Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There really is no theme here night (Idol Top 9)

Hey, it’s “Top Downloads” night on Idol. What the hell will this mean? Top downloads this week? This month? Year to date? Of all time? (I just did a quick perusal of the Top 100, and thank Zeus there were songs I’d actually heard before. And that were recorded before January of this year. And that don’t have a “featuring” in their credits. Because y’all know I hate the “featurings.”).

We’re 5 minutes in, and I still don’t have a clear expectation of what the hell the catalog is from which the Idolettes will be choosing. Kara thinks there was no “artistry” in that explanation, Ryan. I guess we’ll see. On with the show.

Anoop bats lead off with an Usher song. I’m not that familiar with the song, but there is some annoying percussion going on, like someone dropped a box of forks from a third story building into an industrial mixer. He sings it passably and moves around, but that didn’t show any vocal prowess to me. Meh. 5 He also gets pissy with the judges' feedback, which certainly won’t help.

Lady Caw Caw will be singing something from Bob Marley, so I’m still in the dark about the parameters of the theme. (based on two songs, could it be “Top Downloads from Part Owners of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Famous Rastafarians?” Maybe too soon to tell). Oh, wait, Lauryn Hill did a cover of it. Anyhoo, Megan Juggsalot realizes she stank up the joint last week, and is happy to be doing a song she loves. (Did Bob Marley, or Lauryn Hill, make any bird noises in their songs? Just askin’). As TNRLM readers know, I don’t start watching until we get to the Top 12 (or 13, this year). So for those of you who did watch all the prelims, other than being cute and quirky, how the hell did Megan get this far? Cause really. That didn’t make me want to join the Fugees. Or smoke a joint. Or would that have helped? I would call Megan’s performance a trainwreck, but that would do a disservice to trains. And wrecks. Rightfully, the judges KILL her. 1

Oh BOY. A movie with Beyonce AND Ali Larter? Wonder who Kate Winslet will be handing a statue to next year?

Danny will be doing a Rascal Flatts country song (as opposed to something from their gangster rap oeuvre). He turns down the Taylor Hicks dancing, and delivers a very restrained performance; very heartfelt and moving and on key. The song isn’t particularly in my “must have” zone, but that was well done. 8

Allison will bring us No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” one of my favorite songs. She looks like a demented bargain basement ballerina, who has had a wet, painted balloon rubbed on her head too much. It’s not an arrangement that fits the song particularly well, but she certainly shows some passion for the tune, and has that great raspy quality to her vocal. She’s a little too quick with some of the lyrics, and needs to watch her tendency to power shout through the majority of the song. Overall, not bad, though, as long as I’m not looking at what she’s wearing. 6

Scott will be doing what should be a do or die song for him, and he chooses one that might showcase him at his best, Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are.” (And as for the theme? Is it getting to be just “Any Song, Ever Downloaded, On Any Computer, Anywhere?”) Despite someone giving him Greg Brady hair, I think this is my favorite performance of his (I know, probably not saying a great deal). That was definitely his best and most authentic vocal, though strangely, I thought his piano playing was a little out of sorts. If he can operate in this niche of whiskey tinged, earnest piano man, he might hang around. 7

Now we have Matt, doing a song for “him,” which is something by The Fray. Wasn’t this a promo for Lost at some point? Which only serves to make me think I’d rather be watching Lost right now, or even working out time travel mechanics on a whiteboard, than listening to this. He hits some of the falsetto notes well, but the whole thing is rather sloppy and all over the place. 4

Here comes Lil, who complains about the judges’ criticism of her previous song choices. So naturally, she picks Celine Dion. Which shouldn’t conflict at all with her tendency toward shouty bombast, should it? Sigh. What’s up the usually on point band tonight? They’re awful here, as they’ve been for most of the evening. There’s no doubt Lil has some serious pipes, but I feel like I should be heading down to the Lido Deck for the Captain’s Buffet. Let’s go play shuffleboard! Oh Christ, Ryan is interviewing her kids, reminding me again that this season should have been performed in an orphanage. Or at least added Trojan to the list of sponsors with Coke and Ford. Yoiks. 5

What kind of world are we living in, where the contestants get to choose from basically any song ever written, and SCOTT is one of the best performers so far? Maybe it is better when there’s a tight theme.

