Friday, October 30, 2009

Tweet, tweet, tweetly deet!

Qwarthak the Conqueror' Twitter feed.

This recipe for chaos will only bring you a stew of hate and resentment. Or so Qwarthak saw on Rachael Ray. EVOO, indeed.
7:25pm Oct 29

By the Hounds of Hellios IV! Ppl trick or treat B4 Halloween? Why bother even having a frakking holiday calendar? Just celebrate whatevs, whenevs.
7:23pm Oct 29

Qwarthak has obtained a large bag of Twizzlers and is welding each "rope" together. Why? Wouldn’t U like to know?
6:45pm Oct 27

Not that Qwarthak the Conqueror was EVER a childling! Just wanted to get that disclaimer right out there.
1:38pm Oct 24

Qwarthak loves these lentil-based Crunchy Curls from Trader Joe’s. Tastes like bland 60s-era astronaut food Qwarthak had as a childling.
1:37pm Oct 24

Isn’t there a Bigfoot sighting you newsies could be covering?
1:30pm Oct 21

Qwarthak would have personally abducted Balloon Boy if it would have prevented this incessant news coverage.
1:30pm Oct 21

At the drive-thru EVERYONE loses, even the mighty Qwarthak. And this is the ONLY instance where such occurs. Just U remember that.
11:39am Oct 19

But that still would not ensure Qwarthak’s fries coming out hot n fresh. Qwarthak guesses we both lose.
11:38am Oct 19

This drive-thru food hut’s communication device is woefully inadequate. Qwarthak could easily upgrade it for them.
11:38am Oct 19

And why do they always call Qwarthak when Q is getting out of the shower? Are they spying on Qwarthak using evil spying rays? Not kosher.
7:35am Oct 18

That’s how Qwarthak rolls. So to speak.
7:34am Oct 18

Qwarthak will never get a flat tire as Qwarthak travels on magnetic waves.
7:34am Oct 18

Qwarthak hates it when Qwarthak’s insurance co calls and tries to upsell Q on asteroid-side assistance packages.
7:33am Oct 18

Enough with the Balloon Boy coverage! Must Qwarthak eliminate someone with a Thuunkrellian vaporizer? And Qwarthak will DO it too!
11:32am Oct 17

It was just my stupid nephew Raoul Qwarshack. He was joy riding in my bro’s space cruiser (with the top down, natch).
1:31pm Oct 16

The Balloon Boy’s name is “Falcon” and he’s flying up in here. So what’s the problem?
4:32 Oct 15

What’s this about a Balloon Boy?
4:30pm Oct 15

Monday, October 26, 2009

Held back a year

From the paleolithic section of the L.A. Library's DVD shelf.

Year One (2009)

When I saw the names Harold Ramis and Judd Apatow, along with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (two writers from The Office) attached to this movie, I thought they would give us something very funny. All this movie made me want to do is turn it off and watch Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part One, a far better and funnier film.

First off we have Jack Black and Michael Cera, two people who are more like caricatures than actors (see Chevy Chase and David Spade for two more caricature-actors). I liked Black’s bad boy man-boy in School of Rock and Kung Fu Panda but his antics grated on me in other films. I enjoyed Cera in Juno and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, but his sensitive boy-man persona did nothing for me in Year One. In paper and in theory the two could work well together. In practice and in this movie they really don’t.

The two are very inept hunter-gatherers from a tribe of Stone Age people. They’re kicked out, well because they’re Jack Black and Michael Cera, and they encounter the Bible (wtf?) for some reason. They meet Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd) and their father Adam. Later they encounter Abraham (Hank Azaria) as he’s about to kill his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, forever to be known as McLovin). From there they go onto what looks like early Roman times (I guess the Greeks never existed in this universe) and deal with a generic King (he has no name, played by Xander Berkeley), slavery, a hot princess (Olivia Wilde) and a very lascivious High Priest (Oliver Platt in a performance nearly worthy of an Oscar nod).

It has to be said the funniest performer in the film is Oliver Platt. His High Priest - all made up with eyeliner, decked out in jewels and shiny robes and wearing a giant miter that makes him nearly eight feet tall - is hysterical. He spots the waifish Cera at an orgy and orders him to not only pour oil on him but to massage it into his chest, which is so hairy it would give Sean Connery a complex. All the while he’s riffing to Cera in the best tradition of Judd Apatow productions.

The next funniest character is Hank Azaria’s Abraham. Azaria as you should know is one of the masterful voice-over artists on The Simpson’s, and he was instructed by director Ramis to do an impression of George C. Scott who played Abraham in John Huston’s 1966 movie The Bible. Azaria tones him down just a bit so it’s not Patton, but he’s fabulous. This Abraham is very obsessed with circumcision, “it will be a very sleek look,” he says to the skeptical Cera and Black. Azaria gets to improvise one of the funniest lines in the whole movie. Here it comes, so skip this if you don’t want to know: He tells Cera and Black he’s going to get his good knife to snip their foreskins, and afterward, very casually says, “then we’ll have some wine and sponge cake.”

The rest of the movie is very dull, with lots of obvious jokes as when Cera takes Black's advice and tries to club a girl on the head. The doe-like Cera just taps her hard enough to get an "Ow" then she grabs the club and whacks him back harder. Fun-nee. I expected a lot more from someone of Harold Ramis' stature and previous movies. He directed Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation and Groundhog Day. He co-wrote Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Back to School. This man has literally made comedic movie history. Year One isn't even as funny as the worst jokes in any of those previous movies. As I said at the beginning, it just made me want to watch History of the World: Part One for a movie with a similar setting and premise. Hell, even Ringo Starr’s Caveman was a funnier movie.
Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Screencap from

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's BOO time!

Trick 'r Treat (2009)

Writer/director Michael Dougherty's love letter to all things Halloween is a terrific old-fashioned fun, and funny, creep fest. This anthology of four stories is set in a little town on Halloween night and plays a bit like a scary Pulp Fiction in its non-linear style and the fact that characters will appear at the edges of one vignette only to be fully featured in one of the other stories.

The creepy tales follow a school principal (Dylan Baker from Spider-Man 2 and Happiness) who hands out some very unsafe candy; a 21 year old virgin (Anna Paquin) who dresses like Little Red Riding Hood (a very sexy LRRH) to go to a party with her big sister and her friends; five young teens who go to the local rock quarry to visit the site of a legendary school bus massacre of 30 years earlier which claimed the lives of eight very disturbed children; and a crazy old man (Brian Cox) who runs afoul of Sam, the little boy with the burlap sack mask. Sam with his dirty old costume appears in every story, a silent witness to the grim happenings. (Depending on which DVD you get, the cover might give away Sam's "uniqueness." BE WARNED!)

This movie has a great timeless quality about it. With the exception of one kid's mask that resembled the killer in Scream, all the costumes are based on traditional Halloween themes: vampires, robots, angels, ghosts, ghouls, pirates and witches. Paquin and her friends dress up as fairy tale characters: the former is Red Riding Hood, while the latter are princesses (albeit of a Disney-ish variety). There's not a Leatherface, Jason, Freddy K., Jigsaw or Pinhead in sight. The fact that most Halloween haunted houses are inspired by the exploits of those gents, it's nice to see someone take a different approach.

