Monday, October 31, 2011

Ten Statements About....PET SEMATARY (1989)

Denise Crosby...scarier live or undead?  Discuss....
"I'll bite, Judd. What's the bottom of the truth?"
"Well, sometimes dead is better. The person you put up there ain't the person who comes back."

1) I don't care how nice she acts, Denise Crosby always looks sinister...which I guess is appropriate for this film, huh?

2) Boy, does Dale Midkiff's Louis come off as a douche, even when he's trying to be nice. I suspect that's not so much the character but the way Midkiff affects this very level, flat monotone when acting that makes it seem like that.

3) Thank goodness for Fred Gwynne's Judd. While he is as understated as both Crosby and Midkiff, Gwynne does give the film a certain texture and life when he is onscreen. And the thing I find the most fascinating is how you never know Judd's true motivations--whether he introduces Louis to the MicMac burial grounds out of genuine concern for his new friend...or something darker.

"You need to commit sui--no, wait...that was the other movie."
4) I wonder if King had intentionally created Brad Greenquist's Victor to reflect the role Griffin Dunne had in An American Werewolf In London...because I can see the parallels very clearly.

5) While I don't think Crosby sells the speech that accompanies it very well, Rachel's revelation about her sister's death is probably the most harrowing sequence of the film. Not only because it's one of the rare times we see emotion in both Crosby and Midkiff, but because the make-up effect used to depict Zelda literally makes her into something strange and alien and yes, nightmarish.

6) I find it interesting how, even with its R rating, director Mary Lambert uses great restraint when dealing with Gage's death. The way the brief glimpses of the aftermath of the acccident give way to a succession of snapshots from Gage's life and the tasteful way the funeral scene is handled (if I remember the book correctly, Gage's body actually falls out of the casket during the scuffle between Louis and his father) makes us feel for the life that was lost and not dwell on the horror of his death...for that's still to come.

7) The scene between Judd and Louis after Gage's death, where Judd reveals why 'Dead is Better,' and conveys his own fears that he might have put things in motion that led to Gage's death, illustrates more than anything how different Midkiff and Gwynne are as actors. There seems to be genuine feeling in Judd's voice as he tries to dissuade Louis that leads logically to his breaking down in the end, whereas Louis retains that same even keel, that same baseline that doesn't waver. Maybe Midkiff felt he was trying to convey how Louis was dead inside emotionally, but since he doesn't waver from that same note throughout the film, we get no sense of the change in the character's outlook.

8) I like how, during the sequence where Rachel decides she needs to come back to check on Louis, Lambert does several compositions where that creepy portrait of Zelda--with a black cat that resembles Church at her feet--towers over her, as if to remind us of how in this film's world, screwing with death and the dying has its consequences.

Apparently, Gage likes to play rough...terminally so...
9) That succession of scenes at the beginning of Act Three--Rachel's nightmare about Zelda, the optical effects trying to scare Louis into turning back, the fading and reappearing Victor--really seem weirdly out of place given how low key the film has been up until this point. It isn't even a sign of things ramping up, as we're back to more subtle scares sans special effects once Gage comes back.

10) The thing that makes Back-From-The-Dead Gage so truly terrifying is that yes, he's a malevolent entity, but still with the mindset of a young child who doesn't comprehend life and death yet, someone who probably truly believes that slicing up old men and former Star Trek: The Next Generation actresses consitutes playtime...which makes his admonishment of 'No fair,' when Louis gains the upper hand a degree of unease.

Overall...although it does suffer quite a bit from dating with time and a pair of central performances that needed a bit more life and nuance, this is still a more or less restrained adaptation of a King novel...and still may stand as one of the better ones.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ten Statements About....PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

"Let's do The Time Warp Agaaaaaaaiiin!"
"I've got a message for you, and you're not going to like it."

1) You gotta give credit where credit is due--I think Carpenter's choice of Victor Wong as his Professor Quatermass manque was brilliant, as it helps obscure the fact that what he's doing is an unofficial Quatermass movie. I think most people would have expected Donald Pleasance to play the academic with the knowledge that could shatter the world....

(Of course, if you don't want to tip your hand, you shouldn't write the film under the pen name of 'Martin Quatermass'...but we'll get to that towards the end of this entry)

2) It's not his pornstache that makes Jameson Parker's Brian a character we're inclined to dislike--it's his distant line readings and his stalkerly behavior toward Lisa Blount's Catherine. After experiencing such plucky and larger-than-life heroes in Carpenter's cv as Jack Burton and Snake Plissken, Parker's underplaying of his character grates. But then....

As a results of the horrible events of this film, Jameson
Parker suddenly realizes he's saddled with the worst pornstache
3) Catherine is such an odd character herself, very mercurial and far too analytical. She's just as off-putting as Brian....which leads me to conclude that this is one of those movies where the main characters are voids.
(But we'll get to that towards the end of this entry)

4) I don't think it's intentional, but the fact that the demonic forces seem to be primarily homeless people and women makes the politics of this film seem rather icky. All the jokes about male chauvinism and the scene where two of the men beat up and defenstrate a possessed female colleague don't help dispel that impression, either.

5) And speaking of those homeless people/zombie types (lead by Alice Cooper)...I really wonder if they were necessary. They smack a little of Carpenter's perchance for second guessing himself, an element he added after the fact to allow us more kills and icky maggot shots.

The true mission of our heroes is to protect the
world's ugliest lava lamp...
6) Yes it sometimes comes off as forced, but I actually appreciate Dennis Dun's Walter quite a bit. His exasperation at being literally forced into a closet and desperate attempts at levity--more to calm himself than to get a reaction out of the female possessed waiting outside--manages to amuse me.

7) It's not the gooey make-up that makes the ultimate version of Susan Blanchard's Kelly's possession work--it's the strange, twitchy body language she develops that makes her seem like a particularly spastic, excitable child.

8) I will admit that some of the psuedo-science makes an odd sort of sense, especially the fact that the liquid nature of the creature allows for it to take over other organisms easily as it's absorbed into the body. But a lot of it seems made up at the spur of the moment, especially the whole mirror thing that occupies the last fifteen minutes of the film.

9) The sad thing about the ending, which teases that Brian has gone through a similar transformation to the one Kelly went through, thus allowing him to break into this mirror dimension to retrieve Catherine, is that the combination of the lack of chemistry between Parker and Blount and the curious nature of their relationship serves to deprive us of any sense that Brian is capable of trying this, or that he's motivated enough to try it.

10) While Carpenter doesn't indulge in the clip shows Brian DePalma inflicts on the public in the name of high art, the 'winking references' in this film are thoroughly over the top. Besides the Martin Quatermass stunt, Carpenter names characters after writers John Wyndham and Dennis Etchinson; has Brian make reference to transferring from Kneale University, named after the creator of Quatermass; names another character after B-Movie actress Susan Cabot; and even names Donald Pleasance's priest Loomis, a reference to his character in the Halloween series. It ends up being more distracting than surprising.

