11.30.2016

Television: Elementary, "Ill Tidings"

So... People die from snake venom being put in some foie gras at a restaurant, and it turns out these people are big in the Internet security world, but then the whole thing turns out to be about someone trying to steal priceless art from Wall Street? I think?

Also, we see Holmes' girlfriend again only to have him break up with her (because she's not as awesome as the criminal mastermind who once held—and broke—his heart). It's as though the writers suddenly remembered they'd given Holmes a girlfriend and said to each other, "We'd better do something with that..." Then looked for a quick way to end that plot point.

Speaking of girlfriends, Holmes pokes Bell in the ribs over his attraction to an assistant district attorney.

On the plus side, no Shinwell in this episode.

I think maybe I'm past being invested in this show. I'll see it through, but only because I'm pretty sure this will be the last season anyway.

11.29.2016

Television: The Crown, "Assassins" and "Gloriana"

"Assassins": Winston Churchill hates a painting some guy did of him so much he burns it and resigns as Prime Minister.

Also, Phillip is actually jealous of some guy named "Porchey." Just because the guy runs Elizabeth's stables and shares her love of horses. (If he didn't, he wouldn't be running the stables, one supposes.) I guess there's this idea that, once upon a time, Liz and Porchey were expected to make a match of things. Prince Porchey does have a ring to it... But anyway, if Phillip is that upset about his wife spending time at the stables, maybe he should stay home instead of haring off to party every night.

"Gloriana": Princess Margaret finally turns 25, but just as she's ready to announce her engagement to Peter Townsend, the Cabinet tells Liz that they won't agree to the match. And somehow they have that power. It's that old church hangup about divorced people getting married. And so Liz frets over a childhood promise to put family before all things versus her need to be The Crown, which includes being Defender of the Faith. A call to Uncle Jerk David helps her decide, and now Margaret will never forgive her. (Cuz, you know, Elizabeth told her she can't marry Townsend.)

Meanwhile, Phillip is encouraged to go to Melbourne and open the Olympics there. Alone. Cuz he needs something to do. Really, this royal family is big on sending their problems away, by which I mean people who are problems. Townsend, Phillip... Wish I could tell my family members to go cut a ribbon halfway across the world when I'm fed up with them.

And that's how the season ends. The last episode was a tad overwrought, leaning just a little into soap opera drama, but in all it's a fine show. Looking forward to more whenever that happens to be.

11.28.2016

Here is Where I Rail Against My iPhone 7's Headphones

[Profanity Warning]

Fuck you, Apple.

Fuck you for making the iPhone 7 just different enough that I had to buy a new case.

And fuck your podcast app that adds a bunch of crap to my playlist and then doesn't give me a way to delete them or clear the list so that I have to fast forward through every goddamn one.

Fuck your music app, too, because no matter how many times I try to delete shit from my playlist, it keeps crawling back. I ONLY WANT THE SONGS I WANT, NOT RANDOM SHIT.

But most of all, fuck your new headphones that are hard, uncomfortable plastic and don't fit in my ears.

Did it ever occur to you "brilliant" fucking idiots that there is a reason most GOOD headphones come with a variety of interchangeable buds? Different shapes and sizes? Could it possibly be that we're not all fucking clones and our ears aren't all the same? And maybe, just maybe, we want our headphones to be comfortable?

And don't you dare try to tell me to use your goddamn adapter. The one that worked for about a week before my iPhone quit recognizing it, probably because you want us to use your crap technology instead of, like, headphones that work and are comfortable and all that.

And if you try to tell me I can buy other Apple headphones in other sizes—I don't know, I haven't looked—I'm going to tell you to go fuck yourself. Because I spent enough on the goddamn phone that it should come with everything I need without me having to spend more money. Did I mention I already had to buy a new case, you fuckity fucks?

I've had an iPod since they first came out, I've had an iPhone since they came out, too, but this—this is the final straw. I'm actually about to go have a gander at the Google phone because when you no longer add to my life experiences—when you, in fact, are detracting from my life by making it impossible for me to listen to music or podcasts on my daily walks—that's where I draw the line. I'll put up with a lot, but not this. No crap piece of technology is worth this aggravation. The fact that my phone can make me this angry is not healthy. So I will go find a phone that works the way I want it to work and has headphones I can actually fucking use.