Its R-Rating is earned with a bit of nudity and some sexual situations, which can be easily edited for broadcast TV. The killings aren't particularly gory - we don't see heads being lopped off, limbs being hacked or blood gushing all over the place, although there are severed heads and limbs featured in the movie. The tone of the stories are more good, fun scares and creeps - they make you squeel with delight rather than revulsion - more in line with Creepshow and classic horror comics - where (mostly) bad people get their comeuppance - rather than the latest edition of The Last Hostel Chainsaw Creek. For every creepy moment, as when one character walks in a room to find bloody scribbles on the ceiling and walls reading "Trick 'r Treat" and other Halloween sayings, there is a moment of dark humor, as when another character tries to put down a body that just won't die with many whacks of a shovel.

This is no micro-budget effort either, with top knotch production values - the main street all decked out for Halloween makes you want "to go to there," great camera work, and a first-rate cast. I guess it helps when you co-write one of the more popular and profitable superhero movies (X2: X-Men United) and its director (Bryan Singer) produces your film.

Trick 'r Treat deserves to be a Halloween perennial, alongside It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Paint it black

Dollhouse - "Belonging"


This secret we have...can you keep it?
I can keep it --but I don't know if I can live with it.

The origin of the active Sierra (Dichen Lachman) is revealed, and like many things in the Dollhouse, it isn't what you would expect. And Boyd (Harry Lennix) investigates Echo (Eliza Dushku).

Kudos to writers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon for a finely crafted episode. They go dark, but also remember to include humor at appropriate moments as a release. It turns out that Sierra was actually Priya a struggling young artist from Australia who sold her abstract paintings on the Venice Beach walkway. She catches the eye of Nolan (Vincent Ventressca) who isn't just one of the idle rich, but a VIP and a medical researcher (and all around scumbag) in the Rossum Corporation, the parent organization behind the Dollhouse. He becomes obsessed with Priya and simply won't take no for an answer. Being a man of shall we say "pharmaceutical means" he manages to drug Priya so that she exibits schizophrenic behavior and is confined to a mental hospital. Priya is brought to the attention of the Dollhouse and becomes Sierra. Soon afterward, Nolan engages Sierra's "services" through the Dollhouse.

Even though the dolls are mind-wiped after their engagements, fragments of memories and feelings remain, and Sierra has been displaying her anger with Nolan in her paintings - simple, crude depictions of things like birds, but always with a large black area. Echo brings her latest painting to Topher (Fran Kranz) who starts looking into Sierra's engagements with Nolan. Later, Nolan threatens to have Adelle (Olivia Williams) fired (and worse) if she doesn't permanently hand over Sierra to him, so she orders Topher to proceed. He does, but not in the way Adelle envisioned.

Meanwhile, Boyd catches Echo reading a book, something Dolls aren't supposed to do in their child-like state. When confronted she tells him that she recognizes some of the words. Also, and more importantly, she tells him that a storm is coming and she wants everyone in the Dollhouse to be prepared for it. Boyd does something unexpected with this information at the end.

Dichen Lachman gives a great performance as Sierra/Priya. She's smart, sexy, funny, confident - you can see why Nolan would want her. Her final scene in the episode with Fran Kranz stands out as some of the best work in a Joss Whedon show, and that's saying something. Kranz shines in this episode as well, showing subtle layers to his performance in both the dramatic as well as comedic moments. Topher has mainly been the "funny guy" in the series, but after this episode we know he is so very much more than that.

I want to call particular attention to Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen who scored the incredible music in this episode. I especially liked the last scene between Topher and Sierra in the imprint room, where the quotes that appeared at the beginning of this review are spoken. Where the music starts and especially stops is very important in any dramatic piece, and that applies to this sequence. Great, great work here - the writing, music, acting, directing, editing. This is what the Emmys look for (or should).

This episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Cmdr. Riker), who really shines when given strong, emotional material. They say film is a director's medium, while TV is a writer's medium, but Frakes puts the lie to that adage. A strong script like this could easily have been sabotaged by the wrong director. Frakes understands how to get complex feelings and emotions across - when to use a close up, when to move the camera, and when to just sit back and let the actors do their thing. His work with Lachman and Kranz here was stellar (no pun intended, TNG fans). I hope he can work in the Dollhouse universe again, and soon (a re-teaming on another script by Miss Tancharoen and Mr. Whedon would be most welcome).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

FlashForward falters this week

FlashForward - "Gimme Some Truth"

The gang heads to Washington DC to ensure they get the funding their investigation requires. Director Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) butts heads with Senator Clemente who chairs the funding sub-committee. Meanwhile, Janis Hawk starts dating. And Olivia gets a mysterious text message regarding her husband.

I had a big problem with parts of this episode, specifically the sub-committee scenes. Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is called to testify and when he starts bringing up what he saw in his flashforward and what they've uncovered so far, he's basically ridiculed. He brings up the crows dying during the blackout and at one earlier time in Somalia. They act as if he brought up the Easter Bunny. I want to know why he doesn't simply state that NO OTHER ANIMALS AROUND THE WORLD DIED DURING THE BLACKOUT (if this is what is indeed correct, which the show hasn't stated but it's in between the lines). This one little tidbit of information about NO OTHER ANIMALS AROUND THE WORLD OTHER THAN CROWS DYING DURING THE BLACKOUT should have been presented. It's just simple basic follow the bouncing ball logic. If crows were the only animals on the planet killed by the blackout, then a previous and uninvestigated such occurrence DEMANDS scrutiny. I can't believe any half way intelligent person couldn't follow that simple line of thought. I know the story wanted to paint Clemente as the bad guy but she was such a shallow baddie. All that was missing was her wringing her hands together and cackling.

During the L.A. teams investigation of Benford's flashforward intel, several details from his Mosaic board have come to pass: the burned doll head, the name D. Gibbons, etc. Wedeck was given shit about doing an unauthorized investigation but his team is the ONLY one that found the conscious man at the stadium, plus the fact he was talking with ANOTHER person during the blackout. No other agency has anything like this, especially the CIA and their "China did it because, well, there's a lot of them" excuse. And is the CIA really that stupid to present that "theory" to Congress? And why wasn't HE given the same load of crap that Wedeck and Benford were given?

Yeah, I know Clemente has an ax to grind, yadda, yadda, yadda. Ba. Loney. It was poor writing, plain and simple.

And I hope next week they ask Congress why such a silly, reckless, waste of taxpayer funds investigation would warrant a visit by an assassination squad EQUIPPED WITH A ROCKET LAUNCHER!

After seeing Dominic Monaghan at the end of last week's episode, I was disappointed they left him out of this one. Gotta DRAG THESE THINGS OUT. (sigh) The Janis subplot - she's a lesbian (gasp, shock, horrors) and she's dating a hot chef - really felt like something more suited to a show like Grey's Anatomy. There's enough soap opera with Benford's alcoholism, will Olivia have an affair, will Aaron find his thought-dead army daughter, what's up with little Charlie, and will Nicole get through her crisis of faith? We even have will Demetri get married, and more importantly, will he die as foretold? Single Janis saw herself pregnant in her flash. Somehow dating just doesn't seem important at this point. Or perhaps it was just the flat way her story was told that's really the problem.

