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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Smallville 10x6 - "Harvest"


Special DC Universe Guest Star:
LEX LUTHOR! (No foolin'.)

Smallville continues to bust out major happenings unexpectedly. The previews for "Harvest" made it seem like Lois and Clark stumble upon some sort of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village/Children of the Corn cornball homage, and they did, but that hardly did justice to what the episode was really about.

Lois and Clark deliver on what was promised last week when Clark finally came clean and told Lois who and what he is. The episode opened with the conversation we've always wanted to hear: Lois asking him direct questions about stuff from previous episodes and Clark answering them honestly. (Honesty! From Smallville's Clark Kent!)

"The Phantom Zone?"
"The space ship I found?"
"Kryptonian, but that wasn't mine, it's my cousin's."

The whole episode could have just been Lois being dazzled by Clark matter-of-factly explaining everything Super about him and it would have been vastly entertaining. The Village stuff was appropriately creepy, with the demented town minister, the ritual sacrifice to their Lord, the reveal that they've murdered 20 girls in 20 years because these backwards rubes don't understand it's Blue Kryptonite that they're really worshiping, and the burlap sack hoods reminiscent of Scarecrow in Batman Begins the villagers wear when they go lynchin' and girl-killin'.

Because their town of Meeker Springs received a Blue Kryptonite meteor shower 20 years ago, not only are none of the villagers ever sick or lacking for bountiful crops, but Clark is powerless in their presence. They hacked Clark's gut with scythe and buried him alive! Somehow, being buried alive actually re-powered Clark up (no explanation offered), and there was an awesome moment when he saved Lois from a molten Blue Kryptonite bath by shielding her with his body, roasting his back in the process. Then Lois threatens the terrified Villagers that Clark will Heat Vision and Super Breath them and busts out Jules Winnfield's Ezekiel 25:17 from Pulp Fiction: "And he will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger!"

Hell, that was more than enough in one episode to send us into next week happy, but Smallville wasn't done. Clark gives Lois his Kryptonian diary, promising no more secrets between them. The way Erica Durance plays Lois as so into Clark, she's practically like a Warner Bros. cartoon with her heart bursting out of her chest.

And finally, Lois and Clark get it on. In Superman II, we know they did it but we only saw them post-coital. Smallville isn't timid, oh no. Lois and Clark get it on. It's Super sexay.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is back! Michael Rosenbaum is still MIA, but Smallville managed the unlikely feat of successfully bringing Lex back into the fold even without Michael Rosenbaum. The young (about 12 years old) Alexander Luthor clone Tess is trying to raise is not only aging rapidly ("accelerated mitosis" has caused Alexander to age four years in two weeks) but is becoming more and more unstable. Alexander goes into demented fits, drawing Superman's "S" shield over and over. When Tess, who's trying admirably hard to be mother of the year, confronts him about it, Alexander locks her in his room and runs away... to the Kent Barn.

Then the bombshells really start dropping: Alexander has Lex's memories, describing conversations between Lex and Clark from the first two seasons in accurate detail. (I liked the contrast of Clark's honesty to Lois with Lex's memories of all the times Clark lied right to his face.) Then Alexander verbally takes Tess' apart, seeing right through all her deeply held motivations and hopes for redemption. That's because Alexander isn't just a clone - that really is Lex Luthor in that child's body. And he wants to be called "Lex."

When the specialist she hired to cure Lex's accelerated mitosis comes up with a serum that could become a cure, Tess decides she can't save Lex after all and throws it in the fireplace. Tess orders Lex locked up, knowing full well Lex will age and die from the disease in a few weeks! Meanwhile, Lex shaves his red locks down to a bald head. That was awesome stuff.

The kid they hired to play young Lex did an amazing job invoking Michael Rosenbaum's Lex and handling dialogue that would have been written for Rosenbaum to say as Lex. Rosenbaum has to be coming back to pay all of this off, even if it's all hush hush right now. This is too much of a promise of seeing the Lex Luthor we know and love not to make good on.

Friday, October 29, 2010

127 Hours



Adapted from the aptly-titled memoir "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", 127 Hours is the harrowing, powerful new film by director Danny Boyle, based on the true story of Aron Ralston. In April 2003, thrill-seeking mountaineer Ralston was trapped in Blue John Canyon in Utah. His right arm was pinned by a boulder. After five days, a desperate Ralston did the unthinkable and amputated his own arm, freeing himself and saving his own life. Following up his Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire, the best film of 2008, Boyle used his newfound Hollywood muscle to get 127 Hours made. Boyle and his Slumdog filmmaking team employ their considerable talents in high definition video cinematography and riveting sound design, utilizing every trick they know to craft "an action movie about someone who can't move." As Ralston, James Franco delivers an incredible, Academy Award-worthy performance, beginning as a cocksure adventurer and running through the gamut of emotions during his ordeal. Though he has interludes with Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara at the start of the movie, and there are flashbacks to his life and to his sister (Lizzy Caplan, who oddly has no lines), Franco is basically on the screen alone for almost the entire film. The audience is trapped in that cave with him as he heroically tries everything he can think of to free himself, until he is ultimately forced to make a  choice to save his own life that many wouldn't. To the horror and revulsion of most audiences, Boyle doesn't flinch from showing the pivotal amputation, and while the entire film essentially builds to it, that terrible moment doesn't overshadow the uplifting and life-affirming message of 127 Hours.  In its own way, 127 Hours echoes the message of Boyle's 1996 masterpiece Trainspotting: Choose Life. 127 Hours unforgettably celebrates the desire to live and the indomitability of the human spirit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)



