Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ten Statements About....COWBOYS AND ALIENS (2011)

"Watch out!  The mechanical brine shrimp is after us!"
"I don't know what it is, but it's bleeding."

1) You know you're in trouble when you have seven writers attached to your script. Because when you have that many writers, each with their own ideas on the script, you sometimes end up with a lot of 'Just Go With It.'

2) I was encouraged at times by the implication that Harrison Ford's Dolarhyde might be more of a villain in this. He certainly acts monstrously, and he also gets points for being named after a serial killer in a Thomas Harris novel. But once the aliens show up, he starts slowly reverting to the typical Harrison Ford Hero-type. By the time we get to Adam Beach telling the Apache Chief what a good man Dolarhyde is, you realize we're supposed to believe it as well in spite of the horrendous stuff we've seen him doing.

Yes, Ms. Wilde..I will ride your trail...
3) I really wish we had more about the nameless Frog-Cricket-Spider things that are the titular alien...or about the alien race that Olivia Wilde's Ella comes from (Oh, c'mon...anyone who couldn't have figured that out from the trailer I saw ninety times in the coming months wasn't paying attention). Yes, you don't have to explain everything to make me happy, but you need to explain something. Just telling us that, hey, these things wants your gold just isn't enough...

4) At first, I was encouraged a bit by how it seemed Favreau cast a number of actors against type--Clancy Brown as a preacher, for example...but while the window dressing is different, their actions show us that they're actually being cast to type.

5) Okay, look here, Frog-Cricket-Spider-thingies...your scout ships are these weird techno-organic brine shrimp-like creations, but your ship is...a rocket. You can be either techno-organic or technologically inclined; you can't be both.

6) I've always wondered what you can see when you drink peyote tea, and now I see the worst CGI hummingbird imaginable.

7) Once again, I am confronted with a movie where I find Olivia Wilde incredibly sexy. Hell, I'd be fine with her playing Lara Croft now that I've seen her in a long as they give her a stetson and a sideways gunbelt as well....or maybe nothing but...

...which once again proves the fact that I can't stand Thirteen is entirely the fault of the writers and creator of House

Yep...I've had nights where I wake up in the middle of
nowhere with some techno-gun welded to my wrist....
8) I do have to give credit to the film for giving us a tribe of Apache warriors who only speak Apache. While it's obvious that Favreau really wants to hearken back to an old-school Western feel, there are tiny touches like this that ground the film in some semblance of reality.

9) It really, really surprised me that, given how many times Favreau gives us moment where he draws attention to how both Craig and Wilde both have vivid blue, distinctive eyes, the film never pulled the trigger on the idea that maybe Craig's Lonegan was an alien as well. It strikes this might have been the intention in one of the earlier drafts, but it got shunted off by the wayside. It would certainly have given the ending the bittersweetness the film was obviously going for.

10) This is prolly due to the actors all around, but Ford, Craig and even Keith Carridine manage to make the whole 'they hated each other, and now they respect each other' thing work. Still doesnt make the happy and bright ending with everybody loving each other and wearing their Sunday Best.

Overall...even though there are some moments, this is a disappointment for being just another 'Just Go With It' action film. There needed to be a little meat on its bones, a little more mythology to support the performances.

Saw this at The Atlas--which, for some reason, turned on the lights three minutes before the credits rolled--and suffered through such horrors as the much-threatened Battleship (shame on you, Peter Berg...shame on you); Brett Ratner's latest product, the Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy caper flick Tower Heist which is notable for the inclusion of Alan Alda and a very thinning-on-the-top Matthew Broderick; and Final Destination 5, which at least has the good sense to bring back Tony Todd. And thank God I missed the Firstlook, because I would have started screaming during the preview of that abomination that is supposed to be the Straw Dogs remake.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ten Statements About....TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Episode Three 'Dead of Night' (2011)

After watching three episodes of this season, I want to put
on a mask and cry, too....
"Now, technically, we both know I can't kill you. But you see, the beauty of this miracle is if I shoot you just right, then maybe you might live in agony for who knows how long...maybe a thousand years. Now you think about that."

1) So we're supposed to root for Rex because he, what, threatens to torture Wayne Knight in full Newman mode? Somehow, it just makes him look like a bully. But then, since I find both Rex and Knight's Friedkin detestable characters...I just don't care.

2) there's a secret organization that's been pulling the strings for decades and knows everything. Like I didn't see that one coming.

Yeah, I'm going to need some of those painkillers if I'm to keep
watching this season, Jack....
3) Well, I guess we should not get attached to Esther any time soon. We all know what happens to people on Torchwood who actually, you know, know what they're doing, right?

4) I know the script is written by Jane Espenson of Buffy and Point Pleasant fame, still feels like a Russell T. Davies script. Hell, it feels like RTD's Greatest Hits...which makes you wonder why the Stephen Moffats and Paul Cornells of the world were able make their Doctor Who scripts still uniquely theirs.

5) I am so relieved we've still got Arlene Tur's Dr. Juarez around...about the same amount I can't stand that she's sharing scenes with Lauren Ambrose's Jilly Kitzinger. It's like watching Roger Delgado's version of The Master having lunch with John Sims'.

6) The basic problem with the dramatic confrontation between Rex and Jack is simple--while Mekhi Phifer is a better actor--a much better actor--than John Barrowman, the scripts for this season has not done any work to make Rex anything other than an asshole whereas Jack has been made to look a whole lot more accessible and friendly. Thus, when Rex stalks off after having their little blow-up, the viewer isn't worried in the least. Hell, they're relieved the jerk is gone.

7) Contrast the Rex/Jack interaction with that of Esther and Gwen. There is such an easy chemistry between Eve Myles and Alexa Havins that you can believe they'll have each other back no matter what.

As bad as this season has shaped up to be, I can at least
take some joy in rhe interplay between these two.
8) My GOD, they're not building a romance between Rex and Juarez? Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised given Russell T. Davies inability to see male/female relations in terms other than romantic or fruit-fly-esque. But then again, the idea of Juarez willingly jumping into bed with a patient she knows has a damaged heart--literally--makes her less of a doctor, right? Right?

