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Friday, December 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes (***)

SHERLOCK HOLMES

** SPOILERS **

Sherlock Holmes has what turns out to be a pretty funny credit at the end that says something to the effect of, "Sherlock Holmes was created by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His adventures are available in books." No foolin'? Honest and true? There's a lot to like in Sherlock Holmes, a smart, thoroughly entertaining re-imagining (sort of, much of this depiction of Holmes, such as his wardrobe and bare knuckle boxing, are actually found in Doyle's books) of the venerable detective and his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson, as they uncover a sinister supernatural plot in an awesomely designed Victorian London on steroids. The theme of Holmes, the man of utmost reason, putting his deductive science against black magic was effective. You simply cannot go wrong with Robert Downey, Jr. playing the smartest, fastest talking man in the room.  His Sherlock Holmes is the most entertaining lead character in a Hollywood action picture since... his Tony Stark in Iron Man. Jude Law plays Dr. Watson, painfully self-aware that he exists to provide Holmes with exposition and, more importantly, a straight man. ("Straight" is relative. The movie toys with the ramifications to their bromance caused by Watson's intention to marry. A woman.)  Turning Holmes and Watson into action heroes lead to the coolest aspect of Sherlock Holmes: Downey's ability to use his deductive powers to create hand to hand combat strategies and then implement them in bone-crushing slow motion. Downey showcases this ability twice in the first hour, most memorably in 19th century London's version of Fight Club, yet he doesn't use it in his final mano e mano clash with the villainous Mark Strong atop the still-under construction Tower Bridge. Strong was also poorly served; he begins as an intriguing mystical villain for Downey but then is relegated to the shadows until the very end. We don't get to know Strong's evil Lord Blackwood at all. Holmes does make up for this with a novel take on the great detective explaining how he solved the case, which had Downey doing just that in the most smug, self-satisfied manner possible.  Shoehorned into Sherlock Holmes is Rachel McAdams as an American thief and love interest for Downey. McAdams is startlingly unconvincing and glaringly out of place. She seems to only exist to set up the sequel, which brings Professor Moriarty in as Holmes' adversary. Even while bending over backwards to have the details of the plot make sense, there are some logical leaps and holes in the third act (Law gets himself blown up, ends up hospitalized, is out with a cast a day later, then the cast is gone and he's 100% brawling with thugs again), but Sherlock Holmes compensates for it with rollicking action, sly wit, and pure entertainment. It's no shit, Sherlock.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar (****)

AVATAR

Gone Native
** SPOILERS **

Not to undercut the tremendous technological achievement of James Cameron's Avatar, but looking beyond the cutting edge CGI and 3D technology for a moment, you quickly realize you've seen this movie before.  It's basically every movie. I lost count of how many movies Avatar is.  It's Aliens, it's Dances With Wolves, it's Last of the Mohicans, it's King Kong (the Peter Jackson one), it's The Last Samurai, it's Pocahontas, etc,.etc.  It's a Star Trek  episode or two also (I'm thinking of the one where Captain Pike goes to live on Talos IV after he's crippled.)  

Avatar is also very long.  It could stand to lose a half hour.  Showing off the tech and the vast, impressive CGI vistas and creatures of the planet Pandora is cool and all, but at its worst, Avatar feels like the longest, most expensive, and elaborate video game cut scene ever made, where you sit in frustration for 160 minutes because you know you'll never get to play.

Sam Worthington plays a crippled space Marine who volunteers to go to Pandora, an alien world inhabited by blue skinned cat people called the N'avi.  The N'avi as a race look like a WNBA team who blue themselves Tobias Funke-style. Released in the same year as Watchmen, Avatar is positively Puritan in its depiction of blue-skinned people who live au naturel. The N'avi men wear loin cloths but seem to lack genitals.  If Dr. Manhattan teleported into Pandora with his big blue dick swinging in the wind, he'd probably replace the shiny tree as the N'avi's new god.

Inhabiting a genetically engineered N'avi body, Worthington lies in a space coffin and mentally controls and lives the life of his super athletic N'avi avatar.  Mistrusted at first by the other N'avi, specifically the one he has the hots for, played by Zoe Saldana (doing a voice over that sounds just like Calypso from the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels) Worthington eventually becomes one of them, and rises up the ranks (in three months, mind you) to become leader of the tribe.

Trouble is, Worthington was sent to the N'avi by his asshole superiors in the military, and their asshole superiors in the mining corporation (lead by Giovanni Ribisi, playing Paul Reiser from Aliens) that wants to exploit Pandora's natural resources for human gain.  His mission is to figure out a way to get the N'avi to relocate themselves, or else they're coming in with their gunships, robot suits, and poison blankets.

Instead, Worthington totally goes native and leads the N'avi against the humans.  No shit, he does.  Worthington is positively shocked when he finds he treasures the N'avi more than his own people. It's as if he's never seen a movie like this before.  The asshole colonel is also surprised Worthington went native, despite his reading Worthington's video journals where he gradually describes his preference for living with the Thundercats, especially his favorite Thundercat, ho. 

To his credit, writer-director James Cameron brings his A game to A word: action.  The story may be familiar, much too familiar, but even after a 12 year break since Titanic, Cameron is still at the very pinnacle of action directors, and he stages some thrilling sequences.  Avatar also allowed Cameron to do something many of his peers have done but he hadn't had the chance to: stage a gigantic third act action set piece involving two huge armies, the high tech human Marines taking on the low tech N'avi warriors, going at it.

Cameron then shifts the action expertly into smaller and more personal sequences involving the main characters, culminating in the mano e mano showdown between Worthington's avatar and the colonel in his Aliens/Matrix Revolutions battlesuit.  I especially liked how Cameron had Saldana's N'avi deliver the final coup de grace; Jim Cameron has always been the most pro-woman, grrl power A-list director in Hollywood and proved it once again.

In IMAX 3D, Avatar is disorienting at first, like you're in a Universal Studios ride that absolutely refuses to end.  After about half an hour, your mind stops screaming "This is wrong!", accepts the 3D, and you stop noticing it (or you reject it entirely and go to sleep.) Still, Cameron achieved the immersive technological breakthrough he was looking for, which was clearly his primary objective for making Avatar. Cameron has successfully, aggressively pushed the medium of 3D cinema forward, all the while going a complete 180 on the (I suppose) less-than-important screenwriting aspects of filmmaking.

Some stuff baffled me.  For instance, Worthington spends many, many hours operating his N'avi avatar but must occasionally shut down and do stuff in the real world.  When he disconnects from his avatar, the avatar just lies on Pandora inert until he comes back in to operate it.  One would assume Worthington disconnects from his avatar while the N'avi are sleeping.  But when he's in the real world, he doesn't just go directly to sleep.  He goes and does other things like eat, talk to Sigourney Weaver, and record his video journals.

So if say, Worthington is a N'avi for 15 hours, and then he's gone for several more hours doing his human thing, the other N'avi must get kind of annoyed at how much their new friend sleeps.  This actually does get dealt with in one scene where the human miners invade a sacred N'avi space, but it must have happened a lot more than that.  There must have been moments where Worthington is hunting or some shit and then disconnects and his avatar just collapses in the middle of the forest.  The super active other N'avi must have been annoyed once or twice at this.

A lot is made of Pandora's natural life force and the mumbo jumbo about how the N'avi and all the other creatures draw from the spirit of the planet.  It's made clear early on Worthington's avatar is a genetically engineered clone of a N'avi.  It's an artificial construct at its core.  And yet the planet of Pandora embraces Worthington with open arms and every creature and N'avi eventually bows down to his specialness, completely ignoring that Worthington's avatar is in fact an abomination of nature, the exact opposite of natural creation.  Shit, Worthington is practically supernatural by the very end.  I guess the message is man's science can always trick nature.  Or maybe nature just won't give a shit if it's convenient for the movie.