All The Best Hackers Have Daddy Issues

If one can judge a sequel's quality by how much less it made my skin crawl than the original, then The Girl Who Played With Fire is a better movie, or at least a better movie going experience, than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Your milage may vary. Myself, I appreciated the creepy, sordid woman-hating abuses and sexcapades of the Swedes taking a backseat this time around. Oh, plenty of sex was still there, as was the woman hating, but The Girl Who Plays With Fire thankfully lacks the brutal, hard-to-sit-through sequences of rape, abuse and sexual violence of its predecessor. Instead of the forbidding dread and gloom of Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Plays With Fire is a beautifully shot, entertaining, crackerjack mystery thriller. Noomi Rapace returns as Lisbeth Salander, the introverted, dragon-tattooed computer hacker and heroine of this saga. This time, a wealthy, well-traveled Lisbeth is framed for murders she didn't commit by enemies old and new. Lisbeth goes on a rather Bourne-esque manhunt throughout Stockholm to clear her name, all the while uncovering long-buried secrets about her past and family. The Girl Who Played With Fire delves deeply into the childhood of Lisbeth Salander, uncovering her links to a former Soviet GRU official who is now a crime lord, and a hulking blond brute who killed the people Lisbeth was framed for. When not brooding in her bay windows about how to untangle the labyrinthine web she finds herself in, Lisbeth finds herself in more mortal peril than ever before. On the other hand, living as a fugitive murder suspect was a welcome excuse for Lisbeth to shed her trademark piercings and goth apparel, revealing Rapace to be a radiant leading lady. Lisbeth cleans up very nicely, but it's fleeting, as by the final scene, she's been shot several times, beaten, and buried alive. But you can't stop that girl with the dragon tattoo! Lisbeth is aided once again by Michael Nyquist as crusading journalist Mikail Blomkvist. Blomkvist was the main character in Dragon Tattoo and remains the male lead, but here he is largely left out of the action, reduced to waiting by the sidelines investigating the trail of bodies and clues Lisbeth leaves behind. The pivotal moment for Blomkvist was visiting Lisbeth's spacious new flat and discovering the DVD of her being raped by her old guardian. He couldn't sit through it, but goody for him that he had the luxury of turning the DVD off, unlike the audience watching Dragon Tattoo in the theater.

Sunday, October 24, 2010




According to Legion, the biggest assholes in all of Creation are 1) God, 2) His angels, and 3) Man, although if you were to ask the God depicted in Legion, that list would be in reverse.  It would take the 90 minutes of Legion's running time to list everything terrible from a movie-watching perspective and offensive from a - never mind religion - but a common sense perspective, but here are the highlights: According to Legion, God has "lost faith" in Man because "He got tired of all the bullshit." "The last time this happened, He sent a Flood." Now, He does something infinitely less efficient and much more retarded: He tells his massive army of armored, tattooed angels (we never see the tattoo parlor in Heaven, but we do see Legion's Heaven is as underlit as the rest of the movie) to go down to Earth and wipe Man out.

But most importantly, the angels have to kill the unborn child of down and out waitress Adrianne Palicki (who skipped the fourth season of Friday Night Lights to make Legion - why?). It's really important for the angels to kill Palicki's baby before its born because - why? The baby would still be pretty useless and vulnerable unless it grows up, gets into a good school, and any of the bazillion things that would have to happen for it to be a threat to the scumbags up in Heaven.

The angels' tactics are as inscrutable as God's will: First, they attack the Mohave Desert diner Palicki works in by sending an old lady possessed by a demon to climb the walls. Then the angels send an ice cream truck with a demonic ice cream man. Then they send a wave of cars full of demon people possessed by angels. All of them fail because you can conveniently shoot and kill angels with guns. There are also hordes of locusts in the sky but they don't attack the diner, so they don't really fucking matter.

Palicki has a protector, Paul Bettany, who plays the angel Michael. Along with watching over mankind, the angels have also watched The Terminator because Bettany pretty much just does a riff on Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. According to Legion logic, the first thing Bettany does in his first scene when he lands on Earth is cut off his wings, which then means he has to steal a police car and drive to the diner in the imaginatively named Paradise Falls. While all the rest of the angels fight with demonic supernatural powers, or even a big club as wielded by main angel baddie Kevin Durand as the archangel Gabriel, Bettany knows how to shoot guns and even instruct others how to shoot guns at the angels.

