30 November 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 10

Title: American Pie

Notes: It's been well documented on this blog the past three years that I love the AMERICAN PIE franchise. And yeah, for the most part, the direct-to-DVD 'sequels' (Sidenote: by all means, I don't want to include them in the official PIE universe, but the inclusion of Jim's Dad in all four DTV releases sorta cements this). As I also said before, these movies are my BREAKFAST CLUB, the flicks that I grew up with as a teen and I most closely identify with. But besides that, AMERICAN PIE is just plain fun. Stifler, the guy you either really love or can't wait to fall down some stairs and break his neck, nearly always ignites a chuckle or full blown laughter out of me. Jim, and furthermore Jason Biggs, is fantastic and has impeccable comic timing. Alyson Hannigan steals the show in her few scenes (to be fully exploited in the sequel). The thing about AMERICAN PIE that makes it stand out is that first and foremost, it's about the characters. Losing their virginity and getting the girl is their motivation, yes, and drives the plot, but it's the characters we grow to love and remember after the movie, not just the female nudity guys paid the ticket price to see. It may not seem like much, but compared to a lot of similarly-themed flicks the past decade, what they achieved here is nothing short of a minor miracle. The AMERICAN PIE Trilogy will forever be in my DVD collection, even as a old bloke, and I doubt I'll ever tire of 'em.

Discuss: Really, should they not have bothered with a sequel, let alone a third? Is this truly Chris Klein's best role? As a teen, did you ever fancy joining with a pie? Is Alyson Hannigan the coolest band nerd of all time or what? Is Stifler's Mom really worth all the hype? Are you annoyed of Stifler? Know any Stifler-type blokes in high school/college/present? Is this first installment better than the others?

29 November 2010

MMAM - Vol. 18

Finally getting off my arse to finish off my review on 24's eighth and final season before the impending DVD release next month, my love for the series has sort of been rekindled, and so I thought I would celebrate the show through this particular feature. Sean Callery's music was just as instrumental to the success of the show as was Kiefer's unbelievably powerful performance.

Today's Much Music Awesomeness Monday installment is from 24 Season/Day 6, titled "Fayed's Death." In a overall lackluster season, this sequence is by far one of the most chilling, most heart-pounding of them all as Jack Bauer kills without mercy or the slightest hint of compassion. Callery's wonderful accompanying score compliments this eerie and cold mood perfectly. Enjoy!


28 November 2010



Starring Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Kelly Brooke, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Jerry O'Connell, Jessica Szohr, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss. Written by Peter Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg, Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur. Directed by Alexandre Aja. Release date: 20 August 2010. Dimension Films, 88 mins., Rated R

Plot: A swarm of prehistoric piranhas threaten to devour all the swimsuit wearing teenagers during Spring Break, which will be bad for business.

PIRANHA doesn’t try to mask what it sets out do to: deliver blood and gore, and tits and ass, and it throws all four things at the camera shamelessly. And in 3D, I have no doubt the male populace helped drive the box office receipts on those things alone. Acknowledging that PIRANHA doesn’t set out to accomplish much other than providing deliberately bad CGI piranhas, bikini clad babes, and lots of blood, it’s nonetheless not a particularly good movie. And above all, PIRANHA relishes in being over-the-top. Over-the-top in the gallons of blood that pollutes the screen and waters, in the amount of breasts flowing freely, in the amount of deliberate clichéd lines of dialogue and ‘jump scares’ and blatant embracement of just pure badness.

Before pursuing, I will say that I enjoyed myself immensely with the movie, and it entirely accomplishes what it set out to do. That being said, one reviewer I hold in high regard, The Foywonder, did bring up a interesting point: with the exception of a considerably higher budget and the three dimensional gimmick, PIRANHA is, in many, many ways, no better than your average SyFy Original Movie production. And I would have to agree with him on several points. What we have here is a movie that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, and takes great pains to just be wild and as out-there as possible, attempting to rekindle and pay homage not only to the original Joe Dante production but also creature features of the water films, whilst providing crazy entertainment for the hormonal young adults masking their satisfaction of the films content. But PIRANHA fails in the respect that it doesn’t feel like that. Even with all these outlandish elements and ‘who gives a frak?’ mentality, PIRANHA feels like a loveless production.

The best aspect of PIRANHA is, arguably, the cinematography. The underwater camerawork is very nice, from the piranha POV shots to the tense feet-walking-through-shallow-water scene, it is exquisite and quite gorgeous. It’s not like director Alexandre Aja pulled out all the stops with Spielbergean shots, but for a considerably big budgeted B-movie creature feature, it exceeds expectations. Performances aren’t anything to write home about, but you know you’re in trouble when Playboy model Kelly Brook shows more range than, say, Jessica Szohr who has three seasons of GOSSIP GIRL under her belt or Jerry O’Connell who’s been around for awhile. But as expected, the limited screentime-given Ving Rhames nonetheless owns his scenes, and is wickedly cool taking a few hundred piranhas down with him.

Random note: hilariously awesomely bad scenes involving a chewed up severed penis. I can only imagine how it would have looked in 3-D.

Another random note: Main character Jake took his dear time rescuing his love interest Kelly from certain death. A good 10 minutes or more of screentime passed before he got back to rescuing her, and really, she woulda been a goner in three minutes or less. It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…

Third and final random note: Christopher Lloyd, I dunno whether to love or despise your exposition heavy cameo. I think I’ll fall under the category of lovin’ it. Now please pick a more substantial role…

The final word: PIRANHA isn’t as good as it could be, but it’s still fun mindless entertainment for 88 minutes. Breasts, blood, piranhas – a good movie for a laid-back night. The film abruptly concludes with a promise for a sequel, which is already in development under the working title PIRANHA 3 DD, but I frankly felt a little cheated, wanting more out of the expenses given for so little received. One of the few ‘horror’ films that could have benefited from a longer running time. Truth is, I’m putting more thought into critiquing the film than the producers put into making it, so I’ll just leave at this: rent it, turn the brain power off, sit back, and enjoy.

And peoples of the blogosphere who saw this movie: correct me if I'm wrong, did that shot above actually happen in the movie? I remember looking out for it specifically after seeing it a few thousand times in the trailer, and frak if I actually saw the frame grace the screen. Best I can think, it happens near the end when non-boyfriend guy is rescuing her, but I don't believe Aja used this specific angle...Please leave comments below.

27 November 2010

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book One: Water

Avatar: The Last Airbender- Book One: Water

Starring the voices of Zack Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack DeSena, Dee Bradley Baker, Dante Basco, Mako. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko. First transmission date: 21 February 2005. Nickelodeon, 20 episodes, 24 mins.

Plot: Ummm.....The Fire Nation has been waging war on all the other Nations, Prince Zuko (kid of the Fire Nation baddie Ozai) has been banished from home and seeks the Avatar, and the Avatar is a 112 year old boy named Aang (actually 12, but got enclosed in ice for 100 years) who meets up with a Waterbender gal named Katara and her brother Sokka from the Water Tribe, and it's up to Aang to master the three elements he's unfamiliar with (water, earth, fire) to conquer the Fire Lord in about a year. Pheww...that's a very basic summary.

Throughout the year, I've made it a goal to sit down and watch television shows I never had a chance due to all sorts of conflicting events. This resulted in a new found passion and quite possible obsession with LOST, and a kinship to the greatness and brilliance of FRINGE, and has now led to a affection and love for AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, a show I never in a thousand years thought I would get into (yes, I will live a thousand years). For one, after the hype overload of James Cameron's AVATAR last year, I have since grown a aversion to the very word, so the idea of me enjoying a show with that title and the main character being exactly that was not very promising. And M. Night's summer adaptation of the series didn't exactly excite me beyond reason [in retrospect: M. Night's movie is nothing like the series; sure, it has many of the same scenes, story, and elements, but the characters and the fun are nearly dimensions apparent, my friends]. With that said, the bottom line is AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER is a show I can't recommend enough.

Let's be upfront: cartoons since the early 2000s have lost a great amount of gusto and fun, save a few brilliant exceptions (e.g., SAMURAI JACK), so the fact that this show is a cartoon is most likely a automatic turnoff for some. Frankly, I thought that would be my problem as well, but once you're four episodes in, you're so immersed in this deep, richly emotional story that any distaste for its cartoon origin is forgotten, and it in facts adds to the already greatness of the program. Indeed, AVATAR is a prime example of the benefits of traditional 2D animation (sorry Pixar and DreamWorks), as it displays some amazing visuals throughout the series. More on this in the upcoming season reviews.

