Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 TV Fall - The First Wave

Never before have I had so many shows premiere at the same time!  Well, I suppose in the not so distant past, TV networks did adhere to the "premiere week," but there were only three networks.  Now with the additional networks and other popular cable channels, TV execs have been a little more strategic in their releases of shows, even premiering as late as October.  They still do this (like Touch and The Walking Dead), but what happened this last week?  I swear it feels like 90% of my shows came back in a new virtual "premiere week."

Whatever happened, my DVR is very busy and it will take me a while to catch up with all the premieres.  My DVR even missed recording Grimm this past Friday and I'm not very happy with Time Warner's system right now.  If you don't see your favorite sci-fi show listed below, give me another week or so.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave my thoughts on the Pre-Wave (shows that came out a little early or in late summer).  That included Alphas, Warehouse 13, Doctor Who, and Grimm.

Now my newest reviews ...

Revolution (2 episodes in): This show reminds me of Jericho and this is a good thing.  The world has fallen apart and governments have ceased.  Militia groups have risen up and try to gain control.  This show has a lot of potential.

But will they grab this potential?  The two episodes that I've watched were exciting enough to hold my attention, but it seems to be lacking something, which I'm still trying to figure out.  For example, just as Charlie's father dies, he sends her on a quest through the dangerous roads and dangerous city of Chicago to find her uncle ... something I would have expected to take a few episodes.  But no, after a commercial break or two, they waltz into Chicago with minimal intervention (except for those bozos who tried to rape and kill them, but no meetups with militia or anything like that) and they find her uncle very quickly.

I'll keep watching, though.  It feels like it's leading into something cool.

The Neighbors (1 episode in): This show is really missing something.  It might be called something known as "humor."  For example, in one scene, the alien wife keeps throwing plates out her window as her new-found human friend helps wash the dishes.  The human gives a funny look, but no other funny reactions?

The pacing of the jokes are very slow, and I noticed a lot of awkward silences.  These are probably meant for the audience to absorb the jokes, but when the jokes fall flat, it comes across as terrible editing.  Some music or even a laugh track could have helped.  (And if this show needs the obsolete laugh track, perhaps the show itself is obsolete.)

I'll give it one more try, but if they don't deliver, I'll be dropping this show.

Last Resort (1 episode in): There were some really good moments.  This could be an exciting show.

However, it felt like they crammed so much stuff into this one hour opening.  The pacing was very fast, and some things weren't explained very well.  I think a more effective opening would have been to take two hours to present that same amount of material with more explanations, and to give the audience more time to digest what's happening.

Did anyone understand the whole thing of the hide-your-signature device?  Was it on the submarine?  Or was it not?  If so, it didn't seem to work.  And if not, why did they bring it up?

I know absolutely nothing about the captain himself.  I don't understand why he made his initial decision to disobey direct orders.  And I'm not talking about the "it came through secondary channels" argument.  Most captains in real life would have carried out the order without hesitation, so what makes this captain so special to do the "right" thing?

The Pakistan incident means almost nothing to me, because nothing was shown other than blips on a map.  Did it really happen?  I don't know, because I didn't see it happening.

Did they really have to shove a useless sex scene in there?  And on a show airing at 8PM?  Better put your kids to sleep early Thursday nights, I suppose.

And crammed in at the very end are hints of two types of conspiracies, which are usually revealed in later episodes.  If the writers really felt the need to reveal hints of everything in the first episode, then is this all we get for the season?  Are they going to be stuck on that LOST-looking island for the whole season and fight a war on several different fronts?

But I'm assuming a lot from just one fast-paced episode.  It could be that they meet all my concerns in the next couple of installments.  There's a lot of potential in this show, and we'll see if they can maintain the energy.

Person of Interest (1 episode in): This show still has it.  It's still fun to watch Reese fight through everything.  Well, almost everything. 

Finch is now held captive by Root, some new villain.  She wants to set the computer free?  How exactly does that work? 

Reese is trying to blackmail the computer to reveal where Finch is, but will it work?

And who are those new people who fear going to Guantanamo Bay?  What do they know and what is their plan?

I can't wait to see how this season unfolds.

