Random Stuff

Monday, January 12th, 2015 08:31 am
marthawells: (John and Ronon)
Monday, Monday, Monday. We've had cold rain and temps around 35 but luckily no ice. I was feeling mostly crappy toward the end of the week and all weekend, but it's probably allergies. (It's still allergies.) I had two doctor's appointments last week so was really afraid I would get a virus or cold or something from someone in the waiting room, which is how I usually end up getting sick.

One of our goddaughters is in the middle of the application for vet school, so please send good vet-school-acceptance vibes.

I really really liked Agent Carter.

Broadchurch is on Netflix and I highly recommend it. Make sure you have eight hours or so free before you start watching the first episode. It moves fast, is very intense (but has no onscreen violence). It's about a small vacation town on the coast of the UK, where an eleven year old boy is found murdered on the beach. Alec Hardy (David Tennant), a recently arrived DI and Ellie (the DS who should have had his job) have to investigate the case, and the town is so small Ellie finds herself having to investigate her own friends and people she's known all her life. There's going to be a sequel series in March, but this first 8 episode series is a complete story.(ETA: I've just remembered, they do show the murder at the end, but that's about it, I think.)

I really really like the new cover for Stories of the Raksura II: the Dead City & the Dark Earth Below

There were some cool useful links for writers going around on Tumblr, and I added them to the Publishing Information Sites for Beginning Authors section on my web site, at the end of the Craft of Writing Section under "Handy Sites."

I think that's it. I'm at 93,700 words on the book I can't tell you about yet. I'm expecting it to be between 120,000-130,000 words total.
marthawells: (Default)
See Mystery Guide Part III

Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part IV

Happy Valley this is a new one now available on Netflix. It's an older woman police sergeant in a rural town in the UK, raising her grandson with the help of her sister, a recovering addict, and dealing with a lot of family issues. It's gritty and grim and deals with a lot of dark subjects, including sexual violence etc. None of that made me want to turn it off, though. There's something about the pacing or the emphasis or the viewpoint that kept it away from a woman-in-jep feel, at least for me. It's six episodes telling one complete story, and I meant to watch one episode on Sunday and ended up inhaling the whole thing in one go. (And at one point there was a fight scene that was so tense I may have yelled "NOW FINISH HIM" at the TV.)

Blue Murder I've seen the first episode of this on Acorn.tv and will watch more this week. It's a woman DCI with three kids, pregnant, and a cheating husband she has divorced. It had a somewhat lighter tone in that while the crime they were dealing with was horrible, the detectives were generally good people that I liked.

Trial and Retribution this is also on Acorn.tv. The first few episodes were really good, and do have a lot of the feel of the original Law and Order, and you can tell it's by the same writer who did Prime Suspect. Later episodes got away from that and more into character relationships and there was lots of stalking and I started to really dislike the male main character. (Not as much as the first season of Murder Investigation Team, where I was actively rooting for them all to die. The second season of MIT was better, first season right out.)

Okay, Murder Investigation Team: There is a scene in one of the first season episodes where one of the detectives perves on the bare breasts of a murder victim whose face has been smashed to keep anyone from identifying her and who has been in the Thames for a few days. You know who thinks that look is attractive? Serial killers. Serial killers think that. And this character is supposed to be a protagonist. I mean, I thought all the characters in Waking the Dead were way too shouty, but they were all basically good people and I didn't want any of them to die in a woodchipper.

Above Suspicion I haven't seen the first episode, but saw the other two, and enjoyed them. It veers off into unrealistic in a couple of noticeable ways. I mean, they're all unrealistic; TV mysteries require suspension of disbelief just like SF/F, but this was unrealistic enough it knocked me a bit out of the stories.

I watched the final season of Poirot and was a bit disappointed. I think it must have been different writers from the previous twelve seasons, because the plots were not as complex, there were not as many characters, not as many subplots. Just disappointing all around, even with the return of Japp and Hastings, and Ariadne Oliver. I did think Hastings was great in the last episode, though. Its worth it for the longterm fans, I think, but would be a very bad place for a new viewer to start. If I was a new viewer, I think I'd start with season 9, Death on the Nile, and work my way backwards and forwards, leaving season 13 for last.

