30 July 2010

Tremors - The Series

Tremors: The Series
Cast: Michael Gross, Victor Browne, Lela Lee, Marcia Strassman, Gladys Jimenez
Creators: Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts, S.S. Wilson

Transmission season: March - August 2003

Sci-Fi Channel Original Series, 13 episodes, 42 mins.

Plot: The resident of Perfection Valley learn to co-exist with El Blanco, the last living graboid in the area, but that's easier said than done.

If you're reading this particular post, I'm wagering that you are a fan or have at least seen the original Tremors, co-starring The Kevin Bacon. Y'know, that sorta low budget movie set in a little valley called Perfection where there's these soil-digging monsters dubbed "Graboids" that can't see but hunt and eat by using sound waves. Anyhow, that one movie was popular enough that two sequels and one prequel followed, with a third sequel on on the way. In the midst of making the fourth movie (The Legend Begins, a direct-to-DVD affair), the Sci-Fi Channel commissioned a thirteen-episode TV series based on the much-loved monster saga. Well, by all means that sounds dandy. I was pumped and super-excited, and then I sorta forgot about it. Besides, reviews and ratings were down the toilet, the show was gonna inevitably be canceled, and then the eventual DVD release would allow me to see it. Great plan with near brilliant accuracy, but turns out the DVD didn't get released until very much with the recently. Like, 2009 recently. I thought perhaps a blind buy was in order, considering I LOVE the movies, but decided not to because of the price tag at the time. So I patiently waited until I could rent the complete series from the library, and...

...thank God I didn't actually spend money on this piece of junk. Now I am a faithful lover of Tremors and all things campy bad, but Tremors: The Series is simply bad. There are three good avenues of the show, but the rest of it is just excruciating. The series pilot is about the worst set-up for any show I've ever seen. By the conclusion of those agonizing forty-three minutes, it was a struggle to even consider watching the next episode. I doubt there was a solid two minutes that went by without some tongue-in-cheek, porno-esque music to accompany a scene, even unnecessarily. The visual effects were absolutely horrendus, and do not improve as the show goes on. The characters, with the exception of Burt, were pale imitations of one-dimensional place-mats. And the dialogue - ugh, so annoying it's hardly worth mentioning. I sucked it up, though, watched the rest of the disc, and the majority of the second, and then caved. I took the disc out, put in the third and final, and decided to watch the series finale. And lo and behold, didn't really miss a thing. And also lo and behold, the show was still bad, bad, bad, super bad.

Going in, I didn't expect a lavish budget. Hell, I didn't really expect a show that would make my 'Must-Watch' list. What I did expect was a show that stayed true to the tone and style of the films, and was whole-fully enjoyable. In some respects, the show did stay truthful to the original movies, but not enough. Instead of actually being fun, the funness aspect felt forced at every instance, same with the dialogue, jokes, and storylines. It just didn't work, it didn't click. And mind you I have no joy in writing this. Our main cast of characters (outside of Burt) are Tyler, Rosalita, Nancy, and Jodi. There's not a single one of them who has a distinctly interesting personality, and I wouldn't have minded in the least if they were all viciously murdered by El Blanco the Graboid in the series premiere and were cursed to reside in Perfection Valley as ghosts for the duration of the series. It would have at least made them resembling something like a one-dimensional character with the promise of maybe a two-dimensional one. And with the limited budget, the visual effects are, to be expected, not in the realm of good. However, there is a pretty cool hybrid creature in the fourth or fifth episode that, with a bigger budget, would definitely be in the super frightening category.

Aspects that do work, though, are as following: it should come to no surprise that Burt Gummer is as awesome as one would expect. Although his dialogue does occasionally suffer from the same forced feeling as the other characters, Gummer is still the sole reason I kept on watching. With four movies under his belt, Michael Gross knows this character inside and out, and it was probably a super easy, but really fun paycheck for the series. Recurring guest star Christopher Lloyd (yep, Back to the Future Christopher Lloyd) portrays a crazy scientist who has ties to the show's other interesting aspect: a storyline involving probable government experiments in the Perfection Valley years ago, resulting in mutations and other scientific nightmare freaks. Llyod's character comes up whenever exposition or a resolution is required. But I can deal, Lloyd's having fun, thus I'm having fun.

Even for fans of the movies, I wouldn't recommend Tremors: The Series. I wouldn't recommend a blind buy, a rental, or a free watch on YouTube or Hulu. But then again, the series just may be one of those programs that create two camps - not three, but two: the lovers and the haters. There will be those who completely love the super camp and low, low, low budgetness of it and find the frighteningly wooden characters endearing and thus rank the program high, and there's those (like me) who just fine this abysmal. A fifth Tremors movie has been announced to air on the SyFy Channel, and here's hoping the movie is at least 'good'; it just might bottle down my disappointment with this series.

Jericho: The Complete Series

Jericho: The Complete Series
Starring Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, Gerald McRaney, Ashley Scott, Kenneth Mitchell, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Brad Beyer, Alicia Cooper, Esai Morales
Created by Stephen Chbosky, Carol Barbee

Original airdate season: 2006-2008
CBS Paramount, 22 episodes (season 1), 7 episodes (season 2), 41 mins.


Plot: In a post-nuked world, the small Kansas town of Jericho learns to adapt to the new environment and do whatever they can to survive, although the forces of the universe seem to be doing everything in their power to ensure bad things befall them.

Season 1
Jericho will probably be remembered moreso for miraculously surviving cancellation due to a strong unprecedented fan campaign, only to be canceled super fast again in its demanded second season due to extremely sucky ratings than for the actual story and characters of the show. The good news is, if you get really into the show, the past year saw a release of Jericho: Season 3 in comic book form (a popular format for finished shows, such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Firefly). In the vain of Lost, big television stations were scrambling for the next "hit" serialized show. There was Invasion, Surface, Threshold, and even recently FlashForward. None survived. All four of those mentioned included some supernatural or extraterrestrial phenomenon, but Jericho offers something far more rich and far more personal: a frighteningly real nuclear attack on 23 American cities, crippling this nation and sending it back into the dark ages.

Instead of following a group of army soldiers, or news reporters, the show instead focuses on the repercussions of these attacks in the small Kansas town of Jericho, chronicling the reactions of everyday people, and the trials and tribulations they must now face to reestablish order in a orderless world. For example, the first few days after the nuclear attack, there's radiation fallout they have to worry about, folks going nuts and taking food from the local supermarket without paying (but they eventually conceive of a new payment system), battery power going off and on, and a huge lack of sufficient medical supplies. Oh, and the threat of impending war from this military group called Ravenwood and, a few months down the line, a nearby town called New Bern.

In a post-apocalyptic world, there's no shortage of potential story ideas, but Jericho seems content with focusing on community and (to a greater degree, especially in season 2) government. Which, y'know, is cool and all, but a episode or two for the characters to breath and expand as human beings instead of having a threat-of-the-week scenario would have been appreciated. Still, I flew through the season relatively quickly, and I wasn't disappointed.