Next is Adam, who was the showstopper last week. Okay, with all the songs in the world, Adam is going with white boy frat party anthem “Play that Funky Music?” Holy shit, he does it again. He chooses an interesting and unexpected arrangement, adds some personality, and basically blows the roof off the auditorium. His vocals at every step of the spectrum are outstanding. Damn, I think he’s making me a fan. 9

Praise be, Fringe is finally coming back next week.

Finally, we have Kris in the pimp spot. He’ll be doing one of my absolute favorite songs, Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” (which of course, there isn’t). This is a really good choice for him, and he does a great job with it. For probably the first time, I’ve felt something for him, and don’t see him as a low rent coffee house crooner. Hard to take a song so indelibly performed by the original artist and perform it with authenticity and confidence, but he did it. 8.5

TNRLM Top 3: Adam, Kris, Danny

TNRLM Bottom 3: Goodbye Megan, Matt, Anoop

R.I.P. Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan

Andy Hallett, who played everyone's favorite karaoke singing demon on Angel, passed away at only 33.

Andy, along with the writers, took what could have been a trainwrecking cartoon of an over the top character -- a green skinned, anagogic, horned demon that came across as a hybrid of Dean Martin and Paul Lynde -- and turned him into one of the show's most "grounded" and "human" personalities.

Tonight, let's all drink a sea breeze in his honor.

I'll take potpourri for $5,600, Alex

How much of Lost has now been affected by a sandwich?

DirecTV will be showing some canceled series. (I loved Eyes, which I thought deserved a much longer run).

The Blade Runner ending. Deckard? Yep, Replicant.

50 great "finishing moves" from the movies.

A Lego, musical version of Silence of the Lambs? Of course. It puts the lotion in the fucking basket!!

Interview with Nathan Fillion.

Talk about a narrow built in audience. I think I'm one of the only people on the planet who remembers, and actually had and played with, this toy now becoming a movie.

A chat with Jane Espenson.

TWOP looks at BSG's unanswered questions.

The best DSLs in Hollywood. (And no, that doesn't have anything to do with an internet connection).

You know, this explains a LOT.

Matt Stafford's parents got a divorce when he was a kid. And I'm sure that led to Georgia Tech rushing for 700 yards in the second half, too.

The Suicide Girls weren't particularly enamored with the BSG finale.

10 Sexiest "Damsels in Distress?" MJ hotter than Princess Leia? And even though Spider-Man 3 blew chunks, Gwen Stacy was hotter than MJ. There's really a lot to disagree with in this list.

Still can't get enough Battlestar?
The ShamWow dude is arrested for beating a hooker. The conflict probably started when both of them realized they weren't getting what was advertised.

An in-depth analysis of and conversation about, a very underrated sci-fi remake, Solaris. I unashamedly love this movie.

Not sure I agree with the choices, but here's a list of the 25 Best and Worst TV episode titles.

Pure concentrated awesome: Vintage Dharma Ads.

The lovely and talented Alicia Witt will guest on The Mentalist. (I actually watched a painful majority of 88 Minutes on a movie channel the other day because she had a significant role. Truly a terrible, terrible flick).

io9 looks at crazy space racists!

Ron Moore's script for The Thing prequel is getting shelved
. Now, the alien no longer appears on Earth to kill and maim an Antarctic expedition because "God wanted it to."

Photos probably forthcoming from Columbus, GA.

io9 tries to sort out Terminator timelines
. Get migraine meds ready.

Pajiba checks back in on Dollhouse, and finds it lacking
. (Personally, I thought the last couple of episodes, particularly "Man on the Street," were terrific).

The "reboot" hasn't even premiered yet, and the writers are signed for a Trek sequel.

Noted comedy writer Ken Levine has found a letter Lost's Juliet has written to her sister back home.

Economic times are tough, and people are "trading down" on spirits. Is there any difference between the vodkas? (Personally, I keep a bottle of Ketel One for dry martinis, and some cheap stuff for everything else. You absolutely, no pun intended, can't tell the difference in vodkas in Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kill a chicken, kill Hitler

Lost returned to the "single character focus and flashback" format Wednesday, with another excellent outing entitled "He's Our You."

