Category Archives: TV and Film

Television and film.

Damages, Season 4. On the season so far.

The fourth and current season of Damages is the first to show on DirecTV instead of FX. Despite the lower budget and the smaller audience, it’s still one of the best shows on TV. Ellen Parsons is heading a wrongful death suit against a Blackwater-style private security firm operating in Afghanistan. Her lover, Chris, is her key witness and the bigwig is played by none other than John Goodman.

The season has the hallmarks of the past three: retroactive continuity, timelines that run back to front against each other, and gradual, but significant, revelations that leave viewers waiting eagerly for the next episode. There are some things that seem different about this new season. For one, it’s set three years after the events of the last one; Patty Hewes is the de facto parent to her granddaughter, and she’s lost that sharp edge. She’s distracted and looking for her son. By the fifth episode, you get this feeling that her son isn’t well off, and the writers have planted the seeds of worry (not that he is a sympathetic character, no, but he’s one character out of a very small cast) over his fate.

Highstar—the “Blackwater” of the series—is a very different Big Bad from previous seasons. There’s more depth to the organization, and there is an elegance to the dynamic between Jerry Boorman (played by Dylan Baker), a Machiavellian and amoral loyalist to Highstar, and Howard Erickson (John Goodman), the CEO who’s a study in contradictions.

Despite the differences from previous seasons, the show remains highly entertaining and intriguing while following a deliberate pace that doesn’t bore. And if you’d like to see how much detail and how many twists get into the show, here’s Fast Rapper Watsky to get you all caught up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PARsx03hpNM

The Undefeated: a review

I saw a rough cut of The Undefeated, the much-discussed “Palin documentary,” at RightOnline last month. I skipped the first part—I was socializing!—with the montage of insults. When I walked into the screening they were already talking about her early days in the Alaska state government.

If you’ve read Going Rogue, you would already know most of the facts presented in the show. If you get your news from the “Lamestream Media,” you would hear the facts presented with what you would think is “spin.” If you get your news from The Daily Show, you probably won’t be interested in seeing this movie anyway, and you would probably have a fixed, firm belief about Mrs. Palin and this movie probably won’t do it for you (unless you want to do a “Daily Show Viewer goes to the zoo” feature, then I hate to burst your bubble but that’s been done by The Atlantic).

What I like about the film: it’s a fair treatment of Mrs. Palin’s record in the Alaska state government, in that it cuts through the negative spin added by the media’s coverage of her time back then. She’s been spun as a vindictive, spitful betch—it’s “bitch,” but you just have to inflect and pronounce it a certain way to empasize the frivolty of those saying so—who uses bipartisan methods to “get back” at her “enemies.” Or maybe she was just doing her job and doing what she believed she was elected for. You know? Because that’s what government officials do. (Heck, consider our president now, who continues to believe he has a mandate despite the results of the 2010 elections, which in his mind doesn’t even seem to be a signal for him to change course.) It skips over a lot of details that we’d consider “recent memory,” such as the 2008 election.

The participation of Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce, Mark Levin and Sonnie Johnson added a very passionate, spirited presentation in addition to the voice over narration.

What I dislike about the film: man, is the pacing languid. A viewer’s time on film is currency, and this one spends it like Obama does our money. I have heard that the theatrical release has addressed this isssue, so I won’t beat it up for that.

The tone of correcting the record in the first two thirds of the film gives way to a  bit of “woe is me” in the final acts. This was unncessary. This was the documentarian’s chance to end on a high note; and the title may be The Undefeated but the wrapup made me feel just a little beaten down.

The participation of Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce, Mark Levin and Sonnie Johnson had one drawback. With the exception of Sonnie Johnson, whose testimonial style was relaxed and steadfast, the other three seemed a little too wound up for camera. I understand that this is serious business and that yes, we should be wound up with the way the media has treated Palin, but, the problem with having people do this on screen for you is that you no longer feel the need to.

In the film, A Time To Kill, Matthew McConaughey’s character definitely won his defense case by placing the jurors in the shoes of Samuel L. Jackson’s character. It roused the attention of everyone in the courtroom in what was considered a hopeless case. Without the lawyer preaching to the jury how they should feel and decide, he gave them every reason to decide in his client’s favor, and they did.

It’s an odd, odd cinematic paradox: if the characters you are watching are already feeling an emotion on your behalf, you no longer feel emotions for them or whoever it is you’re supposed to feel for.

Takeaways: this isn’t “propaganda” so much as it is “my side of the story.” It will correct the record for viewers who think they know about Palin, but for those who believe they already know everything there is to know, well. There’s no shaking that.