Here's the main cast of characters that do stuff that basically impacts the whole town: Jake Green, the dark brooding boy who was a bit of a naughty kid when he lived in Jericho years ago, but since left to walk the world and came back a better, more adult man; Johnston Green, his father and Mayor of the town of Jericho; Robert Hawkins, a enigmatic man who moved into town with his wife and kids a day before the attacks and just may know something more than everyone else; and Gray Anderson, Johnston's opponent for the Mayor seat who is very, very obnoxiously outspoken. Although these characters may not impact the storyline as heavily as the folks just mentioned, they are nonetheless a important part of the series: Stanley Richmond, a young man who owns a farm, living with his deaf sister Bonnie, and was experiencing the pleasure of being audited by Mimi Clark, a IRS woman from D.C. who ends up fallin' head over heels in love with the Stanmyster; Dale, a teen who loses his mom in the attacks and sort of falls into a dark streak, but at least he romances the girl; Emily Sullivan, Jake's true love who is engaged with another dude, who just happens to be missing; Heather Linsinski, a teacher who kinda takes a liking to Jake but plays a major role later on in the series; and Jonah Prowse, father of Emily and all around crooked guy.

With a show that places such high emphasis on characters and their arcs more than story advancement, careful casting is necessary to ensure a likable bunch of characters that we wouldn't mind watching on a weekly basis. And for the most part, I can happily say they succeeded. Skeet Ulrich (Scream) is perfectly cast as the dark and brooding Jake Green, a man with many secrets who can be both charming and dangerous at a moments notice. Plus, Skeet's just cool. A great actor who ends up in roles that don't last too long (another prime example if ABC's Miracles from a few years back). Lennie James (Sahara) plays Robert Hawkins exactly as one would expect from the character - mysterious, introverted, short sentences, knows a lot about stuff most normal folks don't know squat about, and not exactly the family man even though he's adamant that he is. Gerald McRaney (Designing Women) conveys the strong will of the people, encapsulating the best qualities of a person and being a great symbol of peace for the townsfolk to rally around. Although there's a great number of folks on the payroll, my favorite two actors and characters are Mimi Clark and Stanley Richmond. Alicia Coppola (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is one of those love 'em/hate 'em characters in the beginning, but by the middle ground, you've fallen head over shoes in love with the gal; quite the same way Brad Beyer's (Lie to Me) Stanley does. Their relationship, chemistry, and bantering was most definitely a big highlight of the entire first season, and I would quite nearly recommend the series on this couple alone.

Jericho starts off really super cool, with one big catastrophe after another. Families are shattered, teens are left parentless, and social & governmental order is basically chaos; the first batch of episodes explore these topics and give the actors ample opportunity to show off their awesomeness. But it's around the middle portion of the season where things become a bit "eh, that's cool and stuff...so....when's the super awesome stuff gonna happen?" And by that, I just mean gripping character pieces, or gripping storytelling episodes. For awhile there, the show really does become a Problem of the Week series, with new bad guys brought in here and there to spice things up. The final batch of episodes introduce the threat of New Bern, a neighbor community that's pissed at Jericho for not warning them about a particular band of nutcases who ransacked their town. Retaliation ensues, and the season closes with war.

Season 1 is pretty good, with some successful and not-so-successful stories. I'm glad I rented it, and I'm glad I saw it, but I can't say that I would watch this season over again; well, with the exception of maybe one or two episodes.

Season 2
Insert 'Little Engine That Could' joke here. Somehow, fan demand (a legion of nuts sent to the executives at CBS, a reference to a line of dialogue in the season 1 finale) resurrected Jericho. But there was a catch. The writers were only given seven episodes, and that was that. Either they'd make their audience, or they wouldn't. And the budget would be even more reduced than last time. Seven whole episodes to condense a entire season worth of storytelling. So the show aired, and ended up with more abysmal ratings than last time. And once again, Jericho was canceled. But this time, y'know, permanently. Well, with the exception of the recently issued comic book series titled "season three." But besides that...yep, canceled.

The good news is - the show ends on a very satisfying note. With only those seven episodes, a lot's crammed into every minute, and it really feels like we went through this enormous emotional journey from the beginning of the season to its end. It's a much more engaging and invigorating season than its freshman effort, although it's nearly a unfair thing to say, taking into consideration these two seasons are so very different tonally. The first was all about surviving in a post-nuke world, and the second is all about governments, corruption, and the rights of the people. And with only those seven episodes, some characters get the short end of the stick, barely being mentioned or appearing at all, but for the most part, the show includes all the big players and most of the secondary folks.

Additionally, new characters are added to the roster: Major Edward Beck (Esai Morales, Caprica) plays a pivotal role in the ongoing Jericho saga. The Allied States of America military might has rolled into Jericho and taken over, with Major Beck in charge of everything. Jake is made Sheriff, and Hawkins is even closer to turning up this whole conspiracy upside down than ever before. But of course, there's Beck: more often than not, he's a obstacle that needs to be overcome, but Esai Morales plays him as such a likable guy, you can't help but like him still when he's torturing a main character.

The main drive of the season is Ravenwood, the Allied States of America, and Jennings & Rall. Jake and Hawkins conspire to bring down Jennings & Rall, a company that effectively is the country. They employ the President, direct him what to do and say, and is basically their little puppet. Well, everybody's a puppet, really. And Ravenwood makes a dramatic return that results in one of the most beloved but underused characters of the series' death. At least it was super awesome, and a fitting way to go.

Right, wrong. Democracy, dictatorship. Freedom being nothing more than a illusion under this new company. These themes, center to the show, are additionally complimented by the characters and their struggles. With the first season, there were moments where the scenarios felt very Problem of the Week; here, they make sense, they flow, and they're absolutely engaging. Such as a episode where Sheriff Jake Green and his band of deputies defend a hospital from Ravenwood, and I was honestly not sure of the outcome. And for once, it felt like anybody could get with the being dead. Jake, Hawkins, Heather - anybody.

Season 2 feels alive, full of urgency, full of chaos, full of hard choices, full of sacrifice. And it's bloody delicious television.

In conclusion, Jericho was a pretty good series. It may not be own worthy, personally, but it most definitely is a show that I recommend highly. Viewers who dig government conspiracy stories will most definitely love the latter half of season one and the entirety of two; viewers who dig mysterious figures, military personal, and some pretty explosions and action scenes will also get a kick out of Jericho.

28 July 2010

In Short: The Sorcerer's Apprentice



The Sorce
rer's Apprentice
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, Teresa Palmer
Writer(s): Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Matt Lopez, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Directed by Jon Turteltab

Release: 14 July 2010

Walt Disney Pictures, 114 mins., Rated PG-13


Plot: Dave Stutler (Baruchel) is destined to be the sorcerer's (Cage) apprentice.

Hand Me a Ham Sandwich: Nicolas Cage loves the long hair and trench coat, going balls-out crazy as the title sorcerer Balthazar. Good news is: his major amount of fun makes us equally giddy. And Toby Kebbell (Prince of Persia) gives us the laugh-out-loud Criss Rock-esque superstar magician who's a total dweeb. Pretty visual effects: explosions, shattering glass filling the screen, super cool dragons, and lots of fire.

Bugger All: Alfred Molina (Prince of Persia) is just there, looking all imposing and grrrr. Jay Baruchel (She's Out of My League) irritates with every word that creaks out of his mouth. Not enough substance, plenty of glamor, though.