The rest of the "What the hell are all these people doing here?" cast hanging out in the diner for various insipid reasons include Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Kate Walsh, Willa Holland, and veterans from The Fast and the Furious franchise Tyrese and Lucas Black. For all the dunder headed blatherings about faith and who has it, Bettany is a monosyllabic bore and none of these people trapped in the diner with him are particularly impressed by having a real live angel in their midst. The ending is literally a deus ex machina of the worst kind, where God has a complete change of heart (off screen) and calls the whole fucking thing off. My God, Legion is an unholy piece of shit of Biblical proportions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Smallville 10x5 - "Isis"


Special DC Universe Guest Star (sort of):
With special mention of:
BLACK ADAM! (Isis pulls a dagger specifically marked "Dagger of Teth-Adam, Khandaq")

The following is a love letter to Erica Durance. She's wonderful. The best Lois Lane ever. Ever. She was always hot, but for the last couple of seasons, she's become more and more endearing, neurotic, and lovable as Lois. And we found out this episode she does a really good Clark/Tom Welling as Clark impression. It's completely unfair that Erica Durance will never even be considered for an Emmy despite the incredible work she's doing as Lois Lane.

The big news is that Smallville finally pulled the trigger on Clark telling Lois he's the Blur (and presumably, about the rest of his secret, like being from Krypton). Lois has known since last season, of course, but she desperately needed the validation of Clark actually telling her, thereby proving he loves her enough to trust her completely. He does. Actually, Clark tells her twice, but the first time on the Daily Planet roof didn't count because the spirit of Isis had possessed Lois' body. Isis' uninterested reaction to the news that Clark is the Blur was the opposite of Lois'.

Clark's second, successful attempt at telling the real Lois resulted in Lois' throwing herself at Clark in a super sexy way. As a pay off to this lingering issue, it was just about perfect. And at this point, I believe every member of the remaining primary cast members now have no superhero secrets they're keeping from each other.

The second big news, not quite as major, but in its own way surprisingly moving, is Tess being let into the Justice League. (I sort of thought they were already calling themselves the "Justice League", but I guess not. Oliver and Clark still just call it "the team".) Tess has been kicked around all over the place since she joined Smallville, but because she selflessly helped Clark and Oliver find Lois/Isis (after Hawkman couldn't be located, to the heroes' chagrin), Clark and Oliver (Clark a little hesitantly) asked Tess to take Chloe's place and run Watchtower. This big thumbs up to Tess literally sent Tess running out of the room overwhelmed by emotion. Cassidy Freeman also deserves serious props for the layers she brings to Tess, the most difficult, complex character in Smallville. Smallville should have their own Emmys if that what it takes to give this show the acclaim it deserves.

Oliver and Tess had a few tete-a-tetes about love and loss. Oliver is still pining for Chloe, but his heartfelt speeches about her melted Tess' iced-over heart. I guess now the ball is in Tess' court to reveal her secrets to Clark and Oliver: 1) She was a Checkmate agent (I thought Checkmate was hunting her and her life was in danger? Guess not.) 2) Tess has also been secretly raising the young Alexander Luthor clone at Luthor Mansion, and she learned the joys of letting that future bald super villain sit in her lap while she reads him "Peter Pan". Tess hasn't told anyone she's mothering the Next Lex, nor that he's growing at an alarming rate.

The main plot involved Oliver, now a superhero rock star since "coming out" as Green Arrow, throwing a giant Egyptian party full of the artifacts Lois and Hawkman uncovered in Egypt in episode 2 "Shield". The amulet of Isis was discovered missing, and that's because it's been in Lois' purse since she got back from Egypt. For the second time in the series, Lois was possessed by a superpowered entity; the spirit of Isis used her as a vessel to resurrect her love Osiris. The plot was kind of a letdown (no Black Adam outside of the dagger reference) and Lois being possessed was more fun in season 8, when the Kryptonian mother of Doomsday took over her body and went toe to toe with Clark. Isis may have been in Lois' hot body and wearing the latest hot Egyptian dress from the Lois Lane Collection, but she was kind of a monotone bore.

Although I hate Cat Grant, using her as a rival for Lois who's trying to "prove Lois is the Blur" was pretty good. Especially when Tess laughed in her face and when Lois almost punched her in the face after Cat stabbed her hand with scissors. Incidentally, I just realized that there are two Cat Grants in Smallville; the one I hate who's a Daily Planet reporter and one I'm indifferent to, who is the host of The Catherine Grant Show seen last season in "Crossfire".

Speaking of "Crossfire", where is Speedy? She hasn't been seen or even mentioned by Oliver in months. I hope she didn't go back to her old ways walking the streets for money.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Smallville 10x4 - "Homecoming"


Special DC Universe Guest Star:
plus a reference to:
SUPERGIRL! (A magazine cover with a photo taken of Kara from last week)
and a random mention of:
THE FLASH! (Lois, in reference to her relationship with Oliver Queen said, "It was quick. Like a Flash.")

"Homecoming" is Smallville's 200th episode. For my money, it is also, thus far, the best episode of Smallville ever. There's "Absolute Justice", there's the Legion of Superheroes episode, there's the season 2 episode when Christopher Reeve appeared, but I say "Homecoming" trumps them all. This episode made me incredibly happy.

We saw him. We saw Superman. In an amazing and unexpected payoff to the opening scene of last season's finale that takes place in the future - 2017, according to the date on the Daily Planet (and hey, a major metropolitan newspaper is still in business seven years from now according to Smallville) - Clark time travels and meets Lois and more importantly, himself. Big laugh when Clark looks over his future self wearing a suit and glasses: "When did I get so uptight and nerdy?" And then our Clark gets to gaze out the window and watch as a familiar red cape streaks by and uses Superspeed flight to quell a nuclear explosion(!) in the horizon.