So long, fuckers.

11.26.2016

Television: The Crown, "Gelignite," "Scientia Potentia Est," and "Pride & Joy"

Episodes 6, 7, and 8 respectively.

In "Gelignite," we deal with the fact that Princess Margaret's romance with Peter Townsend (not that Peter Townsend) has become public knowledge/scandal depending on your point of view. The fact that Townsend is divorced is an issue because the church doesn't acknowledge remarriage if both parties are still living. The loophole: Once Margaret reaches the age of 25, she can marry without Elizabeth's permission. This also allows Elizabeth to save face because she does not have to make an unpopular decision in order to please her sister. Of course, she then goes on to upset Margaret anyway by sending Townsend to Brussels so things can cool off for a bit while Margaret literally waits to grow up.

We then move on to "Scientia Potentia Est" (it means "knowledge is power"). Elizabeth is feeling the lack of her overall education. Oh, she had a tutor as a kid and all that, but she mostly learned, uh... Decorum? And probably a lot of history and all about how Parliament works or whatever. But because there was so much focus on those things, her general curriculum suffered. So she decides to employ a new tutor to help her with things like science so that she can understand things like atomic bombs. Not a bad idea, really. Meanwhile, Churchill is practically in a sitcom as he tries to hide his illness from Elizabeth as well as that of the Foreign Secretary. Of course they get caught and dressed down for it. That's how sitcoms work. Oh, and Elizabeth really wants Martin to come be her new Personal Secretary but she's told that Martin is only a junior and she has to promote the senior to the job. Because even though she's The Queen, she's not allowed to do end runs around the proper form and order of things. Hierarchy, you know. The system—and monarchy—relies on it.

Remember way back when Liz and Phil were doing that big tour because her dad was too ill to do it? But then he died and so she had to go home and be Queen? Yeah, so in "Pride & Joy" it's decided she and Phillip should go finish that tour. They're going to be gone for three months, meaning the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret will be filling in back home. Except the Queen Mother up and leaves for Scotland and Margaret acts more like a wannabe movie star than royalty by drawing a lot of attention to herself. Liz wrestles with a certain amount of envy at how loved Margaret seems to be by the public. She also knows that the monarchy is not meant to be the spectacle Margaret is making of it, and she tells Margaret as much upon returning home. Margaret accuses Elizabeth of being too perfect. Meanwhile, the episode title is explained in that their father used to call Elizabeth his pride and Margaret his joy. Though to hear Margaret tell it, he used "but" instead of "and." Because Margaret firmly believes she was daddy's favorite and is mean enough to fling that in her sister's face.

So that's that for those three episodes. Only two more this season. It continues to be fun, though I'm waiting for Phillip to get in trouble with that club he keeps hanging out with. Nothing worse than a bunch of bored, wealthy men.

11.20.2016

Television: Elementary, "To Catch a Predator Predator"

This Shinwell story line has got to stop. It's bogging everything down. Also, why all the ties, Watson? I've been distracted all season by her bizarre wardrobe.

Okay, but other than that, this was a fairly interesting episode. Not difficult to figure out—I managed to stay a step ahead on most things—but still pretty entertaining. A man is shot and killed at a motel, and at first it appears he may be someone who preys on underage girls, but then it's made clear he was actually the one attacking predators. So logically it's a matter of attempting to discern which of those he's attacked was the one to kill him. But of course it's never that simple or straight forward. The resolution, I would argue, was a bit of a cheat since the viewer did not have all the information necessary to come to that conclusion. Still, I saw it coming because it's usually one of those characters you only meet for a minute or two early on. At least (potential spoiler here) it wasn't some capitalist fat cat or CEO this time? That made for a nice change.

I think it's cute that they had to explain catfishing because a large swath of their audience is older and doesn't know what that means.

All told, a fair episode. If only we could punt this Shinwell stuff. Geez.

