Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Glee: "Dream On"

I've been looking forward to the Joss Whedon directed, Neil Patrick Harris guesting episode since it was announced. As a longtime Buffy fanatic, I was excited to see what Whedon would bring to the show, and true to form, it was dark, funny, and awesome.

Harris' Bryan Ryan, Wills' high school nemesis is at McKinley on a crusade to cut the glee club program, and Will tries to help him get over his grudge against Glee. Meanwhile, Rachel wants to find her birth mother and Tina helps Artie as he struggles with his dream of being a dancer.

The Will/Bryan storyline really worked for me, and Harris was funny, ego-maniacal and a little evil, all at once. Will can be a little cheesy at times, but I thought his tone was perfect in this episode. "Dream On" rocked my world, and both guys were all kinds of sexy performing it. I kind of wish we'd gotten a little Teri appearance in this episode, because it would have been great to see Bryan and Will interact with her. I loved Bryan's scene with Sue, and the "anger sex" bit really made me laugh.

"Safety Dance" battles with "Dream On" for me as the highlight of the episode. I'm so glad that they used a dream sequence to give us a chance to see Kevin McHale dance. He's got some great moves, and I liked the flash mob style performance. I also liked that all the Glee kids made an appearance (except Finn, Santana, and Quinn, though the interwebz tell me Finn was there somewhere, I didn't catch a glimpse of my awesome Frankenteen). I know it could get overused, but I want to see more of McHale dancing so lets do this again. I also liked Tina's tap number with Mike Chang, but Artie totally stole it with his great singing and heartbroken face.

The Rachel storyline with Jesse and Shelby was the weakest part of the episode for me, probably because it included no Finn. Still, I'm loving what Johnathan Groff is doing with the character of Jesse. I already anticipated that they'd have him genuinely like Rachel even though he started out dating her on Shelby's orders. What I haven't figured out yet is whether Shelby is truly Rachel's birth mom or if she's fooling Jesse and this is an elaborate plot to bring down New Directions. I know Idina Menzel is only on the show as a temporary guest star, so it would kind of be weird if she really were Rachel's birth mother and she just went away after Rachel finds out.

Great lines of this episode:
"Was Mandy Patinkin in on this?" - Jesse
"I have a box of playbills hidden away in my basement, Will, like porn!" - Bryan
"Then something amazing happened: I was introduced to Jesus… he was my Honduran social worker." - Bryan
"Any of the guys in there could dance my part better than me without rehearsing...well, except Finn." - Artie

Next week: Kiss! Lady Gaga! I've gotten to listen to the songs on the new CD and I have to say, I'm really excited!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Supernatural: Swan Song

*Spoilers OMG Spoilers*

Season 5 of Supernatural went out with a whimper, not a bang. But what a whimper! I know most people were expecting something on a more epic scale, but this Apocalypse wrapped up the way it began, way back when: focused on Sam and Dean and their '67 Impala. It was a love letter from creator Eric Kripke to his show as he steps down from being the showrunner, handing the reins over to Sera Gamble. Other than the last 10 seconds, it easily could have functioned as the show's series finale. We can only hope that the real series finale next spring packs as much of an emotional punch as this one.

There weren't really any big surprises in this episode, at least not to anyone who's been a regular watcher. Sam and Dean go with the plan of Sam saying yes to Lucifer and then Sam (eventually) takes his body back and throws himself (and Michael!Adam) into the trap he let Lucifer out of. Dean did what he could to help Sam succeed and then he did what Sam made him promise he'd do: he went back to Lisa and presumably lived the normal life for a little while. Cas and Bobby were killed by Lucifer!Sam, but Cas was resurrected with increased powers, presumably by God, and he then brought back Bobby, good as new.

None of these were surprises, but there was such a sense of satisfaction in things playing out the way that they did. It was right that Sam sacrifice himself to trap Lucifer, since his bad choices led to Lucifer's release in the first place, though I think this episode might have demonstrated that he'd not been given much choice due the enormous influence Azazel and the demons had on his life. After 5 years, Dean Winchester finally learned to stop sacrificing himself for everyone around him. Yes, it was partly because Sam made him promise, but the Dean of yore would have thrown himself into that pit right alongside Sam and Adam, just to have a chance to get Sam out. Instead, the mature Dean knew that Sam was doing what he must and that Dean had to try to move on with his life.

