J.W. Kurtz (writer)…what I’m reading, what I’m watching, what I’m playing, & what I’m writing:
In an attempt to keep my ever busy mind occupied I quench its thirst with a bevy of media entertainments. Recently I watched Whiplash and wow! Wow! Wow! I haven’t watched such an intense film in I don’t know how long. It was absolutely fantastic. I don’t much care for the Academy Awards (Oscars) because they rarely if ever get it right. Well, J.K. Simmons winning for Best Supporting Actor was certainly warranted. I’ve always been a Simmons fan and it’s great to see that not only did he get casted in a role absolutely perfect for him to display his range but that he also received the accolades for his work. “Well done” all way around I must say. There is one thing that indie films and books tend to get right when compared to the massive corporate blockbuster world of media entertainment and that is story and heart. Indie’s time and time again get it right in a more consistent manner than the big fish. If you haven’t seen Whiplash you owe it to yourself to do so. Be prepared…it is rather intense and there is more than a little swearing so if you’re offended by such a thing you’ve been warned. Enjoy!
Currently I’m working my way through viewing The Last Ship. I’m more than half-way through the first season and I must say…it is not very good but I can’t bring myself to stop. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the absolute absurdity of the whole thing. I feel like I am rubber necking while watching this fiasco. I need to stop but I just can’t! And no, it is not a guilty pleasure. It’s more like masochism.
What got me to watch The Last Ship in the first place? Well, I attempted to read the book once when I was about 14. I made it about 50-pages in and quit. I put it back on the shelf and moved on. Then about 6-7 years later I tried again. I loved the idea of it all but it was just very, very hard to get into. Then I tried about 5-years after that believing that my stronger background in naval history and end-of-the-world scenarios (I studied such fun things in college!) would better prepare me for one more attempt. Nope. Still couldn’t go past page 100 or so. Now here I am having a rough outline of the story (it is very different from the book) delivered to on the TV and I just sit there shaking my head wondering how it became a series. I’m shaking my head even as I write this. Obviously the creators of the series never attempted to read the book the show is based on for if they had they would have gone on to instead make a zombie vampire reality show or something. Oh and there’s a season 2!!! Crazy!
What am I playing??? Yeah I’m a gamer. A gamer that goes back to the Commodore 64 and Atari. Following those up I gamed on the first Nintendo NES and then I moved into the PC world of gaming. I’ve built…many, many systems over the years. Too many to count. I love games of all genres but especially strategy games. FPS and RPG games are fun but to me they don’t compare to the thrill I get from a classic double pincer move on a battlefield. Good times. The other day I found a deal on Steam for a game I’ve heard about for a while but I just haven’t had the time to check it out. The game is called FTL: Faster Than Light. It was on one of Steam’s super discount sales. I think I paid like $2.50 for it. How could you miss for the cost of less than a cup of coffee, right? Well, it was a bullseye. I played that thing for half the night. I’m looking forward to playing it later today when I get all my chores and projects done for the day. It’s my reward. Check it out. If you like strategy and supporting indie works you will not be disappointed!
Now what am I writing? I’m happy to have a great deal of time to work on my writing projects this summer. I hope to have the sequel to my first book, The Bellerophon: Ambush, completed by the end of the season. What has kept me so behind on this project? Well, I wrote about 80-90k words in a side project and then shelved it because work was interfering with my process and a whole bunch of other things were
going on. I don’t see it entirely as wasted time because it will be out at some point but I am really focusing now on Bellerophon Book 2 (just my working title). I do want to thank, again, all the people that have read and taken the time to review Book 1. There is nothing more thrilling to me than to see my book has been downloaded and that it was enjoyed enough to earn a review. Even the critical reviews are appreciated because they push me to do better. Thanks everyone!
Awesome news from Variety (yeah like more than a month ago I know!). Longmire has been picked up by Netflix. Shame on A&E for dropping their #1 show. Sorry I haven’t reviewed this series yet. I’m waiting to watch Season 3 before I get a more thorough 6-pack rating completed.
Q: Who needs to be worried on A&E about #1 Longmire being cancelled?
A: Whoever is #2.
So yeah, Longmire has some shortcomings, like some middling writing but the setup for a terrific long-running series is there in spades. The actor that plays Sheriff Longmire (Robert Taylor) is excellent. The whining Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar fame) has promise but needs some heavy character work and to STOP LOOKING LIKE SHE IS ALWAYS GOING TO CRY!