Overall...I keep getting the impression this is a film I should like, but I've watched it several times and I never get over the fact that it lacks coherence and ends up being a bunch of crazy crap that seems to happen with a slew of scientific argle bargle designed to conceal that fact.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ten Statements About....ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

One of the greatest reaction shots in movie history...
"He has his father's eyes."
"What do you mean? Guy's eyes are normal!"
1) This film is right smack dab in the middle of Polanski's suspense/horror period--and much like similar films like Repulsion, What? and The Tenant, Polanski starts building the sense of unease with tiny, near-subliminal touches during Guy and Rosemary's initial visit to the Bramford. After all the strange glimpses of workmen seemingly working on nothing, the cracks in the hall and the likesuch, I'm surprised they're willing to take it...especially after Maurice Evans' Hutch gives them that gruesome catalog of stuff that happened within. But then, you all know what my friend Derrick says about white people and haunted/evil houses...

(and incidentally, after this and The House On Haunted Hill, I'm convinced that if Elisha Cook is showing you a

2) You know, I always knew that Farrow would give good paranoid with the best of them...but I never realized how well she did the before of Rosemary, how she was able to convey how engaging the character is at the beginning of the ordeal. This just emphasizes how truly far she falls once everything goes off the rails--an emphasis given sharper relief by the hints we see in her dreams that there was always something of a desire to keep everything in order in her from an early age.

You know, if you meet a couple over the body of their
just-suicided boarder...they're prolly not good best
friend material.
3) I love how Rosemary and the Casevets are, at their core, doing the same thing when they interact with Guy--namely, reflecting back his own desires and thoughts, feeding him a continual line of what they think he needs to hear. It makes the deal Guy makes--or that Rosemary thinks he makes--all the more plausible.

4) The genius of the dream sequence is how Polanski spends so much time with stuff that is obviously a dream--the whole thing with the ship and Hutch and the like--that when we get to the stuff that might not be, like creepy naked old folks preparing Rosemary for her date with The Devil, we don't question it. Hell, even when a wide-eyed Farrow tells us flat out that this is not a dream, we don't accept it as fact.

5) I really like how the only person who behaves in a creepy and suspicious manner is Guy--which is why I think John Cassavetes was perfect in the role. I think that if they had cast someone more, well, movie star handsome we wouldn't buy him being so squirrely...which means that Guy wouldn't serve to throw suspicion off of the true monsters of this film.

6) I know there has to be some form of make-up involved...but My God, does Farrow sell her physical changes through her body language and even the way the timbre of her voice subtlely alters every time she improves or worsens.

7) Reason why this film could never be remade #1: the fact that, crazy dream sequence nonwithstanding, we never see anything overtly supernatural happening. This keeps open something that Polanski wanted open (and something that seems to have been an obsession with him during this period)...that it's all in Rosemary's head, and this conspiracy of witches is something she creates to justify her condition. If it was remade, you know we'd have lots of scary shit going on and CGI spooks a'bounding. And speaking of which...

The worst thing about these satanists is how...
reasonable they are.
8) Reason why this film could never be remade #2: Every one of the members of the conspiracy in it behaves so damn normally. This creates an ambiguity that modern Hollywood would just not let stand.

9) Because this film is so claustrophobic, confined for the lion's share to just that one apartment building, it actually serves to make the few outside shots seem alien and strange, even the ones of landmarks we recognize.

10) What makes the final sequence so unnerving is how Polanski gives us a variety of reactions to Rosemary discovering Adrian's existence. The fact that Roman and Minnie treats her with such reverence and respect allows us to come to our own decision about what our heroine ultimately decides...and no matter what she does decide, it's not good.

Overall...a masterful, excellent film that can be looked upon either a paranoid thriller or a creepy, subtle horror story that is made even more amazing by the uniformly great performances from everyone--especially Farrow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS (1987)

I know European women are supposed to be hairy, but
"What you need is a smoking gun."
"What I need is a werewolf holding a smoking gun."

1) As if it wasn't apparent from such previous entries on his cv as the woman-raping human cicada epic The Beast Within or the super-hero musical parody The Return of Captain Invincible (which features Christopher Lee singing and dancing his way through a bartending chart), Phillipe Mora is not a person who plays by the rules...and Lord, does this film bear this out. Who else would look at this franchise and think, 'this would be perfect for my marsupial spy/romance/satire'....

2) That being said...the opening of the film, which features anthropological footage of a group of aborigines posing before a female werewolf they had just tortured and killed, the black and white slowly fading into full color, is truly disquietingly surreal.

3) While I will admit that female lead Imogen Annesley is very sexy, I was more intrigued by the performance of Dagmar Blahova as the Russian lycanthrope Olga. It's not because she is attractive--she isn't--or that her dialogue is convincingly delivered--it isn't. It's because she has such a weird physicality that she brings to her role, especially when she's in the transitionary state between human and animal, that you can't take your eyes off her. The way she snaps her teeth and contorts her face is far more convincing than the low budget werewolf masks that other people are saddled with.

Boy, some of these at-home pregnancies
go horribly wrong....
4) Boy, if you're going to base your werewolves on a specific species, I can't think of any animal more nightmarish that the Tasmanian Wolf. The way, judging from the film footage shown in the movie, that animal was able to open its toothy mouth so impossibly wide is insane....

5) There is such a demented sense of kitchen-sink-edness to this film, as if somebody is whispering in Mora's ear, 'How about we try this?' This is a film where it seems like the orientation changes every ten minutes, which oddly enough gives it an insane sort of energy that drives it forward. However....

6) The film grinds to a total halt roughly the moment we find out that Max Fairchild's Tylo has called down this legendary werewolf spirit to destroy the military contingent sent out to annihilate the remaining werewolves. The fifteen minutes before the end becomes a meandering, sputtering group of disconnected scenes that shows that no one had an idea how to end this movie. You could easily lop off the last ten minutes and not miss anything significant.

7) And on a related note--it rings false that some twenty years passes in that fifteen minutes, and the fact that the low budget demanded a major plot development is reduced to a big gout of expository dialogue only makes that final act a real soporific.

"Yeah, well...I went native, opened an organic bakery,
joined a commune...the about you, Bill?"
8) Let's be honest here--the special effects are pretty much uniformly awful. The little marsupial baby in particular is wince-worthy. Luckily, the film is so lunatic in its plotting, fearlessly dropping stupid idea after stupid idea into the pot that you can overlook much of the lame animatronics and rubbery masks.