We didn't get to meet God directly in this episode, but I think its safe to say He was around. Partway through the episode, I theorized via Twitter that God was the Impala, and while I don't know if that's true, I think its safe to say that God used the Impala to remind Sam of who he was and gave him to opportunity to take control back from Lucifer long enough to spring the trap.

The whole episode was really about the car, from the scenes depicting the brothers living in it, stuffing Legos and army men in the crannies, to Dean using it to roll into the middle of the Lucifer and Michael showdown. I loved the little bits about the car that Chuck narrated, setting up the bit where Sam regained control of his body.

Bonus points to Show for Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" being the song Dean chose to play when he rolled into the graveyard. One of the first lines: Better to burn out than fade away. Such a perfect choice for Dean Winchester. As always the show opened with "Carry On, Wayward Son" by Kansas, and I'll never be able to separate the song from the show in my mind.

While it was slightly anti-climactic that the final confrontation between Lucifer and Michael took place via Sam and Adam instead of Sam and Dean, I think Dean had to be himself in order for Sam to have any chance of taking his body back. My heart just broke (and tears flowed) when Lucifer is beating Dean to a pulp and Dean is telling Sam that he's there for him and he's not going to leave him. It was quite possibly the most heartbreaking scene the show's ever had. With very little hope left, Dean just wanted to be there for his brother.

This episode also left plenty of open questions:
  • Will we ever actually meet God? Some people think Chuck was God after his disappearing act, but after some discussion, I think he was a prophet like we'd been told, he just ascended after his job of writing the Winchester Gospel was done. 
  • What is Sam, now that we know he's somehow made it back? I've read many people who still think that Lucifer is possessing him, but that would mean the Apocalypse would still be going on around Dean, and I doubt that he's just chilling at Lisa's if that's the case. I don't think he's fully human normal Sam after we saw the light post go out when he got near it, but I'm not sure what's happened to him. Also, I'm guessing if Sam got out of the trap, its possible that my dear Baby Winchester is out there somewhere as well. I hope so.
  • Where was Crowley and does he still have Bobby's soul? I'm hoping we'll tackle this one next season, cause I love Crowley and think he makes a great reoccurring character.
I hope we get more a return to the old days for next season. I think the show did some great things with the Apocalypse storyline, though I thought the execution of Season 4 was better than 5. Still, I think it would be great to see the last season be the brothers back to traveling the country, fighting off spirits and creatures. Here's hoping Sam isn't one of those creatures!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Supernatural: Countdown to "Swan Song"

I finally got caught up on Supernatural on Monday night, and now I'm counting down the hours to tonight's season finale "Swan Song." The two episodes I watched have run together in my mind, but I definitely remember that Pestilence was disgusting and Death was wicked cool. I loved the twist where Death handed over his ring because he thinks Satan is a spoiled child throwing a tantrum and wants to be free of him. These two episodes left so many questions about how the finale may play out. The stage is set for the Winchesters to execute Sam's 'take his body back from Lucifer long enough to jump in the trap' plan, but this is Supernatural, and things never go as planned.

Open Questions:
  • Is Crowley working with Lucifer? Seems too much like a re-run of the Ruby situation for it to have the exact same outcome (yes, Ruby was technically working for Lilith, but its still pretty much the same since Lilith was trying to free Lucifer). Is Crowley God? If not, I hope that the Kripkeeper managed to do some backdoor crap to get Jeffrey Dean Morgan as God and they've somehow kept that info from leaking.
  • Will Bobby get his soul back? If he does, will he also be stuck in the wheelchair again? I predict we may witness the death of Bobby Singer in this episode, but hopefully they'll bring him back next season.
  • What happens to Adam Winchester, since we now know that he's Michael's temporary vessel? I like the kid and would love to see him become a series regular, but I'm guessing he's going to bite it too.
  • What happens to Mostly-Human-Castiel? He proved that he had a little Angel Mojo left, but he probably can't function as deus ex machina as he has in the past, unless its to sacrifice himself.
  • Will God show up at all? I hope so, otherwise the setup with Dean's amulet (which I'm assuming Sam retrieved from the trash) was for naught. I'm guessing the amulet will show up unexpectedly and reveal who God is (Bobby? Cas? Crowley? Please Please Please Daddy Winchester?).
  • We know that the writers have said they will wrap up the Apocalypse storyline this season, but that still leaves many possible endings. Lucifer could be locked back up, but at the expense of one or more dead Winchesters. I've no idea how they'd write it, but its also possible that the Apocalypse is averted somehow without locking up Lucifer. Who knows who could be possessed at the end?  So many possibilities!
9 hours to go!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Glee : Laryngitis