9) My GOD Part Two....was that whole sequence featuring Danes running from two rednecks wanting to hurt him for being a child-murdering pedophile into the arms of two cops that beat him to shit designed to make us feel sympathy for him? I get that the whole idea is to make us feel duped when Danes shows us his true colors...but it's done in the typical hamfisted Davies way, which means the effect falls flat.

10) It just occurred to me watching Ambrose interact with Pullman...Jilly has her own uniform. Not only that, it's a uniform that's in direct contrast with the color palette of the entire show, with the bright red coat. hair and lipstick. I think this is Russell T. Davies' idea of a subtle clue that Jilly may be more powerful than she seems....Hell, that she may in fact come from the same organization that Captain Jack Harkness and Captain John Hawk used to work for.

Notice the operative phrase is 'Russell T. Davies idea of a subtle clue.

Overall....this has rapidly degenerated into the awful excesses of the first season--lots of inappropriate sex made even smuttier since it's being done for American cable, characters that simply don't behave in any way like human beings do, sinister corporations...only this time with the added overlay of Davies proving he did a lot of googling to extrapolate his premise. And even the rare character I like, such as Dr. Juarez, is made somewhat questionable thanks to her questionable actions. I'm dancing on the edge of saying 'Fuck this season.' Dancing a lot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten Statements About....FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008)

Wow...two of the hottest women ever, and I still find the guy
in white the most entertaining...
"Excuse me. No, I haven't had anything to drink today. Maybe the problem is that you broke my heart into a million pieces and so my cock doesn't want to be around you anymore! Okay?"

1) Before anyone thinks that the only reason I like the film is because it features The Beautiful One in various states of undress (including, in one scene, total undress)...this is the film that made me believe that Jason Segal is a true talent, both as an actor and as a writer. This is an incredibly clever script, and rewatching this now I'm struck by the number of subtle clues laid out in the first few minutes to major plot points down the line.

2) You wanna know how good a writer Segal is? He manages to make me like that miserable, evil little snot Russell Brand. In his hands, Aldous Snow is certainly the kind of self-centered, inconsiderate man-child that Brand seems to only be able to play (y'know, kinda like Adam Sandler, only without his depth)...but with a sense of obliviousness to his meanness and a genuine desire to be a good guy infused in it.

Yes, I'd enjoy watching Russell Brand suffer...but then
he went and married Katy Perry and I realized he's prolly
suffering enough....
3) At the risk of making this the 'Jason Segal Knows How To Write' edition of 10 Statements...look at how generous he is with all the characters in this film. A lesser writer (I'm looking at you, Danny McBride) would have made this into a vanity project, but Segal seems to delight in giving other actors the best lines, even extremely minor ones.

4) I find it interesting that this film utilizes its Hawaiian backdrop as a contrast to Segal's Peter personal angst, but also as a place for people to escape from their lives...the former to accentuate the humor of discomfort inherent in Peter's experience, the latter to accentuate the message the film is presenting of not allowing the past to inhibit your desires.

5) Wow...I never realized how many Muppet references Segal slides into this film. It certainly puts his decision to write a new Muppet movie in context, doesn't it?

6) This is the film that made me realize that Mila Kunis is a) wicked hot and b) has one of those rather cool screen presences that puts you at ease...yes, she's wicked hot, but she also seems very round-the-way and approachable.

7) Another genius thing about the script--there is no bad guy here. Even Sarah Marshall, who is arguably the worst person on display, has her moments--when she makes an excuse to talk to Kunis' Rachel to tell her how good a guy Peter is, for example. And when she gives her reasons for leaving Peter, her reasons not only make sense, but they're justifiable given what we saw of him before the break-up.

Scenes From My Worst Nightmares #268
8) Even though there are a lot of fun side characters here, my favorite bar none is Da'Vone MacDonald as Dwayne The Bartender. When he starts insisting that his life is so much better because he knows 200 kinds of fish...then proceeds to prove it, it cracks me up every time.

9) And there is a rather decent message about not letting your past inhibit your future. By moving past Sarah, Peter realizes his goal (after some difficulties, which results in a song called simply 'Psychiatrist' in the credits, and is another highlight) and finds success...and Rachel decides to pursue her own goals as well.

10) Okay, okay...I know what you want to know. Yes....Kristen Bell is yummy.

Happy, now? of my favorite recent rom-coms thanks to an extremely clever, sensitive and subtle scripts, a great setting and some excellent laugh lines. Plus Kristen Bell. And in my eyes, Kristen Bell is always good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE FIFTEEN 'Ruskie Business' (2005)

She calls it 'Manilla Whore Barbie'...I call it Derrick Hottie
Growl Worthy...
"J. Geils was right--love stinks. You can dress it up in sequins and shoulder pads, but one way or another you're just going to end up alone at the Spring Dance strapped into uncomfortable underwear."

1) Okay...we're close to the end of this season's second act, which means there's still fifteen balls up in the air. Just look at the pre-title teaser--we touch upon the Veronica/Logan situation (wonderfully underplayed by both Dohring--who looks like he has no idea how to start being Veronica's friend again--and Bell), reintroduce Meg so she can throw a spanner into another relationship thread for Veronica, begin the tease for the reintroduction of the Lianne Mars thread...and then get the first taste of the A plot. And, thanks to writers Phil Klemmons and John Enbom, and the direction of Guy Norman Bee--who utilizes a number of tracking shots to give this all a fluid momentum--it's seamless.

2) Oh--and since the whole Logan and Veronica relationship is beginning to develop, it's time to drag Max Greenfield back in to banter with her as Leo...and you know, there's a certain much-missed chemistry that just falls into place immediately. It's a pity Greenfield doesn't stick around for much longer (although he'll pop up time and again throughout the series)...he's a lot of fun.