9) I rather like how this film gleefully has its aboriginal guide character back away very suddenly from the expedition when it realizes this werewolf spirit is on the hunt, advising people how slowly they're going to get et if they don't turn tail and run.

10) I can understand the reasoning behind why a key scene with Barry Otto's Beckmeyer interviewing Thylo suddenly switches from film to videotape, but the abruptness of the changeover and the length at which the video portions go on blunts the impact.

Overall...yes, it's a dumb, dumb movie I cannot possibly defend on many levels. But the severely demented nature of the plotting creates an energy and sense of fun that draws me in every time. If only they truncated that last section...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ten Statements About....STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

You may think it sounds silly, but trust don't want
Arthur Newman coming to get you....
"Shouldn't have brought the dog in the first place."

1) Even though it is a stand-alone story, this second collaboration between director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon apparently is intended to be a thematic and tonal sequel to their previous Strange Behavior, down to having the teen stars of the previous film, Dan Shor and Dey Young, in scenes that bookend the film.

2) Boy, Paul Le Mat's Charlie Bigelow is a goofy looking hero, even if he's got a certain quirky charm that fits with the film's tone.

3) I really have to wonder if Nancy Allen was cast as the female lead primarily due to her slight resemblance to Diana Scarwid, who plays Bigelow's ex-wife. It would certainly explain why Allen's reporter Betty Walker and Bigelow get so cozy so quickly...

4) There's a strange fairy tale feel to the first act and part of the second...and it's not just because the denizens of Centreville seem to be eireely frozen in 1958. It's small but obvious touches like the fact that the plane Charlie takes home to New York is devoid of any passengers save for him, or the presence of a small, whitish-blonde boy in the cavernous office of Charlie's mentor at Columbia for no reason. It helps create a sense of unreality that allows us to buy into the recreation of classic drive-in sci-fi we're immersed into in the second half of the film.

Is it just me, or do these alien look like they suffer from
perpetual migraines?
5) However...the second Charlie, Betty and Louise Fletcher's Mrs. Benjamin arrive in Centerville to investigate the disappearance of Charlie's wife, the film seriously loses its focus. We never quite get a handle on these aliens and why they've been hanging around Earth for the last quarter century, or why they're going home, or why they've gone all in with their 50's personas even when they know the culture has changed, or why they've been transforming people into these weird blue balls of electricity, or any of the fifteen other questions the first half of the film raises.

6) While the creatures are pretty cool--they're highly reminiscent of the Lectroids from Buckaroo Banzai only mired in goo and muck--they come off the most effectively while in disguise. Kenneth Tobey, who plays de facto alien leader Arthur Newman, and Fiona Lewis, who plays the world's most aggressive Avon Lady, come off the best due to the way their line readings somehow.

7) And while there is nothing nearly as squirm inducing as the injury to the eye gag in Strange Behavior, the way the aliens convert their human victims into Blue Glowy Balls is pretty effective, as they seem to literally dehydrate and shrivel away into nothingness.


8) I got the impression that the aliens were going to turn out to be some form of insect, especially given how much is made of Charlie's profession as an etymologist. But we never find anything out, and made me wonder how Charlie was able to mate with one of them and produce a daughter.

9) Given the somewhat impressive mothership in the opening and closing sequence, the interior of the spaceship is a little warehouse-rific, innit?

10) I like Wallace Shawn and June Lockhart and Mark Goddard as much as the next person...but their presence here adds nothing. It smacks of the oft-rumored meddling that Orion Pictures made in the film's production.

Overall...not as effectively bizarre as Strange Behavior by any means, and with that frustrating drop in coherence at the halfway mark, the film still has a degree of charm. It certainly makes me wonder what would have happened if Laughlin and Condon had continued their collaboration with their planned third film, The Adventures of Philip Strange.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ten Statements About....DESCENDANT (2002)

"The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world."

1) You know, I didn't buy Jeremy London as a slacker palling around with Banky in Mallrats. What makes you think I could buy him as a disturbed writer charming enough to romance and bed the conflicted Ann (played by Katherine 'I Have A Stupid Face' Heigl) and clever enough to murder several people without anyone figuring it out?

2) But London's squirrelly performance as Ethan Poe/Usher is key to why this film simply doesn't work. This is a film where every male character save for the doctor played by William Katt (who co-wrote and co-directed this mess off of producer Del Tenny's story) is just fucking insane. There's no way any of the three leads are a viable prospect for Ann--not Ethan, not the town deputy with anger issues who seems to stalk her, and certainly not her brother who is either trying to bed her or burn their house down.

3) It also doesn't help that Ann is one of those characters who is written in such a wispy way that she seems to have no life outside of the scenes she's in. There are a couple of lip-service like moments where we see Ann working on a statue because she's a sculptor but other than that she lives out her days wandering her house and allowing Ethan to have his way with her.

4) And while we're on the subject of Ann as an unbelievable heroine--the woman sees fit to overlook multiple scenes of her live-in boyfriend having very heated arguments with an imaginary version of Edgar Allen Poe and doing some impromptu remodeling of the basement. I mean, is she that hard up for male companionship that she refuses to see what a wack-a-doo Ethan is?

5) Apparently, in the world of this movie, people are capable of surviving being bludgeoned to death and subsist for several days without bleeding out. And as much as I liked Whitney Dylan's Lisa (the only character remotely close to a normal character in this film), I find it hard to believe that she was able to survive mummification and being walled alive for a similar time frame.

6) Since this movie revolves around descendants of Poe (never mind that, to the best of my knowledge, Poe's family line ended with him), the script seems to delight in providing us with visual and dialogue shoutbacks to the more famous Poe the most hamfisted way possible. I'm sorry, but having Ann shoot someone while yelling 'Nevermore' is, ummm, dopey.

(And on a related note, the obsession this script has with incest--not only does Ann's brother want to fuck her, but there's a full-on romantic kiss between Ethan and the woman we learn later is his mother--is just icky.)

7) And apparently, 'The Fall of The House of Usher' was journalism, not fiction. Who knew?

8) Boy, is Matt Farnsworth, wait...everyone is pretty much awful.

9) You know, for a film made in 2002 and released on video in 2003, the film has a particularly skeevy 1990's Skinemax feel, right down to the two or three scenes that seem to be there solely so some woman can bare her breasts so Katherine Heigl doesn't have to. Which is odd, given that the last time producer Del Tenny put a movie together, it was the 60's.

10) Every time Arie Verveen shows up as The Ghost of Poe, it's winceworthy. It's like all of a sudden we end up in a dinner theater production of 'An Evening With Edgar Allen Poe,' only with overtly-made-up women and gore effects.