If I have a favorite scene in Avatar, it involves Michelle Rodriguez. Rodriguez plays the role of "the snarly pilot who wears aviators". (Yeah, Cameron had one of those in Aliens too.) She doesn't have a character or arc to speak of, nor does she utter a single acceptable line of dialogue.  But in one scene, where Worthington and Weaver are arrested for helping the N'avi and are thrown in the brig, Rodriguez comes to bust them out.  It's the pivotal scene in the movie, because she does so wearing a torn white tank top.

What Rodriguez and Cameron are telling the audience is, "Hey fellas, you've been staring at blue, furry CGI cat boobs for the last two hours - here's what real human boobs look like!"  Then she wears the torn white tank top and flaunts the boobies for the rest of the movie. As far as I'm concerned, that makes her the most important person on Pandora. 

For the greatest, most accurate skewering of Avatar, read Avatar: The Metacontextual Edition. Absolutely correct, absolutely worth reading.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Cove (****)

THE COVE


Remember the episode of The Simpsons when Lisa freed Snorkey the dolphin and Snorkey lead the dolphins to attack the people of Springfield and drive them into the sea?  The Cove reveals why the dolphins were so pissed off.  Turns out they were right to be vengeful. In all seriousness, the stunning documentary The Cove dramatically uncovers the real-life, wholesale slaughter of bottle nosed dolphins that has been going on for decades in Taiji, Japan ("the little town with the big secret"). Every year the waters of this tiny cove in Taiji run red with dolphin blood. 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered for their meat there, with some live "show" dolphins being sold for upwards of $150,000 each.  The man standing against this slaughter is Ric O'Barry, who is also responsible for the industry of holding dolphins in captivity by marine parks like Sea World in the first place. O'Barry was the man who personally captured and trained the four bottle nosed dolphins who played the role of Flipper on TV in the 1960s, creating the world's desire to swim with captured dolphins and see them flip through hoops at Sea World. For the last 35 years O'Barry has been trying, with little success, to bring down the multi-million dollar industry he helped create. O'Barry's partner in crime (according to Japanese law) is filmmaker Louie Psihoyos, who recruited a world class "Ocean's Eleven" team of scientists and technicians to successfully record the gruesome goings-on in Taiji, using high definition cameras and audio equipment, including cameras hidden in artificial rocks, mounted on dirigibles, and using Paris Hilton sex tape-style night vision. The filmmakers' Mission: Impossible-style operations succeed in shedding light on this tragedy where even famous (and hot) protesters like Hayden Panettiere and Isabel Lucas (who are shown getting arrested for swimming out to the Taiji cove in 2007) failed. There is an incredible amount of information in The Cove, enough to fill anyone with outrage about how nothing is done to protect bottle nosed dolphins from the creepy, cartoonish Japanese fishermen slaughtering them and eating their sweet meat.  (It turns out the fishermen are poisoning themselves and anyone else who eats the dolphin meat, which contains 2000 times the World Heath Organization's set toxic levels of mercury.)  Those fisherman will get the painful death that's coming to them in the end, but the dolphins can't afford to wait that long.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Up In The Air (***1/2)

UP IN THE AIR


** SPOILERS **

Up In The Air makes air travel as glamorous and thrilling as it must have been at the dawn of the jet age.  For George Clooney it still is: as someone who travels 260 days a year and is a member of the elite programs of his preferred airlines, hotels and car rental services, Clooney practically lives in planes and terminals, and he loves it. Of course he does.  Shit, so would I.  Clooney's lifestyle in Up In The Air isn't unrealistic, but it is the kind of luxury enjoyed by a privileged few who can breeze past the lines in terminals and stretch out in business class with liquor in highball glasses while the rest of the cattle graze in coach.  Up In The Air has a lot on its plate besides a commentary on travel.  Clooney's job is to travel from city to city and fire people (a "termination engineer", because "terminator" sets off Legal), making Up In The Air immediately timely and relevant in today's economic climate. Anna Kendrick arrives at his company as a hotshot hire fresh from Cornell (alma mater of the Nard Dog) with groundbreaking ideas about grounding Clooney and using the Internet to fire people via video conferencing.  Clooney takes her on the road with him and shows Kendrick what exactly it is their job entails.  The relationship between Clooney and Kendrick is deftly handled as they run the gamut from mentor/student to professional rivals, as Clooney is ever-aware Kendrick's success would ground him and his chosen lifestyle permanently. In an especially terrific scene, Kendrick discusses her ambitions and worldview as a 23 year old versus Clooney and Vera Farmiga's life experience-derived wisdom. ("He broke up with you by text message?" "That's like firing someone over the Internet.")  The only turbulence Up In The Air hits is that the lifestyle Clooney clearly enjoys is made to seem so pleasurable that the later scenes where he's grounded and reunites with members of his estranged family are almost a disappointing dose of reality. Director and co-writer Jason Reitman put together a simultaneously witty, tragic, and insightful movie about human connections, be it through travel, work, technology, or in one's personal life.  It's much closer in vein to Thank You For Smoking than Juno, with tart, adult dialogue, no phony sentimentality, and some surprising directions taken, especially in the third act, which at first seemed to be plodding down the road to formula.  Reitman also achieved the unlikely in making cities like Omaha and St. Louis seem as almost as attractive travel destinations as Miami and San Francisco.  Travel lessons one can learn from Up In The Air include never getting in line behind families and old people (they're riddled with hidden metal and never seem to appreciate what little time they have left on Earth).  Instead, line up behind the Asians: they pack light, they move fast, and they prefer slip on shoes.  Is that racist?  Stereotyping?  Whatever, as long as it gets you through the line quickly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Office 6x12 - "Secret Santa"


The best Christmas episode The Office has ever done.

Michael as hurt, petulant Jesus > Michael as Santa.

Jim to Michael: "You can't yell "I need this! I need this!" while trying to pin a coworker down on your lap.

The Office crammed so many amazing jokes in 22 minutes, I don't even know where to start. Mindy Kaling wrote it and kept Kelly quiet the whole episode, except for her reaction to Jim buying her the Twilight poster.

Finding new ways to keep Erin and Andy apart and slow burning their Office romance must be a challenge, but it also must help that their characters are so well defined (at least Andy's is, Erin is still evolving before our eyes) and different from Jim and Pam.

I could have died laughing at the whole bit of Kevin sitting on Michael's lap.

Will the company still be Dunder Mifflin when the sale goes through?

"I can't envision a world where David Wallace is fired but Meredith Palmer keeps her job. No offense, Meredith."

I want Dwight's nutcracker.

Parks and Recreation 2x12 - "Christmas Scandal"


Another great one that made Leslie even more sympathetic while showcasing how no one, not even Ron Fucking Swanson, can fill her shoes. It's a shame Louis CK was written out so soon (it's not a shame he's getting another show, though.)

I liked Tom and Mark's talk about getting Ann a blood diamond. "Yea bitch, get me somma that blood diamond. Make 'em extra bloody!" Mark and Ann are kind of a boring couple, but they're kind of boring people, so they're well matched.

The Councilman was a real piece of work. Really funny commentary on 24 hour news cycles and gotcha "journalism."

LESLIE KNOPE: DEFINITELY DEXHART'S MISTRESS?

Andy to April: "I've been thinking about your gay boyfriend all day..."

Who doesn't get a little giddy each time April looks into the camera and shy/excitedly smiles?