The Prime Merlinian: Pretty dragons and sorcerery can't make up for this uninspired and unenthusiastic production that doesn't necessitate the big-ass chunk of money spent on making this thing. We've seen this story and spells in far better movies, so check 'em out instead.

27 July 2010

The Horseman

The Horseman
Starring Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy
Written & Directed by Steven Kastrissios
Release: 29 June 2008
Umbrella Entertainment, 96 mins., Rated R


Plot: Christian wants revenge on whoever was complicit in the death of his daughter.

Brutal. Grainy. Hand-held camera. Australian. Blood. Ouch, nipples. Grounded, very real.

That's The Horseman for you. Flipping through the recent FANGORIA issue on my break at work, the DVD movie review section picked this production as Movie of the Month (or something to that extent). Turns out it's a revenge story, a fathering avenging the death of his daughter. Alright, I can get behind that; I dig revenge stories. Sounds like Taken without Liam Neeson's CIA contacts and a PG-13 rating. Well, it's only a tiny bit similar to Taken. See, Taken has boundaries, Horseman is almost like a documentary of a real-life father who is just a bit disconnected to the environment around him but is determined about one thing: killing with any means possible anyone connected to his daughter's death. This guy does anything and everything - there are no boundaries. He's not like Jack Bauer, who gets hit maybe twice and then beats the bad guys. On the contrary, he gets as pulverized as much as he dishes it out.

Blood is in abundance in nearly every scene, punching and the utmost pain is a regular sight in the film's hour and thirty-some minute run-time. The brutality and violence of The Horseman gets a lot of flak by critics, but honestly - it's necessary. It's obvious that, unlike Lionsgate's SAW films, there's a real reason for it all - the blood, the pain, the violence. And it all feels real - we the audience feel every hard punch Christian (our anti-hero father) receives, and the major amount of ouchness he endures during the third act of the picture. It's not cartoony, it's not James Bond-y, it's not over-the-top. This is mono-a-mono, fights to the death. I'm sure the writer/director was trying to make a point about showcasing the violence in such a light: the road of revenge gives you nothing in turn but pain and agony, perhaps? Blood for blood? Eh, dunno. Not good with the metaphorical or philosophical undercurrents of a show.

Overall, The Horseman is a alright movie. It kept me interested, but for the most part I wasn't really hooked or grabbed until the third act, when the tables are turned on Christian and it becomes a fight for survival. If there's any one thing I think that hinders the movie, I would say it's the hand-held camerawork. More often than not, I don't have a problem with it. None. But it just felt unnecessary for 85% of the time. Sequences where it's a chaotic fight, when Christian is pulling out any tricks he can to win the battle, than sure, hand-held away. But I think the production could have benefited from a few more Steadicam shots. Script-wise...well, it's a revenge story. Not much to tell. But I really do think there needed to be more. At least a scene between Christian and his daughter, perhaps a flashback to the last time they ever see each other. Y'know, give us a real deep emotional moment that grabs us and really makes us root for him to succeed.

In the end, I can't say I'd particularly recommend The Horseman. Out of the pantheon of revenge stories out there in the world, there's certainly others that rank above this modest production. But if you're curious, I would just heed a rental first. Not sure if it warrants a blind buy.

MMAM - Vol. 4

In the wake of really good shows that don't survive, there's Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I wrote about it back on Day 10 of the TV Meme, so you can check that out and read my opinion on the show (which, duh, is quite positive). Another aspect of the program that was super duper awesome was the score and choice of music for every scene.

T-SCC utilized slow motion multiple times to really emphasize and dramatize a scene. There is no better example of the usage of slow motion than in the sequence this song is playing in the season 2 premiere, "Samson & Delilah." Shit is going down - John and Sarah are being beaten down hard, and Cameron just got blown'd up so her wiring is a bit fuzzy, but one thing's for sure: her mission now is to "terminate John Connor." In slow mo, Cameron walks up the steps to find the Connors, who are fighting for their lives, gun and hand, and she gets ready to fulfill her mission...

Great scene, great opening to the season, and great song by Sarah Manson. It's also really neat when I'm cleaning up the house, just havin' it blasting from my computer speakers. I definitely recommend a listen:


24 July 2010

In Short: Children of the Corn

Children of the Corn
Cast: David Anders, Kandyse McClure, Preston Bailey
Writer & Director: Brian P. Borchers
Release: 26 September 2009 (Sci-Fi Channel)
SyFy, 92 mins., Unrated

Plot: A married couple find themselves trapped in a town run by crazy religious children who fancy it their destiny to rid the world of adult "sinners" to appease their Lord of Corn...or something.


Confession time: I'm not a huge fan of the work of Stephen King, and thus haven't really read his books past the chapter two mark or watched his movies, with the exception of Stanley Kubrick's The Shinning. So this means I have never read Children of the Corn, nor seen the 1984 film. Ergo, I'll be judging this movie on its own merits. The sad thing is, though, there's not much to be said about this production. Leads David Anders (of "Heroes" fame, having played the villainous but lovable Tekzo Kensei) and Kandyse McClure (the beloved and tragic Dee of Sci-Fi's "Battlestar Galactica") are entirely unlikable, and if it wasn't for the honestly intriguing storyline as the basis of the movie, I'd probably turn the flick off. Of course, their characters are, true to the script, at the end of their marriage - hardly able to stand one another. However, that shouldn't mean the audience can't stand them either, let alone me wishing the 'children of the corn' sliced and diced their mouths off fifteen seconds into meeting them.

With two leads who can't hold my interest - although watching David Anders lose his mind in the cornfield around the hour mark was certainty delightful - the idea of this super religious cult who worship He Who Walks Behind the Rows, aka something in the corn...well, that's pretty intriguing. I haven't a clue the explanation in the original novel and movie, but from what I gather, there's a supernatural, if not God-like, entity residing within the corn (or possibly conceived by the corn?) and has the power to mind frak with intruders minds. It rests during daylight, but seizes the night., and apparently possesses the ability to 'show' folks physical manifestations of their memories. The entire third act, starting with Anders lost in the corn after awesomely swearing to kill at the "little shits", saves this remake from becoming a total waste of time.

Granted, the scripts fine, the cinematography is agreeable for a direct-to-DVD production, and the pacing works for creating a sense of tension. But the actors just can't cut it, from seasoned sci-fi vets like Anders and Kandyse to the relative child unknowns who impressively spout off scripture. If you're at the library and this title strikes your fancy, then by all means I encourage a rental. Just...I would caution a blind buy [though if you're reading this, and you choose to buy it, you're not really blind-buying it. Unless you bought it, and then decided to read this, which would be a blind buy. Yeah - how 'bouts that for words of wisdom for today?]. If there's one positive thing that came out of this experience: I now fondly think of a made-up episode of "Supernatural" where Sam and Dean make their way to Gatlin (?) and just beat the shit out of these kids and torch the corn. Problem solved. Yeah, watch "Supernatural." You'll love it.

23 July 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood
Cast (Voices): Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Vincent Martella, Kelly Hu
Writer: Judd Winick
Director: Brandon Vietti
Release: 27 July 2010 (Direct-to-DVD)
DC Animation, 75 mins., PG-13

Plot: The mysterious villain Red Hood is making Gotham's criminals a little uneasy, and once confronting the Dark Knight, Batman realizes he has a personal connection to this adversary that will make him difficult to defeat.

