Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's October offerings and vanishings?
October brings falling leaves, Halloween and season five of American Horror Story – the one with Lady Gaga that takes place in an extra spooky hotel. On the comedy side we get the Grinder, season one, a show I very much enjoyed, as well as iZombie season two, another winner. For the kids we have shows featuring Winnie the Pooh, My Little Ponies, and Skylanders.
This month we get ready to say goodbye to some beloved and reviled shows and films. If you can't get enough of people tapping their bottle covered fingers together and saying Warriors come out to play-ay, you'll be deeply saddened to see that the 1979 movie Warriors is leaving on the first. Why not have a double feature movie night, pop up some popcorn and watch Warriors and The Running Man, the terrible adaptation if the novel by Stephen King's alter ego, Richard Bachman, which goes away at the same time? We also wave goodbye to eight seasons of Psych and Heroes seasons one through four.
See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in October 2016.
All titles and dates are subject to change.
A Cinderella Story (2004)
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)
Blue Streak (1999)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dr. Doolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008)
Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Ghost Town (2008)
Grizzly Man (2005)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Murder Maps: Season 2 (2015)
My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree (2016)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Picture This! (2008)
Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997)
The Queen of the Damned (2002)
Quiz Show (1994)
Saving Mr. Wu (2015)
Snake Eyes (1998)
Snow Day (2000)
Three Kings (1999)
The Uninvited (2009)
Unsealed: Alien Files: Season 4
Without a Paddle (2004)
American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5)
Dartmoor Killing (2015)
The Flash: Season 2
The Grinder: Season 1
Arrow: Season 4
iZombie: Season 2
13TH (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Dinotrux: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Ranch: Season 1 Part 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Russell Peters: Almost Famous - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Siege of Jadotville (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Supernatural: Season 11
The Originals: Season 3
Vampire Diaries: Season 7
Kuromukuro: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Love Between the Covers (2015)
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1
Mascots (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Haters Back Off!: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Project MC2: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Being George Clooney (2016)
Chapo: el escape del siglo (2016)
Glitch: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Power Rangers Dino Super Charge: Season 1: Part 1
Dark Matter: Season 2
Black Mirror: Season 3 (Part 1) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Containment: Season 1
Joe Rogan: Triggered - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Word Party: Season 2 -NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Doctor Foster: Season 1
Big Eyes (2014)
Jesus Camp (2006)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
7 años (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Into the Inferno (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Skylanders Academy: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Trailer Park Boys: Out of the Park: Europe - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Fall: Season 3 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Chewing Gum: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The following titles will be disappearing in October. Better watch them while you can.
10.0 Earthquake (2014)
Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Deep Impact (1998)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Exorcist (1973)
Heroes: Season 1-4
Honey 2 (2011)
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
Mr. Deeds (2002)
My Girl (1991)
Nick of Time (1995)
The Phantom (1996)
Psych: Seasons 1-8
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Live: The 2010s: Season 38
Uncommon Valor (1983)
The Warriors (1979)
The Big Green (1995)
Ivan the Incredible (2013)
Marvel's Avengers Assemble: Season 2
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
The Interview (2014)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
The Truman Show (1998)
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer is a cute book, about an art school that's suffering from the invasion of a reality show that's a bit like So You Think You Can Dance, or America's Most Talented or whatever it's called, or even American Idol. Called For Art's Sake, the series pits several seniors against each other, all of whom are competing for a gigantic scholarship.
The story is told from the perspective of a philosophical daydreamer called Ethan. He feels like he doesn't really belong in the Arts Academy. He says he can draw and he can play an instrument but everyone else is much more talented. While he has a close circle of friends, his best friend is a gerbil named Baconnaise. (Warning to anyone who has loved and lost pocket pets; semicolon Baconnaise gets a tumor towards the beginning of the book which of course runs through him like wildfire. It's extremely sad and brings up memories of past lost tiny furry friends.)
Ethan and his friends are not fans of the show, although they hate watch it together every week, but their dislike and distrust ramps up exponentially when Ethan inadvertently discovered that the show is scripted. He and his friends decide to protest, and since they are art school students they use the form of a very long poem, which they print and hand out to the other students. The school administration cracks down on them and they push back even harder, as they discover exactly how tightly the reality show has become entwined with the school.
If this book have been pitched to me as angry students write a long poem I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read it, but I'm glad that I did. It's entertaining and it's a quick read. I wouldn't call it great, but it's a nice way to fill up an empty Sunday afternoon, as long as you don't get terribly sad over lost pocket pets.
