Monday, August 26, 2013

Winged Reviews: The Last Olympian

My newest review is up at Winged Reviews, see why The Last Olympian is my favorite of the Camp Half Blood books!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August Birchbox!

My review of my July box!

At first I was thinking I would just write about my first Birchbox but I've got so many things to say I thought I would make it a regular feature! I always forget to take a picture of the box itself, though I suppose the box never changes. But I want to talk about how much I love the great boxes this comes in, they're high quality and I'm already repurposing mine.


But this is the box without the lid, to give you an idea of the presentation. It feels like a present every month, and it's all carefully wrapped.


This is what I got in my August box. Another month and again I'm very happy with everything I got. Well, perhaps I wasn't in love with the Violet Oasis 100% Organic Argan Oil, mostly because my skin is already a bit difficult to work with so I'm not really thinking I'll start applying oil to it anytime soon. It might be good for hair.

Speaking of hair, I got two samples of Miss Jessie's products designed for curly hair. Now, I din't have curly hair it's really more of a wavy texture, and even that is not really that pronounced. But I get all the frizz and problems of curly hair without the prettiness of it, so I was excited to try them.

First, I tried the Rapid Recovery Treatment. Now, I'm completely beauty stupid so sometimes even what normal people would think are clear directions confuse me. The directions on this sample said to apply it to damp hair, and then rinse it out after a half hour. I assumed this meant not to actually wash it out. I'm still not entirely sure if that was the right decision, but basically it went rather poorly.

The day after I used it, my hair may not have been frizzy but it was weight down and looked oily and just generally gross like I hadn't washed it. I wasn't thrilled but I think it may have been user error. So a few weeks later I tried the Super Sweetback Treatment and this time I actually washed out the treatment when I was done. First, I have to say that the Super Sweetback Treatment smelled HEAVENLY. I have no idea what was making it smell so good but it was fabulous. And my hair retained the scent for a while and I loved it.

It also did look nicer the next day, less frizzy, a little more normal. But there were two things that are keeping me from buying this one- first, I don't think it was really a miracle worker like they described and I might get the same results from any decent conditioner (perhaps it takes multiple applications to really work) but the other thing is the price. If I can find a cheaper alternative, then I don't really have the money to spend on this kind of thing. I wish I could find something that smelled this wonderful though!

My favorite thing this month was the Whish Deodorant Swipes. I'd never used a deodorant wipe before, and I found the idea intriguing. I was really pleased with it, I liked the scent and the feel of it and the deodorant definitely worked for me. I would have already bought a pack of these if Birchbox actually listed the quantity you receive on their webpage (unless it's $22 for a single wipe, in which case absolutely not!) and I don't know how much I'm willing to spend on them. They also supposedly inhibit hair growth, and I couldn't tell you how well that works since I only had one but if it does, then that's definitely worth a bit more cash.

The only other product that I've got any feedback for is the ModelCo Party Proof Lipstick. My sister wanted to try this one, so I decided to be nice and let her have it. The one in my box was a great neutral shade called "Kitty," and she reported that the shade was really lovely but while the color on your lips might not fade, it did rub off on her coffee mug. I'm still thinking I'd love to get the Neutral Collection sometime soon but I'll have to be quite careful not to leave lipstick stains everywhere.


Photo from my Birchbox account page

Overall, another really successful box! I definitely have a few more things added to my favorites list on the site, just waiting for me to build up some more points before I buy them. As a lucky bonus, I also got to see the samples that my best friend got in her first Birchbox this month, and they were completely different from mine! I'm jealous of a couple of them, and hoping I get them in a future box. If not, I'll just wait until she tells me if they're good and buy some of my own.

My next box will arrive in a couple weeks, but it takes time to try out the products so expect another review in about a month! If you think this looks fun to get a new box of samples every month, then you should definitely Subscribe! I highly recommend it!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vera: Series One

Honestly, I can't remember how I discovered Vera, I think it was a Netflix recommendation. Possibly because I liked Sherlock, who knows.