Thanks Netflix for saving another good show!
Series Review: Helix
My Rating: 1 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (to get through this turkey I needed WAY more than a 6-pack!). I will be accepting donations to help me get through the suffering that is sitting through the first 13-episodes of this disaster.
Runtime: 13-episodes 40-45 mins each
Directed by: Various
Creator: Cameron Porsandeh
So I caught a commercial/trailer for this series more than a year or so ago and filed it away in my brain. As time went by it hovered in my memory until it merged in my mind with the commercials for The Strain (which I still need to watch) and Fringe (which I have watched most of but still need to watch the last season+). Being busy with work, life, and naps I’d all but forgotten about Helix. I haven’t watched Syfy since they killed Stargate: Universe so I never caught the series when it was first run. Then, a couple weeks ago, Helix popped up on my Netflix radar and the memory of this promising series resolved from the fog. I added it to the queue and prepared for a marathon. I primed the couch and stocked the larder ready for a Saturday morning start for the planned day-long session. Unfortunately my plan was derailed when I found Helix to be…not so very good. If I’m going to spend a whole day sitting on my butt watching the TV, instead of doing the dozen or so more productive things, the program needs to be pretty good. Not great. Just pretty good. And Helix definitely does not as “pretty good.”
I managed to make it through the first season but it took me far longer than I had originally planned. I simply seemed to find things to do instead of watch Helix like…wash my car in the rain, reorganize the glassware in the kitchen cabinet according to height, and count the servings and calories in my emergency ration stash so I know exactly what’s in inventory for when that alien invasion occurs (which I assume is soon).
As is my normal practice I will not include any spoilers in this review though I can tell you that one of the main-ish characters in the first several episodes doesn’t make it half-way through the first season and THANK GOD for that! If you watch Helix you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the acting of the clichéd bandanna wearing, rock music enthusiast, straight-talking scientist Doreen character is simply terrible. Terrible. Terrible. The acting is bad. The reasoning her experienced and supposedly intelligent character uses is simply awful and really detracts from the story. Just about every second her character is on the screen time is better spent taking out the trash or checking your work email on the iPad (yes both of those are similar tasks).
The main character of Dr. Alan Farragut, played by Billy Campbell, is not so very good by itself but thanks to the terrible Doreen character your ire is not focused entirely on him. Why he feels the need to talk in a husky/whiny voice (tough to pull that off at the same time) for the entirety of the first season is beyond me. I need to also mention that Campbell is 30-years older than the character played by Jordan Hayes. I won’t go any further on the subject but it is worth noting. If you watch the show you’ll understand. Thankfully there are moments of mystery that work to pull you into a slowly developing story. From time-to-time Dr. Hatake, played by Sanada – perhaps most recognized as the swordmaster in The Last Samurai – pops in and drops a little morsel of mystery like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs. Now if only those bread crumbs led somewhere interesting. There was so much promise in this show in the beginning but it just kinda continues on without really getting all that interesting. There’s some side story going on regarding stolen children I think. I should know but I found my attention often waning throughout this turkey. Oh, one last glaring issue with Helix. The team led by Campbell that is trying to do…whatever it is that they’re trying to do…is part of the CDC. Is that organization really so inept that a group of their most senior scientists runs off to cure a big bad bug and when the home office doesn’t hear from them for a long time there’s no response? Just one of the many, many plot holes in the show.
I’ll probably watch the second season when it’s on Netflix but I won’t seek it out. When it shows up on the recommendations list I’ll add it to the queue but not before. I’m not going to search it out. I do have to mention that there was one thing I enjoyed about the show. The hokey elevator music that plays during the title crawl is out of place and yet it’s oddly catchy.
Now can I recommend you spend a weekend watching this? Sure…but only after you’ve expended all other entertainment options, completed all chores, and reorganized your hope chest. Note: as I wrote this review I’ve steadily deducted points from the rating. I’m going to stop here out of concern I’ll soon be into negative numbers which isn’t fair to the two or three people that worked hard to bring you Helix.
P.S. 75K+ words into Sigma Draconis and more than a third of the way through the 2nd edition of The Bellerophon: Ambush which I hope to republish soon. I’m excited about both projects and the many, many project yet to come. SD is going to be cool but very different than my first book.