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
Beastly by Alex Flinn is another book that I liked but didn't love. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this one is a bit different in that it's told from the point-of-view of the Beast. Kyle is an incredibly obnoxious, stuck up, rich brat who goes to a fancy private school, where he looks down on just about everyone. He has no relationships where he isn't either using the other person or being used or both at the same time. As the story begins he's getting ready to go to the big dance at school and he sees an "ugly girl" in his class and decides that he's going to ruin her dance. He invites her to go with him, fully intending to ditch her in front of the entire school.
End result, she turns out to be a witch and curses him in the traditional Beauty and the Beast format. Suddenly everything this kid has relied on is gone. His good looks. His social status. He does still have his father's money which is very useful, but his father sticks him in a house in Brooklyn and leaves him there, not spending any time with him whatsoever.
But it's hard to feel sorry for someone who's deep down such an awful person. Of course the Beauty and the Beast story is all about growth, although usually the growth is coming from the Beauty who has to learn to see past skin deep characteristics. In this case it's the Beast that needs to do the growing.
My favorite part of Beastly was the interludes in which l the Beast is online as part of a support group for cursed characters from other fairy tales. There's The Little Mermaid, The Frog Prince and a couple of other from popular stories. I'd be very interested in knowing who the moderator is and what his story is but I never found out.
So this is a fun story but of course it's weirdly creepy. The original stories are also weirdly creepy, in that Beauty's horrible father gives her to a bear or beast or whatever in exchange for going free himself. Kyle justified taking his girl prisoner by saying that she's obviously better off with him than with her negligent father, who gives her away at the drop of a hat. Maybe he has a point, but kidnapping is not something to look at lightly. Beastly is an interesting exploration of all types of different morals and mores.
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
This week's bonus treat is inspired by the news that John Hinckley was finally released from the mental hospital. This is the incredibly creepy song from Assassins, which is a duet sung by Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme (also released, as is Sarah Jane Moore). He's singing to Jodie Foster and she is singing to Charles Manson.
Before I get started, I have a couple of thoughts about the upcoming season of Teen Wolf. According to MTV, who should know since they are Teen Wolf's network, this will be the final season. Why? It's hugely popular and lots of fun, so why get rid of it? Is it because the actors are too old to make convincing teens? Or did the creators just run out of interesting mythologies? Jeff Davis has done a terrific job incorporating gods and monsters from a variety of cultures. This time around our stalwart heroes and heroines will be interacting with the Wild Hunt, a terrifying phenomena no one in their right mind would want to tangle with. There will be a twist on the legend, with those who get caught up with/by the Wild Hunt vanishing from the memories of those around them. There is a terrific scene in the trailer where Stiles discovers his own father has forgotten him. This idea of losing our most basic identity is an old one that has lost none of its horror. You can watch the trailer for season six here:
The Lies of Locke Zamora
My arm, which I originally injured reading House of Leaves, will never heal at this rate, as I keep reading enormous books which are part of a series. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch clocks in at a little over 700 pages in the hardback edition and was a strain on my ridiculously flimsy arm. (One of the many drawbacks of lupus is joints and such are extremely prone to injury.) I was going to pace myself on the book, putting it down when my arms started to hurt, but it was too interesting and I ended up with an ice bag and an ace bandage helping my arm prop up the book.
The first in the Gentleman Bastard series, The Lies of Locke Lamora introduce us to an intricate, complex world and a set of rapscallions who call themselves the Gentleman Bastards. They are thieves, but they are more than that as they are also terrific con men, with a gigantic wardrobe, expert hair and makeup, and a variety of accents to back up the characters they create. The big con at the heart of this novel involves the pretend rescue of all of a particularly good type of brandy (no hangovers because alchemy), which is supposedly at risk because of impeding war.
But while Locke and his compatriots are setting up this scam they are also being drawn into the web of a mad killer called the Gray King. And his plans for them are dangerous and difficult. But Locke can't exactly say no because there is a tremendous threat hanging over everyone's heads.
Intercut with interludes that tell the story of Locke's childhood and growth as a thief, the novel is a delight. There are so many loose ends that are constantly trying to trip the characters up, but Mr. Lynch juggles them with seeming ease, creating an exciting and suspenseful story.