Front and center is Aang, the 112 year old Avatar, destined master of the four elements (earth, water, air, fire), who is one hell of a jovial and humorous character, but also burdened and guilt with the knowledge that his fellow airbenders have been eradicated from existence and he could have stopped it if he didn't run away from his true calling. Coming to terms with this guilt will be a major character arc for most of the season. All the characters have great comedic bits, but it's Aang and Sokka that provide the majority of the comedic relief. Of course, Aang needs to be serious a good amount of time, and mature into his role as Avatar in order to help people in need, but being 12 (technically technically), he has his funny moments.

As his opponent, there's Prince Zuko. Disgraced and exiled from the Fire Nation by his father Fire Lord Ozai (who doesn't physically appear until Book Three), Zuko sets out to find the Avatar and regain his honor. Accompanied by Uncle Iroh (voiced by the brilliant Mako), acting as his Obi-Wan Kenobi and evermore enjoying a nice coup of tea, Zuko's tale in this first season is a rather straightforward one. He will do whatever he needs to do in order to capture the Avatar, it becomes his sole reason for existence. As much time is placed on Aang, the equal amount if given to Zuko. Even though Katara and Sokka are just as important characters, this show really is about Aang and Zuko and their arcs and how they mesh together. Hot headed and full of determination, Zuko is a great foil and interesting character who will only grow more complex as the story grows.

Katara is the strong female character of the series (until Book Two, when she gets sidelined by the awesome Blind Bandit), sporting a strong moral resolve and gaining discipline and mastery over her Waterbending. She assists Aang in his ability to Waterbend, and the two of them partner up in battles quite a lot. There's a great Katara-centric episode in "The Waterbending Master" when she's denied tutelage by Master Pakku and in a fit of rage engages in a fight with him. Some brilliant stuff, and furthermore compliments the stunning animation style. Katara also gets her share of flirtations, specifically in "Jet" which comes back to haunt her in Book Two. In addition, she suffers some childhood trauma after the death of her mother (everyone seems to have parental problems) which influences how her character is more motherly over Aang and Sokka than sisterly. This subplot gets more action in Book Three, and it's a doozy.

As for her brother Sokka, he's pretty much the comic relief, given most of the gags and humorous expressions in the series. But as the final batch of episodes come about, Sokka gains more depth and is even given a rather tragic subplot. In the Northern Water Tribe, he meets a girl, a Princess, and becomes romantically involved only for it to end in a sad, emotionally heart-wrenching kind of way. This experience stays with him throughout the series, and no doubt matures the character as a person and his desire to be something more than a sidekick with a boomerang.

Equally as important as the human characters are Aang's best animal friends Momo and Appa. Loyal and cute, I'm half tempted to purchase a Appa action figure.

I don't have the specific language necessary when it comes to commenting on the animation style, so I'll keep this brief: the movements of the characters is beautiful and marvelous to behold. There's no stilted hand gestures, no odd walking style...these are basically the finest rendered drawings of people I have seen, and this is taking into account the fluidity of Warner Bros. critically acclaimed BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES from the mid '90s. In addition, the way characters bend their specific elements or engage in battle, there is a beauty to the way it looks that's indescribable. More on this in the upcoming seasons, but Book One is just but a small preview of the sheer majestic craftsmanship at work here. Also worth noting is the influences of Japanese style of animation in this series. "Influences" is the correct word to use, as AVATAR doesn't base itself entirely in the realm of Anime, it just takes elements (i.e., speeding towards opponents, facial expressions, and, at times, shot movements) while dabbling in both mediums.

I also don't posses the correct language insofar as reviewing music, so I will keep this brief, as well: although the entire show is a success, the music enhances and compliments the source material much like Bear McCreary's work on the revitalized BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. And for anyone who has experienced McCreary's compositions, you recognize this as a grand compliment. Composed by Jeremy Zuckerman, the music of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER is beautiful to listen to, indulging in tracks similar to Howard Shore's LORD OF THE RINGS and, for lack of a more immediate example, Ang Lee's RED CLIFF. Similar to the animation, it too dabbles in Asian and American music. Also worth mentioning is not only the visual style for the spaghetti western but also how the music reflects themes as so (more on this in Book Two). In a nutshell, Zuckerman proves himself a force to be reckoned with, and here's a more telling statement: in no time, the AVATAR soundtracks will be in my collection and will be listened to repeatedly.

Book One: Water
A very good season that fleshes out the characters, the situations, and gives us hints of the greatness, the philosophical and spiritual issues the characters will face, as well as the hardships and romances on the horizon. Particular season highlights include "The Storm", a flashback episode explaining what happened to Aang 100 years ago (something I didn't quite get from the movie) and how Zuko got his scar; "The Blue Spirit" where Zuko rescues Aang from the clutches of the Fire Nation; "The Deserter", which could be considered filler but is the first time Aang dabbles with fire and begins a subplot that carries on all the way to the end of Book Three; "The Waterbending Master", which has a outstanding and stunning battle between Katara and Master Pakku; and of course, the last two episodes of the season, "The Siege of the North." Golly G, does Book One end nothing like the movie. Suffice to say, my love for Godzilla resulted in me wishing I could get a action figure of the Ocean Spirit. O-M-G awesomeness! These episodes are perfect examples of when AVATAR is at its best in all areas: animation, music, cinematography, script, story, and funness/awesomeness.

By seasons end, "Water" does feel like one, great self-contained storyline, but the shows freshman season does take a few more detours in the central story than is appreciated. Granted, some of these one-shot 'filler' episodes do expand on characters (Katara and Aang mostly, with Sokka mostly sidelined until the final three eps), and on occasion, a event that happens in one episode lends itself to something happening later (some elements stretching into Book Three "Fire", like 'crazy king' Bumi), but while watching them, they're not entirely engaging. Specifically, I'm thinking of "Jet", "Imprisoned", "The Waterbending Scroll", "The Great Divide", and "The Fortunteteller" as the mostly fillers. Out of all of 'em, though, "Jet" relates to the story further down the line, and the other installments are more for character benefits. Aang gains some confidence as the Avatar in "The Great Divide", and "Scroll" and "Jet" being more Katara-related stories. Overall, not especially entertaining but not entirely horrible episodes.

All these episodes come together to form one hell of a great freshman year. When "The Siege of the North" concludes, you'll be wanting to throw in Book Two pretty much instantly. Make some popcorn, get some drinks, be comfortable, and prepare for the awesomeness of Book Two: Earth.

AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER is for the kids, yes, but it's also a surprisingly deep, intellectual, adult show that delves into spirituality and concepts like Yin and Yang. It's a epic adventure about the last airbender bringing peace to a world in ruin, and there's not a episode that goes by where I wasn't in love with the show. I implore each and every one of you to seek out the seasons, rent or blind buy, and watch 'em. If M. Night's "masterpiece" left a sour taste in your mouth, one episode of this show will quench it and nearly make up for the 1hr 47mins. of bad adaptationyness. Watch. Love. Buy a Appa figure.

25 November 2010

The Watcher: 11/19 - 11/25

S04E09 - "Chuck Vs. the Phase Three" (22 November 2010) - Yvonne Strahovski kicking ass in Thailand, going batshit to find and rescue Chuck,, going so far as to lock Casey back up at Castle as not to intervene, is pretty much CHUCK at its best. A few episodes ago, I applauded the show in how it had Chuck and Sarah 'talk' over their feelings about one of their many fights whilst kicking ass in a...um, train station (?). Point is, awesome fight scene, and I love watching Sarah fight, so every moment of that was entirely enjoyable. However, there's just something about this season that's off. I recognize the major amount of financial cutbacks the show has been burdened with, but at the same time, CHUCK just feels fake and redundant, sorta. Despite the growth Chuck has undergone in seasons two and three, this season four counterpart seems like a major regression, back to his insecure ways and babbling like a idiot, a far cry from the mostly confidant man tracking his mother in the season four premiere. However, next Monday's Thanksgiving themed episode appears to be a cool game-changer, or at least back to the feeling of humor and drama brilliantly mixed. Here's hoping CHUCK gears up quickly, because unfortunately, I'm just not feeling it as much. That being said, it will be interesting to see how long Chuck goes without flashing, and see how he deals being a spy without his extra abilities...