Under the Red Hood is harsh and dark, a story about guilt, revenge, and chaos. It's also perhaps the most personal Batman story brought to DVD by DC Animation, including Gotham Knight. I dig Batman a lot, seeing as how he's my favorite costumed hero of all time, but I'm not a rabid fan of the comic books. Thus, my knowledge of this Red Hood character, and the continuation of the Jason Todd story arc after the explosion was extremely, extremely limited. As in null. Going in with a blank slate such as me, I'm sure Under the Red Hill will be exhilarating from start to finish; if you are, however, familiar with this mythology backwards and forwards, I wager you'll find this a pretty good adaptation.

The movie begins with a flashback - a dramatization of the events that lead to Jason Todd's death at the hands of Batman's most sadistic foe, the Joker. Jason's beating utterly tortured and beaten by the Joker, and Batman's zooming on his Batpod as fast as he can to save the day. Expect he's too late. The Joker locked Jason inside with explosives, and the warehouse went BOOM! Taking a cue from the infamous image in the comic book, Batman cradles the lifeless body of his former Padawan in his hands, consumed with guilt and fury. This event right here is Batman's greatest failure, his greatest regret, and perhaps the single thing that torments him as much as the death of his parents. That night in Crime Alley Bruce vowed to never have another innocent die - and tonight he didn't succeed, and it will haunt him for the rest of his days.

Fast forward a few years down the line - Batman is as distant as ever, trying to shove Nightwing aside and flying everything solo. Bats never has been the biggest talker - well, take the amount of time he normally talks and reduce it a whole bunch. He's like, well, the Silent Knight or something. He's pissed, sad, determined, and feeling the need to isolate himself from anyone he's ever cared about. So Batman's entirely dedicated to his mission and to isolate himself from his allies, and now this brand new mobster makes his way on the streets, calling himself "the Red Hood" (modeled after a previous Joker incarnation, apparently). This character makes deals with crime lords, constructs elaborate plans, and doesn't hesitate to kill or double cross somebody. Oh, and he's super resourceful and intelligent. To make matters even more interesting in Gotham, the Joker's released from Arkham once again and just wants to wreck havoc and cause some more chaos.

By the finale, this grand story boils down to a very personal showdown between three people in a room.

Alright, review time: the storyline - awesome. It's always interesting to watch Batman deal with another vigilante in town who doesn't follow the Caped Crusader's rules, a individual who firmly believes that you gotta do whatever necessary to protect not only the people but the city - which includes making deals with criminals and, if one must, killing. It's equally cool to find that this vigilante is basically Batman's opposite - he's as clever and advanced as Batman, knows all the Dark Knight's tricks, and can (at times) even outsmart him. Talk about awe-some. Furthermore, the identity of the Red Hood, the flashback about what happened to Jason Todd's body post-being exploded, and the emotional journey of Batman/Bruce Wayne is a very interesting subject that is more or less well displayed here. A lengthy running time would have allowed for deeper psychological insights into Bruce's reactions to Red Hood, no doubt; but for what we got, I'm content.

Another stellar sequence that's reminiscent to Kevin Smith's Batman limited series 'Cacophony', Batman's decision not to allow the Joker to die. The Red Hood has the Joker at gunpoint, and even threatening to kill Batman if he doesn't kill the Joker. It's a intense sequence as Batman makes his decision. Why does this remind me of the Smith story? Well, mainly because Batman had a choice whether to save a dying (by his own hands) Joker, or save him.


Spoiler warning for those who know nothing about this Red Hood storyline -- alright, having Ra's al Ghul be responsible for bringing back Jason Todd is epically awesome! [By the way, sidenote: is that really how his name is pronounced? Guess I'm just used to the Batman Begins pronunciation]. I'm assuming that's straight from the comics. Having Jason resurrected and a bit cuckoo as a result of not only that but his life before (and somewhat during) Bruce - just simply cool.

Bruce Greenwood voices the Dark Knight, and for the most part he does it quite well. He's no Kevin Conroy, and no one can possibly match up to the guy (although the "Crisis on Two Earths" Batman was pretty good), but Greenwood nicely conveys Batman's pissed off-ness and, when Red Hood is revealed, his shattered soul. As for the Joker, who will forever be linked to Mark Hamil, John DiMaggio is quite the solid replacement. There are actually times where I'd be momentarily mistaken it was Hamil (don't hate me!). DiMaggio is also gifted with some great Joker lines, so I'm sure that helped his performance out rather a lot. Jensen Ackles is perfectly cast as the enigmatic Red Hood, easily breezing through jovial and playful to downright Heath Ledger Joker nasty. I would not want to piss off Red Hood, simple as that.

Animation is pretty solid, though for some reason (probably to add 'realism') particular characters are given a few more lines on their face. Sure, it does add some realism to the bloke, but it sure makes them look way more age-y. The Red Hood design, the architecture of Gotham, the few computer generated sequences, the unique but simultaneously traditional Joker look, even Ra's al Ghul - all pretty damn nifty. Can't say I paid too much attention to the score, so I can't comment on that precisely. However, it is recieving it's own CD release, so for the lovers of the composition, you can now own it and replay to your hearts desire.

Overall, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a rousing success. A bloody awesome storyline that's richly Batman (as in, a arc of emotional complexity and awesomeness only Batman can bring), a solid voice cast and animation style, a super quick pace, and a overall entirely enjoyable experience - Under the Red Hood comes highly recommended. Coming up next later this year is another Batman/Superman crossover called Apocalypse, and believe you me I am super freakin' hyped for that. But until then - absolutely check out Red Hood. It's awesome. Though is it sad that I'm already imagining the live action Nolan version of this story?

22 July 2010

She's Out of My League

She's Out of My League
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, Krystan Ritter, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Lindsay Sloane Writer(s): Sam Anders, John Morris
Director: Jim Field Smith

Release: 12 March 2010

DreamWorks, 104 mins., Rated R


Plot: Dweeb Kirk goes on a date with a extremely hot girl named Molly, and becomes so paranoid over how dweeby he is he basically sabotages the relationship until he comes to his senses and realizes he really wants the relationship to work regardless of their diverse hotness levels.

It takes about 30 minutes for She's Out of My League to find its footing and become a rather entertaining film. Before that point, though, I was in a bit of agony over how obnoxious basically everything was. But hey - the flick's 1 hr and 44 minutes, so 30 minutes out of all that isn't too bad, right? The overall experience was superior than, say, Miss March (2009). I think although the movie may not be all that great or good, I like the script and I like what it was trying to be, even though it hit a few too many cliched plot points. Let me explain:

The main point of the movie is that this socially awkward guy in his twenties - a dude who isn't sporting a six pack or a bunch of Schwarzenegger-like muscles - somehow grabs the attention of a beautiful girl who qualifies as a solid '10' in the hotness scale. Alright, fine - decent, sorta condescending set-up that's sure to have some comedic gold. The aspect of this storyline I liked the most was, in fact, Molly. Heading in, I was expecting a stuck-up bitchy blond who was the encapsulation of wickedness, and our protagonist would deal with it because, hey, she's hot and she's giving him a second of her time. Turns out, Molly is a pretty reasonably fleshed out and dimensional character. She goes out with Kirk because she actually, genuinely likes him (dunno why, but she does). Although her initial reason for going out with him was that he was, in a way, 'safe' and not a jackass like her cheating ex, by the halfway point of the film, you can tell she's into the guy, and that's she serious about it. It's Kirk who messes everything up; it's Kirk who says all the dumb things and acts like a drama Queen. So what I like about the script - they wrote a mostly intelligent, dimensional character as the love interest. For the most part, she was honest and straightforward - it was Kirk who was passive aggressive (staying in tune with his socially awkwardness, I guess).