While there was nothing completely shocking in this one, save for the last couple of minutes, it did give Naveen Andrews a chance to flex his acting chops and gave us lots of time-traveling paradoxes to wrap our increasingly fried noodles around. So what happened? In a nutshell:

Lil Sayid, in a scene reminiscent of Mr. Eko's flashback, did what his brother couldn't do, and took a life. But instead of a villager, it was a plump chicken that got mysteriously thin upon having its neck snapped. All grown up and off the island, he killed a Russian dude* at Ben's behest. Once that mission was complete, Ben, on his way to a Huggy Bear cosplay convention, gave Sayid his "freedom," letting him know that all of Widmore's people had now been killed. Sayid pondered what to do with his life, since all he knew was killing. Later, after Sayid had been on the Habitats for Humanity Redemption Tour, Ben showed up again trying to solicit his services.
*the folks at Lostpedia caught this little nugget: the Cyrillic to English translation of the name on the window as Sayid leaves is "Oldham Pharmaceuticals." Not coincidentally, the Timothy Leary De Sade of the DI is also named "Oldham."
"John Locke is dead. I think he was murdered." (Emerson, as always, brought some amusing nuance to "murdered," even funnier since we the viewers know exactly who murdered poor John).

Sayid rejects Ben, which gets us this: "Because, Sayid, to put it simply: you're capable of things that most other men aren't. Every choice you've made in your life -- whether it was to murder or to torture -- it hasn't really been a choice at all, has it? It's in your nature. It's what you are. You're a killer, Sayid."

After we flash to the scene at the Marina where Ben freaks everyone out by showing up, we see Sayid in a bar, drinking the ultra expensive scotch that Widmore said wasn't good enough for Desmond. A hottie we know as Ilana cozies up to Sayid, and some small talk later, they're ready to knock boots. Although Ilana's idea of that is more literal, as she knocks her boot directly in Sayid's face and pulls a gun on him, declaring that she's going to take him back to Guam to answer for his murder of the dude on the golf course. As we saw in "The Economist," Sayid is 0 for 2 in getting tricked by chicks who want to fuck him that turn out to be not what they claim (disappointingly, I know the moral of that story all too well, so I can't fault him for falling for it again).

Back on Craphole Island: Lil Ben brings Sayid a sandwich and a book, and gets beat by his dad. Sawyer tries to get Sayid to play along and claim to be a defecting Hostile, but Sayid says "nope." Hurley serves breakfast and tells an oblivious Kate that Sawyer and Juliet are cohabitating fuck buddies. Jack, uncharacteristically, but perhaps chastened by LaFluer last week, goes with the flow, dude. The DI folks take Sayid for interrogation to see Oldham, and though he lives in a creepy teepee, we don't see his brother Darryl, his other brother Darryl, Dr. Eldon Tyrell nor Al Swearingen. Oldham gives Sayid The Magical Hallucinogenic Sugar Cube of Truth, and Sayid spills nothing but, in a hilarious scene. The increasingly annoying Radzinski blabbers on about his plans, and no one really believes the Iraqi. Goodspeed holds a tribal council meeting, and everyone, egged on by new mom Amy, wants to kill Sayid. Lil Ben sends a flaming VW Microbus of Distraction into the DI compound, then shows up to spring Sayid from the Mayberry lock up (no sign of Otis sleeping it off), in return for taking the youngster to see Richard and the Hostiles. Sayid takes off with Lil Ben into the jungle and runs across Jin. Jin gets taken down by Sayid, who grabs Jin's pistol and then proceeds to plug Lil Ben with a round right in the chest. DUN!

This episode was ostensibly a question about free will vs. destiny, seen through the eyes of Sayid. Is he a killer by choice and circumstance, or is his a killer simply because that's what he is and he can't escape it, no matter what he does (or how many huts he builds for the third world impoverished)? Similarly, is Ben like he is (and as we've known and seen him for 3 season now) because of his circumstances (dad beating, getting shot by the dude he sprung from jail, whatever happens/happened with Widmore, etc.), or is he just a born liar, manipulator and orchestrator of evil? But the more interesting questions come about from that age old sci-fi trope, "if you could travel back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" Tons of great sci-fi has been built on this premise (and the whole Terminator franchise works this one, too, only from the standpoint of killing a "good guy") and it will be fascinating to watch it play out on Lost.