11.19.2016

Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros., 2016
PG-13; 133 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


_______________________________________________________

In this effort to capture the Harry Potter audience, Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, who HP readers know as the author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (roll credits). Newt has come to New York to . . . something. Collect more creatures? Release a few back into their native habitats? Does it matter? What does happen is that the creatures he illegally smuggles into the U.S. get loose and wreak havoc that coincides with other problems in the American magical community. This makes Scamander a convenient scapegoat.

Astute filmgoers will not be surprised by any of the "twists" in this tale; they'll see them coming quite plainly. And not all the FX are up to snuff. However, that aside, this is still a fairly likable film. While it's difficult to warm up to Scamander, with Redmayne playing up the awkward and mostly refusing to make eye contact, the supporting characters are charming. A subplot about a movement called New Salem that wants to rid the country of witches and wizards is pretty dark but also more interesting than what amounts to a game of Pokémon as Scamander attempts to collect his creatures and stuff them back into his suitcase. Gotta catch 'em all!

Despite its flaws, which include faults in logic from time to time and at least one major continuity problem, Fantastic Beasts is on the whole a fun movie. I can't say the IMAX experience added much to it, but then again we also were only watching in 2D, so maybe 3D would have made it cooler. Still and all, I can recommend it as a good time.

Movies: Self/less

Generic and boring would-be thriller without the thrills. It probably looked good on paper, but in reality the story isn't all that compelling and the filmmakers don't do anything to make you care about the characters.

Ben Kingsley plays, for all of about 15 minutes, a dying real estate magnate whose digs looks suspiciously Trump-like. He hires an underground company called Phoenix (not the one MacGyver worked for) to transfer his consciousness into a new body (Ryan Reynolds). He's told that the bodies are lab-created, but of course it turns out they're actually "used." I think the movie should have been called Refurbished.

After becoming Ryan Reynolds, he's also given a new identity and forced to take meds that suppress the memories of the body's previous occupant. When he misses a dose, he begins to get flashes and feels driven to hunt down the woman and little girl he sees. Lucky for him, a quick Google image search shows him exactly where to go.

And of course he's pursued by Phoenix, etc. etc. But I wasn't interested enough in this guy's back story, nor did they make things tense and taut enough to hold my attention. While the idea of swapping bodies seems like a great premise, the rest of the film fails to honor the promise of that being an entertaining starting point. Self/less is dull, dull, dull. It stumbles from scene to scene disjointedly and without the strength to pull the viewers' interest along with it.

11.17.2016

Politics in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Whether you write these genres or just love to read them, what role does politics play in science fiction and fantasy worlds? I participated in an online panel to discuss just that. Who does it well? Who does it less than well? (The Star Wars prequels, anyone?) Is it always necessary to have politics in a sci-fi or fantasy book? Find out what I and other SFF writers have to say about it, and feel free to let me know your thoughts on it, too.


11.16.2016

Television: The Crown, "Act of God" and "Smoke and Mirrors"

I continue to make my way through this series. In the episode "Act of God" we come close to horror story territory as a dense fog cloaks London, posing a health hazard that leaves many ill and dead. It turns out Churchill knew of the possibility of such an occurrence, had been urged to limit coal consumption because the pollutants are the major contributing factor to the fog, but dismissed it and now... The fog has come... dun-dun-DUN.

Seriously, though, keep in mind this really did happen in 1952, and Churchill nearly lost his position over it. But he's a cunning old thing. When his assistant is hit by a bus that didn't see her because, you know, fog, Churchill goes to the hospital morgue to identify her then uses that to make a public appearance that boosts his popular appeal. Just as Elizabeth is about to give him a good kick in the pants, too, because he won't let Phillip take flying lessons. (Spoiler for those who haven't been around in the last 70+ years: Phillip is allowed to fly in the end.)

"Smoke and Mirrors" then moves on to Elizabeth's coronation. Against tradition and all advice, Liz puts Phil in charge of arranging it, and he brings in TV crews. That's kind of the sum total of the episode except that Uncle David, who had been king for less than a year and never got a coronation, continues to bitch about things. I do understand his frustration, sure—his family is fairly nasty about the whole abdication and his marrying that Wallis woman. It's a wonder their relationship lasted given that, in the end, it seems neither of them were very happy. A lifetime of not getting what you really want will do that to you, I suppose.