THEN they directly reference Superman: The Movie by having Lois in a helicopter accident atop the Daily Planet, which our Clark prevents (complete with Lois knocking out the pilot so he doesn't see it's Clark and protecting his identity). That's not all, "Homecoming" even directly references Superman Returns at the very end when Lois and Clark are slow dancing and she places her feet onto his, just like Kate Bosworth did Brandon Routh.

The gimmick of Brainiac 5 coming back from the 31st century to shake Clark loose of his malaise via time travel worked really well. This was preceded by an amusing throw away of the insane Smallville High counselor preparing to attack Clark in the same vein as all the super villains from the early seasons, only for Brainiac to lobotomize her and prevent it. Later, one of Clark's earliest season one enemies, the bug boy, tells Lois as Clark looks on non-corporeally that Clark's saving him way back when was the big difference-maker in his life, and the same with many others. No time for Freak of the Week. This is a new Smallville. There's bigger fish to fry.

The main theme of this episode is letting go. For Clark, it's to finally stop blaming himself for all the terrible things that have happened since Jonathan Kent died. And for Smallville the series itself, it's to radically re-conceptualize who Clark is. Literally meeting himself seven years from now and letting him actually see who he will be is an interesting creative gambit. The series had dug Clark in such a deep hole where it was often so hard to believe he could ever be Superman that they've actually had the character not believe it himself for a couple of years. But now Clark has literally met Superman and wants to be that guy. Clark was really impressed by himself.

Then there's flying. Clark's malaise, self-doubt, and 'the darkness' within him, were all but spelled out as the reason he can't fly. As we were told a few too many times in this episode, letting go of all of that angst is what will get Clark to be Superman. (Superman is not about angst, Mr. Singer.) Slow dancing with Lois and both of them finally exchanging "I love yous", plus Clark focusing on what he has in the moment instead of regrets of the past and fear of tomorrow finally let him... well, float. Hover. But it's a start.

Even before the full-on Superman goodness of 2017, "Homecoming" was a tremendous mix of nostalgia and comedy. Lois' insistence on going to the Smallville High 5 year reunion because she was an alumni (for 23 days, a fact both Clark and I forgot) lead to a very funny runner where Lois knew everyone's name but no one knew who she was. The way she leaps effortlessly from comedy to neurosis to sweetness, I think Erica Durance is the MVP of this series at this point. She is simply the best Lois Lane ever.

A couple of heartwarming flashbacks where we saw Lana and Chloe from season one were surprisingly effective. (No Pete Ross or Lex Luthor mentioned at all.) Also a nice touch was Clark and Lois meeting the two kids who now run the Smallville High Torch in its current digital format, their hero worship of Chloe, and Chloe texting them her approval "from beyond the grave".

Plus Clark finally gave Oliver the tacit approval Oliver has always craved as Oliver gives his first one on one interview post "I am Green Arrow!" announcement.

By Smallville acknowledging their past and putting it where it belongs, behind them, what "Homecoming" announced was that the game is afoot, and that game is Turn Clark Kent Into Superman. Clark wants to be the man he saw as the hero of Metropolis in 2017. He wants to be the Man of Tomorrow.

For the first time in ten years of watching Smallville, I now really believe he's going to be Superman.

Best. Smallville. Ever. (So far.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


October 2, 2010: I met Trish Stratus. Finally!

The Stratusphere Tour was in full swing. Lance Jr and I hauled our asses from Boston to Waterbury, CT on a Saturday morning to meet the seven time WWE Women's Champion and the greatest WWE Diva of all-time. A couple hours driving down, a couple of hours in line... and Trish Stratus was absolutely worth it.

During the wait, Lance and I tried to think of who else we'd make such an effort for just to have a couple of minutes of interaction with. It's a very short list. Hulk Hogan. Ric Flair. Bret Hart.  Lance and/or I have met them all. The Undertaker? I met him (under the most random but most novel of circumstances). But honestly, not too many others would merit this kind of devotion. Trish occupies a rarefied air - a stratusphere of her own, if you will.

If I may name drop Mick Foley-style (I've met him too), I've met movie stars like Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Vin Diesel, Brittany Murphy, Joaquin Phoenix, and Liv Tyler. TV stars like Andy Richter. Supermodels like Naomi Campbell. Current WWE Superstars and Divas? I've pretty much met them all over the course of a couple of Axxess events. Point is, I've met and even worked with plenty of celebrities and in my business, I'll meet and work with many more. I don't often get starstruck.

With Trish, I got starstruck. And I told her so; first thing I said to her, I believe. It was kind of embarrassing. She was super cool about it, welcoming, warm, and sweet. When you meet her, Trish doesn't keep it formal or standoffish. She looks you in the eye, smiles that million-megawatt smile at you, asks you your name and calls you by your name as she talks to you. She doesn't herd you along, she actually talks to you.

