26 June 2010

The Batman vs. Dracula

Spoilers Ahead

So, I was all set to settle in and watch this week's episode of Moonlight when, while idly scrolling through the other channels to see what else was on, I stumbled across The Batman vs. Dracula. Not only did I not know it even existed despite it being a fairly recent (2005) release (yes--I am embarrassed for myself) but it was just about to start. Clearly the vampire gods had spoken. Moonlight would have to wait.

The story itself is pretty standard superhero fare: the good guy has to face a supervillain as well as seemingly insurmountable odds. Only in this case the supervillain is Dracula and the insurmountable odds are his army of minion vampires. Penguin and the Joker serve as fairly minor distractions and there's a subplot about Bruce Wayne's inability to form human connections. I particularly enjoyed the parallels drawn between the Dark Knight and the Prince of Darkness, both being bat-men. Batman's vampire-like attributes were what drew me to him in the first place and are what have made him my favourite superhero (sorry, Wolverine). It's nice to see him up against the real thing.

I have to say, there's some really nice animation to be found here--the sort of thing 3D and CGI will just never be able to compete with. There's excellent use of shadow and camera angles. The scenes between Dracula and Batman are brilliant, and Bruce Wayne's dream sequences aren't too bad, either. There's also an exceptionally creepy scene as the Joker is soaked in a rain of blood. The animation more than makes up for the weak spots in the writing (Dr. Alucard--really? Not to mention letting Vicky go home alone at night when Bruce and Alfred know full well that Dracula and his minions are out there).

Dracula and the vampires look good, definitely on the scary side. Dracula alternates between his vampire and human appearances; as a vampire he looks like a cross between a bat and an animated corpse (as do all the vampires), when human he's rocking the classic Bela Lugosi-Dracula look (hollow cheeks, slicked-back black hair, cape). Personally, I've never found Dracula to be particularly compelling. It doesn't help that you know he'll be defeated. This Dracula isn't really creepy or charming enough, but he does get some good lines, and has a decent accent (nothing over the top or cheesy, but authentic sounding). He's also the only vampire with any sort of personality. Overall, they did a good job with him.

As for the other characters, they were all well done. I know there's some controversy over the portrayal of the Joker. He's not my favourite but I liked him (and there's something to be said about not recognizing the actor behind the character; Mark Hamill has a lot of fans but I always just hear Luke Skywalker). One quibble I have is with Bruce Wayne--he looks, I don't know--soft? He doesn't seem like he could step into Batman's shoes. I know, I know--that's part of the disguise (like Clark Kent's glasses) but I guess I want to be able to see a hint of the bat inside Bruce. Maybe I'm asking too much.

Overall, this is a good effort, and one that both Batman and vampire/Dracula fans should not miss. Much as I like Moonlight, I'm glad I decided to put it off this time.

Fang Files

Appearance: Animated corpse: grey skin, skeletal features. Clawed fingers, pointy ears, prominent fangs, white-grey hair. Eyes glow blue (red when using powers of hypnotism). Dracula can switch between appearing human or as the vampire. Vampires cast no reflection.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing, and sense of smell. "Vampire Vision": can clearly see veins and heart within a human body. Ability to hypnotize humans. Ability to cling to walls, ceilings, and move along them. Ability to jump from great heights. Resistant to pain, injury. Dracula can also turn into mist and animals, and can fly.

Weaknesses: Garlic, sunlight, crosses. Need a human servant to protect resting place by day. Serious over-confidence.

Mythology: Standard Dracula--not much deviation. A drop of blood is enough to bring his skeletal, staked corpse back to life. To turn a human a vampire only needs to bite them; the human turns almost immediately. While humans can be cured of vampirism, there is no cure for Dracula--he is a supernatural being.

Sound Bites

Alfred: Sir, you are brooding. More so than usual.

Penguin: (to Dracula as he gazes at the television) You like? It's a plasma screen--as in blood. Oh, the girl. You have been in the grave a while, haven't you, master? (Eyes Vicky Vale) Nice jugulars.

Joker: (opening Dracula's coffin) That's one good-looking corpse.

Dracula: (to Batman) I will drain you dry and use your cape as a dinner napkin.

The Batman vs. Dracula. Written by Duane Capizzi and Bob Kane (creator of Batman). Directed by Michael Goguen and Seung Eun Kim. From Warner Brothers/DC.

24 June 2010

The Gates S1 E1 "Pilot"

Spoilers Ahead

This is truly a golden age for vampire fans. You can't go two minutes without stumbling over another book or movie or TV show. When I think of how many dry spells we've had to suffer through... but no more! The latest addition to the genre is ABC's The Gates, which premiered on Sunday. And you know what? It wasn't too shabby.

I can already tell this show is going to tax my poor note-taking hand (between it, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries, I'm going to end up with a cramping, twisted claw). There are multiple characters of multiple paranormal descents (plus humans) and all kinds of storylines already. And while it was originally described (not by me) as Buffy meets Desperate Housewives, as of this episode it reminds me more of The Vampire Diaries meets Wolf Lake, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"The Gates" is an idyllic (on the surface, anyway) suburban gated community that qualifies as a character in itself. As we learn through a bit of awkward exposition, the place was built by Frank Buckley (Brett Cullen, Lost)
who spared no expense to make it the most secure community ever. In fact, saying it's prison-like is probably not going too far (the place is covered with sensors and cameras, which the cops monitor from the police station). People move to The Gates to be safe, which is ironic as quite a number of them qualify as the things everyone else fears: werewolves, vampires, and witches.

The wolves seem to be in the greatest numbers. There's a sense that the pack runs things, although not every wolf belongs to the pack. And not everyone knows about the wolves, which seems to be how they like it (in fact, the fewer people that know the better). So far confirmed weres are: (high school football) Coach Ross, leader of the pack's teens Lukas Ford, and jealous boyfriend and lone wolf Brett Crezski (played by Colton Haynes, who's also in the upcoming Teen Wolf).

As far as we know there are only two witches in town: good witch and helpful herbalist Peg Mueller, and bitchy witch Devon (Chandra West, who appeared on Forever Knight and Kindred: The Embraced). Devon has a tendency to lure people into her spa and ply them with herbal potions they don't realize are potions. Peg has an ethical issue with that. Devon also isn't above threatening her fellow Gates residents--even the fanged ones. Characters like this always annoy me, but apparently someone out there enjoys them as they keep turning up in just about every show (bitchy for the sake of bitchy isn't the same as a nemesis).

And then there is the reason we watch shows like The Gates: the vampires. So far there are only two, Claire Radcliff (played by Rhona Mitra, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) and husband/sire Dylan Radcliff (Luke Mably, 28 Days Later). Luckily I like them both. Claire is especially charismatic, which is unexpected as one of the first things she does is kill a hapless contractor. But Claire is easy to relate to, particularly with her distaste for suburban life, and her struggle to control her vampire nature for the sake of her adopted daughter, Emily. The Gates is the only safe place for the Radcliffs and their daughter, and in order to stay in The Gates, one must conform. Killing people does not conform.