Oh, and Queen Mary dies.

As for the coronation, there's a bit of tension between Elizabeth and Phillip when he doesn't want to have to kneel to her during the ceremony but she insists. She tries to explain to Phillip that she is his wife but also the Queen. It's complicated, but once again the show does a fine job of relaying that tension to the viewers. We feel it.

So that leaves us at the halfway mark for this season. So far so good.

Theatre: Murder on the Nile by Aquila Theatre


I went in thinking this would be a staged version of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, which is one of my favorite of her books. Well, I was kind of right.

This take on the story is framed by the idea of it being a BBC radio play during the Blitz in London. Because of the air raids, only some of the radio cast manages to make it into the studio, leaving them to scramble to perform all the parts. You'll see from the photo that there are chairs with hats and characters' names attached to each. The three Aquila Theatre Company actors deftly and wittily swapped hats as they put on the show. The result was highly entertaining.

If you've read the book, you'll recognize many of the characters, though some names have been changed. You'll also notice the absence of one Monsieur Hercule Poirot. Many of Poirot's lines from the book, and indeed the onus of solving the murder mystery, have been given to the character of Uncle Ambrose instead. Though I was disappointed not to see Poirot, I found this version quite likable anyway. I think removing the weight of such a well-known character allowed this to be a balanced production in which the keen skills of the three actors were equally highlighted. (Note: Christie removed Poirot from the play when she adapted the book for stage.)

Additionally, the story is punctuated by fun musical numbers.

I brought my 10-year-old son and he also really enjoyed it and had no trouble following the plot. While not suitable for truly young audiences, savvy pre-teens could easily find much to like in this comedy/mystery. Mine came home and asked to borrow some of my books.

On the whole, a very enjoyable evening.

11.13.2016

Random Stats

So a couple years ago I posted the random statistics on which posts on this site had the most all-time hits. Now that it's been a while, I thought I'd check in again to see if anything has changed.

  1. My review of R.I.P.D. - Continues to be the most-read post. WHY???
  2. My coverage of the Summerland concert.
  3. My meandering thoughts on the movie Wreckers. - Moving up in the ranks, possibly because there's very little written about it so it comes up in online searches? I have no idea; I've never actually searched for it online.
  4. Matchbox Twenty's album art for North. - Such a throwaway post, not sure why it remains so popular.
  5. Tarot Mucha
  6. Book Review of The Last Queen.
  7. Matchbox Twenty's "Smooth" T.V. - Just a link to an online spoof, but whatever.
  8. The Enchanted Lenormand Oracle
  9. New York Lenormand & Burning Serpent Oracle
  10. Recap of Elementary's season one finale.

Definitely some shifting around. Five of the top ten are the same as two years ago, though in different orders (excepting R.I.P.D. continuing to rule the chart). I appear to be getting more traffic for my reviews of tarot and oracle cards now, however. (And yeah, if you have a deck you want reviewed, feel free to send it to me and I'll play with it and post my thoughts.)

Traffic is consistent at about 200 to 500 unique hits a day, up and down. I notice a slump mid-week each week and the weekends are slower, too, most likely because all of you have lives.

I guess the lesson here is: more Matchbox Twenty and more tarot? Maybe a pop/rock tarot deck would be the sweet spot. Someone should make one.

Movies: Sing Street

John Carney has made a career of basically finding a frame story to give him reasons to string would-be music videos together. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. He's good at it, and I've liked two of the three movies I've seen. It's just very noticeable. By the time I got to Sing Street, as cute as the plot is, I had come to realize it was more about the music than the characters.

Feel free to argue. The story of Sing Street is that in 1980s Dublin, 15-year-old Conor wants to impress a girl he sees sitting on a stoop. She tells him she's a model, and he randomly asks if she wants to star in his band's video. Which means he needs to start a band and shoot a video. Then comes the crash course in learning to write songs, etc., and a series of music video shoots.

Sure, there's a bit more to it. The would-be romance between Conor and Raphina, the stresses of a family falling apart, the school bully—or bullies, if you count the administration as one. But none of it feels all that important. They're there because there needs to be mortar to fill the gaps between the bricks that are the musical numbers. Mortar is important to a wall, yes, but the bricks make the wall. You dig?

