Show Case

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Veronica Mars (S3)

So the shark got a little bit jumped. In style, though.

er-veronicamars3Veronica Mars (S3)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: IMDb

What it is:
Veronica arrives at the same problem all high school stories eventually encounter: how to do the college years? She goes to Hearst in Neptune (which is more or less justified in the narrative), together with Logan, Wallace and Mac (not all of these are justified) and the story continues.

How I found it:
How could I not.

Summary judgment:
Eh, this season is undeniably weaker than the previous ones. It’s still decent TV.

Best things about it:
We get to spend one more season with Veronica and see how she deals with becoming adult. Despite all the details I might disagree with (and I do), this is still very enjoyable to watch and Veronica still has my heart captured.

Worst things about it:
This season introduced a lot of changes and I feel almost all are for the worse. This includes shorter arcs, which only makes them less compelling (and still too long for the amount of mystery they carry). This was, I think, forced by the network and that was a terrible job, network. I don’t even like the new version of the credits (not that I like the previous one so much). Also, the show gets chopped at the end with the last few arcs going nowhere.

Other pluses:
✤ I like the friendship between Veronica and Mac.
✤ We get to see some of Veronica and Logan relationship, even though it’s not particularly satisfying to the shippers.
✤ Jackie’s gone. Small mercies.

Other minuses:
✤ The new characters, well, suck. Veronica and Piz make no sense and Parker is just irritating for most of the time.
✤ I detest everything about the rape storyline, particularly the cartoonish way feminists are shown.
✤ What are the Fitzpatricks still doing there?! Couldn’t they cut this storyline when making other, less necessary changes?
✤ Hearst is a nightmarish hellhole. I don’t understand who would ever stay in this godawful place run by incompetent people and full of psychotic criminals. This season might be one of the most terrifying visions of college experience I’ve ever seen (excluding horrors but I don’t watch them).

How it enriched my life:
I’m glad we got one more season of Veronica’s story and despite its weaknesses I’d want more.

Follow-up:
The movie, the books and finally the revival. However, I’m not reviewing any of those in this run, maybe next time I rewatch everything.

Recommended for:
Anyone who fell in love with Veronica and her story couldn’t miss the third season.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: This ends my discussion of Veronica for now. Next “Daisy Jones and the Six”

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Show Case

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Veronica Mars (S2)

As I said in season 1 review, season 2 is very good but not as perfect.

er-veronicamars2Veronica Mars (S2)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: IMDb

What it is:
Veronica’s story continues but with Lilly Kane’s murderer now captured the show needs something else to focus on. And boy, does it try to find it. In the very first episode a whole busload of kids gets killed in a crash and it only gets more intense from there.

How I found it:
Of course, I was never going to not watch it after season 1.

Summary judgment:
It retains the charm of the first season but it loses its focus. Like, a lot.

Best things about it:
The return to Neptune, to Veronica and Keith and the rest of the bunch is exciting and we learn so much more about pretty much everyone.

Worst things about it:
Frankly, the show has too much going on. The first season was a polished gem, with all the clues neatly planted and all the main characters involved in the single season-long mystery. Here, almost everyone has their own thing going on and the convoluted plots just wind and wind around each other, most of them not going anywhere in the end. In fact, the bus crash mystery only gets explained through things that happen in the last episode and so the viewer is not even rewarded for paying close attention to the plethora of previous clues.
But I always feel removing the stupid Fitzpatricks, who feel like a transplant from a completely different show, would fix most of these issues.

Other pluses:
✤ I like the portrait of Veronica’s school. I feel it’s really becoming more developed this season. It’s in high school where Veronica and friends’ story is the most poignant. I also enjoy the sense of the ending (of high school), of being done with things and ready for the new chapter that a lot of the season has – I find it quite realistic.
✤ Some of the very side characters: Ken Marino’s Vinnie and Daran Norris’s Cliff are comedic gold.
✤ Duncan goes away.

Other minuses:
✤ Ugh, Jackie. Even though she does this complete turnaround halfway through the season, I for one refuse to forget how unnecessarily awful she is at first. Also, her story really doesn’t go anywhere.
✤ With the number of ongoing storylines, most cases of the week feel particularly, er, weak.
✤ Logan is criminally underused and sullied for no reason with that storyline with Kendall Casablancas. Also, I never noticed it before but the whole Logan-Veronica thing is mostly on the “won’t they” side and this gets frustrating.
✤ The mayor’s creepiness. I guess it’s technically a plus and a testament to the actor’s ability but I just can’t look at him without flinching and it’s tiresome to flinch all the time.

How it enriched my life:
Despite all my complaints, this season also gave me a lot of joy.

Follow-up:
All the rest of Veronica story.

Recommended for:
People who loved season one and want more of the world so much that they don’t mind the Fitzpatricks. Ugh, the Fitzpatricks.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Season 3

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Show Case

Wildly Enthusiastic Review: Veronica Mars (S1)

Whoa, what a break. Guys, I might be less organized than I thought. Anyway, here we go. Most of this review was written three months ago anyway.