Lastly, there's the humans. Central are the Monohans: Nick (Frank Grillo, Prison Break) disgraced Chicago homicide detective and now Chief of Police in The Gates; wife Sarah (Marisol Nichols, 24) who just wants a normal life; son Charlie (Travis Caldwell, Parenthood) who immediately gets on the bad side of werewolf Brett by catching the interest of his girlfriend Andie; and daughter Dana (McKaley Miller), annoyingly precocious and source of awkward exposition. Other humans include the aforementioned Andie Bates (Skyler Samuels, The Stepfather), formerly of Seattle and love interest of both Brett and Charlie; and deputies Marcus (Justin Miles, The Crazies) and Leigh (Janina Gavankar, Dollhouse). At least, they're human as far as we know.

So the basic premise of the first episode is that Claire kills the contractor, and when her husband finds out they hatch an elaborate scheme to dump the body and make it look like the wolves did it. Meanwhile, the new Chief of Police, Nick, can't ignore his instincts (the same ones that apparently led to him killing an unarmed suspect back in Chicago). When he finds out about the missing contractor, and sees video footage of the guy crashing his truck into a pillar outside the Radcliffs' house, he starts investigating the vampires, both legally (questioning them, trying to obtain search warrants) and not so much (skulking around their house in the middle of the night). When it becomes clear that nobody wants him to pursue this (especially his wife) he decides to drop the case. But when he goes to identify a body and instead of the missing contractor finds the supposedly happily retired former Chief of Police, there's obviously not going to be any sort of quiet, normal life for Nick. And to complicate matters, Devon knows that Claire moved the contractor's truck into her garage [after killing him]. What other skeletons are buried in this place and how long until the entire house of cards comes crashing down?

I can't say the pilot was great but it was promising. Most of the characters and actors are decent, there's enough surprises to keep things interesting, the melodrama isn't too obnoxious, and there's plenty of eye candy to keep everyone happy. There's nothing earth shattering about the writing, cinematography, costumes, or setting (well, the Gates themselves are nice) but that can always come later. There are a few things that definitely need to change: Devon and Dana need to be toned down, and there needs to be more of Emily Radcliff--she's the reason her parents have to hide who they are; viewers should get a chance to actually care about the kid. The writers are also going to need to keep the vampire content fairly high; otherwise, it's just another show about another dissatisfied housewife and her uptight husband.

So, do we really need another vampire show? Probably not, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it while it lasts.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, with fangs that descend or retract at will.

Strengths: Heightened sense of smell, hearing. Strength. Can easily jump from heights.

Weaknesses: The sun (need to cover skin completely with a special lotion in order not to burn), blood lust.

Mythology: Not much yet, although the Radcliffs need to assimilate into human society in order to stay safely in The Gates and protect their adopted daughter.

Sound Bites

Claire: (with welcome casserole) Hi. Please tell me you eat carbs.

Claire: (to Devon, in response to being threatened) I could end you, and you'd never see it coming.

Nick Monohan: Looks like a nice little town.

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 1 "Pilot." Written by Grant Scharbo and Richard Hatem. Directed by Terry McDonough. From ABC.

21 June 2010

True Blood S3 E2 "Beautifully Broken"

Spoilers Ahead

Vampires, werewolves, and shifters--oh my! Has Season 3 got your attention yet? Because it sure as hell's got mine. There's already all kinds of supernatural action, and we're only two episodes in. I approve.

Bill's having an "interesting" time in
Mississippi. "Beautifully Broken" picks up in the middle of his fight with the werewolves, which started at the end of the last episode. Our first glimpse of Bill involves him bloodied, growling, and holding on to a severed werewolf ear with his teeth. The camera pulls out and we see that most of the wolves are now prone, naked men. Apparently werewolves aren't much of a match for the average vampire. And I was worried about Bill.

Just as Bill's about to get into it with the last wolf, a man on horseback shows up and tells the were to "heel," which he does. I don't think anyone was expecting that. The werewolf returns to human form and we quickly discover he was supposed to escort ("not hunt him down like an animal") Bill back to the man on horseback, who turns out to be the vampire King of Mississippi aka Russell Edgington (played by Denis O'Hare, CSI: Miami). Bill is disturbed that the King has werewolves working for him, particularly in light of the way they kidnapped and tortured him--and fed on his blood. But he's not half as disturbed as the King is when he finds out his wolves snacked on Bill. Pointing a gun at the alpha (Coot), the King suddenly switches and shoots the earless were (Louie) instead. I guess for an alpha, watching one of his defenceless pack members be cut down has to be almost as bad (maybe worse) as being killed himself. The King then extends an invitation (read: order) to Bill to accompany him back to his place. Not good.

And it doesn't get any better at the King's rather impressive mansion (vampire royalty know how to live in style). It's made clear early on that Bill doesn't get to leave until the King (every time I type that I picture Elvis) says he can go. And just to drive that point home, the guest room features 100% sterling silver doors on the inside of the room and round-the-clock guards outside. The room also comes equipped with a bed that used to belong to Elizabeth Bathory, rumoured in reality to have been a vampire for her penchant for bathing in virgins' blood. The vamps on the show, however, refer to her a mass murderer, not a vampire. I like that they could have gone the obvious route but didn't. So, anyway, what does the King want with Bill? Over a meal of chilled carbonated blood and blood bisque infused with rose petals, he offers to make Bill Sheriff of Mississippi Area 2--if Bill helps him convince the Queen of Louisiana to marry him (and let slip a few of her secrets while he's at it).

Okay, so there's a lot to comment on here. First, the King toasts Bill saying it's an honour to have Bill in his kingdom "again." It might be nothing but I'm curious as to when they met before and what that meeting entailed. Was Bill just passing through, or was there something more to it? The King also says he knows Bill is working for the Queen, and even though Bill denies it, I believe the King. He makes a valid point that it's not exactly the dream life to be living among humans in a backwater town. I heard that in the books it's eventually revealed that the vampires have been trying to recruit Sookie all along; I'm guessing the show is heading in that direction, as well. I don't know how I feel about that (especially the part about Bill secretly working for the Queen). And lastly, here we go again with the whole vampire marriage thing, of which I am not a fan. At least this time it's a matter of political gain rather than happily-ever-after; I think that's far more suitable for immortal monster types. And it seems vampires subscribe to the belief that a King is of higher rank than a Queen; Russell assumes he'll be in charge of Mississippi and Louisiana if he marries Sophie-Anne. Since she can't bear him any heirs, we can only assume her main role will be to sit around acquiescing to his will.

Of course, Bill isn't interested in helping the King or being Sheriff, so the King has to bring Sookie into it. Not good just got even worse. For Bill, anyway.

Those of you rooting for a Sookie-Eric match-up will be gratified to know there's some good interaction between these two this episode. After finding out that the symbol branded on the dead werewolf's neck was related to Operation Werewolf, Sookie and Jessica have since discovered that OW was (is?) some kind of secret Nazi special ops unit from WWII (I was thinking that symbol looked eerily swastika-like). They take the symbol to Eric in hopes that he can tell them more about it, but he claims ignorance--not that Sookie believes him. Signalling Pam to take Jessica out of the room, Eric tells Sookie that all he knows about werewolves is that they're territorial, vicious, and pathologically secretive--and she's not exactly circumspect. In her desperation to find Bill, Eric claims Sookie is likely to run through the streets yelling "werewolf bait!" Not exactly a flattering analysis, but not exactly untrue, either. He also keeps mentioning that Sookie is too valuable to risk losing. I can't tell if this stems from personal feelings on his part, or if it's all about business (that is, it's really Sookie's telepathic ability and/or extra tasty blood that's too valuable). He certainly acts like a man struggling with unwanted feelings (more like the little boy who gives the girl he likes a cupcake, and then throws a rock at her). Alexander Skarsgard is not exactly emotionally expressive (which is a large part of why it's taking me so long to warm up to him) so it's hard to tell what, if anything, Eric is feeling at any given moment. Could be longing. Could be regret. Could be some past-date blood he had for breakfast. Who can tell?