Other workable elements of the script: Kirk's really messed up family (including That 70's Show's favorite TV mum Kitty, who is more hyper in her scenes than her entire run on that show), Kirk's friends who actually give him a not-half-bad suggestion every once and a while, and Molly's BFF Patty.

What doesn't work with this movie is quite simple: Jay Baruchel and his character of Kirk. 1) I propose a drinking game - go out and rent the DVD, watch it once, and then the second time, buy a bunch of drinks and take a shot each and every time Jay says either "uh" or "um." Seriously, Jay's socially awkward character makes what Michael Cera has accomplished Oscar worthy. I mean no real bad will against Jay; there are scenes where he's a really good actor, but his nasally "um"ness creeps up far too often to make his work enjoyable. 2) In what reality does it make sense that Kirk would throw a chance to sleep with Molly? They're literally right in the seconds before doing it, and she's more than willing to shag the guy, but he freakin' loses it - he goes on a tangent about how he's a "5" and she's a "10" and they can't possibly work out. This is the epitome of a horrible plot contrivance. There was nothing that set this up. It was established that Molly and Kirk went on something like six or eight dates before their second attempt at shagging, and there was no drama. Zero. Zippo. No 'nah, I dunno if I really truly like you.' The relationship was working, and she was into him, and he stupidly without any warrant does what he does? Makes zero sense, and was just irritating as hell. So in a nutshell: not complainin' about the not sleeping with Molly part, just complainin' how so unnecessary and illogical that event came about. 3) Something I did like - in one of two moments where Kirk actually stands up for himself, he walks right up to Molly and refuses to leave before he says what he needs to say. Well damn, that's one of the best parts of the script, and the first sign that perhaps the screenwriters had some overall purpose or point to this story.


Sorry, my apologies. It really, really sounds like I hate this movie, which I really don't. I have problems with certain aspects of the script and actors - aspects that have been used repeatedly in comedies, and I just feel that it should be retired. But the overall movie - it's alright. The obnoxious aspect I mentioned in the opening paragraph: that was primarily Kirk and his usage of "um" as a conversation piece and the utter stupidity of his dialogue, and how a good amount of the jokes just fell flat on their face. But as I said, the flick got better. There were some genuinely humorous parts, and moments where the movie was pretty fun to watch. Errors were made, and I guess I'm just stuck on those points more-so than acknowledging the films finer elements.

A co-worker of mine absolutely had a blast with She's Out of My League; my girlfriend mostly shared the same opinion of the film as me. So, obviously, opinions of the film vary. Overall, I would recommend a rental, based on Kirk's cool assortment of friends and his Arrested Development-like family situation.

Ip Man

Ip Man
Cast: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung
Writer: Edmond Wong
Director: Wilson Yip
Release: 12 December 2008
Mandarin Films, 108 mins., Not Rated
Distributed by Well Go Asia U.S.), 2010 DVD release

Plot: Master Ip was once the most powerful martial arts master in the Fo Shan providence, but the WWII invasion by the Japanese rendered his gifts and abilities useless, until a Japanese military leader requests to fight any and all willing martial arts masters for rice - Ip Man's strength is required once again.

Renting the film, I had no foreknowledge that Ip Man is actually a semi-biographical movie based on "the grandmaster of the martial arts Wing Chun." Basically, I just wanted a mindless action movie with a bunch of dumb guys getting harshly beaten on by a martial arts wizard. Well, in that respect, the movie did deliver, but the surprising thing about Ip Man is that the movie's actually about more than just that. Whether or not it delivers that is up to you.

By that, I mean although I was enjoying the fight scenes, I still couldn't figure out what the movie was about. We're introduced to Master Ip (Donnie Yen), a man who is God-like with his ability to battle any opponent using the controversial Wing Chun art, and then we watch as he and his family suffer through some hard times during Japan-occupied China World War II. The movie doesn't seem to have any clear direction or 'mission statement', as it were. It wasn't until the ending credits roll of Master Ip biography 'facts' (including this little tidbit of info: Master Ip trained the legendary Bruce Lee!) that it 'clicked' what the movie was trying to be: a biographical picture based on the real Master Ip, and a statement film showing how one man openly defied the Japanese and stayed true to himself without compromise. Perhaps I've been conditioned for the real dramatic American version where our protagonist, also sweaty and determined, heroically monologues his patriotic intentions; whereas the dramatic parts of Ip Man are much more subtle (?).


Anyway, enough of that. Ip Man is a good movie that kept me engaged from beginning to end. That is, in part, accomplished due to Donnie Yen's exquisite performance as Master Ip. Completely laid back and not without a sense of humor, Master Ip clearly enjoys martial arts, but refuses to use them unless absolutely necessary. What more, he's also a dedicated family man who respects his wife but has a semi-estranged relationship with his young son. Yen is amazingly subtle in his performance, not unlike Jackie Chan's recent work in The Karate Kid (2010). There are two other stellar performances that deserve mention: Lam Ka-tung as Li Zhao, a police inspector turned translator for the Japanese and friend of Master Ip. Ka-tung's Zhao is put into impossible situations, and the actor perfectly conveys a man torn between making a living and assisting his friend. Fan Siu-wong plays Master Jin, a aggressive martial arts man who arrives in Fo Shang to fight the best of the best. Although he's not given a generous amount of screentime, Siu-wong's Master Jin certainty makes a impression with his bad boy, semi-super-crazy obsession with fighting.

As for the martial arts itself, it's quite marvelous. There's a scene where Master Ip is brought before a martial arts arena sanctioned by the Japanese and demands to fight ten people. Sorta brought memories of Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), although minus any sword and yellow jumpsuit. The way Master Ip beats up ten opponents with just his hands - pure awesomeness. In a earlier scene, Master Jin engages Ip in a duel, and by golly it's one of the coolest and funniest duels I've seen in awhile. Master Jin breaks something in Ip's house, clearly to Ip's displeasure, and Jin just barks back: "I'll pay!"


Directing and cinematography are equally as good as the duels, nicely capturing every punch and kick without shaking the camera uber-crazy like. During the Japanese occupation, the environment turns a dirty blue, not too dissimilar to The Road later last year. The film's first thirty minutes, depicting a more peaceful time, of course reflects the beautiful colors and fabrics one would expect from a Chinese period piece. Composer Kenji Kawaii (The Ring) also delivers a very suitable score, conjuring up the depression of China 1944, and the kick-ass awesomeness of the fight sequences.