I think Glee finally got its groove back after the Madonna episode, at least as far as I'm concerned. I liked this episode much better than the last two episodes that I recapped yesterday.

The plot: Puck has to shave his mohawk for a dermatologist, and it causes his to lose his popularity, so he dates Mercedes to get it back. She knows he's playing with her, but enjoys the arm candy, so she plays along until he reverts to his jerk ways and she dumps his ass and quits the Cheerios, but not before they do a kickin' rendition of "Lady Is a Tramp."

Rachel loses her voice due to tonsillitis and has an identity crisis over who she is if she can't sing. Finn teaches her a lesson in a very 'after school special' fashion that still worked for me by taking her to visit a football friend who is now a paraplegic. It should have been too sappy, but Lea Michele and Cory Monteith (still my favorite) sold the hell out of it.

Kurt is still struggling with his sexuality and relationship with his ulra-manly father (who is still spending time with Finn). In an attempt to be what he thinks his father wants, he starts dressing in plaid shirts and trucker hats, then makes out with Britney. He even sings "Pink Houses" as his glee club assignment, but because Burt Hummel is the best dad on tv, he finally confronts Kurt and reminds him that Kurt should be who he is and let Burt be the one to adjust.

Other songs:
  • Jessie's Girl - Finn. I saw the writing on the wall for this one back when Jesse was first introduced, but it was still all kinds of awesome. I've made no secret of my love for Cory Monteith, so maybe that's why I loved it so much, but its the only song from this episode that I've downloaded so far. Also, he plays the drums and you know how much I like it when he does that.
  • The Boy is Mine - Mercedes and Santana. This one fell flat for me, mainly because it was so similar to the original. Its odd how I like it when some of the Glee covers sound similar to the original and for some, I love how they mix it up. This time, it didn't work for me, but I did enjoy Mercedes and Santana getting a little physical with each other when it was over. I like Santana-the-villain.
  • Rose's Turn - Kurt. I'm an uncultured heathen, and I know I saw Gypsy a long time ago, but I've no memory of this song, but I don't think you needed to be a fan of the original to enjoy the masterful performance Chris Colfer gave here. No background singers, no elaborate staging, just him belting it out and being himself, which is what Burt "Please Adopt Me" Hummel wanted him to do.
  • One - Ensemble. I liked the idea of Rachel and Sean (the paralyzed football player) singing this, but found the group section to be oddly uninspired. I'm not a huge U2 fan, so its not that I feel the song is uncoverable, but this just didn't work for me. Maybe that will change with a few listens.
Next week: Joss Whedon directs Neil Patrick Harris as Will's high school rival. Epicness ensues and perhaps the Apocalypse too, although Sam and Dean should have taken care of that by then.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One Book, One Twitter: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Jeff Howe over at Crowdsourcing had an idea for a gigantic book club: what if everyone on Twitter read one book together? He held a vote for the book and the winner was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Check out the Crowdsourcing link above for the schedule as well as some guidelines on how to tweet your thoughts and discussion on the book.

I've been wanting to read Gaiman for a while now, and even bought Stardust after seeing the movie, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. The fabulous Julie from Shinyshiny gave me a copy of American Gods for Christmas a couple years ago, and its languished on the shelf. I made a halfhearted attempt to start reading it after I heard Eric Kripke list it as one of the most important influences on his show, Supernatural, but I couldn't get into it.