When it becomes apparent that Eric's not going to help her, Sookie gets overwhelmed with worry for Bill and starts crying, which gets an amusing reaction from Eric. She tells him that she risked her life to help him find Godric, and although she doesn't expect him to do the same, she hopes he'll help her if he can. Lucky for Eric dawn is coming and Sookie's got to take Jessica home. Once they're gone Eric flashes back to Augsberg, Germany in 1945. I won't get into the details of the flashback but I'll just say it involves Eric and Godric (so happy that Godric is back!) posing as SS, a Nazi werewolf, torture, and some unnamed thing that Eric is apparently desperate to get.

While Sookie is busy with Eric, Jessica takes the opportunity to ask Pam for some advice, vampire to vampire. After discussing how to avoid killing someone when feeding from them, Jessica oh-so-subtly follows it up with a query about what one--in theory, of course--would do with a body, you know--if you accidentally killed someone. Hope she's not a poker player. We don't hear Pam's response but we can assume it involves a chainsaw, since Jessica makes inquiries about buying or renting one later on. But before we get to that, she and Hoyt see each other for the first time since their fight (by the way, I do not like his new haircut). He's waiting for her on Bill's porch, and while it looks for a second like things will be all right again between them, Jessica insists it's too late. After rushing into the house and closing the door, there's a sad, sweet moment as both she and Hoyt lean against opposite sides of the door, crying. Finally he angrily kicks the door a couple of times and leaves. And Jessica gets to spend another night with an increasingly disgusting corpse. The next night, after securing the chainsaw, Jessica's all ready to get down to business when--whoops--the corpse has disappeared. We have to assume he didn't suddenly get up and walk away, so who took him and what's that going to mean for Jessica?

At her own house again, Sookie is clearly not alone. Ominous music rises as someone sneaks up behind her and... a knee to the crotch later, Sookie has virtually ensured Jason won't be having kids anytime soon. It turns out he couldn't sleep and, knowing that their Gran would be doing handstands in her grave if she saw the (post-Maryann) state of the house, decided to start cleaning it. I like the scene with Sookie and Jason for a few reasons: they're bonding and strengthening their relationship, Jason is always good for lightening tension, Sookie does an awesome impersonation of Bill, and I find it weirdly soothing to see Sookie cleaning the house. Maybe because I find cleaning soothing myself, but also because in the show that's what she always turns to when things are difficult. No matter what else Sookie has been through, she always returns to her roots. There's something comforting about that. Anyway, she tells Jason about Bill and the weres, and also lets Jason know that she feels responsible for Eggs's death since she helped him remember. Jason offers to see if Andy can do anything to help find Bill. Meanwhile he's stressing because he knows who's really responsible for killing Eggs.

Andy has become town hero for killing the so-called serial killer, and he's giving a statement on TV when Jason shows up. Jason insists they've got to make things right because Sookie is blaming herself for something that's not her fault. Andy reluctantly agrees, although I'm not sure how hanging out at Merlotte's while Jason gets drunk is going to help anything. (By the way, it looks like Andy hasn't had a drink since he said he'd stop--which was right around when Maryann was killed. I think I was right when I said Maryann put the drunkenness whammy on him.) He does seem unusually concerned for Jason, though, giving him a pep talk and then offering to drive him home. On the way they get sidetracked by a meth-lab bust in progress. While Jason's waiting in the car he notices a girl skulking and crying in the shadows. When he follows her she takes off. Suddenly he notices a man sneaking out of the house. With an impressive tackle, Jason's taken him and his bag of meth down. Looks like Bon Temps might have another hero in the making. And possibly a new love interest/downfall for Jason.

On her way into Merlotte's the next day, Sookie suddenly telepathically hears a creepy voice. As she looks around she sees a creepier-looking guy standing at the edge of the woods. He's got a glyph branded onto his neck. Momentarily distracted by Terry, when Sookie looks back the guy is gone. She takes off after him and Terry takes off after her. Unable to spot mystery man, Terry starts tracking him only to end up confused when the boot prints are suddenly replaced by paw prints. And in case you didn't get that the guy turned into a wolf, Sookie finds his clothes and boots off to the side.

As if all this wasn't enough, there's yet more to talk about this episode. Lafayette manages to save Tara by breaking into the bathroom and forcing her to spit out the pills she was trying to OD on. Although she eventually talks him out of taking her to the hospital (she doesn't want to end up locked in a padded room), he decides to take her elsewhere: Meadowglade Clinic, 2 1/2 hours from Bon Temps. Tara's response is to start angrily chastising him and insisting she knows her rights. When Lafayette finally gets a word in he tells her they're not there for her. It turns out they're there to see Ruby Jane Reynolds--Lafayette's mother. Apparently his mom is not only on the far side of loopy, but she's also unabashedly racist and homophobic (she informs her "faggot" son that her attendant is Mexican, but he hasn't raped her yet). Amazingly Lafayette has been working two "legal" jobs and then some in order to afford to keep her at Meadowglade. He claims it's because he hates her so much that he doesn't want to have to take care of her himself, but Tara calls him on that, pointing out that if it were true he'd have let the state take care of her, or would have left her on the streets where he found her. I think I kind of love Lafayette.

After their visit with Ruby Jane, Lafayette lets Tara know how he really feels. He claims there's a darkness in their family, but that he and she are too good to give in to it. He finally gets through to Tara, and we can see a tiny bit of her fighting spirit return to her. Everyone should have a Lafayette; I know I wish I had one.

Meanwhile, Sam gets the family reunion he was after. Discovered by Tommy as he sleeps in his (own) truck, Sam is herded at gunpoint into a hovel of a house. When Melinda and Joe Lee come into the room half-asleep, it's Melinda who slowly realizes that Sam is their son. Not quite as exciting as my theory that Sam had to be given away because his mom cheated with a shapeshifter, it turns out she was simply too young (16) and his dad was in jail at the time (he claims it was for a crime he didn't commit). His dad is "regular" but his mom and brother are also shifters, and Sam can't help but be bitter that he had to go through finding out what he was alone. His newfound biological parents are all sympathy and support, which pisses off Tommy more than he already was. Apparently life at chez Mickens has been no picnic, and Tommy resents Sam in a major way for being spared his craptacular upbringing. Sam tries to point out that his own life hasn't exactly been easy, but Tommy's not in a bonding mood. At least not right away. Not until they both shift and go for a run (as Tommy strips he reveals a body covered in scars). When Tommy shifts into a pit bull, you can't help but be a little worried for Sam. And, it turns out, with good reason. Tommy the pitbull stops in the middle of the road, making Sam the collie stop, as well. Suddenly a truck comes speeding around the bend as Tommy takes off in the form of a raptor (bird, not dinosaur). Sam barely gets out of the way in time. Talk about sibling rivalry.