Almost as interesting as the story is the detailed world the author has drawn. The story is set in a port town, in a planet with three moons. While not science fiction, there are sci fi elements, with the characters existing in a soaring glass city left behind by unknown previous occupants. The people live in a society with technology I would date to our 1500s or so, so not terribly advanced by our current standards, but they do have artifacts left behind with useful attributes. They also have a kind of magic, which I found disappointing. While there is nothing wrong with having magic in a story, it can be a bit of a cheat, especially if it seems effortless and really changes the balance of power. I'll have to see if I feel any better about it in book two and three, both of which are sitting on my desk waiting for me to read. There are supposed to be a total of seven that will be written in the series, which is a pretty good number. Enough to get really into the world but not so many that the author runs out of things to say.
I do have one caveat to my recommendation; there is quite a bit of torture the characters go through. I found myself cringing through several scenes. So if you have a very weak stomach and a very strong imagination you might need to skip this one.
You can read an excerpt here: http://www.scottlynch.us/excerpts.html
(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)
This week's bonus treat is the Walking Dead; Puppy Edition. These husky pups just keep coming. And coming. And coming.
I wasn't very far into watching the film the Babadook before I turned to my son and said, “This is Home Alone meets the Exorcist.” It's a little odd to describe a story in which a child is almost constantly with his mother as Home Alone-esque, but this child's dogged determination and ability to create complex weapons and traps definitely reminded me of the little boy in the Home Alone series. Unfortunately in the Babadook the little boy, called Samuel, is having to protect himself from his own mother, called Amelia. And a monster.
As the story begins Samuel is about to celebrate his seventh birthday. He is out of control; riddled with anxiety, friendless, “too weird” to fit in, an insomniac, and obsessed with magic and monsters. He is a screamer and a whiner and gets kicked out of school in short order.
Meanwhile Amelia looks as though she is suffering from the end stages of a terrible, chronic illness. She works at an assisted living facility, doing time in the dementia ward, putting on an extra sweet face during work hours. She is obviously exhausted and would probably be suffering from fatigue even if her son didn't keep her awake at all hours. Her support system is almost non-existent and becomes even smaller as her son continues to act out.
Samuel loves to tell his origin story; blurting out his tale to complete strangers and causing his mother more pain. His father died in a car accident, as he was driving Amelia to the hospital to have Samuel. While Sam seems to get some odd enjoyment out of having such a dramatic beginning he is definitely feeling the lack of his father, especially as the anniversary of Dad's death approaches.
Into this morass of family problems comes a strange book called The Babadook. It appears on a shelf and Samuel chooses it as his good night story. It starts off kind of okay, although the pop-up drawings are stark and a little frightening, but quickly becomes alarming and threatening. Samuel ends up screaming and Mom quickly tries to soothe him with another book. But the damage is done and he fixates on this new idea of a monster.
Naturally things rapidly go downhill. Samuel is seeing the Babadook everywhere while his mother is trying to keep things together, while denying her grief over the loss of his father and running on little to no sleep, with a physically and emotionally draining job. Every time Samuel is naughty he blames the Babadook, which makes Amelia even crazier. When she finds glass in her food and Samuel says the Babadook did it she comes close to the breaking point. But when Samuel flips out over the monster in the car and has a seizure she is panicked and tries to make some changes.
But now the monster seems to be stalking her, while her son is becoming sweeter and more tractable; all while she is turning into a terrifying, screaming, dangerous mother.
The Babadook is one of those stories that I find so interesting. It is a supernatural story or is it a psychological thriller? Is there a monster? If so, is it the Babadook, the little boy or the mother? Or is it all three? Is there a mental illness? If so who is mentally ill? Everyone? No one? If you see this film with friends you'll have plenty to discuss over dinner afterward, including the ending, which is quite intriguing.
The acting in the Babadook is incredible, with Essie Davis (Game of Thrones, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) turning in a stellar performance as Amelia and Noah Wiseman (Spaghetti, The Gift) is stunning as Samuel. I have been lucky enough to see some terrific acting from children lately, between Stranger Things and Room, but Samuel brings acting to a new level. He's so spot on that you might want to strangle him during one of his whining/screaming spells.
The gloomy house they live in is practically its own character, creating an oppressive atmosphere that alone could make a person suffer from major depression. I kept thinking everyone in the film needed a nice long vacation, preferably on a super bright beach somewhere.
