This October the Rebellion Will Be Televised

Star Wars Rebels has released its first extended trailer, and, for a kids show, I have to say this looks pretty promising. The story covers the events that take place between Episode III and Episode IV, showing the early days and formation of the Rebel Alliance. It also appears to be the sort of coming-of-age adventure story you would expect to see in the Star Wars universe.

On the good side of things, this show does look like a lot of fun. It also brings back more of the old feel of the classic Star Wars movies and looks a lot more familiar to the original trilogy rather than the prequels (that I still pretend don’t exist). I know that the directors are drawing a lot from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original movies, and I think the setting we’ve seen in the trailers and the clips looks awesomely familiar. Needless to say, I’m very excited to see a series set around the time of the original trilogy.

On the questionable side of things, I was honestly sort of hoping that we’d get a story more focused on normal people who form the Alliance rather than another story featuring Jedi. The plus side of this is that we might get a story that eventually ends tragically. I’m pretty sure Obi-Wan and Yoda are the only true Jedi remaining at the start of Episode IV, so I imagine things won’t work out well for Kanan and Ezra. I’m certainly curious to see what the creators have planned in this regard.

Now, while I love seeing the old faces and how things will transition leading up to Episode IV, I think all of the fan-service character appearances in the prequel trilogy actually made things worse. So, who will show up in Rebels? Obi-Wan clearly makes an appearance in the trailer. The creators have said that R2-D2 and C-3PO will be making appearances as well because apparently we just can’t have Star Wars without them.

However, as the series gets closer and closer to the Episode IV timeline, I’ll be curious to see who else shows up, and this is where I think things could get interesting. Will Darth Vader make an appearance to come hunt down this new Jedi and his apprentice? Will we see key players in the Rebel Alliance like Bail Organa or Mon Mothma start to get some screen time as the Rebel Alliance begins to form?

The Clone Wars was highly regarded, and I think Rebels is poised to be just as good. I’m cautiously optimistic about this project, but I certainly believe it has the potential to be awesome.

Fargo Season Two

After a wildly successful first season, FX has decided to renew Fargo for a second. Writer and creator Noah Hawley indicated in a press conference (of which I read a live blog update) that the show will be following the True Detective model and changing its cast each season. I think this is a very interesting approach both to story telling and TV show production. Of course the upside of it is that big name stars can be attracted to the shows because they don’t have to commit to long contracts. The downside is that this style of show can’t really tell an ongoing story, or at least not in the same way.

The second season of Fargo is actually going to follow the character of Lou Solverson (played by Keith Carradine in Season One), only it will be set when he is a younger man during the 1970s. The season will explain the story of Sioux Falls, which he references in Season One but never really explains.

Other details thus far are scarce, but the production team did say that the next season of Fargo will be coming out in the fall of 2015. I highly recommend the first season, and though I don’t know whether or not it will be necessary viewing (as Season Two is a prequel), it is still a fabulous show. You also have over a year before the next season comes out to watch it. So really, no excuses.

The Neverending Battle: A Review of All You Need Is Kill

So I hadn’t actually heard of this book until the trailers for Edge Of Tomorrow started coming out and everyone was mentioning how the film was based on a book with a much cooler title. While I haven’t seen the film, I certainly have to agree on the title being better, and the book lives up to the fun of its name.

The story follows rookie soldier Keiji Kiriya who has been enlisted to fight in a war against alien invaders known as the Mimics. He doesn’t receive a lot of training before he is thrown into battle, and as a consequence he dies. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Keiji finds himself in a time-loop where he fights in the same battle over and over again. Eventually he decides that he will make the best of his repeating day and try to become the best soldier he can so that he can lead his side to victory and in the process hopefully end the cycle.

This story is a light novel that was written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and eventually translated into English by the company Viz Media. In Japan a light novel is roughly equivalent in length to the English novella and is generally targeted at “young adult” audiences. I have to say, I wish more American YA novels read like this.