Overall...a true mess of a film that prolly only has any sort of cachet because of Heigl's inexplicable success several years later. Incoherent, graceless and slow, it's a film so bad I'm not surprised no stills exist for me to display.

And for the record, the only reason I watched this is because it was on the same disc as Roman; my 10 Statements can be found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE TWENTY-THREE 'Leave It To Beaver' (2006)

By the end of this episode, Lily will find some peace...
"You wanna know something about Joan of Arc, Veronica? God didn't really talk to her. Oh, no, it's true. I saw it on TV, you know, on one of those historical forensic programs. They decided she had a brain turmor. Burned alive. What a waste. She thought her death meant something, but all it meant was she was crazy."

1) This is it--the big season one finale and what was at the time, in Rob Thomas' mind, the series finale. Once again, a lot happens and it might be hard to keep up with all the balls in the air--but knowing what I know about Season Two, I can't help but seeing the role Kyle Gallner's Cassidy has in the way the story develops indicates that Thomas knew where he wanted to go if he got that renewal, and knew what sort of a person Cassidy was...

2) Of course, other loose ends needed to be tied up, and the resolution of the one involving Veronica's paternity allows Thomas to give us a scene that speaks volumes of the Veronica/Keith relationship. The way Bell unhesitatingly signs away her right to pursue legal redress against the Kanes says more than fifteen pages of dialogue could about the strength of that familial bond.

If you just went through what Keith Mars did for his
daughter, you'd be on the floor unconscious, too...
3) I've spoken in praise of Kyle Secor's Jake Kane before, and I'll speak again--the scene where Jake finally breaks it to Duncan that in his mind he killed Lily shows a remarkable passion. It once again proves that Jake didn't start out the cardboard villain he ends up by Season Three.

4) Perhaps the cleverness of this script is how Thomas just piles up the case against Logan in such a way that it compels Veronica to locate the one piece of the puzzle she's missing...which leads to her and Duncan discovering that the murderer was not Logan, but someone one step removed from Logan.

5) There's something truly, wonderfully creepy about how, when the moment of revelation happens, Thomas has the tape paused at a moment where it looks as if Harry Hamlin's Aaron Echolls is looking right at the viewer, a smirk of contempt on his face.

6) Incidentally, this episode--to the best of my knowledge the only one that ran without the opening credits while it was on UPN--has its own theme song, 'Bad Boyfriend' by Garbage. This song plays at several key times in the show, specifically during the final act's confrontation between Veronica and Aaron (and Logan and Weevil)...and, like the Dandy Wharhols song, acts as a de facto Greek Chorus.

He may look inocuous, but Cassidy
will prove to be something
truly sinister next season....
7) I really like the whole horror movie vibe of the whole Veronica/Aaron battle. Director Michael Fields keeps to a blue-and-black color palette, and choereographs everything as if Bell unwittingly stepped into a slasher movie, complete with an old house in the middle of nowhere and a villian who seems capable of the Jason Teleport.

8) The only thing that freaks me out more than the way Aaron has trapped Veronica in a fridge and tries to burn her alive? The trap the villain gets Veronica in next season.

9) You wanna know how convincing an actor Enrico Colantoni is? Not only does this balding, short and goofy looking man convincingly engage in a vicious fight with the larger and more physically fit Harry Hamlin which manages to wreck and entire backyard, he also walks literally through fire to save his daughter and crack wise as he's being sent to the hospital without us once rolling our eyes.

10) Now given that Thomas had not expected the show to be renewed (it may still hold the record as the lowest-rated drama to be renewed for a second season, and was the only new UPN show to survive into the 2006 Season), he expertly wraps up everything quickly. And while the resolution of the Lianne Mars storyline is prime hardboiled fiction, the true wonder is the final bit of magic realism that has Veronica unwittingly witnessing Lily's passing on to the afterlife. It's an ambiguous ending, but a magnificent one. excellent wrap-up of Season One that would have provided the few fans who watched it that first year a satisfying conclusion...if only UPN didn't have other plans for the show.

Next time we begin the Second Season--the last one before UPN is liquidated and becomes part of the CW--and talk a bit about why there really was a second season.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ten Statements About....SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN (1951)

"Don't make me play 'upsy-daisy' with your ass."
"It's men like you that make it difficult for people to understand one another. You were warned nothing would come of this but trouble."

1) This is the pilot for the George Reeves Superman series that was released theatrically, and I marveled at how close-to-intact that series open was, with the still of Reeves-as-Superman fading into the still of Reeves-as-Clark and back. The only thing that seems to be missing is the narration and the distinctive theme.

2) Boy, Phyllis Coates is hardcore film noir in her portrayal of Lois Lane here. I almost expected her to take a couple of baddies down when she bars the entrance to the hospital.

3) It's interesting how it seems like the Reeves Superman barely tries to keep up his Clark Kent disguise. The one moment where he basically says that if he doesn't know where Superman is, no one does could only be more overt if he did the shirt rip in front of her.

4)...but then, that's sort of keeping in tune with the Superman we see here, who seems a little too self-confident, almost superior, in the way he interacts with us mere mortal. Hell, there are moments where he's downright smug.

"Look, Supes, we appreciate your help and all, but
if you're not going to put our pal down, we gotta shoot you
with the coffee urn of radioactivity..."
5) I know this is the only time where we get to see Reeves take off, but I'm almost grateful--that one moment seems a little goofy, especially given the way Reeves seems to sway a bit as he's lifted up off the ground.

6) Far more effective is the way the films goes to a POV shot during the sequence where Superman flies over the town to intercept the maddening crowd. It's a low-tech, but effective way to convey this super-power.

7) I know that these Mole Men were just short people in--I dunno, monkey suits? Bear suits?--with the head off and a special unibrowish mask on, but these three performers make the most out of their screen time. I'm particularly struck by the way the initial two have this sort of loping side-to-side walk that makes them seem animalistic and alien. And one of the performers manages to wring some emotion from the otherwise emotionless masks during the lengthy chase through the brush that is one of the main action sequences.

Because nothing says heroic quite like a cartoon Supes
rushing to catch a dummy dressed as a Mole Man...
8) I'm really surprised at how much the Silby authorities seem to rely on Clark/Superman and Lois for guidance. They take their advice so much that you have to wonder what they do when a crime occurs and there are no East Coast reporters around to give them a clue.

9) Boy, that moment where one of the village mob, in an effort to get his hands on a weapon, pulls a barber pole off the wall, is unintentionally hilarious...and director Lee Sholem holds on that moment for what seems like forever!

10) I know I said it before--but man, there are moments when the Reeves Superman isn't afraid to be a dick. The moment when the main bad guy has his moment of clarity and tells Supes 'you saved my life,' his 'It's more than you deserve,' is positively dripping with contempt. You could not possibly see the Christopher Reaves Superman deliver a line like this.