3) And speaking of people I, is Alona Tal fun as all get out. She's even more confident playing Meg, and the interplay between her and Veronica is stellar. It's a pity that, like Leo, she gets written out fairly quickly at the beginning of Season Two, because she and Bell are comedy gold.

"You need to stay away from her, Logan...she was an evil
lesbian witch on her previous show."
4) And here we get the official debut of Alyson Hannigan as Trina Echolls. Hannigan was between jobs here, having finished Buffy the year before and about to start How I Met Your Mother, and it seems that she agreed to do this solely if she could play the exact opposite of Willow Rosenberg. Thus, Trina is a shallow, venal and more or less detestable person who only adds to the American Gothic that is the Echolls family. To be absolutely fair, I couldn't see originally considered Denise Richards or ...grumblemutter.... Tara Reid doing a better job. Hannigan shows up a handful of times before New York and a fake marriage to Jason Segal whisks her away...

5) That being said...take a look at the first scene with Logan and Trina. First off, it's interesting how Bell is continually reacting to the insults and accusations flowing between the two...although her surprise at the accusations of abuse seem odd given how close Veronica and Lily were supposed to have been. And when Trina leaves, the way Dohring just allows himself to collapse totally, almost as if he is regressing into a child, crying and seeking comfort in Veronica's awkward embrace is powerful. It's a hell of a lot more effective than Veronica's breakdown several episodes back.

Keith Mars' attempt to find a date for his
daughter was somewhat lacking...
6) You'll notice how I haven't mentioned the A's because it's hardly there, only blasting into high gear at the 30 minute mark. The funny thing is how it sort of gets resolved by Keith, and even then by accident. As we'll see as we move further into this season, Rob Thomas gets more and more impatient with these A Plots as we move closer to the final act, and the revelation of Lily's murderer.

7) I can forgive the thoroughly inconsequential aspect of this story taking place leading up to an 80's dance called 'Total Eclipse of the Heart,' since it does get me the sight of Bell dressed as, in her words, 'Manilla Whore Barbie.'

8) You know, I really have to wonder how closely Thomas studied the works of John Hughes...because I swear there are a number of visual and dialogue throwbacks to his work during the sequence at the dance...and to have it shattered by the big reveal leading to the final scene, leaving us as confused as Leo is as Veronica tries to runs off in inappropriate heels....

9) I do like how Meg continues to prove that she's one of the true stand-up people in Neptune High by being the person to get Leo to the dance...although it's heartening that he came to see Veronica. Hell, our girl even gets some smoochies out of least for the moment.

10) My God, the final scene...just as Logan regresses when confronted with the truth about his mother's death, so does Lianne Mars regress when confronted with Veronica, only she regresses into a recalcitrant child, trying to push her daughter away out of fear. And when we see why she's afraid, we almost sympathize with Veronica's stunned silence.

Overall...forget about the whole 'Russian gal looks for a boyfriend-who-isn't-her-boyfriend-that Keith-susses-out A Plot. Just bask in the way all these ducks fall into a row getting us ready for the bang-a-minute third act of this story.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ten Statements About....TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Episode Two 'Rendition' (2011)

"Alright...if we inject Russell T. Davies, he might end up
being a decent writer."
"Everything mortal becomes immortal, so everything immortal becomes mortal. See? I can be useful."

1) I feared, Mekhi Phifer's job is to be a one dimensional, colossal dick, and they're going to give Kai 'The Jason Segal of Wales' Owen a pass out of the show. But on the other hand, Dichen Lachman (okay, Dichen Lachman once again hiding her natural sexy Aussie accent, but...).

2) Oh, my god...don't tell me that we've got to sit through eight more weeks of the typical Russell T. Davies sophomoric sexually-based humor. I thought we were done with that circa 'Children of Earth.'

3) Is there a reason why Wayne Knight is in this..of course, it doesn't help that he's playing a smarmy jerk in his interactions with Esther in such a way that I expect Kramer to slide into CIA HQ at any moment. And the way he pulls the same dithering anxious faces throughout his brief time, you don't buy him as this Guy Who's Pulling The Strings.

4) You know what I love about the way Eve Myles and John Barrowman work together? The way they've worked out this excellent timing with their body language so that by watching them interact you can get a whole other level of understanding about what's going on. Between these two, a shift in a chair or a very quick, faint smile speaks volumes more than what they're bickering about.

To my surprise, this is my favorite character in this story.
5) I suspect we won't be seeing Arlene Tur's Dr. Juarez for very long--which is a pity, because she is, along with Esther, the only new character worth a damn in this story. I just wish the story didn't portray her as The Doctor With All The Answers at times.

6) Poor, poor Bill Pullman, who is doing his damndest to give the role of Oswald Danes far more depth than it needs, or Davies intended him to have. He's so out of place, trying to give a realistic performance in what is amounting to be a really poor comic book...worse, a comic book written by Brian 'If My HBO Went Out, I'd Have Nothing To Write' Azzarello for the Bill Jemas era 'decompressed' Marvel...
7) ..and then to add insult to injury, they saddle him with Lauren Ambrose trying to channel her inner Diane Keaton as a comedy relief public relations specialist? Who's proposing Danes capitalize on his crime in direct opposition to the laws in New York State that expressed forbid felons from doing so? DID ANYONE THINK THIS STORYLINE THROUGH?

8) Davies does know that when your whole story revolves around the human race suddenly losing the capacity for death, it's kind of hard for us to feel suspense over the idea that someone is trying to kill Esther, right? Right?

" need to sit down and find that accent of
yours and put it back're annoying everyone."
9) My God, they're actually expecting us to be sympathetic toward Rex...well, they're expecting a lot, because right now--even after he saves Jack's life--I still want to punch him in the face repeatedly with a cestus.

And sadly, he is far from the only character I want to do this to.

10) So basically, when you boil this episode down to its's an hour on an airplane running around looking for ammonia. There's a definite whiff of this being a running in place exercise designed to get the show up to its ten week commitment.

