23 December 2010

Vampire Leia Giclee

Reproduced from ILM's 2008 Hallowe'en party invitation, you can now purchase your very own limited edition 10 x 14" giclee of "Leia Vamp." Cool collectible or just another way to line George Lucas's already overstuffed pockets? You decide, but either way you can get your own here.

20 December 2010

Trailer: By Her Hand, She Draws You Down

Part of the Vampire Film Fest (and the VFF trailer contest), this one is creepy and disturbing. Must see.

17 December 2010

True Blood S3 E10 "I Smell a Rat"

Spoilers Ahead

Woo hoo--sexy moment ahead (see above)! But first...

"I Smell a Rat" starts off moments after Bill tells Sookie what she is. If you haven't already guessed (or read the books): she's a fairy. Sookie's less than impressed, calling it lame (not sure why--I think it would be pretty damn cool to find out I'm fae). But whatever she feels about it is soon overshadowed as she finds out that being part fairy is cause for fear (like she doesn't already have enough of that). Bill admits that fairies are believed to have been wiped out years ago by vampires desperate for their delicious, delicious blood. Well, that explains Sophie-Anne and Russell's interest in her (Bill includes Eric on that list too).

Speaking of Eric, he's busy making a will. It was bad enough when Russell was merely enraged at him for staking Talbot, but after eviscerating a news anchor on live TV (last episode) it's clear that Russell is also completely insane. Knowing he can't fight him (Russell being too old, too strong, and too crazy), Eric's preparing for the worst. Meanwhile Pam is distressed and infuriated that he seems to be simply giving up (Yvetta, on the other hand, is distressed and infuriated that he isn't leaving her anything in his will).

Back at Sookie's, she's sleeping on the couch while Bill hears for the first time about Russell's recent actions (Nan Flanagan is busy spinning the story, calling Russell an isolated extremist and terrorist). Side note: why would Bill--a vampire with excellent hearing--turn up the TV to listen to the story? Tsk, tsk, director. Anyway, a moment later Eric's at the door and he and Bill go for a walk. Eric surprises Bill by asking if it's true that Sookie's blood will let a vampire walk in the sunlight. Apparently, even though Sophie-Anne sent Bill after Sookie (a fact he denies), she never told him why she was interested in her. In any case, Bill admits that her blood will only allow a vampire to stay in the sunlight for a few moments at most. Eric claims he's trying to save Sookie, and it really does seem as though he means it. But neither Bill nor Sookie (who shows up as they're arguing) are buying it. He tells them he won't be around much longer and leaves. Bill and Sookie decide to stay at Jason's for a few days.

While at Jason's Sookie ends up having a dream about Eric that is both erotic (as usual) and worrisome. Even in her dream Eric is warning her that she can't trust Bill. While Jason is occupied with Tara in another room, Sookie takes the opportunity to slip away, something that upsets both Jason and Bill when they find out.

Sookie shows up--where else--at Fangtasia. She claims she's there because she wants to know why Eric said he wouldn't be around much longer, but Eric sees through her and gets her to admit that she really wants to know why she shouldn't trust Bill. As they talk she actually starts getting worried because it sounds like Eric is saying goodbye, which in fact he is. He tells her that if he goes to his final death without having kissed her it would be his biggest regret (really?) Then he kisses her in an impulsive and manly fashion. It's a pretty decent clinch and, of course, Sookie returns it with enthusiasm.

A moment later Pam interrupts and gets Eric to follow her outside to chat (or rather, to berate him). She first suggests that Eric give Sookie to Russell to save himself since Russell will get her anyway if Eric is dead. When it becomes obvious that Eric will do nothing of the sort, Pam snaps that he should at least find a way to use Sookie to help him--and fast.

Speaking of Russell, he's busy with a male prostitute who looks remarkably like Talbot. In fact he talks to him as if he is Talbot, going on about how much he (Talbot) means to him and how he failed Talbot by not being there when he met his final death. Then Russell stakes the (human) prostitute and apologizes to Talbot. He kisses "Talbot" and says how glad he is that they had their chance to say goodbye. Creepy.

Elsewhere, people are dealing with the aftermath of their actions in the previous episode. Jason is freaked after killing Franklin, flashing back to killing both Eggs and Eddie. Tara has to step in and take control of burying Franklin's remains and burning his clothes (although she does a crap job of the "burial," kicking a little dirt over what's left of Franklin. Surely no one will ever find him now!) Later, guilt propels Jason to admit to Tara that he killed Eggs. Whatever she's feeling she doesn't say before running off. After that Jason discovers that Sookie sneaked off. Then after nightfall he gets into a heated argument with Bill for not protecting Sookie. And if that wasn't enough he finds a black jaguar in his room, which turns into Crystal as he watches.

Another side note: I wish they'd gone with a panther as described in the book--aka a cougar/mountain lion--not a jaguar (a black "panther" is actually a jaguar). I don't know--a jaguar just seems out of place in Bon Temps and really, I don't buy people as trashy as the ones portrayed in the TV version of Hotshot turning into anything as graceful and elegant as a cat. Mind you, I really wish the entertainment industry would stop working with exotic/endangered animals altogether (google the topic to find out more about it).

Anyway, Sam's in flashback mode too, thinking back to a time when he had slicked-back hair (not a good look for him) and was partners-in-crime with a cute blonde. It seems they were partners in another way as well, since post-heist activities involve getting naked. But Sam also clearly loves the girl, talking about a future life together. Unfortunately, Sam's dreams are cut short when a man shows up behind him, pointing a gun at his head. It turns out blondie has been double-crossing Sam all along. She and the guy take the stolen money and jewels and run.

The next night Sam is drinking (again) and still reliving the past. This time the flashback takes us to blondie and the guy camping and enjoying their ill-gotten gains. Sam sneaks up on them easily, grabbing the guy's gun when he isn't looking and pointing it at him. Sam orders the guy to give him back the money they took, sending the girl to the truck to retrieve the rest of it. Arrogantly, the guy calls Sam a freak, and Sam responds by wailing on him. Worried for her boyfriend, blondie tells Sam to stop and then shoots at him. Sam fires back without thinking and is devastated when he realizes he hit her in the heart. After a moment of grief for the woman, he returns to the guy--writhing on the ground--and executes him. I can see why Sam would be haunted by these memories, but I have to say--I don't like what his character is being turned into. I like Sam sweet and scruffy. This Jekyll and Hyde thing isn't working for me.

The more recent product of Sam's dark side, Crystal's badly beaten father, is on the way to the ER with Crystal, Jesus and Lafayette. Realizing that Calvin (whom I only just connected to the Calvin Norris in the books--duh. Book Calvin = way better, btw) isn't going to make it to the ER, Lafayette stops at his place. While Jesus and Crystal panic at what they see as Lafayette's foolishness, he gets some V into Calvin. A moment later the were is healed--and pissed about it. He smacks Crystal across the face and shouts at her for letting "faggots" put "vamper juice" in him. Charming. He also claims his bloodline has been ruined and informs Crystal that it's her duty to marry Felton and keep his bloodline going. Yeah, she doesn't concur. As she runs off, Calvin shouts after her that she's dead to him. Big loss.

Jesus, who was previously so completely opposed to V, suddenly sees it as miraculous and intriguing. He wants to take V with Lafayette and, even though Lafayette is reluctant, Jesus convinces him with talk of how V connects you to the magic that's already part of you. Their trip is interesting--lots of religious imagery and visits to ancestors. I do think it goes on for way too long, though, especially considering the limited screen time available for the entire season and how much is going on in general. The trip ends on a scary note as Jesus encounters his frightening grandfather, who "practised black arts." Interestingly, it's Lafayette who's really freaked.

In other happenings, Jessica's not having a great night. First Arlene starts spouting off anti-vampire crap after watching Steve Newlin (having a field day) on TV. Jessica puts her in her place, although she feels guilty about it afterward. Then, even though she's clearly still in love with Hoyt, Tommy comes on to her in a not un-creepy way. At home later, Jessica gets a taste of the post-Russell extreme anti-vampire reaction as someone throws a rock through the window of Bill's house. When she runs outside to investigate there's graffiti on the house and, more disturbingly, a burning cross on the lawn. Even worse--Bill restrains her from going after the people responsible.

The next night is slightly better for Jessica. Hoyt comes in to Merlotte's to see her and basically declares his love for her, telling her he broke up with Summer. Jessica really believes she's evil, not only for doing bad things but for enjoying them. But Hoyt doesn't care--he wants to be with her. The only way he'll accept them not being together is if Jessica looks him in the eye and tells him she doesn't love him. She looks at him but says nothing. Frustrated, Hoyt storms out. Tommy, after watching the entire exchange, slips out after Hoyt and makes a snarky comment to Hoyt as he strides to the parking lot. Hoyt knocks Tommy down with a punch and keeps going. Instead of accepting that he deserved as much, Tommy shifts into a pitbull and attacks Hoyt, mangling him pretty badly. But meanwhile Jessica's had a change of heart and as she runs outside to tell Hoyt, she sees him being attacked. Throwing the dog/Tommy into a tree (this was hard for me to watch, even if it was Tommy, not an actual dog), she makes Hoyt drink her blood. A second later he's healed and, as Tommy--back in human form--watches (and looking less than happy) from the tree, Jessica tells Hoyt she loves him too. I really do like these two together.

