This might sound like an odd statement, but Ray Garton writes a pretty darn good “Buffy” novel despite having a tenuous grasp of the show. “Resurrecting Ravana” (2000), about an ancient Hindu demon that descends on Sunnydale (drawn by the Hellmouth, natch), is a good mystery yarn, and he makes sharp observations about the nature of magic.
Geek culture is indisputably mainstream today (as evidenced by the 57 superhero shows on TV), but that wasn’t always the case. So when did the transition happen? It was a gradual process, but I like to point to the game show “Beat the Geeks” (2001-02, Comedy Central) as a fulcrum. Like many great geeky things, it didn’t last long, but it did signal that it was safe for geeks to come out of the woodwork, and safe for non-geeks to show their geek side.
“American Vandal” – an eight-episode fictional docu-mystery that dropped last fall on Netflix – explores the snicker-worthy case of someone spray-painting penises on 27 cars. And to be sure, creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda intend the straight-faced talk about “dicks” and “ball hairs” and “mushroom heads” to appeal to our inner juvenile comedian.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe entered Phase Three it seemed to take on a unique challenge, reinventing itself with each new film. “Thor: Ragnarok” was basically the MCU’s answer to Monty Python. “Ant Man” was an “Ocean’s” movie with a dude who could shrink. Even “Guardians 2” changed things up by being incredibly personal and intimate where the first was loud and brash.
“Groundhog Day” (1993) is of course the touchstone of the “repeating the same day” genre, so when another film comes along with that premise, it’s intriguing, but it also gives me pause: Will it merely repeat “Groundhog Day” for a younger generation, or will it have something new to say? Available via Redbox and streaming, “Happy Death Day” (2017) is a mixture. It starts off too much in the same vein, but gets more creative as it moves toward a satisfying ending.
Elisabeth Massie connects on some things and misses on others in her first and only entry in the “Buffy” young-adult line, “Power of Persuasion” (October 1999). When she lets the dialog flow naturally, we get witty exchanges. Joyce asks Buffy if that was Willow on the phone. Since Willow is possessed at the time, Buffy says “Sort of.” But Massie also overuses “much,” thinking it’s a shortcut to Slayerette-speak, like Cordy saying “I got first runner-up! Wrong much? Totally inept judging much?”
“The Cloverfield Paradox” (which recently debuted on Netflix), the third installment of the loosely connected Cloververse saga, takes topical physics such as the recently discovered God Particle and the popular multiverse theory and smashes them into a movie that has little to do with science. Let’s just say it’s not going to pass muster with Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. But while the space station crew’s paranoia amid a series of disasters is familiar, there’s still fun to be had here if you’re in the mood (and if you already have Netflix, you saved money on a movie ticket this time around).
Even if you’ve watched Amazon Prime’s “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” you still don’t know the 10 short stories they came from. The teleplay writers tended to be inspired by the yarns more so than doing straight adaptations of them. The good news is that you now have 10 more pieces of “Electric Dreams” entertainment, collected in a 2017 tome from British publisher Gollancz. Each story has a short introduction from the teleplay writer.
I’ll have good things to write about Mel Odom’s Buffyverse work when I get to the “Angel” novels, but he makes an inauspicious debut with the young-adult entry “Unnatural Selection” (June 1999). It’s somewhat of a mystery story, which is rare among “Buffy” TV episodes, and there is a nice scene of Buffy and Angel going undercover to interview a witness, but Odom doesn’t quite commit to the genre.