Community 1x12 - "Comparative Religion"


What a great midseason (first semester) finale. Lots of great religion-based humor ("Everyone's religion is weird. Let's stop talking about it"). Loved Annie insisting everyone "say the whole word" and Abed's "I get 72 virgins in Heaven."

Remember in the first couple of episodes when Jeff was seen by the study group as the coolest guy ever? He's not seen that way anymore. It happened so gradually, I didn't even notice. I think it started around the time he lost his apartment and started living with Abed.

The fight B plot was also really good, especially the big throwdown at the end. [Rewatch realization: The bully was Anthony Michael Hall?!]

Britta: "The real reason men fight is to release their pent-up gayness." 

Have I ever mentioned I like pro wrestling?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fired Up! (*)

FIRED UP!

I know, I know.  I watched this on purpose, so I got what was coming to me.  Fired Up! tells the story that had to be told:  two high school football player hornballs decide to go to cheerleader summer camp so they can score with the 300 chicks present. And, get this, they learn a lesson! The 300 chicks are well cast for their hotness, including Sarah Roemer from Disturbia. One can be distracted by the girls for a while (about 37 minutes by my count) but the screenwriting 101 plotting and everything else horrible about Fired Up! cut a straight path to madness.  The football players are what's-his-name, who played Hunter, Jan's assistant on The Office and Claire's flying tool boyfriend in season 2 of Heroes.  The other guy in it is someone I never want to see or hear of again.  There was no need for two main characters; their dialogue and characters were virtually identical and each seemed to exist only so the other had someone to trade "clever" dialogue with.  There's a "hilarious" scene where everyone at cheer camp watched Bring It On and recited every line of dialogue.  There have been four (and counting) Bring It Ons since Bring It On, so why did they need to make Fired Up!? Why, damn you?!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Office 6x11 - "Scott's Tots"


Hey, Mr. Scott!
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do?
Make our dreams come true!

What a great episode. I welcome any new scenario where Michael does something completely irresponsible but has to face up to it. The Scott's Tots kids and their teachers doing the testimonials and presentations while Michael sat there knowing he had to tell the truth and not pay for their tuition was some of the best uncomfortable humor The Office has done in years.

The highlight though was Dwight's impressions of Stanley, Kevin, and Toby on the phone. Just for that, his diabolical plan to destroy Jim deserved to succeed.

Also glad Erin got a large role this week and some quality time with the boss. Erin's been around long enough now that we need to know more about her. I did like Michael negatively comparing her to Pam and her earning his esteem in the end.

Kevin was applying for a job in the warehouse when Michael made him an accountant. Explains everything perfectly!

Parks and Recreation 2x11 - "Tom's Divorce"


Wow, where to begin? I guess I'll start at the back of Ron's head with the hair grown in from being shaved after the hunting trip but not at the same length as the rest of his hair.

Ron in the strip club hitting the breakfast buffet and doing a crossword (and using his jacket to protect his food from the falling glitter) = awesome. Simply awesome.

The look on Ron's face when Leslie said her stripper name would be "Equality" = double awesome.

Andy is so overwhelmingly funny that I have to give props to Paul Schneider for how understated he is as Mark playing against Chris Pratt's sweaty zaniness. Seemingly ending Andy's attempts to steal Ann from Mark hopefully means they explore the potential Andy-April hook up.

I would so eat at Jurassic Fork, at least once. I haven't wanted to visit a fictional TV restaurant that much since Casa Bonita on South Park. [I forgot: Casa Bonita is a real place.]

Community 1x11 - "Politics of Human Sexuality"


Aaaand we're back to bonerizing over Alison Brie. It's the short skirts. And all the talk about sex. And how she refuses to say the word "penis." (Not so much about how her first time was with a gay guy who solidified his being gay.) I also liked that she was voted "most likely to succeed" in her rehab.

Loved Abed going Over The Top to beat Troy at arm wrestling, and making the Stallone face in victory.

I like Pierce getting some depth, but I also like when he's being inappropriate and racist.

I know Sharon Lawrence has been on countless TV shows, but she'll always be Amelia Earhart on Star Trek Voyager to me. 

I don't know what The Channys are but the cast of Community (Annie, Britta, Shirley, Abed, and Senor Chang) presented Best Show. It's fun to see the actors as themselves (and to hear them swear and work blue).


 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twilight Saga: New Moon (*1/2)

TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

"The wolf's out of the bag."

The Twilight Saga: New Moon goes about its business under the mistaken assumption that everyone in the audience is blessed/cursed with eternal life.  This is a looong movie. Long.  And boring. Interminably paced and bursting at the seams with overwrought, wretched teen drama, New Moon is a grueling endurance test with an ending that only promises even more interminably paced, overwrought, wretched teen drama in next year's sequel.  In the opening scenes, Edward Cullen speaks about how much he envies humans for their varied means of committing suicide.  By the time the credits finally rolled, I had a pretty good understanding of what pretty boy Cullen was talking about.

New Moon could be retitled Everybody Loves Bella. Bella Swan is in almost every scene; sought after, courted, abandoned, threatened, and tolerated by every other character in the movie.  Everybody Loves Bella, but we still don't know why.  Kristen Stewart plays Bella as a stubborn, sullen, difficult bore suffering from night terrors and adrenalin addiction.  She pines for Edward Cullen with a dangerously unhealthy level of obsession, composing self-absorbed email after undeliverable email to Edward's clairvoyant sister Alice (who must have foreseen her Inbox being spammed and canceled her email account).  Considering how much blunt force trauma Bella suffers throughout New Moon from being thrown through a table, flying off a motorcycle into a boulder, and cracking her skull on a cliff wall under water, what Bella needs most isn't Edward's eternal love, but a CAT scan.

The love of Bella's life, Edward Cullen, is again the stuff of tween dreams. Edward is the vampire who can slow-motion walk against the wind, even when there's no wind.  This time, Edward swaps his wild emotional mood swings in the first Twilight movie for a bizarre fixation with killing himself if Bella ever dies, a morbid trait he passes onto Bella as the movie bludgeons the audience with obvious references to Romeo and Juliet. After he leaves her, the specter of Edward (lets go ahead and call it Head Edward since it's a pretty shameless riff on Head Six haunting Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica) haunts Bella's waking life throughout New Moon.  The most LOL-inducing moment in the movie is the quick scene of Edward in Rio crushing his cell phone and about to burst into tears when he thinks Bella is dead. If there's one thing I do somewhat marvel at about Edward Cullen, it's how Robert Pattinson is able to play him as if he's about to burst into tears at any moment.

With Edward out of the way, the object of Bella's affection becomes Jacob Black, played by a ripped, chiseled and jacked Taylor Lautner.  As Twilight did regarding Edward Cullen being an unholy bloodsucking vampire, New Moon wastes a lot of time being very coy about Bella discovering a Very Shocking Reveal that absolutely everyone in the audience already knows going in: Jacob Black is an American werewolf in Washington State.  Lautner acquits himself well in New Moon, playing Jacob Black as a stand up good guy who, unfortunately for him, is just Bella's rebound man. The first chance Bella got, she literally ran back to Edward. "Don't make me choose," Bella tells Jacob. "It's him. It was always him."  Aw, poor Jacob.  He deserves better.  He's a good boy.  Here, have a cookie.