Finally, while I support the filmmaker’s commercial efforts, if they want this message out to as many people as possible, they need to be far more lax with copyright enforcement. I don’t know if any segments have been leaked yet, much less the whole movie, but Conservative treatment of the media has to be through disintermediation and circumvention. Perhaps after a while, maybe the documentarian himself should release this in 10-minute segments, for free, on YouTube. Maybe 30-minute chunks on Vimeo. Maybe seed this film across multiple torrent trackers. I don’t know. I know it’s sold out in Texas, but what about everywhere else, where there aren’t that many supporters but perhaps enough open minds to make a difference?

And lastly, The Undefeated should serve as a warning to all Conservatives. We can not let the media dictate the narrative. Many players bungled her rollout, even she herself. But we know better now. I am not a fan of cultish defenses of a candidate, but neither do I believe that we should merely let the media present “facts” about someone, unchallenged.

Doctor Who season six mid-season review

Last year, Steven Moffat took the reins from Russell T. Davies and steered the cart on a very different, mature, intimate, and direction. The main theme then was memory: every episode stressed its importance, and it was central even his guest appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures. This year, the theme explores the malleable nature of reality as it is affected by impressions, misconceptions and deception. Every episode deals with the realization that nothing is at it seems.

In The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon, the Silence have corrupted the memories of humanity throughout our development, living among us, visible but perfectly forgettable. In The Curse Of The Black Spot, the siren was no hunter, but a healer. In The Doctor’s Wife, House has fooled many Time Lords before The Doctor, and Idris’ initial behavior concealed her true nature. The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People explore personhood, existence and the self.

At first I was a little resentful towards The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People because they served little more than vehicles for the (rather surprising) twist at the end of the story: that the Amy we’ve been watching on their adventures was not, in fact, the real deal. However, once you leave that big reveal at the end, the two-parter has merits of its own. The show is rather confusing when you’re trying to keep track of who’s who. The only differentiating characteristics were the costume, and the blocking of the actors, the framing of the shots, the non-stop dialogue all serve as constant, intentional obstacles to a critical viewing.

A Good Man Goes to War has a little bit of everything for everyone, and it does so in style. Just as in last season’s The Pandorica Opens, the Doctor’s old friends reunite to help him in his our of need. We also meet a few new characters whom the Doctor has met offscreen: Straxx, Madame Vastra and Lorna Bucket. (This is one technique Moffat does that RTD never did; the fact that their histories were revealed during dialogue is further proof of Moffat’s superiority over his predecessor.) The whole episode is an emotional rollercoaster for both The Doctor, his friends, and viewers of the show. The episode is steeped in falsehoods: false impressions of The Doctor, one that, in the 51st century has grown to epic and demonic proportions; false impressions of the other characters, of victory, of defeat, of the very nature of River Song.

Astute viewers would’ve made the connection between “Melody Pond” and “River Song.” The analogous words were a dead giveaway for anyone who’s been looking to piece things together for years. With Steven Moffat, these big reveals are barely the goal, it’s like the icing on the cake that is the story itself. Like any good storyteller, he does not have us yearning to see how the story ends, rather he writes stories that have an ending that’s worthy of the ride he just took us on.

Suddenly, everything about River Song makes sense. The details go as far back as her first appearance in Silence In the Library. Consider the continuity issues and how Moffat ties a neat bow around everything:

  • When The Doctor asked her why she’s in prison, her answer was: “I killed a man; the best man I ever knew.” We can assume that she killed him as Melody Pond, in the astronaut suit, by the lake. (Or so we’re lead to believe.) Six months after the events of Day Of The Moon, she regenerates.
  • “Our lives are back to front.” We first meet River Song when she dies in The Forest Of The Dead. I wonder what her role will be moving forward.
  • There are two hundred years of The Doctor’s adventures before he is killed by Melody Pond, but we still don’t know how he will save the baby from her kidnappers, and how she becomes the Melody who kills him.

Even if the above conclusions are proven wrong by any future shenanigans of Moffat’s, this still constitutes a very disciplined, far-seeing writing style. It’s a stark, stark contrast to the works of Russell T. Davies, so much so that a recent re-watching of his work has proven all but a few episodes unwatchable.

On the new season of Doctor Who

I became a fan of the revived Doctor Who series the moment it started, with Chris Eccleston’s surly depiction. When he chose to leave the series for fear of being typecast, I wasn’t sure that he had an idea of just how well the series would’ve turned out. Tennant’s first season in the role carried the same and feel as the last—if it were a tune I’d be discussing timbre—and he didn’t really settle into his own until the second season, with Agyeman.

