Watched in 2017

4) River – a Netflix 6 part original series where you get to imagine Joel Haley Osmont’s character – Cole Sear from the Sixth Sense grown up to be a lonely/tormented police detective. Stellan Skarsgard gives a tour-de-force performance in his performance of the titular character – Det.John River

River has Seen Dead People his entire life and his curse and his vocation led him to seek escape from human contact as much as possible. His closest friend is his partner and when she is killed, the line between fantasy and reality becomes ever blurred as River struggles to solve the mystery.
Fantastic supporting cast too. And man – Stellan really sinks his teeth into the role and your heart breaks for River.
5) The Edge of Seventeen – Hailee Steinfield, who first captured attention in the remake of Rooster Cogburn with Jeff Bridges – gives an excellent performance in this coming of age comedy about an outsider who just can’t find her place in the world. Excellent cast including Woody Harrelson as a teacher and he gives a deliciously deadpan performance.
The picture is funny and really captures the complicated world of adolescence today.

Domo Arigato – Mr. Robot

I loved it.

The S1 finale of Mr. Robot aired this week. This USA Network show pushes the unreliable narrator to the nth degree and short of jumping out of the TV screen plays with the 4th wall in amazing ways.  The titular character is named Eliott – a al ET and is played with bug-eyed confusion by Rami Malek.  Some who come to this series late may find that a little disconcerting as he is the lead in the recent PS4 B slasher horror homage video game – Until Dawn.

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The show has a distinctive shooting style that frames characters in off balance ways – ie shots where characters normally would be in the center of the screen are almost off the edge. It’s disorienting  but does an amazing job of catching the main character’s state of mind. I’ll say little more to not ruin the discoveries this wonderful gem offers but it also does gorgeous location shots of buildings and architecture. You’ll understand as you watch. It reminds me of Hannibal in the way it establishes a unique visual style.


The show has probably generated little buzz till now because while engrossing it’s not a high energy show that one can crow about. Much of the season is an internal journey until you go – in my best Keanu Reeves impersonation – WHOA!

Serial Smorgasbord – Final Serving – Dexter Dessert + A Map

Dexter – Season 8 – Final Act

Season Seven was seen by many as a rebound for everyone’s favorite serial killer – I never found Season 6 as bad as the general consensus judged it to be.  The seventh season finale with Deb shooting LaGuerta to protect Dexter’s identity was a shocker indeed.

At this writing the show is halfway through the eighth season and the first big bad has been dispatched. Were those first six episodes of a stature one hopes for in a final season?  If you employ the metric that a hero is only as interesting as the villain he faces then those episodes were a bit of a bust.  The Brain Surgeon turned out to be a pale shadow behind the curtain.

On the other hand those episodes offered up great opportunties to explore Dexter and Deb’s background with the introduction of Charlotte Rampling’s Dr. Evelyn Vogel.  The show has done some retconning here bringing the Vogel character in the show mythology as a psychiatrist who helped Dexter’s dad – Harry develop the ‘Code’ that Dexter has based his kills on.  While it somewhat undermines Harry as a character, because we have been led to believe for seven seasons that he was acting alone, the plausibility of Harry seeking professional help makes sense. Plus the introduction of Vogel has allowed for some interesting exploration into Dexter’s and Deb’s early years.

It intrigues that Deb has had the more interesting arcs the last two seasons. Her discovery of Dexter’s Dark Passenger and then her decision to kill for him have led to some intense scenes between them.  Jennifer Carpenter has been given some meaty material to play with and she has definitely made the most of it.

Especially in Season Seven.

Charlotte Rampling has such interesting eyes – they give her the air of being in two different places at the same time.  This works especially well for Vogel because it invokes an air of uncertainty about her motives. Are her motivations proper and humane?  Is she really trying to help these sociopaths?  Or are these people irrelevant to her and nothing but guinea pigs that allow her to explore the darker side of the human psyche?

Now it appears that Vogel wants to continue the experiment by having Dexter become the mentor to a new serial killer.  Intriguing.

Hannah has returned and that looks like it will be the last major arc of the final season.  Not sure if that is the way I want the series to play out but with Hannah married and Dexter tutoring his heir apparent, Zack Hamilton, hopefully the last six episodes will bring all things to an unexpected conclusion.

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And that is enough serial killer postings for awhile.

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Time for something lighter!

The Map Of Time by Félix J. Palma – inspired by my Cemetery Dance Grab Bag in which was the second book in a series – The Map Of The Sky. Since the local library had the first book in the series, I decided to read that one first.

The concept is intriguing – late 19th England and a story that mixes historical fact with fiction.  In this book H.G. Wells plays the role of connective thread with three stories that are tied up with time travel.  Historical figures come in and out of the story – John Merrick aka The Elephant Man, James Joyce, Bram Stroker to name a few.  Also tied into this is a version of Jack The Ripper who is caught after just murdering his fifth victim.

The bulk of the book deals with alternate timelines that turn out to be false except for the one dealing with Jack the Ripper.  H.G. Wells turns out to be much more than just a writer about time travel but actually its father.

This is an interesting book on several levels beyond the ones just mentioned. Written in his native tongue of Spanish, I am very curious how much of the English translation brought the Old England tone to the prose.  The books also breaks several writing conventions including POV switches – sometimes several times in the same chapter – and on occasion invokes an omniscent third person viewpoint that knows and sees all -but is never identified. Perhaps that revelation lies in the sequels. It reminds me when Stephen King used the same conceit late in final volume of the Dark Tower.