Trish is quite a comedienne and I worked out a couple of jokes to hit her with when I got up to the table, like inviting her out to Bobby Flay's Burger Palace at Mohegan Sun with us because I know she loves burgers and fries. I also wanted to shoot the breeze with her a bit about movies because she's branching out into films and that's my primary interest. Nope, blanked out. Looking back, I'm surprised I kept my wits about me enough to ask her about her upcoming movie Bail Enforcers. She explained how close they are to finishing production on it and I think I mentioned how excited I am to see it. I'm glad I was able to ask her about her movie and she seemed excited to talk about it, as opposed to the same old wrestling questions she probably got asked a million times on her Stratusphere Tour. But slick, witty barbs like I imagined I'd trade with her? Forget about it. Totally, utterly, starstuck.

After I posed with Trish for our photo, it was Lance's turn and I stood to the side of the stage, still zoned out from excitement and adrenaline. Then when Lance was done, Trish turned and saw I was still there and said, something like, "Bye, John!" "John", she said. She remembered my name! For the brief period of time she interacts with you, Trish makes the effort to treat everyone as a person, to give them a genuine experience even for just a minute or two. That's a je ne sais quois quality to have, and a mark of why she's so successful at everything she does. Certainly, she validated why she's the best Diva ever. Not just the best Diva, one of the best ever, period.

In the end, I learned there is a percentage of Stratusfaction greater than 100%. Thank you very much for the pleasure and memories of meeting you, Trish. Next time we meet, how about that burger?

Smallville 10x3 - "Supergirl"


Special DC Universe Guest Stars:
SUPERGIRL! GORDON GODFREY! (also referenced slyly is his New Gods name GLORIOUS GODFREY!) DESAAD! (Referenced as an S&M club, Club DeSaad) and DARKSEID! (Mainly referred to as "the darkness" - but he doesn't believe in a thing called love)

Allison Mack is no longer in the opening credits since she's no longer a regular. It's interesting what the Smallville season 10 game plan is to cover for the missing founder and the story threads Chloe provides: bringing in DCU guest stars galore to interact with Lois and Clark individually.

The first two episodes of season 10 didn't exactly flap my cape. The first episode, "Lazarus", was the typical super-busy on plot, super-lacking in logic Smallville season premiere, although I did think it was slightly less convoluted than past season premieres. The prisoner exchange of Chloe for Oliver, the Lex clone I found really off putting, and Lois suddenly in Africa photoshopped standing in the middle of a Windows desktop wallpaper bummed me out.

The second episode, "Shield", was a talky clean up of the chaos from the finale and premiere episodes, and I hated Cat Grant and Smallville's version of Deadshot. Although, Hawkman's guest spot and how he fantasized Lois was Hawkgirl and tried to make out with her was pretty fun, and I liked Plastique returning and the name dropping of the Suicide Squad.

But now, Lois is back in Metropolis, Lois and Clark are reunited, and we're back to the business of setting up "the darkness" that's coming. And with all that, Kara's back! In all her Superglory.

I missed Kara. Laura Vandervoort looks great in the Supergirl miniskirt (minus the S shield) and the even hotter looking variant with jacket and pants she wore most of the episode (take that, J. Michael Straczynski! That's how you revamp an iconic but revealing superhero costume into a more "practical" look!) Plus it always amuses me that Clark's Kryptonian cousin speaks with a Canadian accent. 

Kara was gone for a year and a half searching deep space for her mother and coming up empty, but she's been lured back to Earth by Jor-El because Jor-El has "shut out" Clark and no longer thinks his only son can handle the job of Earth's protector. Jor-El especially doesn't think Clark can handle the coming of Darkseid. So, he handpicked Kara to face "the darkness" that's coming because she's got all her powers and isn't plagued by Clark's self-doubt and whatever else is always up his ass.

This leads to Kara somehow having the resources to hire photographers to "get her image out" all over Metropolis, hoping to lure "the darkness" to her. She gets press in the Daily Planet (billed as "The Maiden of Might") and Lois spends the whole episode oh-so-self-consciously dancing around the S word while trying to invent a handle for Kara - Ubergirl, Megagirl, Power Girl (snicker). The fact that Clark's cousin Kara can fly and has powers beyond those of mortal men is written off hastily by Clark that Kara must have been exposed to meteor rocks.

More important are a couple of scenes with Clark where she expresses disappointment that he still doesn't know how to fly. The last time Kara was on Earth, she tried to teach Clark how to fly, but the lesson was interrupted. She tries again. This time she imparts her Zen of flying - "It just is!" - and she tells him to drown out the cacophony of sounds he hears, clear his mind, and focus, like on a little butterfly. It works, Clark lifts off, up, up, and not so far away before his concentration breaks and he crashes into the barn. This being television, they only try something once and then give up because more plot points have to be moved onto and TV time is precious.

What's good about this is the meta-commentary Smallville is making on itself. You see, their incarnation of Darkseid is not (yet?) mentioned as a dark New God that rules a planet called Apokolips. This Darkseid is a malevolent entity that preys on doubt and weakness, corrupts, and possesses living beings. The fear Jor-El has is that Clark has so much doubt and anger within him, Darkseid could easily latch onto him, possess him, and use him as a weapon against Humanity. And Darkseid agreed wholeheartedly when he met Clark towards the end of the episode and tried to possess him with with his Swirling Black Cloud of Crows (Is that the Omega Effect? I hope not) which was magically repelled by Kara's silver bracelet. (I was hoping, like how Superman pulled a plastic S off his chest and tossed it in Superman II, Kara would, I dunno, rip off her top and throw it at Darkseid.)