There's also a growing (no pun intended) sub-plot about Arlene's unplanned pregnancy, which is causing tension between her and a clueless Terry. Thinking she's worried about how he'll be around her kids, Coby and Lisa, Terry writes a list of ten reasons why she can trust him with them. The list includes such convincing arguments as he's a nurturer, and he's never killed anything by accident (definitely a selling point). This scene is equally bizarre and funny as he keeps reading the list through the door while Arlene pukes (again) in the bathroom.

In a new twist we see a pair of boots as someone sneaks into someone else's house (I'm pretty sure it's Bill's house, but I can't be positive). The sneaking someone apparently knows what they're looking for as he or she goes straight for a file that turns out to be all about Sookie. It contains a Stackhouse family tree, newspaper clippings, and a recent photo of Sookie. If this is Bill's house, why does he have a file on Sookie? This adds to my suspicion that the King was right about Bill working for the Queen. Yikes. And who is this mystery person anyway? What do they want with Sookie?

After an awkward cut, we see Sookie sitting on her couch, holding a gun. Out of nowhere she gets up and heads to the door. I guess her hearing is better than mine, but I felt like I'd missed something. Anyway, it turns out Eric's on her porch--and he admits that he lied to her. He claims he's risking "everything" to tell her the truth about the werewolves, at least the ones of Operation Werewolf. The symbols the OW wolves are using are runic, predating the Nazis by quite a bit. These weres are different: they're organized, well-funded, highly trained, and fuelled by vampire blood (if they're anything like the ones Bill annihilated, they don't seem like such a big deal to me). Then he informs Sookie that she's going to invite him in--so he can protect her. And maybe have passionate, primal sex with her. Um, okay--that was kind of over the top for my taste (and a little out of left field), but whatever. Sookie seems taken aback, as well, and reminds him that she's still Bill's. He notices her engagement ring and gets weirdly annoyed. I guess his feelings are personal, after all. You'd think vampires would be more open to alternative relationships--what's with all the monogamy and lifelong commitments? Just saying...

Before we find out whether Sookie caves to Eric, we go back to Tara and Lafayette for a bit. He has to work so he brings her with him to Merlotte's. As she sits at the bar, lost in depression, a new guy walks in and starts chatting with her. Yes, we have a new vampire in Bon Temps! We don't get his name yet, but for future reference it's Franklin Mott (played by James Frain, The Tudors). And I think he might just be my new favourite. Something about those intense eyes and his (authentic) accent. Oh, baby. And, as the camera pans down to his footwear, it turns out he's the mystery sneak gathering info on Sookie. But who cares about that? Later, as Tara is drinking alone in the parking lot, a couple of drunk rednecks leave the bar and start making racist comments about Eggs. When one of them decides to relieve himself on the spot where Eggs was shot, Tara loses it. She knocks him down with a punch, and as the rednecks start getting personal, a blur suddenly knocks the first guy down again. Next thing we know, new vamp in town is holding the second redneck in place while he orders him to apologize to the lady. Instead the redneck says something unflattering about Tara's choice of sexual partners. So she wallops him. Franklin again orders the guy to apologize to the lady. The redneck is clearly incapable of learning. Telling Tara "fuck you" sets her into a rage. As she wails on the guy while Franklin holds him, the vampire is clearly enjoying himself (out come the fangs). Tara's falling apart, but somehow I'm not that interested in her anymore.

We get one last glimpse of Bill, as he's still trying to convince the King to leave Sookie out of this. But the King knows he's got the perfect bargaining chip with her, since Bill is so crazy in love. Just when things look like they can't get any worse, they--of course--do just that. Enter Lorena, Bill's obsessive sire. I really hate her. And apparently so does Bill. He gets up and throws an oil lamp at her, hitting her dead on and setting her ablaze. She sizzles as she screams. It's kind of satisfying except I'm almost positive this is going to end up being Bill's fantasy, rather than reality. But even if it isn't, he's going to end up in yet worse trouble no matter what. Damn.

Now--back to Sookie and Eric. She's still refusing to let him in, making a rather valid argument that she can't trust him (the man is inconsistent). Suddenly he perks up. Grabbing her and pushing her against the house, he tells her to invite him in. When she refuses, his fangs come out and he repeats the order more insistently. Sookie has never seemed so afraid. If we didn't know better, we'd think she was glamoured the way she quickly issues a formal invite. As Eric enters the house, a werewolf comes out of the shadows. Eric prepares to attack and suddenly Sookie fires the gun. Cut to credits.

Okay, so a lot going on this episode. Multiple storylines, several new characters, plenty to think about. It might be a little too much, but hopefully some of it is just being set into place for a future season; otherwise, I have no idea how they're going to tie up all the loose ends in the show's short season (did they get extra episodes that I'm unaware of?) With so much going on it's hard to believe that I'm actually asking for something else to be included, but I can't let this slide: Wasn't Lafayette supposed to have sold all the remaining V by now? Pam seemed pretty insistent that it had to be done. Did she and Eric (and the Queen) forget? Did Lafayette sell it in between working and saving Tara? Did the writers just decide to drop that storyline? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I can't wait to see what next week brings.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and sharp, snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. The ability to kick werewolf ass.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight, blood lust.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical with Kings and Queens ruling entire states, which are sub-divided into areas presided over by Sheriffs. From Pam's description, feeding on someone is akin to having sex--in order to prevent killing/climaxing it helps to think of something unpleasant. Violence also excites vampires (and excited vampires extend their fangs). A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private residence.

Sound Bites

Lafayette: (to Lettie Mae) You too busy praising Jesus to notice your daughter trying to move in with him permanently.

Jason: There's werewolves?
Sookie: Yes.
Jason: Shit. Bigfoot--is he real too?
Sookie: I don't know; I guess it's possible.
Jason: Santa?!
Sookie: Jason--focus.

Tommy: (on discovering Sam) Don't move. Get out of the truck.

Terry: (handing Sookie a gun) You know how to use one of these?
Sookie: I ain't that blonde.

Godric: (to Eric, 1945) A vampire is never at the mercy of his emotions. He dominates them. [Good line but in retrospect, isn't 1945 a little late for Godric to be giving Eric vampire lessons?]

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 2 "Beautifully Broken." Written by Raelle Tucker. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

18 June 2010

Moonlight S1 E3 "Dr. Feelgood"

Spoilers Ahead

If you can get past the silly title, this is actually a rather good episode. In fact, I'm really starting to like this show--enough to hope that the CW picks it up and puts it back into production (or to be disappointed if they don't).

As Beth tries to come to term with the existence of vampires--not to mention that Mick is one of them, Mick tries to come to terms with the way he was sired (let's just say his wife took her wedding vows to love him forever very seriously). On top of all this they have to deal with a rogue vampire--one whose sire didn't stick around to teach him he's not supposed to go on killing sprees.

Mick's angst works particularly well since, unlike so many other tormented vampires, he's not really that old. You can believe he hasn't properly dealt with the trauma of finding out his new wife is undead as she's in the process of ensuring he joins the ranks. Not to mention that she's psychotic and delusional. Suddenly you'll think your ex doesn't seem so bad.

But one thing Mick's wife/sire, Coraline, did get right was teaching him how to be a vampire--how to survive and how to follow the rules. Which is more than Dr. Jeffrey Pollock gets when he stops to play Good Samaritan and ends up being accidentally turned. It doesn't take long for his uncontrolled hunger to become blood lust. Even though I wasn't expecting this storyline to be all that interesting, it actually works. Best crime subplot so far.