Overall...a short sprint at 57 minutes, this is actually a pretty effective little B-movie I could see on the bottom part of a double bill. It's also pretty effective as a set-up for the television series as it existed during its second season, with its hardass Supes and Lois getting involved in serious situations as opposed to the goofiness that became the series raison d'etre in other seasons.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE THING (2011)

The quest for something hotter than Mary Elizabeth
Winstead contines....
"Not all of us are human."

1) I am beginning to suspect that it is impossible to make Mary Elizabeth Winstead look less than glowing...but then, I suspect no one on this film wanted to make Mary Elizabeth Winstead look less than glowing.

2) I give the production a great deal of credit for utilizing cues from the original Enrico Morricone score at key points in the film.

3) Unlike the Carpenter version, this film is filled to bursting with characters--in addition to Winstead's Kate, there's about a dozen Norwegian research scientists, the scientist who hires Kate to come with him and oversee the extraction of the creature, a group of heliocopter pilots, and some people I honestly didn't know why they were around. Because we have so many characters, we don't get a handle on many of them, so there's no sense of them as humans so we can't get all paranoid about them becoming Thing Clothes.

Yep...entertainment is hard to come by in the Antartic...
4) I will admit that the test Kate comes up with to determine who is human and who is Thing Clothes is pretty clever--or at least it would be if they didn't drag out the dubious wire-in-the-blood test Russell's character comes up with in the Carpenter version only to have it wrecked by The Thing. While there are a couple of clever shout backs to the Carpenter version, a couple of them only draws you out of the picture and go, 'hey, let's go watch the good version.'

5) Let's get this out of the way--the Thing is done primarily through CGI and this version of the creature is just too busy. Not content in doing one or two illogical things in depicting its monster, this version does a wild mishmosh of disparate elements that makes it hard for the eye to follow what's happening. With all the tentacles and teeth and claws, it's just gross instead of scary. There's nothing near the head-with-crab-legs gag of the Carpenter version (although there's an arm-with-anemonae-like-tendrils that comes close) in terms of sheer fear-making.

6) And while we're on the subject...there's not a lot of logic to which character ends up as Thing Clothes. One particular gag involving the only other female member of the cast simply makes no sense because there's no moment when she has contact with the alien cells. On the other hand, the one person who seems to be primed for Thing Clothes Status, Ulrich Thomsen's Sander--who insists on taking a tissue sample of the Thing and mucks around in its entrails--isn't revealed as such until the climax.

I call this piece...All Messed Up....
7) And speaking of the climax...there's no reason for it to happen at the place it did. The only reason I can think for director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. to place the final chase there was because it was one of the few things the Carpenter version apparently had no interest in visiting. But since all we get are digital lightshows...what's the point?

8) That being said, I have to admire the very dark ending. Admittedly, it doesn't match the absolutely perfect Carpenter ending, but the implication of what Kate has done due to her own paranoia is more disquieting that any of the waving tentacles and rows of teeth are.

9) I really wish that the script hadn't made Sander so much of an asshat. It lessens the whole paranoia aspect of the movie--and let's face it, the whole point of this version of the Thing is paranoia--if there's already tension and a lack of trust between people. And because there are good guys and bad guys in this film, the paranoia comes off as forced most of the time.

10) You know, the film makes such a big deal at first about being a period piece--a title tells us this takes place in 1982, we first meet Kate as she's grooving to Men At Work on her headphones--and yet once we get up to Thule Base, the script and the filmmaking is extremely mired in contemporary time. Hell, you should have seen how I rolled my eyes when I was treated to shakey-cam during a mass-conference scene debating strategies for dealing with The Thing.

Overall...this is not an awful film...but it's yet another one that just sits there, a piece of product designed to keep us from falling asleep for ninety minutes and change. If only the script had seized on some of the things that made it look like it could be promising and not get mired in all the Husker-Du-ing and contemporary troping...

Back at The Atlas--and they're still having projection problems; look, if you're going to give us just the audio track of the Regal Firstlook, why not forgo playing it as a whole and let me sit in my seat and listen to my podcasts. Not a lot of newer trailers--perhaps the only one that made me take notice was another viewing of the Liam-Neeson-Punches-Wolves-In-The-Head Survival Epic The Grey.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This is the aftermath to the most devestating scenes of
Season One...
"What did you realize was so bad? What did you do?"
"I slept with you!"
"But it was consensual, right?"
"Then what about it was so wrong?"
"CAUSE YOU'RE MY SISTER! And I knew it."

1) This episode and the next effectively act as a single, long season finale. As such, this episode goes at a fairly fast clip. Just look at how many threads get touched upon or tied up in the pre-title sequence--the Missing Duncan plot, a brief reminder that Weevil is back in play as a suspect, a general tightening of tension across the cast--all to keep this Rock o' Revelation rolling down the hill.

Yes, the big solution is coming up...but that doesn't stop
Rob Thomas from continuing to keep us suspecting his
2) ...and since this is the finale of this season (and, I suspect, the show in Rob Thomas' mind, as the ratings were iffy at best), we get to do a little tour of some of the more memorable characters of season one. Of course, it's to the credit of writer Diane Ruggerio that she chooses only those character that make sense for Veronica to approach--so we see Alona Tal's Meg, Jonathan Bennett's Casey, Sam Huntington's Luke, Leighton Meister's Carrie and...most importantly...Amanda Noret's Madison Sinclair. Sinclair and Meg will be back next season, but some of these others get fitting farewells.

3) There is a scene between Bell and Colantoni at roughly the ten minute mark that changes the tenor of the Veronica/Keith relationship...and what I like about it is how it's done in a very even, quiet way--and yet there are blows landed, blows that hurt. I have frequently praised the chemistry between these two, and this is another magnificent example.

4) Here's something, though, that I find kind of funny...even though, as we'll see, Thomas and co. were assuming this was the show's one and only season, that doesn't stop Ruggerio from planting seeds that will grow into the central mystery of Season Two...that conversation between Veronica and Cassidy may just be another rung of the ladder to solving one of the two major mysteries of this season now, but wait until next year's revelations, where this scene is put into an entirely new light.

5) It is interesting how, even though the episode's flashback more or less create a linear narrative, Ruggerio still creates a sort of Teen Beat version of Rashoman with some of the fiddly bits--but then, an argument could be made that one of the discrepencies shores up my theory that Thomas had the ultimate role one of the characters takes in Season Two in mind right from his inception, and this little lie in his account is an indicator that he is Someone Not To Be Trusted.

Lo, look upon the Face of Vengenace and despair...

