My Current Obsession: Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions

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Back in January, I went through a “A Series of Unfortunate Events” phase by watching the Netflix show and reading all 13 books. Since the show is now renewed and will fully adapt the series by the end of Season 3, I’ve been in the mood for more Lemony Snicket. I have yet to read the “Unauthorized Biography” or “The Beatrice Letters,” but I’ve recently managed to get my hands on the prequel series called “All The Wrong Questions.”

For those who don’t know, Daniel Handler wrote this series just a few years ago. It depicts adventures of the shadowy narrator Lemony Snicket, who’s only 12 years old during this time. Alongside his bumbling older associate, S. Theodora Markson, Snicket solves various small town mysteries that may have a connection between them. The titles of each book revolve around four questions Snicket asks during these mysteries that are ultimately the wrong things to focus on.

I’ll mention here that I’ve only read two of the four stories so far, and my plan is to read the supplemental “File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents” next before I continue. However, I’m already really enjoying this series so far. I’ve always loved mysteries, so the noir feel to these books appealed to me immediately. I also appreciated that Handler’s familiar writing style shown in ASOUE was brought back here, albeit slightly more polished. He made a simple difference between both versions of Snicket in that the younger one is a bit of a smart aleck like some pre-teens can be. And even for such a young boy, he’s competent at what he does.

Another thing I’ve liked is that the stories involve a sort of hub location: the desolate town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. The descriptive narrative makes it easy to picture, but I also like that Handler keeps focus on the town rather than having Snicket jump to a bunch of other locations like the Baudelaires did. I think it’s a testament to Handler’s writing that I haven’t felt remotely bored by this setting. In relation to that, the cast of characters is smaller and easy to get invested in. S. Theodora and the Mitchums (the local police and married couple) are a prime example of the “adults are mostly useless” trope seen in ASOUE. Thankfully, even though they usually aren’t much help, the books occasionally have adults that are. For example, a pair of twins in the second book are actually cooperative with Snicket’s investigation. It’s kinda sad that that’s even a positive in this universe, but it still highlights how most of the kids, such as Snicket’s journalist friend Moxie, are the ones with the smarts to get things done. One of the only other competent adults seems to be the mysterious and villainous Hangfire, so I can’t wait to see the inevitable final showdown between him and Snicket.

Despite this series being only about a quarter of the length of ASOUE, I think “All The Wrong Questions” is a solid bunch of stories so far. It does reference lines and characters from ASOUE, but since it’s a prequel series that didn’t bother me whatsoever. I think I would even recommend newcomers to try reading this first before ASOUE if continuity is a big deal to you. Of course, as I’ve found out, reading them in the reverse order isn’t bad either. No matter which series you choose to read first, ATWQ is definitely a good addition to the Snicket line-up.

Disney Remakes

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You know, when it was announced that Disney would continue its trend of making live-action, loosely based versions of their animated films, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and exclaiming, “What is the point?” I know that’s not an unpopular opinion, and it can definitely be argued that these remakes are meant to suck people in due to nostalgia. As for me, I basically shoved aside these remakes after Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” made me long for the colorful insanity of the animated film (and that’s not even one of my faves!).

But yesterday, I decided to watch the new live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” I had my criticisms, sure, but I’d be lying if the occasional bit of nostalgia didn’t get me sentimental. It had its good and bad points both including and excluding nostalgia, but it made me realize something. Up until these remakes were announced, I had no problem with adaptations of these stories. The animated Disney movies might be a huge part of my childhood, but other versions have existed both before and after them. The reason these ones bothered me all this time was obvious: It was Disney retelling Disney.

That’s not to say retreading old ground is always a bad idea. For example, I watched the 2016 version of “The Jungle Book” today and thought it improved on many things, even if it kept the musical aspects to a minimum. It proved that Disney could take one of its versions and change it just enough to let it stand on its own. With “Beauty and the Beast”, that line is arguably blurred. It added some moments that felt like padding to me and others that felt like they fleshed out Belle and the Beast’s budding relationship. It’s the fact that, as a musical, it follow similar beats to the animated movie that I’ve seen many people deem it pointless (I was guilty of that too before seeing it myself). I still understand where they’re coming from, even if I do think it’s a decent film. But both of these films were insanely successful. So, I think there’s an interesting argument to be made about whether to change things up or to mostly capitalize on nostalgia.

I think, at the end of the day, people want a good story and characters they can get behind despite that extra dose of nostalgia. We hold many of these stories in high regard because Disney made us care about them once upon a time. Remakes are always going to happen with or without Disney, just as they did before the Disney Renaissance existed. I now feel these remakes are less of a cash grab (though they DO make all the money) and, on a sentimental level, more of a chance for us to care about these stories again and view them in a different light. And while not everything they remake will be up to someone’s standards, I kinda have to give them kudos for that.