With Beth's help, Mick tracks down the unwitting sire and his bastard son. And he soon appreciates how handy it is to have a human ally around when you're paralyzed by a stake, even if she is on the squeamish side. When he finally confronts the rogue a nifty chase and fight scene ensue. I love that they utilize a few parkour moves, which works brilliantly within the context of vampires and makes the fight scene way more enjoyable to watch than it probably would have been otherwise. And let's face it--not all vampires can be martial arts experts.

I also love the way Mick ultimately deals with the rogue vampire. Given that the guy was an innocent victim himself when he was turned, I was expecting something a little more... sympathetic. Or maybe merciful. Like being taken under the wing of an older vamp and rehabilitated. Or maybe forced to do some community service (reading to elderly vampires?) Even Beth wants to punish him in a civilized manner. But Mick's solution is efficient and brutal. Just as it should be.

This episode also introduces us to a new character: The Cleaner (Molly Culver, Heist). Unfortunately IMDB tells me she's only in the one episode, but the concept is fantastic. Basically when things get out of hand (as they're occasionally bound to) and a vampire ends up with a corpse to deal with, The Cleaner is called. She and her crew take care of the situation. And a nice touch: Cleaner-vampire confidentiality, so no one will get persecuted for their mistakes (although I have the feeling that if she starts getting calls a little too often from the same vamp, she'll be taking care of something other than human corpses). Great idea--wish we could see more of it.

I also need to mention the nice camera work this episode, particularly the shot using the security mirror in a convenience store. Well done.

Other enjoyable moments: Mick was born in November--Scorpios represent! Also, Josef tells an interesting tale of two Buddhist monks--way to entertain and enlighten.

And of course, there's the high point of every episode--the interaction between Mick and Beth. The longing in Mick's eyes... it's some kind of beautiful pain. And he's obviously none too pleased about putting her in danger (or rather, not being able to stop her from putting herself in danger) when he's spent the last couple of decades trying to keep her safe. I like that the writers are taking it slow with the characters. I'm sure they had long-term plans for the relationship before the show got cancelled. But I love the tension in the brief moments of connection each episode, wondering where it'll all end up. TV relationships are hard to do well, but so far Moonlight is getting it just right.

Far too often absolute gems of television shows get cancelled, usually because their concentrated fan base isn't enough to get the ratings that the networks are so obsessed with. These shows stand out--the concept, storylines, writing, acting, directing, design--rising above the morass of cop/lawyer/doctor dramas, lame sitcoms, and desperately pathetic soap operas. There's a reason their fans won't let go, even years later. Sadly, it looks like Moonlight might have been one of those gems. Dommage.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, until the vampire emerges, then ghostly white eyes and prominent, elegant fangs. Vampire blood "smells like nothing else."

Strengths: Acute vision and hearing. Super strength and speed. Ability to scale walls. Quick healing.

Weaknesses: Stakes (paralyze), the sun, fire, blood lust.

Mythology: Vampires need to keep their existence a secret to avoid being hunted. Food tastes of nothing to vampires (and garlic doesn't bother them). A sire is supposed to take responsibility for the vampires they create; to teach them and keep them under control. Newly turned vampires are all rage and hunger, unaware of what they're doing. If a vampire goes rogue they won't stop killing. In order to turn a human, the human must be close to death and there needs to be an exchange of blood. Vampires do have reflections. Vampires sleep in cold places (fridges, freezers) at least in part because the cold feels good.

Sound Bites

Mick: It's going to get dangerous, Beth.
Beth: Then it's a good thing I have you around.

Wife: I love you.
Jeffrey Pollock: I love you too. I'm just... so hungry.

Beth: Can you fly?
Mick: Uh-huh. Just like Superman.
Beth: Really?
Mick: No!

Mick: [Explaining to Beth how he was turned] I went to bed a happily married man and woke up a monster.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 3 "Dr. Feelgood." Written by Gabrielle Stanton and Harry Werksman. Directed by Scott Lautanen. From CBS/The CW.

16 June 2010

True Blood Season 3 Premiere "Bad Blood"

Spoilers Ahead

It's back! And it was so worth the wait.

I'm slightly giddy from the triumphant return of this brilliant show, so I'm not quite sure where to begin. I can tell you the premiere starts out with both humour and drama. And that there are some truly awesome moments in this episode. And that there is plenty of eye candy in the form of naked and near-naked characters. Oh yes, something for everyone.

Sookie spends the episode looking for Bill. When she can't find him anywhere inside or outside the restaurant, she gets the police involved. When the police are less than helpful, she gets Jessica involved. When Jessica doesn't know anything she gets Eric involved. While trying to track down Lorena (suspect the second, after Eric) she discovers that Bill and Jessica have a mental link. Tearing Jessica away from her own, rather interesting, activities Sookie uses Jessica as a tracking system. And they make a discovery that does not bode well.

By the way, the scene where Sookie confronts Eric is one of those awesome moments (and involves a good chunk of that eye candy I mentioned). I really am starting to like Eric more and more.

But I'm still a Bill girl at heart and I was ecstatic to discover he has a major role in this episode. After he was kidnapped I was sure we wouldn't see him for a while. I love it when I'm wrong. We find him--held by silver chains--in a car full of redneck-looking guys. One is the person who kidnapped Bill, still wearing the gloves he had on as he slipped the chain around Bill's neck. They call themselves the "Fuck-You Crew" and proceed to stab Bill and help themselves to his blood. As they get rowdier, they get stupider. The kidnapper removes his bloodied gloves, giving Bill the chance to put them on and get the chains off. The next thing anyone knows, he's snapping the driver's neck. The car goes flying and flips over. Bill's hurt but alive.
Let this be a lesson, kids: don't do V and drive

After spending the day underground (am I the only one who finds Bill totally hot as he's digging himself out?) Bill goes in search for blood. He finds it in an unlikely place. Fully healed he asks the glamoured blood donor where he is, and finds out he's been taken to Mississippi. As we hear wolves howling in the background Bill suddenly has to leave. Right now. Running through the woods (too bad he can't fly like Eric) he suddenly finds himself surrounded by werewolves. Turning to one (I'm assuming the alpha) he warns them he's fed. Then the fangs come out and the episode ends. One vampire, five or six werewolves... this is going to be... fun.

Before the wolves show up we cut back to Sookie and Jessica. Thanks to Jessica's tracking ability, they've found Bill's mangled car and the dead driver inside. They notice a rune branded on the driver's neck and look it up, discovering that this particular symbol is related to Operation Werewolf. You really can find anything on the internet! But Sookie's face tells us she realizes how much trouble Bill is really in. Werewolves = bad news.

Incidentally, I think the wolves looked really good--no easy task. For whatever reason, wolf makeup almost always looks fake/bad and CGI werewolves are even worse (*cough*Twilight*cough*). Kudos to the True Blood team for getting it right.

As usual, Bill and Sookie's storylines are merely parts of a much larger whole.

Sam has wandered off to Arkansas in search of his birth family. After discovering he has a brother (Tommy, played by Marshall Allman, Prison Break) and following him home, Sam finds what he's looking for (a little too easily, perhaps). But we know there'll be complications and all kinds of trouble in Sam's future. My theory? Mr. and Mrs. Mickens are werewolves, but the missus (Sam's mom) stepped out with a shapeshifter and made Sam. Obviously you can't raise a mutt among wolves, so they had to get rid of him (by giving him to the Merlottes). Either that or they're just jerks. Or maybe both. Can't wait to find out.