First, we have to look at the rules that have been established on the show (keeping in mind that Daniel Faraday probably isn't the most mentally reliable narrator, but he has been our touchstone for understanding how time travel works with Lost): whatever happened, happened.

If that's true, then of course Lil Ben can NOT be dead, since he's obviously existed in the timeline beyond that incident. So what happens? Well, we've seen that the island can actually heal people and bring them back from the dead (Locke and Mikhail, among others). And of course we've scene that the "island" won't let people go until it's through with them (see Jack's and Michael's attempts to commit suicide). So my best guess on what happens is that Jin wakes up, sees Lil Ben shot, and brings him back to the DI on the verge of death. Jack probably won't help, but Juliet will, and Lil Ben will be saved, forging his lifelong crush on her (see the painting in his apartment that looks like her, and also remember the comments from "present day" Others that indicate Juliet looks like the woman from "long ago" in the portrait).

HOWEVER, if Lil Ben truly dies, then that opens up a whole can of existential worms for the show to chew on. Will they attempt to look at parallel or alternate realities existing on this show (for example, one where Lil Ben doesn't die and grows up to do all we've seen him do, and one where he does die, and plays out without Ben to influence events on the island)? At first, I didn't think team Darlton would go there, but two things keeping nagging at me. One, doesn't the nature of the DI camp look slightly different in the "present" where Sun and Lapidus are, chatting casually with Christian Shephard? Two, remember the broadcast coming from the island when Lapidus is landing Ajira 316? It sounded like the "numbers," which was the original island transmission, which was later changed by Rousseau, and even later, jammed by The Others. So if Ben died, there was no conflict with "Hostiles," and no war with Widmore. If Widmore isn't kicked off the island, then Desmond probably doesn't get to the island via Widmore's boat race. If Desmond doesn't get to the island, perhaps the numbers are still entered into the computer every 108 minutes, and Oceanic 815 doesn't crash there. If 815 doesn't crash there, Jin is never on the island. If Jin is never on the island, then no one stops Rousseau from entering Smoky's Cave of Dismemberment and Thrown Voices. If that doesn't happen, then she doesn't live to change the original signal transmission to her own warning. Hmmmmm.

Ouchy. Head hurts.

Okay, quotes, questions and comments and theories for "He's Our You:"

Why didn't Sayid plug Lil Ben more than once? If you're gonna make him dead, then make him dead.

Also, Sayid didn't know Faraday's musing about time travel, so he rightly thought he could "save the day" by stopping Ben in his youth.

IF Ben lives, will he carry the knowledge of Sayid's murder attempt with him throughout life? Or, will it be like with Desmond's encounter with a past-traveling Faraday, and he will only recall this once "present catches up with him?"

If the island can heal Locke's legs and bring people back from the dead, then why couldn't it heal Ben's spinal tumor?

Elizabeth Mitchell once again proved she's the best actress on the show. Her question to Sawyer, on the surface about Sayid -- "it's all over, isn't it?" -- was played with great subtext as she was also looking out the window at Jack and Kate. Beautifully done.

Hurley about Sawyer and Juliet: "I thought it was kind of obvious. I mean, who couldn't see that coming?"

"A 12 year old Ben Linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I'm doing?"
"Sweet kid, huh?"

"..and don't forget to try the dipping sauces, they really bring out the ham." Was there some kind of "pig message" going on that I missed? They mention ham a couple of times, the torturer (and Russian pharma company) was named "OldHAM," and Juliet was cooking bacon.

We've long thought that Radzinsky killed himself. But he's so fucking annoying, I wouldn't be surprised if Kelvin, or someone else, just shot him to get him to shut the hell up.

"Because I am from the future."
"Maybe I should use half a dropper. Ooops."
"You used exactly enough."

"Even a new mom wants you dead." Notice that Amy seemed to be the one spurring on the "kill Sayid" movement? Well, how about this: Amy is a spy for the Hostiles. And she's afraid that Sayid, who everyone believes is a Hostile spy (or possibly a Hostile defector), will blow her cover. So she's working to make sure that doesn't happen. Perhaps in return for her spying, she, or at least her son, Ethan, will be allowed to join the Hostiles. (We know Ethan winds up as an Other/Hostile).

Dumb things done for dramatic tension: Why would Sawyer attract attention by standing on the porch talking to Kate? Why not go inside, and stay away from prying eyes like Phil's, or from Juliet?