As for the wretched subplot of Arlene's unwanted pregnancy, she finally admits to Terry that the baby is actually Rene's. But rather than being upset, Terry claims he wants to marry Arlene and raise the baby as his own, surrounding it with so much love that any residual evil from Rene will be wiped out. Well, damn, I think I want to have a baby with Terry now. But, idiot that she is, Arlene is still convinced the baby's evil because Rene was. She approaches Holly and asks her about the "non-abortion" ways of ending a pregnancy that Holly mentioned (because abortion "is just plain wrong"). I can't tell if this is a massive oversight on the part of the writers or they're deliberately making Arlene as stupid as possible, but either way--guess what?: If you terminate a pregnancy, it's an abortion--whether done in a doctor's office, with a magical ritual, or in some back alley with a coat hanger as some women have had to resort to. If you believe one is wrong--as Arlene has stated--then they're all wrong. But, like so many judgmental zealots in the world, Arlene picks and chooses her morality to suit her convenience. So, whatever. I hope the kid is evil and runs around shouting redrum all over town.

The episode ends back with Eric and Sookie. He returns to his office after his talk with Pam and tells Sookie she's his prisoner. He then picks her up and carries her to the basement, all the while as she's kicking and screaming, and chains her by the neck. She's furious and scared. Back in Bon Temps Bill feels what's happened. Meanwhile Eric shuts the door on Sookie. I'm pretty sure he has a plan in mind that will ultimately help them all but right now it's not looking good for Sookie. Then again, if he has a plan--why not just tell her instead of causing all this drama (answer: because it's TV, of course). After that kiss, though, I want to see more of Eric and Sookie together, and that's not likely to happen if he keeps chaining her in basements (or maybe it's more likely to happen--hey, you never know). Here's to Eric saving the day and (maybe) getting the girl.

Fang Files

Appearance: Very pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and long, snakelike fangs that extend or retract at will (and sometimes against their will). Vampires cry blood. Dead vampires resemble a bloody, stringy puddle.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Enhanced hearing, sense of smell. Quick healing and ability to heal mortals with their blood.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, stakes. Being de-invited from a home compels them to leave immediately. Intolerant zealots.

Mythology: It is believed among supernatural beings that the fairies were wiped out by vampires; fae blood is not only delectable but also (according to rumour) will allow a vampire to walk in the sun without harm. Vampire blood (V) is healing to humans and weres. Vampires need an invitation to enter a private residence, but if that invitation is rescinded they are compelled to leave immediately. A human who has consumed a vampire's blood will forever be linked to that vampire; the vampire can sense them and the human will have (often erotic) feelings for and dreams about the vampire.

Sound Bites

Sookie: I'm a fairy? How fucking lame.

Sam: What is this?
Guy with gun: This would be you getting screwed.

Bill: Sookie, it's not your blood I love. I love you. Your heart. Your mind. Your soul.

Sookie: Will your blood ever wear off? I'm tired of dreaming about you.
Eric: It's not just the blood. You know you have feelings for me.
Sookie: Ew.

Eric: [After being interrupted] What?
Pam: Blah blah vampire emergency blah.

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 10 "I Smell a Rat." Written by Kate Barlow and Elizabeth R. Finch. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.

14 December 2010

The Gates S1 E9 "Identity Crisis"

Spoilers Ahead

Well, you can't accuse The Gates of not being predictable. In "Identity Crisis"...

  • Nick tries to amuse Charlie with a sleight-of-hand trick and later uses the same trick to conceal a key piece of evidence
  • Devon goes on to Mia about how Devil's Weed is amazing for auto-immune diseases and for when the body turns on itself--but won't teach her about it until she's older. So Mia steals some Devil's Weed tincture and gives it to Andie for her Succubus "disorder"
  • Dylan swears nothing in the world would make him miss Emily's spelling bee. He forgets about it entirely (as does Claire).
  • After ignoring Charlie, Andie is finally ready to be with him again (after the Devil's Weed instantly gets her succubus side under control), only to find him kissing another girl
  • The FBI agent who suddenly rolls into town turns out to not be who she says she is. And she's got an ulterior motive!
  • The man in the Gates who makes fake identities for the various supernatural types (mostly the vampires) is dumb enough to leave photos of his clients lying around his house, easily decrypted files on his computer, and a flash drive of his master list in a safety deposit box registered under his own name
  • Leigh mentions she had a boyfriend who ripped her heart out. If you'll recall, way back in "Breach" an ornate, glowy box was stolen from Leigh's apartment (she ultimately retrieved it). Who wants to bet her boyfriend literally ripped her heart out and, with some magical help, she now keeps it in that box?
  • Christian, left for dead by Dylan, isn't actually dead (since we always see the body when someone dies on this show and we didn't see his, that's no surprise). He's out for revenge against Claire and Dylan now, starting with kidnapping Emily from her room
I wish I could say this episode isn't indicative of the rest of the series. I also wish I could win the Lotto Max jackpot. Guess which wish is more realistic. The Gates had so much promise and has just ended up being completely disappointing. Four episodes left. If only I actually cared...

Fang Files

Appearance: Human with sharp fangs that we hardly ever get to see. Dead vampires look like dead people.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Quick healing. Not affected by being run through with a sword.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, stakes, melodramatic gestures.

Mythology: Vampires have a bond with their makers, although it can be broken.

Sound Bites

Ben (vampire): If it was up to me you wouldn't be involved in this but Dylan has convinced me that I need to let you attempt to save this woman's life.
Nick: You're gonna kill an FBI agent?
Ben: There are too many peoples' lives at stake here. If she gets that list before you do, well someone out there will make sure she never gets back to FBI headquarters alive.

Claire: I'm home... Don't you even want to know where I've been?
Dylan: What does it matter? For all I know you're lying to me.

Emily: Where are we going again?
Christian: Oh, don't you worry about it, pumpkin. This is going to be fun.

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 9 "Identity Crisis." Written by Scott Nimerfro. Directed by Steve Miner. From ABC.

13 December 2010

Fangtasia Neon Sign

When we moved into our current house, the previous owner had left behind a neon Labatt Blue sign. Why, oh why, couldn't it have been a Fangtasia sign like this one? Or even one of these babies:
Guess I'll just have to go and buy one (unless anyone is willing to trade theirs for a Labatt sign? Fine Canadian beer...) Both are available at the HBO store, $89.99 apiece.

10 December 2010

The Vampire Diaries S2 E11 "By the Light of the Moon"

Spoilers Ahead

This episode of The Vampire Diaries lets everyone have a turn at bat: we get vampire, werewolf, and witchy action. Pretty exciting stuff seeing everyone in their element, even if things don't turn out quite as planned.

We start off with Ty gathering items together restlessly as Mason's video plays in the background. He stops to call Mason, leaving a message about the video and the full moon. And although Mason won't be getting it (as Damon so poetically puts it, Mason is decomposing in his truck) someone else does. A woman in Mason's apartment stops to listen as the machine kicks in. After Ty hangs up her eyes go all wolfy. Well, this can't be good.

Meanwhile, back at her place Elena is arguing with Bonnie about whether Bonnie should focus on getting Stefan out of the tomb (Elena's choice) or work on breaking the spell bound by the moonstone (everyone else's choice). Elena is still convinced that if they break the spell it'll annoy Klaus into killing everyone she loves. But, as Bonnie points out, that's only if he finds out about it. Elena can't seem to understand why she's not getting support for her plan to turn herself over to Klaus to be sacrificed. Elena's not the brightest. Illustrating my point, the moment she's alone she steals the moonstone from Bonnie's bag and makes a break for it. Of course, this move was already anticipated and Bonnie has taken the precautionary measure of sealing Elena into the house with a spell. That'll learn her.

No surprise that Damon's in on the plan to trap Elena (actually he takes credit for coming up with it. Unlike Elena, he is the brightest). He pays a visit to Stefan in the tomb, bringing him a care package and blood. Stefan refuses the blood, though, because he'll end up having to share it with Katherine. He really doesn't like Katherine. He reiterates to Damon to keep Elena safe. [As I was watching this scene I kept wondering what would happen to Damon if his arm crossed the magic line as he handed something to Stefan. Would his arm be trapped in the tomb? And how do they actually know where the line begins?]

Back to Ty. As he's preparing to leave to go set up for his first full moon, the doorbell rings. Surprise--it's the mystery were woman from Mason's apartment! Jules (Michaela McManus, One Tree Hill) claims she's in town trying to track Mason down since he never returned to Florida. Alarm bells start ringing for the Lockwoods, who believed he was in Florida. When Ty later meets Caroline at the Grill, he tells her about Jules and says his mom called the sheriff. Luckily Alaric is nearby and catches the unwelcome news.