But I have been particularly interested in discovering new mystery series, in whatever medium, that feature older women detectives. Obviously there's Miss Marple, and I haven't really delved into that yet. But I'm tired of the typical mystery show cliches with the men always in the lead. And usually with some hot young thing that's impossibly in some expert role but never seems to have the brains for it. I'm looking at your casting decisions, CSI. You're constantly saying these extremely young, traditionally attractive women are experts in their field when that field takes 30 years post graduate work or something.

That's a tangent for another day though (and really, let's establish up front that I love the original CSI and have seen almost all of it). The thing that I love about Vera is how absolutely non-traditional it is. Vera Stanhope is not just an older woman as the lead detective. She's a woman in charge of an entire precinct, so she has a position of power. She's not a mother figure, she's actually quite acerbic and tough on everyone. And I'm not talking tough love either, I'm talking yelling and throwing things. She doesn't come across as a prodigy that people begrudgingly respect because even though she's a woman, she's still so brilliant. And the way they dress and style Brenda Blethyn, she's definitely not getting ahead on her looks.

She's just a good, solid policewoman who does her job at all costs and does it well. You get the sense that she rose in the ranks through sheer determination, along with a significant amount of skill. In short, she's exactly the way that male characters are usually written in this type of role, and yet there's no big deal really ever made of it. I can't recall a single instance of somebody being insubordinate because she's a woman, or even really commenting on it.

Her partner IS a hot young thing, but he's not a love interest in the slightest. He's actually religious, married, and his wife has their third kid in the first episode. He's a father and a family man, and always much more polite and respectful than Vera. It's a pretty distinct role reversal, and the actor, David Leon, plays the part extremely well. All of the acting on the show is top notch.

But the best part is the mystery - it's actually a mystery. I've talked before in my reviews of Castle (I think) about how I adore the genre but it gets a bit hard for me to love sometimes because I've read too much and usually can figure out the ending. But on Vera, there's no huge telegraphing of the main clue so that the audience doesn't miss it. The story progresses normally, the information is given to us with the same weight and importance across the board, and it's not the thing that was obviously meant to be forgotten because it was portrayed so unimportantly that you know it's important that ends up being the main part of the solution.

I've usually forgotten that part or dismissed it because it's all just so matter of fact. And because the show is about Vera, and Joe, and the rest of the detectives in Northumbria. You're too busy paying attention to the character development, which is so well done, that when you remember the mystery it's because the show is revealing the killer and you're just along for the ride.

The episodes are all very long, because that's the way the British do their tv. It's really more a series of tv movies than a series, and season one is only four episodes long. But they're all well worth it, and I wish that we had more stuff like this on American tv.

Hex

Normally, I review seasons of tv shows, mostly because I watch them too quickly to really do much else. This time I'm reviewing about two and a half episodes, because that's all it took before I gave up.

I'm tempted to say the fan equivalent of "it's not you, it's me." Maybe Hex wasn't for me. Maybe it wasn't the right time. But really, while there are some things the show had going for it, in the end it was just too much of a big mush. There are shows that have recovered from such lackluster opening episodes, even shows with terrible first AND second seasons that then become great.

I never really got the sense that Hex was one of those, and that's why I watched until something distracted me and never put the disc back in the dvd player.

The acting is good, and I think that's why I ended up with this in my Netflix queue in the first place was that several of the actors are more well known for other things (most notably Michael Fassbender, though he's really neither here nor there for me, just recognizable). The school principle is actually Colin Salmon, who I've really loved on Arrow this season. He was definitely the highlight of the episodes I watched.

But the actors can't really rise above the material or the general tone of the production. The story is a mishmash of old tropes and cliches that I've seen a million times before. Oh, the rich white woman is sleeping with a slave and she's fallen into using Voodoo! She uses it to summon a demon! The manor where she did the summoning has now been turned into something where impressionable young women are available to reenact the whole story, this time a boarding school! The main character is drawn to the demon because he's a sexy, sexy man but he's dangerous so she also has to stop him, or does she? I'm already bored.

That's not even mentioning the fact that the show has a preoccupation with sex that could have been interesting if it was done in anything other than the most exploitative and cliche way it possibly could have been.