6) And the big narrative flashback chain comes down to this brutal scene--Veronica outside Duncan's house, confronting him and having to deal with the horrible truth...that it wasn't rape, it wasn't a crime, but the extenuating circumstances have turned it into a godawful memory for the both of them. If you took this scene out of sunny San Diego and plunked them down in some black-and-white film from the 40's, you'd have prime film noir, and both Bell and Dunn rise to the occasion. It's one of my favorite scene in this season for just how gut-wrenchingly nasty it gets.

7) And from that we go to this sweet, nice little scene that drives home the friendship between Veronica and Wallace...and sets up one of the big cliffhangers down the road. There is a sense of Wallace's character arc reaching some sort of closure (after all, the next episode is pretty much a three hander) and allows Percy Dagg to shine for a moment.

8) I find it fascinating how, even as we close in on the Big Revelation of Lily's Killer, Ruggerio manages to plant a little seed of misdirection, giving Duncan a big spazz-out moment to remind us why he's been a suspect all season.

9) The sequence where Veronica discovers the secret recording set-up is truly creepy, taking advantage of the multiple viewpoints and switch from film-look video to the cheap, grainier video of the VCR to drive home the ickiness of the discovery.

10) And here's the one development that I think falls a bit flat--namely, the final scene appearance of Lianne Mars as the cliffhanger. After all the high emotional scenes and the whirlwind race to resolve the rape storyline, having Corrine Bohrer pop up just seems...anticlimatic.

Overall...a cliffhanger that falls flat aside, there are some truly amazing scenes which show the supporting cast for the top notch thespians they are...and this is just the beginning of the high-powered suspense we're about to get into.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE FADES EPISODE TWO (2011)

Forget all the gore-smeared monsters in this show...this
gal's the scariest thing in here...
"Your sister was naked?"
"Well, the important thing was that she was dead."

1) I give this show credit for coming up with a fairly unique way of doing the 'previously' pre-credit recap. By making it a sort of video diary from Mac, we not only get a more flavorful recap, we get a definite sense of the show's voice right off the bat, so we can decide if it's for us or not.

Of course, considering Mac continues to be a second rate Xander dropping random pop culture references, I wonder if new viewers might choose the 'not for us' option.

2) Was it wrong of me to wish that the sight of a dead Anna meant we wouldn't have to deal with Lily Loveless' tone-deaf acting this episode?

(Sadly, I did not get my wish, and the world is poorer for it.)

3) Given the girl on the toilet last episode and the rather protracted incest riff in this one, I have to really wonder if writer Jack Thorne perceives this as the kind of humor that'll appeal to an American audience, or if he's just really, really, really peculiar.

4) The sequence in the orphanage may very well be the first thing this series gave me that doesn't smack of Whedon. Yeah, it's all a set-up to get us to another Giles-like character, but there are touches--the ghost Natalie and her bi-polar attitude toward Paul, the way Niel communicates with his now-dead mentor by writing in his hand, each letter remaining as a burning after image for a second--that seem to indicate the series does want to become something other than British Television's nineteenth Buffy rip-off.

Yeah, there may be ghosts/monsters hanging around Paul,
but asking him to talk to a girl?  THAT'S scary....
5) You know what I like about Sophie Wu's Jay? Yeah, she's obviously meant to be the romantic interest for Paul, and Wu doesn't bring anything interesting to that role...but the style sense of the character, with her penchant for what appears to be psuedo-60's modwear implies there's a story there, a reason why she is going to end up standing with outsider Paul as opposed to the more conventional Anna other than the script needs her it makes her stand out in the sea of chav-wear that is the show's school-set sequences.

6) Okay, first the pissing, then the incest, now necrophilia? I'm willing to call it--the humor on this show is waaaay too icky, and must go.

7) Admittedly, another thing that sort of works is how there are sequences that feature some of the now-dead cast members walking along with their loved one, playing silent witness to what's going on in the real world. One scene in particular, with the dead Sarah following her husband home and witnessing his bedding of another woman, is made all the more atmospheric by the way Natalie Dormer's expression never changes; it's as if the director is inviting us to read our own impressions into Sarah's face.

8) Okay, Johnny Harris' Neil is growing on me. I find it fascinating how Harris is creating a sort of tension between his rough look and his attitude. You get the impression that Neil wants to be a gentle, kinder teacher but doesn't have to tool set to ease this kid into the job he has to do. It's another sign of the show wanting to move away from its Whedon-esque remit into something more original.

Apparently, these ghosts get their
special effects from the same place
Time Lords do.

9) Every time I think the series has found the right track, emphasizing the subtle as opposed to the overt (the scare scene involving the mangled soccer ball was particularly impressive), I get dragged back into the belief that there's not many good ideas in the show's head. After emphasizing the show is about ghosts for an hour and change, it brings in this new angle that makes the Fades into not-quite-zombies, and it's back to following trends.

10) I don't care about the ghoulish, red-eyed, pakour-ish ghosties that are the bulk of the creatures in the series--Natalie is proving to be the scariest thing within. Jenn Murray's body language gives her a sort of personality that's one half impish and one half fucking insane. I want to see more of this actress.

Overall...there is some improvement in the show, as it struggles to gain an identity separate from the show the BBC wants it to emulate. Whether it ultimately succeeds lies with whether it can step out of the shadow of Joss Whedon and into a more nuanced and subtle style of storytelling.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ten Statements About....CABARET (1972)

Don't stare directly at him...he could very well be The Devil...
"You ever slept with a dwarf?"
"Once, but it wasn't a lasting relationship."

1) You want proof of how different Hollywood was in the 70's? Here's a woman with pasty skin, a large sloping nose, too-wide eyes and a weird propensity for singing and/or talking literally out of the side of her mouth...and yet, she's not only presented as the sexual center of the film--she's downright sexy.

2) As someone who is familar with both the theatrical version of the musical and the stage play upon which said theatrical version is based, I found it fascinating that the film hews much, much closer to the stage play--whole plot threads that were cut from the musical are restored, and aspect that were glossed over (including Brian's implied bisexuality) are confronted head on.

3) As good as both Liza Minnelli and Michael York's performances are, the most fascinating performance remains Joel Grey's as the Master of Ceremonies. In another context, this character would be a true horror--there are moments you can almost see the MC as something supernatural and sinister (hell, there's a musical number where Grey is in drag where he comes off like Dr. Frank N. Futer's father). Of course....

Trust will believe this awkwardly put together
woman was a sex symbol at one time.
4) An argument can be made that, beyond a certain point, Grey is a figment of Brian and Sally's imagination. Since Fosse has used the musical numbers to comment on the action, about halfway through the film he has the Master of Ceremonies slowly, subliminal intrude on the action, popping up for a second or two in key scenes to leer directly into the camera as if to mock our heroes for allowing themselves to be seduced into a lifestyle they may not want.