After four years in the role, Tennant and Russell T. Davies’ team of writers had nowhere to go but formulaic: Tennant’s Doc—Doc10—had a habit of offering a way out for his enemies. Whether it was the the Daleks in Manhattan, the Family Of Blood or The Master himself, or Miss Foster, the stranded Pyrovilians, or Davros, not matter who Tennant-Doc was facing, you could expect The Offer. The Offer is a fixture in his role the way The Epiphany is to Hugh Laurie’s Doctor House. The problem is he offered the outs in such a way that they could never have appealed to the base personalities of his opponents, so much that they were mere traps, ways to assure Doc10 that his decision to mete out his brand of punishment was the right decision.

There are many things I can glaze over in evaluating his role—his madcap and slapstick antics, and his penchant for inspiring people to kill themselves over him—but predictability is not one. As such, Midnight remains my favorite episode of Doc10’s adventures: a situation where is was completely helpless and without the ability to offer anyone a second chance.

A few months later, the youngest man to ever play the role of The Doctor graced our screens and, coupled with the excellent writing of Steven Moffat, took the role to places I could never have seen Tennant would go.

Smith—Doc11—is perfect for the kind of writing Steven Moffat is good at. We’re no strangers to his storytelling, what with Eccleston’s WW2 double episode, and Tennant’s Blink and Library two-parter. Moffat engages the viewer in what Joshua Treviño calls an “intimate” kind of horror, as opposed to what he calls RTD‘s “Transformers-style” plot devices. I felt that tension even in the first episode, in the scene with the open door in the hallway, or when Amy was being stalked by Prisoner Zero. Doc11 does well in this medium because his execution is psychological and directed inward, whereas Doc10’s character projected outward. Smith has his flaws: he seems to lack a passion where needed. He can be stern, but he doesn’t do anger convincingly, nor can he voice objection without seeming comical.

Taking the good with the bad, I’m convinced that Smith and Moffat form an amazing artistic team. They need and deserve each other, and only good things lie ahead.

So, with just the two-part season finale left, I was amazed when I read the blurb for part two of the finale: The Doctor is gone, the TARDIS has been destroyed, and the universe is collapsing. The only hope for all reality is a little girl who still believes in stars.

Every season there is one episode each that is light on either the companion, or the Doctor. Blink was light on both, Midnight was light on Donna and Turn Left was light on the Doc. This season, The Lodger had very little of Amy. I think it’s a a great twist to have the doctor mostly absent for the finale, because, as much as it is a twist, it emphasizes the greatest difference between Doc11 and Doc10.

Doc11 hasn’t left a trail of sacrificial lambs who threw themselves in the way of whatever it is threatening him. (One exception is Rory.) He is the antithesis of Doc10’s parasitic streak, whose survival depended on the heroic sacrifices of those who’ve grown to admire him. Doc11 is not afraid to allow those who threaten him to self-destruct. While Doc10 was a “no second chances kind of guy” as established in The Christmas Invasion, Doc11 is a no-chances-at-all kind of guy.

So what does this season finale hold for us? With a teaser blurb like that, I’m convinced the Pandorica is a prison built to imprison the Doctor. When it opens, it will be empty and waiting for him. I’ve learned enough from watching Doctor Who to not speculate too deeply. Moffat is an amazing writer who can take a viewer in unpredictable directions. I hope this will be the case throughout all of Smith’s tenure.

Entropy

It’s a sign of greater experience (and age) when one comes to the realization that in fiction, every story has been told. The series finale for the revived Battlestar Galactica proves that, if but a little. Experiencing fictional archetypes can be disappointing, but only if the details and delivery seem hackneyed, hurried and patronizing towards the audience (or readers).

Last week’s episode of Supernatural was an excellent episode of television, but for someone my age—I turn twenty-nine this year—not only is the story familiar, but so are the details. I’ve grown disappointed in the series this season because it uncannily echoes the mechanics of a 1995 film, The Prophecy. The internecine conflict among the angels of Heaven has overtaken the series’ original theme of two brothers and their hunt against evil.

Maybe the show has become a victim of its own popularity and success. The end of the Yellow-Eyed Demon’s story should have marked the end of the series. Unlike a procedural drama—which in a way it was, at first—a serial like this show is endangered by running out of story. To me, Supernatural has reached that point. A number of shows have done the same. The cruel turn is that we, as viewers, have become so enamored with the characters and now, we are left watching the proverbial trainwreck in slow motion.

Ron Moore, with Battlestar, knew this danger, and worked his damned best to end it. It may not have been the most satisfying ending, but he ended it when he knew it was time, and BSG, for all its faults stands as a story told.