Let's get smarter, FlashForward folks. Please. I am so tired of TV shows with cool concepts getting cancelled and not being able to run their course to the end of their stories. Don't end up with that bunch.

ps: I see in the news that showrunner Marc Guggenheim has been fired, leaving co-developer David S. Goyer to oversee the "back nine" episodes. Goyer's a pretty busy film guy, so I hope he can juggle overseeing these last nine scripts and really give the show the "oomph" and attention to detail it deserves.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Insane in the membrane, insane in SPOCK'S BRAIN

Star Trek - "Spock's Brain"

Okay, folks, we're deep in the third season of The Original Series (TOS), coming close to the end for these fumetti pics (somehow I don't think they would work as well with The Next Generation, do you?).

"Spock's Noodle" - boy this one's a real stinker. I bet Nimoy was FUMING after going from Emmy noms in the previous seasons to having his BRAIN HIJACKED BY SOME MINI-SKIRTED CHICKS! They could have used the basic premise of having Spock's melon powering the planet or whatever by just kidnapping him and hooking him up to a thingy via wires stuck on his skull. They didn't have to TAKE HIS BRAIN OUT BUT LEAVE HIM ALIVE WITH A FULL HEAD OF HAIR.

McCoy must have used Dr. Hfuhruhurr's "cranial screw-top" brain surgery technique from The Man with Two Brains to so neatly put Spock's lid back on.

This is one stupid effing episode.

Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. Images from Duck Amuck Copyright Warner Bros. Dr. Zaius image Copyright 2009 20th Century Fox. No infringement of these rights is intended. Screencaps from

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Counting crows (and swans)


"137 Sekunden"

A heinous criminal may have the answers Agent Benford is seeking to the blackout mystery. Agent Noh tries to uncover the identity of the woman who called him with news, and the exact date, of when he will die next year.

Joseph Fiennes is as tightly wound as usual as Benford. He still speaks in mostly a hoarse whisper (hey, he's The Hoarse Whisperer), like he was The Shadow or something. When his collegues are sifting through possible reasons for the blackout, one scenario claims it was gas erupting from the earth - Barry Shabaka Henley translates that as, "so the earth farted" - and Benford cracks a smile and laughs. Keep it up, Mr. Fiennes! (There was also a welcome "Spidey-sense" joke immediately after, probably thrown in by Executive Producer and uber-comic book fan David S. Goyer.)

The man with the intel I referred to above turns out to be a bonafide Nazi war criminal named Geyer. He wants a full pardon and release from his German prison in exchange for telling Benford everything he saw during his blackout. He tries to shine them on with some Kabballah crap, but Benford not being Madonna sees through this. However, Geyer does get his pardon, then reveals what at first glance seems to be nothing of value (a flock [murder] of crows had plummeted to earth and died outside his prison window), but it points Benford, with the help of Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) in a very interesting direction.

Demetri finally reunites with his fiance Zoe (Gabrielle Union) since the blackout happened. She tells him that in her flashforward she saw them married, with her walking toward him on the beach. He lies and tells her he saw the same thing. Why are the men in this show lying to their wives/fiances? This has to seriously bite them on their asses at some point.

And Benford's AA sponsor, Aaron (Brian F. O'Byrne), tries to convince his ex-wife (Kim Dickens) to have the remains of their daughter exhumed so they can re-test the DNA. If you recall, Aaron believes he was reunited with their daughter in his flashforward. His ex believes it was just wishful thinking. But the results do come back positive - it is his daughter. So what does his flashforward mean?

Guest star Curt Lowens does a nice turn as the slimy Nazi, Geyer. The German prison official was right to warn Benford that nothing is as it seems with Geyer and that he simply cannot be trusted. The look on his face after he receives his pardon and then divulges his (seemingly) useless flashforward information was killer. This evil man loves to deceive and manipulate people. Janis was right to voice her concerns to Benford. Where do you draw the line if you start making deals with evil men? I like that Janis is sort of the verbal conscience to Benford our man of action.

The episode ends with a chilling scene set in a small village in Somalia. We get another piece of information regarding the blackout. But is it really what it seems to be?


"Black Swan"

After Benford gets back from Germany, his partner Demetri Noh insists they follow a "more normal" lead closer to home gleamed from the woman Alda who was involved with the alleged terrorists the two FBI agents were pursuing when the blackout occurred.

Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger), still trying to avoid Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport), the man from her flashforward, and Dr. Bryce (Zachary Knighton) clash over treatment of a man named Ned who seems to be handling the blackout and the aftermath very, very calmly. And Nicole (Peyton List) the Benford's babysitter struggles with issues of faith as a result of her flashback which she finally reveals to Agent Benford.

This episode opened with a bang, or rather a huge SPLASH, as we flashback to the day of the blackout and a city bus drives straight into a lake, all perfectly set to the tune of Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet." It is here we meet Ned who calms rescues a fellow passenger. He comes to Dr. Benford's hospital nearly two weeks after the blackout because he's just now feeling funny. He tells Drs. Benford and Bryce that in his flashforward he's out at a hip nightclub he's always wanted to go to but was always afraid to try (Ned is -- well, with a name like Ned, you're not exactly Brad Pitt). In his flash, Ned is confident and, well, black, which is odd to the doctors as he is definitely caucasian.

After Benford and Noh's trip to a fast food joint in Indio, CA uncovers nothing but a small time pot dealer who thinks he's the next Scarface, Benford questions Alda (Rachel Roberts) himself. For someone who claimed not to know anything about the blackout, she appears to know SOMETHING. She tells Benford he's been asking the wrong questions regarding the phenomenon - "Who did it and how" -when instead he should be asking, "Why?" Alda also tells him the story of the Black Swan, a 17th century metaphor for an "high impact event so rare it's beyond the realm of human expectation." Scientists of that time had assumed all swans were white. They were wrong. So which of Benford's assumptions are wrong?

Lloyd Simcoe appears to make a breakthrough with his autistic son after some advice from Dr. Benford. He is playing Dumbledore for his son when he receives a call from "Simon" who tells the reluctant Lloyd that “Talking to me is just one of those little inconveniences you’re going to have to put up with now that we’re responsible for the single greatest disaster in human history.” And, boys and girls (and Driveshaft fans), "Simon" is played by Dominic Monaghan, who is rocking the evil in this brief appearance.

Four episodes in, I'm still intrigued by the flashforward phenomenon and the whole "is the future set in stone or can we change it" plotline. But I've noticed a problem with juggling the main cast. It seems like such a long while since we've seen Bryce and Nicole, even though it's only been a few episodes. Agent Benford's quest must remain the central driving focus of the show, so they've got to rotate the supporting cast members' stories around his. As we've seen with Lost, which had a huge sprawling cast in the beginning but quickly ran out of stories for characters like Boone and Shannon at the end of the first season (and Michael and Walt, and audience fave Charlie a few seasons later), if FlashForward gets to run for a few years I can see them dropping some of these characters and adding others.
They appear to be doubling up on some character themes/arcs: Bryce has a new hopeful outlook post-flash. Aaron was also filled with new hope about finding his daughter alive. I don't see how both characters can continue with (seemingly) similar arcs. Also Bryce seems to be leaning toward a faith explanation, which they appear to be preparing to explore with Nicole (apart from her visit to the pitiful t-shirt-giving priest), so they're (apparently) doubling up there. On the issue of faith I wish they would explore the religious impact of the flashforward on the world (most people, especially in the U.S. claim some sort of religious affiliation). Never in human history has something so earthshaking occurred yet everyone still goes about their normal business, which I think would be far, far from the truth. Perhaps if Demetri were religious, that could tie in with his fear of dying at a pre-determined date based on his flash.