My son said he watched the movie with some friends, who thought the film was boring. I can only assume they weren't really paying attention and they don't know much about mental illness, or have ever heard any statistics regarding parents murdering their children. Or they just don't have any empathy genes? I don't know. It's a bit boggling.
You can watch the trailer here:
This week's bonus treat is five and a half minutes of a back to school meeting for school employees. But it's not quite as dull as it sounds as they break into a spirited parody of One Day More from Les Miz.
New Netflix Offerings and Old Netflix Vanishings September 2016
Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's September offerings and vanishings?
There is so much to look forward to in September. Fans of Jessica Jones (which just won a Hugo) will be delighted to hear that Marvel's Luke Cage is coming in the middle of the month. We're also going to have access to the Walking Dead season six, season three of Penny Dreadful, and season three of the Blacklist. Four Jaws films are coming as is Footloose and a few other blasts from the pasts. Unfortunately no dancing shark films that I know of. But Zootopia is coming, which is fantastic as that is a terrific film.
Fringe, all five seasons, is leaving in September, as is Alias, but there is still going to be plenty of science fiction available. For the kids, including the inner children, be sure to rewatch The Emperor's New Groove and Lilo and Stitch before they say farewell. Open Water and Open Water 2: Adrift are leaving, maybe because all of the Jaws movies are coming and Netflix thinks everyone will lose interest in these films? (Roboshark is also going away; not sure if that supports or invalidates my theory.)
See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in September 2016.
All titles and dates are subject to change.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker (2013) Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
Bratz: The Movie (2007)
Burn, Burn, Burn (2015)
Cats & Dogs (2001)
Crashing: Season 1
Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)
Europe's Last Great Wilderness (2015)
The Fierce Wife (2010)
Full Out (2015)
Game Winning Hit: Season 1
Heartland: Season 7
Hellevator: Season 1
Hope Floats (1998)
I Am the Ambassador: Season 1 - NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
Indochina's Wild Heart (2015)
The IT Crowd: Series 5
Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 3 (1983)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Joyful Noise (2012)
Keepers of the Game (2016)
Last Holiday (2006)
Lucky Days: Season 1
Man on Wire (2008)
Milk Money (1994)
Practical Magic (1998)
Road Trip (2000)
Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules (2000)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Shameless (U.S.): Season 5-6
Stomp the Yard (2007)
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Top Gun (1986)
True Grit (1969)
The Wicker Man (2006)
Wild Madagascar (2015)
The Womanizer: Season 1
The Year of Happiness and Love: Season 1
Baby Daddy: Season 5
Chef's Table: France - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kazoops!: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Narcos: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Young & Hungry: Season 4
The Finest Hours (2015)
Hard Target 2 (2016)
Honey 3 (2016)
R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House (2016)
The Blacklist: Season 3
Galavant: Seasons 1-2
Supergirl: Season 1
Extremis (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Hawaii Five-0: Season 6
London Has Fallen (2015)
Goldie & Bear: Season 1
Sample This (2012)
The Walking Dead: Season 6
Cedric The Entertainer: Live from the Ville - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)
The White Helmets (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Luther: Season 4
Penny Dreadful: Season 3
Call the Midwife: Series 5
Gotham: Season 2
Colliding Dreams (2016)
New Girl: Season 5
Bones: Season 11
Easy: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Wallander: Series 4
Audrie & Daisy (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Last Man Standing: Season 5
Longmire: Season 5 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
VeggieTales in the House: Season 4 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Portlandia: Season 6
Family Guy: Season 14
Margaret Cho: PsyCHO (2015)
The Fosters: Season 4 (Part A)
The Imitation Game (2014)
Amanda Knox (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Marvel's Luke Cage: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Scream: Season 2
The following titles will be disappearing in September. Better watch them while you can.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Anywhere but Here (1999)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013)
The Color Purple (1985)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Days of Thunder (1990)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Everybody Loves Raymond: Seasons 1-9
Exporting Raymond (2010)
Flight of the Intruder (1991)
Girl Rising (2013)
Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
The Haunting (1999)
Nick Cannon: Mr. Showbiz (2011)
Our Man in Tehran (2013)
Primal Fear (1996)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Sins of My Father (2009)
The Weather Man (2005)
The Wood (1999)
Melissa & Joey: Seasons 1-4
Shanghai Knights (2003)
Gabe the Cupid Dog (2012)
Hollywood Homicide (2003)
My Babysitter's a Vampire: The Movie (2010)
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Fringe: Seasons 1-5
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Bob Saget: That's What I'm Talkin' About (2013)
Gridiron Gang (2006)
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Gimme the Loot (2012)
Simon Killer (2012)
Something, Anything (2014)
The Lost Medallion (2013)
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Alias: Seasons 1-5
Open Water (2004)
Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)
666 Park Avenue: Season 1
Another Gay Movie (2006)
The Aviators (2008)
League of Super Evil: Season 1
We Were Soldiers (2002)
I was reading a medical report the other day and saw that the physician's assistant had made an error. It was supposed to say patient states she sees bugs crawling into her skin. Instead the report said patient states she sees bugs crawling out of her skin.