Overall....the things I do for you people....this is going to be a very, very awful story.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ten Statements--No, Wait, Eleven!--About....CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)

"I think I will show this to Dr. Rubik..."
"General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons but are won by men. Our goal is to create the greatest army in history. But every army begins with one man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier. We are going to win this war because we have the best men. And they, personally, will escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell."


What? You want more? Okay...

2) Once again--the strength of Marvel's movie projects is proven to be finding the right person for the job, giving them a general idea and getting the hell out of their way. Joe Johnston, who proved he knew his WWII period adventures with The Rocketeer, is allowed to just go crazy and create a balls out action epic with a strong character core...

3) ...and that core could not have worked without Chris Evans--who once again proves he's a better actor than people think he is by taking a low-key approach to playing both Steve and Captain America. What's more important, he stays low-key, so that we get a sense that Steve Rogers is still Steve at his core, even when he's slinging that shield around and kicking Nazis in the chops.

" guys...I know you're making faces behind
my back...."
4) Another small but significant thing about Johnston's work--he doesn't shirk from the fact that this is a war movie, and as such, is unapologetic about the fact that Cap does kill.

5) By turning Bucky into a peer of Steve as opposed to a teen, it both sidesteps the idea that Cap dragged a kid into war zones, and opens the door for a Winter Soldier down the line. Similarly, I love how they simply folded Cap into the Howling Commandos, thus sidestepped the whole Chaykin caused mess of Nick Fury living into his old age intact.

6) You know...I wonder if somebody could take Hayley Atwill and somehow digitally replace the mannequin who played Emma Frost in X-Men First Class...because that girl knows how to work an accent.

7) Much like Spider-Man 2, the script by Christopher Markus and Stephen Feeley does something comics didn't back in the day--it gives us a better sense of Dr. Erkstine and gives him a fatherly relationship with Steve. And given the chemistry between Evans and Stanley Tucci, that relationship works even better.

8) Another great bit of chemistry is the one between Hugo Weaving and Toby Jones as Armin Zola. I just wish Jones didn't disappear at the end of Act Two, and that we somehow got a glimpse of him in a simile of his grotesque TV Head form.

"Why yes...yes, you may touch my manly chest."
9) I'm impressed with the fact that so many of the stunts seem to be practically pulled off...or are some combination of practical and CGI that strengthens both elements...and since Johnston is one of those guys who believes you need to see fights as if, you know, you're seeing a fight, there's very little of that stupid shakey-cam.

10) Man...can we add Neal MacDonough to the list of Actors Who Were Born To Play Their Marvel Characters? His Dum Dum Dugan is just uncanny.

11) Yes...yes, I marked out when I saw The Human Torch...why'd you ask?

Overall...this may very well be my favorite super-hero movie of this year, a pure action film with a lot going for it. Hell, this is right up there with the first Iron Man in my rankings....a fitting capper to the whole Avengers plan...

I went to Kips Bay today, and not counting the trailer for The Avengers that ran as the after-credits scene, there were seven trailers including the first one for The Amazing Spider-Man that pretty much left me with no opinion, the same boring one for the Tiny Bourne-espqe Abduction, an equally bland one for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which has ceased to convince me to see it even with added Simon Pegg, and the one that did work for me--namely, the one for The Adventures of Tintin, that peaked me interest even before it revealed that Stephen Moffat wrote it. I also had to suffer through part of the FirstLook, including an awful promo for the ABC series Once Upon A Time, which doesn't even bother to hide the fact that it's stolen whole from Fables, and the 'unlike anything you've seen before (unless you watch Mad Men) period series Pan Am...which at least has Christina Ricci in a tight stewardess uniform.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE FOURTEEN 'Mars Vs. Mars' (2005)

But Veronica...he can't be eeeevil...he's cute!
"I know all of this because I have done everything I could to get to the truth... including using you and I'm really sorry about that. But I-I used you, then fell for you, not the other way around."

1) the middle of one of the more compelling aspects of the overarc, we get the icky teacher/student sex episode.

2) No, seriously...Thomas at this point has so many balls in the air--the Lynn Echolls disappearance, the mystery illness of Duncan, the Koontz motivation--that throwing in this rather ordinary done-in-one adventure that kinda sorta covers a lot of the same ground in regards to the Keith/Veronica relationship as 'Drinking The Kool-Aid' is just...well, pointless.

3) Leighton Meester, who plays accuser Carrie Bishop, prolly would have gotten a lot more credit for her nuanced, unflinching performance if she wasn't contrasted with the near-saintly portrayal of Adam Scott as Mr. Rooks. Contrasting the two inadvertantly hides how good she is by allowing us to relegate both performances to the bin of 'Black and White Perceptions Are Always Wrong.'

4) For me, the most interesting aspects of this episode are the ones involving Logan and Veronica's investigation into the last moments of Lynne Echolls. It's obvious that Thomas has set up a situation where the two characters have echoes of each other...and yet, Dohring is able to still be his problematic, dangerous, borderline self-destructive self while still managing to generate some understanding and sympathy in the viewer. It makes the slow progression these two characters are making toward a full-on-relationship not only acceptable, but compelling.

I am almost afraid to caption this photo...really....
5) Okay, the whole boobytrapped safe gag--and the scene between Veronica and Keith afterwards--was funny ("You're patronizing me?" "Well, to be fair, I am your patron.")...but it seemed like an awful lot of business to get to that moment. And to have Keith cave so easily and provide Veronica with info regarding Bishop's diary makes it all seem so...unnecessary. You know, like this whole A plot.

6) Wow...I am amazed that they were able to get some of those racy lines between Veronica and Weevil through. Especially in an episode about sexual harassment...If you ever fantasized about Kristen Bell referencing Deep Throats and rin jobs, well....