I guess at this point I'm much more interested in who is behind the blackout, how they did it, and (yes, Alda) why. I do care about Mark and Olivia Benford and their personal situation and Demetri and his dilemma, but beyond that I'm not fully vested in the other characters. At least not yet. But with the addition of Dominic Monaghan and the hopeful continuation of previously seen Michael Massee as villains/threats/MacGuffins things are heating up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Soloist

The Soloist (2009)

WARNING: SPOILERS (I have to give away the ending.)

This movie should have hit one out of the park. It should have made us cry and leap for joy. But it does not truly lift us up.

The story is simple enough, Nathaniel Ayers, a gifted young African American musician, rises from his poor surroundings to attend Juilliard, but is befallen by crippling mental illness which causes him to leave school, and for years afterward lives the life of a homeless person in Los Angeles, where he is befriended by Steve Lopez, a newpaper columnist.

Lopez tries to help Ayers first by providing him with a new cello sent in by a caring reader to replace the dilapidated one (with only two remaining strings) he used to play, then by trying to get Ayers to go to a homeless shelter to see about getting a place to stay off the streets, and more importantly believes Lopez, to get some medical attention to deal with Ayers' likely schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. But Ayers is extremely resistant to both those ideas.

Jamie Foxx plays Ayers and Robert Downey Jr. is L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, upon whose book is film is based. I enjoyed Downey's performance as the confused and frustrated Lopez more than that of Foxx. I realize this is based on a true story but with Foxx's comedy background on In Living Color and the fact the movie often dresses Ayers in what Roger Ebert calls "carnival clown clothing" it made the character less authentic to me. None of the other homeless people depicted in the film dressed as oddly as Ayers. I don't recall anyone else wearing anything approaching the silvery coat - what I call the Lost in Space jacket - that he wears when we first meet him. I must admit he looked like a buffoon. (This MAY be exactly what he wore in real life, but for purposes of this dramatic story, which is not a documentary, I think they should have dressed Ayers in something just a bit more subdued, but still authentic for a homeless person. The end credits even state that many things - people, events, places - have been altered or changed for the purposes of telling this story, so why not this costuming detail as well?)

The other problem I had with this film is with Ayers himself. The film does not make clear whether or not he was ever properly diagnosed. There is an image of him undergoing electric shock treatment, but was that a real memory or just a hallucination? He appears to be schizophrenic, but is that what he suffers from? At one point Lopez pleads with a homeless caseworker at the center Ayers attends that perhaps all Ayers needs is two weeks hospital confinement for doctors to find a drug treatment that will help him, and the caseworker basically responds that drugs aren't the answer to homelessness. In Ayers specific case, I say bullshit. There are times Ayers is fairly lucid, and then times when he is muttering a mile a minute and almost bouncing off the walls (at one point he is running through heavy traffic trying to clean up cigarette butts, oblivious to the rushing cars). Even worse, when Lopez tries to make Ayers' sister his legal guardian - something they obviously talked about beforehand - Ayers not only balks at signing the forms, he hits Lopez twice and threatens to kill Lopez if he calls him a schizophrenic (it was printed on the forms) or tries to take away his freedom. I'm sorry, but this man NEEDS medication.

The movie ends almost as it began. Yes, Ayers is not sleeping on sidewalks anymore but in an apartment Lopex arranged for him to have. He's still playing his cello, apparently at the homeless center. But it never states that he is on medication for his mental illness. He is apparently happy right now, but as the movie shows, he can snap at the slightest provocation and you won't know what hit you. I stated at the beginning the movie doesn't hit one out of the park; it doesn't lift us up. I have to say that as inspiring as Ayers' story may be, the fact that he is still suffers crippling mental illess is really a shame. And with all the positive attention from the original newspaper columns, the book and this movie, he should have received treatment. The movie doesn't lift us up, because Ayers himself hasn't yet been truly lifted up.

As unsatisfying a film as The Soloist was, it does call attention, and rightly so, to the epidemic of homelessness in Los Angeles and this country. The scenes in the infamous L.A. Skid Row just bring you to your knees. It looked like outtakes from Escape From New York with all the garbage, discarded items, including old cars, trash and bedraggled people; all that was missing were mortar craters in the streets. A $50 million dollar effort was started by the city in 2006 to address the many needs of Skid Row. Based on those images, I wonder if that is enough.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

4ast and 4urious

Fast & Furious (2009)

Vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom.

Who among you asked for this ass-baloney, the fourth film in the Fast and Furious “saga?” It reunites the original cast from the 2001 film, or as the ads say, “New model, original parts.” If only the movie were as cheeky as that tag line.

Do we really care about the plot in a Fast and Furious movie? It’s merely there to hang all the increasing ridiculous car racing and chasing. If we must…Paul Walker is back as Brian O’Conner. In the first movie he was a rookie L.A.P.D. officer. In 2 Fast 2 Furious, he was a cop on the run. He ran so much he skipped number 3 and returns here as an F.B.I. agent (guess the L.A.P.D. had enough of him) attempting to bring down a major Mexican heroin supplier who uses fast cars to run his dope into the U.S.

Man-mountain Vin Diesel also returns as Dom Toretto, the fastestest and furiousest illegal car driver-racer-guy. He and his girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, aka the chick with the permanent frown) are doing their illegal thang in the Dominican Republic stealing gas tanks from highway trucks. They separate for a time “cause the heat’s closing in” (paging Al Pacino). Dom gets a call from his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, completely our Fast & Furious Fantastic Four reunion) that Letty’s been killed IN A CAR ACCIDENT bringing Dom and his muscles back to LA and on the track to who killed Letty. Of course this dovetails with O’Conner’s assignment, so the two adversaries face off to race off.

Watching this I was struck by just how much like mannequins Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster really are, especially Brewster. They are pretty and nice to look at but by the grease monkey gods of Lube Stop they can’t act. Vin Diesel is best in Pitch Black mode, meaning keep the dialogue to a minimum, unless you’re being directed by Steven Spielberg.

No one who watches these movies gives a crap about the plot, they just want to see some hot auto porn. And this movie really disappoints, with too much CGI work thrown into the mix, especially in the big running the drugs through a mountain tunnel sequence. First of all, WTF? How could they build a SEVERAL MILES LONG tunnel through a mountain that two cars racing side by side could fit through? Not all the drug money in the world could do that. The tunnel sequences truly LOOKED like a video game (CGI dudes, watch how you LIGHT your scenes!) and paled in comparison to the actual live-action street racing done on downtown L.A. streets earlier in the film. That sequence had the most ludicrous GPS system EVER, with ridiculously detailed 3D building representations. These films are basically cartoons (no pun intended) but how about just a little realism, car folks?