Damon pays Elena a visit, updating her on Stefan and taking the opportunity to mock her (not undeservedly). He also calls Caroline Vampire Barbie, which amused me greatly, even if that one was a bit undeserved (hey, Caroline has come a long way this season). While he's there he gets a call from Alaric informing him that Mason has officially been listed as a missing person. Damon leaves to meet Rick at the Grill.

Jules is managing to keep busy. After leaving the Lockwood mansion she calls someone (we don't get to find out who) and confirms that whoever it is was right--Mason lied; there is another werewolf. Great--how many people is Damon going to have to kill (or compel, if weres can be compelled)? Afterward she heads to the Grill where she stops the first person she sees (Matt) and asking him if he knows Ty. Damon and Alaric notice her immediately and come up with a cunning plan to discover whether she's a were. Alaric approaches Jules in the guise of the local drunk, buying her a drink. Damon then shows up playing the gentleman. As he distracts Jules, Alaric slips some wolfsbane into the drink. Alaric then leaves while Damon settles in to chat Jules up and encourage her to drink. On a serious note: girls--this is why you shouldn't accept drinks from strange men; it's not wolfsbane they're slipping into your beverage.

Anyway, speaking of wolfsbane, Caroline and Ty are in the Lockwoods' old slave cellar preparing for what lies ahead. Caroline mixes some of the herb into water for Ty (supposedly it'll weaken him so he's less likely to be able to break out--if he can keep it down, that is). Ty also starts getting undressed (his clothes will get wrecked once he turns), prompting a moment of embarrassed shock from Caroline and general admiration from the viewers at home. How much time do actors have to spend at the gym these days, anyway? Remember when the people onscreen used to look like the rest of us (albeit somewhat more polished)? Suddenly I feel so old. But props to Ty for the Hulk reference.

Elsewhere Bonnie goes to see Luka to return his dog tags and apologize for channelling his energy without permission, almost killing him in the process. Her first clue that he's a little too good to be true should be when he forgives her almost immediately and invites her in. But she's too infatuated at the moment to be suspicious. She asks him if he knows how to break the bind between a talisman and a spell. Seeing as Luka and his dad have an entire library of grimoires on hand, it shouldn't be too much of a problem, and he gladly offers to help.

In the tomb Stefan's got his hands full with Katherine--or should I say 'of' Katherine. After trying (and failing) to scare him into eating she decides to wear him down from a different angle. She undresses and starts teasing him about what Damon's getting up to with Elena, informing him that he's entitled to do the same in there with her and no one need ever know. A moment later they're kissing, clothes are coming off, Stefan's got her up against the wall...and then he wakes up. Katherine's been messing with his subconscious again. Smirking, she claims that maybe she can handle eternity in the tomb with him after all.

As for Katherine's equally trapped doppelganger, Elena is far from spending quality time with Damon. Instead she's helping Jenna dig boxes of files and records out of a cupboard. It turns out Jenna, on behalf of the historical society, has been roped into helping an author research the history of the town. As she closes the cupboard door she reveals the writer standing behind it. Surprise--it's Elijah (as my SO put it, is there anyone Jenna won't invite into the house?) Elijah plays friendly, "introducing" himself to Elena and being generally pleasant if slightly creepy. Elena's terrified (although she plays along for Jenna's sake) and as soon as the front door closes behind him she runs upstairs and starts pounding on Jeremy's door. Before Jeremy can answer Elijah is suddenly there and motioning for Elena to keep quiet. When Jeremy finally does open the door Elena tells him Jenna needs him downstairs. Once alone Elijah informs her they need to have a talk. Okayyy...

Damon is still playing nice, trying to get Jules to actually take a sip of her drink. He tells her that he knows Mason and that he's a really great guy. Of course, he's not exactly being subtle, although Jules seems to be buying it. Seems to be, but she isn't. After pretending she's about to finally have her drink, she suddenly stops and calls Damon a fool. She scoffs that she sniffed him--and his pathetic wolfsbane--out the moment she walked into the bar and that only his vampire arrogance would make him threaten her (he suggests she should leave town because she's not going to find Mason) on the night of the full moon. Then she tells him he's been marked--to which Damon looks supremely unimpressed--and walks out. Damon's pissed and all ready to go after her but Alaric talks sense into him, reminding him that one bite could kill him. Damon agrees and goes home.

Back to Elena and Elijah. I don't know what's up with him but he's clearly hiding his real motives. What he tells Elena, however, is that he doesn't want to break the curse, doesn't want her handed over to Klaus, and, in fact, is trying to find and destroy Klaus. He wants to make a deal with her: she'll go on living life normally and when the time comes they'll draw out Klaus together, at which point Elijah will kill him. Oh, and between Bonnie and his own witch friends, he can make sure everyone Elena cares about is protected. Um, okayyyy... But all that's not good enough for Elena--she asks him to do one more thing for her...

Bonnie and Luka, having apparently figured out how to break the spell, decide to make a date of it. They go up to the roof, under the full moon, surrounded by candles. They touch and the power flows between them. And suddenly the moonstone floats above them and bursts into fireworks. Subtle. But it appears Elena is off the sacrifice hook.

Things are picking up in intensity on the old Lockwood estate. Ty is starting to transform and it is incredibly painful (although may I just say that chains are a good look for him). Caroline refuses to leave him, staying close and comforting him as much as she can. But when he starts fully wolfing out and losing control, she runs in panic. The sequence of him changing is really nicely shot--the director clearly understands that less is more when it comes to horror. Ty the wolf is all blind rage, doing everything he can to get at Caroline. Finally she barricades the outer door and goes outside to wait, terrified and tearful.

When Damon gets home he immediately senses that something is up. I guess we're supposed to expect Jules (at least, I was) but it turns out Rose is back. She offers a sincere apology for what happened with Elena (last episode) and then admits she also has nowhere else to go. Damon tells her there's nothing there for her but before much more can happen, the sound of shattering glass reaches them. They find a broken window, at which point Damon grabs a sword. Rose sees the wolf a moment before Damon does and as it attacks, she pushes Damon out of the way. I guess the wolf decides one vampire is as good as the next and starts attacking Rose, biting her badly in the shoulder. Damon recovers himself and stabs the wolf with the sword, prompting the were to run out through the window. Rose is in a lot of pain and certain she's about to die. But then the wound heals. She bursts into tears as Damon comforts her (lucky girl).

Finished with their moonstone shenanigans, Luka goes back home where his dad is waiting. It turns out the whole thing was a show for Bonnie's benefit and she bought it without question. Luka hands the intact stone over to dad. Before he can leave, though, dad tells him that Elijah wants them to do one more thing before they lose the full moon.

In the tomb Katherine and Stefan are getting along like an old married couple. A miserable old married couple. Katherine's unapologetic for what she's done but says she really does love Stefan. He snaps that she should try doing something to prove to him that there's actually something worth trusting in her. She offers to help him find Klaus. He's snarky about what she'll expect in return. She retorts that he should start with Isobel--she found Katherine, she can find Klaus. Wow--Katherine did something selfless! Although she can't resist adding a sarcastic "you're welcome" at the end.

As the repartee flies, Elijah is suddenly there. He tells Stefan that he reached a "peaceful" deal with Elena and that the spell has been lifted. Stefan is free to go. Katherine, on the other hand, he compels into staying until he tells her she can leave. Klaus is going to want to know exactly where she is. Katherine begs Stefan not to leave her there but he just says goodbye and goes. That's gratitude for you. Suddenly Katherine's driving need to always put herself first seems a little more understandable.

Okay, Elijah wanted his witches to do one more thing for him that night. On the surface it seems obvious that the one thing was to release the spell on the tomb. I'm not so sure, though. Luka's dad specified that Elijah wanted them to work before they "lost" the full moon. Why is the moon important? Is it just a good time to be working magic or is there some other moon-dependent spell involved? Maybe something to do with werewolves? Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that Elijah is on the weres' side, or at least in cahoots? Guess we'll find out.

As the episode is winding down, things seem to have worked out for the best. Ty is back in human form and didn't get out of the cellar, which Caroline is thrilled about. Relieved, she tells him he's okay, but he doesn't agree. Ty is seriously traumatized from the experience, although I think it's bound to get better, otherwise all weres would kill themselves after a couple of full moons.

Stefan and Elena enjoy a happy reunion. I guess from their perspective everything is great. I have to say, I don't love that Stefan is already out of the tomb. They could have done so much more with that, exploring the Stefan-Katherine dynamic and seeing where things would lead with Elena and Damon. The one bad thing this show tends to do is resolve storylines too quickly. There's no need to rush, guys.

Damon and Rose are also getting along pretty well post were-attack. He admits he's glad the bite didn't kill her. She claims she's going to stay to help him with "all things Elena" and to be a friend--because she believes in friendship and he needs all the help he can get. Damon's not quite satisfied with "just" friend status and tries to change her mind (really lucky girl!) She claims she won't love a man who loves another woman, but she can be his special friend. Works for him. They start kissing and as he grasps her shoulder it suddenly hurts. Pulling aside her robe we see that the wolf's bite that supposedly healed has now turned into a nasty looking infection. They both look horrified and the show cuts to the credits.