5) What impressed me is how Fosse turned what is, at its core, a very static show (when you boil it down to its essence, Cabaret is mainly a movie about people in rooms having tea and pretending to be things they know they aren't) into something cinematic by allowing the camera to move with the characters. Every time a character moves, the camera follows them, giving you the sense of being in the room with them.

6) Elaborating forward, I find it intriguing how Fosse choses which character to follow in the scenes. In some of the more ingenious set-ups, Fossee changes which character he has the camera tracking when the dynamics of the conversation changes. When someone gains an upper hand in an argument, the camera switches its focus to them.

7) The only time the camera isn't moving is when we're confronted by evidence of Nazi violence. Fosse either creates still life tableaus, or utilizes very quick cuts to make us think we're looking at still photos of the violence.

And from another angle, they look like an urn...
8) The only musical number that really feels like a musical number, 'Tomorrow Belongs To Me,' is fascinating in its choreography. The way Fosse doesn't reveal that the soloist is a Nazi until we're sucked into the song, and the way the faces of the people who slowly join in seem to get uglier the moment they decide to add their voices is masterful.

9) The brillance of Minelli's performance as Sally Bowles is how she seems to be the human equivilent of an onion. When she's at her most deceptive, she's weighed down by make-up and artifice, and she struggles with being truthful when she done up to the nines (as witnessed by her attempts to comfort Maria Berenson's Natalie). The more of the artificiality she strips away, the more genuine she becomes, and the more honest she is able to be with those around her.

10) I wonder if Minnelli's last musical number (which I think was one of the number written especially for the film by Kander and Ebb, but I'm not sure) was shoehorned in at the end to lessen the dark and bitter edge of the actual end. If it was, I do think it's one of the film's few failures, as the whole point of the story is to emphasize how the frivolous attitude many people in Weimer Germany allowed Nazism to gain hold; if they had remained with the Master of Ceremonies' closing monologue followed by the pan into the distorted reflection of the audience, now dominated by Nazis, I think the point would have been made more effectively.

Overall...a really good example of the 'new school' of musicals that became prevelant in the late 60's and 70's before the genre went dormant for a while, ably supported by a number of excellent performances.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


He wears a stetson now because...well, because it suits his
new direction.
"Something has happened to time. That's what you say, what you never stop saying. All of history is happening at once...but what does that mean? What happened? Explain to me in terms that I can understand. What happened to time?"
"A Woman."

1) Two minutes in and I don't know what has floored me the most--the sight of balloon assisted cars floating over London as a steam train emerges from that Faberge'-Egg looking building whose name I can never remember; seeing Simon Callow, who was so wonderful in 'The Unquiet Dead,' reprising his role as Charles Dickens on a TV chat show...or discovering that Moffat somehow got Meredith Viera to do a guest spot! Russell T. Davies made up an American television anchor--Moffat got the real thing!

2) You know...the stetson really suits Matt Smith's face, as does this version of the Doctor, who is something of a lone gunslinger tracking down the 'man' who's sworn to kill him before he himself is killed. I think he needs to keep the hat into season seven.

3) Cannibal skulls...ewwwwww....pretty gross idea even if we don't see the actual gore of them eating that guy.

4) Once again, just as in 'The Big Bang,' we see how Moffat uses props and visual cues gleaned from previous episodes this season to move the story along much quicker than it deserves to be...and considering how he looked further away from the end this season than last, those short cuts are welcome.

5) The moment where the passing of Nicholas Courtney was acknowledged--subtlety and kindly--blindsided me. A wonderful moment that recognizes how big a part this man, and his character, had in this series.

It's an eyepatch..shooting a gun...
I want to marry this girl...
6) I love how Smith plays off of Ian McNeice's Churchill, and it's fitting that he becomes the 'companion' for this episode, as we know that in the real timeline he's aware of The Doctor's nature, and is smart enough to piece together what's going wrong.

7) Oh. My. God. I'm in love with James Bond Amy...sorry, Amelia....

8) Would people be pissed at me if I said I would love to see the Doctor having adventures on this weird Mish-Mash World? It just seems so unbearably cool.

9) The brilliance of the solution to the quandry of this season? It was right there out in the open. We just never considered it until it's waved right in front of our nose. This is why I will always prefer Moffat to Davies--Moffat understands that the satisfaction comes not from the surprise itself, but in the way we see behind the curtain when the surprise is sprung.

Just to remind you...this is pure nightmare fuel...
10) I like the implied new status quo of the show--with this, Moffat has managed to smoothly pull The Doctor away from the 'superhero and messiah for our age' mode that Russell T. Davies put him into and placed him firmly into the mode he was in the classic enigma wandering the universe from the shadows, quietly operating as a universal spanner in the works of evil....I almost wish we see him operating on his own, or with some short-term companions ala' Tennant during the 'Specials Season' two years ago.

In short....after a shaky season with some even shakier individual episodes, Moffat once again ties things up neatly and with flair, answering some questions while leaving some open and, it is implied, giving this Doctor a new direction. Bravo, Mr. Moffat. Bravo.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

BRAVE VIEWED WORLD 2011 Edition Week Two

Welcome to Week Two of our little journey...not as many pilots as last week, obviously, but since I never got around to viewing one of the two pilots I had intended on watching last week, I've just moved them up here. And, to make up for the noticeably shorter segment, I'll be following on whether I'll be continuing with the shows I decided to give a second chance to.

Oh, and a programming note--my VCR messed up, so I did not get to see Charlie's Angels. From what I can tell from reviews, I am not missing anything.

Enough with the administrative. Let's get to it, men...

Person of Interest: Wow...

Now this...this isn't in the CBS Crime Drama Mode. If anything, it has significant echoes of that classic Edward Woodward suspense The Equalizer--only filtered through equal parts cyberpunk and the Christopher Nolan playbook. Hell, it shouldn't be surprising given the show was created, and the pilot was written by brother Jonathan, that all the weird obsessions Nolan seem to have--voyeurism, perceptions, probability--are front and center.

The first Odd Couple style duo kicks ass...

The concept is that in the wake of 9/11, enigmatic millionaire Finch (Michael Emerson) creates for Homeland Security 'The Machine,' a predictive protocol that is supposed to anticipate potential terrorist activity. However, Finch is haunted by how The Machine seems to predict mundane crime as well...and has hired haunted ex-federal agent Reese (Jim Caviezal) to investigate the people the Machine predicts may be a 'person of interest' in a future crime so he can act as either a guardian angel--or an avenging one.

This show moves at a terrific pace, and the strange interplay between Emerson and Caviezal is compelling...and the real great thing is that this almost works as a halfway cross between a spy flick and a super-hero series; Reece even has something of a uniform in his black shirt and blue suit. The only thing that seems like an unnecessary appendage is Taraji P. Henson, playing a cop investigating Reece; her only purpose seems to be there to advance an overarc where Reece is a person who may have done very questionable things in the past.