With the vampires moved out of Forks for most of the dragging middle act of New Moon, Bella and we get to know the local pack of werewolves Jacob runs with.  While the vampires are allowed to have their own personal style, the werewolves subscribe to a uniform appearance of short cropped hair, being perpetually and inappropriately shirtless, and wearing denim shorts as if they are Never Nudes from Arrested Development.  (Come to think if it, judging from the rippling pecs and eight pack abs on display, Tobias Funke would be hungry like the wolf.)  When they transform into werewolves, their denim shorts are shown to tear completely off (unlike the Incredible Hulk's shape-changing purple pants).  It begs the question of what the werewolves' budget is for denim shorts, since they must go through at least a pair a day.  The shirtless-ness is generally amusing, except for one scene between Bella and shirtless Jacob that takes place in the rain where I felt terrible for the actors, especially Lautner, who was visibly shivering under the torrent of the rain machines.

Jacob warns Bella off of being with him for the same reason Edward bails on her; because, being monsters, a moment of losing control could be tragic and fatal for Bella.  Bella never seriously considers cuddling up to the wolves; she's first and foremost a vampire kind of girl.  When Bella confronts Jacob's dawgs and slugs one, Jacob springs to her defense.  The wolves tear into each other but a scene later, while snacking on fresh baked muffins and making wolf puns, Jacob and the other wolf are all cool, dawg.  Maybe, as Conan O'Brien joked, this was left on the cutting room floor:


Besides the werewolves, New Moon introduces us to the vampire ruling council in Italy, the Volturi, which must be Latin for "Vampire Dandy Fops."  The Volturi still dress like Marie Antoinette is the Queen of France. The Volturi include Michael Sheen as their leader, who was a werewolf himself in the Underworld movies and now gets to play a vampire on the flip side.  Dakota Fanning is the other famous face among the Volturi but she isn't given much to do except stare into the camera and make big saucer eyes.  We're told the Volturi enforce the vampire laws, the main one being they don't obviously kill humans.  Explain then why the last thing we're shown of the Volturi is them leading a gaggle of human tourists into their throne room where they're rather obviously slaughtered?

A bit of unfinished business is carried over from Twilight into New Moon, including the evil redhead vampire coming after Bella as revenge for Edward killing her boyfriend in the first movie.  The main story continuing from the end of Twilight is Bella badgering Edward about wanting to be turned into a vampire.  There is simply no talking her out of it and she even got most of the Cullens to okay it. On one hand, Bella's probably already sick of her perptually throbbing loins and Edward's quivering any time they suck face.  Plus, no matter how much they like her, all of her various monster friends still feel like they want to kill her.  I suppose the only practical solution really is for Bella to just become das vampyre and be done with it.  It must get old being the only human in the monster mash.

I've been a pretty good sport about the so-called "Twilight Saga".  I harbor no ill-will towards this franchise or its legions of female Twi-hards.  I gave the first Twilight movie a reasonable pass.  In fact, there are some positive aspects to New Moon: It's shot better and looks prettier than its grimy, monochrome predecessor.  What little action there is, mainly werewolves chasing blurry-running vampires through the forests, is stepped up from before.  There are a couple of amusing moments sprinkled throughout, especially Bella going to the movies with the jock dude who always liked her and Jacob cock blocking him outside the theater.  The Cullen clan still seem like pretty cool cats, even though there's a lot less of them in New Moon.  Drop dead gorgeous Ashley Greene livens up every scene she's in as Alice Cullen, the hottest and bounciest of the vampires.  Greene and Lautner have fun with their mutual vampire/werewolf loathing. Still, those are brief respites of interest from how slow, redundant and boring New Moon is to the male non-Twi-hard.

As for the most important question of all: Am I Team Edward or Team Jacob?  Let's just say I don't hate the players, but in New Moon's case, I hate the game.  New Moon really screws the pooch.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Road (***1/2)

THE ROAD



One For My Baby, And One More For The Road

** SPOILERS **

The Road makes for a terrible Friday night at the movies. That it's anything but a feel-good, humorous barrel of fun means it's doing almost everything right.  Adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel (I own it; will read it one of these days), The Road stars Viggo Mortensen as a man trying to help his young son survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  We're never told how or why the world ended, just that it did.  No animals survived the apocalypse so there's nothing to eat except what the mostly extinct human race left behind.  The main fear of any survivor is cannibalism.  The central story of Mortensen doing everything and anything in his humanly power to keep his son safe while teaching him basic human values and decency ("holding the fire in your heart") is as effective as the world around them is bleak and harrowing.  Even in this brutal setting, with father and son battling constant exhaustion, starvation, illness, and the constant threat of death, Mortensen somehow manages to work in two nude scenes, one-upping that scene from Eastern Promises in quantity if not quite in exposure. The production design of the barren wasteland America has become is awesomely convincing. If I have any real quibble with The Road, it's with the ending.  In my estimation, given the story and circumstances of the movie, there's no ending that could be considered "happy".  The Road manages to end balancing tragedy hand-in-hand with a glimmer of hope.  Though that hope feels a little like a cheat, it's still a better ending than the one the thematically similar I Am Legend came up with.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

V 1x4 - "It's Only The Beginning"



I want some of that Bliss.  That was a pretty cool sequence.  Anna can make Vs feel real, real good.

So that's their plan!  They're pretending they have a miracle cure but really, they're fucking with our flu shots. It's so simple!  No, it isn't - it's needlessly complicated.  And it's also the very same plan Homer Simpson uncovered when he was Mr. X that got him banished to the Island in their parody of The Prisoner.

If I understand Visitor math correctly, Ryan and Valerie's baby will be half black, half Hispanic, and half lizard.

The new Resistance kind of blunders around and yet manages to get stuff accomplished.  I thought Georgie was a skilled rebel survivor who's been fighting Vs for a long time or something but no, he's just a greasy dude who doesn't know what he's doing and got himself shot. Where was Georgie after Erica, Jack and Ryan blew up the warehouse?  Did they just leave him in the car and forget about him?

I'm disappointed we didn't get to see the skinning.  Four episodes in and we still haven't seen the lizard within except for the brief shot of Dale's eye.  It's kind of weird how Visitors have all this super medical science but they use scalpels to skin each other.  Or maybe that's just Visitor punishment, going medieval on each other's asses.

I wish they went the extra mile and developed a Visitor spoken language so that when Vs are speaking to each other on their ships with no humans around, they're not speaking English.

I like the Visitor suicide method.  Vs about to kill themselves should yell out, "Kiss my ash, human!"

Tyler doesn't seem like he ever plans on going back home.  He's on a motherfuckin' spaceship with his hot blonde alien girlfriend and her hot mother.  He's in teenage boy paradise.

The ending was very encouraging.  Father Jack taking a shiv in the gut was a nice surprise.  The final shot of the Visitor fleet heading for Earth was pretty bad ass.

In the original V, the Visitors were from Sirius.  I hope in March, 2010 we learn what galaxy they're from and what the Visitors' name for their race is.  They can't possibly refer to themselves as "the Visitors" to each other.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Smallville 9x9 - "Pandora"


ROLL CALL:

SUPERMAN! CHLOE SULLIVAN! LOIS LANE! TESS MERCER! GENERAL ZOD! THE GREEN ARROW!

Smallville's "Days of Future Past" shows us the future Lois Lane traveled to at the end of last season: Where a red sun hangs above the world and General Zod's Kandorians are at full power and in control.

It felt a lot like a Deep Space Nine "alternate future" or Mirror Universe episode, especially with the way the sets were repurposed where you remember they're on a TV budget and you kind of have to just go with it. In this case, the Kent Farm became a prison camp for surviving humans while the Luthor Mansion is General Zod's new pad. That's right, after becoming ruler of Earth Major Zod promoted himself to General. For a guy all about people kneeling in his presence, Zod is weirdly humble when it comes to titles.