My guess is that werewolves' saliva contains some sort of toxin and when the wound heals before it can be cleaned/sterilized the toxin gets trapped and starts spreading. Not good. I really hope they save Rose. I like her, I like her with Damon, and she classes the place up with her accent. Stupid werewolves; what good are they, anyway?

The show's on a break now, I'm assuming until sometime in the new year. This is going to be a tough wait...

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then dark eyes and facial veins, prominent fangs.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Heightened hearing. Ability to compel humans. The older the vampire the stronger they are. Elijah can compel other vampires and Katherine can get inside Stefan's head and project entire scenes.

Weaknesses: Vervain, sunlight, starvation, magic, werewolf bites.

Mythology: Klaus is the oldest of the original vampires, as well as the most hated and the most feared.

Sound Bites

Bonnie: You're lying.
Elena: No I'm not.
Bonnie: Really? Tell your face.

Damon: You should really lock your door.
Elena: [sulking, angry]
Damon: Oh, come on, pouty. At least give me two points for ingenuity.
Elena: Do you think this is funny?
Damon: Yes, Elena, I find hilarity in the lengths I have to go to to repeatedly save your life.

Elijah: Good evening, Katerina. Thank you for having the good sense to be frightened.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 11 "By the Light of the Moon." Written by Mike Daniels. Directed by Elizabeth Allen. From The CW.

09 December 2010

Trailer: The Last Vampire on Earth

I'm not entirely enthused about this one--the production values are looking a little low rent. Also, hello creepy leading man (and I don't mean in a good way). But I'm still intrigued by the concept so it gets a place on the to-see list...eventually.

08 December 2010

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

I'm not sure what the point of Dead in the Family is. As part of the Sookie Stackhouse series it's more of a filler book than any sort of significant addition to the ongoing story arc. As a standalone novel it's pretty much a whole lot of nothing. Although I know something happened in the book's 311 pages, I just can't figure out what. Strangely, it was still a compelling read, but I'm pretty sure that was mainly because my curiosity kept driving me to find out what would happen next. Ultimately I was disappointed.

Eric and Sookie are finally in an official relationship but they still hardly spend any time together. I've always found the Eric-Sookie moments to be the most interesting and satisfying parts of these books so it's incredibly frustrating that so little time is spent focusing on those moments. Also, Sookie went from being ambivalent/worried about her connection to Eric (last book) to repeatedly declaring her love for him (this book) without any sort of bridge between the two emotional states. A little more filling in the gaps would have been nice.

I've complained in the past that Sookie has to endure one thing after another after another. I'm glad that's not the case here but instead the action in Dead in the Family is so completely underwhelming. Likewise with the mystery portion of the book. By the time you notice and start caring it's all over. I appreciate that Dead in the Family is more about setting the stage for future books than necessarily bombarding the reader with action-filled scenes, but as I was reading, the thought kept popping into my head that Charlaine Harris really phoned this one in.

Sookie's character development is also really awkward. She keeps talking about how she's not the same person she once was. The first rule of writing is show don't tell, but it seems Harris would rather tell and tell and keep telling some more without really showing us anything. And am I the only one not buying that Sookie would take an unknown drug just to prove to Alcide that she's still the same person (after he basically guilts her into it, I might add)? It's been how many books and it's still nearly impossible for me to actually empathize with--or really care about--our so-called heroine.

The book also suffers from a bunch of lesser irritations. If Charlaine Harris was wondering whether having Sam put on Jace Everett's "Bad Things" (the theme song of True Blood) and having the entire bar sing along would be really cool or really cheesy, someone should tell her it was the latter. Definitely the latter. And although Harris gratefully acknowledges her continuity editors in just about every book, I have yet to read one that doesn't somehow mess up on that issue (I'm not even getting paid and I notice the errors).

Also, and this one is particularly annoying on a personal level, the god Zeus is *not* from the Roman system. Zeus is from the Greek pantheon, thank you very much. They can go out of their way to illustrate the correct pronunciation and meaning of Roman names but somehow this glaring mistake was overlooked.

I don't think Dead in the Family is the worst book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but it's also nothing to get excited about. Think of it as a stepping stone to get you to the next book, whenever that comes along. And if you want more Jace Everett in your life, go watch True Blood (or better yet, get the show's soundtrack--highly recommended).

Fang Files

Appearance: Very pale humans with long fangs that extend and retract at will. Vampires emit a slight glow, but apparently only Sookie can see it.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Heightened vision and sense of smell. Quick healing. Every vampire seems to have a unique gift/ability.

Weaknesses: Stakes, silver, sunlight. The bond between maker and child is often not a welcome one (makers can control their children through it).

Mythology: A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private residence, but once a vampire is invited their maker and "siblings" can also enter (Eric's maker and 'brother' can come into Sookie's house even though she doesn't want them there).

Text Bite

"You're welcome. Good night, Bobby," I [Sookie] said, and we hung up. We'd managed to have an entire civil conversation. Vampires, bringing America together!

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

Thanks to Bronwyn at Penguin for sending me my review copy.

06 December 2010

Trailer: Hero

Another movie for the must-see list (although preferably with subtitles). It's about a bullied Korean student who becomes a vampire and embraces his newfound powers. He's hailed as a hero after saving a blind person from being hit by a train, only to have his friends start questioning the source of his abilities and the true nature of what he's become. Deep, only, you know, with blood and violence.

02 December 2010

The Vampire Diaries S2 E10 "The Sacrifice"

Spoilers Ahead

What would Stefan, Elena, and Jeremy do without Damon around? Fall apart, apparently. Who would've thought the psychotic brother would end up being the (anti-)hero? A dark and menacing hero, mind you, capable of breaking the enemy's neck without pause or remorse. Definitely my kind of vampire.

"The Sacrifice" starts out on a creepy note with Luka's father, Jonas (introduced last episode), skulking around Elena's room while she sleeps. Suddenly the sound of a slamming door wakes her and she's up to investigate. In the hallway she's startled by Alaric, looking rumpled and, um, pretty much naked. (Just what you want to see in your house--your barely clothed history teacher.) Looks like things are going well for Alaric and Jenna. On the other hand, I have no idea how they don't notice Jonas through the large open doorway of Elena's room as he steals a bunch of personal items, including hair from her brush. As Spike would say, this is the crack team that foils the big bad's every move?

Later, Elena gets a visit from Stefan and Damon (and could she look less thrilled when she sees them at the door?) They've been to see Katherine and have hatched a cunning plan. Katherine is weakened from starvation and they're full up on human plasma, so they want Bonnie to release the tomb's seal long enough for them to get in, get the moonstone, and get out, leaving Katherine trapped and the stone free to break the spell and, thus, save Elena. It could work too, except that Elena doesn't want them to do it. She believes (probably rightly so) that doing anything to annoy Klaus will only end up getting the people she loves hurt and/or killed. She refuses to even consider the idea, leaving Stefan and Damon confused but not exactly swayed from the course.

Luckily for them Bonnie is bonding with Luka and learning new witchy tricks, like how to augment her power by channelling another witch through a personal item. Conveniently, after kicking up a little windstorm together, Luka forgets to get his personal item back from Bonnie. When Bonnie meets up with the Salvatores and Jeremy, she's confident that she can pull off the spell that killed her gran. Jeremy, on the other hand, isn't so sure. Not wanting to put her at risk, he offers to go into the tomb with his handy immortality ring and get the moonstone himself--no spell necessary. Damon's reaction to this suggestion is harsh and a little strange; how is it Bonnie--at 17--is old enough to perform dangerous tasks but 16-year-old Jeremy is "a child"? Or maybe it's just that Damon actually cares about Jeremy while Bonnie's of no particular concern? In any case Jeremy is pushed aside so the grownups can get to work.

While they're all occupied, Elena pays Rose a visit. Claiming she wants to learn more about breaking the spell, Elena asks Rose to take her to see Slater. Rose balks until Elena offers her a daywalker ring in exchange for her help. That was all she needed to hear.

A love triangle of sorts is being set up among Caroline, Ty, and Matt. Ty and Matt have an uneasy friendship. Matt and Caroline still have feelings for each other, although Caroline can't act on them because of the risk of accidentally hurting Matt (not to mention possibly revealing what she is). Meanwhile Ty and Caroline are getting increasingly closer as they spend time together commiserating about how alone they are in their different-ness (Ty still think Caroline is the only vampire in Mystic Falls). Ty really needs Caroline now as the full moon approaches, and especially after finding Mason's werewolf journal, including a video of the first time he turned (it's traumatic).

Two notes about the scenes with Ty and Caroline. Some of you might get a kick out of hearing Katerina Graham (Bonnie) singing Garbage's "Only Happy When it Rains" as Ty plays basketball. You might also want to avert your eyes when Ty puts the memory stick into the laptop--that way you can avoid the cheesy product placement. A certain computer company out there is trying way too hard.