Progress Report

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I know I haven’t talked much about my ongoing visa process. Honestly, it’s because most of the time it’s been a waiting game. The government (both of them) can only move so fast with this stuff, and I know I’m not the only visa applicant out there. However, these past few months have had more progress than I, my fiancé, and even our lawyer have anticipated.

After my application was approved in early February, we waited throughout the rest of the month and all of March to find out the next step. At the start of this month, however, we were finally sent further instructions. We’re both now in the process of getting things together for the head consulate in Montreal so they can review our case. Once everything’s A-OK with that, I should then get instructions to make my medical and interview appointments.

That’s the step I’m looking forward to the most, even if it will be a bit nerve-wracking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we’ve made it this far and apparently in a fairly quick amount of time. But that next step will be the make or break point for me getting sent that visa card. I just want things to continue on this positive path we’ve made so I can get down to Florida and finally be with my man. I’m hoping we’ll have everything sorted out at least before my 30th birthday next year!

And despite some things feeling a bit slower because of us having a lawyer in the mix, I’m still satisfied with our decision to hire one. My fiancé and I both tend to worry about important things like this, and the last thing we wanted was to attempt this on our own and possibly end up making mistakes. I really don’t want to repeat this process if it can be helped, and I’m confident in both our relationship and our case that I’ll get approved by the end of all this. I’ll be making another update here in the future no matter what happens, but until then I’ll continue rambling about other aspects of my life.

Hopes and Fears About Series 10 of “Doctor Who”

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The new season of “Doctor Who” starts tomorrow night, and while I’m pretty sure I’ll have to wait until Sunday to actually watch it, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for it. Even though we still got a Christmas special last year, it feels like ages since Series 9. And now that one of my least favorite companions is officially gone (sorry, Clara fans), I’m mostly looking forward to Series 10.

One of the biggest things I’m excited for is spending more time with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed him despite the rocky writing that’s plagued his seasons. But I’ve also felt like a lot of his tenure was driven by his relationship with Clara. I’m hoping this new season will give him a slew of amazing moments both with or without Nardole and Bill. This will also mark the second time I’ll have to watch an iteration of the Doctor go (since I missed out on Nine and Ten’s the first time around). Even though Smith was my first Doctor, I’ll still be a bit sad to see Capaldi go. He has a presence and intensity that’s captivating to watch.

I’m interested to see what else they do with Nardole. While his character has good comedic timing, his two appearances so far haven’t fully endeared him to me. I’m hoping the inclusion of Bill will give his character more to do. Speaking of, I’m also hoping to see good things from Bill. It remains to be seen if she’ll stick around past this season, but if she is a one season wonder, I really hope Moffat makes her story compelling.

Lastly, the announcement of a few older baddies returning has me a little intrigued. I’m wary of certain spoilers regarding Missy, but I’m just hoping she gets more to do. I don’t mind Michelle Gomez’s performance, but having now seen the classic Masters, I can see why other fans have kinda shunned both hers and Simms’ iterations. I’m also curious about the return of the Ice Warriors, and even moreso the original Cybermen. I found them extremely weird after coming off of New Who’s fully robotic versions, but I want to see where they’ll fit in storywise and how they’ll interact with this Doctor.

But then we come to my fears. Obviously, there’s no telling if there will be an overarching plot this season. Given that Moffat has made one in all his seasons, however, I’m more wary about it this time around. I haven’t been overly impressed with his plots lately, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up of this potential one ending on a high note. But who knows? Maybe he’ll prove me wrong or I’ll at least be pleasantly surprised.

On that note, I’m also worried about his handling of Bill above anyone else. I felt Clara had too much importance even as the Doctor’s sole companion, and I’m afraid Moffat might put similar emphasis on Bill as well. Not every companion needs to have something special or mysterious about them. If there’s one thing I noticed with the classic era, it’s that many of the companions were ordinary people, even if they came from the distant future. Sure, some might have been smarter than others, but they were there to keep the Doctor grounded and connect us to that world. However, even if Bill turns out to be extraordinary beyond normal means, I just hope she has a good, strong story behind her.

Ultimately, the biggest thing I fear about this season is Moffat himself. Look, I love the guy, though maybe not quite as much as I used to. But in terms of writing quality, I want to see the Moffat who wrote “Heaven Sent” this season. I still maintain that that’s one of his best episodes in a long time, and I’d love to see that consistency throughout his final run. For all the gripes I’ve had about his handling of the show over the past two seasons, I want nothing more than for Moffat to go out on a high note.