I enjoyed it for all these elements – and despite some of them – and look forward to reading The Map Of The Sky which deals with The War Of The Worlds really happening and Edgar Allan Poe on an Antartic Expedition.

A very fun, genre bending book.

Of The Macabre, Musicals, Magic, and Maslany

9 to 5 – Live Theater 

For my wife’s birthday we went out for a dinner theater at the Mayfield Theater in Edmonton to a stage version of the 1980 film that starred Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman.  The movie examined the office politics and sexual discrimination that took place in the 1980s and in some ways seems dated though sadly not enough.  Now the movie is best remembered for the Dolly Parton songs that came out of it.

We had seen the Buddy Holly story the previous year and really enjoyed that performance.  9 to 5 was fun but the songs just did not grab us as much.  Still the food at the dinner buffet was good and the play did entertain.


Orphan Black – starring Tatiana Maslany

This 10 episode series came out of the blue and blew a lot of people away: critics and viewers alike.  Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany carries the premise of human cloning on her slight shoulders with great aplomb.  Her ability to create distinctly different personas for each of the clones – aided with wardrobe and accent changes and the advancement in technology that gets away from the old school locked down split screen shots used for doubling up the same actor in one shot – sells the series conceit.

Mix in the main clone’s gay brother played with cheeky humor by Dylan Bruce, an over arcing mythology as the clones work together to find out who is behind their creation and why, the constant thread of humor in what could be a very dark and morose series, and the kicker of seeing the various clone iterations interact with one another.

Another kicker with all these clones was getting to know each of them and re-evaluating which version you liked best.  Sarah, the main clone, is the punk rocker version and initially seems the most rebellious, interesting, and engaging.  At the other end of the scale we had the uptight soccer mom – Alison who was off putting.  Yet by the end of the season because of the character arcs the clones have, Alison became my favorite clone and Sarah ended up being the more restrained one used to drive the plot.

A fun series and as an added note of attraction the series is shot in Toronto so seeing familiar landmarks ie Union Station and the tight shots of the Toronto skyline trying to hide the CN Tower bring an extra layer of verisimilitude to it.


Shadows & Tall Trees – Vol 5 – edited by Michael Kelly

I’ve read every volume of this small press collection that Michael Kelly has put out and this horror  series continues to explore the themes of alienation and loss.  This volume includes stories by Ray Cluley, Gary Fry, Richard Gavin, Claire Massey, Daniel Mills, Lynda E. Tucker, Kin Tidbeck, and D.P. Watt.

There are several great tales here with the standout being Moonstruck by Karin Tedbeck which has a Gaimanesque quality as the moon gets closer and closer to earth. Other tales range from the sublime – Casting Ammonites by Claire Massey to the outright horrific – Laudate Dominium (for many voices) by D.P. Watt.

As Peter Straub is quoted on the cover – ‘A beautiful and courageous journal.’  I agree and will continue to follow the journey Michael Kelly is charting with it.


The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

A wonderfully lyrical book.  Gaiman makes magical seem so…. magical.  To put specific words down to describe the story would dilute it’s charm because it would put limitations on the ginormous ideas contained in this slim novel.

Read it. Treasure it. For Gaiman is indeed a Wizard Of Words.

Red & Blue Planet Changes

Blue Planet Gets Red Hot

As expected, given the lateness of winter, we skipped spring and went right into summer.  The temperatures literally went from 28F one Sunday to 28C by the next one.  Snow didn’t just melt – it all vanished. Like ninjas into the night.

Now the good times can start rolling with daylight sticking around past 09:30 pm already and humidity-free.


Red Planet Blues

Incorporating the first 10 chapters of Robert Sawyer’s Identity Theft into this book, the story continues in this book answering all the dangling threads.

This is a fun SF/mystery/noire mash up that pays hommage to stories like The Maltese Falcon. The ability to transfer bodies to artificially constructed bodies keeps you guessing until the end who is whom. And who will live or die.

This is a change of pace from Sawyer’s previous novels as it does not contain any big idea concepts and is focused mainly on human motivations.  It sounds like Rob’s next book returns to the big idea concept and a very fascinating one at that.  I eagerly anticipate that one but until then this is an excellent change of pace.

Will we ever get to see Alex Lomax again?  I wonder as his story does not seem finished…

NBCs Hannibal continues to impress.  The show has avoided being a serial killer of the week show and is deeply exploring the psyches of not just Will Graham but Jack Crawford too.  The exploration of Lecter is at a much slower and more subtle pace.  The glimpses into his mind are only seen through whatever killings that take place in an episode.
This week’s installment entitled ‘Entrée’ – each episode is named after some item of French cuisine – made many callbacks to the Silence of The Lambs and served up a Clarice Starling-like FBI trainee – Miriam Lass played by Anna Chlumsky – that Crawford employs to help in the search the Chesapeake Ripper.

There is an inmate at the Baltimore State Hospital ensconced in a cell down a hall very much like the one from SOTL. The Ripper has been silent for two years and Lass has been missing that long.  The inmate is another doctor – Dr. Abel Gideon played by Eddie Izzard – who has just killed a nurse in the same ritual as the Ripper.  

Graham and Crawford are not convinced that Gideon is the Ripper and we learn through flashbacks that Lass inadvertently discovered who the Ripper was when she visited the recently retired surgeon – Hannibal Lecter.  Her discovery and the sight of a sock footed Lecter – he had just removed his shoes to sneak up behind her – happens with a shocky swiftness.  Well done.
And the scenes with Hannibal serving guests meals – has yet to get old.