This movie was so dull it forgot to have the really cheesy lines like "I live my life a quarter mile at a time." The closet it comes is when the bad guy's chief hottie and Vin Diesel have a scene where she propositions him and he replies, "I'm a boy who appreciates a good body, regardless of the make." On second thought, maybe they should leave them out.

This series has run its course and - like the Leprechaun, Hellraiser and Jason movies - has no where left to go but...outer space (flying cars? and no buzzing the BNFOS station, you hear). The Fast and the Furious: Race to the Future, anyone?

Star Trek image is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencap from

Of Megos and Monkeys

Here at BNFOS HQ, it's obvious that we love all things Apes, as in Planet of the Apes.

Our friend JS sent this link that collects many of the Mego company Planet of the Apes action figure commercials. Below we have a few reactions to this trip down memory lane.

In the second commercial for the live action TV show:

Burke (black hair) and Virdon (blonde) look suspiciously like Starsky and Hutch (also from Mego!). I guess I missed the Apes episode where Galen the Chimp comes to the rescue of Virdon and Burke after he learns to drive Starsky's car, the Gran Torino called Zebra 3.

To further confuse things, this Mego Hutch action figure looks like he's still wearing his Virdon costume here,

In the third commercial, where "Astronaut" washes ashore he frantically exclaims, "They're going to operate on me and make me a slave. I've gotta help!" Umm, what? He's "gotta help" with his OWN vivisection? We knew those Apes were cruel, but by the Lawgiver, we didn't know they were THAT cruel!

In the commercial for the "Forbidden Zone Trap" playset (or as we call it, "Escape from Judson's Garage"): An Ape says, "I smell an Astronaut" while looking out a hole with "Norman" clearly written just under it. One question: WHO'S NORMAN? Or is it pronounced Nor-MAN (ya know, like Ro-MAN)? Was he a fabled Ape Mechanic? (Dare we say it, a GREASE MONKEY?) Well maybe not, judging by a. the condition of the garage and b. the Ape's propensity for traveling by horse. This, to us, is the greatest mystery in all of the Planet of the Apes lore. Who is Norman?

Our friend JS also had this keen observation: "Notice how almost every one of these commercials ends with the astronauts getting captured and thrown into the jail? What a depressing play set! Maybe the designer was into bondage, and the capture was intended to be a positive outcome?" After extensive research (not really, we just consulted W.H.I.Z.), our response to that is whatever ad agency that did these likely never watched the movies or TV show. Therefore, they didn't know that THE APES ARE THE BAD GUYS, and we should root for the humans. The senior ad guy likely stated, "Well the name on the box clearly says "Planet of the Apes," so at the end of every spot we should show the Apes winning by locking up the human pests. Anyone got a problem with that? Mark? Elvira? Okay, let's make some Ape magic!"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Head cases

Fringe, Season Two – “Momentum Deferred”

The word “headhunter” is given a wicked 21st century twist in this episode of Fringe. It seems a group of men from the other side, including 24 vet Roger Cross, are looting cryogenics facilities. No, they’re not looking for Ted Williams or Walt Disney, but for one very particular frozen melon.

Walter and Peter enlist the aid of one of Walter’s former test subjects from years past (Theresa Russell). It seems Walter’s special hallucinogenic cocktail enabled her to see through the disguises of the shape-shifters from the other side, and now they want her to dip her toes back in those psychedelic waters. Fer sure, dude.

And Olivia finally remembers her conversation with William Bell in the parallel universe. IT’S. ABOUT. FREAKING. TIME.

This one started with a bang, with a well shot opening sequence of the cryo facility robbery shot at night. It was so well staged and executed it seemed more like a movie. Plus, Roger Cross was featured and the man just COMMANDS your attention. Hey, 24, I know his original character was killed, but when Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer steps down, make Roger Cross your new 24 hour man.

There’s some good humor (not the ice cream kind) used in this episode. Peter at one point remarks to Olivia about being creeped out by Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and she replies, “The original or the remake? Don Siegel or Philip Kaufman?” Nice to know hot female FBI agents did classic sci fi. (But where are these girls when I go to Egyptian Theater programs?)

Minor quibble: there are FOUR movie versions of the Jack Finney novel - the two Olivia mentions, plus Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers and the forgettable Nicole Kidman Invasion. Perhaps in the Fringe universe there are ONLY two versions of this movie. Cue Twilight Zone theme.

Leonard Nimoy appears again as William Bell. I love the Man Who Was, Is, and Will Always Be Spock, but my goodness he sounds like death warmed over. It is painful to listen to him speak. He gives Olivia some intel about the shape-shifters and the coming War of the Parallel Worlds, but he does something which I absolutely hate. He says “there are forces at work” but he doesn’t name them. WHO THE F--- IS HE TALKING ABOUT? If you don't know, say you don't know, but if you DO KNOW, give her that information up front.

Last weekend I watched the original 1964 pilot episode for the series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The narrator tells us that to the world the submarine Seaview is a vessel of exploration, but the truth is that it’s the most advanced weapon in our arsenal against the “forces that work against us” but it never NAMES the buggers. I know it's about building suspense (especially when you have to save your big guns for SWEEPS MONTHS, like, oh look, in November). I just hope Olivia and the Fringe Division never have to fight a giant lobster man, like the Seaview did.

Now I watch a lot of genre television and movies and I must admit I am SICK TO DEATH of people always waltzing around the issues. Lost does it, BIG TIME. Fringe does it. I hope FlashForward doesn’t do it too badly. There has to be a better way of keeping the audience in suspense other than having seeming normal, and in many cases bright and intelligent people, not asking obvious questions and getting obvious answers.

It’s this endless stringing out of the storyline that might be responsible for Fringe’s recent huge dip in the ratings. The last three episodes have averaged around 6 million viewers; that’s down from the 9.5 million who watched the half dozen episodes prior to that. The ideas that make Fringe unique often seem to take a back seat to storylines and plots that appear to be lifted, however superficially, from The X-Files (like the cryogenic heads and, especially, the shape-shifters). The Fox Network needs to take a tip from Lost and give this series a definite end point, say two more seasons, so the writers can start to plot and plan accordingly.

If they don’t I fear the Fringe Division could be shut down prematurely, before its work is done.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Paging Warwick Davis*

Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

Imagine a world just beneath our own, where people have fantastic powers and abilities. They all wear cool clothes and even do wire fu. No, I’m not talking about The Matrix, but the world of the leprechauns in Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

This must have been a favorite of the Wachowski Brothers, creators of The Matrix as there are some fun parallels. In both films you have the wise older man who knows all the secrets of that other world – in the Matrix it’s Morpheus, here it’s Darby O’Gill. In both stories a handsome young man is drawn from his ordinary life into the world of the fantastic – Neo into the Matrix and his Irish counterpart Michael MacBride (Sean Connery) in Darby. There’s a beautiful girl at stake - Trinity and Katie O’Gill. And a big unstoppable force is out to get the hero – Agent Smith and Pony Sugrue.