We’ll see if any of these hopes and fears come true, but I’m still just glad to have the show back. “Doctor Who” is still one of the only shows I actually watch on TV, and even its bad episodes don’t deter me from coming back week after week. Here’s hoping Series 10 starts off strong tomorrow.

Shakespeare & Me

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This week I’ve been on possibly the strangest mini-kick I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to YouTube’s recommendations, I discovered and watched David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing.” From then on, I’ve been getting into more adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. I honestly never thought I’d say that in my lifetime.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Shakespeare. Like most people, I was first introduced to his work in school. I always detested having to read and study his plays, not just because it felt like a chore but also because I’ve always been a visual learner. Whenever we would watch a movie related to whichever play we were studying, I often found the work more interesting afterwards. However, I was also drawn to the tragic stories over the romances like “Romeo & Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” It’s cliched by now due to their popularity, but I adored “Hamlet” and thought “Macbeth” was awesome in how messed up it was. Despite this, I was happy to leave Shakespeare behind once I left high school.

But lately, I’ve found that watching Shakespeare via plays and adaptations makes me appreciate the Bard far more than I did back then. Aside from Tennant and Tate’s “Much Ado,” I’ve also watched Joss Whedon’s version, Tennant’s version of Hamlet, the meta comedy “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”, “West Side Story” aka my preferred take on “Romeo & Juliet”, and Ian McKellen’s “Richard III.” I know this is a small taste of Shakespeare, but I’ve found that if a rendition of his work has a gimmick, actors/actresses I enjoy, or both, it makes it easier for me to get engaged with the story and language. In fact, the one adaptation that did stick with me from high school was Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” for how epic and stylized it was.

Besides YouTube, I have to partially blame Kyle Kallgren (formerly known as Oancitizen) for making me want to continue seeking out more Shakespeare adaptations. It was thanks to the yearly Shakespeare Month portion of his web show, Brows Held High, that I initially watched Whedon’s “Much Ado” back in 2014. I’ve spent this week catching up on his other Shakespeare videos to see what other adaptations are out there. Again, it’s really bizarre to me that I’ve taken this much interest in something I couldn’t wait to get away from in school. I don’t consider myself obsessed at this point, but I can at least say I have a newfound respect for Shakespeare. I’m more than happy to make some fresh memories out of the fun I’ve had checking out his work now instead of remembering the tedium I felt back then.

My Current Obsession: Broadchurch

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As you can no doubt tell, lately I’ve been on a bit of a TV kick. Specifically, outside of “Iron Fist,” a British TV kick. And since the final Steven Moffat-penned season of “Doctor Who” starts next month, I figured I’d further get acquainted with his soon-to-be successor, Chris Chibnall. I figured what better way to do so than by finally checking out “Broadchurch.” Now, I’ve only watched the first season of the show, hence why this is a “Current Obsession” blog.

So, what is the show about? Well, it’s a crime drama set in a seaside little town called Broadchurch. The first episode kicks things off with the death of 11 year old Danny Latimer. Once his death is ruled to be a homicide, the show delves deeper into the town’s residents and plants clues and red herrings about who committed the crime. Everybody is considered a suspect, save for the detectives working the case, local resident Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman) and city slicker Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant). The stakes are high, the melodrama is in full force, and the case is resolved by the eighth episode’s end.

I initially watched the first episode a year or two ago. While I did like it, I found I wasn’t in the mood for a crime drama at the time and promptly set it aside. But once I dived back in to continue Season 1, I was hooked immediately. Sure, mysteries are always fun to solve, and I liked getting to know the diverse cast of characters. But part of the draw was the setting as well. I live near a small town and have visited small waterside towns nearby, so I took to Broadchurch’s quaint aesthetic instantly. I could understand why some of the characters felt drawn in by the town, while others felt trapped. I’VE felt that way living where I do, so it made the town feel all that more interesting to me.

I was surprised by how easy to get to know the show’s large cast. Every character served a purpose, even if some got the spotlight more than others. I don’t feel like there was a bad actor in the bunch, honestly. Some of my favorite characters included local vicar Paul Coates (played by Arthur Darvill), store owner Jack Marshall (played by David Bradley), and Danny’s mom Beth (played by Jodie Whittaker). But my personal highlight of the show is the dynamic between Detectives Miller and Hardy. They have great chemistry as they learn to work with each other despite their opposing personalities. I thought Olivia Colman did a fantastic job portraying a woman who has close ties with everyone in town and is forced to attempt to be impartial despite it. And I can’t say enough good things about David Tennant. Yes, most people know him as the Tenth Doctor (and possibly Kilgrave at this point), but I equally loved his more serious and moody role here. Plus, it was great hearing his natural Scottish accent and a far cry from the shouty-ness I’d grown used to with Peter Capaldi.