I don't know about you but the idea of bugs crawling into your skin is pretty bad but bugs crawling out seems so much worse. How many are there? What were they doing in there? How long were they in there? If these kinds of questions give you the willies and you enjoy being scared then you will definitely enjoy Scott Sigler's novel Infected.
I'm sure I read this a few years ago but I don't really remember what I thought of it then. My impression is that I didn't think it was terrible but I also didn't think it was terrific. This time around I really enjoyed it.
Infected is the intertwined stories of several different people who are intimately impacted by a type of parasite that is building weird little structures inside of people and making them go violently crazy. We see things from the perspective of the lead CDC agent, a Vietnam war vet who is in charge of containing the violence, and an enormous football player who has had a lifelong problem controlling his temper.
Naturally the football player gets infected. Nicknamed Scary Perry during his professional football days, he ends up with several of parasites growing in various parts of his anatomy, including the most delicate part of a man. Perry has an incredible drive to survive and, thanks in part to his football training, has an almost inhuman ability to keep going despite pain. As the parasites grow and he realizes the seriousness of the infection his efforts to eradicate them ramps up to gruesome levels.
While Infected raises a strong sense of anxiety, it's also pretty funny in parts. At one point the parasites begin to mentally communicate with Perry and they call him the same names that he's called them. So every time they speak to him they call him either fucker or sonofabitch. I don't know why but I found it completely hilarious. At one point he's watching television, which they don't understand, and he tells them that he was talking to Columbo, the television detective of days of yore. They equate Colombo with the soldiers that have been trying to eradicate them and soon has Perry also calling the soldiers Columbos, another image that tickled me.
Fairly gruesome and graphic in parts, you might need a strong stomach to finish this one. But if you enjoy horror and horrifying images that you'll love this book.
You can listen to the entire audio book for free here: http://podiobooks.com/title/infected
Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit?
I just finished reading an advanced review copy (a free copy to read before the book comes out, for review purposes) of Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit? This is a compilation of the first few comics in the series revival. While I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Eisner and what he accomplished, I've never actually read the Spirit before so it's difficult for me to say whether this new series lives up to the old series.
But that doesn't mean I can't judge it on its own. At the beginning of the series The Spirit, who is apparently what they used to call a “a red-blooded, two-fisted,he-man”, is missing. He is a sort of a detective who wears a mask and is excellent at getting in and out of tight spots. He is believed to be dead as the story begins but no one is sure. As the balance of power is about to shift in the hierarchy of the police station, several different people set out on the Spirit's trail. The most interesting of these is probably the duo of Strunk and White (I know, all of the names are quite silly, which I assume is Mr. Eisner's doing), a pair of very young Private Eyes. I'm not sure how young they're supposed to be, but they're young enough that people are surprised to see them working adult jobs.
They start going through the Spirit's files and interviewing all the villains with whom he's interacted. This is a terrific way for the new reader to get caught up on the Spirit's background. We see a fairly wide variety of bad guys and gals but I was disappointed in the villainesses. They're all drawn wearing slinky clothes and they all seem to have the hots for the Spirit. I would think that if I were a mastermind criminal I'd have more important and interesting things on my mind then some dude who likes to punch people.
However it's still an entertaining adventure story that's worth a quick read. The book debuts on the 25th of October and is available for preorder.
This week's bonus treat is a one minute video of someone flying a giant octopus kite. I find it a little frightening, probably because it reminds me of War of the Worlds.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Most of what I have watched on television lately has been anime. I did take a break when I binged on Stranger Things and a couple of episodes of season two of Penny Dreadful, but in general it's been anime, which ranges from truly terrible to quite good.
This week I watched a new series, an Amazon original series called Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. That's of course the English version of the title; I don't read Japanese so I couldn't tell you what it was in Japanese. It didn't look like much from the little bit I saw about it and I expected that was not going to be good at all, but I ended up really enjoying it and binge watched the first 7 episodes.