Oh, and the scene between Sam and Bill? I couldn't stop grinning.

Tara is completely broken over Eggs's death. When we first see her she's still in the parking lot holding his hand. There's a sad and beautiful moment as a white sheet is placed over Eggs's body and a red stain starts slowly seeping outward from the wound in his forehead. After Lafayette helps her inside she ends up going off on Arlene, Sheriff Bud, and Andy (who's taking responsibility for the shooting). Later she attacks Sookie after finding out that Sookie helped Eggs regain his lost memories. And later still she actually asks for her mom. Now we know she's in trouble. I knew Lettie Mae wasn't the brightest bulb but just how stupid she is doesn't become apparent until she invites Reverend Daniels over to "comfort" Tara (more likely to comfort herself as she's obviously got the hots for the holy man). As Tara lies, near catatonic, the two of them tell her how fantastic God's plan is, and how the two evil people (Maryann and Eggs) took her through hell so she could return to her mom. Any other time Tara would be telling them to fuck off, but this time she obediently thanks the Reverend before heading to the bathroom to take a shower. And by take a shower I mean take a bunch of pills Lafayette's got stored in there. When Lafayette gets home after work Lettie Mae is watching TV, blithely unaware that there could possibly be any problem with Tara. At least Lafayette realizes what's going on. The last we see of Tara is her shoving pills into her mouth as Lafayette bangs on and kicks the door.

Jason--Eggs's real killer--isn't doing much better. After freaking out over the fact that he killed a person, a talk with Andy calms him down a bit. Andy convinces him that he needs to suppress his conscience and act like the same old Jason Stackhouse (even if he's really not that guy anymore). Or, as Andy puts it, "Conscience off; dick on." Resigned, Jason sets out to pick up a pair of veterinary students, who are only too happy to follow him home. But they're not too happy once they get there. Let's just say Jason can act like his old self, but he can't perform like his old self. Mainly because he keeps hallucinating bullet holes in the girls' foreheads. They leave in a hurry.

Jessica's been keeping quite busy this episode. Returning to Bill's she discovers Hoyt's flowers on the porch. She seems pretty pleased to find them. Then she drags a body into the house behind her. The body belongs to the trucker she fed on the last time we saw her, but surprisingly he's not dead. Yet. She begs him to stay alive (but won't take him to the hospital) until she hears a car in the driveway. Hiding him, she's surprised to see a panicked Sookie. Unable to help her, Jessica reluctantly promises to call Sookie if Bill returns (even if he orders her not to). Then she goes back to her victim, who has since expired. Desperate she bites into her own wrist and pours the blood into his mouth, hoping it'll turn him. Unfortunately, when she wakes up the next night she's still got a corpse on her hands, only now it's stinkier. Before she can figure out what to do with it, Sookie shows up again and drags her out to track Bill. Next episode: Body Disposal 101.

And then there's Eric. His fans will be happy to know Alexander Skarsgard has finally made it into the opening credits (at least, I never noticed him there before) so we'll surely be seeing a lot more of him. Not that there is a lot more to see after this episode's nude scene. Actors on this show really need to put aside any shyness they might harbour. Mr. Northman spends time (apparently about six hours) getting to know Fangtasia's new dancer, Yvetta (Natasha Alam, The Bold and the Beautiful), as well as trying to pretend for the Magister's benefit that he hasn't noticed the sudden spike in V use in his district. While the Magister explains why a vampire is clearly behind the skyrocketing trade in the product, the Queen stands by playing innocent. After the Magister leaves, the Queen (who I liked a lot less this time) informs Eric that he's to sell all the remaining V by whatever means necessary, and then cover their tracks. Why? Because she needs the money. Why? Because the IRS is breathing down her neck. Um. So, I thought that was a pretty damn lame reason why the Queen would be selling vampire blood; they could have done much more with this storyline. But it is what it is and hopefully it'll be concluded soon. We also find out that Eric, although not behind Bill's kidnapping, did hire a vampire (whose name I couldn't quite catch, but it sounded like Mr. Rugen) to get Bill from the restaurant and bring him back to Fangtasia. Of course, by the time Eric's guy got there Bill was already gone. Now Eric's in a bit of a panic because the one vampire who can link him (and indirectly, the Queen) to the V sales is missing. On the other hand, I'm sure he'll take full advantage of the opportunity to get to know Sookie as well as he got to know Yvetta.

Plenty going on in the season's first episode, which can only be good for future episodes. There were a couple of weak spots and a bit of rushed pacing, but I think those can be forgiven as this week was all about setting the stage. And luckily all the good aspects of the show easily outweigh the few bad bits. Sex, violence, wit, and fangs: welcome back, True Blood!

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with prominent snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will. Vampires cry blood.

Strengths: Super strength, speed, resistance to injury. Fast healing. Ability to glamour (hypnotize) humans. The mental link between maker and made.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight. People are willing to kill vampires for their blood ("V," which is a drug). The mental link between maker and made. Werewolves?

Mythology: Once a human has consumed a vampire's blood there will always be a connection between that human and the vampire; the vampire can sense and track the human, while the human will start feeling a sexual attraction to the vampire (complete with disturbing and erotic dreams). In order to turn a human, there must be an exchange of blood, and the human and vampire need to spend a night together in the earth. A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private residence. Vampire society is hierarchical, with the world divided into territories ruled over by Sheriffs, Kings, and Queens. The Magister is judge and jury presiding over vampires.

Sound Bites

Terry: That first kill--it's got a way of making you feel that that's all you are.

Sookie: Where were you tonight around 11 o'clock?
Eric: Here. With Yvetta.
Sookie: Doing this? For the last six hours?
Eric: You seem surprised. Is Bill's stamina not up to snuff?

Driver: Stop it or you're going to get yourself--
Bill: Killed. (snaps driver's neck)

Jason: You wanna really fuck somebody's life up? Tell the truth about 'em. I ain't never gonna be the same.

True Blood, Season 3 Premiere "Bad Blood." Written by Brian Buckner. Directed by Daniel Minahan. From HBO.

11 June 2010

Moonlight S1 E2 "Out of the Past"

Spoilers Ahead

If there's one recurring theme throughout the world of redemption-seeking vampires, it's that the past will always come back to bite our reformed monsters (purely evil vampires don't tend to have such issues). Mick St. John's past isn't as long as some (he was turned in the late 1950s/early 1960s*) but it's long enough to be fertile ground for regrets and recriminations. "Out of the Past," as you can probably guess from the title, is all about one of them.

The episode starts with a "wrongfully accused" murderer, Lee Jay Spalding (David Fabrizio, Desperate Housewives), being released from prison after 25 years. While most of the world (and particularly Beth's friend Julia) is enamoured with the seemingly decent Lee Jay, Mick knows better.

Via flashback to 1983 we learn that Mick was hired by Lee Jay's wife, Ilene, to protect her from her psychotic husband. After Mick thrashes Lee Jay, making sure he understands he's to stay away from Ilene or else, Mick believes the problem is solved. Until Ilene turns up dead. Incensed, Mick tracks down Lee Jay and gives the terrified murderer a good look at him in full-on vampire mode. Sinking his fangs in and preparing to finish Lee Jay, Mick is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of the cops. Oops. He's forced to take off before they see him, while Lee Jay has the next 25 years to research and study vampires.