S05E09 - "Teenage Wasteland" (21 November 2010) - Similar to many viewers, I'm not particularly a fan of Astrid, but damned if "Teenage Wasteland" didn't make me like her just a little bit more. And, plus, her presence allowed for the awesome scene where Dexter's gradual transformation into a full-blown emotion-feeling human being comes front and center and he unleashes hell on Astor's friends mothers boyfriend; pretty great scene, frankly. I also liked how Dexter's private life is now coming out in the open, as Lumen is now known to not only Astor, but Deb, who doesn't entirely buy the whole "new tenant" thing. And as for Lumen's storyline, it doesn't get advanced much this week, but with three episodes left, there's going to be a lot of shenanigans going on soon, I wager. But the really nifty part was when Shaw called Dexter's housing, knowing something was amiss with his bloody necklace thingy, and knew it was Lumen on the other end of the line. Nice! Last bit of note-worthy material: the Harry entity ponders that perhaps he should have raised Dexter in a different direction, that perhaps he isn't the killer Harry feared he would inevitably become. Even with all its ridiculous subplots and the general dislike of the Miguel Prado storyline, all five seasons of DEXTER have explored his psychology and motives to great extent, and I applaud the writers for that, 'cuz at the end of the day, that's what I want from 'em and this show.

S10E09 - "Patriot" (19 November 2010) - Arthur Curry is back, and has seemed to undergo a personality change. And one new thing about him, too: he has one hell of a smoking hot wife, presumably from the lost civilization of Atlantis, considering she's calling him "Orin" all the time. She's hot, like super hot; just feeling the need to establish this. Anyhow, Curry comes off as not remotely likable, and if this is his last venture into SMALLVILLE land, I'm not too pleased with it. Antagonistic to Clark and acting like a immature hothead, A.C. finds himself in trouble once again (this time with BSG veteran Michael Hogan!) and philosophizes here and there. Basically, I just didn't care. Speaking of philosophizing, nearly every character does this in "Patriot." From Hogan's character discussing patriotism and vigilantism, to A.C's wife talking all this grand stuff about Clark's destiny and Lois' role in it - all rather overdone, I'd say. Oh, and where did the whole Clark putting Lois off to the sidelines come in? Perhaps I missed something, but I was under the assumption since "Harvest" he's been more open and communicative to her than any person previous, man or woman. Regardless, it was awesome seeing Lois walk into Watchtower for the first time (plus the awkwardly worded scenes between her and Tess). And, 'course, Clark gets his Hero monologue moment. Oi. Overall, a decent but unspectacular episode, saved only be Lois' acceptance into the gang at the end and the hotness of A.C.'s wife.

S02E09 - "Visitation" (23 November 2010) - Season one had a episode dedicated entirely to God or some all-powerful being having its hand in creating this impossible plant ("Faith"), and in "Visitation", the same central theme comes again, this time with the sudden reappearance of the people Destiny left on that impossible planet. By the way, anyone else get a Starbuck/Viper vibe from the whole ordeal? Starbuck and her Viper coming back to the Galactica as perfect and new as when they left? Anyway, the heartbreaking revelation is that these folks already died on the planet, and some cosmic force (or aliens, as it's theorized) reanimated them and brought the group back to Destiny to say their goodbyes or whatnot. It was interesting, though, to have most of the deaths initiated when they tried to remember what happened back on the planet. I dig the idea of memories and their possible effects in the sci-fi world, so this coincidence (?) was pretty nifty. Although I was a little sad to hear that all these characters are, in actuality, dead, it was nice seeing them again, and allowed for more spectacular questions: where is TJ's baby, if her vision in the premiere is to be taken literally? What brought the group back? What was that flash of light from the Kino feed? What purpose did the force/aliens have in bringing them back to Destiny? All these questions and ideas are making SG-U get better and better with each week, and I'm excited for each new episode now. Hell, I'm even a bit sad the mid-season finale is next week. One last thing to note: I love the character of TJ, so whenever the writers have the opportunity to use her character in a greater capacity than a medical life saver, I'm bloody glad. One of the great underused gems of the show. In addition, there's a fantastic scene between Chloe and Greer (who gave off a genuinely great and out-of-character performance for the first time since ever) frankly discussing what will happen when Chloe turns. Ooooo! I'm excited!

S06E09 - "Clap Your Hands if you Believe..." (19 November 2010) - For a mostly dark beginning of the season, "Clap Your Hands..." appeared to be the funny ep on the block along the lines of "Changing Channels." As it stands, though, it was simply marginally OK. Truth is, the idea of Sam and Dean facing faeries had a lot of potential, not only for some brilliant gags, but also storyline. One interesting bit, though, did have a faerie claim they could retrieve Sam's soul, although I personally think he was just making it all up. It was also pretty cool seeing Sam's lack of interest or belief in his words, and just went back to kicking his ass. Frankly, I'm cool with soulless Sam for awhile longer, and I don't particularly look forward to him regaining it anytime soon, although I do enjoy the feeling that Dean just has to deal with it for awhile so we get more Soulless Sam episodes without "We need to find your soul pronto!"ness. Even for a less than stellar episode, there were some good parts: the X-FILES-esque opening theme which left me giggling, and the faerie attack on Dean at the hotel. As for Dean tackling a midnight...seemed a bit beneath the standards of comedy established by SUPERNATURAL. Until next time!

S01E04 - "Vatos" (21 November 2010) - Haven't had a chance to watch it yet, my apologies. So review of "Vatos" and the season finale next week!

23 November 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 9

Title: Hot Fuzz

Notes: Between SHAUN and FUZZ, many a folk would choose SHAUN, but for me, SHAUN is nothing compared to the sheer awesomeness and utter brilliance of HOT FUZZ. Embracing, acknowledging, and respecting the action genre, from mindless actions films to the buddy cop flicks (BAD BOYS II and POINT BREAK, especially), FUZZ is 'da bomb diggity. There's not a single bad note in this flick's entirety, with every joke and action scene played out in perfection. I've watched it a million and one times, and it never gets old. Simon Pegg is at his best, and Nick Frost delivers the goods with every scene he's in. From the cameos (Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, the dude who plays Filch) to our leads and 'villain' (Timothy Dalton), there's not a single bad or lackluster performance. Pretty much borderline the epitome of perfection, HOT FUZZ is and forever will remain one of my top ten favorite films ever made.

Discuss: For those who love SHAUN more, what traits of that film are superior to HOT FUZZ? How awesome was Timothy Dalton? Favorite joke? Anxious for the third Wright-Pegg-Frost collaboration?

22 November 2010


the night chronicles 1: Devil

Starring Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven. Story by M. Night Shyamalan. Written by Brian Nelson, Directed by John Erick Dowdle. Release: 17 September 2010. Universal, 80 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Five people are trapped in a elevator, one of them is the Devil.

Semi-related rant: oh boy was I happy DEVIL finally came out. Not so much for a eagerness to see it, which didn't so much happen anyway (just saw it a couple days ago), but more for the release of having to watch the damn commercial every time a break came about on Hulu. Blimey.

The truth is, I rather enjoyed DEVIL. Specifically, I enjoyed the story and the resolution. The script was rubbish, truly, really rubbish, but more on that later. Before I go on, I must clarify: yes, I had a pleasant time watching the flick, and I find myself recommending a blind rental to fellow movie lovers, and I will praise where necessary, but the majority of this review will be a critical eye concerning the films many pitfalls and minor but admirable successes. But just remember: I liked it.

There's something inherently chilling and simultaneously captivating about the notion of five strangers stuck in a elevator with the Devil. It's not so much the guessing game of which one of them is the Devil, but the journey of the characters, and how the situation deteriorates from bad to worse. A story like so has infinite possibilities, and the tone of the executed story could be both dark and comical at the same time. Frankly, I fell in love with the concept, but going in, I knew not to expect much based off the countless times I saw the trailer. But first and foremost, I thought I'd start the review on a positive note: story, fantastic. And the resolution - "twists" aside (although I was very pleased the individual I thought was the Devil was indeed the Devil, and damn that was a good performance) - was very satisfying and pretty much brilliant. Not like oh my god, you're a genius!!! brilliant, but in the same category of that was clever, and I quite liked that.