Basically, the only thing in the first few episodes that made me take notice was when they killed off a main character that I wasn't expecting would die, but then she came back as a ghost immediately so meh.

I read a summary of what happens in the show in later episodes and I really think I made the right call. If I had continued watching it and saw those things happen after I'd invested time and energy I might have broken something and my dvd player has enough problems.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Last Unicorn Screening Tour


Last week on August 12th I was lucky enough to attend one of the screenings of the amazing new Last Unicorn Screening Tour. When they announced the tour last year, I was hoping that they would bring it to D.C. since most events like this come my way eventually. And they didn't disappoint, one of their first stops was The AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The tour is really fantastic for people who are fans of the movie, and I would suggest to anyone who is a fan of fantasy or animation as well. Or even 1980's movies, since it was shown as part of a retro 80's lineup at AFI. They're actually showing a brand new digital print of the film, so it's clearer and more gorgeous than has been seen on screens since 1982 when it premiered. I actually asked my mom and she told me that we didn't go see it in the theater when it came out, so this was my first time seeing it on the big screen. It was very beautiful, and like all good films there are a lot of things that you'll probably discover that you'd never noticed before.

The best part though is that the author, Peter S. Beagle, was there to do a Q&A session after the show as well as sign items and meet fans both before and after the film. I've actually met Beagle before, several years ago at Dragoncon in Atlanta, Georgia. I bought a new copy of his first book, A Fine and Private Place, and spoke to him for a while about why I loved it and how it reminded me of some very specific good memories. Meeting him was one of my favorite experiences at that convention, because he really took the time to talk and came across as a very genuine and charming person. But I had been under the assumption that I had been lucky to come to his table when there wasn't a line, and that's why I got the personal attention.

I learned last week that this wasn't the case, it's actually that Beagle is always wonderful to his fans. He will take the time to talk to you, learn a bit about you, tell you a story, and make you feel like the most important person in the entire line. This time we talked about screenwriting, and he gave me the best piece of advice about the film industry I've ever heard: "Just be patient. If you're patient, you'll outlive the bastards." It's my new motto.


The Q&A was also wonderful, he spoke about several other books he had written and his experiences throughout the years as an author. I hadn't realized how many different types of writing he had done, or how often his works have been adapted to other formats. I really enjoyed him telling a story about why he wrote "Come Lady Death." Apparently, he was in a writing workshop with someone who hated fantasy in all it's forms. When another woman wrote a fantasy story, this other member of the group ripped into it simply because of it's genre. So Beagle went home and wrote the best fantasy story that he could to submit for the next week. He said that the other gentleman grumpily told him it was a well written story, but that he hated it anyway. "He also taught me that I could write a story in a day and a half if I was angry enough."

I've had some similar experiences in writing workshops, so I definitely appreciated the sentiment.

There was also a raffle and giveaways of I think five or six items, mostly copies of Beagle's books. I didn't win anything but I was okay with that because the bulk of what was given away I already owned (and I had several in my bag at that very moment to get signed later).

The tour is going to be in Southern California next, and some of the shows are sold out but you can still get tickets to a few at the tour's website. I spoke briefly with Connor Cochran of Conlan Press and he said that they hope to return to many of the cities where they've brought the tour because often people have found out about the screenings too late to get tickets, and they've been sold out in quite a few cities. So keep your eyes peeled, they may come to your city and if you missed it they might come back and give you a second chance. It's well worth it. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time for the autograph line, so that everybody gets their one on one time (including you!)

Short and Sweet: Game Review: Spaceteam

Over the weekend, I was hanging out with some friends and somebody suggested we play Spaceteam. I had never heard of the game, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining it because it's something you kind of have to play to understand.

But basically it's a phone/tablet game that's also cooperative. So you are running it on your device, and 1-3 other people in the room are too. Commands flash on the screen, and they may be things you can do in your game, or they might be things somebody else has to do. So you're telling each other what has to be done to "fly" your spaceship.