UPDATE, ten minutes after posting. I’m calling the outcome of the season: Sam’s demon bloodoholism is preparation for his being Lucifer’s vessel, being that the denizens of Heaven and Hell are both noncorporeal, and since Satan is such a big bad, he’ll need a strong enough jug to carry his water.

I’m glad they didn’t go with tuna

Then when I was working on the first episodes of the series, he needed to have something in his refrigerator. What does he have in his refrigerator? Well, we know he likes yogurt. And then the writer of the second episode, Alfredo Barrios, thought that was funny and so he threw a yogurt into his episode. And once you get a yogurt in a pilot and two episodes, man, you gotta keep going. So it becomes – it’s just sort of fun. At the same time, I will say that it was inspired by some research that we did, or actually discussions that I had with Michael Wilson [consulting producer]. The essence of which is that operatives do find themselves in circumstances where they need cheap sources of healthy protein. Michael Wilson’s preferred source of cheap protein was canned tuna fish. So Michael could just as easily have been a tuna fish man, but we made him a yogurt man.

Matt Nix discusses the prominent role of yogurt in Burn Notice. Jeffrey Donovan tries to offer a more sensible rationale (video, on Hulu.) Yes, it took me this long to get caught up on Burn Notice’s finale, and while the recap from What’s Alan Watching? is good, the sight of seeing Carla unceremoniously shot—yes! Tricia Helfer’s character dies again and again and again, thanks to precedent set by BSG—was extremely satisfying.

Midseason review: Fringe

“Olivia Dunham, F.B.I. I’m ugly, but for some reason, every dude wants to shag me. I’m remarkably brilliant but it takes a lot of close-up shots of me and my inquisitively, downward-curved lips to figure something out. And I use my womanity, for all its good and bad, when I have a case. Except when I don’t.”

When I read a pre-air review of Fringe as a contemporary interation of The X-Files, I wasn’t too pleased with the idea of another FBI-SciFi show, until it mentioned “flesh eating virus.” Of course, for all us Fringe viewers out there, we all know from the Pilot that it was a chemical agent. It’s a small detail that we can forgive, as viewers, but some of the other aspects of the show, may not be.

I don’t like to review based on first impressions, because if I did, then this “just another FBI lady agent in the world” storyline would have worn me thin very quickly. I set it aside, and allowed myself to be pulled into the story the way only J.J. Abrams could.

What felt like a procedural TV show had a long-running arc that carried through the ten episodes. So far, it is well-executed, with the small details of Mr. Jones and Dunham’s kidnapping at the end of episode ten.

The main strengths of the show are the use of lighting and incidental music to set the tone. There is always a sense of forboding danger, even in the calmest of situations. It seems that Boston is almost always overcast, even on a clear day, and there is a trademark blue flare that happens almost everytime something related to the Pattern is happening. Character development is a little weak: we all know that Peter Bishop has a shady past and the slow reveals of what’s gone on with him has tested my patient. Walter Bishop’s random comments, however, never fail to bring levity to a serious situation. Without Walter’s humor the show would be too severe to enjoy.

I think that casting Massive Dynamic as an Evil Corporation Responsible For The Ills Of The World, which in this case is Pattern-related experimentation, is a bit of a tired tactic and needs to be retired by clearing its name in the future. It’s one thing to cast Nina Sharp as an amoral decision-maker for the company’s interests, it’s another to cast it as the Source Of All Evil. We’ve seen it too many times and I’m tired of it.

Lastly, one theme of Fringe that was echoed in the series’ content was that there never really are any answers. This is a J.J. Abrams creation, so viewers familiar with him can expect, like in Cloverfield and Lost, answers that lead to more questions.

All together, Fringe is a great show that brings some kind of promise, but carrying it past Season 1 will require some creative storytelling in order to hold a narrative.

So much TV, so little time

Considering my personal schedule I’m just glad I can record shows and get back to them later on. It’s fall again, and every network and their mother has a must-see show. Here’s my fall viewing list, according to priority.

Watch within the week of showing: House, The Mentalist (review coming up soon), Fringe, Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Stargate Atlantis.

Watch whenever there is enough precious free time to waste: The Closer, Saving Grace, Boston Legal, Burn Notice

Wait till summer, or mid-season reruns: Heroes (Yes, Heroes), Prison Break.

There was a time I used to watch way more TV than this, but the times have come a’changin’. Reviews to come soon.

