Monday, September 22, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Round-up Time!

Yes, it's that time again, when I attempt to round up a bunch of movies we've watched over the last month or so, but where my feelings on them aren't ebullient enough to demand some sort of long-winded ramble. I know, I know, as the sort of person who, in the right moment, could write up a review of his coffee, I should be ashamed of myself. But sometimes things are just "fine", and there isn't a lot get your teeth into. So with that in mind, here's four quick reviews.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Seal of the Worm

I used to say that I didn't like Fantasy as a genre, usually accompanied by some dismissed comments about Elves. However since being properly called out on it a few years back, I've probably read more Fantasy than any other genre, and whilst a lot of that prejudice remains - I don't trust it still - there are more than a few books and series that I'm now rather fond of. I'm most wary of the long, epic, super-cycle, which is beloved of the genre but feels like a bad habit at some levels. After all, what can say in 10,000 words that you can't say in 500? Well, mostly the same thing twenty times, comes the snide answer from my brain. But in the rights, that sprawl can feel like watching history unfold before you, some vast and complicated and involved and deep, and when that works, its totally worth the time. Which brings me neatly to The Seal of the Worm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Box Set Blues: Arrow, series 2


Its a sad fact that I was late to the Arrow party, mentally filing it away with the Smallvilles of this world and missing out on its first transmission, and then scrabbling to catchup as everyone kept telling me it was actually rather good. Its first season followed a common "first season" trajectory; a mix of strong setup and then a certain amount of paddling in circles, and a strong finish as the cast and crew all settled in with how everything was going to work. It also helped to have a strong cast with no obvious weak links, even if the show struggled to give everyone something worth-while to do. So its second season was something to look forward to, with the promise of more changes to come and a firmer sense of the shows direction. Thankfully, it gets a lot more right than it gets wrong. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Documentary Catch-Up


The feature-length documentary can be a bit of an unsung hero of cinema. There are some that hit big - last years Blackfish, which we've still not seen yet as a recent example - but certainly in the local cinemas near us they rarely get shown so they're a bit of a staple of our DVD rental list, just to keep up. And there are some great ones out there - not just the iconolastic, Micheal Moore-style polemics, but also the thoughtful, intelligent investigations or discussions about subjects that benefit from a decompressed running time and that little bit of extra prestige that the format seems to bring. We've caught up on a couple over the last few weeks, so it makes sense to review them together.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Games Review: The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

What we've started to do, as Ewan has got older, and (though he often pretends otherwise) increasingly interested in same array of geek stuff that his parents are, is play a lot more board games. As often said here and elsewhere, we are in a bit of a golden age for getting around a table and playing games, especially of the sort that are quick to pick up, and fast to play, without sacrificing too much depth. So on our recent holiday, for evening entertainment, we bought something different, something a little more complicated, to pass the late-summer nights. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Box Set Blues: Game of Thrones, Season 4

Of the long, complex and blood-dripping saga that is A Song of Ice and Fire, my favorite section is the back half of A Storm of Swords. Its a piece of writing that manages to show a huge amount of focus and discipline as it brutally dispatches characters, but more importantly storylines, that no longer serve any larger purpose, and carefully positions its surviving players on new trajectories through the narrative. A lot of stories are closed off as new ones open, and questions are answered that hang over from the A Game of Thrones, and the book closes on a promise that the series is really going to go somewhere next. And whilst there is nothing really wrong with the two novels that follow, they do feel somewhat like treading water, with little of that propulsive force. So when the TV adaptation reached this section, and having put out its most brutal moment in Series Three, how does it manage?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy

Back from (another) holiday in the wilds of Northumbria, so it's time to catch up a little on whats been occupying my free time before we start the steep descent through the return to work and school and down into the depths of the run-up to Christmas. At least there is Thought Bubble to look forward to first though! Lets start with books, and The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first published work that didn't involve teen-aged wizards, and her first "adult" work to boot. I remember this being released to huge fanfare and a degree of sniffy reviews from the sort of reviewer who'd clearly been waiting to put the boot in but felt unable to dent the Potter Juggernaut, and it was clearly going to be a step change. So I was looking forward to it, for all it took me a while to get around to reading it