I was engrossed in this story from almost the start, and this one will have to really go off the rails for me to stop watching.

Pan Am: Or 'We Want Some Of That Mad Men Money, Too.' Watched because I was promised Christina Ricci in one of those too-tight 60's era stewardess uniforms, I suspected this might be a disaster from moment one because it's trying to do what Mad Men does without all the sex and political incorrectness broadcast television is thoroughly incapable of doing....

"See?  We're retro!  RETROOOOOO!"
And, not surprisingly, artificiality is the order of the day, beginning with that virtual Pan Am terminal that serves as the main backdrop to the series. This series is in love with its virtual set technology...and since the CGI is sort of half-assed, especially when it comes to the helicopters and airplanes, we're always reminded that these are People Playing Dress Up. And that's what it is, because at its core this is a standard soap opera with standard soap opera storylines (someone sleeps with a man who didn't tell her he's married! Someone is involved in political intrigue! Someone has run away to escape her domineering family! Someone breaks off their engagement for mysterious reasons!) that hopes all the namechecking of early 60's stuff to convince us this is something more. Even the beatnik, politically involved character Christina Ricci plays doesn't spout any platitudes that couldn't be spouted today by some Emo college student.

Prime Time Soapers is one of my least favorite television genres. The reason Mad Men works for so many is the sense of their 60's as an alien land with different rules and mores'; visiting the world of Don Draper is no different than visiting Middle Earth in a way. This show does nothing with its setting, thinking that the setting is enough to make it unique...which is why I won't be back.

Terra Nova: Has Steven Speilberg ever had a successful television franchise? Okay, granted, they've all lasted two years or so, but that was mainly because it was in his contract. As a whole, I think most of Speilberg's bids at a television come off as cold and unappetizing, like a microwaved TV dinner you forgot about because of a phone call or something...

"You damn dirty ap--DINOSAURS!  I MEAN DINOSAURS--
better keep your hands off me."
And judging from its pilot, Terra Nova is keeping with that Speilberg tradition. If anything, it comes off suspiciously like a redo of Earth II, only with the 'another planet' trope swapped out with a distant past timeline...and it bored the Hell out of me. I watched over an hour of the two-hour pilot and nothing, but nothing surprised me or intrigued me. The only thing that made me pay attention was the presence of Stephen Lang, one of the key actors from my second-favorite TV show, Crime Story, playing a character I suspect was meant to be a nod of the hat to the Planet of the Apes franchise (he's even named Taylor, for God's sake). Lang is one of those actors, like James Spader, I would watch in anything...but he's a background character and the actors we're asked to follow are, well, dull. Not the cop father, not the mother, and certainly not the three children...

(And while we're on the subject of the family...the dad is white, the mom is East Indian...and yet only the female children seems to be of mixed casting directors not pay attention to giving us a touch of visual continuity?)

I know what you're thinking--what about the dinosaurs? Well....they're CGI dinosaurs that look, well, sorta crap. They remind me of the dinosaurs we used to see in 90's shows like Sliders in that they look kinda like dinosaurs if you squint, but can never convince you they're real. And considering that one of the mysteries they seem to be setting up--figures that the one thing Speilberg picks up from modern television tropes is overarcs and mysteries--involves a possibly sentient dinosaur species, I have a bad feeling we've got a subplot ready to collapse due to bad special effects. And the other possible subplots--Taylor's missing son, a rival, less reputable faction called 'The Sixers'--are far too sketchy at this point for me to care.

Given that I have no empathy for the character, the premise, the overarc hints or the special effects spectacle, I'm not going to be back. Not even for Stephen Lang.

How To Be A Gentlemen: I did not expect to like this show, given my loathing for The American Sitcom and the CBS Sitcom in particular...

This Odd Couple style duo did not repel me as I thought...
But, God Help Me, I laughed. I found it amusing. Maybe not a new classic in the genre, maybe not the kind of sitcom that reaches the magic number of 100 that opens the gates up to Syndication Heaven...but I found

A lot of it has to do with the main characters. David Hornsby's Andrew Carlson is truly something of an anomaly, a man who considers himself one of the last of the Gentlemen--and from the opening take-off on Batman, with Carlson suiting up and explaining his calling, it's obvious that Hornsby gets this character and has inhabited it thoroughly (not surprisingly, given that he created the show). He's definitely in the 'Urban Grotesque' mode that CBS likes to hand off to the flyover zombies in their sitcoms, but Hornsby manages to make Carlson human and relatable. More amazingly is the job he does on Bert Lansing, assayed by Kevin Dillion, who could have been a true monstrosity...but has heart and a desire to rise above his limited intellectual and class means. The fact that Bert decides to help Andrew out of a need to make amends for the way he mistreated him as a high schooler indicates to me that Hornsby is interested in making something more than that mix of smug anti-intellectualism, sexual smarminess and poop jokes that are CBS' stock in trade.

The main conceit is that Carlson has become a cultural dinosaur ill-equipped to function in the modern world, and that Bert is going to tutor him on being a modern man--a sort of reverse Eliza Doolittle situation. This could have been a typical anti-urban CBS sitcom, but what rises it up above the tatt of Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls is the chemistry between Hornsby and Dillon and the fact that these two characters seem to have a general respect and fondness for each other. Their friendship seems genuine, and I feel these characters have a life outside of the thirty minutes of the episode...which is refreshing.

It's not that this show is perfect. For every good-to-great character (in addition to Andrew, I'd also add Dave Foley as his boss, Jerry, and Andrew's mother, Diane), there are some unrealistic grotesques, and Hornsby needs to work a little harder on giving his one-off supporting characters a bit more heft. But I'm encouraged by how much this show endeared itself to me, and I may be back for a second viewing.
sigh...sorry, Zoe...I must stop seeing you...
Week Two Continuations:
After a second episode even more moronic than the first one, I have dropped New Girl; the show is just too stupid for words, and there's something really twisted about the idea that the formula involves Jess being so incapable of functioning in the real world that her three roomies have to step in and stick up for her....Prime Suspect continues to dance along the wire; when she's investigating things, Maria Bello is able to keep things on an even keel. But then she's back to deciding whether to put no-slip frogs or clowns down in the shower, or once more interacting with her fiance's ex-wife (whose lack of realism makes me wonder if she wandered in from a Whitney script), and the episode lurches to a total halt. Plus that stupid fucking hat--bad fashion choices do not characterization make....

Next week--I don't know if we've got any more pilots until later this month (I am interested in the dueling Fables rip-offs), but I'll keep you appraised of my Week Three Continuations.