Now when I mentioned the script was rubbish but yet I loved the story, how so, you ask? Dialogue, my friend, the dialogue. About just as bad as the stock, zero dimensional characters that take up the screen. The script isn't as bad as MARMADUKE, no doubt, but every line, from the police to the sporadic narration, just comes off forced (let alone delivered with no enthusiasm from the cast) and worthy of overused-cliched-lines-of-dialogue award of some sort. There is a nice bit mentioned in the script that when "He" shows up, things go all upside down, and is visually presented not just by the poor jelly sandwich, but also the opening sequence panning across Philadelphia, and when the evil is gone, similar shots are correct and 'normal' again. It's the small little touches I appreciate the most, I guess. Oh, and in case the title didn't give it away, there is a dose of religious concepts in the flick, spoken primarily by one of the elevator monitor workers, spouting off basically exposition and ominous, foreboding lines about Him. And that this is, of course, happening for a reason. If scripter Brian Nelson could have found a more clever way of realizing these ideas through the script instead of the horribly contrived fashion it is now, I would be far more pleased.

As mentioned briefly, I also thought most of the performances were sucktacular. Bokeem Woodbine as The Guard was obnoxious from beginning to end, and his final fate had me clapping with glee. Jenny O'Hara gave the most interesting performance, frankly, even though she wasn't given a great amount of material to work with. Another performance just as interesting and impress was Bojana Novakovic as the younger gal, Sarah. Novakovic successfully made me second guess my assumption of the Devil's identity, and when I wasn't thinking about that possibility, I was simply engaged by the frightened, manipulative, and stone cold individual this character was. Interesting, indeed. The (500) DAYS OF SUMMER guy who I was looking forward to watching somehow came across more obnoxious than Woodbine (gasp). Jacob Vargas as Ramirez is the one spouting off the forced religion mumbo jumbo, and he simply couldn't pass it off remotely convincingly, instead coming across as a bad inside joke ("It's a Shyamalan produced flick; we gotta get at least one really bad actor"). And as Detective Bowden, well, I frankly found all the police performances from the SAW movies to be more convincing and dramatically engaging. Throw us another Detective Hoffman. However, I did like the final twist between him and the mechanic - that was good stuff.

In the end, DEVIL has some downfalls, plenty of 'em, but the overall movie is pretty good. Until the final act, then it just gets really, really good. Two twists, a bookending conclusion, and a nice dramatic moment between two survivors. Oh! And I would be remiss to leave this review without mentioning the terrific score, especially prominent in the opening credits sequence (chills, man, chills!), composed by Fernando Velázquez (worked on THE ORPHANAGE). Sadly no CD seems to be on the horizon, but I'd most definitely be interested. The first of a series called The Night Chronicles, a story that had some momentously awesome potential that fell short a bit, I'll nonetheless be tuning in for the other two.

MMAM - Vol. 17

One of the many pleasures of becoming addicted to AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER was experiencing the mesmerizing music that accompanied the similarly arresting visuals. Composed by Jeremy Zuckerman, the music is a experience all on its own. His work in all three seasons is phenomenal, hitting at Michael Giacchino levels at times. Below I have embedded a track from the Book One finale, when Aang enters the 'Avatar State' and wrecks havoc on the Fire Nation while channeling the ocean spirit. It's a mesmerizing scene, and successfully sent chills up mesa spine. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

If there's one thing Shyamalan did right with his cinematic adaptation, is that he maintained the quality of music that is demanded for this story. So, kudos to James Newton Howard on that one. But for now, please enjoy the sheer haunting cue by Zuckerman.

19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleason, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter. Screenplay by Steve Kloves, Directed by David Yates. Release: 19 November 2010. Warner Bros., 146 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Life is sorta crappy for Harry Potter, as nearly everyone in the wizarding world wants his head, so being on the run with his friends Ron and Hermione is necessary to stop the evil Lord Voldemort once and for all.

The midnight screening of the penultimate HARRY POTTER film, basically the concluding chapter of a series that is unwaveringly intertwined with my childhood and is of great emotional resonance for me, just finished over a hour ago and I decided to write this review rather immediately before my brain becomes overjoyed with exploring my recently purchased SCOTT PILGRIM and DOCTOR WHO Blu-Rays. So my apologies if what follows is a bloody mess, I tried.

To make a long story short, PART 1 is a rousing success. Intense, deeply emotional, and hitting the majority of crucial story points, this movie furthers the stories while paying tribute, in various ways, the stories that brought the characters where they are now. It’s really quite satisfying to see Harry Potter revisit his old cupboard and silently acknowledge the change in his life, who he was before and has now become. Characters minor and major reappear to bid the saga ado, and do so in outstanding manner. This truly is the beginning of the end, and director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves, actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson deliver on every imaginable scale.

First it’s worth mentioning I don’t look at HALF-BLOOD PRINCE too favorably, something I blame on the poorly adapted script and washed out color tone which simply turns me off (same with Scott’s DOMINO, although that is a example of the extreme), and to ring home my perspective of this seventh film, DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 completely makes up for it. Second in the worth mentioning category is my opinion on the two-film split. Like many, the initial announcement didn’t exactly elicit a hyper, excited reception on my end, finding it more so a plot by Warner Bros. to con more money out of the movie going audience. But with further contemplation of the decision, and especially after seeing this finished product, I whole heartedly support this decision. My mom was adamant that the entire novel could have easily been adapted into a singular two and a half hour movie, and upon explaining to her the many benefits that came out of splitting it in two, allowing more room for the characters to breath (a top priority) and the story to logically flow (also sorta crucial), she relented, but it doesn’t seem she’s entirely sold on the idea. By making this epic tale into two movies, Yates and Kloves has successfully made HALLOWS PART 1 possibly the most emotionally charged and character-centric movie of the series.

Truth be told, I’m still head over shoes in love with ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and it’ll be tough for anything to replace that film as my number one, but HALLOWS is most certainty begging to take the lead. In the opening minutes, with very few words spoken, they deliver outstanding scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione (separately) preparing themselves for the journey ahead. We see Ron become a more rounded character than ever before, beyond the grouchy and jealous douche in GOBLET OF FIRE or the hormone-driven teen in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, as he faces his inner demons and fears in one mesmerizing and astonishing sequence that demands to be experienced over and over. The baggage he’s been carrying the last couple installments just rip out of him (thanks to a Horcrux), and although we’re lead to dislike and possibly become infuriated by Ron’s words, it nonetheless permits the character room to explore all his dimensions and nearly own this movie.

Not to say Radcliffe or Watson aren’t allowed their time to shine; far from it. Shedding himself emotionally and physically, Radcliffe gives a powerhouse performance, as every ounce of fear, of anger, of sadness, of desire to not have anyone die for him again, it’s all etched beautifully on his expressions. Radcliffe doesn’t need dialogue, he nicely conveys every thought and beat by a glance of his eyes or a tense jaw. Truthfully, it’s quite remarkable how amazing he’s been these last three films. As for Watson, she isn’t given the same amount of emotions to tinker with, but we do get a nice, clear view of Hermione under stress as she becomes an unofficial leader to the group, coming up with the brilliant ideas and trying to keep everyone together and safe, not just from the villains but also from themselves. Together, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson light up the screen with their magnificent performances.

Everyone else has limited screen time, although it’s certainly understandable. Ralph Fiennes continues to menace as Voldemort, Brendan Gleason enchants with his final outing as Mad-Eye Moody, and David Thewlis is always a joy as Professor Lupin (speaking of which, I really don’t like the new hairdo for Tonks). There’s many, many more people to mention, but little time to do so (I’m getting fairly tired). It’s also pleasant to see some genuine chemistry between Bonnie Wright and Radcliffe in their singular romantic scene, nearly redeeming themselves for the awful ‘When Ginny Kissed Harry’ moment in HALF-BLOOD. And finally, in the limited screentime category, Bill Nighy finally makes his appearance in a POTTER movie as the ‘new’ Minister of Magic, which doesn’t last too long, sadly enough. Channeling a creepy Davvy Jones-vibe, Nighy is the first sight we see, but unfortunately leaves all too quickly. Nonetheless, he makes an impression, and it’s extremely weird to see him with dark hippie hair. Or at least it looked hippie-like to me…

Now, as an adaptation, how does it fair? Quite well, actually. Of course there are deviations from the text, but the two films of one story allows much, much more of the original novel to be present and accounted for. So there’s the plus side. On the negative side of things, DEATHLY HALLOWS suffers from the same problem of HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, where the flow of the story feels akin to specific ‘important scenes’ being checked off a list of plot-points worth including in the movie. Instead of being driven by both characters and plot like ORDER OF THE PHOENIX accomplished, there does seem to be a lack of ‘A travels to B, B makes C happen, and C reacts to make D happen, and D does [insert] to make E…’ and so on and so forth. I may be alone in this feeling, but it’s just the way it feels.