Again, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I actually really enjoyed the movie, and it's a toss up between this one and Begin Again for me. I like them about equally. (I tried to watch Once, though, and couldn't get through it. Sorry. Know it was an award-winning whatever but not for me.) Bottom line is, John Carney movies are this one thing. When you're in the mood for that one thing, you watch one. Or maybe you skip the movie and just buy the soundtrack.

11.11.2016

Books: The Trespasser by Tana French

I always know I'm going to get a good one when I pick up a Tana French book, and this one is no exception.

In this particular volume, we get the story from Antoinette Conway's perspective. She also featured in The Secret Place, though that novel focused on things from her would-be partner Steve Moran's point of view. (Spoiler: he did become her partner and so is a big part of The Trespasser as well.)

Conway is the only woman on the Murder Squad, and she has a big martyr complex to go with the job, certain that, barring partner Steve, everyone else on the squad is out to get her. Sure enough, when she and Steve pull a big murder—a nice change from domestic violence and bar fights—Conway is convinced other detectives are trying to screw up her investigation. And . . . She may just be right.

I won't say more; wouldn't want to give anything away. Sufficient to say it's another great installment in the series, and I'd be happy to watch a television series about Conway and Steve. (Note she thinks of Steve by his first name, everyone else by their surnames. They're so close it's adorable.) I'm sure the next book will pan off these two and pick up Roche or Fleas or any number of the secondary characters introduced here. In some ways it's a little heartbreaking to have to give up characters we've come to really love in the course of a novel. On the other hand, the constant overturning of protagonists keeps things fresh.

In short, another solid one by French. Looking forward, as ever, to more.

Like Tana French? Try my novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, only 99 cents on Amazon this weekend!

Once More With Feeling

It really hurts me to think these kitties could end up on the street. So I'm begging—yes, that's right, begging—for you to help. If you can't donate, at least spread the word. PLEASE.

Help these kitties!

And if you'd like to get something for your troubles, I've even made this lotus t-shirt. The proceeds go toward helping these kitties, and you get a nice, super soft, meditative shirt. When people ask what the lotus stands for, you can tell them the truth or just make up something. Wouldn't that be fun? It's a simple enough shirt, nothing special, but email me your receipt and I'll send you a signed copy of Manifesting Destiny or The K-Pro if you like. THAT'S how serious I am about helping these kitties. It's breaking my heart to think they might get evicted. So help if you can!

11.10.2016

Television: The Crown, "Windsor"

All right, so Elizabeth is now queen, though she hasn't been officially crowned yet. Churchill seeks to put off her coronation for a year, partly because he feels doing so will stall his party's attempts to unseat him.

Elizabeth—really, Phillip, though Elizabeth ostensibly supports and agrees with him—has two items on her checklist: (1) keeping her married name of Mountbatten, and (2) living at Clarence House rather than Buckingham Palace. She doesn't mind going to Buckingham to do the work, but the family would rather live at Clarence House, which Phillip has recently spent a pretty penny to renovate.

She's told "no" to both.

And she caves. Without much of a fight.

Once supposes she was young and easily led at that point, too uncertain to put her foot down, but it just seems so random that she didn't press harder on either point. Phillip is, of course, unhappy. His manhood is at stake, to a degree (and keeping in mind the time period)—his wife outranks him, and she won't even take his [adopted] name. Nor will she let him live in the house he redecorated. One can feel sorry for him under the circumstances, at least a little.

Meanwhile, Princess Margaret continues her affaire de coeur with Townsend. His wife has left him, and she urges him to get a divorce so he can remarry. But we all know what the royal family thinks of divorcés; it's made very clear in the circumstances of David, Duke of Windsor, who was briefly king before having to abdicate in order to marry a divorced American (Wallis Simpson). The bad blood lingers as David comes home for the funeral, his wife left behind in New York because she is not welcome. David's goals are to keep, if not increase, the allowance his brother Bertie (aka George VI) had given him, and to ideally have his wife given a proper royal title. The first may be possible, but the second, uh, no. It is Elizabeth who extends an olive branch to David, saying she would value his advice in the absence of her father. Meanwhile, the rest of the family blames David for Bertie's death, the logic being that if David had remained king, Bertie would not have had to be and would not have died from, er . . . stress? I don't think being king gave him cancer, but whatever.