Anyway, Elena and Rose discover Slater's staked corpse. They also discover his freaked girlfriend and annoying wannabe vampire, Alice, hiding in a closet. Elena bribes Alice with a promise to get Rose to turn her if Alice will help them get into Slater's locked computer files. Alice is suddenly a lot calmer and friendlier. When they find a contact (Cody) who can lead them to Klaus, Elena shocks Rose (and the rest of us too) by having Alice send the message that the Doppelganger is alive and ready to surrender. It turns out Elena's plan all along was to sacrifice herself to keep her loved ones safe. Before Rose can even start seriously talking Elena out of it they receive a reply that Cody is on his way.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bonnie is casting a lesser spell to create some mystical ashes that'll incapacitate Katherine long enough (hopefully) for the guys to get the moonstone before the tomb's seal closes. Under the guise of helping Bonnie by collecting the ashes to take to the tomb, Jeremy sneakily helps himself to some. This bodes well. The next thing we know Jeremy is at the tomb on his own. When asking Katherine for the moonstone doesn't work (not that he really expected it to), he stakes her in the stomach and paralyzes her with the ashes. The plan isn't a bad one, other than the fact that by the time he finds the moonstone, Katherine is up and on him. At least Jeremy has the presence of mind to throw the stone out of the tomb before Katherine latches on to his neck and brings herself back to full strength.

As the others approach the tomb, ready to perform the seal releasing spell/moonstone heist, Damon gets a call from Rose. You know when someone starts a conversation with "don't be mad at me" that you're not about to hear anything good. Rose tells Damon about the situation with Elena.

Bonnie and Stefan have gone ahead into the tomb and start setting up when they notice the moonstone on the ground outside the tomb's entrance. Right away they realize what's happened, at which point Katherine shows up, Jeremy in tow. She knows she can kill him repeatedly and he'll keep coming back so she's decided to keep him as her toy until they release her from the tomb. Crap.

At this point Jonas re-enters the picture to complicate things even further. Using the items he stole from Elena, he performs a spell that allows Elijah to see where Elena is. So now two of Klaus's minions are heading for Elena, one of whom at least is incredibly powerful and, oh yeah, immune to stakes.

Back at the tomb, Bonnie begins the spell as Stefan stands by with the ashes, preparing to get Jeremy out. Bonnie channels Luka's power as she casts the spell, and he feels it. Even Jonas notices something is up with his son, although at first Luka denies it.

And here's where we get what we've been anxiously awaiting: Damon takes charge. He shows up at Slater's, pissed off and ready to take Elena home (even threatening to sling her over his shoulder and carry her out). Elena gets just as angry, claiming it's her right to decide for herself what to do. They argue, Elena makes the mistake of trying to hit Damon. He stops her easily and leans in close, quietly intoning to never do that again. Not every actor can pull off "simmering rage beneath a calm exterior," but Ian does it and does it well, somehow managing to imbue the scene with sexual tension while he's at it. Damn I envy Nina Dobrev.

In Mystic Falls, Bonnie's nose has started bleeding and so has Luka's. He finally admits to his dad that Bonnie is channelling his power, claiming that Jonas told him to get close to her (it seems like the only guy who likes Bonnie for Bonnie is Jeremy, and she keeps pushing him away). Luka then starts convulsing and Bonnie passes out. As Stefan tries to help Bonnie, she eventually gets up, anguished that the spell didn't work (maybe she'll start being a little less smug about her powers now). Katherine takes this moment to attack Jeremy, so what else can Stefan do but jump in and push Jeremy outside. As he realizes that he's now also trapped in the tomb, Katherine smirks.

Things aren't going much better at Slater's. Damon's compelled Alice and is ready to go when Cody shows up with a couple of friends, wanting to meet the Doppelganger. Before they get any closer Elijah shows up. He kills Cody's buddies while Damon is confused ("I killed you.") Cody tells Elijah they were going to bring the Doppelganger to him, for Klaus. Then Cody is stupid enough to admit that no one else knows about Elena or that he's there (why do characters ever admit that?) and Elijah kills him too. Damon steps forward, prepared to fight, when all of a sudden Elijah takes off. Well, that was unexpected.

In the next scene Elijah is meeting with Jonas again. I don't know why Elijah is telling Jonas anything but he says he spared Damon because Elijah saw he'd die before letting anything happen to Elena. With Damon she's safe--and that's where they need her to be. For what exactly? Guess we'll find out later.

As Damon walks Elena to her door (he had to take her home because her ride--Rose--disappeared as soon as Elijah showed up) he's still angry with her. Elena can't understand why he and Stefan (and everyone else) try so hard to save her and yet they can't understand when she wants to do what she can to save them. Before they can get into it too much, though, Jeremy opens the door.

The next scene we see Elena running into the tomb, calling out to Stefan. Before she can run inside Damon grabs her and holds on to her. Elena verges on hysterical as she tries to shake him off but he doesn't let go until she calms down (Stefan is keeping out of sight during all this). Defeated, Elena finally leaves. It's amusing (to me anyway) that Elena blames Damon for Stefan being stuck in the tomb even though Damon wasn't even there. Poor guy not only has to go around cleaning up after everyone else's screw-ups, but he gets blamed for them, as well. This is what comes of hanging around teenage girls: drama, drama, drama.

Anyway, after chewing Stefan out a bit Damon promises to free him from the tomb. Stefan claims he'll be fine, that the priority is to break the spell with the moonstone and protect Elena. Damon promises he will before following after Elena. And Katherine tells Stefan that was the worst mistake he could have made.

Just when I thought the Elena-Damon dynamic had hit a dead end, this episode comes along. Those two have amazing chemistry (hard to believe she prefers Stefan--or so she says...) I can't wait to see where the show takes us next and, more importantly, where it takes them.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, until the vampire emerges--then dark eyes and facial veins, prominent fangs. Vampire bites are vicious; they use all their teeth, not just their fangs.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Ability to compel humans. The older the vampire the stronger they are.

Weaknesses: Stakes, sunlight (unless wearing a daywalker ring), starvation. Magic.

Mythology: Elijah is unlike other vampires that we've seen--he's immune to stakes and can compel vampires as well as humans.

Sound Bites

Elena: Wow, it sounds like you guys have it all planned out.
Damon: Yup--we're awesome.

Cody: We want to meet the Doppelganger.
Elena: Thank you for coming. [Tries to step forward]
Damon: [stopping her] I will break your arm.

Stefan: Promise me, whatever happens, you'll protect her.
Damon: Promise.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 10 "The Sacrifice." Written by Andrew Chambliss. Directed by J. Miller Tobin. From The CW.

01 December 2010

Moonlight S2 E12 "The Mortal Cure"

Spoilers Ahead

I hate it when shows screw up on continuity. I'm not talking about when a cup is half full in one scene and completely full in the next, or when a character's hair is slightly lighter from one moment to the next. I mean major inconsistencies in storyline. Like when Spike called Angel his sire even though, later on, Drusilla was revealed to be his sire. I understand that the writers/producers might want to change something in order to improve the overall story (believe me, I know--I'm a writer: editing is never done). But when you make changes to the mythology of the story, it throws the whole series out of alignment. That's what Moonlight does this episode. I'm less than impressed.

A good portion of "The Mortal Cure" deals with the aftermath of Josh's death. Not only Beth's feelings about Josh and the loss of him but the way she views Mick, as well. Things get even more complicated when Beth finds out Josh was going to propose to her and still more complicated when Coraline re-enters the picture.

Mick, meanwhile, has his hands full. After being confronted by an ancient vampire with a jet black eye looking for Coraline, Mick decides to find out who the vampire is, where Coraline is, and what this all has to do with the supposed cure for vampirism.

Mick learns that the ancient vampire, Lance (Jason Butler Harner, Fringe), is ridiculously rich, lives by his own rules, and "never" leaves Europe. He also discovers that Coraline escaped the hospital with help from her best friend and fellow vamp, Cynthia Davis (Meredith Monroe, Criminal Minds, Vampires: The Turning). After a little more investigation Mick finds out that Cynthia recently earned a Masters and a PhD in biochemistry, that she commutes between LA and Paris every couple of weeks, and that she's been importing agricultural products from France. What does it all mean?

Mick heads to the warehouse where the agricultural products are being delivered and discovers a lab inside. A vampire scientist is performing experiments, overseen by Coraline. And then Lance shows up. Mick takes a moment to save Coraline from Lance's clutches only to watch her run off as Lance proves to be unlike any other vampire Mick has ever encountered (rather than turn to ash when it catches on fire, Lance's hand quickly heals). After a fight in which Mick gets his ass kicked, Lance takes off (it's unclear why he doesn't kill Mick). Once Lance is gone, Mick calls the Cleaner, now played by a new (but not improved) actress. Unfortunately, there's a lot of mediocre acting this episode.