A question of when

In the fourth-season episode of (The New) Doctor Who, The Sontaran Stratagem, a young genius named Luke Rattigan, with the help of the alien enemy, developed ATMOS: an emission scrubber that eliminated all pollution from the cars that had them installed. When The Doctor investigated ATMOS at Rattigan’s academy (yes, the runt had an Academy) his first comment was a backhanded compliment: “I was just thinking, what a responsible eighteen year old. Inventing zero carbon cars? Saving the world…”

Luke responds smugly: “Takes a man with vision.” To this The Doctor replied: “Mmm, blinking vision. ‘Cause ATMOS means more people driving, more cars, more petrol. End result: the oil’s gonna run out faster than ever. The ATMOS system could make things worse.” (Doctor Who Transcripts)

As it turns out, there is a a real-life Luke Rattigan, and his name is Klaus Lackner. (Allahpundit on Hot Air has the report.) A real-life CO2 scrubber, fancy that! Except the fictional Doctor’s assessment isn’t really as fictional. Scrubbing CO2 in massive amounts worldwide might help. It might be another step in the local terraforming efforts of greenies. It could be the topic of a SciFi book, but what if all that carbon out there is what’s stopping us from slipping into an ice age? And what if the law of unitended consequences kicks in and produces a boom in the use of oil?

There’s plenty of talk about peak oil, alternative fuels, T. Boone Pickens, concurrent development, and the need to phase out our need for petrol-based energy. Pickens makes a great point about how our economy is paying our enemies for the fuel we need to sustain itself. There will come a time that our nation will be thrall to those who supply oil. Sometimes I wonder if we already are.

I’m a strong believer in incrimental concurrent development. The best solution is never the most abrupt, or the most radical. And boy, do I get into arguments over that world view. Alternative fuel research and research into overall implementation is important. We also know that this kind of change is not an overnight thing.

But let’s fancy the idea that it might actually be an overnight thing. What if, tomorrow we discover the means for near-limitless energy, renewable and clean? What if tomorrow the entire worldwide oil cartel is rendered irrelevant, their economies completely devastated? OPEC is well aware of what we are trying to achieve. Maybe it’s time they took responsibility for their future, too, and prepare for the day when their wells run dry and we are the ones left standing.

Sharkwater

In any other written word’s realm, the warning that a piece is long and meant to be so is unnecessary. Among us bloggers, it’s only polite to do so. Be warned: this post is long, and it isn’t just about Sharkwater either. Today is Earth Day (Wikipedia entry). While 2007 may have been the year we apparently all went green, 2008 is the year we’re starting to wake up to the sheer complexity of environmental awareness. It also a year where it isn’t really that all great to be human, when one thinks of the numerous dilemmas facing our species. The problem is in the Misanthropic Principle, which I wrote about a few years back. Very few real solutions short of the extermination of humanity are explored with any seriousness.

Sharkwater, released in 2007, is probably the most important environmental documentary released in the past, oh I don’t know. Since film, perhaps? The movie clearly demonstrates the causal relationship between human action and environmental effects, the situation on the ground, so to speak, or in the water, is not really open to “debate,” unlike in the case of, say, global warming. Fisheries are collapsing, shark populations are dwindling. Period. The film also places people at the center of the story: from the destruction they wreak to the methods used to address the issue.

The film’s narrative is presented as Rob Stewart’s development from shark photographer to activist. One of the most interesting events in the film is when Stewart forms an association with Paul Watson. His depiction of Watson is laced with rationalizations for Watson’s actions. Watson left Greenpeace because of the organization’s vow of non-violence. The film shows Watson dousing an illegally operating fishing boat with water cannons in an attempt to capsize them (I recall the use of the word “capsize,” too). Watson’s ship also has a weapon that can tear ship hulls open. Stewart’s participation in Watson’s activities is perhaps the most morally ambiguous aspect of the entire film. It raises important questions about attitudes towards nature, the role of humans, and what means are necessary in response. They attack a fishing vessel engaged in illegal activity, only to be detained for attempted murder upon reaching Costa Rica. They allege the influence of Taiwanese businessmen (they refer to them as mafia, though the term is loaded) who’ve made it their business to sell shark fins despite prohibitions by law.

Watson’s activism is no news: a search on Google for the label of ecoterrorist yields plenty of results. He’s also quite the misanthrope; his attitude toward humanity is frankly appalling (National Post: Enemy of Mankind). The question then, is, what would drive Stewart to associate with him? Is it desperation? Is it the need to “get something done” despite the costs? Stewart “turned to” Watson, bit after he came down with flesh-eating staph, Watson went on to other projects. Stewart’s return to Costa Rica was a journey embarked away from Watson.