Of course, it is Uncle Jerk who tells Elizabeth to keep the name Windsor—hardly an unbiased opinion, since he's the Duke of Windsor—and to move into Buckingham. Such is the deal Jerk made with Churchill, to push Elizabeth in the direction the Council wanted. "Good Job, Uncle Jerk!"

The Crown continues to be enchanting. It's a string of small moments, nicely matched, like pearls. This is the strand of a life . . .

One last thing, however. Can I just say that every f***ing credit sequence for everything ever now looks and sounds exactly the same? I'm really, really sick of it. The sequence for The Crown looks the same as the sequence for The Night Manager which in turn looks like Westworld and the sequence for any number of other things I've seen recently. Ugh. Stop it. Get an original idea, guys. Come on.

11.09.2016

Black Armband

Honestly, I'm devastated and horrified by the events of last night and early this morning. I don't know what else to say. Americans have long had a worldwide reputation for being loud, mean, and obnoxious, and now we'll have the president to "prove" it. I really would move overseas if I could.

And mostly I fear that the haters, the bigots, the xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, abusers of any and all kinds will take this as license to do the things they've always wanted to do.

"He has limited power." Yes, but the Republicans will also control Congress, and if they jump on this crazy train, we're all stuck on the ride.

"It's only four years." Oh, but what a difficult four years it may be.

My heart is breaking.

11.08.2016

Television: The Crown, "Hyde Park Corner"

As predicted, some sobbing when no one is around, but Elizabeth, er, [wo]mans up relatively quickly.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. See, Elizabeth and Phillip are off in Africa because her father George VI is too ill to travel and so cannot tour the Commonwealth as planned. But while Liz and Phil (can I call them that?) watch elephants and hippos, George passes away. Then there is much tension over getting the news to Elizabeth before she can hear it broadcast on the radio somewhere. Lucky for England she was off in the bush or whatever! :thumbs up:

Other things happening include the Conservative Party attempting to unseat Churchill (who is their own man, but they're unhappy because he's fixated on foreign countries rather than helping his own), and Princess Margaret carrying on a flirt with Captain Peter Townsend, equerry to King George and a married man. *gasp!*

Again, if you know any of the history, you know how all this ends, but it's fun to watch anyway.

And oh, hey, look! Nicholas Rowe! Bonus points there in my book.

I'm actually quite impressed with Matt Smith who continues to do a very good job of walking the line as Phillip. His frustration is palpable, yet so is his real love for Elizabeth. He also gets the bluntness—sometimes bordering on seeming stupidity—just right. It's a nicely nuanced performance, so good on him.

I really am enjoying the series. Very well done.

11.06.2016

Books: The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller

On sale as part of the Virtual Book Fair on Facebook. Although the fair kicks off next week, you can already pick Peter up for 99 cents on Amazon.


11.05.2016

Television: The Crown, "Wolferton Splash"

This 10-part series about the life of Elizabeth II begins with her fiancé renouncing his titles in Greece and Denmark, taking the name Mountbatten and being properly naturalized as a British citizen so that he can marry Elizabeth. From there, the focus in this first episode rests largely on the ill health of Elizabeth's father King George VI.

Doctor Who's Matt Smith plays young Philip and does a fair job showing him champing the bit, being restive after his career in the Royal Navy. He's not keen to do a bunch of junkets, and father-in-law George (a puffy-looking Jared Harris) must sit him down and give him a talking to. John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is, unfortunately, just a bit too John Lithgow to be believable; while watching one is too aware it's John Lithgow to ever feel he could be Churchill. But that's the standout; the remainder of the cast is quite on point, and the production values are lavish.

Still and all, not a whole lot happens in this first installment. Aside from the wedding and some faux home movie footage, we're really only given the ominous sense of George's imminent death. Those of us who know our history know how and when it will happen (and the rest of you can go look it up if you like), so this we really only have a "dramatic re-enactment" to look forward to—that's the extent of the tension, waiting for the news and to see lots of crying or, being they're British, a lot of not crying until they're alone in a room somewhere. Then we'll be treated to a Coronation, and won't that be fun?