The next scene brings us a minor bit of discontinuity (not the really annoying one, but still worth mentioning) where Beth is supposed to be meeting someone at 2 pm and shows up when it's completely dark out. Man, the sun sets early in LA. Afterward, she goes to see Mick and just when it seems Beth is about to say something significant, Coraline shows up, latching herself onto Mick like a tick on its favourite dog. No surprise when Beth leaves without saying another word.

Coraline informs Mick that she needs to leave town and that she wants him to go with her. But of course she can't go anywhere before getting all expository about Lance and the cure. It seems the cure is itself mortal; merely a temporarily effective organic compound developed from local plants by an 18th century noble French family. Lance is part of this noble family, one of seven brothers--all vampires--sired by the same (also noble) vampire. In fact, King Louis XVI himself was a vampire. Oh yeah--and the French Revolution? A big fat excuse to hunt vampires. The compound was designed to mask the characteristics of vampires long enough to prevent a trip to the guillotine. Coraline stole the compound from Lance and now he wants it back.

She tells Mick that she's been trying to find a way to make the compound's effects permanent. It turns out she wants to embrace life again, or some such nonsense. She makes a gag-inducing comment about love not being able to exist without mortality and offers to give Mick a bit of his life back by using some of the compound on him. He's thrilled, of course, and the effect starts taking hold right away. At this point she claims she really has to go. Of course, as she and Mick are walking outside, Lance and his henchman show up. When Lance calls Coraline 'sister', Mick suddenly realizes that there weren't seven brothers in the noble vampire family--there were six brothers and a sister! And Coraline was the sister!

But wait--wasn't Coraline supposed to have been a 17th century courtesan? Wasn't that the whole point of the fleur-de-lys brand/tattoo on her shoulder, mentioned way back (a whole three episodes ago) in "Fleur de Lys"? Not only was it mentioned, but we got a flashback scene of Coraline being branded. So how does she suddenly go from being a 17th-century whore to being an 18th-century noble? And where did the brand/tattoo come from? She couldn't have got it after being turned (it would have healed, like any other wound) and I'm pretty sure nobles didn't mark their daughters. See why this annoys me? It's the worst sort of writing/storytelling to change the nature of a character merely to suit your changing needs. How hard would it have been to work around the show's established mythos? Next thing you know, Beth will have been a teenager when Coraline kidnapped her and Mick was a Vietnam war vet before being turned.

Anyway, being no match for Lance as a vampire, let alone as a temporary mortal, it's not long before Mick's life is in serious danger. At this point Coraline finally steps in, offering to go with Lance and give back the compound as long as Lance leaves Mick alone. Apparently Coraline's in trouble for more than just stealing the compound--she's also pissed off the rest of her family for turning Mick without his consent and without their permission. Lance stakes Coraline and then takes off with her to face the consequences for her actions.

Mick doesn't seem overly concerned about Coraline's fate. Instead he limps home, collects a vial of his own blood for future analysis, and spends the night gorging on food and enjoying the opportunity to sleep like a human (i.e., not in a freezer). The next day, plenty beat up from the fight the night before, he heads to Josh's funeral, where he and Beth talk about how great it is to be mortal and how some things (spending their lives with Coraline and Josh, respectively) were never meant to be. Then, as the service begins, Mick and Beth stand on opposite sides of the casket, staring at each other. It might have been nice if they'd at least waited until Josh was in the ground, but clearly things have changed and they're on a whole new playing field.

I really hope this is the last we see of Coraline. There were hints that there might be long-term plans for her and Lance on the show, but hopefully the writers didn't have a chance to act on those plans before the untimely demise of the series. Coraline was a much better character as a dark presence in Mick and Beth's pasts. Once she showed up again she lost her power (not to mention polluting the show with her bad acting and annoying presence). The change to her background just adds to the reasons to get rid of her permanently. There are only a few episodes of Moonlight left; I hope the show gets good again now. It would be a shame to remember it for episodes like this one.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans until the vampire emerges, then ghostly white eyes, dark under-eye circles, and elegant fangs.

Strengths: Heightened sense of smell. Ability to jump great heights. Super strength, speed. Some can fly.

Weaknesses: Stakes (paralyze). Fire (for most vampires). French peasants.

Mythology: As vampires age they give off an increasingly stronger smell of decay. They also enjoy the cold, sleeping in freezers and taking ice baths.

Sound Bites

Scientist: Let's be rational about this.
Lance responds by decapitating him.

Josef: [to Mick] It's just like Coraline to fall in quicksand and bring you down with her.

Coraline: I think Beth is starting to like me. She didn't stab me this time.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 12 "The Mortal Cure." Written by Chip Johannessen. Directed by Eric Laneuville. From CBS/The CW.

25 November 2010

The Gates S1 E8 "Dog Eat Dog"

Spoilers Ahead

Brace yourselves, everyone: this episode contains actual vampire action (and werewolf action too)! It's like...it's a show about paranormal creatures or something. Crazy! Yes, that is sarcasm. One shouldn't have to go episodes between glimpses of fang on a show supposedly about vampires (ABC execs take note: that might have had something to do with its cancellation).

"Dog Eat Dog" starts off on a beautiful sunny day in the not-so-sunny gated community. Even though they're not homeowners, Nick and Sarah decide to go to the homeowners meeting anyway. And good thing they did! A fight breaks out between Ben McAllister (vampire) and Simon Ford (werewolf) over (sigh) the timing of Ford's sprinkler system. Only in the suburbs. (I know the show has set up an uneasy truce between perpetual enemies, but really? That's the best they could come up with?) Nick and Dylan break up the fight and Nick banishes Ford from the meeting.

At home later that night, we're reminded again of why Simon Ford is such a charming fellow as he's abusive to both wife, Joan, and son, Lukas. In anger he storms out of the house. The next day Sarah finds him, beaten into unconsciousness and lying on his front lawn as the sprinklers drench him. Ooh, irony.

Nick spends the episode investigating anyone and everyone. Ford's wife is convinced Ben McAllister is the culprit, but it turns out he has an alibi. After a whole lot of nothing, Nick finds out about the existence of the werewolves and their fragile truce with the vampires, the breaking of which would destroy the entire community--including the humans. He then conveniently figures out that Lukas is the one who beat up Ford. It turns out that junior caught senior drunk and off guard and, after enduring yet more (verbal) abuse, snapped and kicked dad's ass good. The only problem is that, having beaten his father in a fight, Lukas is automatically the new alpha. Once the other weres find out they'll challenge and kill him (since he's too weak to take on an adult were in a fair fight). Enter Coach Ross, the beta of the pack, who feels guilty for not having known about Ford's cruelty to his family (something the whole pack should have been involved in stopping). He decides to take responsibility for beating Ford and, thus, assume the role of pack alpha. Woo. Meanwhile, Simon regains consciousness and skips town (I guess there's no coming back from being ousted as alpha).

In other events, Peg gives Devon hell for growing "devil's weed" (actually Datura, which I also grow--oh noes!), claiming it's used for the "darkest of dark magic" (if only she knew about beastlyboy's eyeballs). Before dramatically exiting the shop, Peg orders Devon to get rid of the plants--or else. I wonder how she would have reacted if she'd known her daughter, Mia, was hiding in the back of the shop the whole time. Seems Mia's been visiting Devon to learn about "the cool stuff" that her mom won't tell her anything about. Next thing you know Mia and Devon will be consorting with the devil and ruining farmers' crops (they probably already are).

Andie and Brett continue to bond over their non-humanness. She seems to want to be with Charlie but is too afraid of hurting him, so I guess Brett will have to suffice (by the end of the episode it seems as though they're going to be 'experimenting' with Andie's powers--the kind of experiments that involve getting nekkid). Meanwhile Peg has told Mia (Andie's best friend) that if Andie doesn't take her medication her body will turn on her and she'll die. Of course, Andie's mother's unmedicated body was doing just fine until she lost control and "had" to be killed by her husband (definitely not the same as dying because your body turned on you). Dr. Peg seems like an overreacting busybody. Maybe she could use a little more consorting in her life.

And then there's the ongoing drama between Claire and Christian, source of the only interesting bits in the show. She comes upon him in her house playing with her daughter, Emily. But after Claire angrily confronts Christian and tells him to get out, he replies that if she doesn't come to his place at 8 that evening, he'll tell Dylan about their hunting escapades. She doesn't have much of a choice so she shows up. Christian is like a broken record, telling Claire that he should have been the one to turn her and that it's not too late for them. She disagrees, insisting that the bond between her and Dylan can never be broken. So Christian shows her how easily it can be broken (it seems that drinking her blood is all it takes, although there could be more to it that we didn't see). At home Dylan wakes in a panic and jumps out of bed (um, isn't it around 8 o'clock? Why is he fast asleep in bed?)

Of course Dylan realizes what's happened and, when Claire gets home and provides further details, decides to wreak some revenge on his good pal Christian. There's a really cool shot where Dylan's demanded Claire's phone: from a distance we see them, arms outstretched in the moonlight, hands barely touching as the phone is passed from one to the other. Why can't there be more scenes like this? Instead there are pointless scenes, like the next one, where Dylan texts Christian (I suspect it was a product placement, but I didn't care enough to pay attention). Dylan attacks Christian and ties him to a tree, where he proceeds to wash off Christian's protective layer of sunscreen. In disbelief Christian watches Dylan drive away. A moment later the sun comes up and Christian is badly burned (although I suspect not dead). When Dylan returns home it's clear that things will never be the same between him and Claire.