Anyway, it seems to me Darkseid is the final device that will hopefully rid Smallville's deeply flawed, angry, surly, frustrating version of Clark Kent they've created over the last ten years of all his issues and infuse him with the "purity of spirit" he's missing that will at long last turn him into Superman.

Though Vandervoort has commitments to V and there are at present no plans to bring Kara back, the door was left wide open for her Supergirl to return. Kara is living in Metropolis and will continue to try to make Darkseid come after her, while hanging around incognito in a black wig and glasses so she can walk the streets of Metropolis like a human. I'd say the odds are pretty good we'll see Kara again in the back end of the season (it would help if V is canceled.)

Meanwhile, in the three weeks that have passed since "Lazarus", Darkseid and his Swirling Cloud of Black Crows possessed local rabble-rousing talk show host Gordon Godfrey. Godfrey has an axe to grind against the Blur, the Justice League, and all masked vigilantes. It's actually a funny in-joke about how the word "mutant" is used to describe the heroes with such scorn. Stinkin' muties. Anyway, under the control of Darkseid, Godfrey has written a book condemning the superheroes and is successfully giving speeches to dozens of true believers on the streets of Metropolis. With this crusade against superheroes, Darkseid seems to have concocted a plot to rob the Earth of its Legends.

All of this hero-bashing, especially Blur-bashing, raised the ire of Lois Lane and she goes after Godfrey to take him down all investigative journalism-style. In her dealings with Godfrey, Lois learns that Godfrey has discovered that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow, and he plans to reveal this to the world by releasing a final chapter of his book online. (Darkseid is clearly from another planet based on his understanding of how publishing works). Lois dips into her Patented Closet of Costumes she's had since season 4 and poses as Godfrey's limo driver. She overhears him give a hair-raising monologue to his publicist about how humans can be corrupted easily and humanity will always sow the seeds of their own destruction.

Because she's Lois Lane, instead of running from the limo and never looking back after hearing that, she drives him to Club DeSaad, Godfrey's favorite S&M club. Once inside, she then dresses like a dominatrix, lures Godfrey into the back (sex) room, and has two other dominatrices seduce him while she takes cell phone pics and emails them to her editor at the Planet. And then because she's Lois Lane, she has to reveal she's Lois Lane and gloat to Godfrey that she tricked him. Godfrey then reveals he's got a Dark Side, knocks her out and leaves her tied up and hanging in a rather sexy way. But Clark and Kara save her and subdue Godfrey... somehow. It's not really clear what became of Godfrey. Kara infers later that "the darkness" is free and searching for a new host.

Back in 2008, Iron Man ended with a very novel conclusion when Tony Stark stood in front of a bank of reporters and declared, "I am Iron Man!" Oliver Queen, when faced with Lois' information that Godfrey was going to out him as Green Arrow to the world, did some serious soul searching. He visited church, spoke to his dead parents, and weighed the cost of losing Chloe (whom he thinks is dead) against the good he's able to do as a masked crime fighter. With Lois present in a rather dimly-lit office for a major press conference, Oliver hosts his own bank of reporters and reveals that he is in fact Green Arrow. Fade out. Play Black Sabbath. Or not.

Who knows what? This sure is confusing: Lois knows Clark is the Blur. Oliver knows Lois knows Clark is the Blur. But Clark doesn't know Lois knows he's the Blur. Meanwhile, Oliver "knows" Chloe is dead. I think Clark does too, I'm not sure. Incredibly, Oliver never mentions to Lois that Chloe is dead! Lois nearly gets killed protecting Oliver's secret and Oliver still doesn't mention to her that her own cousin is dead! (Even though she isn't really, no one knows that at this point.) Not just Superman, everyone in Smallville is a dick.

Next week: Clark's five year (I presume) Smallville High reunion! Will Pete Ross be there? Probably not. He's no "Smallville".

Tuesday, October 5, 2010




I've been rough on WWE Studios in the past. It's been all in good fun. Well, not for me. Sitting through these movies hasn't been fun. Legendary is meant to be a departure from WWE Studios' past fare. With Legendary, WWE Studios attempts to leave behind their legacy of B-grade action films starring their WWE Superstars. Instead they've shifted gears into C-grade dramas where fine, distinguished actors hope to carry a WWE Superstar to a good movie, as in the proverbial way Ric Flair could wrestle a broomstick and carry it to a great match.  In Legendary, the fine, distinguished actor is Patricia Clarkson, who is also in real life a very sweet, classy lady who lives in the same building as one of my best friends.  The broomstick, proverbially of course, is John Cena, who, to his credit, tries very, very hard and very, very earnestly as a dramatic actor. Cena doesn't embarrass himself or The Nexus. Cena plays the eldest son of Clarkson and the older brother of scrawny, mop-headed beanpole Devon Graye. Graye wants to be an amateur wrestler like Cena and their dad before them. So what's stopping him? Well, confidence issues, the kind only having his jacked up, jarhead of an older brother can solve.  It takes 45 minutes - scene after scene of molasses-like plot movement, including my favorite, where Graye lies to a judge in court to keep the troubled Cena out of prison after a bar fight  - before Cena finally trains Graye and imparts all of the secret wisdom of how to roll around a sweaty mat with a sweaty guy while wearing a singlet and earmuffs. Along the way, family secrets are revealed, there's some yellin' and hollerin', tears are shed, and there's a Big Match at the end. Also, Danny Glover pops in periodically to narrate, fish for catfish, and spout truth-isms and down-home-isms about life in Oklahoma (New Orleans doubles for Sooner country, but Glover does explain where the term "Sooner" came from.) He's not too old for this shit, but he is much better than this shit. Legendary looks and plays like a TV movie of the week on basic cable, but with all the solemnity of a funeral for someone you don't even like. The performance by Madeleine Martin, who plays the love interest for Graye, is appalling throughout. She's terrible! In the scene they share together where Martin prepares for a school dance with Graye, Clarkson must have utilized every ounce of her skill and control not to want to strangle this girl or stomp a mudhole in her ass and walk it dry. If Cena had just strangled Martin with his STFU submission hold, it would have at least given Legendary the stand up and cheer moment it was reaching for at its conclusion.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network