Meanwhile, in our time, Lois is in a coma and is kidnapped by Tess and her Male Chloe. Tess wants to see what Lois is remembering in her coma so she plugs herself into Lois' mind. What she sees is not great: Zod built his solar tower, which turned the sun red. This gave the Kandorians their full superpowers but robbed Clark of his. 

Lois and Clark are herded into the Luthor Mansion but are rescued by the human resistance lead by Chloe and Oliver (where is Speedy?), armed with bad ass Kryptonite arrows. (Kandorians are not faster than speeding arrows? OK.) The Kandorians flee but Chloe has the chance to kill Tess and shoots a K arrow right in her babymaker. Tess dies in Oliver's arms.

Later, Chloe manages to plant a virus in Zod's solar tower that turns the sun back yellow. Chloe dies on the streets of Metropolis when the female Kandorian who follows Lois back to our time runs her through with a samurai sword, begging the question why Kandorians with all those powers need weapons. Clark also dies after sending Lois back in time via the Legion ring.

In the future (and it's getting there in our present), Clark and Chloe are not friends. Chloe can't forgive Clark for abandoning the Justice League, going off to fight Zod on his own and failing miserably. However, Lois and Clark have moved far beyond mere flirtation. In the future, Clark and Lois get in on all naked and sweaty, and in our present when it's all over, Clark finally more or less declares he wants to be Lois' (Super)boyfriend.

The ending of the episode was one I wasn't expecting. Clark, who also plugged into Lois' memories and saw the future, decided that fighting Zod would mean the end of the world. Against Chloe and Oliver's protests, Clark decides to try the unusual and novel approach of befriending Zod. Clark finds Zod and the Kandorians, at which point, at Zod's command, they all, "Kneel before Kal-El!"

And that's all the Smallville we get for 2009. Next new episode is January 22, 2010, a very long away-seeming time from now. But they showed clips of Smallville: Absolute Justice in the preview for the second half of the season and that caused probably my greatest Smallville fanboy flip out since Christopher Reeve guest starred in season 2.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Office 6x10 - "Shareholder's Meeting"


Re-Cyclops! I liked the parade of receptionists over the past five years. (Who can forget Ronni? Okay, I had to look her up.)

Loved Jim putting Ryan in his place, literally. Jim vs. Ryan has been brewing since Jim got back from Stamford and Ryan was sitting at his old desk. And Ryan was an absolute dick to him when he had Jan's old job. Jim finally succeeded in doing something as a manager that Michael would never have done.

I noticed the hotel they used for the shareholder's meeting was the same one they used last season on the "Business Trip" to Winnepeg. That one also involved Michael, Oscar, and Andy on a field trip from Scranton.

Too bad those stuck up corporate assholes who run Dunder Mifflin didn't get that all Michael Scott wanted to do was get a pop from the crowd.

They're really setting the stage for Dunder Mifflin to go under. I'm very curious where this major storyline is going.

Parks and Recreation 2x10 - "Hunting Trip"


The shot of the back of Ron Swanson's head at the very end was amazing.

Strange how Mark kind of disappeared in the second half of the episode.

Great cameo from Officer Jay from The Sarah Silverman Program.

I liked the Andy/April team up in the office while everyone else was away. A lot. The multiple hickeys was great.

And for once, no one shat on Jerry.

Another fine episode to continue the streak.

Anyone else who privately or publicly bonerizes for Aubrey Plaza should watch this:



"This is BULLSHIT!"

Community 1x10 - "Environmental Science"



Community is a very musical sitcom. There's been an unusual amount of singing and/more musical interludes in the 10 episodes that have aired.

This week felt like the show's first cruise control episode. It was good, but getting to know Senor Chang meant that none of the hot-button issues, like Troy and Annie or Jeff and Britta were dealt with. The Jeff and Annie flirtation from last week may have been just a one off. And Britta has yet to be shown meeting Professor Duncan for therapy as punishment for cheating in Spanish. I wonder when or if they'll get to that?

That said, I thought the editing at the end of the three main storylines intercutting was pretty awesome. And I like that Pierce is finally gaining respect in the group, first from Britta last week and now from Shirley, instead of being ostracized for being old, creepy, and insane.

I also must agree:

@danharmon Have to agree RT @agramsci #Community highlight was @AlisonBrie as the choo choo! @yvettenbrown @kenjeong were both great too

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wonder Woman (*1/2)

WONDER WOMAN
 

Wonder Woman is probably the single most problematic superhero to adapt into a motion picture, judging from the failed attempts to do so in the decades since Lynda Carter guided a generation of boys through puberty in the 1970's.  DC Animation's Wonder Woman drops headlong right into all of the pitfalls.  Of all the DC Universe animated features I've seen, this is the strangest. Wonder Woman opens with little explanation or context, in the midst of a bloody battle between the Amazons and the man-beast forces of Ares the god of war at some undetermined point in the past.  Then the Amazons are granted their own island paradise, where they live in isolation, festering in the man-hate their queen Hippolyta heaps onto her Amazons, especially her daughter Diana, formed from clay and given life from the gods. (Although her superpowers seem severely downgraded considering Wonder Woman's might is supposed to rival Superman's.) When pilot Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, Diana wins the right to escort him to Man's World and hunt down the escaped Ares. But where does her star spangled bathing suit costume come from? Where the hell did the invisible jet come from?  How does Diana know how to fly a plane?  She parks it in Central Park like it's the Klingon Bird of Prey in Star Trek IV.  When she starts interacting with people who aren't Amazons, whose bright idea was it to write Wonder Woman as if she's Dr. Temperance Brennan from Bones?  The producers might as well have gone all out and hired Emily Deschanel to voice Wonder Woman.  Keri Russell provides her best tough grrl growl voicing Wonder Woman, while Virginia Madsen robotically voices Hippolyta.  Nathan Fillion has the most fun as Steve Trevor.  He gets all of the humorous dialogue and sleazy (but apt) innuendo about the Amazons, who are shown frolicking nude in a grotto that Hugh Hefner himself may have built on Themyscira. (Is this cartoon for kids?)  Alfred Molina plays Dr. Otto Octav -- I mean, Ares. The movie is a slapdash headscratcher with some painful battle of the sexes arguments between Wonder Woman and Trevor. The wonder of Wonder Woman is not at all serviced.

The Prisoner


** SPOILERS **

After spending six hours in the Village, I walk away feeling that I quite liked it there.  The Prisoner was, at first, difficult and frustrating.  It's a challenging viewing experience; looking away from the screen for a few seconds meant missing any amount of jump cuts from either of the realities presented. Intercut happenings in the Village or in the world outside it demanded constant focus and attention.  It is an incessant flow of often bewildering visual and aural information (the soundtrack is one of the best I've ever heard on television).  The storytelling seemed murky and impenetrable at first, the characters cyphers speaking in riddles. But putting in the time immersed in the Village, the more reasonable and then occasionally fascinating it became.

I've only seen a few episodes of the original The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan.  In terms of which is better, the original or the remake, or reasons why, I have no dog in that fight.  The Prisoner 2009 is decidedly unlike the original stylistically or tonally, and it has some differing ideas and themes.  It also owes as much to more modern works like The Matrix, 12 Monkeys, and Fight Club as it does to its predecessor.  On it's own merits, however, The Prisoner 2009 is really well done and powerful.  Also frustrating and maddening.  But I always assumed those would go hand in hand in anything called The Prisoner.

My favorite episodes of the six were episodes three and four, "Anvil" and "Darling."  The former dealt with surveillance within the Village ("Everything is suspicious if you look at it properly.") and delivered the major character reveal of 11-12, the son of number 2.  It contained the answer to the oldest question in the Village -  Who is number 1? - delivered by a schoolgirl:

"There is no number 1. There never has been and there never will be. The concept of the number 2 is an act of humility. The title reminds us all that we are all public servants, even number 2.  No one is number 1."