At its core the show is a steampunk Zombie series. Set during the Industrial Revolution, virtually all of the action takes place on a steam-driven, reinforced train. The zombies are called Kabanes and they have glowing hearts which are encased in a “heart cage”. The living humans have been unable to destroy any of the Kabane because their hearts are so well-protected.
As The Story begins everything is going to hell. We are rapidly introduced to several important characters just as their train station is attacked by far too many Kabanes. We meet a princess, her smarmy guard, two young steamsmiths (whose job is fixing things on the trains), a young lady who reminds me of the character Delirium in Neil Gaiman Sandman series (who is much more than she appears), and a few others.
One of the steamsmiths called Ikoma is working on making his steam driven gun more powerful so they'll be able to break through the heart cage and actually destroy a Kabane, instead of just knocking it back or temporarily disabling it. He has the mind of a scientist and has been studying Kabane anatomy as well as weaponry and is full of new ideas, but by those in authority he is viewed as basically just a peon.
A huge horde of Kabane is descending on the station and everyone in it needs to flee. So they all try to jam aboard the train while the Kabane are murdering everyone around them. This means that those who do escape are so rushed they are completely unprepared and there isn't enough food or water, which will obviously lead to its own problems.
Just as there is on The Walking Dead, there is just as much human-to-human conflict as there is human-to-Kabane. And then there's a whole other element which we find out about, that I don't want to talk about because spoilers. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is exciting and a little frightening. The animation is quite nice and reminded me of Watership Down in parts. It's in Japanese with subtitles, which I definitely prefer to English voiceovers. The literal translations of the songs at the end of each episodes are a little bizarre and hard to comprehend, but it's not really important to the actual story. The plotting is tight and the story is interesting. While maybe not at the level of Stranger Things, which is probably the best thing I've seen recently, it's still an excellent program.
You can see a trailer here:
The show is free with your Amazon Prime subscription. If you don't have Prime you can get a free 30 day trial.
Still in the anime world but in a completely different direction, is Silver Spoon, a comedy about a young man called Hachiken who goes to an agricultural school. He's definitely a fish out of water. Everyone around him has a dream and a goal and is excited about what they're doing while he is completely floundering. Also he's learning things about animals that are interfering with his ability to eat. In the first episode he discovers where eggs come from and becomes horrified by them.
This series is just plain fun. The main character is constantly confused and freaked out. In episode number two he's trying to decide which club to join, which is required. He is already completely overworked with school work and practicums so he's not enthusiastic at all about joining a club. At one point he's coerced by people trying to convince him to join the Holstein Club, where the other members are just a little too interested in cows.
The manga the series is based on is by Hiromu Arakawa, who also wrote the popular Fullmetal Alchemist. Silver Spoon is a very different story that shows what a versatile creator she is. The show is currently free on Netflix.
You can watch a trailer here:
This week's bonus treat is an interview with Mary Carrillo, in which she explains the story behind her lovely diatribe about how badminton really works. (And if you haven't seen the video, there's a handy link in the article.) http://deadspin.com/lets-relive-mary-carillos-great-american-badminton-r...
I re-injured my arm in the most ridiculous way possible. You remember a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which is 700 pages on nice quality paper, making it quite heavy. I followed that up immediately with his book The Familiar (part 1 of a reputed 27 volumes), which was I think 900 pages long, also on very nice paper. I don't know if a normal person would strain their arm reading two heavy books in a row but that's what I managed to do. As a result I'm dictating this on my phone so if it has some odd errors please bear with me.
Was The Familiar worth an injury that makes me wince every time I move my arm? Probably not. But it was an interesting read and of course filled with the typographical stunts that Mr. Danielewski is famous for. Told from nine different perspectives, each of whom have their own particular font, there are several storylines that I assume will meet at some point in the next 26 books. Ostensibly it's the story of a rainy day in which a little girl is going to get a service animal to help her with her epilepsy, which is quite severe. But of course, given the author, it's much more complicated than that.
The Familiar is significantly more enjoyable than House of Leaves, but it wasn't as intriguing, in that it didn't leave me with a million questions and it wasn't still on my mind a week after I finished it. With House of Leaves, like Stranger Things, I'm still wondering about certain things and finding connections to other literature that I'm reading. Not connections on purpose, more like I'm reading a horror story that takes place in a haunted house that appears to twist and slip between dimensions, and it reminds me of the house on Ash Lane.