In preparation for the new Veronica miniseries I rewatched yet again everything Veronica Mars. As we’re talking season one, let the gushing begin.

er-veronicamars1Veronica Mars (S1)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: IMDb

What it is:
A cult TV show that started in 2004. Veronica Mars is a teenage sleuth, which works much better than it should. While she’s solving small-time high school mysteries for cash, she’s also working to discover who killed her best friend, Lilly Kane. It is all a stuff of myths from here.

How I found it:
I was aware that the show was on TV but I didn’t care then because the premise sounded so silly. But I kept hearing about it and finally gave it a try because who am I to frown upon silly shows happening in a high school? And wow, did I love it. I watched the last episodes of the first season on the edge of my seat. Since then I’ve already re-watched the show a couple of times.

A special badge for marking the things that continue to delight me.Summary judgment:
This is one of the best first seasons in history.

Best things about it:
It is a well thought out season-long mystery that manages to gel believably with cases of the week. Neptune immediately has a strong, recognizable character as a noir town. Veronica is a unique heroine, simultaneously guarded and charming, and also capable of the best banter.
But who am I kidding? I am and always will be returning to the story for the hot gorgeous love story between Logan and Veronica, one of my favorite dysfunctional couples of pop culture.

Worst things about it:
If we’re nitpicking (and you know me, always am), I guess some of the cases of the week feel less essential and less organically arriving from the world of Neptune (my particular unfavorite is “Lord of the Bling”) but I don’t think you can avoid skippable episodes in a long season.

Other pluses:
✤ Plenty of actors shine so bright in this show but I have to give the goldest star to Jason Dohring as Logan. He does a lot of things right (and some of the things his character does are downright repulsive but he pulls it off) but mostly throughout the story he shows such heartbreaking vulnerability. He should’ve gotten all the prizes. Also, when you know how their love will blossom, it’s such fun to look for the first sparks in the early episodes. But I’m a sappy romantic.
✤ Also, Kristen Bell is Veronica. I can’t see her in any other role and not see Veronica. She created a masterpiece in this role.
✤ An extra minor point: I like how Veronica Mars is a tribute to Buffy, from the diminutive evil-fighting blonde to the appearances of some Whedon actors. (Very much a side-note: I’m probably shorter than her so I’m using the word “diminutive” with all the caution.)

Other minuses:
✤ I am just another one of those fans who hate on Duncan but knowing that he will go away for ever (spoiler) I don’t mind him so much anymore.
✤ A few of the issue-related themes don’t get old so well but nothing drastic, I think.
✤ I don’t get all the Wallace love. He’s a plot device at best, a distraction at worst (though that happens in season two, mostly). I’m learning to feel neutral about him but I don’t think I will warm up to him too much.
✤ Something absolutely unimportant from the show’s point of view but it bothers me increasingly every time I re-watch: why can’t Mac have a relationship with her blood family? Don’t get it. Really don’t.

How it enriched my life:
It gave me so much thrill, and not just the first time I watched.

Follow-up:
Season 2 is alright, though not as perfect. I don’t like season 3. The movie disappointed me but the books, surprisingly, hold up. And the revival… well, I’m not sure.

Recommended for:
I don’t know who it is not recommended for. People who hate great entertainment, I guess.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Next time: Season 2

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Sounds of Music

Dylan Season

I’ve been listening a lot to Bob Dylan lately because some seasons are just Dylan seasons. And it gave me a new appreciation for his lyrical genius (which is well-known), his talent for a melody (also rather well-recognized) but also for his (less obvious) skill at interpretation.

I’ve been going through this Spotify playlist (I already know most of these covers, of course) and while many of these are good songs, few can beat Dylan’s original interpretation. He’s just so good at infusing his songs with this mixture of irony, detachment, rawness and depth that few can imitate.

(And those who repeat that he can’t sing should give his 70s records a try. Not that this even matters that much.)

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Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Descender

Well, it’s been half a year but yes, it’s a new review. I’ve been reading through a list of best comics and while most of them leave me mildly entertained at best, I found something more engrossing:

er-descenderDescender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Category: Comics

Find it on: LibraryThing (link for vol. 1)

What it is:
An insanely well drawn space opera with existential tinges about robots and people (and swine-people, too) and the dangers they all pose to one another. I guess it’s fairly pessimistic, overall.

How I found it:
It was a LibraryThing recommendation, sitting right there on top of the list. I read some of Lemire and liked some of that some, so I was ready to give him another go.

Summary judgment:
This comic blew me away with its art and kept me interested with the story.

Best things about it:
Nguyen’s amazing watercolor art. It almost feels wasted here, not because there’s anything wrong with the story but because I’ve seen paintings less accomplished than single panels he drew for this comic. Watercolors is a demanding technique and not the most versatile in average hands so it impressed me all the more how Nguyen creates different worlds, different lights and moods with it. The surprise of pairing watercolors with science fiction truly pays off here.

Worst things about it:
By the end of the story I hoped for at least a slightly more optimistic conclusion but this one certainly made sense, much as I prefer my stories more cheerful.

Other pluses:
✤ I like how despite the grand scale of the story Lemire manages to keep the stakes personal and the characters relatable.
✤ The story remains clear and easy to follow, even when it spans thousands of years and entire galaxies.