The commands are often hilarious. We had "Discourage mutiny" for one, and "Plan weekend." As you go further in the levels, they start using pictures instead of words for the command buttons, which makes it harder but also funnier. There's a lot of little things that make it harder as it goes, and the commands are faster and weirder so you start yelling louder.

Overall, I really enjoyed it but I think it's going to be more fun with at least three people rather than two, and you already have to be in kind of a fun party atmosphere to get the full effect. But if you have a regular game night with your friends, you should definitely check it out.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Red

Since Red 2 was coming out in theaters, I thought it might be time for me to finally watch the first film. I had been interested in it because the original trailers were rather funny and it was a movie full of actors that I always enjoy. Just having Bruce Willis usually means I'll at least give it a try.

I'm also a pretty big fan of action films, in general, though there are some tropes of the genre that I'm getting more than a bit tired of. Excessive chase sequences being one of them (just wait until I review Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I'll rant about it then). But I was really pleased to see that Red didn't really fall into very many of those cliches. It was pretty refreshing, and made it a really enjoyable evening.

The story gets going quickly, and while some of the action sequences are really not at all believable, at the same time I was willing to let them get away with it because the characters were so much fun and the actors are really into it and giving it their best.

Pretty much everything comes together well, from the direction to the cinematography, and the special effects are especially well done. The plot itself is almost secondary, it's kind of a standard "the secret agents have been betrayed by somebody taking over the government behind the scenes." It's sometimes pretty predictable actually, but there's a great sense of sarcasm and fun to everything that happens. The writing isn't good because of the action things that happen, but the clever dialogue and excellent characters, it makes me wonder how much of that came from the original comic and how much was the screenwriter or even the actors.

I don't have too many specific things to day because so many things worked well. It's a great film, anybody who likes action films should give it a shot. I'll definitely be watching the sequel, though I wonder if it's possible for the next movie to even approach this kind of experience. It seems like the first one was a great contained piece, so I don't know that I even wanted a sequel, but I'm not unhappy that it exists.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Leverage Season Three


Season One
Season Two

So far, I've been loving Leverage, as you can read in my reviews of previous seasons. I thought that season two was the perfect follow-up to season one. Actually, they reminded me of British tv shows, where each "series" feels more self contained than American television usually does.

Season three is a bit more of the same, but they introduce something I've been expecting for a while - an overall adversary. The entire season is built, more or less, around the fact that the team has been told they must take out international criminal Damien Moreau.

We start with Nate in jail after the events of last season's finale. He's resisting the urge to break out of prison because of the deal that he made with Sterling, but the deal to take out Moreau eventually trumps that, and Nate breaks out and soon enough everybody is back to their same antics.

I'll be honest, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Moreau storyline. I still liked it, Leverage at it's worst is still ten times better than most shows. Moreau felt almost tacked on sometimes, and it doesn't help that the actress playing the mysterious Italian was just never really working for me. I don't know why, I think maybe most of her dialogue was redubbed in ADR and it made her sound strange because her words weren't coming from her mouth. Bad ADR will lose me every single time.

But there are so many amazing episodes in season three, especially since Gina Bellman is back full time as Sophie. The Reunion Job, where the group has to fake their way through somebody else's high school reunion, The Scheherazade Job where Hardison has to perform as a violin virtuoso, or The Gone-Fishin' Job where Hardison and Elliot are taken hostage by a backwoods militia are all excellent episodes with a lot of fun moments.

The season belongs to Parker though, in my very biased opinion. Early on we meet her mentor Archie in "The Inside Job," and it's a brilliant episode that really opens up her character and starts fleshing out her past. Not too much, just enough to make her even more fascinating. She spends the season dealing with her growing feelings for Hardison (a romance I'm much more invested in than Nate and Sophie's unresolved tension), and in The Boost Job she has to deal with meeting a young girl who is very much like her. In The Underground Job, Parker is even put in the place of a grifter, dealing with a corrupt politician as a new intern. She excels, proving that Sophie's lessons are really working.

Of course, the rest of the team has to deal with their pasts' as well. Nate's father appears in The Three-Card Monte Job and Sophie must deal with her time in England during The King George Job. Elliot even gets to sing in The Studio Job, where he becomes an unlikely country star as part of the con, revealing a hidden talent (that works because Christian Kane is actually an excellent singer).