Overall, Ip Man is a very entertaining movie with a great cast delivering great martial arts. A sequel was just released earlier this year in Hong Kong, so I'll definitely seek out the eventual American release on DVD. The movie may be unable to truly convey what the film's about, but at the very least audiences who thirst for action will be greatly pleased and audiences looking for a interesting protagonist who makes a stance for his country will be...well, pleased-ish. The flick's making the rounds at your local Redbox, so a rental is most definitely in order. Or if you can find the title for ten dollars or less, a blind buy is encouraged. One thing is for sure - I must pursue Donnie Yen's career with much more interest now...this guy rocks!

19 July 2010

MMAM - Vol. 3

With the release of Inception this past weekend, I thought it fitting to present a segment of Hans Zimmer's Oscar-worthy score.

Not much needs to be said. A lot of folks have seen the movie, they recognize the genius of Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer. Especially in Nolan movies, audiences can't help but become immersed in the music. More often than not, audiences just don't care about the music as much as the movie itself. It's the movie that receives the kudos, that receives the Facebook lovin' and recommendations, but with Inception, I have a giant grin on my face when folks mention the music. Hans Zimmer's masterpiece demands to be heard, demands to be acknowledged. And it does, so I'm very, very happy indeed.

The following track, the third in the CD, caries themes and tunes that are repeated throughout the piece. In fact, it could be called the quintessential Inception track - it epitomizes basically everything about the movie. The beauty, the extreme down-to-the-wireness of it all. Give it a listen, and buy the soundtrack.


16 July 2010

Moonlight: The Complete Series

Moonlight
Starring Alex O'Loughlin, Sophia Myles, Jason Dohring, Shannyn Sossamon
Created by Ron Koslow and Trevor Munson
Transmission season: 2008
CBS, 16 episodes, 43 mins.

Plot: Vampire Mick St. John lives out his days in L.A. as a private investigator, investigating and solving problems while also romancing tabloid journalist Beth Turner, all the while getting into trouble week after week.

Ugh, the very idea of another vampire show - let alone one about a vamp P.I played by a 'pretty boy' - was destined to be entirely ignored by me. It just sounded really, really crappy, additionally unnecessary, and seemingly rather campy. The first season ended up being its only season, despite strong fan campaigns, and the complete series was released on DVD last year. Surprising thing was, though, there was a generally positive amount of feedback concerning the series from customers, and seemed genuinely sad the show wasn't coming back - not in comic book form, not in TV movie form, nada.

Well, now after watching the entire series, add me to that list.

MOONLIGHT is surprising, frankly. The show takes about three episodes to really get into, as the writers were obviously trying to understand the mythology and tone of their own show, but once you're hooked, I'd say you'd have a extremely pleasant time with the remainder of the series. And with only 16 episodes to work with, the show covers a lot of ground. The program boasts a amazingly charismatic cast, a writing tone that nicely balances funniness and seriousness, pretty James Newton Howard-y music, and a intriguing vampire and character mythology that makes every episode a treat.

Alex O'Laughlin, most recently seen in theaters opposite Jennifer Lopez in THE BACK-UP PLAN but regular FX viewers will recognize him from his short stint on THE SHIELD, plays our main protagonist Mick St. John. John is a 85-year old vampire, sired back in the '50s (?) by a gal named Coraline. Their relationship didn't end very well. See, Coraline was a bit crazy in the head, major with the deluded, and on one special night she decided to kidnap a young girl to adopt into their 'family'. Mick loses it, saves the girl, sets the room on fire and leaves Coraline there to burn. Flash forward about 20 years later, and that little girl he saved is no longer a little girl. She's grown up to be Beth Turner, played by Sophia Myles, best known for her one-off episode as Madame de Pompadour in the DOCTOR WHO episode "The Girl in the Fireplace", working as a tabloid journalist at BuzzWire (a more bizarre TMZ), and in a relationship with the A. D.A. guy, Josh something. Their paths cross once again, and a strong connection binds them together to solve cases and ooze the romantic chemistry.

Mick gets hired or just shows up at a crime scene, investigates, and somehow ends up teaming up with Beth to solve a case that either has a vampire, a wacko, or more intense stuff that deals with the overall mythology.

Speaking of mythology, MOONLIGHT has a pretty unique one, and I don't mean that in a disparaging TWILIGHT-esque way. Considering that most of my vampire lore I get from Whedon productions and the Dracula myth, it's a bit refreshing to hear a different take. Here's the rundown: Vampires can, in fact, walk in sunlight. Downside - it's one hell of a killer headache. And stay outside long enough, it can absolutely be lethal (which is the basis of the fourth episode, "Fever"). Secondly, wooden stakes don't kill a vamp, but it does completely paralyze it until/unless it's taken out. The only way to actually kill a vamp is to burn it or slice its head off. Vamps can't be captured on conventional film, but sure as hell can be captured digitally, video and photo and all. There's plenty of other mythological elements introduced, I just can't think of it right now.

And here's another refreshing element of the show: our hero Mick St. John. He doesn't have a strict moral compass like the soul-endowed Angel, fighting the good fight and not killing humans even if they deserve it. Mick may absolutely hate being a vampire and will do anything in his power to be human again (more on that later), but when push comes to shove, Mick is a freakin' vampire, not some wuss, and he uses his 'skills' to his advantage. All vampires have a understanding - do whatever they want, but don't draw attention to the community, for the penalty is death. A human and two vamps threaten the community, and for that, Mick does what's necessary. And for that, Mick is both sides of the hero/anti-hero equation. He's the good guy, but he'll beat up or kill if absolutely necessary.

The show's resident hottie and damsel in distress Beth Turner isn't that bad of a character, actually. Beth isn't a typical one-dimensional gal you falls for a vamp; in a nutshell, she's beauty, brains, and awesomeness rolled all into one. She's the blond equivalent of SMALLVILLE's Lois Lane - you can't help but fall in love with this character basically immediately. The other series regular is Josef, played by Jason Dohring of VERONICA MARS fame. Sometimes I can't help but see Dohring as anything but Logan Echolls, but there are definitely times when Josef vamps out where Dohring brings his vicious A game and rocks his demonic side. But Dohring definitely gets the charisma down, something vampires are notorious for, and it's great to find that there's layers to this 400 year old vamp other than 'playboy mode.'

A brief series overview: the show starts off stronger than I expected. The pilot, "There's No Such Thing As Vampires", is the weakest episode of the series, and the only one where it seemed like the writers, directors, and actors were trying to get the vibe down. [Small anecdote of funness: guest star Rudolph Martin is no stranger to vampires, having playing Vlad Dracula in BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and DRACULA: DARK PRINCE] Interesting enough, though, by the second episode the show feels confident - it knows what it is, it knows the right tone of humor and darkness, and even boasts a bit of a edge. Almost immediately we get a sense of Mick's darker side, as his hunger for justice and/or revenge forces him to attack a guilty man with the intent to kill. The next batch of episodes deal with Beth's struggle to understand and accept the revelation of Mick's true identity, eventually resulting in a really cool episode that has Mick having to feed on Beth. Cool sequence.

Episode 7, "The Ringer", introduces Morgan, a character that becomes pivotal for the remainder of the series. Mick is convinced this Morgan gal is Coraline, but there's a big problem with that theory: Morgan is very much human, as opposed to Coraline's vampireness. Who is Morgan really, and if it is Coraline, how is she human now (?) become central questions for quite a few episodes, and is some truly fun television to watch. To make another BUFFY comparison, Coraline's madness is not unlike Drusilla, so you can understand how Mick sorta loses his bonkers during this investigation.

