Welcome to the new year, readers! I hope 2013 gave you everything you had hoped for. If not, then find solace in the fact that 2014 only just started, so you’ve got 350+ days to get crackin’!
In the meantime, here’s the first installment of my monthly potpourri.
The Illegitimates (IDW Publishing)
I’ve been writing product reviews – DVDs, books, music, comic books – for easily over twenty years now, and, in all that time, I’ve never had a major online retailer giant ever reject any of my posts … until this past week.
I penned a review for The Illegitimates #1, a brand-new title that streeted this past December 18th. The skinny? I’m glad you asked. It’s a wry tale – very tongue-in-cheek – that starts out with a great concept: international spy extraordinaire Jack Steele (think of him as bigger than James Bond) goes down in a bloody climax, and who does the spy agency OLYMPUS have waiting in the wings to replace him?
Well, like James Bond, Jack Steele spent his career romancing his lovely female counterparts from around the world, and wouldn’t you just know it: those various couplings bore fruit! That’s right, the bastard sons and daughters of a global Lothario have now grown older; they’ve been blessed with Jack’s genes; and they’re now ripe for OLYMPUS’s pickings!
Created by Taran Killam and penned by Killam and Marc Andreyko, The Illegitimates #1 is clever first issue. Basically – because it’s all set-up – it’s hard to tell where the writers may go with it, but, as an inaugural read, it works quite well.
Anyway, I wrote a four-out-of-five-star review, and that major online retailer giant I mentioned? They rejected it. Why? Well, I’m told that they found the discussion (in my text) of illegitimate children to be a subject some readers find ‘objectionable,’ and, thusly, suggested I remove it if I wanted my piece up to their publication standards.
“Uh … have you read the title of the book?” I asked.
“Yes,” the rep stated.
“And you do realize that THAT – illegitimate children – is the subject of the entire book, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” the rep stated.
“I mean all I’m doing is explaining what’s already in the book, and I’m reacting to precisely that content for the purposes of a review,” I tried. “The reason you’re rejecting my review is because I’m mentioning the title AND that it comes from the book, right?”
“Yes,” the rep stated.
I hung up.
My Favorite Hours of 2013 TV
I hate lists. Always have. I’ve always thought that they’re pretentious, as are the folks who live by them. The central problem I have with them is that, by their very nature, they’re simply too exclusive.
Say somebody asks, “What’s your favorite action movie?”
My response is usually, “Well, American or foreign?” which usually brings a reply something like, “What difference does it make?” and, at that point, I realize they basically want to know if I’ve a suggestion that’s worth their time.
I always felt it’s too hard to have a single favorite of anything. It all depends on so, so many filters. For example, I can point out what I personally feel are some of the greatest action sequences ever caught on film, but I’d warn you in advance that these sequences most likely are going to be in films that (A) you’ve never seen, (B) never heard of, and (C) probably wouldn’t (maybe shouldn’t) watch except for that said sequence.
That’s the nature of storytelling: some films do X good, while other films do X even better. But Y? Well, they suck a Y.
Consequently, I’ve learned to think in ‘groups’ – i.e. these are my favorite films – and, instead of ordering them, I generally give ‘thumbs up’ to any one of them.
So … since 2013 is over and we’re all feeling a bit nostalgic, I thought I’d mention the top 5 hours of TV programming (in no particular order) that I enjoyed the most last year with only a brief reason why.
Spartacus: War of the Damned (Starz) – awesome finish to a series that I hope more and more folks will discover in the years ahead. You will be missed.
Breaking Bad (AMC) – you don’t really need me to qualify this one, do you? Epic storytelling from start to bloody finish. One for the ages.
Hannibal (NBC) – it’s as frustrating as it is fulfilling, but it always – always – kept you either thinking and/or guessing, and that’s no easy feat.
Strike Back (Cinemax) – not as narratively terrific as it’s been in previous seasons, but still the best adrenalin rush on the tube today.
Justified (FX) – Raylan Givens is the TV gift that keeps on giving, while Boyd Crowder is the closeted felon who’s happy to keep on taking. Brilliant writing, and even more brilliant performances.
Video Recommendation for January, 2014: Sightseers
I received the Edgar Wright-produced Sightseers by way of a distributor looking for a review, and, while I’m very comfortable saying that this deliciously dark dark dark comedy (did I mention it was dark?) will not be everyone’s cup of tea, you’d have to be a fool to not crack a smile while taking this slightly bizarre road trip with the homicidally-inclined.
It starts small – perennially frumpy Tina (played to mousey perfection by Alice Lowe) and her long-time squeeze Chris (a deceptively demented Steve Oram) rent a caravan (RV) to see the sights across the United Kingdom. But, before long, they’ve both indulged themselves in some of the nuttiest causes for murder this side of a Coen Brothers movie.
In fact, this is the kind of flick the Coen Brothers used to make before they got all embraced by the mainstream and George Clooney’s charm. Sightseers occupies that fertile ground somewhere between Raising Arizona and Fargo, when characters have grown so consumed with themselves that they can’t see the good, bad, or ugly in what they do. And just when you think it’s taking a turn for the better, Tina and Chris show you definitively that wasn’t meant to be.
Again, for those who didn’t catch it the first time: it may not be your cup of tea … but, then again, what else are you drinking?