapter by someone else about the main character, then another article on the movie, and the real-life human, this series was supposedly based on
Having read books on the making of Twin Peaks, Back to the Future, Sherlock, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, etc. I can’t help but feel this one is quite a bit boring in comparison, though maybe that’s because I wasn’t familiar with it coming in. The best way to put this is that it feels more like a recitation of facts than an actual flowing story.
3/5

Harlot
In a small town in the Old West a man returns after two years, having gone to make his fortune in California. Now he’s back for the woman he loves. . . only to find she’s become a whore.
From her side, she’s a woman who made a deal with the devil for her virginity, having given up on her old boyfriend coming back for her. When he does, drama ensues.
There isn’t much setting here: the town is hardly ever mentioned except for a quick trip to a few bars and his mother’s house. Most of the action takes place at her house outside town. Seems like the geographical vagueness was done on purpose, as it has nothing to do with the story, but as a geography major and fan of Westerns I would have liked a little more specificity. My other quibble is some repetitiveness about her situation that annoyed me, constant reminders of what we already know in order to gain more sympathy for her; put the hammer away already.
Toward the end there’s an interesting switch: whereas throughout the story he’s angry at her for not waiting for him and doing what she did, wanting to punish her, suddenly he’s the bad guy for going to a whore when he was in California, whereas she did it to stay alive. No doubt this is the point the author wanted to make, especially when he uses the excuse of “boys will be boys.” While I agree with the sentiment, it seems a bit out of place in this era of the past, but as an allegory it works.
Not that the writing itself was bad in any way, but once the misunderstandings and declarations of love were out of the way it read much better, smoother. The best moments are when they’re together and can almost admit their feelings for each other, which they finally do, as this is still a romance novel despite the premise.
3.5 rounded up to 4/5

45
Ostensively written by George Dubya Bush himself, this is an account of how he trained his little brother Jeb to be president despite all the personality quirks and family history working against him. It wasn’t till the bios at the end that I found out the actual writer was the guy who invented The Onion; everything fell into place at that moment.
This isn’t a laugh out loud comedy; this humor is insidious, subversive. . . subtle. When I read Dubya saying, “One of my favorite pastimes at as a boy was torturing frogs,” it explained so much. Another gem is “. . . failing at business—and failing big—is a long-standing Bush tradition.”
So if you like this sort of thing, with supposedly self-deprecating jabs—though often Dubya sees them as positives—this is perfect for you. If you think this kind of thing might offend you, just make sure no one sees you reading it, you’ll chuckle anyway.
4/5

;o)

New, Almost New, and Old TV Shows

A quick recap of my viewing habits as to debuts, waiting for debuts, and returning faves.

Grandfathered: good for a pilot, needs to be tighter. The second episode was actually worse, but you know I’ll watch anything with Paget Brewster. . .
Significant Mother: Still counts even if it’s basically done, right? At times incredibly hilarious, and isn’t it wonderful to see Krista Allen finally get to do something with her clothes on? I hope it comes back for a second season.
Quantico: Not at all what I expected. It’s not so much FBI training school as “How To Get Away With Terrorism.” As always the “detectives,” even the ones who trained her, are too stupid to realize she would have done a much better job of covering things up had it really been her. That was enough to get me to change the channel.
Blindspot: I will apparently watch Jaimie Alexander even when she’s not Lady Sif. Having her body completely tattooed is a great way to have a different mystery every week, yet still maintain a season-long plot. One issue with the pilot, though: why wouldn’t they have gotten a psychologist to speak to her before she was sent off to the safehouse to spend her first night alone? The memory guy the next morning is not the same. Okay, two issues: I don’t like the main actor.
Limitless: I’m not sure if this thing is trying to be a comedy or a drama; I don’t think it’s sure either. I wish Jen Carpenter would find a role where she’s not the just the straight woman, but so far I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would.
The Player: This is so much not my usual fare, with the plot nothing more than an overwhelming excuse for mayhem, but there’s something special about the blonde’s snarks and Wesley Snipes’ cheerful threats that keep me coming back.

Looking forward to:
Supergirl: Not much for the superhero genre, but the puppy photo alone intrigues me enough to want to check it out.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: If Rachel Bloom can do anything close with this as she did with Fuck Me Ray Bradbury, I will watch every week. Anyone who wants to sleep with an octogenarian sci-fi legend gets my vote.
Angel From Hell: I’ll watch anything with Maggie Lawson.
Criminal Minds Beyond Borders: It has Alana De La Garza in it. Enough said.