Unfortunately I could not find an excerpt. :(
Around the World in 80 Days
I just finished this last night and was surprised at how easy it was to read. I'm used to contemporary novels being much more easy, breezy than older novels, which can be kind of stilted. And it is, but not much. It was more of a fun book that I remember, as I tried to read it when I was a kid and didn't get very far. It is the story of Phileas Fogg (for some reason I remember his name as Phineas) who makes a bet with his club members that he can go around the world in less than 80 days. He bets 20,000 pounds, which is a significant sum at the time. (It it's not a bad sum today either.)
Phileas is the definition of the stick in the mud, fastidious bachelor. He literally runs his life with such clockwork precision that you could set your watch by him. So for him to pick up stakes and rush around the world is completely out of character. Phileas himself is a bit of an enigma and we really never get to know him very much. We only know him by the way the people around him are interacting with him. I particularly enjoyed his French valet, Jean Passepartout, who is a passionate, intelligent, conscientious fellow who interestingly has kind of a circus or carnival background.
The two of them are being chased by a detective named Fix, who is convinced that Phileas stole a whole bunch of money from a very staid bank and is only pretending to go around the world so that he can escape with his ill-gotten goods. If trying to get around the world in 80 days when steam ships were the fastest boats available and high speed trains hadn't been invented yet, isn't hard enough, there are plenty of other obstacles that come up. Definitely a fun read but maybe not for very young children. I think I was like 7 when I tried to read it. You probably don't have to wait, you know, 45 years like I did to try to read it again; it should be interesting for anybody older than nine or 10.
This week's bonus treat is actually an ad; a video of men's synchronized swimming made by Chubbies Shorts, which is quite cute. http://fridayatfive.com/2016/08/mens-synchronized-swimming-team-chubbies...
I mentioned Stranger Things recently when I did my write up of what was coming to Netflix in July. I thought it looked fantastic and I posted a trailer video. It debuted on July 15th and I didn't get to watch it right away as I was waiting for my watching partner to start his vacation, so we could binge our hearts out together and discuss, discuss, discuss. I was pretty psyched by the time we watched it, a whole week after it debuted!
Writer Connie Willis recently said that a sign of a good story is that it can't be synopsised. In that case Stranger Things is a terrific story because I had a terrible time deciding what to say that wasn't too spoilery. The story focuses on a group of four friends; Mike (Finn Wolfhard (great name!)), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Noah Schnapp). They are about 12 years old and when we first meet them they were engaged in the end of a marathon Dungeons & Dragons game. Mike is the dungeon master and is in the process of unleashing a tremendously powerful monster, a demogorgon, on the group. Mike's mother splits up the game immediately following the next die cast and the boys ride home on their bicycles, where one of them vanishes, leaving the others distraught and determined to find them.
Meanwhile a girl their age (played by Millie Brown) escapes from a foreboding government facility. (Her name is Eleven, the number tattooed on the inside of her arm. Pro tip; something terrible is going on whenever you see a number tattooed on someone's forearm.) It wouldn't be a story if these kids paths didn't cross, and they do, fairly quickly. Eleven is obviously traumatized, with very short hair and wearing only a hospital gown. Mike takes her under his wing, with Dustin and Lucas less enthusiastic. They want to concentrate on finding Will and Lucas doesn't trust the girl at all.
Meanwhile Joyce, Will’s mom, beautifully played by Winona Ryder, is going crazy trying to find her son. And I use the term going crazy quite deliberately. As she tries to decipher what is happening and find her son her behavior looks erratic at best. She is led to believe that Will is trying to communicate with her via flickering lights, so she loads up the house with just about as many lights as you possibly could; including a bazillion Christmas lights. When they blink she talks to Will, which doesn't look very good to anyone who hasn't experienced what she has.
I absolutely loved Ms. Ryder's performance. She is completely believable as she plays the fine line between distraught and totally loco. I particularly liked her performance with the young girl who is trying to help them. She is so loving to poor El and supportive. You can practically feel the warm feelings coming across the TV screen.
Her unlikely complement is Chief Hopper, played by David Harbour, when we first meet him he seems like he is going to be a serious problem. He's ultra grouchy, kind of sloppy looking, and is dismissive of Joyce's concerns. But soon enough this guy begins to rev up and we start learning his back story and see that he is actually a bulldogged, resourceful, courageous man. He's also foolhardy and made me cringe with his escapades. But once you get him on your side, he is an excellent addition to your team.
