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Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Gentlefolk, start your DVRs.

Ripper Street is back with Series 3 (that’s “Season” 3, for us here in the States), airing on BBC America beginning April 29.

BBC canceled the show after its second season, citing low viewership in the UK, but when an online petition garnered over 50,000 signatures, the production company was able to reach a deal with (what is now) Amazon Prime Instant Video to fund a third season.

UK residents have already seen this third season, and reports I’ve read state that it’s the strongest, most viscerally charged season to date. The show’s creator, Richard Warlow, was more cautious about future seasons this time, and gave the end of Season 3 a sense of closure while still leaving sufficient loose threads with which to weave a Season 4, should it get picked up again. Here’s hoping on that score! (more…)

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Last year, I brought to your attention Ripper Street, the BBC  crime drama set in Whitechapel (London) in the years after the Jack the Ripper murders. Last year, the premiere season was showing on BBC America, and I was all atwitter about it.

It’s back for a second season–a good bit of news–but it’s also back in the news.

You see, Ripper Street was canceled at the end of its second season. Even The Guardian was gobsmacked by the news, calling it “Dreadful news for fans of quality drama.”

And I agree. But all is not lost.

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I watch a lot of British television–a lot for an American, that is–and not just on BBC America. I watch Masterpiece Theater, I subscribe to Acorn TV, and I even buy DVDs direct from the UK so I can see some shows not available any other way (“New Tricks” is a good example). But there’s one thing I hate about British television series: They’re too damned short.

Now that my beloved “Ripper Street” has completed its stingy 8-episode Season One, I was jonesing for a new series. I saw the ads for the new show called “Orphan Black,” but to be honest, I wasn’t going to watch. Then an advert for the opening 3-minutes popped up on my Facebook feed and I thought, why not?

In the first minutes, we meet Sara (Tatiana Maslany) at a train station somewhere near New York City. She’s a Brit, and she has serious problems. But whatever she’s up against, it’s  nothing compared to the what’s bothering that woman over there, crying at the end of the train platform. Sara goes over to the woman, and discovers that the woman looks just like her…right before the woman steps in front of the oncoming train. Sara, distraught, has a moment of panic, then a moment of clarity; she grabs the dead woman’s purse and flees the scene.

That’s the three-minute setup, and it was pretty good. Good enough, in fact, to get me to plunk it on the DVR and watch the whole episode.

Is it as good as “Ripper Street”? No. Is it better than most things on American network television? Yes.

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It’s not often that I can tie together what is arguably the grittiest crime drama on network television with a 1966 rom-com–OK, I’ve never done it, so today’s a first–and I’ll be frank with you, tieing these two objects together is going to take some doing, so have patience. I’ll get there.

Yesterday during my workout I watched “How to Steal a Million” (1966), starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. It is a light-hearted bit of fluff about the daughter of an art forger and a purported art thief who need to steal something to protect a secret. It’s set in Paris, Audrey is swathed in Givenchy throughout, O’Toole sports around in an XK-E, and it has several temporal “shout-outs” to the stars’ previous hits, so I’m sure it was doubly enjoyable for folks back in ’66 who’d been following these two icons through their early careers. It’s a little less believable than most romantic comedies (which means it was totally farcical), but one doesn’t watch a rom-com for believability or with any doubts as to the outcome. We watch them for the interaction, for the play, for the fun of it, and in this respect, “How to Steal a Million” delivers, even today.

I thought it was out-dated, though, because of its treatment of Ms. Hepburn’s character. (more…)

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Yesterday’s post engendered some questions about getting feedback on our writing; specifically, How? More specifically, in the absence of an editor or agent, “…where does the average person seeking to improve their writing find honest and unrestrained critical feedback for their writing?”

First, let’s dispel a myth. Editors and agents don’t give you advice on how to improve as a writer. Sorry. They don’t.

Some agents (like the one I had) don’t give any constructive advice at all, but merely give you their impression of the marketability of an already completed work. Some agents are savvy enough to help a writer polish a work-in-progress, but from all the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard, they’re rare. They’re marketers, not editors.

And editors are generally only going to provide feedback on a particular work, the one they have contracted to bring to market. An editor will help you make a book you’ve written better, which may help you become a better writer, but the goal is to make the book better, not to make you a better writer. It may sound like a subtle distinction, but it isn’t.

In short, both agents and editors are focused on a single, finished work, only appear in a writer’s life after s/he has achieved a certain level of competence, and are not in the business of bringing a writer’s chops up to professional levels. After Book One, they may provide input or advice on Book Two, but they still aren’t going to tell you how to write, much less how to write well.

So, where does that leave a budding writer? (more…)

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A lot went right with the release of Beneath a Wounded Sky and the completion of The Fallen Cloud Saga. Overall, I’m very pleased with the product, inside and out. Don’t kid yourself, people do judge a book by its cover…and by its font, and even by the quality of its title page. A good product, a quality product, will sell better than something that looks like it was put together by a grade-schooler.

But I did not do everything right; far from it. And there was one Big Item that I actually ignored purposefully, and it bears mentioning for any of you out there who are taking notes.

So, where can I improve for next time?

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I’m worried about South Korea. No, not in that global, realpolitik way. I’m worried about South Koreans. I don’t think they’re happy.

Okay, it’s not fair to judge an entire society based on two movies, but I can’t help but see similarities between the last South Korean movie I reviewed (“My Scary Girl“), and yesterday’s movie, “Castaway on the Moon.” I recommend “Castaway…”. I thought it was an excellent movie, but it just makes me wonder.

Both movies are listed as comedies, which at their essence, they are. Both have moments—many, in fact—of humor and laughter, and even though “My Scary Girl” has a body count close to a Shakespearean tragedy, it’s undeniably funny. But the humor in that film is born of surprise and twists, where in “Castaway…”, the humor is more revelatory, as the two main characters unveil themselves to us and to each other. (more…)

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