I do comedy, comics, and write about pretty much most things entertainment related. So that's nice.
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Cell Phone: (347) 742-8562
E-Mail: azalben (at) gmail (dot) com
Almost Human, “Simon Says”: Not the best episode of “Almost Human” so far, but this show is still a ton of fun to watch, and looks great. Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are fantastic together. They just need to figure out what to do with Lili Taylor, and they’re set. Watch it if you aren’t, it’s some good, fun scifi.
Gun Machine: Still reading this, still enjoying it. There’s a section I was reading before bed that was so tense, I had to finish before I turned the lights off. That’s good stuff, and Ellis’ characters (as usual) are top notch.
When you’re posting “Things I Liked Today” at 2pm the next day, you’ve got to change the name. Anyway, here’s some things I liked yesterday:
Ms. Marvel #1: As mentioned, I do AR Recaps for Marvel, so got to read the first issue script for G. Willow Wilson’s new series. This is a special one. Really. No spoilers at all, other than it has a beautiful, unique sense of character, and anyone who likes classic Marvel will love this book. You guys say you want different things in comics? This is completely different, and yet surprisingly familiar at the same time. It doesn’t come out until February, but you can reserve it at a comic book shop now. And you should.
Downton Abbey: This show is nowhere near where it was in the first season, but its gone from being a soap elevated by excellent acting and writing, to a soap that looks really good. That’s okay, though: it’s as comfortable as a warm cup of tea.
Masters of Sex, “Catherine”: I’ve been waiting the past few episodes for this show to go deeper, even though I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit; it’s just been slightly surfacey. This fifth episode, though, will rip your heart out, and follows through on all the character relationships and developments so far. The last moment is one of the most gut-wrenching, f-ed up things ever on TV, and it’s just two people standing in a room. No violence, nothing. Just ultimate sadness. Plus, this episode intros Allison Janney as a recurring character! Everything is better with Janney.
Gun Machine: I’m a few pages into Warren Ellis’ novel, but I can already see exactly why it was picked up as a TV series. Like “Crooked Little Vein,” it takes a few pages to get to the premise, taking time to set up its sad sack detective. But when it does get there, the simplicity and cleanness of the idea bowl you over. Really looking forward to getting further into this, as its just getting started.
Masters of Sex, “Race to Space” and “Standard Deviation”: There’s two big things that keep this show working for me:
1) It’s the least sexy show about sex ever, instead focusing squarely on the characters and their motivations, using sex as exposition even better than “Game of Thrones” does;
2) It’s funny. I’ve watched “The Wire” and “Mad Men,” and they’re undeniably great, but also dead serious, so I’ve had a hard time keeping up. “Breaking Bad” trumps those because it’s often extremely funny through the drama. “Masters of Sex” is the same way, and all the better for it.
I even found myself tearing up in the past two episodes, which is an insane amount of commitment to have for characters after only three hours.
Valiant Comics: Once a month, Valiant is nice enough to send me their line-up of books, and there isn’t a dud in the bunch. In particular, Archer & Armstrong and Harbinger stood out in the current bunch, but really, every bit of the line is great.
Parenthood, “Promises”: See above about drama leavened with comedy. This show is so good that Ray Romano, a recurring character got his own plot line at the expense of major other characters not appearing, and that was totally fine. And I’ve lived with the show long enough now that the Braverman family feels like friends.
I guess I’ll be doing these the morning after? I often read a bit before bed, so to then whip out the old laptop and start writing as my eyelids begin to droop seems counter-productive to sleep. Anyway, here’s what I liked
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3-#7: The problem with catching up with a great series like SFoSM is that I now have to wait a full month until the next issue. Because this series is seriously great. I talked about it a little yesterday, but it’s very funny, extremely well plotted, and the art by Steve Lieber (and Rich Ellis for #7) is pitch perfect, emphasizing the story and nailing the jokes brilliantly.
Issue #5 in particular is a masterwork of misdirection, twisting and twisting again but never losing its sense of humor. It’s tough to write a really good crime series, and even tougher to write a good villain focused series without giving in to the “Thunderbolts” impulse to turn them into good guys. This series walks that line perfectly.
Loki: Agent of Asgard #1: In my spare time, I write AR (Augmented Reality) recaps for Marvel, so I often get to read scripts for issues far in advance. I won’t talk about specifics for “Loki: Agent of Asgard #1” other than to say it’s a great first issue that fits perfectly into the Nu-NuMarvel style pioneered by “Hawkeye,” “SFoSM,” and most importantly Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s “Young Avengers.”
Also, given the way writer Al Ewing lays out the script, I’m hoping Marvel publishes sections of it in a special edition or something. There’s a fight scene he lays out that would be a lot of fun for readers to see, and compare to the final product.