There are so many more characters that are important, but I would write thousands of words and probably spoil the hell out of the story if I talked about all of them. So I will have to skip ahead, and discuss how this series hits the nostalgic sweet spot for a couple of generations.
I knew before I watched episode one that it paid an homage to movies of the eighties, which made watching it that much more fun. There were a couple of scenes that strongly reminded me of the movie Stand By Me. There are lots of references to Stephen King's work, most especially Firestarter of course. And of course films like Goonies. And Silkwood, and ET, and Altered States, etc, etc, etc. By the end of the series I had lost track of the enormous number of films referenced and was just concentrating on the story.
It's hard to have a story that is both new and pays tribute to the films and tropes that have influenced you as a creator. It's too easy for a project to become derivative or dull and stuffy. Stranger things doesn't suffer from any of this negativity.
So was it as good as I was hoping it was going to be? I would say definitely yes. Of course I had a few little quibbles with it, as I do with just about everything, but it was quite an enjoyable series. Be advised, like much of what I have been discussing lately Stranger Things has an ambiguous ending, with lots of questions left unanswered. (Like since we have someone named Eleven then did there used to be one through ten? If so what happened to them?) But that just gives you something to talk about while waiting for season two, right? Stranger Things can be found on Netflix.
This week's bonus treat is a video that makes me smile no matter what kinds of dreary things might have been going on that day. It's a couple of months old but it's just as good the twentieth watch as it is the first. Marlon Webb and friends star as the most interesting joggers in town. They are so perky and bouncy! https://www.facebook.com/MarlonWebbSkits/videos/503281129866329
A couple of months ago I read a book called LA Rotten by Jeff Klima. It stars an unlikely hero/anti-hero called Tom Tanner who works as a crime scene clean-up guy. He's not terribly long out of prison and he's essentially numb, freezing his feelings and better impulses in order to survive. He doesn't want to think about either the reason why he went to prison or his future now that he is out.
LA Rotten was an interesting book and I really liked Tom, despite the fact that he's kind of a terrible person. I was disappointed to see that Mr. Klima didn't have any more fiction available but then I got an email asking me if I'd like an advance review copy of Mr. Klima's latest book, called A Good Looking Corpse. Naturally I leapt like a starving panther at the opportunity.
(I strongly suggest that you read LA Rotten before starting the new one. While I'm sure the second novel can stand on its own, the first will be completely and totally spoiled by the time you finish A Good Looking Corpse.)
The new novel picks up not too long after the previous one ends. Tom is working on the cleanup of a suicide, that of an actor who flung himself from a tall building. Nothing too unusual but then someone sidles up to him to tell him that the actor was murdered. And then claims the actor was murdered just to get Tom to the clean up site. And thus begins an even twistier adventure than in LA Rotten.
There's very little that Tom can trust, including his own impulses. He's currently clean but always feels the siren call of his former addiction. He and girlfriend Ivy are settling in together, but he doesn't know how to handle the intimacy and reacts claustrophobicly. And then there are his revenge fantasies, inspired by an incident in LA Rotten. What's a boy to do?
You know how people are always saying such and such film or book is a roller-coaster ride? A Good Looking Corpse is what you would get if you went on a roller-coaster that went through a constantly changing labyrinth. Whenever Tom thinks he has everything figured out he gets a piece of information that turns everything upside down, sideways or inside out. While the book is billed as a mystery, I would call it more of a thriller and it certainly is thrilling. It gave me anxiety, as well as constantly making me say What? What just happened? My recommendation is that you read book one right now and order A Good Looking Corpse so you can read it as soon as humanly possible.
I looked and looked and looked and was unable to find an excerpt online. I even wrote to the publisher and asked but no luck. So you will just have to take my word for it and rush out to get the book(s).
This week's bonus treat is a really lovely fairy tale that also sort of gently pokes fun of your more traditional stories. Called Red as Blood and White as Bone and written by Theodora Goss, it features a young lady who works in the kitchens of a palace. She is a huge fan of fairy tales and her work is wretched and boring, so when she finds a bedraggled, nude woman in the middle of a storm, she realizes that this woman must be a princess undergoing some trials and travails. So she invites her into the castle and chaos ensues as the older scripts like to say. The story is free on the tor.com website. http://www.tor.com/2016/05/04/red-as-blood-and-white-as-bone/