Since Stewart didn’t claim otherwise, I will have to assume guilt by association. But it also raises the question: if people normally come first, at what point do solutions to human-caused problems come at a human expense? What makes the question easier to answer in the film’s case is that shark finning is not a means to a greater human end.

Sharkwater exposes the folly of chasing after “status,” and it does so very, very well. If there is one aspect that would make me look the other way from Watson’s eco-terrorism depicted in this film, it is the very fact that sharks meet a commercial need that is based solely on the human need to feel above each other. It is a disgusting, irrational rationalization. The Chinese businessman they feature, with his twisted philosophies on business and his horrid views on sharks, is yet one more embodiment of greed. He is a reflection of the long history of humanity’s practice of killing off animals to exhibit economic status. The irony is that in this politically correct world, if some Chinese would plead “culture” to this practice, are we brave enough to call bullshit on it?

The trade in rare animal products has a long history: elephants for their ivory, sea turtles for shells, and mink for their fur are just a few examples of animals that have faced great pressure due to this practice. Thankfully the more liberalized of Western nations have realized their folly and demand has gone down to almost zero. Unfortunately, it is not the case with some other nations, and the Chinese are just one of the many currently culpable societies.

An important point in the film is that shark conversation is almost nil because of the animal’s reputation. Never mind the idiotic notion that it is an “evil” animal; no such beast on this earth exists. Its dangerous nature has been overblown, and we have forgotten that when we venture upon shark-infested waters, no matter how pretty that view is, how nice the water may be, we enter a domain not our own. It is also easier for us to try and conserve the “cute” things, with all disregard to the importance of the sharks in the ocean ecosystem.

The film’s thesis, to its end, is that we have the ability to set things right. Watson’s lines on radical individuals causing great change comes in contrast to Stewart’s plea for all of us to be aware and his belief that we have the ability to set things right. It is hard to say whether this contrast was intended by Stewart, but it rings true.

Sharkwater may carry a stupid title, but its message deserves a listening ear and a watchful eye.

“Adrift”

Torchwood, Season 2, episode eleven: I am very picky of the shows that I watch, and while this series usually entertains me, this time it sorta kinda pushed the envelope a little bit too damn far.

That’s fifty minutes of my life I wish I didn’t spend watching this episode. Not after that scream.

Chris Chibnall, go to hell. You can take whoever produced that episode with you.

That show with the unwieldly title

I have to say that of the new shows that came out this past fall season, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has got to be my favorite.

Sure, it features a John Connor who’s yet to grow his own fangs, but all together the show boasts of a solid storyline, above average acting (River Tam reappears under the name Cameron Phillips, conveniently played by the same actress), and enough action to make satisfy my taste, at the very least.

The incidental music—I love the term, mind you, opposed to “soundtrack”—is for me one of the most remarkable features of every episode. It really puts every situation in the proper mood, and it makes Mommy Connor’s profound babblings actually enjoyable to listen to.

One detail that I have jumped on that I haven’t googled about is the use of Chopin in some scenes. Derek Reese was taken into the  mysterious room with that music playing, and he came out completely out of it. I’m not sure, but that look was one of someone who would have been weeping, if they were emotionally capable of doing so. I think he saw a recorded memory of Cameron’s ballet practice in her bedroom, which was shown in The Demon Hand.

The show itself is rife with enough temporal paradoxes to make your head spin, and that in itself is part of the fun of the whole show, too. I look forward to Season 2, whose production has been confirmed.

300

I saw 300 today. Action, muscles, death. And not as much gore as one might think. Sure, the flying limbs and the thousands upon thousands of punctures through the movie were stark, but not as stark as, say, Kill Bill. It’s a war flick, and for a war flick, there was nothing gratuitous at all about the way it was presented.

Having said that, more than a few people have taken issue with the review from Slate, and with good reason. I’ve stopped political blogging for the most part because when that is all that surrounds us, that is all that colors the way we see things. Everything gets politicized and that just gets way boring, way too quickly. The review from the New York Times follows the same tack: “(It may be worth pointing out that unlike their mostly black and brown foes, the Spartans and their fellow Greeks are white.)” And while Matt takes on Slate’s review in his post, I will have to parrot David J’s short but direct opinion: “Sometimes a Movie About Guys Wearing Skirts is Just a Movie About Guys Wearing Skirts. Or Something to That Effect.” I think he means leather briefs and red capes, but we get the point.

It’s a highly political time and I just want to see the movie. The words sting because they work both ways. If you’re a more subtle lefty than that Dana guy from Slate you can just sit back and believe that the words are mean tongue-in-cheek. The very people you dislike tend to say the same things that Leonidas and his small army say. And if you’re the other type then you wouldn’t see any of that.