All cyber-kidding aside, this was a fun movie filled with incredible visual effects supervised by the legendary Peter Ellenshaw. The forced perspective work that creates two foot tall leprechauns out of six foot men is nothing short of brilliant. The matte work, an Ellenshaw specialty, is terrific turning Los Angeles locations shot in Technicolor into convincing Irish hillsides, mountains and towns. This film was released in 1959 and it absolutely holds up very well against today’s effects-filled bonanzas. It far surpasses recent TV mini-series like Tin Man, The 10th Kingdom and ALL those CGI-filled TV disaster movies that have cropped up lately (you know who you are).

Irish actor Albert Sharpe is great as Darby, the town’s teller of tall tales, specializing in the wee folk, in particular their King, Brian O’Connor (Jimmy O’Dea). He’s like an Irish Yoda sometimes with his impish laughter. Dublin-born O’Dea is a fine foil for Sharpe. The King is a prankster and he’ll not give up his wishes easily, but he’s never mean for mean’s sake.

Sean Connery is serviceable in the role of Michael, but the spark he had as James Bond, which was three more years down the road from this film, is missing. He’s likeable, but anyone could have played this role as written. Janet Munro as Katie is another matter. She’s obviously beautiful, but for at least half of her screen time she comes across as being blind. (In her first scene I thought the character WAS blind.) She never seems to be looking people in the eyes when she speaks to them, preferring to look just to the left or right.

For a G Rated Disney movie there are some good fun creepy moments toward the film’s end, with the appearance of a banshee and a headless coachman drawing a Death Coach which flies across the sky. This movie shows you how to do good old-fashioned scares for the whole family.

And this must be the first G Rated movie to have SO MUCH DRINKING. A pub is a major location, where they’re drinking Guinness and whisky. And at one point Darby gets King Brian drunk off his leprechaun butt with some homemade hooch. I guess it just wouldn't be Ireland wit out all tha drinkin'.

Next round's on me, lads.

* Warwick Davis not only played lead ewok Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but the evil Leprechaun in the six (!) films in that cheesy horror series.

Star Trek image copyright 2009 and Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Image from

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tell me your future

FlashForward - "White to Play" (Episode 2)

Agents Benford and Noh press ahead in their investigation of the blackout. The Secretary of Homesland Security sticks her nose into the Los Angeles bureau's goings on. Meanwhile Olivia meets the man in her flashforward.

We're getting more pieces of the puzzle, or literally in this case, more clues pinned to Benford's bulletin board. At the same time, more intrigue has been added with creep-specialist Michael Massee's (see The Crow and others) appearance as a mysterious Man in Black who may know who and what is behind the blackout.

Demetri finds another person who also saw nothing in their flashforward in a Utah sheriff. After she is killed he starts to believe that his death may be inevitable, especially after receiving a phone call from a mysterious woman (played by 24's Shohreh Asgdashloo).

I know they don't want to show their hand right away, but I think they're dragging out the Benford daughter Charlie's nightmare vision a little to much. Yes, she said she didn't want to talk about it, but days have passed now in the story and there are ways to gently coax it out of her. Her parents, especially Agent Benford, need to know what the hell she saw. If they don't get her to squeal by episode three I'm gonna get in the umpire's face.

I loved the humor with FBI A.D. Wedeck finally revealing to Benford that not only did he flashforward to himself sitting on the toilet in the future, but when the blackout occurred he was also sitting on the toilet. It mortified Wedeck and made Benford laugh, something Joseph Fiennes's character needs to remember to do every so often. Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan makes a good point that FlashForward lacks a wise-cracking character, like Hurley or Sawyer on Lost, that might counterbalance the usually grim Benford.

Maybe John Cho can channel a little Harold and Kumar-esque madness, since Demetri thinks he's marked for death. Or maybe Dominic Monaghan, soon to join the cast, will get to play jester. The writers should remember that The X-Files, that grimmest and darkest of shows, had Mulder's dry sense of humor, but Scully also lightened up as the show went along. Always balance heavy drama with humor - ask Joss Whedon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mommy's Home (Or Is She?)

Dollhouse - "Instinct"

Echo becomes a mommy and REALLY loves her baby. This very simple premise is used to good effect here. Echo is hired out to a man who lost his wife during childbirth. He has trouble connecting with the baby and goes to the Dollhouse for a “mother” who will love his child.

Topher does more than just his usual thorough job, going so far as to give Echo “special modifications” including hormone changes and the ability to nurse the baby. She not only believes she's the baby's mother, her body tells her she is. When daddy wants to end the deal, Echo simply cannot let go of her love.

A new subplot involving Buffy/Angel vet Alexis Denisof as a senator investigating the Dollhouse starts here. I very much liked his work on the two prior Whedon shows. His character started more as comic relief, but showed a welcome serious side as well, and Denisof excelled at both. His character here wants to bring down the giant drug company Rossum, that is apparently behind the Dollhouse (I say apparently, because things aren't always what they seem to be on this show). I loved his disgust at what the Dollhouse does: prostitution, human trafficking. It's nice to hear someone say it out loud. I wonder if Dollhouse executive Adele de Witt ever said those words.

I think this was Eliza Dushku’s strongest acting in the series to date. I’ve been critical of her before but she really stepped up to the plate here. The final scene with her and Tahmoh Penikett’s Ballard at the chidren’s park was particularly good. Echo re-iterates that she doesn’t merely remember her past Active roles, but she FEELS them all, which is perhaps even worse for her.

This episode scored pretty poorly in the ratings (it was even beaten by the new Stargate: Universe on cable’s SyFy). I hope Fox sticks behind it, at least for a full season. I’d hate to see it cut off at the kness before the writers get to fully play out their hand.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Some Groovy Cartoons (OK, not really)

Those zany madcaps at io9 have a great article about forgotten cartoons of the 1960s.

Here are a few things I noticed.

In the Galaxy Trio cartoon, our space faring pseudo-cops travel to a planet where the citizens are all in suspended animation (or frozen in sleep for the younger viewers). In the first minute of the toon we see all this cool futuristic stuff: giant viewscreens and computers, a space ship, a transporter device, a stunning future city, a personal helicopter, and...a guy hammering a couple of two by fours (at 1:13). WTF? Two by fours? Hammering? No "plasteel?" No "sonic insertion device?" I bet those were the last two pieces of wood on the entire planet? And this doofus, Goober-7, is banging on them. They should be in a museum.

Another thing that stood out for me in the Galaxy Trio episode is at 1:01 Galaxy Girl says "We better go down and investigate," they quickly beam down, find all the people in a trance, and at 1:24 - less than 30 seconds later - she says "I think we better investigate." Either she thinks her cohorts are pretty stupid, or she can't hold a thought in her little air head unless she repeats it several times.

Then check out Space Angel for that ultra-limited "animation" - I've seen statues move more - in the mold of Clutch Cargo. It's hilarious how many shots here are of people with giant microphones covering their mouths, or my favorite, seeing just the BACKS of characters as they speak, all so you don't have to do any animation, or in this case, superimposing real people lips over the cartoons (called Synchro-Vox).