Boy, Leighton...sorry you got your performance
trapped in a whole 'don't judge a book' cliche'd
7) I know I already talked about Meester's performance, but I wanted to point out how cool it was that once Veronica does her 'I'm sorry' speech, she doesn't automatically get all huggy and 'it's okay.' She still keeps Carrie a bit of a bitch, and only a slight shared smile when Mr. Rooks makes his exit indicating there might be a change in their relationship.

8) If there is one thing that might be removed, it might be the Duncan Kane subplot aspects--although, to be fair, advancing the Duncan plot advances the Koontz plot, and leads to the show's kick-ass final scene.

9) What makes elevates this episode into a much watch? Two scenes...first, the final discovery of Lynne Echolls fate, done in a darkened classroom. And it's not the reactions to what they see that makes this scene work--it's that the two people Logan has to rely on in this moment of pain are two people he is antagonistic toward--Veronica and Weevil.

10)...and second, the final scene where Veronica confronts Abel Koontz with 'what she knows,' and we see how good both Bell and Clemenson are as actors...within a matter of moments, the emotional tables are turned, and the person who ends up devastated is not the person you expected to be.

Overall...while the A plot stinks on ice, covering ground already covered, those two subplots and the punchlines they lead to knock this episode out of the park. Ignore the A plot and just bask in what lies in between.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ten Statements About....TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Episode One 'The New World' (2011)

I don't know...I'd almost bet on Gwen Cooper kicking Sarah
Conner's ass in the Sci-Fi Mom Sweepstakes...
".First I knew they were calling from the morgue, they were laughing. They said, 'what's happening up there, you all on strike?' Turns out no one had died. 24 hours since this hospital had a death. Not one. Not from old age, not from injury, not from sickness. All day long."

1) I have a really, really bad feeling that Mekhi Phifer's Rex is going to never rise higher than being The Ugly American. Except for a couple of moments (one of which we'll cite below), he's so broad in his 'fuck Wales, fuck everything, I'm the man' attitude that it takes away from the flow of the story.

2) God, how I missed the interaction between Eve Myles (still looking hot-but-approachable) and Kai 'The Jason Segal of Wales' Owens. Those two, and their interactions with the other supporting cast, have always been the secret weapon of this show, and seeing them still having that divine chemistry is a joy. Even if Davies has decided to Sarah Conner the both of them....

3) What's more annoying that someone saying the name of a movie in the movie? Several people saying the name several times over the space of ten seconds...just like when you have everyone mention know, 'cause this is about Torchwood, right?


Get used to this face...'cause this is pretty much the only
emotion Mekhi Phifer is allowed to have.
4) Jesus Christ...I feel so sorry for Bill Pullman, who is a good actor, playing this thoroughly one-dimensional monstrosity. He seems to be in this season for much the same reason Billy Connolly's charcter was in that awful X-Files: I Want To Believe--giving him this extraordinary status solely so that Davies can have people rail at him for being a child-killing monster and make everyone in the show seem better for disapproving of him.

5) I do give Davies credit for having the courage to keep Captain Jack offstage until the twenty minute mark, and not playing him right away in a positive light. Hell, I know the history of the character and even I found his first appearance here borderline creepy.

6) I'm beginning to think that Davies strength is not characterization--because I find almost all of his characters broad and ill-formed, lacking any sort of subtlety--but his ability to spot people who have the right qualities, both alone and in concert with others, to bring those characters the depth he in incapable of giving them. Seeing John Barrowman's Captain Jack interact with Alexa Havins' Esther Drummond brings her character--up until that point a very bog standard innocent bystander--to life, and gives both of them the same sort of vitality that Gwen and Rhys have.

7) Okay, that autopsy scene? Veeeeery creepy, and helped by the very quiet cutaways to Mekhi Phifer's reactions to what was going on. It's prolly the high point of the episode.

That blur at the bottom?  The single creepiest thing in this
8) I know I talked about her above...but God, I hope the greater distribution of this will show the world what Eve Myles is capable of, and get her more work. Lots more work. The scene with her parents, where she goes from comedy to tragedy seamlessly but logically is brilliant.

9) Admittedly, the idea that the one thing that puts fear in Captain Jack is the fact that he can be injured is pretty cool.

10) The final action sequence that brings our cast together again? Pretty. Damn. Choice.

Overall...this thing seems to be a step down from the nearly pitch perfect 'Children of Earth, and suffers from an extreme need to remind us over and over about what this series is about. It smacks a bit more of Season Two, which was uneven but got better as it went along. I'm not ready to throw up my hands and walk away just yet, but I'm not exactly

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ten Statements About....BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

"Yep...I'm you're villain, and I'm a with it...."
"Aldo will make the future--with THIS!"
"Well then, Aldo may very soon be in the past."

1) There is just something pure-D weird about John Huston's voice coming out of an ape's mouth...although I suppose if anyone is going to be Lawgiver, the central figure who is diefied in Ape society, we can do a lot worse.

2) Even though I am sure the budgets were cut on the last two movies, this is the first time we've seen it onscreen. The make-up is stiffer (in some cases, like with Claude Akins' General Aldo, you can see the actor's skin behind the masks), the sets look thrown together and the music...ouch. Instead of the subtle, witty and sparingly used music of previous entries, this one has a truly obtrusive, bombastic score.

3) The problem with the make-up being said...I find it fascinating how McDowell--prolly due to his tenure with the series--is able to make those masks move in such a way that you can see Caeser thinking and working things out in his head. He's the one actor who makes his status as a primate believable.

4) Imagine my pleasure at seeing Sevren Darden's Colp--now Governor of the mutants of L.A.--giving a performance that's somewhat different from the one he gave in Conquest, this one with a touch of humor and weariness that gives his character added depth. And even though he is one of two unreasoning villains in this film, the way he literally cannot bring himself to say 'Los Angelos' brings a tiny bit of pathos to him.

"Yes, I'm a mutant and I still have my hair...but this goggles
and swim cap combo makes me look suave, damnit!"
5) It took me a little bit of time...but I actually found myself warming quite rapidly to Paul Williams' Virgil. It makes me wonder what kind of career as an actor he would have had if he pursued it more vigorously and looked for more than films where his height made him a bit of stunt casting.