That's some philosophical toilet humor right there.  In all seriousness, I found the education of the children in the Village, who are taught "facts" like the light bulb being invented not by Thomas Edison but by a number, fascinating and infuriating.  6's attempt to get the children to perform surveillance on 2 for him and the end result of that idea was disturbing to say the least.  Then there was the occasion when the Village welcomed new arrivals.

"Where did you come from?" "We just got off the bus." "But if the Village is all there is, where did you get on the bus?"

The most successful episode for me was "Darling", which dealt with 6 meeting 4-15, the woman he falls in love with.  Or is made to fall in love with.  Or loved in a different life but was chemically induced to love in the Village.  The relationship between 6 and 4-15, or Michael and Lucy, was for me the most compelling aspect of the entire series.  The flashbacks to them in New York intercut with 6 and a blind 4-15 nearly marrying in the Village was provocative and heartbreaking.  It raised compelling questions about the nature of love and attraction, with the addition of 313's chemically induced love of 6. (As 2 condemned her: "Your punishment is already inside you.")

Both episodes seemed to raise the idea that the key to a man/woman's heart is surveillance (Bono and Sting have written songs about such) and constant druggings.  Well, that goes without saying.

The greater meaning of it all, and the reveals of what the Village really is, why it was built, and why everyone was brought there, didn't excite or anger me.  I feel ambivalent towards The Answers, though I was intrigued by the final moments where 6 seemed to reverse his hatred of the Village and began questioning building a better Village; he seemingly becomes 2.  Or perhaps more accurately, 6 becomes 1. ("6 is the 1.")

The acting was superlative throughout.  Jim Caveizel's forlorn and intense 6 was well matched by Ian McKellan's dastardly but secretly conflicted 2.  The two women in the story, Haley Atwell as 4-15 and Ruth Wilson as 313, were both lovely and tragic.  The runaway breakthrough character is Jamie Campbell Bower as 11-12, the son of 2, and the only principal character "born" in the Village.  Director Nick Hurron didn't spare anyone almost intrusive close ups.

In the end, even with the questions seemingly answered, I would be happy to return to the Village for an extended stay.  "More Village!" indeed, 2.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

V 1x3 - "A Bright New Day"



Erica Evans, Hero of the Visitors.  There should be an Erica Evans Day on the V motherships.

Big step up in story and character from last week.  The Resistance leadership is finally being formed, but the Fifth Column within the Visitors is an even cooler major development.  The references to "reconnecting" and "bliss" are interesting. The Vs' monitor screens linked to their swanky blue jacket cameras are cool. The more we find out about those damned dirty lizards, the better.

I also liked Ryan's threat that the Visitors would skin Cyrus alive.  The Vs skin each other?  Into what, suitcases and belts?  "See these sweet boots I'm wearing?  I used to know this guy.  He was a dick."

We spent a lot more time with the Visitors and this week, it didn't seem like scenes ended prematurely right when Anna was about to say something interesting.  I liked Anna's rehearsal of her speech to Mary Faulkner, right down to fake (crocodile) tears.  Anna must have studied Method acting on the Visitor homeworld.

Thumbs way up to Lisa's quick thinking of getting into her underpants rather than Erica seeing her in her uniform.  Lisa's mother (Anna!) didn't hatch no dummy.

Now that the Visitors have visas, do they have the same "diplomatic immunity" the South Africans in Lethal Weapon 2 had?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Michael Jackson's This Is It (****)

MICHAEL JACKSON'S THIS IS IT

As a living document to the talent of Michael Jackson, even at age 50, and his intent to bow out with the most spectacular tour of his career, This Is It couldn't have been better. One thing becomes perfectly clear upon viewing This Is It: Michael Jackson's final concert tour was going to be a hell of a show.  This Is It opens with interviews of Michael's dancers as they auditioned for the honor of joining him on stage.  They all regarded Michael the same way; with deep, reverential awe.  Then for the next two hours, Jackson earns every bit of that awe. First, there is the music, with Jackson performing a medley of his most crowd-pleasing hits, like "Bad", "Billie Jean", "Human Nature", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Jam," and "Man in the Mirror". (Michael was shown to struggle a bit with old Jackson Five songs.)  The biggest surprise was how much Michael sang. The infamous backing track was present at some points when numbers required heavy dancing, but Michael sang a great deal of his songs (to the point where he admonished himself for "singing out" when he should have been preserving his voice.)  Jackson and his team had some awe-inspiring video and special effects planned for the tour.  My favorites were the "Smooth Criminal" video, with Michael super-imposed in an old Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson movie, and the "Thriller" video, which had his dancers as zombies and ended with millions of spectral images descending from the sky.  The most fascinating and rewarding aspect of This Is It is watching Jackson at work - the way he interacted with his musicians, dancers, and crew, the way he could hear notes in their performances and find ways to improve or perfect what he was hearing, his insistence on their following his lead when he's "sizzling".  Jackson is shown to be a meticulously hard worker who pushed his team, and more importantly himself, to their limits.  And yet he was humble and kind, never abusive.  This Is It would have us believe creating this concert tour was all harmony, hugs, and uplifting moments of the crew applauding Michael's rehearsals on stage, but, given how things ultimately ended, anyone going to see This Is It is happy with that illusion. This Is It has no time for scandal or sadness.  There is no interest in who Michael Jackson was as a person, off stage, or in his private life.  This Is It is about the concerts Jackson intended to perform, and by focusing only on how he worked to put those concerts together, Michael Jackson is showcased in the finest light possible: as a consummate showman, a world class musical genius, and as what he was at his very best - the King of Pop. 

2012 (**)

2012

** SPOILERS **

I still can't figure out what Roland Emmerich's problem is with the world.  2012 is the third time he has cinematically destroyed it.  The first time was the most fun because it involved spaceships and aliens and Will Smith and Bill Pullman's speech as the President.  "Fun" isn't really what I had watching 2012, a two and a half hour-long exercise in cutting edge CGI effects and screenwriting banality.  The plot is simple: Thousands of years ago the Mayans predicted the end of the world would happen on December 21, 2012 - to the day, mind you. The end comes in the form of a "solar climax".  There's nothing sexy about this sungasm.  The solar flares combining with the planets aligning in a particular way cause the seas to rise, the Earth's crust to rearrange itself, and "life as we know it is over."  In the midst of all this, John Cusack must get his ex-wife Amanda Peet and their family to safety in the most unlikely, preposterous way possible, while top scientician and one of my favorite actors Chiwetel Ejiofor tries to mastermind the rescue of 400,000 people to start all over in super high-tech arks.  The money sequences all involve whole cities rising and collapsing or tidal waves smashing cities (American cities are shown mainly.)  While that's going on, Emmerich goes to the well twice showing Cusack driving an unlikely vehicle (a limo, then later a camper) through explosions and collapsing buildings.  Then he goes to a different well twice to show airplanes barely taking off and flying through explosions and more collapsing buildings (instead of just, you know, flying straight up).  2012 cribs from similar disaster movies like Deep Impact and Poseidon.  The ending is pretty similar to the ending of Battlestar Galactica. Emmerich also tacks on subplot after subplot of characters we don't care much about.  In 2012, Danny Glover is the President and lovely Thandie Newton is his daughter, which is pretty neat, until you realize Emmerich has the end of the world happen on the black President's watch.  The screenplay does go multi-national.  While Hispanics are non-existent (except for Rio biting it), 2012 ends up being very fair to white people and Chinese people, while dealing very harshly with whiny, asshole plastic surgeons,  fat, asshole Russian billionaires and (sadly) their big boobied blonde mistresses.