Here's hoping that One Book, One Twitter gives me the motivation to keep reading. I bought the audiobook for those times when I need to multitask and read while knitting, but I'm also reading the paperback. Perhaps Lewzilla and I can help each other stay on task! The first three chapters were very interesting, so its looking good. I'll try to blog at least a couple times while reading!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Glee: "Home" & "Bad Reputation"

I finally got a chance to catch up on the last two episodes of Glee yesterday....and I have some concerns over the future of the show.  Both of these episodes were wildly uneven, though I found they balanced each other well: in "Home," I mostly liked the story but hated the music, in "Bad Reputation," I hated the story but liked the music. I wish I could squish the two of them together like one of the ubiquitous Glee mashups.

"Home" had a plot I'd been looking forward to - Mr. Hummel hooking up with Mrs. Hudson. I thought it would be hilarious to see Kurt trying to use it to get closer to his crush Finn. However, I think the showed played this storyline for too much sap and not enough humor. I did like what they did with Finn not wanting his dad to be replaced and with Kurt feeling like his dad was getting the son he really wanted, but they missed opportunity to do some really funny stuff with Finn and Kurt.

I also liked the 'Mercedes has to lose weight to please Sue' storyline, but more in the abstract than in execution. It was another storyline that was shoehorned in and then resolved, all in one episode. Usually, I give Glee a pass on those cause they can be so entertaining (Puckleberry, for example), but this one just felt like an after school special.

My biggest problem with this episode was the music though. I nearly had to prop my eyes open with sticks. Maybe I've got adult ADD or something, but I fastforwarded through every musical number but "Fire" and "Beautiful." And that's saying something, because Kristen Chenoweth has a FANTASTIC voice, as does Chris Colfer, but I didn't know any of the three 'Home'-themed songs and the tempo of them lost me. I actually tried to watch this episode live but got so bored (and sympathetically uncomfortable with the looks Kurt was giving Finn) that I had to stop and was just able to pick it back up this weekend. Boring!

"Bad Reputation" had a mediocre story but I enjoyed the music better. I still have no idea what the hell the "glist" was (ranking Glee club members on how promiscuous they are?) or why it was causing such an uproar among the faculty, but at least I've got "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to listen to in the car. Artie, Tina, Kurt, Mercedes, and Britney doing "Can't Touch This" was funny as hell, and I can't be mad at anything that gives Heather Morrison a chance to show off what a dance goddess she is.

I actually liked the "Will has a bad rep" storyline, if only to see Sue call him a manwhore so many times. I liked that Emma stood up for herself, but I wish she'd actually have meant it. It seemed like she was just going through the motions because she thought that's how she should react.

I'd never heard the "Run, Joey, Run" song, but I thought it was hilarious, and a nice way to pull in all of Rachel's guy troubles. Though I'm not a Rachel/Puck shipper, I think Lea and Mark have great chemistry and it was great to see them interact again. I'm still not sure what Jesse St. James is up to, but his voice is amazing, so I'm looking forward to finding out!

Next week: Rachel gets laryngitis! Oh noes!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: Lover Mine by JR Ward

The first part of the review will be spoiler free, then there will be a spoiler warning prior to the spoilerific section.

JR Ward's books are like crack. You know they're not good for you, but you can't stop. The writing is sometimes fantastic and sometimes it makes me want to stab myself in the eye. She writes emotions well, but all the slang (some of it made up by her) gets annoying fast.

Still, Lover Mine is certainly the best BDB book since Lover Revealed. Its got one too many plotlines for me, but they all flow along nicely and there is a payoff for all of them in the end. John and Xhex are the focus of the book, which is nice since I felt like the last two books didn't focus enough on the hero and heroine's story. John and Xhex both have such tragic backgrounds and they deserved to have their fair share of the story.

As always, I found the lesser related sections to be my least favorite. I just can't care about what's going on with them other than to get a general idea of what their evil plans are. When I re-read a BDB book, I skip those parts entirely. Lash has been more entertaining than the usual lessers, but I still hated him, wanted him to die, and had no interest in his thoughts or feelings.

Ward also gave us some great moments with past characters and put some major focus on my two favorite boys, Qhuinn and Blay. I can't speak more about their storyline without getting specific, so see below for more.

Spoilers past this point!