I'll try to do some more when I get a chance. I want to talk about Touching Evil but I wanted to rewatch it first, and now I can't find it anywhere. And I'm waiting for Sleepy Hollow and Elementary to start back up again.

Mystery Guide Part III

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 09:05 am
marthawells: (Zoe)
See Mystery Guide Part II

Again, this is just my opinion, YMMV, and if you're concerned about violence or other triggering elements, you should probably check with someone who has seen the show recently and can answer your questions more accurately.

Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part III

The Last Detective stars Peter Davison (the fifth Doctor) and is based on a series of novel by Leslie Thomas, set in modern day UK. Davison plays "Dangerous" Davies, who basically got reduced in rank for being too honest, and now has to work in the crappiest police department ever, and just tries to solve crimes without being a jerk. I liked this series a lot, and especially the fact that while we see Davies' life get progressively worse for a while, we do also see it get better, and the series did end on a high note.

Vera is from a book series by Ann Cleeves, about an older woman DCI. Bonus in the first season is Wunmi Mosaku as a young DC. The stories are nicely complex and Vera is still dealing with issues from the death of her father, who was kind of a jerk. It's got beautiful scenery, including Vera's DS Joe Ashworth. And it's just nice to see an older woman playing the gruff experienced DCI with issues for a change. The first three seasons are on acorn.tv

Ripper Street is set in Victorian London post-Jack the Ripper, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. One problem is that BBC America chops shows to bits to add in more commercials, and Ripper Street suffers pretty dramatically from this. Another is that it doesn't do a great job of realistically portraying Victorian London, and there are a lot of things involving the costumes, sets, and language that throw me out of the story. Other than that, the characters can be pretty interesting and sometimes the stories are really good. It does get gross at times with blood and violence, which didn't bother me, but might bother some people.

Campion is another Peter Davison series (Peter Davison has done a lot of series, basically) based on the Margery Allingham books, set in the 1930s UK. I've read the books, and basically like the series much better. Davison is always engaging, and the relationship between Campion and Lugg (criminal turned manservant) is consistently hilarious.

Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is another period piece starring Diana Rigg, set in the 1920s. Mrs. Bradley is an older, sexually liberated woman who travels with her chauffeur George (they are very close) and solves mysteries. (This is also from a book, but I enjoyed the series a lot more.) This one deals with some pretty serious issues, but the relationship between Mrs. Bradley and George is great, and I love Diana Rigg as a sexy older woman who doesn't take crap.

Hamish MacBeth is about a village policeman in Scotland in modern day, and it's one of my favorite shows. It manages to be quirky and warm while also being darkly, dark, very darkly funny (in one episode, the villagers accidentally eat a guy), and it is definitely not a cozy, as the characters deal with murder, spousal abuse, attempted suicide, and major character death. (There is an episode where Hamish's dog is run over, and this actually didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, because it was handled in a very sensitive way and treated very seriously, and also Hamish went off to hunt down the people who had done it and kill them, and there was a lot of cathartic wish-fulfillment in that.) There are sexy bits, unconventional relationships, and supernatural elements, like one character who has precognitive visions, a couple of episodes where ghosts are a factor. Basically, you never know what's going to happen because the show might do anything. It's completely nuts, and I loved it. (It's also from a book series, but the books are very different and I really disliked them. (If the show is warm but dark, the books are just cold and dark.)

Rosemary and Thyme is set in modern day UK (with occasional trips to France, Italy, etc), about two older women (one a horticulturist and the other a former policewoman turned gardener) who travel around and solve mysteries and work as landscape gardeners. They go to some places with beautiful scenery. I like this one a lot too, and it's fairly cozy, violence is offscreen, though it does deal with serious issues sometimes. Again, it's nice to see a series with older women actually getting to do stuff.
marthawells: (Jack and Teal'c)
See Mystery Guide Part I

One note: So if you have a concern about content - level of violence, etc - you should probably check with someone who has seen the show in question recently. Some of these I haven't seen for a while and my memory is not so great. These reviews are just my opinion, YMMV, etc.

Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part II

Nero Wolfe - the A&E version with Timothy Hutton - this is one of my favorite shows. Like the books, it's set in New York in multiple time periods, some 40s, 50s, 60s, and is beautifully filmed. It comes as close as possible to the feel of the books and occasionally does odd things with TV (there are two episodes that start with the same card game and then branch into different stories, for ex.) Nice people do get killed despite Archie and Wolfe's best efforts. (Including one client who is a young kid. That's in "The Golden Spiders.")

Ellery Queen - the version with Jim Hutton, Timothy Hutton's father - This is set in 1940s New York, and since it's a period piece, for an older series it doesn't feel dated. The books were all written by different people, but Hutton (the Jim version) plays the absentminded writerly genius version of Ellery (in some of the books he comes off as a playboy jerk). There was only one season but all the episodes are fun, and there are some that deal with early TV, radio shows, and comic book writing. These are also closer to true cozies, with as little violence as possible and I don't remember any women in jep. Jim Hutton is also very tall and it's interesting to watch him act around it.

The Bletchley Circle - Four women who worked as code-breakers and intelligence analysts at Bletchley Park in WWII try to go on with normal life afterward, when they're forbidden by law to tell anyone what they did, and have to pretend they were secretaries. They get involved with solving murders, and it's really cool. A problem with this show is that to come up with mystery plots for genius mathematicians to solve, you kind of have to be one, and the writer isn't. And there are women in jep bits. I still liked it, though.

Whitechapel - This show frustrates the hell out of me because it could be great but it has some fatal flaws. It's based on the idea that murders are happening in modern day that echo murder cases from Victorian-era Whitechapel. One of the fatal flaws is a huge lack of diversity, especially in the first season. (Apparently there's a season 3 and 4 but they aren't available over here.) I like being able to guess what the Victorian-era case is before they reveal it (and make people yell "WHY DO YOU KNOW THESE THINGS?") and they did one of my favorite cases (young maid leaves house to get something from nearby tavern needed for family dinner, returns to find everyone in the house murdered). But it has a lot of dumb moments. (One episode deals with the film "London After Midnight" and fails to mention that anyone with an intact copy would have to fight off film preservationists armed with money.)

Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Endeavour -
Three different series with overlapping characters, all taking place in Oxford. Inspector Morse ran from 1987 to 2000 with some gaps, then Inspector Lewis (Lewis was Morse's Sergeant) ran for seven seasons plus the pilot and is doing another season, then Endeavour is in it's second season (Endeavour is Morse as a young detective in the 60s) and is showing on PBS now. I don't remember the Morse series that well as I saw it when it first aired on PBS years ago and haven't rewatched it. But I just love Lewis, though Endeavour is a close second. Oxford is filmed beautifully, and Lewis and his sergeant Hathaway (who originally intended to become a priest) indulge in a lot of old guy vs. young guy snark. All three series have a lot of stories dealing with smart people taking on smart/rich people who think they are too smart/rich to be caught. Lewis has the bonus of Rebecca Front (from The Thick of It) as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent. None of the three series is cozy, though the worst violence is generally off camera. (The pilot episode for Lewis wasn't on NetFlix but was included in the DVD set for the first season.)

Midsomer Murders - It's been on a long time, but yeah. Some of the stories are okay to good, others will leave you staring at what lousy cops these guys are. (There's one episode where they let people wander up to the dead body and gawk at it.) Don't watch it after you watch Inspector Lewis because you'll just want to go watch more Inspector Lewis. (We joked that it's a pain there isn't as many episodes of Lewis as Midsomer Murders, but it probably takes a lot of talented people some time to make an Inspector Lewis episode and a couple of guys in a clown car can toss off a Midsomer Murders in two days, tops.) And there's the racism in the production.

Pie in the Sky - is about a DI (played by Richard Griffiths from Harry Potter) trying to retire so he can cook at his restaurant, but who is forced to come back as a consultant. He works with DS Sophia Cambridge, played by Bella Enahoro, who is awesome. This is a fun one, combining food and mysteries, though some of the cases they deal with are kind of depressing. I haven't seen the last season yet, though I've got the whole thing on DVD.

Next time, I'll try to do at least The Last Detective, Vera, Ripper Street, Rosemary and Thyme, and Touching Evil
marthawells: (Miko)
ArmadilloCon is coming up on the 25-27 in Austin (Guests: Ian McDonald, Ted Chiang, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Mario Acevedo), and it's going to be my last convention for this year. Mainly because I just can't afford the money for travel and hotels any more this year, and also because I just need the rest. It's been a hard year already, basically.