6) Yeah, the script by John and Joyce Corrington is clumsy in a lot of spots...but I respect that these two manage to avoid one-siding this situation. There are asshats in both camps, and there are decent individuals who argue for not aggravating the first contact between ape and mutants into all-out war.

7) While he's no great shakes as an actor, I give Bobby Porter a lot of credit--his Cornelius is the first ape actor in this series who actually behaves physically like an ape. Just like McDowell's facial movements, the way Porter swings and shimmies through the trees to spy on Aldo's men convinces us that he is a primate and not a boy in a suit.

"Why would we write Hamlet if it's already...oooooh, okay."
8) Look--those silly swim caps made sense in Beneath because you could say they were part of the masks that the mutants used to conceal their true form. Here they make the mutants look like they're stumbling around looking for the short bus.

9) The film would prolly have been strengthened if Aldo...well, if he wasn't such a dumbass. If they allowed this character to be a little more scheming (somewhat like they allowed Tim Roth to be as Thade in the Burton version) and not have things go his way by literally stumbling through his own mistakes, a new level of richness would have been brought to the story.

10) While I did appreciate the implication that by their actions, Ape City has broken free of the oroborous that results in Earth's destruction...what the fuck is up with that crying statue? That's just dopey.

Overall...a decent, if not great, close to a series that, in retrospect, kept a pretty damn consistently high level of quality.

(Oh, and after watching these five flicks--Roddy McDowall is The Man)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE THIRTEEN 'Lord Of The Bling' (2005) threatening, Mr. Anderson...
"How did you guys find me?"
"Whoever did this was either really dumb or really smart. You're really smart."

1) Usually I would hate this...but I liked how the script very subtly worked a reference to the title song of the show in this episode about the music business.

2) Strangely of the weaknesses, though is the casting of comedian Anthony Anderson in the role of 'Bone' Hamilton, an obvious stand-in for notorious rap producer Suge Knight. Anderson is simply too nice, not fierce enough to be as threatening as he is supposed to be in this story.

3) Since we are now over halfway through the season, we're going to see some situations where the A Plot is going to dovetail into the season's overarc...and this is what we get here, as we learn more about what went down with Logan and Lilly as Veronica delves into finding Jowharah Jones' Yolanda. Less and less is going to be wasted as the primary goal of this part of the season is to wrap everything up just in case the series ends after this one story.

I'm trying very hard not to think about what this still, umm,
instills in me...
4) Now that we are in the post-Lynne Echolls part of the season, there's a real shift in the relationship between Logan and his father. We see in their scenes here how Logan has become the dominant one, and is milking it for all the psychological pain its worth. It's another example of how Jason Dohring knows what he's doing when it comes to his character.

5) The real prize, acting-wise is Jermaine Williams, who plays Yolanda's brother Bryce. His performance is fairly nuanced and clever and--save for a really awful final reveal--ends up coming off as much more three-dimensional as some of the other A-plot specific characters we'll meet both in this episode (I'm looking at you, Sam 'Dime Bag' Sarpong) and in later ones.

6) This is the first time since 'Drinking The Kool-Aid' where we've seen the Mars family working together again, and damn does it feel so much better after three episodes of limited Keith-and-Veronica Time....

7) There's a real interesting scene between Logan and Duncan that not only sets up the next major development in Logan and Veronica's relationship, but also sets up the cliffhanger for this episode. While this is not the first time we've had a cliffhanger for an's going to be an increasingly common development.

Jason Dohring takes command of his story arc with his father
right here....
8) Yep...gotta agree with you, Kristen...not scrawny at all.

9) You'll notice that this is another A Plot where the solution is something that is not tragic or fact, it's quite hopeful. It makes me wonder if some of the resolutions of the A Plots in Season Two are more tragic as a reaction to this.

10) You have to wonder just how rough Keith gets with these offscreen bail jumpers, since in the last few episodes he's had a black eye and a bad back! This is one tough character, I'll tell you what.

Overall...even though we've got a rather unconvincing client, this is a great episode that tightens up the two streams of the show while also getting the overarc running overtime.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

Is there a more iconic shot in modern American western cinema?
"We're not gonna get rid of anybody! We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be! When you side with a man, you stay with him! And if you can't do that, you're like some animal, you're finished! We're finished! All of us!"

1) You know--even as someone who's primary fame has been in horror, I've rarely seen an opening sequence quite as disturbing as this film's moments with a group of smiling children torturing scorpions by dropping them into a mass of ants and then burning them. It echoes not only Bishop and his crew's final fate...but in retrospect puts a sinister face on one of the film's general themes--namely, that all men, even cruel ones like the Wild Bunch, yearn to be innocent like children again. Transposed against these children....well, we have our doubts.

2) On BiTD, I've made comments about how Peckinpah and Leone shared a lot of credit in changing the face of the Western. Here's another thing they share--a love of faces. The opening robbery and gun battle (which, let's be honest, would be the climax of most other westerns) is frequently punctuated by reaction shots of townspeople wincing in horror at all the carnage. and speaking of carnage...

3) I don't think anyone pays as much attention to the aftermath of carnage as Peckinpah. The sequences of T.C and Coffer wandering over the streets filled with bodies arguing over who shot who first and who gets to keep which boots emphasizes the banality with which this extremely violent world is treated.

There's nothing quite so intimidating as William
Holden with a machine gun.
4) While there literally any bad performances in this film, my favorite has to be Ernest Borgnine's Dutch. There's something in the way he uses that toothy smile of his where you're not sure if he's enjoying himself or anticipating the fun of slitting your own throat. Plus, the genuine friendship he has with Holden's Bishop is palatable and alive....

