Agent Carter: “The Atomic Job”

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We welcome the newest version of the Scooby-gang in this episode and it is glorious. Not only do we get to rock #TeamPeggy&Jarvis at the beginning, the rest of this episode is also action packed. This is probably in my top five episodes. Don’t quote me on that. Even though we’re mid-season, this one just keeps getting better and better.

Even with the action though, there are a few concerns I have about this episode. For example, the spooky black-eyes thing I’m not so sure about. I feel like we’re nearing the edge of reasonable with that one. Things are getting close enough to Supernatural that I’m expecting Sam and Dean to show up any minute to save us from the zero matter apocalypse.

But the introduction of some new scientists brings us back to the science side of things. We also get to add Rose to the mix. She’s been around, but now she’s becoming part of the squad complete with her own annoying potential love interest, Samberly. Rose is so good at encouraging people, it is not wonder that she was hired as support for the SSR For the grand introduction of the Scooby-gang with Peggy at the helm, there was no musical option other than “Pistol Packing Mama”. We have Jarvis as Scooby, Carter as Velma, Shaggy as Chief Sousa, and Sam and Rose as Daphne and Fred.

And it all comes down to the Peggy vs Whitney showdown that we’ve been dying for, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this brief. Then I thought about it, and we can’t have the big showdown halfway through the season. I’m also a little disappointed that the good doctor hasn’t made a dramatic appearance for a great rescue, which just goes to support my emerging theory that he is the sacrificial lamb.

At the end of the episode we get to see more of Peggy’s vulnerable side. Being a fighter isn’t just about physical prowess, but also about one’s ability to to face down both physical and emotional pain. Yet again, we love Peggy Carter and her fighting spirit.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. Every good experimental laboratory needs a Jerry, poor Jerry.

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The 100: “Ye Who Enter Here”

the100303This dramatic of a title requires an equally dramatic episode. Going in I knew I would be unsatisfied with anything less. After much deliberation, I’m satisfied.

I questioned my satisfaction basically because this episode began with some whiney emotional stuff. This episode started off slow and a big part of this was the Lexa/Clarke jibber jabber. Lexa may be introspective and add some complexity to the cast, but she’s a b****. I really just don’t like her. Although, Clarke is developing her own high and mighty attitude that needs to be dealt with as well.

For the beginning of this episode, “go float yourself” pretty well sums up my feelings. Why is everyone in this show a d***? Why? Like really, watching this show is like watching the US Congress. Everybody needs to just whip it out and measure and quick being obstinate for the sake of being obstinate. Bunch of a**holes. Sorry again for the cussing guys, but this episode got to me. I also really want Marcus to take out Abby, preferably with violence. He’s just so much more suited to all of this than she is. But when he finally takes the reigns and Abby gives it up, she goes peacefully, much to my chagrin.

And while I cannot keep track of these d**n grounders, I am very excited to meet this Ice Queen. I have high hopes for her as a powerful character and as a way to bring some life back into this season, which is getting a little slow for me.

Besides the fact that there is never anything good that involves launch codes, nothing else happened in this episode. I’m so happy that Mount Weather is coming to an end. I’m ready for this storyline to move somewhere, preferably forward.

Now you may be asking, if I’m complaining so much, why did I find this episode satisfying. It’s all about the ending. The solid twist, the change of power, and the sexy heart-stopping last few minutes. At the very end, we get an underwhelming first view of the Ice Queen, but just before that is one of my favorite moments of this show, simply because it was unexpected.

Generally, while nothing much happens for 3/4 of this episode. The few things that do occur are very important and set us up for a really tasty next episode.

Procrastination and Giggles,

The Red Queen
P.S. There is some really really beautiful music in this episode. Shoutout to whoever was responsible for that decision.

image courtesy of screencapped.net

Agent Carter: “Smoke & Angels”

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I’ve probably said this before about Agent Carter, this is an episode I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. This is the flashback episode. Many shows have that one episode that tells how all the characters got to where they are and this show has a doozy of one. Now we get to go back and see Peggy before Steve and we get that juxtaposed to pre-deadly Whitney Frost.

Baby Peggy was a really creative way to start this episode and it reminded us about why we love Peggy, especially when next we see her stuffing her face. Throughout this episode we get to learn that Peggy has always been a rough and tumble little girl and she stay strong even through tragedy. Repeatedly, Agent Carter has be part of tragic circumstances, but this doesn’t hold her back. Instead it propels her forward and she uses that pain and turns it into her fighting spirit. I’m glad to see that spirit honored in her backstory.  Continue reading

Winning at Evolution is easier than ever before

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As a biologist, I couldn’t help but be attracted to a game called Evolution. Naturally, a bunch of graduate students and myself had to get together to play this game. Details about it can be found here. Now there are a lot of science-themed games in existence but other games are usually either trivia based, extremely complex, or not written in English. Evolution, however, is designed by scientists and aimed at everyone.

