Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday non-movie review

I didn't actually watch any movies this week. I know, right? Anyway, here's some reviews of some other stuff I've been doing.

Arthur and I have been re-watching Angel on DVD. His homework schedule has been light for the first time since entering high school, so I suspended my Netflix account for a month and we've been spending "family time" watching 1 or 2 episodes a night, and are currently up to episode 19 (of 22) of season 2.

I got on board late with Buffy and Angel, watching Buffy in reruns after it was all over, and starting Angel reruns from the pilot while season 4 was still in prime time. I fell in love with Angel right away, and really thought it was better than Buffy. On re-viewing, I can see why some people never got bit by the Angel bug. Season 1 is choppy and inconsistent. Some of the episodes are outstanding, but overall, the show struggles to find a voice. In episode 18, though, Faith is brought in. What works is that Faith epitomizes what becomes Angel's unique voice: The gray area of redemption.

While Buffy battles evil and works to draw a line in the sand, with her always on one side and evil always on the other, Angel is about the fluidity of the line and the place of individuals on either side of it. Angel is a vampire with a soul. Faith is a slayer gone evil. Both can be redeemed. Angel is about regret, remorse, atonement, and vengeance. That last is the tricky one, as season 2 progresses, Angel becomes more interested in fighting the enemy (Wolfram & Hart) than saving souls, and this is all it takes to push him dangerously close to switching sides.

Watching a television series is making me very conscious of the craft of writing. Seeing how a bit of dialogue is inserted for exposition; when it works, when it doesn't work. There are scenes that are stiff, there are people being told things they already know. Nonetheless, I stand by my contention that Angel is one of the best things ever televised.

Angel: After the Fall is a "season 6" continuation comic book. Despite Joss Whedon's hand in the plotting, I'm just about ready to give it up. The premise is that the culmination of the grand cliff-hanger battle that ended season 5 was the transporting of the entire city of LA into Hell. The hellish illustration is murky and hard to follow. Characters from time to time shine through, but there's too much going on. Hell is a busy place; it's hard to get a feel for what's important when there are SO MANY demons and so much muck and so much RED.

Duma Key is Stephen King's latest, and for regular reader of King's work, it is especially remarkable. I'm not a King fanatic, but I've read many of his books, and as far as I know, this is the first one written in a first person voice. It's a remarkable change for a writer of fifty or so books, and it brings a new sensibility to the pages.

Edgar Freemantle is simply nothing like a King character. He's something like King—being a middle-aged man recovering from a body-crushing injury—but his voice has never before appeared in a King book. He's wealthy, down to earth, direct, and confused. He speaks of his pain, his marriage, his daughters, and the growing mystery surrounding his time on Duma Key in an intimate and personal way. His new friend Wireman, his neighbor on Duma Key, is perhaps a more typical and stylized King character, but the friendship has a unique feeling.

Edgar, a construction company owner, was crushed by a crane. He has lost an arm, has a brain injury, and is rehabbing a crushed hip. He has rented a house on an isolated Florida Key to recover and paint. Once there, he gradually learns that there may be a supernatural reason that the prime real estate of Duma Key is relatively uninhabited, and that his own injury may have a supernatural component. Well, we expect this of King, but the horror is not the focus of the novel; the characters are.

The horror side of the plot bears a definite similarity to The Shining; the confluence of psychic people, a violent past, and an isolated location, but that part of the book is not nearly as important as the characters. This is a book about people.

I wrote an extensive review (seriously, 2000 words—what was I thinking?) of The Bond Code by Philip Gardiner at my James Bond site. The book is about the occult influences on Ian Fleming and James Bond. You might be interested.

(Hellish, yet angelic, cross-post)