The season finale, a two part story consisting of The Big Bang Job and The San Lorenzo Job, wraps up the Moreau story and delves only a little bit into Elliot's history. The cons in these two episodes are huge, and the stakes have never been higher. The San Lorenzo job was especially fun for me, because we ended up watching it not long after the recent U.S. presidential election, so the take on corrupt American politics was especially amusing.

Overall, I could probably write a long, glowing review for every single episode of season three. They all have something good in them, even when there are parts that aren't as much fun. But the best for me is definitely how Parker, Hardison, and Elliot are evolving. I would watch entire seasons in one sitting if people would let me.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Body of Evidence Series by Christopher Golden #1-3


I ended up picking up Body Bags, the first book in this series, because I had insomnia and for some reason it was on my mom's bookshelf in the guest room at home. I knew Christopher Golden because of his work with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and so it seemed worth a shot.

The series focuses on Jenna Blake, a college freshman who wanted to become a doctor but is squeamish around blood. Her dad convinces her to take on a job with the medical examiner and she finds her niche. She also, naturally, finds an excessive amount of conspiracies and danger. Because if she didn't, what would the books be about?

The first book was originally released in 1999, well before I started reading them. And while it doesn't seem the series was exactly finished, there are no new books being published in it. I was actually quite surprised that the books started before CSI began airing (it began in fall of 2000, over a year later) because it has a lot of the same ideas, and a lot of the same flaws. In fact, I could sum up this review simply by saying that if you like CSI and young adult books, you should probably give the series a shot.

But I'd feel like I need to warn you that if you have any problems with the logic or science of CSI, the you probably should stay away. I give the tv show a pass because I enjoy the characters and the acting is quite good, but I can't watch the spin-off series because I wasn't already invested before they started to go off the rails with their concept of reality. Body of Evidence suffers the same kind of problems. I know a little too much about forensics and police work to believe half of what happens, because even though Golden gets a lot right, he also is perfectly happy to jettison believability in favor of drama and plot.

Don't get me wrong, this is how a writer probably should be. But at the same time, the characters really weren't grabbing me enough to make me willing to suspend my disbelief that much. Jenna has the same exact crisis of conscience in every book, just with slightly different flavors. And don't get me started on the love interests, because the romance in this book is so bad that I wish it didn't exist. Seriously, we could have had a young adult series where the heroine doesn't really care about guys and might date sometimes if she meets somebody but it's not really a big part of the story. Instead, we just keep circling around her crush on a guy fifteen years older than her (is it fifteen? I've repressed the details because it got so boring and slightly gross).

Of the three books, Thief of Hearts is the best because Golden takes the most chances and goes probably as far as he can with the characters. It has the feel of a finale, rather than just being the second book in the series, and that actually makes Soul Survivor suffer greatly by comparison. The characters mostly slip back into where they were before, and they shouldn't. The events of Soul Survivor should have forever changed them, and the way that it haunts them feels inauthentic rather than deeply moving.

The other problem I have is that the author is constantly being FAR too detailed in his descriptions for my taste, almost always about inconsequential details. It feels like it's written only for people who live in Boston so they can say, "I know that place! I know where that is! I've heard of that store! I listen to that radio station!" To people outside of Boston, they're just extra nonsense words, and when they don't actually contribute to the plot (which is most of the time) then it just makes reading the book a little more difficult than it should be. But maybe I'm spoiled because in screenwriting, you don't even mention a character's hair color unless you have to. Describing more than the basics about a location is a huge no-no, and so I'm always going to like sparse over detail unless that detail actually means something.

In the end, this sounds like I hate the books completely, but I do have the fourth one and I plan to read it. I would say anybody who likes this kind of story should definitely check out Body Bags and Thief of Hearts, they're pretty strong (if you ignore the romantic tension). But if you find yourself struggling through Soul Survivor, I don't think I can say it's worth finishing unless you're the type of person who always finishes books. Maybe the fourth book will change my mind.