 

Things that benefit this game:

  1. Great artwork. The images are not only beautiful, but they are colorful and creative. This game manages to take you back in time via artwork alone.
  2. Simple game play. It does not take long to learn this game and while it is backed by science, it can be easily played by those that don’t always have science on the brain. They chose simple concepts to depict that anyone can understand and appreciate. But, maybe the evolutionary biologist will appreciate it a little bit more.
  3. Room for growth, already this game has a flying expansion pack and the Kickstarter has begun for a new version that considers climate as a serious factor. See the Kickstarter here.

Things that hurt this game:

  1. The gameplay is almost too simple. It’s difficult to play this game repeatedly because there are a limited number of possible strategies and after one or two rounds with the same people you start to get bored.
  2. It is impossible to incorporate all factors of natural selection into a board game. I’m sure there are many out there that would be sad to see there favorite niche or limited resource missing from the game. It is possible that further expansion packs and editions will make this game more and more realistic.
  3. The price, for a maximum of 40 minutes of game play, is really steep. If I wasn’t so interested in evolutionary biology I probably wouldn’t have put up the funds for this game. That being said this might be a fun gift for a science-minded friend.

Overall I give this game a 3/5, but I reserve judgement after investigating future editions and expansion packs. I think this is a solid start to a board game, but there is a lot of room to grow.

Voyage of the Basilisk, A Memoir by Lady Trent By Marie Brennan

Voyageofthebasilisk.jpgSix years after Tropic of Serpents, Isabella Camherst leaves on a two-year expedition, traveling around the world to study dragons wherever she could find them. Again we get to travel with the wonderfully sensible Tom, but additionally we add an entirely new cast of interesting characters including a governess, a trouble-seeking captain, a new tribal community, Isabella’s son Jake, and her wife. Yes I said that, but you’ll have to read it to find out more.

The most important new character however has to be the attractive young archaeologist Sunhail. We finally have added a potential love interest into the mix. And while we can be excited for Isabella, finally considering moving on from Jacob, the best part about Sunhail’s arrival is what he studies: Draconean. Finally we get to learn more about this ancient civilization that has been resting on the periphery. Brennan has been teasing us with this side epic for far too long and while this book doesn’t give us all the answers, we do get to learn a few more juicy details.

The obvious nod to Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle doesn’t mislead us either. The lady scientist is on the verge of discovering about the evolution of dragons, a shout out to Darwin’s time in the Galapagos. And this voyage is equally exotic. Isabella’s trip on the Basilisk brings us to even more cultures including one of oriental origins, another island tribe, and more. We get to meet chieftains and princesses, sea captains and smugglers, not to mention more dragon species then we have gotten to meet in the other two books combined. All the while war is on the horizon and somehow Isabella finds herself accidentally in the middle of it all yet again.

Continue reading

The Tropic of Serpents, A Memoir by Lady Trent

TropicOfSerpentsIf I could be any female book character, I’d be Lady Trent. I really do think that. No, there is no magic in this universe, but Lady Trent is living the kind of life I wish I could have.

She’s getting to explore foreign lands, interact with dragons, play politics, save lives, and produce social change. Who wouldn’t want to be this type of passionate multifaceted crusader. Equally so, I’d love to write like Lady Trent/ Marie Brennan. Her writing provides insight into the star character in exciting, indirect ways.

In this second installment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, the currently named Lady Camherst is planning her next great adventure. We learn that she has published the research done on her first trip, but has done so under her late husbands name to honor his memory. Additionally, she has had a son named Jacob. We don’t get to see much of young Jake in this storyline, but I’m sure we will learn more of him in the future. Presently, he simply provides us with another angle from which to examine Lady Camherst’s personality.

This next adventure sees Lady Camherst off in a distant swampy land with only the beloved Tom from the previous installment and a young woman named Natalie who is fleeing family pressures. It reminds me of the adventures of the pragmatic Robinson Crusoe. The crew spends their time in this new empire hunting swamp dragons and they have to learn to deal with more societal taboos, politics of multiple interconnected peoples, and tackle the difficult questions about dragon bone preservation. The last being very unlike Crusoe.  Continue reading

The One Where Lucifer Gets Naked and Then Gets Shot (“Manly Whatnots”)

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Mmmmm.

Oh, sorry, what?

This episode is all about struggles. We’ve got the struggle to rescue a kidnapped girl – and Lucifer actually gets called in because he has an invite to the suspect’s conference (a pickup artist convention).