As an offside, anyone notice how the writer Jonathan Nolan loves to stick it to the rich greedy dudes in his stories (Batman movies and earlier episodes of Person of Interest)?  Long live the 99%, I suppose.

Haven (1 episode in): I'm really hoping this is the last season.  It feels like they're starting to wrap things up.  I like that the show still has a hint of Stephen King, but I doubt this show can last more than one season, and I want to see how it ends.

The first episode was interesting, though I must admit, I forgot why Nathan has that tattoo on his arm.  And also how Duke discovered/revealed his powers.  And when did Audrey get captured?

Who wants to bet that mysterious guy is the Colorado Kid?  Too easy, isn't it!

I'll keep watching, but probably after getting some of these other shows out of the way.  Please end the story!

The Office (2 episodes in): I'm glad this one's coming to an end.  The success of the UK series stems a lot from the fact that they only made a few episodes, and they brought it to a satisfying close in the Christmas Special.  The US series went on for so long, that for a while it hasn't had much direction.  Perhaps they'll find the direction needed now that an ending date is in sight.

A lot of people stopped watching when Michael left, but in some ways this show has gotten even funnier, as now the other characters have their chance to shine.

The first episode was pretty funny with new guys resembling Dwight and Jim.  And Angela trying to find a good home for her cat.

The second episode was okay, but as I watched it immediately after watching The Neighbors, it felt pretty dang funny.  They still got some energy going.  We'll see how things end, and hopefully see Michael Scott one last time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hyperion - A New Classic

Dan Simmons' Hyperion may be the best sci-fi book I've read in the last five years.  It tells the story of seven pilgrimages who desire to see the mysterious Shrike.  He (or it) is the spiky metallic personage on the book cover.  Nobody knows exactly what the Shrike does other than killing people.

When I first started reading the book, I was concerned that this was going to be a sci-fi book turned fantasy, because they start in space, and they head towards this planet, and the book cover looks like a typical fantasy cover.  The last thing I wanted was for the characters to get stuck on a boring planet.

Another concern arose when I got about twenty pages in and the seven pilgrimages made the decision to tell their life stories.  The priest got to go first.  I looked ahead and saw that his story went on and on and on for at least 80 pages, and then came the end of Chapter 1.  I groaned, not wanting to read a boring John-Galt-like treatise on religion in space.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover my concerns were unfounded.

The format of the entire book is isomorphic to the graphic novel Watchmen.  The story is told in the present as well as in the past.  A vast majority of the book consists of the recollections of each of the main characters.  The story that each character has to tell is amazing.  And with each story, the reader learns important information regarding the story of the present, and even information explaining what had occurred in other people's stories.

This technique is effective when done well.  As you not only get to really know each character individually, but you get an amazing and complex story as well.  The result is Hyperion, a very rich and compelling story.

This book counts as Hard SF, yet it is very light on the dry factor.  Fantasy SF fans may forget that they're reading Hard SF.

Simmons somehow puts everything you can imagine into this one book, and he makes it all work: space battles, action, horror, religion, philosophy, artificial intelligence, mystery, romance, the desire of getting published (yes Stephen King fans--that's in there, too), politics, and stuff that jerks tears.

It also contains some adult material, so I would classify it at a low-grade Rated R.  It contains a few F-bombs, but Simmons is one of the few authors who knows how to use them sparingly and correctly, and I did not find them to be distracting.

If I must complain about anything, it would have to be the little things.  The main character, the Consul, is never named.  There's a reason for that, but it really comes down to "because the author wants it to be that way."  There's also an epilogue that only exists "because the author wants it to be that way."  I can see why Simmons did that, but it didn't do anything for me.

But that's okay, as Simmons delivered a reading experience that I will remember forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 TV Fall - The Pre-Wave

In preparation of the upcoming Fall premieres, I'll report on how my shows are doing that started in late summer.  This is my Pre-wave review.

Alphas (SyFy - 2nd season): This show is still going strong, and I still love the chemistry between the different characters.  The "good guys" aren't all good, and the "bad guys" not all bad.  Nobody is perfect.  And what exactly is Stanton Parish trying to pull?  I'm trying to see how he could be good (and preparing the world to fight some greater evil), but how could anyone condone killing innocent people for the "greater good"?  I wish more shows would be written as intelligently as this one.