Back in the present Mick sets out to prove Lee Jay's guilt (and prevent any other women from ending up dead), while Beth starts having questions about Mick. Her dreams are filled with memories of her childhood abduction, while the buried knowledge that it was Mick who saved her is beginning to surface. She knows he's hiding something from her, but she can't figure out what. The situation gets even more complicated when Beth sees an old photo of Mick St. John in Julia's book on Lee Jay (note to vampires: you might want to change your name every twenty years or so if you plan on staying in the same city).

Once again the crime aspect of the show is mediocre. It could have been interesting had it been given more time (maybe two or three episodes) but it felt rushed. Still, there were a few unexpected twists, so not all bad. And once again the relationship between Mick and Beth shines. They have a connection between them that draws you in. I know I want to see more of the two of them together. Luckily, I have no doubt I'm going to get my wish.

I'm also enjoying that so many of the flashbacks (actually, I think all of them so far) take place in the 1980s. The party this episode with Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" playing in the background? Nice. It's also nifty to see a bit of Mick before he acquired a pesky conscience. Hey, even rehabilitated vamps need to remind us about the monster every so often.

The episode ends with Mick staggering home wounded and desperate for blood. Beth arrives looking for him just as he's all vamp faced and sucking down a bag of plasma (bonus points for using the outlet tube as a straw). He tries to hide from her but there's no getting away this time. Beth sees him in all his glory, and he's forced to admit what he is. The next episode should be interesting.

*In my previous review I said Mick was 90: I should have clarified that I meant 30 years as a human + 60 years as a vampire.

By the way, supposedly you can watch the full episodes on CBS's site but I just get a blank page when I click on the link. That could be because I'm in Canada and somehow civilization as we know it will come to a crashing halt if Canadians download shows from American network sites. The horror! But give it a try and see if it works any better for you.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, until the vampire emerges; then, ghostly white eyes and fangs that descend or retract at will.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Ability to scale walls, jump easily from heights.

Weaknesses: Fire, silver (acts as a poison), stakes (paralyze but don't kill).

Mythology: Vampires don't appear in photos taken with film, but digital devices will capture their images.

Sound Bites

Mick: When you live forever it's disappointing how little humans change.

Lee Jay Spalding: Catch you later, Mick.
Mick: Yeah you will.

Beth: Why does the girl always have to wait in the car?

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 2 "Out of the Past." Written by Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow. Directed by Fred Toye. From CBS/The CW.

10 June 2010

Video: FangAGRA

Suffering from Fangile Dysfunction (can't get them down)? Click on the link to watch this video!


08 June 2010

Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

Sookie is not Barbie. I just had to clarify that because, going by Charlaine Harris's description of her heroine (as narrated by Sookie herself) you could easily get confused. Apparently Miss Stackhouse has blonde hair, blue eyes, strong legs, a "waspy waistline," and a "substantial bosom" (seriously--who talks like that?) She even has a fake smile plastered permanently in place. Just try to ignore the disconcerting resemblance (or do as I did and picture Anna Paquin instead). At least Bill doesn't look like Ken.

Okay, we all know the Sookie Stackhouse books are the basis for True Blood, so it's not surprising that it's difficult to separate the two when reading and reviewing. I've heard the show diverges in season two, but the first season relies heavily on "Dead until Dark" (book one of the series). In fact, it's almost like reading a recap of the season. Almost. There are a fair many differences (most of the major ones kicking in after Gran's murder). And almost all the changes made by the show are better. In fact, if I'd read the books first I might not have watched the show at all.

That's not to say the book is horrible. It's a fairly average paranormal romance. It's just not going to rock your world.

Some of the problems with Dead until Dark are typical of the genre. A great concept gets lost in the execution. Instead of spending more time on the integration of the newly out-of-the-coffin vampires into prejudiced human society, Harris gets bogged down describing irrelevant details (does anyone really need to know what Bill's socks look like?) Several things seem to go nowhere. The possibility that either Bill or Sam might be the murderer is built up throughout the book and then just dropped. And the editing sucks (a couple of examples I found: Picken's instead of Pickens's or Pickens' and goodness's instead of goodness'--really basic errors).

Bill and Sookie's relationship, such as it is, leaves something to be desired. After starting off saying how she's been waiting so long for "her" vampire to find her, Sookie is incredibly judgmental and suspicious once he is in her life. They seem indifferent to each other until they have sex, and then they still seem pretty indifferent (Sookie ranges from insecure to disgusted to "loving"). I don't know if their relationship was set up from the beginning as a prelude to bigger and better things (Eric, according to Bill's bizarrely adulatory description) but there's really no connection between the characters. What they call love is more about loving what the other can give them rather than loving who the other person is. Romantic.

There's also a really weird, apathetic attitude toward pedophilia in the book. Nobody who knows about Sookie being molested by Uncle Bartlett seems to be all that concerned. Sure, Gran cut off ties with her brother (after pretty much ignoring the same situation when it involved her own daughter), but apparently there was never any thought given to, I don't know, having the asshole arrested. Jason doesn't even believe it happened until Sookie proves it, and then he snaps at her to "get over it." Bill seems to care the most but even he reacts callously, insisting he and Sookie have sex immediately after she tells him the traumatizing details. Is this a Southern thing, because if so, man am I glad I live in the north.

And in the slightly-less-disturbing but stupid-and-pointless department, I have one word: Bubba. Somehow this character is a fan favourite, but I can't think of a more ridiculous plot device. Guess what--Elvis is a vampire (but don't call him Elvis--he doesn't like that)! Oh, and when he was turned, he came out wrong. So since he's basically useless, the other vampires keep him around to do odd jobs for them (like guard Sookie when Bill has to go out of town). But he's dangerous so Bill tells Sookie never to be alone with Bubba--right before Bill leaves her alone with Bubba. And he's dim, so he can't really perform said odd jobs correctly anyway. Oh, and did I mention he loves to snack on cats? Yup--hate him.

But like I said, it's not all bad. A few of the scenes play out better in the book. For example, Malcolm and Diane's visit to Merlotte's makes more sense here than on the show (as did Bill's naked underground nap). I was also really glad when book Sookie realized right away that Sam and the dog were the same creature, unlike show Sookie, who sometimes seems to have trouble figuring out what two plus two equals. And I was thrilled that Amy Burley was a non-entity in the book. I even kind of liked Eric, which I certainly didn't when I first saw him onscreen.

The book's not badly written--there's intelligence behind it, even if there's no love for vampires. It's also a fast read, and oddly compelling; I didn't want to put it down even though I knew what was going to happen. Harris also sets a good scene: you feel like you could be there, just another resident of Bon Temps. And I do have to give props to the independent, strong-willed heroine; even in the face of a murderous stalker she's prepared to save herself.

I think I'll get a better sense of the books when I read the next one, not only as the characters and relationships develop further, but also with less of the show's shadow looming over the action (the second season apparently doesn't have much in common with the second book). Maybe Harris will find her groove. And hopefully Sookie will give up that plastic smile and become a real girl.

Fang Files

Appearance: Glistening white fangs that descend and retract at will (often descending when the vampires are excited). Pale, glowing skin (although apparently only Sookie can see the glow). Hair/facial hair remains the same as when they were turned. Dead vampires decompose very quickly, turning into black gunk before finally dissolving into smoke.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Excellent night vision. Ability to glamour humans (or "glamourize," as Harris puts it, although that sounds more like giving a makeover than the ability to hypnotize). Some vampires can levitate or fly.