"12:04" is a rather freaky episode. A death row inmate who looks a little bit like Jason Mewes comes back from the dead to exact some revenge on the gal who testified against him. This is one of those episodes where the guest star is phenomenal in their performance and basically make the episode. Definitely one of the highlights of the series.

Mick's history gets explored not only with this Coraline/Morgan storyline but also with "What's Left Behind", a episode that deals with the son of a old WWII buddy of Mick's. Here I present one negative aspect of the show: the flashbacks. Ugh, I hate them. Filmed all blurry and in slow motion where it just becomes a mess of Tony Scott-DOMINO proportions, I really, really wished they just kept it at really film speed without any sort of color filters or anything to differentiate it.

The series finale, "Sonata", is a pretty damn good conclusion to a pretty damn good series. It resolves enough storyline to make a viewer satisfied, and leaves enough leeway for things to continue in some form or another if the show was picked up for a second season. I don't know if they were aware of this being the final episode, and that's why they left the Beth/Mick relationship where it was, but it surprised me and made me plenty happy. Also for fans of the canceled VERONICA MARS show, there's a humorous reference to it in this finale. Josef is donating a good chunk of money to a Hearst College foundation, which is where his character Logan attended college at in the show. Well, at least I thought it was funny.

To my disappointment, the DVD set boasts no bonus features to speak of. I would rather have loved a commentary, at least on the pilot. Is that too much to ask, especially in this day 'n age of DVD technology? C'mon, studio! You got a small but devoted fanbase to appease!

Look, I dug the series in case you didn't notice. Doesn't mean everyone will, so I do recommend a library rental or Netflix a disc to get a taste of it. I personally enjoyed the humor and the darkness of the show, the great performances from O'Laughlin, Myles and Dohring, and the interesting vampire mythology. For a vampire show in the legion of vampire shows on air right now, I'd say this would be my favorite. TRUE BLOOD is a'right, and VAMPIRE DIARIES is truly laughable. At the very least, guys can salivate at the hotness of Ms. Myles and girls can faint at the sight of O'Laughlin's six-pack. Win-win situation, really.

Inception

Inception
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine
Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan
Release: 16 July 2010
Warner Bros., 148 mins., PG-13

What follows is written for folks who came to this site and reading this post to decide whether or not to see Christopher Nolan's Inception, opening today in wide release. My answer is as follows:

OMG!!! OMG!!! OMG!!! THAT WAS AWESOME!!!

RUN - DON'T WALK - TO YOUR NEAREST MULTIPLEX, PAY WHATEVER PRICE THEY FORCE, AND SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT AWAY!!! LIKE NOW-ISH!!!


Go ahead, I'll wait. Honestly, go out right now and see it. I'll expect you back at this very page in about two hours and fifty minutes, give and take driving and trailers. Nah, OK, three hours. Have fun. And don't forget pop and popcorn, though try to maintain your bladder because you won't want to miss a second. Cheerio!

.....................

......................


Alright, you're back! Didn't yah just love it? Well, I'm choosing not to give a full, in-depth review. There will no doubt be countless other websites and blogs posting their two cents, so I figure I'll wait until the DVD release around December-ish to really delve into the nitty gritty of the flick. Therefore, here's just a few thoughts that I have:



I am so, so, so very jealous of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not only does he get to smooch Zoey in (500) Days of Summer, he sneaks in a kiss with Ellen Page, too! Sly dog. Teach me your tricks!

Folks hailed Avatar as a game-changer, as something we've never seen before. Ladies and gents, I was more wowed by the visuals and creativity of Inception than one single frame of Avatar. This type of brilliance is mesmerizing.

Simply put, a movie like Inception should not exist. This is a fantastic, imaginative, and awe-inspiring masterpiece that by all realms of the imagination would never get financed by a major studio. So, thank you Dark Knight.

The story of Inception is actually quite simplistic, in retrospect. It just seems, y'know, really freakin' complicated.

The battle of the summer: Hans Zimmer (Inception) vs. James Newton Howard (The Last Airbender). Both scores were marvelous. Right now...I'm thinking Airbender, but Inception demands not only more screenings but more listenings to the score.

DiCaprio's best work since The Departed and Blood Diamond, both movies of which I really love. Not only is Nolan a brilliant writer, but he also has a fantastic knack for casting great actors.

Sometimes I acknowledged the running time, but then something happened that made me completely forget what I was thinking about. And then the same thought would spark up again, and then some big event would happen and I'd forget again. Repeat.

There were some really, really intense sequences. Wowza.

A marvelous, brilliant, beautiful movie. Another knock-out. And no, I'm not just saying that due to some allegiance to Nolan.

14 July 2010

Doctor Who - Victory of the Daleks



Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Andrew Gunn


"TARDIS bang-bang, Daleks BOOM!" - The Doctor

(S05E03) Can't say I was particularly thrilled to find out the Daleks were already scheduled to make a appearance this early in the new series, and this recent since their last encounter (the series 4 finale "Journey's End"), but "Victory of the Daleks" ends up being a quickly paced hour of Doctor Who that's only bogged down by the feeling that this episode is more of a set-up than it is anything of actual value. And their arc in this episode promises a stronger presence later on in the series. At the very least, I thought the episode flowed better than "The Beast Below."

To coincide with the title, what are some of the victories of this episode? Well, Matt Smith was allowed, for the first time this series, to show off a pissed off and absolutely frightened Doctor. As expected, Smith pulled it off with spades. Though, considering that the last time The Doctor and the Daleks met it was nearly the end of reality itself, I would think he would have a stronger, angrier reaction to seeing his arch nemesis once again. Regardless, Smith perfectly conveys the dark and dangerous side of The Doctor, no to forget the beauty of the sequence where he's stuck with a impossible decision: save the earth, or save countless millions/billions by destroying the Daleks right then and there forever. Reminiscent to Batman and the Joker, much? Well, minus the fate of the entire universe, but you get the drift.

And Karen Gillan as Amy continues to shine. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous in this episode, but she's also bloody brilliant. Having Amy come up with a solution to stop total devastation for the second time in a row - I got no problem with it. Plus, it worked a bit more organically, I believe, here than it did with "Beast Below." The Doctor's not all that great with human emotion - at least with expressing it and discussing it as a actual thing - so it makes sense for his human companion to take charge. Similar to Martha's lustin' for The Doctor, Amy hits Bracewell (the 'human' cyborg created by the Daleks to further their scheme) with the longing feeling of love. Amy urges Bracewell to remember how it felt to be in love, the desire to spend just one more minute with that special person. It's a true part of life, but also nicely mirrors the fairy tale aspect of this season.

The visual effects are marvelous. That fight scene up in space was freakin' AWESOME!!! Even with a reduced budget (have ratings been lackluster compared to before?), this show has felt leaps and bounds more ginormous and grand in scale than previous, I believe. Just...wowzers. Concerning the music - well, I just am thankful how lucky we are to still have Murray Gold as composer. His work episode after episode is nothing short of extraordinary, and his material in this is no exception. Here, I'm particularly thinking of the Amy and Bracewell conversation near the end; gorgeous, immediate music. As the style and direction of "Victory of the Daleks" - completely cinematic in scope. Sure, there's plenty of scenes that take place inside the cramped underground HQ of Churchill's, but there's also that space battle that's visually pleasing and the awesome spacious room where the Daleks reveal the end result of their master plan. Speaking of that scene, the camera truly helped raise the tension - how it moved, how the scene was edited, the particular angles that were chosen to emphasis the mass of the Daleks and the littleness of The Doctor [note: although measures were taken to ensure shots of equal footing between the two opponents]. Great, great work.