Other minuses:
✤ On the one hand, I appreciate that Lemire keeps his series short, but I feel some characters or even planets would benefit from a little more backstory.

How it enriched my life:
I stared speechless at the art (even though it didn’t even make me want to paint with watercolors because I wouldn’t reach this level ever) and I thought about the future of AI a little.

Follow-up:
Lemire has already promised the second part of the story, Ascender, and this time it will be science fiction fantasy. While I didn’t feel it gelled too well with the Descender story when elements of it appeared there, the idea itself feels promising and Nguyen will be illustrating so yes, I’ll be reading.

Recommended for:
Anybody who feels a mix of science fiction adventure with watercolor art is a good idea. Which it is.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: I can’t promise any kind of regularity for a while yet, but next stop is one of my favorite things ever, Veronica Mars

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Bookworming

Bulk Review: Victorians and More Victorians (Faux-Victorians, Though)

Welcome to round two of speedy book reviews. It seems my reading choices have become a bit monothematic lately.

The French Lieutanant’s Woman

By John Fowles

What it is
One of early postmodern novels (written in 1969), it tells a classic Victorian story of a misalliance but with a twist, the twist being that you shouldn’t take your stories too literally.

Best things about it
It’s undoubtedly well-written and reads great. The first time I read it, in college, it delighted me so much. Fowles shows honest interest in Victorian mind and philosophy and his analysis of those tends to be the most interesting part of the book, once you know not to focus on the story too much. It teaches you a bunch of rare words, too.

Worst things about it
This isn’t so much a criticism of this particular book as the whole bunch of those postmodern novels: all the winking and nudging gets old really fast. It becomes boring to be constantly reminded that you’re only dealing with a construct and not to take anything too seriously and stops you from getting involved in the story. As a result, it left me somewhat cold (and this is the easily digested kind of postmodernism, too).

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys

What it is
This, on the other hand, written three years earlier, shows how you can do a similar thing with heart and for a good reason. Rhys writes a story of Edward Rochester’s (of Jean Eyre) first wife, the mad woman in the attic. She focuses not on the events known from Bronte’s novel but on Bertha’s past (though it’s not even her name here), creating a study of colonialism and misogyny.

Best things about it
First time I read this book I was freshly awed by the original Jane Eyre and I suppose I expected a kind of fan fiction, only better written, so I actually disliked the Sea. This time it awed me with its subtlety, with the strength of creating a world that is completely different from that of Bronte’s novel and yet so convincing, and especially with the searing (but only implied, because subtlety) criticism of Victorian English society.

Worst things about it
It’s not a criticism but feel warned that it’s one of those books you need to grow up to.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

What it is
Let’s finish with a light version of Victorian fascination. This is a story that happens during Victorian era (but mostly only nominally) and tells of two magicians locked in a mysterious contest (and in love), all happening in a strange circus. I suppose you could classify it as young adult literature, though it’s less obvious than most books of this genre.

Best things about it
It creates the world of the story with attention to detail and a sense of poetry. The magic in the novel is not flashy, impressionistic rather than Harry Potter-esque. The focus remains on the emotions of the characters. Even though it slows down sometimes, it remains a pleasant read.

Worst things about it
I wish the book tried harder to pay homage to the Victorian period it choses to represent – if not in the way the characters act, then at least in some of the language (at the very least in dialogs). Otherwise, why set it in this time at all? Except for the lack of modern technology, very little in the story feels like it’s actually happening when it’s supposed to be happening.
Also, Bailey takes up too much time with nothing to hook the reader up to his story.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 

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Bookworming

Bulk Review: Victorians, Goblins and Dominicans

I don’t have time to write proper reviews but I still manage to read some interesting books, thanks mostly to nursing, so here’s a summary of a few recent reads.

No Name

By Wilkie Collins

What it is
A Victorian psychological and social drama showing the ruinous consequences for two daughters when their parents die without leaving a will.

Best things about it
Collins is one of my favorite Victorian writers and every time I read him, his skill surprises me. This, though long, flows nicely, populated by an array of vivid, somewhat theatrical characters. The author’s, and readers’, special love was clearly reserved for the drifter uncle.

Worst things about it
I enjoyed all of it.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Goblin Emperor

By Katherine Addison

What it is
A psychological fantasy which holds back on all the usual thrills of fantasy: there’s very little magic and a lot of world building (if by world you mean an emperor’s court).

Best things about it
This is a shockingly original thing unlike any fantasy I read. It focuses thoroughly on politics and its effects on the main character. It does so unapologetically, only developing those elements of the story which serve this theme, but developing them strongly, up to coming up with a social and diplomatic grammar.

Worst things about it
I have no qualms.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz

What it is
A Pullitzer Prize winner, a story of nerdery tangled with Dominican history.

Best things about it
The lively language which confidently mixes nerd references, Spanish and postmodern devices, with mixed up styles, genres and points of view. I’m all for that.

Worst things about it
It reads fast but except for the course in Dominican history it doesn’t give one much to engage with. Not to mention that South American history leans to the depressing side.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I’ll be back with more, promise.

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