Smallville 9x8 - "Idol"



ROLL CALL THIS WEEK:

SUPERMAN! CHLOE SULLIVAN! LOIS LANE! TESS MERCER! (Took the week off) ZOD! (Took the week off) THE GREEN ARROW! (Took the week off)
Special Super Friends Guest stars:
ZAN AND JAYNA - THE WONDER TWINS! (With Cameo by GLEEK!)

That's right, the Wonder Twins live in Metropolis. 

Before I get to that, last week was a particularly good episode of Smallville. "Kandor" featured the backstory between Zod, the Kandorians, and JOR-EL, played by Julian Sands. Through flashbacks on Krypton totally homaging the first 15 minutes of Superman: The Movie, we learned that Zod, the Kandorians, and Jor-El are all clones created by Jor-El meant to survive and live on if Krypton were destroyed. They all landed on Earth but because they were created before pivotal events like Zod becoming General Zod, the greatest villain on Krypton, and before the birth of Kal-El, and before Krypton's destruction, they had no knowledge of any of that. They also have no powers in the yellow sun through flaws in their design. Clark got to meet Jor-El right before he died at Zod's hand, putting a face to the disembodied voice in the Fortress, and Zod found out about who the Son of Jor-El is. It was, on the Smallville scale of quality, pretty good.

Last week, Lois took the week off. She and Clark kissed two weeks ago and thus she bolted out of Metropolis and sought therapy. This episode was about her trying to reconcile her feelings for Clark and the Blur, whom she assigned Bonnie Tyler's "I Need A Hero" on her cell phone. Eventually she runs afoul of an evil Metropolis politician working with organized crime to expose the Blur and they throw her off the roof of the Daily Planet. In a riff off of Superman II, Clark tries to save her without using his powers while Lois tells him she knows he's the Blur. But thanks to the intervention of Chloe and the Wonder Twins, they bamboozle Lois into going back to thinking Clark isn't the Blur.

Meanwhile, The Blur has inspired other superpowered meteor freaks to take up his mantle and be heroes. Two such heroes who have stepped up are Zan and Jayna, who have the exact same powers as their cartoon counterparts and bump their fists so their "Powers Activate!" Except each time they perform a super deed, they screw it up somehow yet still leave Clark's "S" shield in graffiti so the Blur ends up taking the blame for their blunders. They also pose as the Blur on Facebook and Twitter. 

Clark figures out who they are because Jayna dropped her cell phone, which has a picture of Gleek on it. Clark takes them both to Chloe in the Watchtower, where she starts training them on how to be a hero and more importantly, not to screw up the Blur's good name. She also makes them take down their Facebook and Twitter. When Zan and Jayna intervene and help save Lois, plus capture the evil politician, Clark reveals himself as The Blur to them and gives them a Superman style inspirational speech and thumbs up. All so silly, yet so entertaining for DC Comics nerds.

In January, the Justice Society two-parter has been announced to air as a two hour TV movie, plus the Martian Manhunter is rumored to return for it as well. It'll be an all out DC Universe jamboree.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Office 6x9 - "Murder"


I do declare! Perhaps it's business-practices like buying out the Michael Scott Paper Company that's driving Dunder Mifflin into insolvency. The collapse of Dunder Mifflin has really been building since the first episode.

The Island of Misfit Toys Scranton branch handled it about as well as you'd expect. It was interesting to see Jim try to take command responsibly where Michael wanted to lead the office into a game of denial. The metaphor at the end for two parents on a boat with one trying to keep the kids from panicking was pretty good.

Overall, the murder mystery game was a little over the top for me but there was good stuff underneath, like Ryan's glasses and outfit of the week, and the confusion resulting from Andy asking Erin out. Can't help but root for the Nard Dog to get his girl.

Creed's reaction to being a "murder suspect" was the best thing on the episode.

Parks and Recreation 2x9 - "The Camel"


There was nothing I laughed harder at on Thursday night than "the moan" Ron Fucking Swanson emitted from Andy's shoeshine, and Andy's reaction. "I talked about it with the woman in line after you for 30 minutes."

Close second was Tom's emotional reaction to the shapes. "I had an emotional reaction to art. Has that ever happened before?"

I liked the story of the gang coming together over the mural, or murinal, and everyone ripping on everyone else's idea. It really brought everyone's personality out, especially April.

One day, there might have to be an episode when Jerry finally goes postal from the years of abuse. Although in everyone's defense, Jerry did say "murinal."

Community 1x9 - "Debate 109"


The title is clever. Instead of 101, this episode being 1x09.

All right, show of hands, how many of us had the exact same reaction Jeff did when Annie let her hair down and let her milky heaving bosom dangle over Jeff's shoulder?

Personally, I side with the belief that Man is Good, but I loved how the show made me despise that position by having that irritating jerk in the wheelchair defend it. This is why I watch pro wrestling: wheelchair or not, if the guy in it is a jerk you don't like, you can still kick his ass and have the crowd on your side for it. In no other walk of life is that acceptable.

Anyway, I actually hope they don't pursue Jeff and Annie, just because of the age difference. She is only 18. He's what, twice her age? It's a bit much. That would wrinkle my brain.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

V 1x2 - "There Is No Normal Anymore"


Not quite the episode 2 I was hoping for. I read a review of the pilot last week that said something to the effect that V was like a cop procedural with aliens in the background. "There Is No Normal Anymore" really felt like that.

I can't help but compare to the original miniseries where by the end of hour 2 the Resistance was set up, all the main characters knew each other, and we knew the Visitors were evil and what they were generally up to. By the end of hour 2 now, we know... not too much new from what we knew by the end of hour one. We know not to trust anyone.

Don't trust anyone.  How fitting that the motto of V is the same as a certain Texas Rattlesnake.

I did like Lisa turning her back on Tyler because he punched out the protester. Tyler was trying to be all macho and impress the hot alien girl whose people's motto is "We are of peace. Always."

I feel like the Visitors' dialogue is ending up on the cutting room floor. Scenes end right before Anna starts saying something really interesting. The Visitors need personalities, stat.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Box (**)

THE BOX

The Box wants to know if you'd push a button and kill "someone you don't know" for a million dollar cash prize, tax free, delivered in a briefcase. The briefcase itself could also be worth some dough.  Who wants to know, anyway?  Why, Frank Langella does.  He was struck by lightning and is missing the left side of his jaw. (Harvey Dent would play the world's smallest violin for him.) A perpetually distressed, not-at-all hot Cameron Diaz and a harrowed James Marsden are a married couple in Richmond, Virginia who receive The Box from Langella.  Do they push the button?  I won't say, although the movie would be over in 15 minutes if they didn't. The Box is set in 1976 but the movie is much more reflective of the 1950's with its Cold War-era science fiction roots, shadowy men in black huddling in NASA HQ about life on Mars, and several characters referencing Amazing Science Fiction stories of Martians with "technology so advanced it resembles magic."  Diaz and Marsden live in a town where everyone acts super creepy all the time, including their son, who is jarringly out of tone with the actors playing his parents in the first scene they share together.  The son ends up being an important component of the third act dilemma Diaz and Marsden face, but it would have worked a lot better if we cared at all about him. Turns out Richmond, Virginians in 1976 don't all have invisible rods up their asses that make them act creepy.  Their bizarre behavior is directly related to the eerie powers Langella possesses.  The storytelling is so murky, we're never sure if Langella's abilities came from Mars or from, as Langella says, "whoever controls the lightning." (Or do Martians control the lightning? What?)  Meanwhile, like the rat in the last scene of The Departed symbolizing obviousness, The Box beats you over the head with on-the-nose set design (the wallpaper in Diaz's kitchen resembles thousands of buttons) and dialogue (a character notices Marsden has blood on his knuckles and says, "You have blood on your hands.")  The Box tries to out-grim and out-pensive the last three M. Night Shyamalan pictures, and like the last three M. Night Shyamalans, it was ripe for all kinds of comedy.  Virtually every scene involving Langella would have brought the house down with laughter if Diaz and Marsden played them in the exact opposite way (which would have been the more entertaining way.)  That should become clear when The Simpsons inevitably parody The Box in a future "Treehouse of Horror."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Office 6x8 - "Double Date"


Not nearly enough of Ryan being an asshole and trying to get Erin to pose for his photography. In fact, I feel like there's a whole separate, possibly even better show, the documentary cameras aren't recording about Ryan, his fedora, and his newfound shutterbuggery.