Returning shows
Castle: So, after the whole mating dance, the postponed wedding, surviving yet another conspiracy. . . they break up? Because no matter what words Beckett uses to sugarcoat it, that’s exactly what happened. Ridiculous. The showrunners say they have a plan, but by the time they get to it, everyone will have left.
NCISLA: I don’t care what else they do this season; “LAPD Bimbo Squad!” cannot be surpassed.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?: More, please. That’s all.
Penn & Teller Fool Us: Most of the magicians know they’re not going to fool the legends, but at least it inspires them to give a great show on the off-chance they might get hired, and how often do they get on TV anyway? But the best part of this show is the delicious rare moments when Penn looks completely dumbfounded and/or befuddled. . .
Scorpion: I was losing the love for this one toward the end of last season, but with Alana De La Garza on at least for a little while before moving to her new show. . .

;o)

Top 15 Favorite TV Shows, 2014 Edition

You know the rules: network TV only, no cable or Netflix, though I will mention a few of those at the end.

15. NCIS: New Orleans
Not a Bakula fan, but love Zoe McClellan since her time on JAG. There’s an easygoing Suthin’ charm to the show, which is to be expected in N’awlins, I guess.

14. Bad Judge
It’s awesome seeing the always cool and collected Kate Walsh be such an utter goofball.

13. Hart of Dixie
This show has only gotten better with the more frequent appearances of Kaitlyn Black, by the far the best character on the show.

12. CSI
Having been rejuvenated by Shue and Danson, it almost feels like the early years, though better. Perhaps that’s due to Jorja Fox coming back.

11. Rookie Blue
As long as Missy Peregrym keeps bringing it, I’ll keep watching it.

10. Criminal Minds
Not nearly the same since Paget left, but still fascinating in its delvings into the psychopathic mind.

9. NCIS
Another show rejuvenated by a new cast member. Nothing against Ziva, but the new girl has so much more personality, and since she’s married we don’t get Tony being his usual annoying self hitting on her all the time. (Don’t worry, he’s still annoying in other ways, especially with McGee.)

8. Wipeout
There’s nothing left to say, only enjoy: the wipeouts, the snark, Jill in such tight jeans they look to be borrowed from her 12-year-old sister. . .

7. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
Have to admit to a bit of disappointment here with the plotting and the pace, but watching Coleson and May will never not be fun. Skye isn’t as wonderful as she usta be, though. . .

6. Big Bang Theory
Another one that just keeps rolling along, doing what it does best, which is making me laugh at people even geekier than me. . .

5. NCIS:LA
Never thought I would have it this low, but ever since that horrible plot used to cover Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy–sending Kensi to Afghanistan to snipe her former fiancé–it’s been tough to get back into. Still one of the best shows around, though.

4. Forever
Even in the show they had to mention Alana DeLaGarza’s cheekbones. Beyond that, the leads have the kind of chemistry all TV pairings wish they had and only Castle has achieved lately. Though I do wonder if Henry’s killed in Brooklyn or the other side of Manhattan if he’ll be reborn in another body of water. . .

3. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Aisha Tyler is more fun than Drew Carey. Miss some of the guys from the previous shows, but the new ones are just as good, and once in a while the celeb guests really hit it out of the park.

2. Castle
Far from going downhill with them getting married, this show just keeps chugging delightfully along. The western was my fave epi since the second season.

1. State of Affairs
You all know by now I love Katherine Heigl, but this show would be almost as spectacular without her. It’s quite obvious their consultants and writers know their stuff, and I am frequently impressed by the variety of plots they conjure up. That being said, I’ve got a few story ideas floating in the noggin, if they ever need them. . .

On Netflix
Warehouse 13
This is what happens when creative people make a show where anything goes; they frequently go anywhere and everywhere, in a good way.

Continuum
Always liked Rachel Nichols, but this shows just how well she can act. At times the story is fascinating, at others tough to follow–changing to a different timeline, for example–she grounds the story with her fish-out-of-water attempt to get back to her time and family.

Lost Girl
Possibly the first nice succubus in history. The snark flies at full speed between her, wolf boy, 2 female humans, a no-longer king, and various other powerful creatures, now including a gorgeous blonde Valkyrie. . . but aren’t they all blonde?

Hinterland
Mostly gritty, sometimes weird, detective show set in Wales. The main character could be a little more. . . human, and I’m so tired of seeing damaged cops on TV–and hope to never see them in person–but some of the stuff here is as fascinating as Criminal Minds.

Mythbusters
Where else can you go to get your myths busted? Even the narrator is hilarious as they take the experiments to their logical conclusions. . . and then well beyond. Hope Grant’s leg has healed from when the karma hammer smacked him. . .