5) Here's something Peckinpah shares with another great genre filmmaker of the 60's and 70's, George Romero--namely, the fact that in this film the Wild Bunch fucks it up for themselves. All the mistakes they make are made because they act against their instinct and attempt some degree of honesty and fairness. It's not killing the one straggler after the initial robbery that dooms this crew; it's trying to help Angel even after he violates one of Bishop's direct orders.

6) I know a lot of people claim Peckinpah's world is a man's world...but it's not. It's an individual's world. Notice how every time a part of an official institution--the railroad, the military, etc.--tries to do something, they are thoroughly incompetent, unable to compete with Bishop's crew. And the only person who has a chance to capture the Bunch--Robert Ryan's Thornton--is literally hamstrung by the group of goofuses the railroad forces on him.

That this is the moment that seals the titular bunch's doom
is all the more amazing given Borgnine's performance.
7) Reason This Film Could Not Be Made Now #58: no Hollywood studio nowadays would allow the moral ambiguity of Dutch leaving Jaime Sanchez' Angel with Mapache. They would make Dutch fight to keep him right there and then, which would kill the whole third act's conflict and dull the impact of the final gunfight (of course, the final gunfight would end with at the very least Bishop and Dutch triumphant and still alive for a potential sequel, so....)

8) We hear Bishop say 'Let's Go' throughout the film...but we do so to set up the final time he says it, just before the remaining Bunch head off to their fates. Holden is such a great actor and infuses those two syllables with so many different emotions in that moment--sadness, weariness, acceptance--that's it's positively chilling.

9) When I was younger, a lot was made of Peckinpah's overuse of slow motion. Watching this now, I can see that while there are some slow motion moments, it's used sparingly. However, Peckinpah uses some tricks--like bisecting a single action with a quick cut away to stretch out the moment--that makes us think he's using slow motion.

10) It's very deliberate that the two people who do survive this film are the two who have shown a capacity to adapt--Thornton, who adapts to becoming something of a lawman to escape prison time, and Edmund O'Brien's Sykes, who adapts to become a cook so he's useful to Bishop long after he's too old to fight. When they ride off with the rebel troops, it closes the book on the West Bishop and Dutch thrived in...driven home by Peckinpah's choice to freeze frame the final image and pull away from it as it morphs into a still photograph. essential film if you're at all interested in the development of the Western, a film that is so known for its violence that people forget the emotional depth and nuance that is its true strength.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ten Statements About....SLAMMIN' SALMON (2009)

In some cultures, stuffing a fish down a man's throat is a
sign of friendship and respect...not here, of course...
"I am so sorry, but her soup face scared the shit out of me. My voice is not that high."

1) This is the first Broken Lizard film not directed by Jay Chandrasekhar--Kevin Heffernan helms this one--and there is a definite disconnect here, partially due to Heffernan suffering from First Director Anxiety. He throws in so many different fancy tricks and transitions that it sometimes distracts from what is usually the strength of a Broken Lizard film...namely the characters and the performances.

2) I am relieved that Michael Clarke Duncan, an actor I fear is slipping into R. Lee Ermy syndrome (you know what I mean...playing variations of the same character in perpetuity), actually gets to do something lighter than he usually does. I wouldn't say he has a talent for comedy, but his timing is really good and he comes off well...

3) For that matter, so does Lance Henrickson, of all people, who plays a funhouse mirror version of Dick Wolf and does show the kind of talent for comedy those of us who are fans of his always suspected he had in those rare moments of Season Two of Millenium.

4) Given that Jay Chandrasekhar has the biggest career of this group, and could insist on better treatment, I have to give him so much credit for being absolutely fearless in taking the most embarrassing roles for himself. I don't think he's gone through a film since Super Troopers where he hasn't had some form of extreme indignity thrust upon his person--you know, like being featured bare assed through large portions of this film....

"Now I want you to drop and give me twenty decent jokes...not
the crap you're spouting in this movie!"
5) I do wish that Erik Stolhanske had moved forward a lot earlier to play the bad guy. Granted, he's a douche from the start, but so are a number of characters, and given the film the Lizards chose to spoof in this film they needed a clearer cut villain to work against.

6) And speaking of the film this was designed to's obvious fairly early on that Slammin' Salmon is supposed to be a comedic version of Glengarry Glen Ross...except that it gets lost in other things, like the increasingly gross mishaps that befall April Bowlby's Mia or Chandrasekhar's Nuts becoming 'Zongo' once he's off his meds, and loses its focus in the last forty minutes or so.

7) Another first time director mistake Heffernan makes is in making his own Rich into a central character--to the point where he has the major climatic beat when he stands up to Duncan's Cleo Salmon. It might explain why the film comes off as disjointed at times. Maybe if some of Rich's character traits, like his being married to Salmon's sister, were distributed to others, the film wouldn't seem so unbalanced.

Yep...'cause nothing says a good time at the movies than a
hot blonde with severe 1st degree burns...
8) I guess we can add Colbie Smolders to the list of actresses I actually find quite attractive and engaging as long she's not playing the role everyone knows her you just get in line behind Olivia Wilde, dear....

9) You know, I wonder if the film would also have benefited from having many of its cameos discarded. I mean, I guess it's flattering that Viveca A. Fox or Morgan Fairchild or Jim Gaffigan wants to be in your doesn't necessarily mean you need to use them all in the same film and give them all storylines.

10) With that being said, I do like how Will Forte's little-longer-than-a-cameo story played out...prolly because it ties in directly to the resolution of the film's A plot.

Overall...this is not the worst Broken Lizard film--let's be honest, they could do a film about them crapping on paper plates and it'd still be better than the reprehensible Puddle Cruiser--but it is unfocused and meandering, tending to get more involved in its side stories than keeping its eye on the main tale. I still will watch anything this group will do, but it doesn't make me laugh as hard as Super Troopers or Beerfest.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ten Statements About....CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

"Monkey See, Monkey Gon' BLOW YOUR FACE OFF!"
"How do you propose to gain this freedom?"
"By the only means left to us...revolution."
"But it's doomed to failure!""."
"Perhaps...this time."