Weaknesses: Silver, stakes, fire, sunlight. Vampires are sometimes drained for their blood, which is a potent drug for humans.

Mythology: Vampires don't eat or drink anything other than blood or synthetic blood (aka Tru Blood on the show). Vampires keep their origin a secret, but they've perpetuated a story that their "condition" is caused by a virus that makes them seem dead. Unlike in the show, when a human drinks a vampire's blood, the vampire cannot then sense or locate them. Sookie can read some vampires' thoughts (but not Bill's).

Text Bites

Sookie: I stared into space while Bill braided my hair, a pastime that he apparently found soothing. Every now and then I felt like I was Bill's doll.

Sam: Vampires aren't big on doing each other favors. They have a lot of structure in their world.

Sookie: I scuttered backward, getting up, trying to put distance between myself and the man who was a monster just as surely as Bill was.

Dead until Dark
by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

04 June 2010

Moonlight S1 E1 "No Such Thing as Vampires"

Spoilers Ahead

First there was Nick Knight. Then came Angel. And finally there's Mick St. John.

I mentioned back in one of my Vampire Diaries reviews that The CW is going to start airing the cancelled 2007 vampire series Moonlight on Thursday nights at 9 (after TVD re-runs). I caught the first episode last night and was pleasantly surprised--apparently there is room out there for another show about a tormented do-gooder vampire who fights crime.

It's actually impressive how unlike Forever Knight and Angel this show is, given all the surface similarities (for one thing, all three of our heroes apparently shop at the same car dealership). But Moonlight is clearly its own show.

Unlike the others, 90-year-old vampire Mick (Alex O'Loughlin, Hawaii Five-O) is less broody and more relatable. I'm not sure if it's an act the character is putting on (doesn't appear that way), but Mick seems every bit an average Joe (only, you know, with fangs). You can picture yourself having a laugh down at the pub with him, even if his drink of choice is A positive. He also has a real aura of emotional vulnerability about him. This character is deep and likeable--what more could you ask? An attractive blonde love interest, you say? Done!

Beth Turner (Sophia Myles, Underworld, Dracula) plays an LA internet tabloid reporter who, in the course of investigating a murder, ends up nearly outing the world's vampires. Not bad for the first episode. She's attractive, smart, capable, and has a connection to Mick that only he knows about (for now).

The cast of characters is rounded out by Mick's vampire buddies Josef (old, powerful, amoral, and paranoid; played by Jason Dohring from Veronica Mars), Guillermo (his contact at the coroner's office/blood supplier; played by Jacob Vargas, Death Race), and Coraline (his disturbed ex-wife/sire; played by Shannyn Sossamon, How to Make It in America). There are also mere mortals Steve Balfour (Beth's cameraman; played by Kevin Weisman, Alias), Mo (Beth's boss; played by Tami Roman, Summerland), and Lt. Carl Davis (played by Brian J. White, The Shield). The lesser characters could get annoying (particularly Josef, who is a little over the top) but hopefully they won't get enough onscreen time for it to be an issue.

Being a private investigator, it stands to reason that Mick's going to be solving a crime each episode. In "No Such Thing as Vampires," he and Beth end up joining forces to solve a murder by what appears to have been a vampire. The mystery/crime-solving storyline is meh. Not that interesting and super predictable. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be the main focus of the show. Think of it more as a framework for exploring the relationship between Mick and Beth, which looks quite promising indeed.

Aside from the lacklustre mysteries, the writing is decent, with snappy dialogue and voice-over narration that's neither intrusive nor too heavy on the exposition.

Moonlight's production values are interesting; you can tell they didn't have a huge budget, but what they did have they wisely invested in the vampires. I have to say the fangs look really good (possibly the best I've seen on a TV show). Smart move.

The cinematography was okay--nothing stood out as particularly good or bad (although the SO did comment that the cuts were very reminiscent of Angel). As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Evanescence's "My Immortal" was put to good use at the end of the episode.

The vampire mythology is unusual in a few ways. For one thing, Mick sleeps in a freezer (hope that ends up being explained). Also atypical: stakes don't kill vampires. And sunlight can be tolerated, although the longer the exposure the sicker the vampire becomes. Holy water, crucifixes, and garlic do nothing, and there's no turning into a bat (but Mick allows that would be cool). Mick's personal code of ethics also prevents him from feeding on innocents, women or children. When he's not injecting himself with plasma, he feeds only on those who deserve it (jerks of the world beware!) He also seems to be the only vampire injecting his meals.

There's a rumour that The CW might pick up the show and get it going again. If the rest of the episodes maintain the level set by "No Such Thing as Vampires" (or hey, maybe even surpass it), I really hope they do resurrect Moonlight. If you missed this show the first time around, now's your chance to make up for it (and maybe give Forever Knight and Angel a look too).

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire comes out, then ghostly white eyes and elegant fangs that descend or retract at will. When Mick injected himself with plasma, his eyes turned entirely red.

Strengths: Heightened senses, super speed, super strength, super stealth. Not easily hurt, quick to heal. Ability to levitate.

Weaknesses: Fire, beheading (the only things that will kill a vampire). Sunlight makes them progressively sicker, although they can tolerate it.

Mythology: A vampire will leave a telltale scent after feeding on/biting a human.

Sound Bites

Beth: I mean, obviously she had a thing for vampires.
Mick: Yeah, I guess they're back in style.

Josef: (re: Mick's refrigerated plasma) You seriously drink this stuff? What is it, like nonfat soy vegan blood?

Christian Ellis: When most people hear the word vampire, they immediately conjure up an image of some undead monstrosity running around at night trying to drink human blood.
Mick: I hate that.

Mick: Sixty years is a long time to deny yourself the touch of another, but you do it. Because you just can't bear the thought of seeing yourself as a monster in someone else's eyes.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 1 "No Such Thing as Vampires." Written by Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow. Directed by Rod Holcomb. From CBS/The CW.

02 June 2010

Trailer: The Gates

Looks like there's no end in sight to this vampire "craze." Good thing too, even if I am slightly overwhelmed by everything out there, old and new. Speaking of new, ABC's decided to jump on the bandwagon with their upcoming show: The Gates, premiering 20 June (at 10 pm/9 central). Described as part Buffy (good) and part Desperate Housewives (dear gods, no) I'm sort of looking forward to it and sort of dreading it. Reviews may have to wait, though (did I mention I'm slightly overwhelmed). In the meantime, you can get a taste with this brief trailer:

There's also a series of short videos (press tours, sneak peeks) on the ABC site. Or you can save yourself the trauma of having to go to another page and just watch them here:

If Sunday nights don't work for you, you can always watch the full episodes on ABC's site, so really, there's no excuse for not watching. Unless it sucks (or maybe especially if it does).

01 June 2010

Trailer: Lost Boys: The Thirst

The release of the Lost Boys: The Thirst trailer is bittersweet. Unlike The Tribe this Lost Boys sequel actually looks pretty good, not least because it reunites Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as the Frog brothers (and if it stays true to The Tribe comics, then Alan Frog is coming equipped with something other than stakes and a beret). On the other hand, Sam Emerson's not in it and he won't be coming back due to Corey Haim's sad death this past March. No matter how good The Thirst is, I know I won't be able to watch it without a pang of regret.