The episode ends with Nick getting a surprise visit from Simon Ford. Ford claims he's leaving forever but first he wants to give Nick a word of advice--don't trust the vampires (well, he would say that, wouldn't he?) Nick replies that he's not taking sides and he doesn't trust anyone. Ford says that's good because weres and vamps aren't meant to live side by side and sooner or later things will fall apart. Apparently Nick won't want to be anywhere near The Gates when that happens. Then Ford asks Nick to deliver a message to Lukas: he's proud of him. Then he's gone.

I don't get ABC. If they wanted to make a show about vampires and weres, succubi and witches, why focus so much on human drama? Isn't there enough of that out there already? The Gates had the foundation for what could have been a really cool show, but instead turned it into boring tales of suburbia. I mean, this isn't rocket science--did the producers really need to be told that a show about monsters should actually focus on the monsters? Apparently they did. How disappointing.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, with sharp fangs that descend at will (rarely seen).

Strengths: Super speed, strength.

Weaknesses: Sunlight (have to wear a strong sunscreen to be able to withstand it).

Mythology: A bond exists between maker and made, but the bond can be erased by another vampire.

Sound Bites

Simon Ford: Lay your hands on me again and that'll be the last thing you ever do.
Nick: You get the hell out of here or you're going to jail.

Christian: Claire, I love you.
Claire: I don't love you, Christian. I love Dylan.

Christian: You can live like a human, Dylan, but... you're not one. Neither is she.

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 8 "Dog Eat Dog." Written by Gabrielle Stanton. Directed by David Barrett. From ABC.

23 November 2010

True Blood S3 E9 "Everything is Broken"

Spoilers Ahead

Of all three seasons of True Blood, "Everything is Broken" stands out like a sore, bloody, thumb. This is the episode everyone will remember long after the show has been cancelled. And this is the episode featuring one of my favourite scenes in any show, ever. Not bad.

We start with Eric at Fangtasia, blood-covered and agitated after staking Talbot, trying to sort out sanctuary for himself and Pam. He dismisses the suggestion of going to Sookie's, but just when Ginger's house is looking like the best option, she informs them that the "V Feds" are there, along with Nan Flanagan. With a missing Magister and rumours of unsavoury goings-on in Area 5 (Eric's territory), Nan has the guards "silver" Eric into submission. Anna Paquin's vocal cords are finally given a rest; instead Ginger gets the "honour" of screaming like an idiot.

Meanwhile Russell has returned home and found the stringy remains of his lover, which he starts pulling toward him in order to embrace them. Gross is an understatement. His grief turns to utter despair as he notices that the crown he'd taken after defeating Eric's Viking king father is now missing. No wonder Eric is so anxious to hide.

Of all the vampires, Bill is having the nicest time sharing a shower with Sookie. Although judging by the shot of bloody water swirling down the drain, things might not be boding too well for them. There are more hints at upcoming discord when they return to reality and have to dispose of the werewolf corpse Bill left in the living room (which he neglected to tell Sookie about). As they work they talk, and Sookie admits that she doesn't entirely trust Bill. She asks him about the "creepy" secret file he's been keeping on her. He claims he started keeping the file in order to find out why Eric is so interested in her, and that he needs to find out what she is so that he can protect her. Sookie then delivers a line that I hope future writers will keep in mind when working on this show: she tells Bill that he needs to trust her and to stop thinking of her as a thing to be protected. Less screaming and more independence for Sookie, please.

Speaking of independent (or in this case, not so independent) women, Crystal is continuing to be trouble for Jason. He returns home to discover that Felton has somehow found Crystal and is under the impression that Jason kidnapped and raped her. The guys get into it, giving Crystal an opportunity to grab Jason's shotgun and use it to knock Felton out. And yet Jason still doesn't tell her to get lost. Instead he helps her tie Felton up and leave him in the woods with a bag of V, after which he disguises his voice and calls the police about a drug dealer tied up in the woods. I know Bon Temps is a backwater, but even their sheriff's department has to have caller ID (Jason used his cellphone).

At least Eric and Pam are smarter about covering their tracks. Nan and her guards have searched Fangtasia and found nothing. Still, Eric will have to give his official statement to her as the Authority watches via webcam. So Eric tells them all about Russell and his wolves, starting with the slaughter of Eric's family and ending with the murder of the Magister and kidnapping of Queen Sophie Ann. He also makes sure to let them know that he wants his revenge against Russell. Abruptly Nan gets up to leave, claiming that Eric and Pam are under guarded lockdown until the Authority makes their ruling.

The next day in Bon Temps, Jason checks in at the Sheriff's and discovers that Kevin (deputy) was nearly killed after going to check out the man in the woods and walking into an ambush. Thinking about Crystal's need to escape her life in Hotshot, but using Kevin's situation as an excuse, Jason suggests to Andy that if they can connect the V found at the scene the night before to the dealers in Hotshot, they'll have probable cause for another raid. Andy is all for it, claiming he's going to call in every other agency (DEA, ATF, FDA...) for support.

Tara decides to start dealing with her post-Franklin trauma and goes to a rape-survivors meeting, where she sees (and it seems is inspired by) Holly. Tara isn't the only one bonding with Holly. After a stressful encounter with Tommy, Arlene takes refuge in Merlotte's storeroom and ends up spilling her guts to Holly. She's convinced the spawn of Rene will be nothing but pure evil (just like his daddy) but she won't get an abortion because that would be wrong. Could I like this subplot less? Maybe but it's doubtful. Anyway, Holly hints that there's another way to end the pregnancy but we don't hear anything else about it this episode (a small blessing). I've decided the less Arlene per episode the better.

Meanwhile Sookie is passing the day by leafing through a family scrapbook (does she not work anymore?) Just as she's pausing at an article about 'hero' Earl Stackhouse who credited his 'sixth sense' for helping him save people from a fire, Sookie gets a call from Hadley. Annoyingly, even though she's calling because she needs to see Sookie, Hadley is surprised that Sookie is still at the house (and not off hiding from Russell). Why was she calling if she thought Sookie wouldn't be there? Anyway, after that awkwardness, she asks Sookie to meet her at the aquarium in Monroe. Hadley admits that it's because of her that the Queen (and now Russell) are interested in Sookie, but now she needs Sookie to tell her if her son, Hunter, is also a telepath. It turns out he is. Horrified, Hadley grabs him and runs off.

Bill has a far more interesting meeting than Sookie's at the aquarium. As he's sleeping in his crawl space under the house, water suddenly starts pouring through the floorboards above him. He opens the trapdoor and finds himself in the middle of a flower-strewn pond (side note: I wish directors would stop having characters walk on water--it always looks terrible and no one is impressed by it). It doesn't take long to figure out that Bill is in the beautiful place Sookie went to when she was in the coma (he got there by consuming so much of Sookie's blood). As confirmation Claudine arrives and is shocked to see Bill there, something she claims is impossible. Believing he's killed Sookie, she tries to run. He easily catches her, and it looks like he's going through an internal struggle as he attempts to control his urge to bite her. Apparently giving in, he leans down, fangs out, and Claudine pushes him away with a burst of light from her hands. She then accuses Bill of wanting to steal Sookie's light. He denies it, claiming he would never hurt Sookie (never mind that he nearly drained her...) He pleads with Claudine to tell him what she is because Sookie needs to know.

Elsewhere, night has fallen. Hoyt arrives at Merlotte's with Summer, who is proving to be increasingly obnoxious. Jessica tries to show she's fine with it but her fangs betray her. When Summer goes to the ladies' room, Jessica comes over to apologize and she and Hoyt start talking. He admits he hates Summer but that going out with her beats sitting around thinking about Jessica. This sets Jessica off and as she breaks into tears Tommy comes to her "rescue," telling Hoyt off for upsetting her. The course of true love never did run smooth.

Meanwhile Jason confesses to Crystal that Hotshot is going to get raided and cleared out. He thinks that this will make Crystal happy, as she'll be free of all the people trying to control her. He's actually surprised that Crystal isn't thrilled about it. She informs him that there are plenty of innocent people in Hotshot and that they can't let the kids go into the system. Much to Jason's confusion and dismay, she insists they have to warn them.

At Fangtasia, Eric hasn't been able to sleep all day and Pam is worried about him. He thinks he's going to be made scapegoat, telling Pam that if he can't go on she has to make a new vampire--it's her turn to be a maker. I really enjoy the moments of insight into Eric and Pam's relationship. It's probably the most 'real' and believable relationship on the show, and the only one you know is going to last. Interesting that the bond between vampire maker and child are the only ones portrayed this way--even human parents and children are liable to split (as in when Arlene was under Maryann's influence and abandoned her kids, or when Hoyt cut ties with his mom).