Warehouse 13 (SyFy - 4th season): I still enjoy watching this show, though I'm wondering how much longer they can keep it going.  How many different "artifacts" can one come up with?  This season feels a little stronger than the last one.  The whole astrolabe line is cool--where Artie had no choice but to rewind the clock 24 hours and release some unknown evil that has Data in a tizzy.

As a plus, one episode featured two Star Trek actors, and another episode featured two Psych actors.  It's not one of my favorite shows, but they haven't given me any reason to stop watching.

Doctor Who (BBC America - 7th series): Bow ties are still cool.  The first episode was enjoyable, though I'm noticing little tiny plot holes here and there.  I don't right much care, yet.  But I really hope Moffat isn't starting to get sloppy.  This is the year that Amy and Rory leave the show.  We know that much, but how is it going to happen?  And how long can the Doctor stay hidden?

Grimm (NBC - 2nd season): I'm really enjoying this show.  It's becoming less of a <blah>-bat of the week and more of a show with some real direction.  So far all four episodes aired this season have been excellent.  I also love the whole thing of everyone dealing with a Grimm who is somehow different from other Grimms.  I hope they keep up the good work.

My only fear: what the heck is NBC doing beginning this show so early?  A lot of people like this show, and when a network starts switching nights and pulling these shenanigans, it's usually a portent of cancellation.  ("Firefly," anyone?)  I highly recommend watching this show and keeping it on the air.

Also, one last item.  For some reason, Fox is airing a mysterious 13th episode of "Touch" this coming Friday.  I guess there was one episode they decided not to air previously.  Is there any show that FOX can show IN ORDER?  ("Firefly," anyone?)  So don't miss this episode coming on this week.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what they're going to touch on.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rejection Letters Are Better Than Nothing

Since I'm new at this, I'd appreciate any advice in handling markets that just don't send rejection letters.  On my blog, you're certain to hear me complain about all the form-letter rejections I keep getting.  But you know what?  I actually cherish every single rejection I get.  It's only when I get no response that I truly get frustrated.  Yes, the form-letter rejection hurts, but each one confirms the following:
  • They received your manuscript.
  • They looked at your manuscript.
  • They don't want your manuscript.
  • You're free to submit your manuscript elsewhere (where simultaneous submissions are an issue).
When you don't receive notice, then any one of these simple facts is up in the air.  Did they receive the manuscript?  Did they lose it?  Are they still considering your manuscript?  Are you free to submit elsewhere?

Over the past few years, I have submitted to several magazines, publications, publishers, and entered a few contests.  And the vast majority of them have contacted me to let me know the results.  It's the professional thing to do.

But there are a few markets that I have yet to hear from.  After a few months and a non-response to follow up queries, I can only assume that either my manuscript was rejected or they never received it.  In either case, I assume it's safe to continue on and submit the story elsewhere (though I still have this fear that someone will ding me with a simultaneous submission demerit and blackball me).

And I have yet to return to ANY of these markets.  If I don't hear from them, they're leaving me hanging.  I don't know where I stand with them, and there really is no desire to give them a second chance with another manuscript.  In my humble opinion, these markets are shooting themselves in the foot by NOT sending out rejection letters.

Hopefully, some more experienced and published writers will view this post.  If so, I have a couple of questions.  Have you had any success with markets that don't usually respond back (that is, they didn't respond to your first manuscript, but they published a subsequent one)?  Or do you also avoid those markets in the future?  How long do you wait and how many follow up query letters does it take before you assume a rejection?  Have you ever been tempted to publish a list of markets that don't respond?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

W1S1: August 2012 Success

Lately I've been struggling with my writing, due to exam studying and overall rejection fatigue.  But I was able to squeak one out in August.  I wrote and submitted Stanley Saucer: Space Assassin.  I even already got my form-letter rejection.  So, this is the first time one of my stories went through the whole cycle in one month!  Awesome!

Click on the picture above to see other Write-1 Sub-1 winners for August.