Lucifer struggles with his inability to seduce Claire. Claire, meanwhile, struggles with all the strange things she’s seen from Lucifer – still teetering on the edge of the Lucifer-is-actually-the-devil cliff.

And we got SO CLOSE. SO. CLOSE. [Spoilers coming, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to see them!] There’s a moment at the climax where Lucifer is getting ready to punish this week’s culprit. Claire comes in and sees his demonic reflection wavering in the mirror, which throws her into a panic. Lucifer finally sees her coming around and asks her to shoot him as proof that he really is the devil. So she does – and Lucifer bleeds. I’m crazy sad that the show didn’t finally throw her off the cliff, but crazy intrigued as to where they’re taking this.

Lucifer is really trying to get with Claire though. There are several jokes about him using the pickup artist’s techniques to try to seduce her. And he’s getting there. The best moment, and the closest he probably was to winning her over, comes when he’s naked (the scene pictured above). She, and we, see the scars on his back for the first time – the scars left behind by his wings where he had Maze tear them out. His sensitivity about those scars breaks down his normally suave exterior and makes him oddly vulnerable for the first time – and you can see Claire responding. Again, SO CLOSE.

Meanwhile, Amenadiel is finally back – this time looking to strike a deal with Maze to get dear Lucifer back into hell. She refuses this time, but I don’t think she will after the end of this episode. Interestingly, she seems to strike a nerve with Amenadiel by licking the side of his face. He clearly struggles with something when she does, and I’m excited to see where that goes next week.

All in all, this was a good episode, perhaps my favorite of the show thus far. It covered a lot of ground, and it introduced a lot for the characters to react to. I have a very strong theory on how the next several episodes are going to progress, and I both hope that I’m right and hope that the show won’t be that predictable.

Here’s to next week!

Other Assorted Thoughts:

  • It’s nice to see an episode where Lucifer doesn’t have to barge his way into the crime scene.
  • I really like the psychologist. A lot. She adds a great dynamic to the show by providing a method to externalize Lucifer’s thoughts and, yes, his desires. Most TV shows can’t get that deep into their characters’ heads, but it works really well here.
  • When Claire tells Lucifer she’ll sleep with him when hell freezes over and he yells back, “I can arrange that actually!” OMG. Dying.
  • “The berries are ripe and ready to be harvested.” One wonders if they didn’t miss a blueberries joke there, but damn. Well played writers.
  • Claire’s kid is seriously too cute, and all her interactions with Lucifer are amazing.

-Regina

Image courtesy of Screencapped.net. Originally posted on Regina’s blog.

City of Blades

city-of-bladesStop.

Go read Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs. I’ll wait.

…are you done?

OK, good. Now that you’ve read what was quite possibly my favorite fantasy novel of the last five years, we can discuss its sequel and the novel that may have supplanted it.

Because City of Stairs is a self-contained story, I had no idea Bennett was writing a sequel. Consequently, the day I discovered City of Blades existed, I immediately made a trip to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy and added it to my list to read next.

Whereas City of Stairs was set in the old Continental capital of Bulikov, City of Blades focuses on the city of Voortyashtan – originally home to the goddess of war, moon, sea and, of course, death. The Deities are gone now, but Shara Komayd, now prime minister of Saypur, sends General Turyin Mulaghesh to investigate the death of one of Saypur’s agents in Voortyashtan. Turyin then proceeds to walk into a huge mess and has to find a way out.

Let’s stop there, because I’ve now twice mentioned the thing – or rather, person – that makes this book so amazing. Turyin Mulaghesh.

God, but we need more characters in fantasy and science fiction like Turyin Mulaghesh. She’s a female general on the verge of retirement, and she’s missing an arm. She’s brash, swears copiously (seriously, there’s an f-bomb on every other page) and just doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’s also got mental scars and trauma that won’t go away, but she’s a soldier with a heart of gold. She cares for those under her and views them as her children.

Turyin Mulaghesh was a scene-stealing minor character in City of Stairs, but in City of Blades, she’s the whole enchilada. We get nearly the entire story from her point of view, and the narration is tremendous.

This is saying nothing of the secondary characters. While Shara is mainly off-stage, Sigrud and his daughter Signe both factor into the plot in a big way (though Sigrud takes some time to appear). Sigrud is as amazing as ever, though there are no giant sea monsters for him to gut from the inside here (a fact noted by Mulaghesh). There’s also Lalith Biswal and Rada Smolisk, already in place in Voortyashtan when Mulaghesh arrives.

Next, let’s talk about the plot. Now that Bennett has already introduced the world, the story moves at a much faster clip. City of Blades races along, with each chapter bringing new revelations. You’ll have a hard time putting it down. This plot focuses much more on soldiers and war, as befitting the setting. Ultimately I have nothing but good things to say for the plot.