If I had any gripes with this season, it’s that the writing at times felt a little too…poetic? I’m not sure if that’s the right word for it, but some of the writing seemed a little unnatural occasionally. While I liked the cinematography, I felt they relied a little too much on the use of slow-mo to make some moments feel more dramatic. Not saying it didn’t work at all, but it felt a tad overdone. And finally, I wish there had been a few more indications of who the killer turned out to be. It didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere, but it still felt like most of the other characters got more attention even though they amounted to red herrings. I suppose that could have been the point, since the show makes a statement about not trusting anyone whatsoever. I just think the execution could have been a little better.

Overall, I can see why “Broadchurch” is an appealing show to so many people. It’s got an intriguing mystery, solid characters, and a charming setting to bring everything together. At this point, I’m not sure what to expect from the next couple seasons. It’s strange to think they were allowed to continue since the story in this season was wrapped up pretty well. However, I’ll gladly revisit the show’s world and characters again. It’s just that good.

What I Liked/Disliked About “Iron Fist”

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 I finished Netflix’s “Iron Fist” last night and decided that my blog on it will be a little different than what I normally do. I’m going to go down some general points I liked/disliked about it. My main reason for this is because I could go on and on about this show otherwise. That said, let’s start on the positive side first.

Things I Liked

  • I thought the acting was pretty good. Yes, people have harped on Finn Jones’ performance as Danny Rand, but he didn’t bother me much. I do feel he’s overshadowed by some of the other actors, though.
  • Even though Danny was a bit bland (more on that later), I thought he was alright. I still prefer the leads from the other shows, however. Aside from him, I grew to like Colleen Wing for her abilities and relationship with Danny, and I also enjoyed Danny’s rocky friendship with fellow K’un-Lun warrior Davos. I initially disliked Danny’s childhood friend Ward, but by the end he redeemed himself. Claire Temple’s return I mostly liked, and there’s also a returning villain who I was happy to see despite the show’s handling of them. Aside from that, I did like one of the newer villains, though their story ended up being very cliched.
  • While the fight scenes could be hit or miss in terms of entertainment, I adored Episode 6 for both its memorable showdowns and all-around comic book feel. I’d say it’s still my favorite episode of the whole season. I also enjoyed one fight that moves from being your typical hallway fight to include an elevator as well. And there was this one hilariously awesome fight with a drunken member of The Hand that was a ton of fun to watch.
  • Finally, I liked some of the visual effects, most notably to show off Danny’s powerful fist. While it was nice to see in fights, I appreciated when it was used for practical reasons such as smashing down a door.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • The plot often threw in a lot of things at once, like villains, and it seemed unfocused at times. Many ideas here could’ve been saved for their own season, and I didn’t care about Danny’s involvement in the corporate plot because I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere for him and it felt too similar to what “Arrow” tried to do. Season 1 felt like a rollercoaster for me quality-wise, and I don’t feel either half was stronger than the other.
  • The returning villain eventually gets cast aside for both the “main” villain as well as a secondary villain. It felt like all three could have carried a season and made me long for the simplicity of “Jessica Jones” for having one major villain alongside a couple morally ambiguous characters.
  • I found I didn’t care for many of the other characters, and I thought they overused Claire. As much as I love Claire as a character, I felt she shouldn’t have been in the majority of this season. It kinda took away from building up a stronger supporting cast to me.
  • This show needed either a bigger budget or better storyboarding because I got sick and tired of Danny having to constantly “tell, don’t show” when he spoke about K’un-Lun. I equally got tired of them reusing the scene of him and his parents’ plane crashing. I would have gladly traded in half the corporate stuff in favor of seeing flashbacks to him training to become the Iron Fist. I also would’ve liked to see him in full costume, but the reference to it was acceptable.
  • My biggest gripe of the entire show is the writing. It lets it down not only with the above “tell, don’t show” aspect, but it also makes Danny comes across less interesting than he should. I would argue that fails the character more than Jones’ performance like many people have blamed. It makes him naive to the point of annoyance and stupidity at times, and he and everyone else seemed to get at least one cheesy and/or clunky line of dialogue. While I liked that Danny was a little more lighthearted and innocent than the other Marvel leads, I’m hoping he’ll fair better writing-wise in “The Defenders.”

Overall, Iron Fist is currently my least favorite of the four Marvel Netflix shows. However, I think it’s okay and isn’t nearly as bad as critics made it out to be. I came in not sure what to expect like I did with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Doctor Strange”, but I came out still thinking more could have been done with this first season. That said, I’m still looking forward to seeing Danny interact with the others in “The Defenders.” As for “Iron Fist”, if it does get a second season, I really hope the showrunners focus on improving the writing before anything else.