Movie Rentals: In Time, TinTin

It's was movie night at the Windhams this past Labor Day weekend.  We watched two newish movies, one which I deem overrated and one underrated.

In Time sounds like such a great idea.  Instead of money, you pay with minutes of your own life.  The movie begins effectively with Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) waking up with just under 24 hours left on his clock.  When the clock runs out, that's it.  You die.  As Salas goes through the normal routine of the day, we learn that the poor all live like this, with so little time left.  Everyone has debt to pay, rent, food, transportation, etc.  Wages are slowly going down while charges and interest slowly rise.  Every day, random people die on the streets.

Everything changes when Salas meets a man with over a century left.  This man is bored with life, so he gives everything he has to Salas.  Then armed with so much time on his hand, Salas begins a journey to discover the truth behind the whole system.

The movie opens with so much promise and then it falls apart.  The action is fun to watch, but there are so many glaring errors that it's just so distracting.

For example, we watch a five minute clip of Salas traveling through several different time zones to go from the poor lands to the rich lands.  At every barrier, Salas has to pay a toll.  By the time he's finished his journey, the total cost is one whole year.  Then when something happens to leave Salas with only two hours left on his arm, he somehow makes the trip back to his hometown.  How did he get past those barriers?  Didn't it take more than two hours to get back?

Another problem is the silly battle they do similar to arm wrestling.  You try to suck the other person's time.  Salas explains to someone, "You let your own clock get close to zero, and while they're watching your clock, they don't see that their own clock is almost at zero."  But since the transfer between individuals is 1-to-1, this scenario is impossible!  If both clocks are almost at zero, where did all that excess time go?  Plus, watching these battles is amazingly non-exciting, and I don't care how much dramatic music you add.

And throughout the movie, the amount of time left on Salas's arm doesn't always make sense.  It's almost as if this movie just needed another round or two of editing ... as if this movie got rushed to be released.  I'm at a loss, as the editor, Zach Staenberg did The Matrix trilogy.  And the writer, Andrew Niccol did The Truman Show and Gattaca.  So, I'm not sure what went wrong with this movie.

Additionally, the movie builds up certain promises at the beginning that just aren't met.  There were so many devices that could have been used to make this a great movie.  Instead, it ends in a disappointing whimper.

My advice: the movie is still worth watching for the action.  If you can rent it for under $2 and have some extra time on your hand, go check it out.

The Adventures of TinTin was very enjoyable.  This is based on the TinTin cartoon series by European comic writer Herge', which began 1929.  This is one of the rare US-made movies that tanked in the US, but scored major dough in the foreign market.  It only made $77.6M in the US and $294.3M elsewhere.  It met its budget and enough to announce a sequel.

When it came out in the US last December, I avoided watching it, because when I saw the words "TinTin" and that cute little dog, my brain told me "Rin Tin Tin."  And I had no interest in watching another sappy doggy movie.  Even when I got the movie at the rental store with one of those "buy a new release and get this movie free" deals, I still thought I was getting a sappy doggy movie for the kids.

Turns out I was wrong.

It's not a sappy doggy movie, but an Indiana Jones like action flick starring a guy named Tintin.  The dog's name turns out to be Snowy.  Tintin is a reporter who helps to solve crimes and gets involved in crazy adventures.  And I'm not talking a Dora the Explorer type adventure, but rather the kind where guns are shot and people actually die.  Yes, I did say Indiana Jones.  The fact that Spielberg and Williams team up adds to this feel.

If you're not familiar with this European sensation that is Tintin, I recommend that you look into it.  There's a TV series on Netflix.  There's this movie you can rent.  Go check out what those across the pond enjoy.

Plus, this movie employs the best execution of capture-motion animation technology I've ever seen.  It all looks real, and it's not creepy (like in The Polar Express).  I was almost convinced that they had live actors playing with just a little digital touching-up, but was surprised to see that the actors look nothing like what's on the screen.  It's 100% animated.  Well done.

So, check it out.  It's possibly the most underrated film of 2011.

Total Views = 10,000

I hit another milestone with this blog.  10,000 total views!  A vast majority of these views appear to be coming from random people doing Google searches.

Thanks for reading and keep it up.  Tell all your friends!