Where it starts to get deep is in the underlying philosophy. At its core, this book explores war and what it means to be a soldier. There’s a lot of musing  about whether soldiers give or take, about what distinctions (if any) should be made during a war, and the problems personality flaws like lust for glory can cause in a soldier. It’s very deep and very well done.

Lastly, I’d like to say a quick piece on the world-building. I’m all about worlds in fiction; if you can create a good world and pair it with either a compelling character or a compelling plot, that’s a recipe for a 5-star review from me.  Bennett’s world-building is stellar, grade-A stuff. Saypur and the Continent are so realistic. They have history, religion, culture…and everything is logical and fits together a puzzle. It’s masterfully done, and I hope I can someday achieve the same results.

Now go read this book. What are you still doing here?

Grade: 5/5, serious contender for favorite book I’ll read in 2016

Memorable Quotes:

“Yes. The river tribes wish to acquire new lands in order to re-locate their settlements and farmland. The only decent land available, however, belongs to the highland tribes – in fact, it’s the only arable land they possess. So this leaves the highland clans very upset. The sort of upset that makes you raid military rail shipments, steal a bunch of riflings and explosives, and go to war. The sort of upset that makes you pillage and burn settlements along territorial boundaries. The sort of upset that makes you put a bullet through the face of the previous commander of this damned region. That kind of upset.”
“That’s pretty fucking upset.”

-City of Blades, pg. 55

 

“The word everyone forgets,” says Mulaghesh, “is ‘serve.'”
“Serve?”
“Yes. Serve. This is the service, and we soldiers are servants. Sure, when people think of a soldier, they think of soldiers taking. They think of us taking territory, taking the enemy, taking a city or a country, taking treasure, or blood. This grand, abstract idea of ‘taking,’ as if we were pirates, swaggering and brandishing our weapons, bullying and intimidating people. But a soldier, a true soldier, I think, does not take. A soldier gives.”
“Gives what?”
“Anything,” says Mulaghesh.

-City of Blades, pg. 210-211

-Regina

Originally appeared on Regina’s blog

Mr. Pool: We Love Him For More than Ryan’s Butt

Deadpool had enough curse words to make a sailor blush, fight scenes to rival any other action movie, and more Easter eggs than at the community park on that weird weekday, afterschool event that’s somewhere around Easter.

I’m going to have to watch this movie at least two more times to catch all of the jokes and shout outs. In fact, there are so many that we can entirely justify three separate reviews about this movie. I’ll be honest with you, all of our reviews will amount to the same thing: GO SEE THIS MOVIE…but don’t take the kids. That being said, I still have to share with you my favorite elements from this comedy extravaganza. Continue reading

Hail, Caesar – Too Many Stories, Not Enough Time

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I feel like I have to start this review with my biggest complaint about this movie – I didn’t get what I expected to get.

I went to see Hail, Caesar! for two reasons:

  1. It looked funny.
  2. I really like several of the actors in it (namely, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johanneson, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum).

It was definitely funny, though not nearly so much as the movie I saw immediately after. But after getting excited to see four of my favorite actors in a film together…they basically weren’t in the movie at all.

Ralph Fiennes was in two scenes; likewise, ScarJo only had two. Channing lucked out and got three, while Jonah Hill had only ONE. These big name stars were basically nothing more than cameos.

Then there’s the other thing that contributed to the feeling of being shortchanged: the plot was not what I expected. The trailers led me to believe that this movie was going to be primarily about George Clooney’s character Baird Whitlock getting kidnapped.

That’s not the case at all. This movie is really about a day in the life of Eddie Mannix and his decision to either stay at the studio or take a job offer from Lockheed Martin.

It’s not a bad story by any means, but the plot jumps around ever so much. It’s a rare case where the movie would have benefited from a longer run time, simply because there were so many characters and mini-storylines to juggle.

There were moments too where it really shone. Channing Tatum’s opening scene, with the sailor song-and-dance number, was really fantastic. It was very classic Hollywood and a complete joy to watch. Likewise, Tilda Swinton’s twin reporters were extremely amusing, and I wish there had been more time to explore Hobie Doyle’s transition from westerns into dramas and his budding romance with Carlotta (I could have watched a whole movie on just that). In fact, Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie was probably my favorite part of the film – he stole every scene and was both captivating and incredibly believable.

I wanted to like this movie, and I did like parts of it. But those parts didn’t make up for the jumping around to get it beyond “meh” for me. I’m not upset I saw it, but I probably won’t buy it when it comes out either.

-Regina

Originally posted on Regina’s blog