  the social network  


"A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars."

The Social Network is a masterpiece. Dramatically presenting the creation of Facebook (you may have heard of it. You probably Like it) and the rise to fame and fortune of its inventor Mark Zuckerberg, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have crafted a compulsively watchable, riveting, endlessly entertaining morality (or lack thereof) tale completely of-the-moment and of our time. Jesse Eisenberg, with his perpetually furrowed brow and ever-ready sneer, delivers an Academy Award-worthy performance as Mark Zuckerberg, the world's youngest billionaire. Eisenberg captivates, portraying Zuckerberg as a contemptible yet comprehensible genius and visionary. His Zuckerberg is the smartest and most ruthless person in any room, devoid of social graces and seemingly of basic human kindness. The dialogue in The Social Network is propulsive; as rat-tat-tat as Zuckerberg's fingers when programming the code for the website that would become Facebook. The performances by the entire cast, primarily Andrew Garfield as Facebook's co-founder, original investor, and CFO Eduardo Severin, Rooney Mara as Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend Erica Albright, Armie Hammer in a dual role portraying identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder and former Facebook President Sean Parker, are all absolutely stellar. Not a false note is to be found from the cast top to bottom. The opening scene, a wondrous crackerjack battle of wills between Eisenberg and Mara, was rumored to require 99 takes to complete. Each take was completely worth it. That first scene is a stunner and it was just the opening volley of a film that could have gone on for hour after pleasurable hour. The soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch is so mind-blowing, I'm still scouring to collect the pieces.  As The Social Network tells its tale (with as much dramatic license as the filmmakers could muster), Zuckerberg's lust for status and influence - and girls - within Harvard lead to him create what would become the unstoppable juggernaut of Facebook while gradually betraying his closest friends, especially Eduardo Severin. Eventually, Zuckerberg would pay off everyone who pursued litigation against him, but the real price he paid is beyond monetary measure. (What a fascinating end note as well that Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook and designer of its code, still chooses to play by the rules he established and must Friend request Albright.) The Social Network is a sordid, electrifying and fascinating story of greed, power, money, betrayal, and belief in a vision greater than any one person, even its creator. I Liked it. More than Liked it. As more than a Friend.

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Let Me In



One of the evocative images in Let Me In are footprints in the snow left by the vampire Abby's bare feet. Let Me In is rather like walking in previously set footprints in the snow. In remaking the highly-regarded Let The Right One In for American audiences with an American cast, writer-director Matt Reeves chose a damned-if-he-does course. Well, damned if he didn't craft an effective, eerily beautiful duplicate of Let The Right One In that softens none of its hard edges. Let Me In labors in the shadow cast by the original, but Reeves and his talented cast justify their remake's existence. 

With Chloe Grace Moretz (so kick ass in Kick-Ass) as Abby, the vampire, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (heartbreaking in The Road) as Owen, Reeves found just the right young actors to carry his picture. This is a gloomy, disturbing, horrifying tale of a lonely, bullied, emotionally fragile and desperate little boy who finds solace in his new friendship with a mysterious little girl who turns out to be a genuine monster. Moretz internalizes the anguish and predatory rage of her vampire self with a performance quite the opposite of, but as stunning as, her turn as Hit-Girl. Smit-McPhee is even more devastating, attempting to navigate the fear and uncertainty of his daily life of being preyed on by ruthless bullies, finding no emotional comfort from his parents. And this is before he learns the girl he likes is a hideous vampire, with all the confusion that entails, which forces him to make pivotal, life-changing choices. Richard Jenkins as The Father and Elias Koteas as The Policeman offer terrific support.

A major difference between Abby and Eli, the vampire in Let The Right One In played by Lina Leandersson, is that Eli seemed much more calculating in her "possession" of Oskar. Moretz's Abby seems to convey that though she's been 12 years old "for a very long time", emotionally, she still processes life the way a 12 year old would, albeit one terribly long-lived. Eli behaved like a much older and more ruthless adult trapped in the body of a 12 year old girl. Abby seems to relate to Owen as a child would her friend, choosing to save him from being drowned by the bullies at his school as an appreciative reciprocation for his saving her from The Policeman discovering her. Alternately, Eli, after the loss of her "Father", took emotional control of Oskar out of practicality, as she needed a replacement for her "Father" to kill for her and supply her with blood to feed on.