Cinematography, direction, music, and visual effects were outstanding in this episode, indeed. But for every victory, there's a "wuh?" This big master plan to create a 'pure' Dalek resulted in nothing more than a fatter body and diverse color schemes? The 'tainted' Daleks coughed up how supreme these new models are, hypin' them up to be the greatest enemy of all creation. But c'mon, I honestly find it hard to take them remotely seriously. The new redesign feels like it was manufactured to create Christmas merchandise - like little Dalek toys on the tree and whatnot [Dalek lights!!!].

Additionally, as far as guest stars go, not so sold on Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill. Granted, I've only read a little bit about the guy a few years ago in class, and I haven't actually seen any footage of him, but McNeice really comes off as nothing less than a pure character. It's akin to, 'Look at me! I'm playing Winston! I'm on Doctor Who!' Next time, sir, go for the subtlety. Speaking of subtlety, I loved that Amy caught Winston stealing the TARDIS keys at the end - that was pretty humorous. Although McNeice wasn't the most spectacular guest star in awhile, he was still good. And if that's the worst thing I can say about the episode? Well, obviously it was standard Doctor Who: awesomeness.

"Victory of the Daleks" didn't feel like a whole piece, which is unfortunate. It's like Half-Blood Prince to Deathly Hallows. It's a single piece, but feels like we're missing out on the larger story that will make it fully complete. But still, the episode is a fun, enjoyable 45 minutes as only Doctor Who can make it. What other show would make me nearly believe the Daleks would obliterate the world back in 1944/45-ish and rewrite history as we know it without the help of Quentin Tarantino?

NEXT UP: Steve Moffat's most beloved creations of all time, the Weeping Angels, return for a two-part story crafted by Moffat himself. Also noteworthy is the reintroduction of River Song into the Doctor Who mythology, after being written in Series 4 as a Moffat creation, as well. River, Angels, Amy, and The Doctor - trapped. Sounds awesome.

Little Notes:
  • The Doctor mentions he's still working out the kinks of his Type 40 TARDIS. Is this the first time any sort of 'type' of TARDIS has ever been mentioned? Is the reason the TARDIS has been arriving late so often these last few episodes due to its redesign?
  • With every new shot of the TARDIS, I fall more and more and more in love with the design. Would it be over-excessive if I redesigned my future house as a Series 5 TARDIS interior? Just askin'.
  • "Victory of the Daleks" reveals one important piece that may be integral to the cracks in the walls - Amy Pond has no recollection whatsoever of the Daleks and what transpired back in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End." Does that create a continuity error with Adelaide in "The Waters of Mars" who remembers them, considering that this event should be erased from existence? Or does it have to do with when The Doctor met them and the memory occurred...? Whatever, this is cool.

13 July 2010

Fallen

Fallen
Starring Paul Wesley, Bryan Cranston, Hal Ozsan, Rick Worthy
Written by Tim Huddleston & Sara B. Cooper
Based on the series "Fallen" by Tom Sniegoski
Directed by Mikael Salomon & Kevin Kerslake
Transmission: 2006 September
ABC Family, 4 hrs., 2006

Plot: 18-year old Aaron Corbett is not your typical orphan kid in high school, he's actually this powerful being known as the Redeemer who is the object of many a Angels displeasure and often used as target practice, all in the midst of a 'beautiful' romance taking place.

Now that vampires have nearly outstayed their welcome, teen girls are now looking towards fallen Angels who look heavenly handsome for their angsty romance stuff. Although FALLEN is applicable to that category to some extent, this six-part miniseries from ABC Family is actually trying to attempt something a little bit more broad, epic, and powerful (well, the novels, at least). Here's another story with a young-ish teenager who has a destiny bestowed upon him since before birth, and a bunch of characters want to kill him so a rogue warrior comes to assist him in his journey.

The first hour of this story is basically that. Aaron, played with the same painful eyes of Paul Wesley, wants answers about his life and past, and just wants to live a normal life in wake of all this crazy stuff happening around him (the ability to speak tongues and talk to animals). By the end of the first segment, Aaron comes to terms that his life won't be the same, and he needs to fight his destiny or succumb to it.

The second hour relies on set-up and characters to move the story along. The good news is, Hal Ozsan's character of Azazel is introduced, which significantly pumps up the storyline. The bad news: all the other characters and plot development is overall boring. All the characters are put into place for the epic finale, and Aaron finally decides to grow a sack of balls and 'take a stand.' No more running, no more hiding - Aaron means business! Oh, and during the second hour a love interest from the first segment reappears with a none-too-surprising revelation of her own, and quickly becomes a integral-ish part of the story. There's also a bunch of fiery sword action that was thrown into most likely to entertain the casual watcher, but it was overall not too impressive. A bunch of flips and turns that are meant to make the fight look cooler, but logistically makes not a lick of sense.

Thankfully, the third hour is the culmination of all this 'Aaron is the Redeemer!' and 'I have a destiny!' stuff, as Aaron comes face to face with the 'Light Bringer' that Azazel was bringing him to. Played to utter cool perfection by Bryan Cranston (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE), the scenes between Aaron and the Light Bringer make the 3 hours that came before nearly totally worth it. Cranston's performance makes this movie, and the storyline crafted around his character is pretty brilliant. And the fate that awaits Azazel is sad but satisfying, and Hal Ozsan does a terrific job with his anger all, well, the world, basically.

FALLEN is immersed in Milton's PARADISE LOST lore, with info on Lucifer, Angels, Nephilims, etc. seem mostly derived from that source [plus the Bible, duh!]. So that aspect of the storyline is very, very cool and interesting. However, the other stuff with the actual characters, the Powers, and (particularly) Camael - just kinda blah.

Although Paul is a acceptable enough actor, there's just something about the guy I don't like and immediately cringe whenever he's onscreen [for example, I was PISSED when it was revealed Kim Bauer chose him as her hubby in 24 - Ugh!]. Perhaps its his face and jaw structure? Anyway, Mr. Wesley gives a passable performance as Aaron Stone, although I would have far preferred if someone like, say, Logan Lerman from PERCY JACKSON took over the role. Someone who could embody the character perfectly. With Paul, I think I'd prefer Rob Pattinson, honestly. Rick Worthy of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fame plays Camael, Aaron's protector, and I couldn't help but smirk at his Michael Clarke Duncan voice. "GRRRRRR!", really.

The two best actors in the piece, as said before, is Bryan and Hal (KYLE XY) who really seem to get into their roles.

At the end of the day, FALLEN isn't horrible, but at the same time not worth the four-hour running time. If you're curious, I'd suggest watching 30 mins. of the beginning and skip to the final hour segment where Aaron meets the Light Bringer. It's avaliable at nearly all Redboxes nationwide, so should be relatively easy to find if you're a interested party. I'd say it's worth the $1.07.