A jerk is a jerk

Lately I've noticed a tendency that's hard to quantify exactly. Basically it's the "blaming a group/opinion for the bad actions of a few" but it's almost a little more pervasive than that.

Recently, there was a bit of an online argument (I know, I know) that I was involved in that really seemed to center around one person (the other guy) basically assuming anybody with a particular opinion only knew how to express said opinion in a rude and insensitive way.

This is a bit like when people get mad at Christians, atheists, vegetarians, or vegans. Or even feminists or people who advocate for equal rights. They say things like "vegans are always yelling at you for eating what you want to" or "feminists just screech at men for being men all the time."

But the thing I see fewer and fewer people understanding is that it's not the opinion, group, or stance that's the problem. It's that the person they're talking to is a jerk.

If a vegetarian is out to eat with a meat eater, and the vegetarian screams "murderer" at the top of their lungs when the omnivore orders, then they're a jerk. If the person who eats meat waves their burger in a vegan's face and tries to trick them into eating cheese, then they are a bad person. It's not that omnivores are bad people, it's that one particular person.

If an atheist says anybody who has religion is "irrational and stupid" and is constantly teasing others about their "sky god" then they are being pompous and stupid. If a Christian walks around telling people they're going to hell and is constantly hassling them to go to church, they're being narrow minded and stupid.

I would love it if we all stopped acting like it was and took the time to call people out on their personal actions and behaviors and not lashed out at other people who happen to think the same way as that guy you know who is always yelling at people.

It used to be that people could see the difference, that they took the time to make sure when they complained they were being clear about who, what, and why. It's not even time consuming, it's a matter of word choice. But lately, more and more I'm running into people not just being vague about their complaints but actually meaning it as a condemnation of the entire group. That's what I was dealing with in this argument, where I tried to point out the motivations of the particular group of people in question I was constantly met with "no, it's just rude, they're just jerks, they're insensitive. To feel that way is insensitive."

There are some opinions that do make you a jerk. Being racist or homophobic is just wrong and it is insensitive. Not liking muenster cheese is not one of those opinions.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Classics: Adam's Rib

I have no idea why, but for some reason I had it in my head that Adam's Rib was actually a screwball comedy. Perhaps it's just because it was made around the same time and featured a married couple as the lead characters.

I mention this only because the fact that it actually was a rather earnest drama with quite a bit of comedy mixed in threw me because it wasn't what I was expecting. In fact nothing about the film was what I expected, and I don't know whether that changed my opinion of it or not. I've been hearing about it for decades, but I had only recently gotten around to watching it, and my delay wasn't for any particular reason so my reasons for watching it weren't that strong either.

Part of the issue is that it's a film that's often touted as being very feminist. Some of the scenes in the film are in fact very feminist in nature, and taken completely out of the context of the movie are quite impressive for their time since they are arguments we're still having. When Heburn's character talks to her secretary about the different opinions when a man cheats versus a woman cheating, it's a double standard woman are still struggling against now, over 50 years later.

The basic plot is that a working class woman has shot her husband and injured him. A pair of married lawyers have taken up the opposing sides of the case, Spencer Tracy plays the prosecuting attorney Adam Bonner, and Katharine Hepburn the defense, Amanda Bonner. Throughout the film the case causes them tension both inside the courtroom and at home, as they struggle to reconcile what their differences of opinion mean about their own ability to relate to each other.

On some levels it's a great story and the characters are interesting, their relationships compelling. It's almost redundant to say that Hepburn and Tracy have amazing chemistry. On other levels, it doesn't hold up to the passage of time because it becomes just a little bit more obvious how it's not actually as feminist as you might think. It's more what comfortable rich woman played at for feminism in the 1950's, where they were allowed to be loud and a bit bossy as long as at home they submitted to their husbands and had their quaint dinner parties and were still appropriately feminine.