Community, “Repilot” and “Introduction to Teaching”: I recently read in a review of the first two episodes of the impossible fifth season of “Community” that it was not the best show the reviewer had ever seen, but it was their favorite show. I think that nails the appeal of “Community” to a T. It’s not always good, but it is always great. That was the major problem with Season 4, and why it didn’t click with fans: it didn’t take chances. It stuck with what worked in previous seasons, not understanding that what worked was the constant sense of experimentation and growth.
And the first two episodes of Season 5 aren’t necessarily good, but they are great. There’s a difference in tone, to the dialogue, the shooting style, and the plots that refocuses the show back to where it was over a year ago. I don’t think you have to look further than Danny Pudi’s Nicolas Cage arc in the second episode to see something that shouldn’t work - and wouldn’t have worked in Season 4 - that does here. It’s subtle, but Harmon’s influence and focus is there. I’m glad it’s back.
Slate’s Embarassing Middle-Earth Error: There’s almost nothing funnier than very specific, purposeful nerdery.
It’s kind of an inauspicious start to a project to skip the very first day, but yesterday two things happened:
1) I spent the entire day driving around visiting family members.
2) By the time I got home, I was shivering cold with some sort of weird fever and went to bed at 8:30pm.
So while I can definitely recommend visiting family, and Zipcar, there wasn’t a whole lot of media I consumed that would fall under the heading of “Things I Liked.”
Since I’m a day late, though, I thought I’d write down some of the things I checked out since I posted about my “list things I like every day in 2014” project:
Furious 6: I spent New Year’s Eve at home watching the 6th “Fast and Furious” movie, which was a lot of fun. I liked the fifth one more, there’s just a point when it doesn’t make sense for these guys to be running capers together any more; but its still a ridiculous, enjoyable action movie. Also, The Rock isn’t a human being, and his interrogation scene might be the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Related: anyone who is saying Gal Gadot isn’t right for Wonder Woman is cray. She’s gorgeous, has the right look, and kicks butt in fight scenes in this movie. I’m sorry her boobs aren’t as big as you would like, but I don’t know how that will effect her character (read: it won’t).
Masters of Sex, “Pilot”: Time Warner was kind enough to give us three months of free Showtime, so I checked out the first episode of “Masters of Sex.” Which was great. Very funny, not actually that smutty, and a fascinating bit of subject matter.
Only qualm is, with a show that’s supposed to be about how these sexuality studies were redefining medicine, there’s not a ton of reasoning behind what, exactly, the main characters will accomplish on the medical side. Other characters keep implying all they probably want to do is watch people bone, and so far that’s sort of what’s going on. Hopefully in further episodes we get to see how their sexuality study actually helps people, because Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen are pretty great otherwise.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1-#2: I had read the first issue of this very funny series by Nick Spencer a while ago, but had completely forgotten to pick up the rest. I re-read the first issue, and was happy to discover the second is just as ridiculous and fun. It’s always nice when you get a mainstream comic that isn’t just about heroes pummeling each other, and this fits that niche nicely.
It’s almost New Year’s, and that means its time for resolutions. Normally I haven’t bothered a whole lot with ‘em, because I know I (like most of the world) will break them in a few weeks time. So I try to stay manageable.
For example, the past two years, I resolved not to use my cell phone for a full day. Totally crushed it both years.
This year though, I’m going to try something a little more massive, and to do it properly I’m going to do it publicly… Because otherwise lack of pressure will probably make it fade away.
My New Year’s Resolution is to post things that I liked every single day, for an entire year.
There are two specific goals here:
Goal #1: The Internet, as well as myself, are generally pretty negative… To put it lightly. It’s way easier to focus on things that are bad, than things that are good. So in an effort to get myself thinking more positively, I’m going to post anything positive I encountered during a given day as a list at the end of the day. My hope is that rather than snarking instantly at everything, I’ll eventually be driven to search out things that I like in an effort to fill out the daily blog post.
Goal #2: It’s really hard to make year end lists and remember what happened back in January. For the past few years, I’ve actually kept a monthly list of comic books I liked, so I could do a monthly round-up – something I’ll be starting again on MTV News in a few days time. But I don’t just write about comics, I also write about movies, TV, and pop culture stuff. So in a year’s time, when I have to look back fondly on 2014, I won’t just remember what happened post-Halloween, I’ll be able to say, “Oh yeah! That was a great book,” or recipe, or picture, or whatever.
So there you go. This is a project I’m doing for myself, which could be potentially annoying to others since I’ll be sharing it on Tumblr (which means also on Twitter [which means also on Facebook]). But hopefully it’ll end up being a way I can share things I like with other people who are looking to like things in 2014, and maybe they’ll share some things back my way? Who knows?
In any case, I’ll be starting this on January 1st… And if we’re being honest, this post itself isn’t so much an announcement, as a way of forcing myself to actually start the project. Stay tuned.
Side-note: I really don’t like ‘The Sound of Music’ at all. Thought I’d get that out of the way while I still can.