Anyway, as Nan Flanagan arrives outside, we see Russell crouching on the roof of the bar holding a glass urn filled with red goopy stuff. Yes, that's Talbot, and Russell talks to the urn as though it'll answer him. He's clearly out of his mind. Angry that Nan and the AVL (American Vampire League) are protecting a "murderer" (Eric) he vows to make them suffer. When an insane 3000-year-old vampire swears vengeance on you, you know you're in trouble.

Nan heads inside Fangtasia and delivers the Authority's ruling to Eric: they know nothing and none of this ever happened. He can have his revenge as long as he takes it quietly and discreetly. One of the funniest moments of the episode happens when Nan calls Eric a "whiny little bitch" when he complains that he's not being given any resources to go after Russell. Those are three words you just wouldn't associate with Eric Northman.

Back at Merlotte's, as Crystal and Jason are still debating whether to warn the residents of Hotshot, Crystal's father shows up and starts shouting at her. Sam steps in and orders dad to leave, but after continuous mockery by Tommy, when the man calls Sam a pussy, Sam snaps. He beats Crystal's dad to a pulp and it takes both Jason and Hoyt to finally pull him away. I don't think I care for dark and angry Sam. There's enough of that on this show; he was doing just fine being the nice guy.

As Tara watches Jesus and Lafayette bundle Crystal's dad into Jesus's car to take him to the ER, she's suddenly grabbed from behind. Guess who's back from the undead! I know he's psychotic, but I just can't help but like Franklin. Now he's come to see for himself that Tara was, in fact, the one who "killed" him and that she really doesn't love him. Tara decides not to be a victim anymore and stands firm as she berates him. His fangs are out but he chooses to close his hands around her neck and start squeezing. Suddenly Jason shows up holding his rifle. Franklin is less than impressed, in the way that it seems only British vampires can be. But then Jason shoots and Franklin goes splat. Wooden bullets. No more Franklin. Tara didn't mourn him but I will, just a little.

We're coming up to the unforgettable scene now. As Nan Flanagan rides in a limo to the airport, she takes a moment to have a drink from the femoral artery of a half-naked woman (contrary to her public statements of drinking only Tru Blood). In the background a TV news anchor is talking about the upcoming vote on the Vampire Rights Amendment. Suddenly Russell is there and in one seamless move he's ripped out the newscaster's spine. It is completely horrifying and awesome as Russell pushes the body away and starts talking to the camera as he holds on to, and gestures with, the bloody spine. Nan's attention is on the screen now, shocked at what she's seeing. Russell actually puts forth a compelling argument about why humans suck, but he puts forth an even more compelling argument about why vampires are scary, scary creatures. At this point Nan Flanagan looks like she's about to vomit. Guess the vamps can forget about that Vampire Rights Amendment.

Okay, so, plenty going on this episode. Some of it I could do without, but some of it was exactly what this season needed. Three episodes left--any guesses where we go from here?

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and long, snakelike fangs that extend or retract at will. Occasionally fangs extend involuntarily, usually when a vampire is excited or aggressive.

Strengths: Super strength, speed (increase with age). Some vampires have the ability to fly.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight, stakes. Staying awake during the day makes a vampire sick.

Mythology: One of the worst crimes a vampire can commit is to sell vampire blood ("V") to humans (for whom it's a drug and aphrodisiac). Vampire society is highly hierarchical and all (theoretically) answer to the Authority (which has been around only a few hundred years).

Sound Bites

Bill: [As Sookie stands frozen, staring at a corpse in her living room] Yes, I suppose I should have mentioned that.

Jason: Could you not make me a rapist?
Crystal: I'm sorry--it was the best I could think of.

Sam: Jesus--put on some clothes!
Tommy: Sorry, can't hear you. [Turns down music.] Let me put on some clothes.

Nan Flanagan: You look like shit.
Eric: Well I feel fantastic.

Tara: You violated and terrorized me 'cause that's what vampires do. And you're calling that love.
Franklin: I'll mourn you, Tara; I'll mourn you to my very marrow.

Russell: Now, the American Vampire League wishes to perpetrate the notion that we are just like you. And, I suppose, in a few small ways we are. We're narcissists; we care only about getting what we want, no matter what the cost--just like you. Global warming, perpetual war, toxic waste, child labor, torture, genocide--that's a small price to pay for your SUVs and your flat-screen TVs, your blood diamonds, your designer jeans, your absurd garish McMansions! ... Mine is the true face of vampires. Why would we seek equal rights; you are not our equals. We will eat you, after we eat your children. Now time for the weather! Tiffany?

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 9 "Everything is Broken." Written by Alexander Woo. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

16 November 2010

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

I think Charlaine Harris must have started taking cues from True Blood because Dead and Gone is dark. Disturbingly so (not complaining). But this has got to be the first time a show is based on a series of books only to have the author subsequently inspired by the show when writing said books. I'm not even sure where that falls on the life imitating art scale.

There seems to be slightly less than usual going on in this instalment of the Sookie Stackhouse saga, but in a good way. For once the story doesn't fly off in a million directions (not that there isn't plenty going on), and little time is wasted on the superficial/mundane. There's even character growth when it comes to Sookie! Shiny gold star to the author!

Dead and Gone starts off on a surprisingly light note, with an amusing bit about the vampire version of What Not to Wear (a show I now realize I'd love to see). But things quickly get serious with the second big supernatural revelation: weres and shifters finally announce their existence to the world. Of course there are mixed results. While people in Bon Temps seem to take it in stride (except for Arlene, who's gone off the rails in terms of hating anything not completely conventionally human ever since hooking up with a Fellowship of the Sun idiot), Sam's mom is shot by his step-dad. But no one could have predicted the horrific crime that ensues (sensitive readers skip this part): pregnant were-panther Crystal is found crucified in Merlotte's parking lot. Don't say I didn't warn you.

You'd think between running Merlotte's for Sam while he's off in Texas with his family, fending off the FBI (interested in using her and Barry for their own purposes), and trying to telepathically seek out Crystal's killer, Sookie would have enough on her hands. But that wouldn't be as much fun, would it? She also manages to unknowingly pledge herself to Eric (they're now the vampire version of married). This was a pretty awkward and lame part of the book, but at least things are progressing between her and Eric (and it also keeps her safe from becoming the unwilling property of the new King of Louisiana).

On top of all this, Sookie discovers she's in the middle of a fae war and is being targeted by the hateful Breandan, leader of the water fairy faction, as the beloved human great-granddaughter of Niall, Prince of the air tribe. After being attacked in her own garden by one fairy and stalked by another, Sookie decides to call in the supernatural cavalry. Using her status as friend of the Shreveport pack and taking advantage of the formal protection offered by the vampire King, she asks for their help. And what do they send her? One werewolf guard (Dawson) and... Bubba. I liked Bubba for about five minutes but now he's just getting increasingly annoying. I mentioned in the past that it's stupid to invent reasons to include him in the story, and this is the stupidest instance of all. Not only does it not make sense to have him sent to guard Sookie against an army of fairies, but Harris clearly didn't know what to do with him once he gets there. His presence sort of just fades away, with a vague mention or two of him after his big arrival. Terrible. Dawson's role isn't much better. It's no surprise Sookie ends up kidnapped by a particularly nasty pair of fairies.

What is surprising is that she's tortured by said fairies. Actual brutal torture (although, thankfully, details are minimal--but you definitely get the idea). Even Sookie says she's never going to be the same again. She is eventually saved, and more or less healed with Eric's blood, and the fae war is settled. But not without the deaths of a couple of characters I liked, and the permanent retreat of Niall and the other fae back into their own realm. It's disappointing that Niall was just introduced and he's already being shelved, although I have the feeling this isn't really the last we'll see of the fae.

I'm curious to see how things go from here: whether Sookie will really be a changed character; how her relationships with Eric, Bill, and Sam will evolve; what the consequences will be from weres and shifters being out in the world; how the ongoing threat of the Fellowship of the Sun will play out. And whether someone will finally stake Bubba already. There are many possible paths: which one will Harris take?

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with long fangs that extend or retract at will. Vampires glow, although apparently only Sookie can see it. Their eyes also glow different colours, depending on their emotional state.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Ability to track humans who have consumed their blood. Ability to form bonds with humans. Ability to "glamour" (hypnotize) humans. Some vampires can fly.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, silver (they can be poisoned to death by silver). They are at risk of being drained, as their blood is a drug/aphrodisiac to humans.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical and highly political, with Sheriffs, Kings, and Queens presiding over various territories. There are complex rules governing vampire loyalties, and strict adherence to those loyalties (for example, a lesser vampire who no longer wishes to serve a higher-ranking one needs to formally request to be released. They may or may not be granted their freedom). There are also strict rules regarding interaction with humans.

Text Bites

"You're a Christian," he [Dillon, Sookie's fairy great uncle] said, as if he'd discovered I was a hermaphrodite or a fruitarian.

"I will make you a rug on my floor." Bill said [to Quinn], and his voice was colder and smoother than ever, like ice on glass.

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).