One minor shortcoming, as well, is the rather coincidental and random throw of characters, new and old, into the mix which becomes a vital part of the story, coming off as quick heartless introductions to serve a function instead of the carefully laid-out plan with careful hints of foreshadowing J.K. Rowling accomplished. Of course, I don’t expect that from the movies, but randomly having Bill tossed into the final movie to be a helpful tool for the trio later on, or Mundungus included just so he can move the Horcrux plot along. It all feels sort of heartless and doesn’t contain the same gusto it should.

That said, it’s still a successful adaptation that includes key elements and fantastic character moments. Scenes that I thought would be complicated to adapt to the screen come across as brilliant and are quickly becoming favorites of mine. The first is the sequence where Ron faces off against his worst fears (which calls for a odd Harry/Hermione moment that left me a little befuddled), and the second being the animated representation of The Three Brothers story (boasting an animated style similar to HELLBOY II; and did anyone else think Death looked eerily similar to General Grievous from REVENGE OF THE SITH?). These two are just but the beginning of great scenes in the film (not to forget mentioning the sweet fate that befalls Dobby – sorry, never been a fan of the guy). Oh, and lest I forget, the outstanding sequence in Godric’s Hollow, realized far better than anything I could have hoped. Creepy on a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY level and full of adrenaline as our heroes are thrown in some real danger, this is POTTER on its A-game.

The end is nigh, and DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 neatly sets up the stakes that Harry, Ron and Hermione must face in the epic, most likely action-packed finale extravaganza. The Deathly Hallows have been explored, Dumbeldore’s past is beginning to influence the present, Harry and his friends have reunited stronger than ever, and as necessary for any cliffhanger, the path to salvation seems as far away as ever. PART 1 ends in a highly dramatic fashion, making anyone not familiar with the book giddy with anticipation as Voldemort becomes the most powerful force on the planet, and Harry, Ron and Hermione are at their lowest low. July 2011, I can’t wait for you to come, yet I also don’t want you to. With the end of HARRY POTTER, it will be closing a chapter of my childhood years, and the yearly anticipation for a new POTTER film will forever be gone.

Despite a few nitpicks here and there, which I doubt will deter anyone from seeing the flick, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 is a rousing success, boasting some of the greatest character work and emotional basis of the series (‘cept ORDER, of course), and leaves you wanting more when the final credits roll.

Keep in mind, if you’re planning on waiting post-credits for a little teaser for PART 2, don’t bother, there isn’t one. I was hoping they’d have something, based off what Warners did for MATRIX RELOADED, but alas, my hope was squashed. Not to fear, I just need to rewatch the international trailer a few hundred more times until the official PART 2 trailer is up. For now, run to your nearest multiplex and enjoy Harry’s last adventure, and prepare yourself for an epic showdown between Harry Potter and Voldemort for the sake of mankind.

Well, there’s my initial review. When I watch it again – in the fairly soon future – I just might write a second review with a few more details. Watch the Potter!

18 November 2010

LAMB #748 - Me!!!

The day has come! The Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek is now a official, pictured member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs! #748 is me number, mates. If it was #907, I could have made a rather lame DOCTOR WHO joke, but alas, I don't really think I can make #748 into something geeky humor related. 4 and 8 are numbers from LOST, the 'cursed numbers' as Hurley likes to call 'em. So, that's something. Er, moving on from that, to all who are checking the site out for the first time, I bid thee -


Sadly, posting is going to be a little rubbish for the next week as my ability to log onto high-speed internet will become increasingly limited. Plus, finals are fast approaching here at Minnesota University Mankato. I have a 7-10 page paper on Toni Morrison's BELOVED to write, which I'm not remotely looking forward to. But, on the cool cinematic end of the spectrum, I am given the awesome pleasure of writing a 5-7 page paper on Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL, arguing how it's his most personal movie in his filmography. Anyhow, that's what I'll be doing for the next week. And, of course, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1 tonight.

Please enjoy the features and reviews. Upcoming reviews, aside from HP7, include SAW VIII and PIRANHA, as well as lavishing love letters on the AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER animated series which I have just recently become addicted to.

Andy the Time Lord

The Watcher: 11/11 - 11/18

4E08 - "Chuck Vs. the Fear of Death" (15 November 2010) - Sarah in lingerie, the episode was a success. Voila, done with this review. What? You want a little more? Well, fine! Overall, the episode was good, and the "specialist" flown in from D.C. to help reignite the Intersect was often hilarious, as was his (Spoiler) death scene. It's unfortunate to see him go, but he delivered the goods in such a short amount of time. As for Sarah - lingerie excluded - I'm still unsure if I appreciate her determination to save Chuck, or condemn her for not having faith in her boyfriend and assurances that he can get out of danger himself. Sure, the odds were stacked against him, but nonetheless. And let's talk about the guest star of the hour, shall we? Summer Glau played yet another iteration of Greta, and became a nemesis to Jeffster and Lester to hilarious and threatening effect. I'm also very, very happy that Ms. Glau and Adam Baldwin, her co-star on FIREFLY, shared a scene together, and even had a "grrrr" match! Terrific! There are, of course, some nitpicky aspects of the show, ranging from the poorly choreographed fight scene to the sheer lack of realism in the digital effects, but it's best not to linger on the negatives. Overall, a solid episode that effectively makes me giddy to see Sarah go all, ahem, Sarah Connor on anyone who stands in her way of finding Chuck next week. Boo-yah!

S05E08 - "Take It" (14 November 2010)
- Dexter and Lumen. Good combination. I really hope that she doesn't do something stupid and gets killed or forces Dexter to kill her. Or, with RoboCop now getting a inkling of what's going on, perhaps Lumen gets thrown in jail and she spills all of Dexter's secrets and season 6 is Dex on the run from everyone, with only Deb as his possible ally. Nah, scratch off the Deb stuff. But anyway, "Take It" was a pretty good episode, and the final 10 minutes were great with Dexter and Lumen getting rid of Cole. I spend too much time bitching about the married couple and Quinn, I ain't gonna bother doing that much. Though I really hope LeGuertia gets a leg chopped off or something severe. Great performances, though, from both Julia Stiles and Michael Hall, especially when he was brought up onstage to discuss Rita's death. With only a few episodes left, shit is really gonna hit the fan, and from a overall 'meh' season, DEXTER really needs it.

S01E09 -"One Way" (11 November 2010)
- Nikita and Michael teaming up once again, and with one killer but overdramatic conclusion full of awesomeness from Shawn Roberts. The look of hatred and lust to beat the life out of Nikita was astonishing and quite amazing to behold. Just when Nikita thinks things just might get easier for her... Now it appears that Michael is a full blown enemy of Nikita's (hence the overdramatic part), but wouldn't have to be if he just took a few seconds to think about why she did it and not let his anger cloud his judgment. Besides, I have no doubt Michael will have the chance to put the bullet in the guys head by seasons end. We also get some backstory for Michael in quick sixty-second scenes (at least it feels that way) which shows the murder of his wife and child and Micheal's subsequent recruitment by Percy into Division. Perhaps I got too spoiled by the stellar flashbacks in LOST, but none of the flashbacks in NIKITA carry any emotional weight whatsoever. I just wish they were done better. Overall a decent episode that has a stellar conclusion. Now it seems NIKITA is on hold for a few weeks, early December, so it's gonna be slim pickings at The Watcher for a while.

S10E09 - "Abandoned" (12 November 2010)
- The episode signaling Teri Hatcher's return to the Superman television universe (!). As expected, Hatcher's performance was rock solid, and created one hell of a emotional tear jerker as Lois watched the video of her long laid to rest mother. This video sparked the desire in Lois to reconcile Clark with Jor-El, leading to yet another emotional scene between Clark and his birth parents in the Fortress (pre-Krypton exploding, so we get the Julian actor from season 9 playing Jor-El and not the voice of Terrance Stamp), which basically goes on and on about how proud they are of their little Kal-El and have a grand destiny for him on earth. Now, I've never been a great fan of this whole 'destiny' thing in relation to Clark's life, because I always felt that in the SMALLVILLE mythology, he didn't so much as grow into becoming a hero, but was guided that direction by his birth parents' grand scheme. Could be alone in these thoughts, but I do wish the whole concept of 'destiny' in relation to Clark was never brought up. Clark and Lois aside, the other part of the episode was all Granny Goodness and Tess Mercer, revealing that Tess is, in fact, a Luthor! Interesting angle, and I'm stoked to see the emotional and mental repercussions of this discovery on Tess, and how this will effect her relationship with Alexander. Curiouser and curiouser. And this whole stuff with Granny Goodness...not sure what I think about it yet, but I'm not expressively impressed. Until next week!