The Dwight and Andy duel of politeness ruled.

Even with Toby's coaching, Pam still punches like a girl.

The raw chicken on Michael's face almost made me vomit. Disgusting.

Parks and Recreation 2x8 - "Ron and Tammy"


This episode was awesome!

Library bashing! 

Andy as a shoeshine boy! 

Ron Fucking Swanson's evil librarian ex-wife! 

"Liebary ServicRs"! 

Ron Fucking Swanson dressed like Tiger Woods! 

Ron Fucking Swanson fucking!

"That woman really knows her way around a penis."

Tom: "I've never taken the high road. But I tell other people to. 'Cause then there's more room for me on the low road."

Right up there with the Venezuelans episode as the best of the season so far.

Community 1x8 - "Home Economics"


"Getting Rid of Britta" should be on iTunes. "She's a GD B!"  
 
Troy and Annie are the new Jim and Pam. Except different, since Troy's black, they're both 18, go to community college, Troy's oblivious to Annie's liking him and not in denial about it like Pam was, etc.

Troy and Annie skyrocketed in the last couple of weeks to being my favorite characters on this show. Well, Annie was already there, but Troy is now up there with her. I also liked Shirley's facial expressions in the background during all the scenes Annie gave Troy advice.

Great cameo by Patton Oswalt as "Male Nurse." The condoms and Troy's "I'll be thinking of you" to Annie killed me.

Abed is awesome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

V 1x1 - "Pilot"


V felt a little sparse. I wish the pilot were two hours. I wonder how it played to people who'd never seen the original miniseries when it aired in the 80's, on DVD, or on Syfy over the last few days?

Having refreshed my memories of V thanks to Syfy, it was interesting how the new V zigged where the original zagged:
  • The Nazi/Jew parable is out in favor of a religious parable ("the Saviors of humanity") mixed with the hot button issue of "universal health care". Literally, in V's case.
  • The Visitors looking more corporate and refined as opposed to military. I sort of missed the red uniforms, red sunglasses, and especially the amplified voices. Also the Visitors' modified Swastika logo.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell's son, which eliminated the sociopath kid in the miniseries who joined the Visitors and sold his family out to them and merged that character instead with the girl who had the hots for a Visitor and ended up giving birth to the Starchild.
  • The Visitors announcing right away via Anna's introductory video that they wanted Earth's water, which was a big secret in the original V, along with their being lizards, their plot to discredit and eliminate scientists,  and their intention to kidnap humans for food.
  • The reveal that the Visitors are reptilian was kind of just tossed out there in dialogue. I suppose at this point the first thing anyone who knows anything about V knows is that the Visitors are lizards so they didn't bother to act like it was a big shock. Alan Tudyk's sudden appearance as part of the Visitors' raid on the Resistance meeting was pretty surprising though. And I was wondering what the point of Morris Chestnut's character was. I never saw him being a Visitor coming, so that was a cool spin on how some Visitors are part of the Resistance in the original V.
  • The red V tag now being in support of the Visitors instead of as an act of support of the human Resistance = awesome.
Although I cringed at the implications that Visitors positioned on Earth for decades are responsible for all our problems (the "unjust wars" line was a bit of an eyeroller), I was wondering what the fuck all this plot about the FBI investigating terrorist cells was about when there are ALIENS in this story. I really liked the reveal at the end that the Visitors are the cell.

Elizabeth Mitchell said the Visitors were arming themselves with the most powerful weapon out there: devotion. Really? Because the word that came to my mind was "sex." Morena Baccarin and Laura Vandervoort? I'd walk a mile to kiss those reptiles.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smallville 9x6 - "Crossfire"


ROLL CALL:

SUPERMAN! CHLOE SULLIVAN! LOIS LANE! TESS MERCER! ZOD! THE GREEN ARROW!
This week's special DC Universe Guest Star:
SPEEDY!
with a mention of:
CAT GRANT!

A better title for this episode would have been "RAO Speedwagon". Three major developments on Smallville:

1) Tess Mercer is building a solar tower that will harness the power of the sun and power all of Metropolis (kind of the opposite of Max Shreck's capacitor in Batman Returns.) Zod wants this solar tower built so he and his Kandoran buddies can harness the sun's rays and regain their missing powers. That basic idea makes sense. Everything else, from Zod now suddenly strolling around as suit wearing, espresso sipping CEO of "RAO Inc." and his boasts that he has planted Kandorans in Luthorcorp to give it the best technology on Earth doesn't make sense.

Zod asks his Kandoran minion who looks the most like Billy Zane to interrogate Tess about where The Blur is and kill her, in that order. Instead Tess somehow killed Billy Zane off screen and sent his bloody dog tags back to Zod. Don't fuck with Tess Mercer, especially if there's a scene change.

2) In the more enjoyable DC geeky development that homages Pretty Woman wholesale, The Green Arrow has found his Speedy. I don't know what the Smallville writers' fascination is with underground fight clubs, but Oliver finds prostitute Mia Dearden improbably beating on a guy twice her size. Then she's suddenly helpless when her gangster pimp shows up and threatens her. Despite watching her gangster pimps manhandle her out of the fight club, Oliver ignores this completely and decides to pick up Mia and turn her into his employee/sidekick. 

The Pretty Woman homage goes into full effect. Those thigh-high leather boots Julia Roberts wears? Mia has them. The blonde wig? Mia has one. Oliver should have presented her with an arrow in a box, slammed the box shut on her fingers and Mia laughs. Mia goes off Pretty Woman script, betrays Oliver, steals his Ferrari, and tries to pay back her debt to the pimp but the whole thing ends up with Mia, Oliver, and Lois nearly being shot to death, except for Clark's timely interference.

None of this bothers Oliver in the slightest and he retains Mia under his employ. Something about knowing all about going to a dark place and wanting to give someone else a chance. As long as she's super hot. And can learn to shoot a bow and arrow. I enjoyed Oliver's sudden devotion to his hot little hooker friend. Hopefully Speedy doesn't give Oliver the AIDS.

3) Lois and Clark kissed! OMG! Clois finally locked lips! Lois and Clark ended up trying out as morning talk show hosts for Good Morning Metropolis, and nearly got the job for their off screen banter, despite Clark being stiff as a board when the cameras are rolling. The whole thing, including Oliver declaring his love for Lois and getting shot down because she loves Clark (which Clark, who can hear ladybugs sneeze in Taiwan, didn't hear), was an excuse for Clark to finally admit he wants Lois. So he up and plants his Superlips on her right in the Daily Planet. They got fired from the morning show gig and replaced with Cat Grant. That means the Lois and Clark poster for the morning show that's a direct lift off of the Pretty Woman poster goes to waste.

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