Oh, by the way, Space Angel, you only have ONE GOOD EYE. That eye patch you wear tells me there's no way you could be a pilot, let alone a space angel (whatever the hell that is). Time to climb down out of the capsule, buddy, and turn in your space suit.

Return to Jericho

Jericho – Season One, Disk 2

This weekend I took a trip back out to Kansas, specifically to the little town of Jericho.

(Note all episode synopses from Wikipedia’s Jericho pages.)

“Federal Response”
“As Eric and Mary Bailey discuss their extramarital affair, electricity suddenly returns and telephones play a recorded message from the government that "help is on the way". A power spike starts fires in the town library and at the trailer park. Eric's wife, April, informs him that she no longer intends to file for divorce. Hawkins bypasses a government internet block and accesses Jake's passport history, which shows visits to South American and Middle Eastern countries.”

“An ICBM launched in the previous episode detonates; its electromagnetic pulse renders most electronics in Jericho useless. The town's citizens slowly adapt to a life without electricity and outside goods. Jake's former friend, Mitchell Cafferty, steals food and horses from the town. He and other raiders take Jake hostage and it is revealed that Cafferty is the reason why Jake originally left Jericho. Cafferty is eventually captured and vows revenge on Jake. Stanley needs pesticides for his crops, and unwillingly surrenders part of his harvest to the town to receive them. Meanwhile, Robert Hawkins' daughter, Allison, discovers his map, and Robert tells her that he works as a spy for the United States government.”

“Long Live the Mayor”
“Gray Anderson, another of the "Four Horsemen", returns to Jericho. He is suspicious of newcomers to Jericho after what he saw on his trip and wishes to interrogate them. Meanwhile, Emily Sullivan's estranged father, Jonah Prowse, comes to bail out Mitchell Cafferty; he agrees to return the stolen supplies and to stay away from Jericho in return for Cafferty's release. However, Gray and Eric do not uphold the deal, and Jonah breaks Cafferty out. Mayor Green falls ill and though Emily gets medicine from Jonah, Green needs more specialized antibiotics to survive; Jake and Eric travel to a hospital in Rogue River to try to obtain some.”

“Rogue River”
“Jake and Eric travel to Rogue River to obtain medicine for their father, but on arrivin, they see that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has evacuated the town. Dr. Kenchy Dhuwhalia tells the two that that a private military company called Ravenwood was tasked with transporting the patients at the hospital, but instead killed them and looted the hospital. When the mercenaries return, Jake and Eric ambush them and return to Jericho with the doctor, but accidentally leave behind Eric's identification. Gray Anderson questions Robert Hawkins, who tells him that he is a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent; Gray agrees to keep this information confidential. April tells her in-laws that she is pregnant, while Eric decides to leave her for Mary Bailey.”

It was easy to slip back into watching this series after my last view-fest of several weeks past. The storytelling is straightforward (not super-twisty like Lost) and the characters easy to relate to.

Skeet Ulrich gets to shine as a hero again several times over the course of these four episodes, starting with helping to put out fires that threaten the town. Not only do Jericho’s citizens have to deal with the blazes but the harsh reality that they have very limited manpower and resources, so they have to pick and choose which fires to battle. Eric as acting mayor decides that the school is more important than his own home.

In these episodes we finally learn what it was that drove Jake away from his family and Jericho: a botched robbery – in which Jake was supposed to take part, but didn’t – resulted in the death of Emily’s brother. This created a rift between Emily and Jake and Emily and her father, Jonah, who is the town’s chief criminal figure.

Mayor Johnston Green and Jake have a great moment together where Jake tries to explain what has happened to him over the last five years. Johnston cuts his son off and tells him, “a punk kid left Jericho, but a pretty decent fella came back.” Kudos to Gerald McRaney and Ulrich in this scene.

Heather played by Sprague Grayden finally reveals her feelings for Jake in a sweet and funny scene. She’s offering him her beat up pickup for his journey to a nearby town, and as she’s running down all the special conditions needed for the truck to be of any use – it might do 40 mph but only downhill, if you’re shot at remember the tank’s on the left side - she jumps in his arms and kisses him. (Now, I’ve had the opportunity in my life to come to the aid of a few people - once even in snow drift - and no one’s ever done that to me. I guess I’m no Jake Green.)

The mayor’s bout with the flu takes a nasty turn and Jake and Eric have to travel to the town of Rogue River to get some medicine. They run into some Ravenwood company mercenaries who were hired by FEMA to help with the keeping the peace but have gone rogue and are looting and killing innocent people at will. D.B. Sweeney guests as the lead mercenary. He has always been a favorite actor of mine, and I was surprised and delighted to see him in Jericho, even if he’s playing an evil bastard.

There were a couple of stand out moments in this run of episodes: Mary’s bar starts violently shaking and the patrons run out into the street, they look up to see two ICBM missiles arching across the sky. Very chilling. Another entirely different moment is when Johnston’s condition is determined to be critical and Jake, Eric and some others start arguing about the dangers of driving to Rogue River, Mrs. Green tells her sons to “Go. Go now.” Pamela Reed as Mrs. Green does very good work in this series without calling a lot of attention to herself. The look on her face and the tone of her voice when she spoke those three words was amazing - it spoke volumes.
Kudos also for the scene where IRS agent Mimi is grief stricken over the news that her hometown of Washington D.C. is indeed gone. She and Stanley were arguing, her piles of paperwork get scattered all over his backyard, and she collapses in a heap while the camera pulls back and up, up, up in a great crane move with the sun setting low in the sky behind a large tree. Amazing shot, folks. And last but not least, the scene where Stanley is just about to torch part of his field to save his crops from an infestation, the town shows up to help him with harvesting, with no strings attached. Nice moment.

And last but not least, we get to meet the town’s major criminal element, Jonah Prowse, played by the great James Remar (last scene by me in Battlestar Galactica as Richard Hatch’s right hand man). Remar does menacing as well as anyone, but there’s so much more going on behind those eyes. I like how he’s trying to reconnect with his daughter Emily, even though he responsible for the death of her brother, his own son. Can’t wait to see how this works out.

Eight episodes in and I'm still diggin' this show. On one hand I really wish they would do an ultra realistic show about surviving a nuclear attack (it would likely be depressing beyond belief), but Jericho is NOT that kind of show. It's a television network's idea of surviving a nuclear attack, but that's okay. What keeps me coming back is the characters. For all their faults they're heroes and we need more like them today.

The Color Purple

Dear SyFy,

Re: Your upcoming "reimagined" series featuring the classic comic strip character The Phantom.


Why, why, why, why?

Who the f--- greenlit this garbage? Have you even LOOKED at that stupid trailer that's online everywhere? Have you seen the vicious - and deservedly so - comments written about it?

Here's an idea, why not retitle it, The Cocky Dude Show. It might last longer with its target audience of stunted morons.

Did you ever see the movie Slumdog Millionaire? Remember the outhouse scene, where the little boy fell into the big drum of foul, smelly, disgusting crap? The next time you want to do a "reimagining" along the lines of this very soon to be cancelled Phantom series, just back that money truck up to one of these outhouses, heck even a modern toilet will do, and FLUSH IT ALL AWAY.

ps: Those monkeys you have banging away at those now feces-encrusted typewriters? I'd say it's time to get some new ones. ook ook

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Greatest TV logline EVAR!