S02E08 -"Malice" (16 November 2010)
- Damn good episode. I mean, really sucky that the gorgeous red head had to leave the cast, but it provided us with one hell of a Dr. Rush episode. Gun in hand, Rush enters the Stargate to a rocky planet to locate Simeon, and he has no intent on letting him go alive. Haven't been too much of a Rush fan, or a Carlyle fan, but this episode allows him to frakkin' shine. Eli, who should be equally as shattered, isn't given the full amount of awesomeness and drama that could have been allotted to him, instead regulated to yelling at Colonial Young and being obnoxious more than angry at the world. Chloe comes in at the last minute to save the day, or at least stop the ship from entering FTL, but then is quickly thrown back into her little dungeon room. Really hoping her story gets spiced up soon, or at least Chloe is given more to do than be used and shag Scott. But back to the awesomeness of this episode: Rush. Vengeance. Beauty. These last three episodes will most definitely be ones I rewatch a lot.

S06E08 - "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (12 November 2010)
- Well, we had a good string of episodes, so I gather it was only a given a poorly executed one would be hitting the airwaves imminently. A overall uninteresting plot involving werewolves/shapeshifters/what have you that ultimately climaxes in a just-as-uninteresting blowout (with the exception of the sheer awesomeness seeing Sam flying bullets all over the place). The only saving grace of this episode, frankly, is the final scene between Sam and Dean, as he finally relents and tells the honest truth. For the entire episode he was adamant he was Sam, still the same brother Dean always knew and still thinks the same things he did before, but by the final scene, he realizes he's not. He doesn't care about Ben or Lisa, and he doesn't even really care about Dean, he's just a useful tool to him. I'll admit that I find this whole new personality mega-loads interesting, and I would have no problem with Sam taking over the show and Dean being the sidekick given limited screentime. Sam is on fire this season, and this new and 'improved' version is invigorating and always engaging. Yes, it'll be nice to see him get his soul back, but I hope it takes a long while.

Also, one final interesting note, but when he does get his soul back, what will be the ramifications of that? Will he cower or go mad, in a way, by the gravity of all the bad things he's done the last 14 months comes running into his consciousness? Will he become a season seven Spike from BUFFY? Reinsouling Sam will have some serious consequences, and there will be a load of fallout, and he just might become more lost than he already is. Here's hoping the show tackles the matter confidently and delivers the goods. Until then, skippable episode, and most assuredly not one I plan on watching again.

S01E03 - "Tell it to the Frogs" (14 November 2010)
- Damn, the racist guy is going to be a bigger part of the storyline than I expected. And did I miss something, but how did a handless guy escape when the lock thingy was still there? I was multitasking, so perhaps I didn't catch a quick shot that explained that away. Anyway, not as enjoyable as last week's episode, but I won't lie and say that the reunion with Rick and his family didn't elicit a smile. It sucks that Rick, being Mr. Moral Code and all, decides to go back into town, leaving his family less than 24 hrs. after arriving post-being thought dead and all. But aside from the racist guy, he's also concerned about the walkie talkie in the bag of guns that will be of great use. Two episodes left of its freshman season, and it looks like we're going to get a short, self-contained storyline dealing entirely with Atlanta and this group of folks. At least the 13-episode season two will allow for more story development and zombie action (speaking of the zombies, even in the daylight, they're pretty creepy, so kudos to the makeup wizards). All in all, not much to say. It was fantastic seeing Rick with his wife and son, and it was nice seeing the BOONDOCK SAINTS actors doing work (one in WALKING DEAD, the other in SAW VII) until the second sequel. I'm quite anxious to rewatch these episodes in one session on Blu-Ray, it will undoubtedly add more layers to the 'Book One' vibe of these episodes. C'mon, Sunday!

16 November 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 8

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Notes: Not particularly my favorite of the franchise, but it is nonetheless a pretty good one. To be perfectly honest, whenever I throw the DVD in, 90% of the time I skip to the Voldemort resurrection sequence. You can't blame me, man, it's an awesome sequence and Ralph Fiennes was pretty much phenomenal. Plus, it was nice to get a visual of Voldemort, because I was never really able to gain a clear picture of what he looked like from the books, except 'snake-like', which, as you can tell, the makeup artists took to heart. Overall, a decent movie, but in this particular case, the wonder and amazement of Harry's world is better realized in the landscape of literature.

Discuss: Favorite of the series? Did you appreciate the adaptation, cuts and all? Rob Pattinson's best performance? Did anyone else wanna cut Harry's hair for him? Weren't those some pretty dragons? What was up with that wizard band, man? Anyone else wish they kept the Qudditch Field as the sight for the Final Task? Did Ralph Fiennes fulfill your idea of Voldemort?

15 November 2010

MMAM - Vol. 16

In THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, David Yates regular Nicholas Hooper composed a score that fantastically reflected the atmosphere and tone of that film. The wonderful themes made for the Weasley twins and Professor Umbrdige, for example. So naturally, it was a given Hooper would come back for HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, and he did just that. Unfortunately, I find Hooper's score lackluster in comparison to his marvelous work on PHOENIX. There are very few cues I find worthwhile, and the eagerly-anticipated "When Ginny Kissed Harry" was just rubbish. I understand there's many who found HALF-BLOOD pleasing in multiple ways, from the movie to the music, so what I'm writing may not please a good portion of folks.

But lo and behold, Hooper did some good work on HALF-BLOOD. Below is one such example, the moment when Dumbeldore makes Harry promise not to act rashly on the mission and zap over to The Cave. Marvelous, eerie music that just sends chills up me spine. Another good instance of Hooper's work is the opening sequence as Harry is being pulled away by Dumbledore post-PHOENIX; some great cues there. With this Friday's DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1, Yates has changed composers to Alexandre Desplat (THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON), of which I am eagerly looking forward to hear. Anyway, listen to the awesomeness of "Journey to the Cave"!

14 November 2010

House, M.D. - Season 1

House - Season 1

Starring Hugh Laurie, Jennifer Morrison, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, Lisa Edelstein, Robert Sean Leonard. Created by David Shore. Transmission Season: 2004-2005. FOX, 22 episodes, 42 mins.

I want to say that I dislike formulaic television shows, but then I recognize most shows have a formula one way or another, so I’ll limit my dislike to the following: I am not a fan of any incarnation of CSI, NCIS, or LAW & ORDER. I have a semi-interest in two other FOX shows though, BONES and LIE TO ME, although that interest stems purely by my pleasure in watching the awesomeness of David Boreanaz (ANGEL) and Tim Roth (PULP FICTION). Otherwise, the medical drama/cop drama/procedural drama/mystery drama just doesn’t hold much in the way of interest for me, unless there’s some really awesome clincher that just demands that I come back each episode.

Out of all of ‘em, that’s HOUSE for me. Frankly, I don’t find myself too invested in the cases House and his expert team of doctors face episode to episode, which I know is a big draw for many, but the real success of this show is entirely the characters. It’s a testament to the writers and the actors that this show, which is so entirely formulaic, doesn’t feel remotely like it deserves to be in the niche. For the longest time I would tune in here or there or read a episode review from TV Squad, but I never really watched a full episode, and I was always curious how it started. Now seven seasons in on FOX, I finally got the chance to rent the entire first season, and it’s pretty damn good.

As many have said before me and many will say after me, Hugh Laurie owns this show. Full of pain, pessimism, and narcissistic tendencies, Gregory House isn’t a very well loved doctor at the hospital, but he’s an invaluable one. In fact, one of the interesting but semi-cliched storylines of the season involves a multimillionaire donating loads and loads and loads of dinero to the hospital, and he quickly clashes with House. Inevitably, it turns into a 'fire House or I take my blah blah million back', and it's one hell of an episode with some powerhouse performances. It also adds a continuity to the series, stories like that, where the first 14 or so episodes were leading up to the final batch. But back to the matter at hand, in that even though he House does his best to make you hate him, he's so damn fantastic, interesting, and charismatic of a character you nearly get depressed whenever he's offscreen. So, kudos Mr. Laurie. On the other hand, HOUSE benefits from a diverse set of characters that keep the interest level high, indeed.