1) Gotta say...I love how alien '1991 North America' looks, even though this one--like the one before it--must have been shot with existing locations and borrowed props to save money. It doesn't look too far from our world, but it does look different.

2)The script--like Escape, by Paul Dehn--displays a lot of subtlety. The way certain elements are introduced into this world is slow and almost, for example, when we see Aldo, as Zira mentioned in Escape, saying his first words, we don't even notice it at first.

3) More so than when he played Cornelius, Roddy MacDowell is very smart in his performance as Ceaser. You definitely get the sense though his facial movements and body language that this Ape is constantly thinking, taking in the horror around him and processing them until he comes up with his own philosophy.

4) Since this series has been very comfortable with its position as a metaphor for race relations, the script goes full bore for the slavery card. Whereas in other series the scenes of apes being disciplined might seem exploitative, here it just stirs our indignation...prepping us for taking Ceaser's side once the revolution comes...and the fact that so many of the guards in charge of Ape Education are black only makes for a touch of irony.

"So you're saying in two thousand years, we'll ALL be
wearing snazzy jackets like that?"
5) It's totally understandable why Richardo Montalban's Armando has to die--his death is another brick in Ceaser's road to rebellion--but it's such a shame. Even here, where Armando is older and less bombastic, he brought a great deal of zest to that first half of the film.

6) If there is one problem, it's that Don Murray's Governor is, much like Ursa, a cardboard, one-dimensional villain. His blustery, over the top performance lacks the nuance of previous baddies in the series, and we never get the sense that he genuinely believes in what he's doing. It makes the film a bit one sided in a series that has managed to be rather multi-dimensional.

7) On the other hand...Sevrin Darden's Inspector Colp is absolutely wonderful. Never raising his voice, keeping every statement conversational, and yet keeping two steps ahead in the game, he's an excellent villain...and maybe should have been the main one. I can't help but think what a stronger film it would be if Colp was manipulating a weak Governer to achieve his goals.

8) Just has the first film's world had echoes of several cultures, so does this one--although the Nazi Germany and pre-Civil War south are fairly obvious ones, the most significant one is Ancient Rome...after all, just like in Roman Times, it is a Ceaser who burns down the old world....

You just know this isn't going to end well for the humans....
9) I think it's very smart that the ape rebellion incorporates some of the tactics we saw the apes use in the first two films. It's that level of detail that creates a real sense of continuity in this series as a whole.

10) You know...I didn't realize that Natalie Trundy, who played Dr. Branton in Escape, was playing Lisa. It's a real nice echo, and as with the element cited above, helps create a real consistency between these films.

Overall...a very good entry in the series that helps cement the oroborous nature of the whole cycle, it manages to bring the whole racial metaphor to a logical conclusion, paving the way for the sheer goofiness of the final entry....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE TWELVE 'Clash Of The Tritons' (2005)

Yes, Kristen...I will call you...once you cancel the restraining
"I don't want to talk away my grief. I want to turn it into something else--fuel. I know how I'll feel better, and it's not be talking about how sad I am."

1) A lot happens in this episode--but what is arguably the most important thing is the furthering of Logan Echolls' character arc. The script by Phil Klemmer and Aury Wallington uses the events of 'An Echolls Family Christmas' to give Logan some echoes of the problems Veronica has faced after Lily's death...thus positioning himself a little more to the point where he becomes an ally (and a bit more) in the season's third act.

2) And Logan isn't the only one who gets some character advancement--Francis Capra rises to the challenge of giving some more dimensions to Weevil when he reveals his affair with Lily to Paula Marshall's Rebecca...his acting here proves that the real secret weapon of this series was some truly smart casting.

3) The funny thing is that The Tritons, the secret society that is the subject of the episodes' A plot, are built up to be Really Bad Guys, that facade is torn down...and then they literally disappear. We hear nothing more about them until a surprise reappearance at the end of Season Three, where they once again are Really Bad Guys.

The funny thing is, two of the people in this photo are going
to get reaaaaaal close soon...
4) I know we haven't brought up the soundtrack in a while...but I really, really love how at key moments a riff from 'Army Of Me' comes lumbering out of the speakers as a counterpoint to the intrigue on the screen.

5) Okay...I'll admit it...even though the sequence gets a lil' too public access music video, the sight of Kristen Bell (who has a background in musical theater) swinging that ponytail while belting out 'One Way Or Another'

6) This is the last appearance Marshall has as Rebecca James this season--she does pop up for an episode in Season Two--and here she's used very effectively, as a stand-in for Veronica, interrogating characters who will end up being suspects in Lily's murder. Of course, perhaps the most effective moment is when Logan reveals to her exactly why he hates Veronica so much....

7) And speaking of the Echolls family...we get some major movement in defining this group of characters (Hell, there's a blink-and-you-miss-it mention of Trina, who will show up soon in the person of Buffy's Alyson Hannigan)...and it's hard to place which moment is the best--Logan threatening his dad when Aaron vows to ruin Lynn...or Lynn's rather ignoble but subtle exit from the series, leading to the episode's last haunting image. I've said it before--I don't care for Lisa Rinna as an actress, but on this series she did some great work.

Funny...they don't look like evil masterminds...
8) You know...this episode really drives home how much I missed Percy Daggs' Wallace--for the first time in a while he takes his position as Veronica's Watson, and makes it work something fierce.

9) Conversely, having almost no Keith and Veronica Mars moments--while it does allow other characters who have been underused, like Cliff and Vice Principal Clemmons, room to strut--drives home how much that relationship is vital to the show. I missed seeing Bell and Colantoni interact, and I think the episode suffers a bit for it.

10) I appreciate how Thomas and crew seem to find different ways for Veronica to have her final reveal for each episode...this episode's rather fun scene in Sheriff Lamb's office is particularly amusing.

Overall...some really choice bits throughout make this an above average episode...and I'm not saying that just because we get to see Bell getting her go-go on.....