I'm going to start doing an erratic and occasional guide to TV mysteries I watch, because I've wanted to do this for a while. Most of these are available (or were available) on Netflix or www.acorn.tv

Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part I

Defining my terms:

snuff porn - showing murders in such loving detail you want to report the producers to the police.

women in jep - spending what feels like hours, or maybe days, watching women being stalked by the killer or held prisoner instead of watching people solve mysteries. For example, The Fall with Gillian Anderson is highly rated but the first ten minutes were such an egregious example of woman in jep I turned it off.

I try to avoid things with animal harm. To the point where if a potential murder victim has a pet animal I'll preemptively turn off the show. Some things may slip by me if it's quick and not drawn out (see snuff porn).

Miss. Fisher's Mysteries - This is set in the 20s, in Australia, a woman whose family inherited money and a title after WWI returns to Australia and ends up becoming a private detective. It's a good series, and very well acted, but it's from a long-running book series by Kerry Greenwood, and the tv version is whitewashed. In the book series, the main love interest is Lin Chung, who Phryne meets in Ruddy Gore and is her lover for the rest of the series, though he isn't in every book. (Their relationship isn't exclusive. Lin has to marry to please his family and Phryne has other lovers.) In the books, Jack Robinson is an older married man, and he and Phryne are only friends. So I watch it, but this pisses me off, and the books are better.

Copper - This one is centered around an Irish police officer and friends in 1860s New York, and it doesn't sugarcoat the violence and brutality and racism of the time period. In the first episode, Ato Essandoh, who plays a doctor, John Freeman, one of the main characters, is moving out of town because members of his wife's family were lynched in front of their house in a race riot. Characterization develops slowly but dramatically, terrible things happen to main characters, main characters do terrible things to other main characters (including murdering each other), people you think are good are gradually revealed to be something else entirely (usually murderers), trauma doesn't magically go away at the end of the episode. It's good, but we're talking a more realistic Game of Thrones level violence here, people. After a murder spree in the first episode of the second season, I had to stop watching because my nerves couldn't take it.

Wire in the Blood - is from about 2002-2008 and set during that time, in the UK, where Dr. Tony Hill is a criminal psychologist who helps DI Carol Jordan (for the first 3 seasons, then it's DI Alex Fielding) catch a wide variety of bizarre serial killers. It's pretty grim throughout, but with only a few exceptions it focuses on the detectives trying to find the killers, and doesn't spend much time in snuff porn or women in jeopardy storylines. (I think there's one real women in jep episode in a later season, but that's all I remember.) Also, the actress who plays Carol Jordan is awesome. It isn't a perfect series but I liked this one a lot, and it specializes in genuinely scary scenarios and character drama that works with the mystery plot. I would watch it again if Netflix ever puts it up again.

Waking the Dead - this is a modern-day one about a special forensics cold case team. Who yell at each other a lot, especially in the first season, and make some seriously odd decisions. It was okay and does get better later, but I didn't find the stories that gripping, though the acting was very good.

Miss Marple - there's old Miss Marple and new Miss Marple, with three different actresses playing Miss Marple, and it's all good. My favorite is probably the first three seasons of new Miss Marple (or Agatha Christie's Marple as it's called), played by Geraldine McEwan. McEwan plays a Miss Marple who is funny and fluffy and utterly without mercy. There's a line in one of the books where Miss Marple says something like "I'm going to enjoy knowing that he's going to hang," and McEwan is playing that Miss Marple.

Poirot - Poirot is awesome, new and old, played by David Suchet. I especially love the moments where we see that for all his affectations, Poirot is an implacable force.

Luther - One of my favorites. John Luther is played by Idris Elba, which is probably all I need to say. It's set in modern day London, violent and grim, especially the first season, but it has one of the most terrifying/awesome female serial killers as a recurring character. It doesn't use her very effectively in the second season, but she comes back for an episode in the third that is probably my all time favorite. Luther himself is also less tortured in the third season, where he's recovered from what happened in the first, and is using his abilities a lot more effectively, I thought.


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