The majority of the novel is written from Keiji’s first person perspective, and Sakurazaka does a great job of capturing his voice. The writing is fun and light, full of humorous anecdotes and metaphors. He showcases a similar style during the one chapter of the book that is written in third person from the perspective of the story’s other lead Rita Vrataski, an American Special Forces soldier who has become iconic due to her success in battle. I thought that the writing was tight and that the voices of the characters are very well portrayed, which helped to bring me into the text. To be fair, I should note that I don’t speak or read Japanese, so all of my comments are about the translation, for what that’s worth.

The premise of the story is fun and inventive, though I’m sure the science behind some of the things that feature in the story, like the Mimics and the time-loop, is probably suspect. Still, Sakurazaka does have a reason behind everything that is going on, and whether the story relies on pseudo-science or not, everything that happens makes sense in the context of the world and is explained to the reader.

If you’re looking for a short and fun read, I definitely recommend this book. It’s only about 150 pages long, and the writing is easily digestible. There’s a lot of action, dialogue, and fun description that keeps the story rolling, and nothing that happens or is explained is overly complex. And yet, the story has deeper characters, a higher quality of writing, and more thought behind it than many full length novels I’ve read that are targeted towards younger audiences.

I think Sakurazaka did a great job with this story, and I’m now curious to see how Hollywood handled the film adaptation of his tale.

12 Monkeys To Hit Television

Just earlier this summer FX ran a TV version of the Coen Brother classic Fargo. Following this film to TV trend, Syfy will be releasing a version of the Terry Gilliam film 12 Monkeys in January. While Gilliam’s film was something of a psychological thriller that looked at what the effect of changing times might have on the mind, Syfy’s take on the story seems to be going in a different direction.

The new 12 Monkeys still features the primary characteristics of the film’s story, namely a dystopian future where most of humanity has perished due to a disease and the idea of traveling back in time to stop the outbreak of the virus. However, the trailer makes me think that the show will have much more of an action-thriller feel to it. Cole (originally Bruce Willis, now Aaron Stanford), the story’s protagonist, doesn’t appear to be dealing with the issues of identity, trauma, or sanity that he did in the movie. Instead he is very much on a mission to save humanity. He also doesn’t seem to have qualms killing anyone, since he knows that in the future they’re already dead, which makes me hopeful that the show won’t shy away from some good action sequences and entertaining violence.

The very memorable character of Jeffery Goines, who was played by Brad Pitt in the film, appears not to be in the TV adaptation, or at the very least he has not appeared in the trailer. Instead, Cole is in pursuit of a man named Leland Frost (Zeljko Ivanek) who is possibly connected to the creation or spread of the virus. As far as I can tell the insane asylum bits have been taken out of the story. Frost appears to be more of a legitimate doctor or scientist than Goines was.

FX’s version of Fargo felt very much like the original film, so I’ll be curious to see if my read on the trailer is correct, and if Syfy is going for a different approach. Either way I’m cautiously optimistic about this show, and I will definitely be tuning in to see how it turns out.

The Shows I’m Watching and You Should Too: The Strain

The Strain has finally made its way to television. The story was initially envisioned by creator Guillermo Del Toro as a television show, but he ended up writing it as a novel with Chuck Hogan after he couldn’t find any buyers for it. However, after a successful stint as a series of novels and as a comic book adapted by Dark Horse, it was picked up by FX for a small screen adaptation.

The story opens with a plane going dark on the runway of JFK Airport in New York City. No one is able to communicate with the crew or anyone on board, and no calls or other form of communication has come from the plane. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and the members of his CDC Canary Team are the first to board the plane to make sure that there aren’t any contagions involved. They find only four survivors of the over 200 passengers on the flight and a strange coffin that is not listed on the cargo manifest.

Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), a pawnshop owner, appears to have answers about what is going on. He goes to the airport to try and convey his warnings to the CDC crew, but they think he is crazy, at least at first.

Then there is Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), a dying billionaire who appears to have orchestrated the arrival of the coffin and the beginning of the strange plague that took place on the plane.