Considering the mental landscape today, if tomorrow I decided to remake a movie such as Zulu, would I, be equally guilty of baiting race? I mean, heck, savage black people from Africa were the villains here.

If there is even one criticism of the film on its merits that is worth reading, it would be this one from the NY Sun. But ultimately I don’t think it was supposed to be some “historical flick” anyway. It’s just a movie, and a good one at that.

Closest thing to a soap I would watch these days…

…Would have to be ABC’s Brothers and Sisters.

I can sing praise after praise for the show, but the biggest commendation I have for the show is for its universal appeal. I doubt that there is no American family out there that doesn’t see one bit of their own reflected in the show.

Last night’s episode, Valentine’s Day Massacre basically broke the “happy streak” that the show has had since they fixed the financial issue at Ojai foods, and I must say that Kevin Walker has got the be the recipient of the shortest straw from the whole bunch from last night. Why is it that his character is almost always the one who seems to be tragically and fatally flawed?

The show altogether is great viewing, for anyone who would take my advice.

Heroes

At the suggestion of Meryl, I checked out the first two episodes of NBC’s Heroes.

In the simplest words possible: Oh, my Lord. I’m taking a shine to Ali Larter’s character, Niki, with the Evil Twin Guardian Devil watching over her, and dear me, is that Milo Ventimiglia, teen trouble from Gilmore Girls playing the Amazing Flying Peter Petrelli? I barely recognized him in his role.

Is this going the be show that unseats Battlestar Galactica as the best science-fiction series? I would say that if it doesn’t beat BSG it will come close; having set the stage for at least half of a season—if not for all of the first—I could see immediately where the show can go. This show won’t be anywhere it is by the second episode without the immense failure of last year’s sci-fi attempt by NBC, Suface. It borrows more than a few pages from that show, from the air of mystery that pervaded the exposition, to the “powers that be” that are investigating these unknowns, even down to the comprehensive recaps from the same deep voice that told us all about the adventure of Miles, Laura and Rich.

Culturally speaking, is network-viewing America ready to deal with a show like this? While the ratings say “yes,” the strong human element that asks everyone the question, “what would you do,” would be the wave that carries the show to shore.

Crash

I didn’t know GayPatriot liked Crash; I liked it too. It’s a good enough movie to not lend itself to any sort of review or critique, but I will say this: If you know what kind of bullets come in a red box, what would be one of the most tense moments in the film simply gains some sort of absurd hilarity. Otherwise it’s high drama through and through.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

My friend and I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie at the theatres yesterday. That I saw a film during its theatre run is a small wonder in itself; having seen the two movies prior to this one, I figured this one was well worth the money.

I was in no way disappointed.

I’ve never read the books; my commentary is from a film viewer’s perspective. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, though I’m sure anyone who’s read the books know what’s up. The ones who haven’t read them, however, and are out to watch the movie, at least need to be treated fairly.

My first comment on this film from its very beginning, is that it is grim beyond belief. I thought that it was fairly bleak in Azkaban, but this one has taken the cake so far. Not even during the high points of the Tri-Wizard Cup did any lustre shine through. Just points of light in darkness.

Secondly, I need to get in depth on the nature of the Defense Against The Dark Arts class. In the past three movies, maybe in consideration of the students’ young age, that class was marked with almost a tinge of frivolity. In the current movie, upon introduction of the Three Unforgiveable Curses, I thought to myself: This is how a class like that should be taught.

The last point I have about the movie is the contrast to what happened in Azkaban. In the previous film, Hermione and Harry go three hours into the past to do the right thing and save two innocent lives, this after having done nothing to save the condemned hippogrif. In this film, Harry did the “right thing” at the end of the tournament and in doing so got Cedric Diggory in trouble. Of course, “what ifs” can be debated until we’re blue in the face, but this is the fact of life that Harry had to take with him this time: sometimes, we’d do the right thing and it would still lead to people getting harmed anyway. But you got to do it for your sake anyway.

This movie might just make me pick up the next two books considering the time I have to wait for the next movies to be shot and released.

Fall TV: Boston Legal

No spoilers about tonight’s episode just yet, but I have not seen Alan Shore try a case with as much seriousness as he did in the trial of Catherine Piper.

This show is just pure genius. It’s got the grit and gravity of The Practice, what would have been the humor of Ally McBeal had the show actually grown up, and none of the things that weighed the two shows down. Even the caricatural depiction of Denny Crane’s Republican alignment doesn’t come off as mean spirited.