Getting into why that bothered me is opening a huge can of feminist history worms, and talking about the differences between first wave and intersectional feminism and on and on. But suffice it to say, as the film went on it stopped working for me. Especially considering the character of Kip, a client of Amanda's that is smarmy and in love with her and she thinks the attention is wonderful. Everything about the way Kip interacts with Adam and Amanda is a bit gross and old fashioned, and it starts to really annoy me before the film is over. So much so that by the time we get the traditional romantic comedy reconciliation, I actually didn't care if they got back together because they'd both behaved so poorly in relation to the Kip situation that I didn't know if they deserved a happy ending.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THE LAST SCENE IN THE FILM

I also thought that having Adam end the film by claiming that he was fake-crying at the accountant's office to win Amanda back was just a very gross way to end the story, and by having her accept it as a loving gesture means that it negates much of what the film was supposed to be about. The last few scenes actually rub it in that Amanda is actually wrong, that Doris Attinger didn't have the right to shoot her husband because even men shouldn't have the right to kill a cheating spouse. It basically takes the time at the end to put Amanda back in her place, as a proper feminist should always be just non-threatening enough not to upset the status quo and her actions should only be to make her feel better, or within the confines of what society deems acceptable.

I realize I'm probably reading a lot into the movie, and it isn't necessarily fair to a film released in 1949 to be analyzing it in this light. It was a product of it's time, and it was a rather progressive one at that I'm sure. I'm just really tired of the fact that this IS what life was like then and it's what life is STILL like now, and so maybe it was the wrong movie at the wrong time for me.

Leverage Season Two

My review of season one of Leverage

Season one of Leverage left off in a great place, just in case the show didn't get renewed. So at the beginning of season two the team of criminals has separated and has to come back together. They manage this when they all show up to support Sophie in a disastrous performance of The Sound of Music (Sophie's failed acting career is one of my favorite plot threads).

I really loved the way it all seamlessly fell back into place, and the way that the entire crew is much more comfortable running over Nate when he gets ridiculous. If he's doing something dumb, they just don't listen. This is also the season where you start to see the different experts start to coach their "co-workers" in their craft.

Specifically, Sophie starts to teach Parker how to better relate to people and Elliot starts to teach them all how to fight and defend themselves. These lessons slowly build up as the series goes on, but the foundations are here in season two and they really work. Season two is a tough time for a lot of shows, and even Leverage goes through a few growing pains. It's a time where you have to figure out how to continue what worked, fix what didn't, and how to have your characters change and grow without going so far they aren't what the fans love anymore.

With Leverage, part of how they do this is having Nate embrace being a bad guy, and finally quitting drinking. I was pretty happy to see the alcoholic storyline drop, and I'm still grumpy that it doesn't stay dead, but it was nice while it lasted. Sophie realizes she's been lying for so long that she needs to take time to figure out who she is, and leaves to discover her true self, appearing only in phone calls and quick shots in a few episodes. This was necessitated by actress Gina Bellman's pregnancy, which couldn't convincingly be written into the show and I'm glad they didn't try.

For a while they're joined by Tara, who never really worked for me and I don't think she ever fit the team dynamic. But she wasn't meant as a permanent replacement, so that's okay.

A lot of really great, classic episodes of the show are in season two. The Zanzibar Marketplace Job stands out, as it brings back Sterling and Nate's ex-wife Maggie. It's also a great episode for showing off how the team has grown, since they have to manage to finish the con without Sophie or Nate. More often as the show goes on, characters other than Nate will take over as the "mastermind" for an episode, and usually it doesn't work out completely for them but you never get the sense that Nate is trying to prove he's the only man for the job. Instead, he's helping them learn.

The Two Live Crew Job has the team run into a nearly identical team, so they face the worst version of themselves. This is the first episode to feature Chaos, Wil Wheaton's typical smarmy jerk character and adversary of Hardison. The Bottle Job, where the crew has only two hours to save McRory's Pub from a loan shark is particularly brilliant. In fact, looking back on the episode list the only one that I don't have at least some fond thoughts about is The Future Job, which was very interesting in it's take down of television psychics and their techniques, but I would have rather seen Gina Bellman's take as the team's fake psychic.

It's always great to see a show that just steadily increases in quality as it goes on, and Leverage was already pretty good in season one. Season two definitely just makes it all even better.

New at Winged Reviews: The Titan's Curse!

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