The Wall
As hard as it is to watch Gillian Anderson as anyone but Scully–the blonde hair helps–she’s amazing as an incredibly cold-hearted detective on the hunt for a serial killer in Northern Ireland, played by the guy who’s gonna be the lead in 50 Shades, I’m told. . .

;o)

Netflix report, part 2

Another round of stuff to watch–or not watch–albeit probably too late for the holiday break.

Shuttle Discovery’s Last Mission
While there’s a sense of propaganda–not for the country, but for Smithsonian, which received Discovery, and this was made for their TV channel–there are still moments that make you genuinely choke up. Had some stories I hadn’t heard, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from the techies and ground crew as well as the astronauts; even the conservation crew gets in the act here. To my shock, I was a little amused at myself for feeling slighted toward my hometown Endeavour. 4/5

MythBusters
Those who know it of course love it. Those who don’t and like science and/or special effects at all, or even comedy, you’d do well to watch this often wacky series that does exactly what it purports to do: takes famous myths and examines them for truth, usually to hilarious proportions. Tempered by the fact the Three Amigos were just kicked off the show, leaving only the two mains. 4.5/5

TED Talks
These are arranged by categories, from humor to space to psychology and everything in between, which makes it easier than randomly searching on the TED website. As you would expect the offerings are uneven; the worst problem is when the speaker thinks they’re lecturing in class and sound like it, but happily that’s not often. It’s worth looking through for the few gems, like “How to Use a Paper Towel.” It works! 4/5

The Fall
They really love to juxtapose ordinary actions–washing a kid’s hair, even having sex–with murders and the kinds of creepy things serial killers do with their victims after death. The first epi featured a long sequence shot from above, flying over an apartment–bedrooms, bathroom, etc.–which I found sinister but brilliant. Gillian Anderson is the lead, and forget everything about Scully; her character is so cold here, even during sex. 4/5

The Big Wedding
Not as bad as most people say, but not great either. There are two hilarious moments for us Katherine Heigl fans: one where she’s sitting on a diving board and just jumps into the pool fully dressed (don’t ruin it for me by saying it’s a stunt double), and most importantly when she’s walking out of the hospital with her brother and turns with her hands spread far apart to inform the astounded nurses about his size. . . 2.5/5

Ancient X-Files: The Holy Grail & The Labyrinth
Ugh. . . had they been the least bit humorous about this, it might have worked, but the deadly earnestness, the full-in conspiracy mode. . . ugh. 1/5

Discovery Atlas: Uncovering Earth
There are two separate parts to this small series, the best being the scenery porn; Hawaii and the Great Rift Valley of Africa are particularly at their stunning best. That part would get a 5/5 for being exactly what it says.
Unfortunately the last two episodes involved an obnoxious guy–he’s actually worse than Steve Irwin–claiming to “solve history,” though the offerings are incredibly different. One is a search for Atlantis, and his hysterical peppy manner does not help in making me take him seriously, even though I’ve done a lot of research on this very subject. The other is on Devil’s Island, which is a small land mass off Cayenne, French Guiana, in the northeast region of South America (learned that by reading Hardy Boys!). I couldn’t finish either one. This part was 1/5, so using what little math I remember from college I’m pretty sure this averages out to 3/5.

Wish Upon a Star
Probably the best work Katherine Heigl did as a teen. Even though it’s typical Disney nonsense about sisters changing bodies, there’s a lot of genuinely sweet moments, and the chemistry between Katie and Danielle Harris–whom I’m pretty sure was much older than her costar, despite being a foot shorter–is fantastic. There’s a scene where Katie’s making faces while being photographed for the school paper that’s nothing short of hilarious, but for me the best part is when she’s playing volleyball and hurts her hand; her reaction when asked if she’s okay reminds me that the best compliment you can give an actor is to say they don’t look like they’re acting at all. 3.5/5

The Tick: The Complete Series
Watched for Liz Vassey, never got that far. Hated it too much in the first 5 minutes. Warburton has always annoyed me but this time he aimed for the moon and hit it. I’ll be generous and give it an incomplete.

Hinterland
This show doesn’t know if it wants to be serious or Twin Peaks; the murders and motives are very dark, but there are some eerie/funny moments in every episode. And even though the detective is nothing like Coop or Truman, the scenery and especially the waterfall in the first epi can’t help but remind one of that epic show. The intro is much like Sherlock‘s, and I don’t ever need to see that collection of teeth–or any other–again. As I said, not quirky like Twin Peaks, but seriously, the people here are even more fucked up, and that’s saying a lot. And the sad-faced detective is as taciturn as Cooper was cheery. 4/5

;o)

Netflix reviews, part 1

Rather than doing reviews of current movies–which would be useless, since Guardians of the Galaxy is the only one I’ve seen this year (4.5/5 stars), I’m gonna tell ya what I think of stuff I’ve seen on Netflix recently. You’re welcome.