House is accompanied by three doctors. Chase (Spencer), Cameron (Morrison) and Foreman (Epps). Out of the three, I’m more a Cameron fan myself, which I’ll explain later, but all of them are integral to the show and offering up different interpretations or diagnoses. Foreman is the rule man, the guy who doesn’t walk outside the line and a stickler for order, so of course he and House have a row plenty of times in the season. As you can expect, Foreman isn’t a favorite of mine, not by a long-shot. In fact, I’m possibly fantasizing about what happened to Romano on ER happening to Foreman, but knowing that Foreman has both his hands in season seven, it appears that’s not going to happen. Chase sides with House often, but even he has his disagreements. Not afraid to bend the rules here and there, Chase is an intuitive individual, and my second favorite character. Be mindful, I’m not bashing the actors, just the characters. Spencer is loads of fun as Chase, and Epps seems to have a fun time arguing with House and his colleagues, it’s just unfortunate that fun doesn’t transfer to the audience.

Cameron, played by Jennifer Morrison (HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER), is perhaps the coolest and most interesting. Reserved and understated in her performance, Morrison portrays Cameron as a wholly independent woman, tough and decisive, and unafraid to stand up for her convictions, all the while maintains a alluring feminine quality. There's not a lot of shows that can accomplish that, where it's either, 'She's too pretty to really be this character' or 'She's too tough to channel her emotions'. Morrison finds just the right balance, and I have no doubt it helps that her character is written in quite the interesting way.

Two other characters making great impacts on House are Lisa Cuddy (Edelstein), the runner of the hospital and the person most likely to explode from stress by Houses' actions. They banter like a old married couple, yet there's an undeniable chemistry between the two. I'm thankful that the writers didn't start up the sexual tension subplot yet, and it's very refreshing to just have two associates biker and insult each other. There's a certain amount of glee about that with this show. The other character is Dr. James Wilson (Leonard), the only man House can call his friend. Unfortunately regulated to sidekick and not given a great list of plots, Wilson is nevertheless a delightful and fun character I hope to see exploited in further seasons.

The format of the show is as so: the tease introduces the guest star and symptom, the first act is everyone suggesting ideas, second act they come up with a diagnosis and treat it but its wrong, and third act is the correct diagnosis and resolution of any hostility or problems that ensued during the prior forty minutes. Nice, easy, acceptable formula, and the beauty is that it allows plenty of wiggle room for the characters to breathe and do their own thing. And above all, it never stops being fun when House comes up with the correct treatment, but the danger it presents to the patient is too extreme so his colleagues try to stop him, and he finds a way to do the insane thing anyway. Whenever House goes bonkers or gets in trouble, it’s always a fun time.

By now, anyone and everyone who has a inkling to watch HOUSE has done so. If you haven't, well, here's my two cents: Watch it, you'll like it. Pretty soon you're going to find yourself walking around with a cane on Halloween and muttering insults to random people. And wear a nice suit. So, yes, HOUSE - SEASON 1, watch and love.

10 November 2010

The Watcher: 10/29 - 11/10

So, missed last week's The Watcher, and was very nearly going to choose to miss this weeks due to this whole 'gotta-catch-up-with-school/write-my-novel' thing I have looming over my head, but ah Hell, other people are throwing their two cents in on some shows I'm watching, so why not I? Even though the reviews may be shorter than normal.

S04E07 - "Chuck Vs. the First Fight" (01 November 2010) - One name: Timothy Dalton. Magnificent in his mannerisms, impeccable in his comic timing, and hilarious in his jokes, Dalton completely owned this episode. It was also weird to hear a Scottish/Irish/whatever accent from the dude, as I'm most familiar with his DOCTOR WHO and HOT FUZZ work, accent-free; sounded cool, mind you. Introduced as a blubbering buffoon, Dalton's character becomes an important aspect of the show by the final act, and I can't wait to see how it all goes down. Another fantastic element of this episode was the Chuck and Sarah dynamic. It took seven episodes, but the writers finally made their pair talk about their relationship in a awesome manner, where they just flat-out say what's on their mind...whilst kicking all sorts of major ass. Awesome scene, awesome work by Strahovski and Levvy, and even if it wasn't for Dalton, that scene would have made the episode for me. "the Fight Fight" is the best of the season thus far, and let's hope this creative peak continues. And finally (!), it looks like Ellie might be integral to the plot in some way...

S05E06 - "Everything is Illumentated" (31 October 2010) - Frankly, I don't remember much from this episode and I just finished it three hours ago. I remember the final act, with Deb, Angel and Masuka wandering around the warehouse looking for the person who called the cops, and Dexter and Lumen are running to clean up their mess. That was some pretty stellar stuff right there, and even though you knew this wasn't 'the moment', the moment where Dexter's life gets turned upside down, it was nonetheless suspenseful. And I also remember the final scene between Lumen and Dexter in the bathroom. There was a beauty, really, in seeing Lumen in the exact same pose Rita's body was in the tub, and Dexter's subsequent reaction to it. After Lumen dresses, they just sit and talk, not just about what happened to her, but about their state of being. It's sequences like that which make Dexter interesting. Everything else - the romances, the idiotic subplots, and Robocop - just need to improve or be lost altogether now.

S05E07 - "Circle Us" (07 November 2010) - I'm sort of hoping Dexter becomes unhinged in some way, that when he decides to take down Boyd's associates, he sort of cracks and goes batshit crazy on them. In "My Bad", Dexter felt real, true, raw emotion, and it made him yell. Now, about a month or two later in the Dexter timeline, he's numb - now, I understand that, makes sense considering his character, I just would find it interesting if he basically explodes. This season is sort of "meh" right now, and it needs something at the end of these twelve episodes to justify everything, to make it one neat little book. Perhaps the ending will be Dexter finding his inner humanity, becoming more human than he ever would have imagined, and Rita's death was the catalyst and the Lumen part of his life is slowly easing him up...or something.

Um, anyway, we learn more about Boyd's past as well as those that are connected to Lumen's assaults, and it looks like she and Dexter are going to have their work cut out for them. Angel and his wife are immaterial right now; as I said for "Everything is Illumenated", they either need to write more intelligent storylines for these side characters, or just dispense with them. But Deb - man, Deb got the Cool Scene of the episode. Shooting the bad guy right in the head: solid gold. This Sunday's episode looks like it's gonna be good.

S01E07 - "The Recruit" (29 October 2010) - I've really got nothing to say. Filler. Uninteresting. Division bad. It was cool, though, to see that one recruit guy shoot up the place; added some nice tension and immediacy.

S01E08 - "Phoenix" (05 November 2010) - Now we seem to be getting somewhere. A new organization has made their presence known, Gogol, and even if Nikita manages to get rid of Division, Gogol will just take its place. Frankly, it's nice to have this gray area, lose/lose situation, and to have Nikita not really sure what to do. I hope this storyline doesn't get tossed to the side, and instead becomes a major part of the season one arc, or at least a lead into season two. Maybe the two organizations will work together to bring Nikita down! Maybe Percy will be killed and the Gogol guy will take the reigns! Maybe...oh, it's no bother thinking about that. The sad part is, NIKITA seems interested in small portions of emotion, and lots of action and sexy poses for Maggie Q. I guess I'm just in the small category of blokes who want the hard story a majority of the time, and the action just here or there. Also, some more continuity instead of this anthologized format would be nice. Well, look at me, complaining again; apologies. No matter, "Phoenix" is still a really good episode, and holds promise for a great season. Oh, and congrats Alex for smooching Thorn, finally!

S10E07 - "Harvest" (29 October 2010) - The quasi-CHILDREN OF THE CORN episode, "Harvest" is actually far better than it has any right to be. Lois and Clark find themselves held up by townspeople firmly believing they must make a sacrifice to the Gods for good crops...or something like that. And the reason Clark can't just blow them all up, his moral code notwithstanding, is the blue meteor rock that's in abundance, making him all human-like. A throwback episode to the times of season one, but it's handled much, much smarter than it would have freshman season. I have chills just thinking about how bad it would have been. But bad this episode is not. We have Lois drilling Clark, question after question of who he is and his history, and we have the fantastic ending where I firmly wanted to be Tom Welling. We have Clark, with semi-superhuman strength, still protecting Lois and getting his back burned. We have Clark being confidant even when faced by people stronger than him. It's pure Superman, even without the cape.