I can’t wait to see how Shirley Schmidt Schmidt-cans Catherine next week. Knowing her she’d probably call her into the office and just say “you’re fired.” In fact she pulls it off better than the man who popularized the term just last year.

Battlestar thoughts

Hey, did I ever admit to having the new Battlestar series (Heh, “new,” yes? As if the “original” one were worth discussing…) as my favorite scifi show? It’s been that way for a while now, and I have a love-hate cycle going on about it too.

I’m the type who can really get into a show’s “headspace,” so when a show like BSG comes along that is really, really intense, I can love every minute of it while hating it for making me watch standing up and digging my nails into my palms in anticipation. Take, for example, Season 2’s summer finale: Pegasus.

I’ve had my diatribe on Admiral Cain in Dean Esmay’s comments section. It’s a soulless command, that’s what that witch has. The episode itself had me holding my breath most of the way through.

There are plenty of things to discuss about the show: for one, the HFCs (Human Form Cylons, as I call them) and their role in the heirarchy. Are they tools used by the toasters? Who is in control? What is their “society” like? Do the toasters have the same religion as the HFCs?

The sheer irony of the HFCs taking command of the toaster population is delicious on so many levels.

From now until January when Season 2 picks up where it left off, there’ll be plenty of time to talk about things, yes?

A few predictions on what may or may not happen as the show goes on.

  • Pegasus ended with a standoff between the Galactica and Pegasus strike forces ready to fight. Either both forces refuse to follow orders, or there’s going to be a huge bloodbath. Or…
  • Rosslin steps in. As president of the colonies she is duty bound to enforce her position as “commander in chief,” if such a role exists. There is evidence that the autonomy Adama’s command is one agreed upon by Rosslin and himself. There remains the possibility that the military remains accountable to the highest civilian authority.
  • If—and this is just a wish because I just hope that she gets her comeuppance—Admirals and other high ranking officials are accountable to the civilian authorities, there is enough to hint that Cain’s rank as Admiral is not unimpeachable on account of her being the Queen Bitch of Colonial Forces. Though she may be the highest ranking officer in the fleet she remains accountable to the government and yes, I hope she gets what’s coming to her.
  • At the same time, though, Adama’s command will be less lenient as a result of Cain’s example. There should be a stricter structure on the Galactica itself.

That’s it for Battlestar until January.

More SG1 Season 9

Y’know, she may have been annoying and the comic relief was quite excessive, but I’m going to miss Vala. Just for the record.

Here’s what I thought of SG1’s season 9 after the first three eps; I will admit that I really like the direction this season’s storyline has taken.

UPDATE: Lurking around the Gateworld fora I find this piece:

I REALIZED the true horror of the episode. Since Vala first ran ahead defiantly into the gate – a symbol that she was not part of the team and that she was going ahead as a sacrifice for something – I knew it was all building up to something. And Lord Lo and Behold, the Silenced Patriot, down to her final straw, dashes off to save the crippled SG team and consequently, the universe – who – even armed with an seemingly knowledge impotent Carter – were reduced to babbling amoung themselves. So, Vala has her moment in the sun of the galactic saviours at the last moment before enevitable doom – or so it seems. Now, it would have been an extremely tacky way to get rid of a character and I’m getting Pete vibes actually cause in a way, I feel sorry for her, the way she was bumped out of the crowd once Carter came back. Kind of reminds me how I used to feel when I was in school, left out becuase hey – I was just the spunky New Kid – The Cool Group’d been together for forever, they didn’t need me, and that’s how she was treated, like they didn’t need her – but in the end, they did need her even if they didn’t know it. So, there it is. The annoying turned into the valient. TPTB are sneaky devils They’ve managed to make me at least sympathize with a grand total of TWO previously annoying characters. Bravo guys. Bravo.

Emphasis added. I noticed that but wasn’t able to commit it to word early enough. Ever since Carter came back Vala was even more annoying towards Jackson even though she wasn’t even as annoying as she had previously been. Her whole value as a former Goa’uld with great knowledge and intel gathered from her shady past was never enough to make her worth anything to the team. In fact, she was never a team member, they just didn’t want Jackson fainting all over the place.

I know that the writers wrote her off because her whole role (post Prometheus Unbound) was to introduce the Orii into this galaxy through her own actions. Now that her part is done, she had little use. Bounding through the galaxy with the kind of intel and street smarts that she has would have made their tasks too easy. While Carter was paralyzed by the immensity of her knowledge, Vala was galavanized into action with what simple knowledge she had of solving the problem.

Believe me, I’ve had the same problems before.

I just hope the writers don’t return her as a prior.