Though Eli did the same with Oskar, the moment when Abby removes her clothes and climbs into bed with Owen felt wrong as these children didn't seem like they were emotionally ready for an encounter tinged with stark sexuality such as this. It made more sense for Eli, who had the manipulative mind of an adult, to prey on Oskar this way than it did for Abby to use the same tactic with Owen. However, and perhaps this was a result of the language barrier with the original and the inherent likability of Moretz and Smit-McPhee, I found the relationship between Abby and Owen to be more gentle and moving than Oskar and Eli's.

Moretz's appearance via makeup and practical effects when in vampire form - transforming her beautiful young face into a chilling monster -  are well-done. But the computer generated effects in Let Me In are a bit of a disappointment, with jerky CGI when Abby attacks in vampire form that looks inhuman, but not in the right, best way. Key moments of the vampire using her abilities, such as when Abby/Eli climb the sheer wall of the hospital, were more jarring and horrific in Let The Right One In. Also missing from Let Me In is a pivotal shot from the original that made me jump out of my seat - when Eli's head emerges from the pool after she saves Oskar and murders his bullies. It's a curious choice that after Abby hugs Owen and tells him she has to go away, then leaves in a taxi while Owen watches and cries from his bedroom window, we never see Abby's face again. 

Let Me In's key storypoints and major events move in lockstep with Let The Right One In's. The story is transplanted to New Mexico in 1983. (Why '83? Best I could tell was so Reeves could work in some of his favorite period pop songs. The soundtrack is killer; I especially adored the clever repetition of one of my favorites, David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and the extra dimension of subtext it provides. *) Footage of Ronald Reagan speechifying about the nature of good vs. evil is effective in conveying the dark themes the movie explores, though the story point of Owen's (faceless) mother being a "Jesus Freak" doesn't really lead anywhere. The violent bullying of Owen at school, while keeping in step with the severity shown by the bullying of Oskar in Let The Right One In, comes off as irredeemably brutal and unforgiving. Not to say American children couldn't be capable of such cruelty, but it was easier to accept Swedish children behaving this way. (Steig Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy of books and films are making a mint showcasing the disturbing behavior of Swedes.)

American audiences should endeavor to watch Let The Right One In, but honestly, the majority likely won't. Let Me In is a fine substitute and a worthy film in its own right, sharing its predecessor's virtues. "Romeo and Juliet" (which young Owen disregards as "stupid") is referenced repeatedly by Reeves; by invoking William Shakespeare, Let Me In's director seems to be saying, "Classics get remade all the time. No one complains when Shakespeare is remade continually with different casts. Remaking Let The Right One In is not a crime." I'm in agreement.

If you say run, I'll run with you
   If you say hide, we'll hide
   Because my love for you
  Would break my heart in two
  If you should fall into my arms
  And tremble like a flower

  Let's sway under the moonlight, this serious moonlight

Superman & Batman: Apocalypse


Following the comic book's storyline, Superman & Batman: Apocalypse picks up right where Superman/Batman: Public Enemies left off, with some dialogue about President Lex Luthor's impeachment before a mysterious spacecraft crash lands in Gotham City harbor. The spacecraft brings Kara Zor-El to Earth, re-introducing Supergirl to the DC Universe (and the DC Animated Universe). What follows is a largely enjoyable adventure of epic scope involving Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda of The New Gods waging war, at first with each other and then against Darkseid of Apokolips, for the soul of the innocent but immensely powerful Girl of Steel.  Apocalypse has its share of retarded plotting stemming right from the story penned originally by Jeph Loeb; the worst of which involves an army of Doomsdays invading Paradise Island before being wiped out by Superman's heat vision (why didn't he think of that instead of getting killed in 1992 when facing only one Doomsday?) Knowledge of obscure DC comics characters is required to understand who Harbinger, Big Barda, or even the Female Furies and Granny Goodness are, as Apocalypse has little interest in filling in blanks.  The characterizations are also suspect, especially when Wonder Woman and the Amazons attack Superman in order to bring (i.e. kidnap) Supergirl to Paradise Island "for her own protection". The shoddiness of the plot is more than compensated for by the action, however. The battle between Wonder Woman, Big Barda, and the Female Furies on Apokolips is terrific, but it's topped by the fantastic superbrawl between Darkseid, Superman and Supergirl in Smallville. The two Kryptonians and the dark New God unleash their full fighting prowess. Apocalypse does absolute justice to their awesome powers - this conflagration was tailor-made for animation and would be prohibitively expensive in live action. Especially thrilling was Superman's Superspeed tornado punches on Darkseid and Supergirl's acrobatic prowess and aerial fighting style. Despite the clunky, on-the-nose dialogue they're given, the voice cast is top notch, with Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy returning as Superman and Batman, while Summer Glau lends her voice to a troubled but loveable Supergirl. Andre Braugher's voice as Darkseid feels too Earthbound for the Despot of Apokolips, especially for anyone with fond memories of Darkseid's gravelly voice in the 1980's Super Powers cartoon. The animation attempts to replicate the late Michael Turner's uber-sexy art style, especially with the female characters, with questionable results. By and large, Superman & Batman: Apocalypse is an epic and satisfying DC Universe superhero geek out.