But what makes this episode outstanding is not Clark and Lois, but Tess Mercer and the Lex Luthor clone. Alexander is given a birthday party, full of 'friends' and gifts and love, a beautiful mirror of the real Lex Luthor's heartbreaking lonely birthday Lionel threw for him. Tess continues to want to save Alexander, because she firmly believes that if she saves him from becoming the monster his maker was, than she can, in some way, save herself. As I said in the last installment of The Watcher, it's amazing that this near unnecessary character from season nine has turned into somebody that I eagerly await seeing evolve the following week. In the end, it seems that Alexander will follow in his maker's footsteps, that perhaps the Luthor cannot escape his destiny. Tess makes the decision to let the boy die, allowing his accelerated growth to continue without treatment. Can't wait to see where that leads...

And to all those out there who are saying that the show is making the stance Clark could not have become Superman without Lois Lane, that's not what it's saying, at least from my point of view. Clark's making his own choices, stemming from his own desire to be 'the Blur', and Lois is what's grounding him, what's keeping him firm on his stance instead of giving into his fear. She's his strength, complimenting his desire to do good. And she's hot.

S10E08 - "Ambush" (05 November 2010) - Again, how I wish I was Tom Welling! Now, the beauty of Erica Durance aside, it's episodes like these that reaffirm how bloody good and great this season has been. Although "Ambush" wasn't nearly as strong as expected - and I'm not saying it wasn't good, I'm just saying it could have been stronger - it delved into the political issues facing SMALLVILLE right now: the Vigilante Registration Act, and allows General Lane and Clark to duke out their philosophical and moral outlooks to a great and interesting degree. Unfortunately, Lois gets shafted until the finale, when she finally demands that her father stop harassing Clark, thereby winning the General's little 'test' (smart as it was). The other stuff about the ex-Checkmate assassins hellbent on taking out anyone anti-vigilantes, not as interesting, but could very well become so before the end. Even though this episode was family based, it still felt like it was moving along one of this season's many over-arching storylines, and it's a great feeling to have. Only downside of the episode really was Lucy Lane and her little subplot, which I couldn't care less for. However, Clark vs. General Lane, and the all around gorgeousness and individualism of Lois Lane makes "Ambush" pretty bloody good.

S02E06 - "Trial and Error" (02 November 2010)
- What's this? A SG-U episode that is longer than one word? And here I thought it was gonna be all SMALLVILLE on us with all single word titles, but no! "Trial and Error" is pretty neat, with multiple battle scenarios running around in Colonial Young's head. I'm glad it's the ship implanting the scenarios, testing them out, and not just Young hallucinating; it would have been a total cop out if these gorgeous sequences of the Destiny blowing up and every attempt to thwart their enemy failed just be a reoccurring dream, so it's nice to have it tied to the plot in a way. However, it was disheartening to not have Young face the dilemma he faced multiple times in his dreamscape. I acknowledge the producers are quite adamant in saying we haven't seen the last of the aliens, so I hold hope that "Trial and Error" becomes, in retrospect, an important episode in the times to come. Now, getting away from Young and Scott and all those military guys, geek fans join me in a collective applause as Eli gets to make out with Gin! Anna from Supernatural! Redhead girl from a season or two of Mad Men! Gah! I gotta get me signed up in a sci-fi show...

S02E07 - "The Greater Good" (09 November 2010) - Damn, that was pretty good. Great, even. And not just by SG-U standards. Since post-premiere, every episode has ranged from pretty good to great, such as this episode here. Rush's dirty secrets are out in the open, the 'mission' of Destiny is revealed, and everyone, from the writers to the actors, seemed to be onboard in making this one stellar hour of television. Science girl Perry is brought onboard via the Communication Stones, using Ginn's body, which makes the scene between her and Rush very awkward, especially for Eli. Rush and Young are trapped on another ship, which we don't fully get to understand its purpose or possible significance, and require Perry's help in maneuvering Destiny to get closer to the ship they're stranded on, which calls in Rush secretly directing Perry to the Destiny's bridge. Eli's character is getting some great material lately, and I hope it stays that way, as he's the one who bursts Rushs' secrets and finds the bridge. But, poor Eli, if the final scene is any indication, he's in for a lot of turmoil, same as Rush, but on the bright side, it just might make him grow and possibly become a more powerful presence on the ship. That said, poor Gin...

S06E06 - "You Can't Handle the Truth" (29 October 2010)
- First, was Dean justified in beating the snot out of Sam like that? I'm increasingly becoming very anti-Dean this season, and finding myself siding with Sam and his new attitude change. Sure, what he did in the "Twi-Hard" episode wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn't condemn the guy for it. Anyway, the main big bad in "You Can't Handle the Truth" is some sort of force (Veritas) that is forcing people to tell the truth, which usually results in someone getting pissed off enough the opposite person kills them or ends up making the truth hearer kill themselves. There's some truly great deaths on display, just as creative (and gory) as Dean's bazillion deaths in season three. And then there's the great final scene as chills run up my spine, Sam telling lie after lie to Veritas, who is certain that he's "not human." Now that would be interesting. Although "You Can't Handle the Truth" was a good episode, it was just set up for the awesomeness that is...

S06307 - "Family Matters" (06 November 2010) - The answer to Sam's resurrection and odd behavior, as well as Papa Campbell's return from heaven, is revealed in "Family Matters", as per the norm with SUPERNATURAL 'twists'. In season two, what Daddy Winchester whispered in Dean's ear finally came out six or seven episodes in; and in season four, Sam finally relents and tells Dean what happened when Dean was in hell and how he got to trust Ruby - same thing going on here. Well, minus the demon sex. Anyway, point is, Castiel appears ("your problems come first, Dean") and after some searching through Sam's body (beautiful special effects, by the way), it's revealed that Sam doesn't have a soul, that it's still stuck in Lucifer's cage. Uh-oh. And then the twist I didn't see coming: Crowley is the one who freed Sam and brought back Papa Capmbell, and he's using them to capture Alphas and monsters to find out where Purgatory is ('cuz that's where monsters go after they die, apparently). If they do as they're told, Sam gets his soul back. A good twist, and a interesting concept, but I confess I'm a little tiny bit disappointed. I guess I was hoping for something more creative, or more extreme. And for some reason, I can deal with demons, Lucifer, God, and Angels, but when it comes to the subject of a soul - it just comes off cartoonish and cheesy, which I know it isn't, I just seem to have an aversion to the concept. Nonetheless, "Family Matters" was a damn good episode. And on a semi-unrelated note, it's nice to see Cylon Simon from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA still get some work.

S01E01 - "Days Gone Bye" (31 October 2010) - I'm not much into zombie movies, frankly, because I just feel there's simply not too much material one can get from this particular monster. They walk slowly, and if you git bit, you turn into one of 'em. I enjoyed Zack Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD but have no inkling to check out the original(s), and I quite liked the 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER movies. So a zombie television series? First off, how on earth could they pull that off? How could they evenly balance the gore horror fans expect from their zombie films, as well as balancing the human drama and the zombie, um, storyline into a series? Turns out, pretty frakking easy. Developed for the screen, written and directed by SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION helmer Frank Darabont, "Days Gone Bye" is pretty much perfect. The beautiful, switch movement of the camera, the meticulous and award-worthy designs of the zombies (especially the old raggedy one with no legs crawling on the grass - wow), the thus far interesting array of characters, from our main protagonist Rick Grimes to the protective father Morgan, and the overall tone are all perfect. And did anyone else get a Tarantino vibe from the opening scene? The car discussion, talking about regular everyday things that seem to have no real impact on the story, just there for shits and giggles?

Anyway, I'm pumped. Interesting characters that could very well keep me glued for the weeks to come. With only six episodes this season, what could possibly go wrong?

S01E02 - "Guts" (07 November 2010) - Damn that was a lot of fun. "Guts" was a pretty good follow up to the premiere. Granted, not as moody, atmospheric, and character-driven as "Days Gone Bye", but it's not meant to be. This was full on, how the frak do we get out of this situation? And it was done marvelously. Watching Rick and Glenn douse themselves full of body organs and blood, imitating the zombie/"geek" walk (why the frak are they called a 'geek'?), and devising a plan to get the rest of the people out of the building - it was all major amounts of fun, and "Guts" is by no means a bad episode. Not even the racist pig could have deterred me; sure, he was obnoxious, but he wasn't a major part of the episode, the action took over any real big annoyance from that character, so it's all good. I also dug the visual style. Different from Darabont, yes, but also stays within the tone and style he established. I have that one low angle shot of Rick firing his gun at the zombies overtaking the metal gate - now that was cool. All in all, I liked it a lot, and am anxious to see Rick reunited with his wife and (hopefully) watch him beat the shit out of his 'friend'. Go, go, zombies!