Space: Unraveling the Cosmos

Did not know the moon affects the earth THAT much, to a point where life might not be possible without it. Also did not know the famous Dr. Hubble made his discovery of another galaxy at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, which I can see from my window. . . the antennas, anyway. But that’s about all I learned. Thing had tons of CGI, beautiful visuals but mostly entry-level astronomy; if you’ve seen Nova or most specials on space you know all this stuff already. Ultimately fell asleep. . . 3/5

The Croods

Excellent voicework, particularly Emma Stone. Fantastic animation; loved the colors. The plot? Not so much, but what can you really expect? It did what it was supposed to do excellently. 4/5

The Bachelorette

Note: this is not about the not-so-reality show on TV; this is a rom-com movie, at least supposedly.

The discussion of blow jobs on the plane was surreal. . . and though I knew it was coming, it was still bitchy of her to play the poor guy like that, especially with that last lie that confirmed it was all a setup. . . (that got ya thinkin’, didn’t it?)

Let’s face it, the only reason I clicked on this was because of a certain redhead named Isla Fisher. Her best moment was when she blurted, “I took French?” in high school, but I’m tired of watching her play airheads. Finally gave up less than half an hour in. . . 1.5/5

Victim of Beauty

An incredibly typical suburban mystery, with one particularly great thing at the beginning: the credit “introducing Jeri Lynn Ryan!” Yep, 7 of 9’s first work. She’s competing in a beauty pageant and singing opera! Nice. Her sister is her manager, makeup person, hair, everything; they even snark about the hula hoop girl. Everything changes when the sister is kidnapped, and that’s where the movie goes for the rest of the time.

By far the best part is watching Jeri be the opposite of 7 of 9; she even has some crying scenes, which she did well. Call it a sign of things to come. She even sings Amazing Grace at the end. But that’s it. The movie itself, it bears repeating, is incredibly typical and quite a bit dated, not really worth watching except for the novelty of a young Jeri Ryan. 2/5

Hit and Run

After the slight disappointment of the Veronica Mars movie and the huge disappointment that was The Lifeguard, here’s a Kristen Bell movie I can wholeheartedly recommend. Written, co-directed, and co-starring her partner Dax Shepherd, you also get Tom Arnold (actually pretty good here), a cameo by Jason Bateman, and for all the Marshmallows an appearance by Ryan Hansen, who does his signature backflip right before getting whaled on by the one and only Beau Bridges. Some parts are tough to deal with–Dax’s character is not the best guy ever, even if he wrote it himself–but it’s surprisingly sweet. . . and there’s a lot of fast cars. 4.5/5

The Science of Sex Appeal

I can’t trust anyone who makes sex BORING! 1/5

Ceremony

Very uneven story about a young guy having an affair with an older woman who’s about to get married. Not nearly as good as it thinks it is, but. . . Uma Thurman is in it, so that’s that, watch it. And once again I didn’t recognize Lee Pace, after he was the baddie in Guardians of the Galaxy. Definitely not making pies. . . 2.5/5

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

Space exploration at its best, only helped by Gary Sinise’s wonderful narration. Told chronologically, each episode covers a specific time and/or program, leading to the best part, the moon missions, including the infamous Apollo 13. The interviews are fantastic; on the mission before Armstrong and Aldrin finally landed on the moon, the previous flight’s assignment was to orbit the moon, and NASA had to make sure not to include a way to lift off in case those astronauts got the urge to land against orders. Hilarious. The also didn’t whitewash the three disasters, especially Challenger. 5/5

Prophets of Science Fiction

A series about some of the grand masters of science-fiction writing; as you might expect, this aired on the Sci-Fi channel, or whatever it’s calling itself this week. Gets a little silly at times, with reenactments of their younger years; having to find actors that matched some of these nerdy guys couldn’t have been easy. There’s the ones you might expect like Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, but you also get Mary Shelly and George Lucas among others. Most of the time is taken up by interviewing various people about today’s state of the technology those authors proposed; my favorite was Clarke’s Space Elevator, since I’d just finished rereading The Fountains of Paradise. 4/5

A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Most people probably haven’t heard of this show, but if you’re at all a Monty Python or Benny Hill fan, you’ve got to see this. Stephen Fry isn’t that well known in the States, but I’ve never seen him be anything less than hilarious, and Hugh Laurie certainly wasn’t famous here before House. The “last name: lighter dropped on counter” sketch is right up there with Dead Parrot.  5/5

;o)