Yes, I'm making light, but in truth I look forward to watching more. The Crown is so well made that I can forgive its somewhat slow pace and heretofore lack of depth. It will get there, I'm sure. It's easing out of the dock like a steamliner, but soon enough we'll hit open water and there will be smooth sailing.

Movies: Side Effects

This is one of those movies that probably read well as a script but in execution—yea verily, even in the capable hands of Steven Soderbergh—ends up being soporific and monotonous. Also, the "twist" was utterly predictable.

Rooney Mara plays Emily Taylor, a young woman suffering acute depression and whose husband (Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison for insider trading. Already this movie is boring. When Emily runs her car at a wall but survives, she starts seeing a therapist (Jude Law) and taking a hot new antidepressant. Unfortunately, the side effects (roll credits) include cooking while sleepwalking, the ultimate result being [SPOILERS, SWEETIES] she stabs her husband to death during one of these sleepwalking episodes. Because she mistook him for a tomato or something, I guess.

Yawn. This movie is meant to be tense, I think, but it just isn't. Even as Jude Law goes all Watson and begins to unravel the truth, it's just . . . I was never made to care that much about any of the characters. Maybe it's just hard to make someone depressed very interesting, but I disliked Emily more than sympathized with her. I did feel bad for Law's therapist, who suffers a lot of blowback from having his patient become a murderer while under his care, but then he sort of goes off the deep end himself and makes himself a bit unlikable, even though we as viewers are aware he's in the right. There needed to be some kind of shift in the way the movie was filmed—a slight POV change—to make it palatable. Instead it's a lot of washed-out, moody filters. It made me sleepy.

I'll watch Jude Law in just about anything, but this wasn't one of the better ones. Side Effects is one of those that makes you wonder whether the cast knew as the filming went along that it wasn't going to be equal to the sum of its parts. Or were they all really believing in that script and director only to be disappointed in the outcome? Maybe Soderbergh himself was disappointed, too, as it became his last feature film (as director; he still produces) and he announced an intention to stick to television shortly thereafter.

11.02.2016

Television: Elementary, "Henny Penny the Sky Is Falling"

So this one was about a quantitative analyst who was murdered after publishing a paper about how scientists should better measure asteroids by taking into account what they're made of. Um . . . Yeah, okay. I actually get that. Oh, and Richard Thomas was there for all of two scenes, so that was cool. (I'm not old enough to remember him from The Waltons, but I do remember him from IT.)

The investigation goes down the usual lines. There's the fact the guy was having an affair with his boss' wife, but that doesn't really get off the ground. By the way, I think it's weird the boss had a picture of his wife with her friends in his office. My husband wouldn't keep a picture of me and a bunch of my friends in his office; he'd choose a shot of just me, or us together, or the family. If he had a picture of my friends, I'd wonder which one he was sleeping with.

Okay, but anyway, then we go into who stood to lose or gain when the paper was published. Yada, yada, yada. Nothing very exciting or surprising, but I still liked the episode. That they pulled in some canon regarding Holmes' lack of astronomical knowledge was a nice touch.

B plot was that Gregson was working to get Holmes and Watson included in a commendation the squad was set to receive. Watson was all for it, but Holmes—perverse as ever—was not. This again goes along with Holmes refusing a knighthood in the Doyle stories, I suppose. In this case, he tells Watson a commendation is worthless, the work is all that matters. Then he goes on to say that, based on his experience at Scotland Yard, accolades cause friction. He gets all the credit and attention, and the force becomes jaded. A little of his arrogance showing through there, but that's the point of the character and something the writers have blunted a bit recently (probably in a drive to make him more likable). Good to have it acknowledged again. Boils down to: "I'm really good at what I do, but then people hate me for it." Watson has an appropriate boo-hoo on you response and reminds him that the point is to share the recognition as a team.

A modestly entertaining if safe episode. This is looking more and more like a final season for Elementary, though the series low this past week may be in part due to Hallowe'en festivities taking the place of viewing.