So last night I was checking out the late night TV offerings via "over the air" stations. You know, what they show after Letterman and the Scottish Conan Guy have gone off the air and all the other stations are filled with loudm frantic people screaming at you to buy things.

I'm talking of course about Mr. Ed.

Here's the onscreen logline for last night's episode: "Ed tries to redraw blueprints eaten by a goat."

OMG, that's just amazing. It tells you EVERYTHING you need to know. You even start laughing at the episode BEFORE YOU'VE EVEN SEEN IT, because it's just so concisely descriptive. Ed. Blueprints. Goat. There's no fat there. It's GENIUS!

Every comedy should have their "goat" episode, especially during sweeps months.

30 Rock ought to be glad Mr. Ed isn't around anymore, or those Best Comedy Emmy's might end up in someone else's saddlebags.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Shattered (shadooby)

Fringe - "Fracture"

"The toes knows."*

A human bomb goes off in a crowded train station, but leaves no trace of explosives of any kind. Just shards of reddish crystal everywhere. Weird, huh?

Well, "weird" is the specialty of Fringe Division and they are soon on the case. Also, Walter and Peter bicker over whether to stay in their tiny one bedroom hotel suite or find a bit more spacious accomodations. Guess which option Peter is for. And Olivia is getting fed up with her Mr. Miyagi and his "Yoda crap." Good for her!

It turns out the 'sploding person was ex-Army, last stationed in Iraq, Peter's old stomping grounds. (You know Peter, he always "knows a guy"). He tells Olivia to grab a burqa because it's vacation time. In Iraq,they meet an old associate of Peter's who is none too happy to see him, though neither goes into detail. I don't know about Olivia, but hopefully they will start to illuminate Peter's shady past and even shadier dealings, because I can only hear "Don't ask" for so long before I'd put one of Walter's colanders-hooked-to-wires on his head and demand some freaking answers.

They discover there's a rogue ex-Army colonel out there, played by Stephen McHattie, the only man with more creases in his face than Lance Henriksen, who is behind the program that tried to make and control the human bombs. Meanwhile, another human bomb is sent on a mission and the team converges to try and save her and capture the colonel.

Olivia is now experiencing headaches, a result of her having visited the "other side," just like Mr. Miyagi of the Bowling Alley said she would. I like how she is getting impatient with the guy. She travels to his little bowling alley after a long hard day of fringe fighting, he has her put on a pair of smelly bowling shoes...AND THAT'S IT. Just tie your shoes today and go home. Don't you just HATE inscrutable types?

I really like how Peter is taking a much more proactive leadership approach in these new episodes. (After all, Joshua Jackson DID test for the role of Captain Kirk in the latest Star Trek movie, so he's got full-on leading man potential). Peter's got more than smart remarks, however funny they may be, to offer the team, and he's finally showing that other side of himself.

The best line of the episode goes to Astrid (the lovely Jasika Nicole), when she comes upon Walter injecting a watermelon, "What did I tell you about experimenting with fruit?" Her delivery of the line was spot on, as was the explosion that soon followed which proved her right about fruit experiments always going bad. Also, the Observer makes a welcome return to the scene in this episode.

All this and we discover it is rude to eat a cheeseburger in front of Gene the cow. VERY rude.

* A No-Prize will go to the first person who correctly identifies that reference. Okay, here's the answer: It was made by Kevin Spacey's Mel Profitt in the 80s gem Wiseguy. Like the ex-soldiers in this Fringe episode Mel liked to inject himself between his toes. Though I think they preferred different drugs.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Back to the Future?

FlashForward - "No More Good Days" (Pilot episode)

When ABC's Lost became a big hit soon after it premiered in 2004, every network scrambled to find a show that might equal it. After many failures, it looks like we finally have a winner in FlashForward.

This series, developed by David S. Goyer (of big screen superhero movie fame) and Brannon Braga (of Star Trek fame/infamy) from the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, has a great idea at its core: what if everyone in the world "blacked out" at the same time and experienced for 2 minutes and 17 seconds a vision of their future, a flashforward? Those futures could be anything from sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper to cheating on your spouse. Or maybe you experienced nothing at all (does that mean you are dead?).

A great cast is assembled for this adventure including Joseph Fiennes and John Cho as FBI Agents Mark Benford and Demetri Noh; Lost veteran Sonya Walger (she was Penny, Desmond's "constant") is Olivia a doctor and Benford's wife; Irish actor Brian F. O'Byrne is Mark's AA sponsor; and Courtney B. Vance is the FBI supervisor. ER vet Alex Kingston is a guest star, as is Michael Mann company player Barry Shabaka Henley. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane even wrangles a cameo appearance (it never hurts to have a hugely popular show under your belt).

As the story opens, Benford and Noh are in pursuit of terrorist suspects in Los Angeles when the world goes wonky. This was a one of the better TV car chases I've seen, proving the only way to do action like that for television is in a pilot episode when they usually spend more money (24 take note). Kudos also to the visual effects team: the scenes of a devastated L.A. in the aftermath of the flashforward were scary and awe inspiring at the same time. Nothing was over done, or worse, looked cheap. A few words well-acted can convey information better than thousands and thousands of dollars of CGI.

We quickly learn that this wasn't confined to one city or one country but was a phenomenon that was experienced by the entire world. Think about what that means for a second. When was the last time the world was united by a common bond or occurence? The first moon landing comes to mind, but that's it. And that was only people with televisions and radios tuned in. Billions of people around the world went about their lives without paying attention to Armstrong and Aldrin's human adventure in July of 1969.

I hope the FlashForward writers explore at least in part that aspect of this story. At least four times in this episode characters brought up God, as in it was an act of God or a sign or warning from God, at least one thought it was a blessing. If the whole world blacked out at the exact same time, what would the Pope say. Or the senior most rabbis of Judaism or the Muslim imams? What about the Hindus and the Buddhists? You know that someone would start a cult or some other type of movement around the flashforward. I hope the reimagined Battlestar Galactica was not the first and last science fiction show to bring up the subject of religion.

I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. It sets up a very intriguing premise in the flashforward - was it natural, was it a weird cosmic ray storm, did Fringe's Walter Bishop leave an experiment running while he went to the little boy's room, or was it something else? It also brings up the old conundrum of if we know our future can we change it (even just a little), or are we doomed to follow a certain path? (This is something perhaps the wonky Terminator movie series caretakers should have thought about just a wee bit more.)

It set up some neat shocks and twists and turns I won't go into (watch it on if you missed it!). FlashForward seems to be taking a page from Fringe and painting their mythology in broader, easier to follow strokes and not the mystifying, dizzying and more than a bit confusing ultra-fine details of Lost.

I read recently that the FF writers know their ultimate mythology, down to the last few episodes, as opposed to Lost not having an endgame when they shot the pilot and having to make it up during those first two seasons. Let's hope ABC is smart enough to let the producers have their three to five seasons to let this fascinating story play out.

And for goodness sakes do NOT do what Lost did and have the "Tailies" show up in the second season and displace your entire main cast. Unless, of course, you saw it in a flashforward vision.