The pilot for The Strain jumps between these characters and some others as the horrors of the contagion begin to unfold. The personal lives of the characters are touched on, but none of them has had a great deal of individual screen time to become more developed. Stoll’s character, Dr. Goodweather, has been given the most thus far as he appears to be the central protagonist. As the show continues, I expect this is something that will be remedied, but as it stands the pilot was rather more plot heavy.

The plot was also roughly what you might expect, or at least it has been thus far. The vampires begin to spread slowly, and the CDC is too out of their depth to stop what’s going on. Of course they also turn down help from the one man who knows what’s going on because he appears to be crazy. It’s pretty standard stuff for a vampire or zombie story.

So why should you watch this show? Well, it’s only one episode in, and despite my lukewarm description, the show is very fun to watch. The actors are good, and while their characters have yet to achieve great depth, they still bring them to life quite well. And while the plot is familiar so far, can you really expect too much more from a vampire/zombie kind of story? If you enjoy those types of movies or shows, then you should enjoy how this one unfolds as well.

I also, to be honest, have a good deal of faith in FX. Justified and Fargo are among my favorite shows, and they have a knack for picking up quality productions. Based on this alone, I expect that The Strain will continue to develop and become stronger as it goes. That being said, even if it doesn’t get too much better, it’s certainly entertaining now.

Days Of Amber Coming in August

Days of Amber ebook cover

Earlier this week I posted an interview I had with author H.W. Vivian. She has another big announcement this week, as she is getting ready to publish her second novel Days Of Amber under the pseudonym Alex Chu. This is the synopsis for the story:

Amber & Associates is the most successful software company in the industry’s history, which is surprising since all of its employees are aloof, lazy, and downright dysfunctional. When they’re not obsessing over their next smoothie fix, or walking around the office half-naked, they’re doing everything in their power to avoid working. As they approach their long-awaited IPO date, hackers start breaching the company’s system, and messing around with Amber’s clients. Still, nobody seems to care. It’s not until the senior risk analyst leaves the company on a drunken tirade when everyone realizes the consequences of their idleness. Now, Amber’s team of frivolous and inexperienced executives is left with the greatest challenge of their careers: actually getting work done in order to save the company.

Fans of shows like Silicon Valley or The IT Crowd will want to check out this novel. In general, it certainly sounds like a lot of fun. If the synopsis and subject matter sound appealing to you, then keep your eyes open for this book in August. If you want to learn more about the author, you can check out her website.

A Space Fairy Tale: A Review of Saga Vol. 1

Saga is an epic in comic book form created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator Fiona Staples. Set in a galaxy that has been slogging through an ongoing war, the story follows to former soldiers from opposing sides of the conflict who fall in love, marry, and decide to have a child together. Unfortunately for them, the higher powers have determined that their romance goes against the narrative of the war and might hurt the morale of the troops. As such they have dispatched soldiers and freelance bounty hunters to find and kill the couple.

The tale is narrated by the child (who has now been born and is grown), as she tells the harrowing tale of her parents’ lives in the days following her birth (though I believe the series will continue to carry on as the girl grows older). It features a wide range of interesting characters who are very well fleshed out by Vaughan. While the child character narrates, the reader gets to experience the world through the POVs of multiple characters including the couple on the run, the bounty hunters pursuing them, and the reluctant army commander assigned to find them. The world that he has come up with is also incredibly rich and amazing to see, and one of the great part about comics is that we actually do get to see it.

Staples’ art is really what makes Saga pop. She uses very familiar imagery from fantasy and fairy tales, like winged humans or satyr like people, to flesh out a sci-fi like setting full of planets, spaceships, and modern weaponry. It’s a marriage of sci-fi and fantasy unlike any I’ve ever seen before, and it’s the art that really pulls of the conceit so well.

I have only finished the first volume, and there are currently three that have been released. I’m not sure how well the story continues, but if each volume is as good as the first, then the series will be just fine. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a new comic to read or for fans of genre fiction. Saga is a great story enhanced by rich imagery, and it is well worth your time.