"Three years, no burning buses. Y'all are back for one day!"

Next week should be a doozie. Until then, Namaste.

Idols not as depressing as the Motown economy (Idol Top 10)

It’s Motown Night on Idol. Which will be interrupted in my viewing for the evening by something far more important – a fresh new episode of Lost on ABC.

Motown legend Berry Gordy will be present (along with Smoky Robinson). I wonder if anyone will choose Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me?” (Remember that from back in the 80s? With a cameo from the {allegedly} pederastically inclined Michael Jackson). After all, Rockwell was Berry Gordy’s son. I’m guessing Scott wouldn’t choose that one. Damn, you’re the Gordy scion and all you get is one novelty hit? Shame. And how old is Smoky? He looks like a wax figure.

Anyhoo, on with the show.

Matt is batting lead off tonight, and will be doing “Let’s Get It On.” I have no problems with the arrangement, but he has quite a few sketchy moments with the falsetto, which Randy inexplicably likes quite a bit. The judges are more positive on him than I am. Meanwhile, Madame Tussaud inquires about Smoky’s availability. 6

Kris walks in with his guitar and will be singing “How Sweet It Is” a la James Taylor (not the “JT” that Matt wants to be a clone of). Completely serviceable, and a safe choice for him. What are those numbers on his shirt? Should they be entered into a computer, in a hatch, on the show I’m going to be watching in a few minutes? I also like how he handles the comments about being “conceited” and “confident.” 6

Next we have Scott with “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Against Paula’s advice, he’s not going to leave the piano and run an onstage obstacle course. (And is it fair to make jokes about a blind guy wearing washed out pink pants? Too soon?) This isn’t a total train wreck, but it sounds a lot like something you would hear in an airport bar in Branson. At least it wasn’t another sappy ballad. 3 (And Paula dives under the table to settle some squabbling with Simon by handing him a box of Crayolas and a coloring book. Cute. Though at first, I thought that was heading someplace entirely different).

Megan is up next performing “For Once In My Life.” From the snippets with the candleman, this sounds like it could be….interesting. The melons are less prominently displayed this week, and she doesn’t have the flu. Perhaps just dementia. She turns down the seizure masquerading as dance from previous performances, and does a jazzy, messy, poorly phrased, horribly sung, off key wipe out. Horrific. 2

Hey, Dollhouse is kicking ass now. FOX, how ‘bout a frakkin’ commercial?

Anoop will give us “Ooooh, Baby Baby.” Not one of my favorite songs, but Anoop once again shows a lot control hitting the quiet notes well. He does hit a couple of lip smacking pops into the mic inadvertently, and the song can be somnambulant, but it’s a quality performance. He’s impressed me a lot since his first week stumble. 6

Is there really an audience for an Osbourne family variety show? The Middleman and Pushing Daisies get canceled, and Chuck, Terminator and Dollhouse struggle near death in the ratings, and Big Love and Mad Men get only a couple million eyeballs a week. (Hell, BSG only got a little over 2.4 viewers million for the fucking series finale). If this show is a hit, I’ll bite the head off a live bat.

Michael will follow with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Evidently, he was very sick all week. Hmmm. First Megan, then Michael. Could they be spreading more than gossip about Ryan’s hair products in the Idol House? With all the teeny bopper parents among this season’s contestants, we might have a live delivery for the finals. Fresh off last week’s stumble with a Garth Brooks tune, Michael is all over the place, rarely hitting a worthwhile note. Wow, this kind of swallows him whole and it’s hit the mute button terrible. 2

Based on the description I heard, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell I’d watch Glee. But ya know what? It likes rather intriguing. Perhaps Ryan Murphy’s involvement in getting this off the ground can explain what the fuck has been happening with Nip/Tuck.

Lil Rounds will be doing “Heat Wave.” She gets all weepy about Motown, and wants to do this for Martha Reeves and Diana Ross. I’m sure they’re touched. The mix coming through my TV has the band overwhelming her a bit, but damn, she sounds pretty good. She rushes through some phrasing, but oddly, I’m agreeing with Paula more than the others (perhaps it was that handful of barbiturates I just washed down with my whiskey). This is the first time I’ve really liked Lil, and she looks appropriately Motownish to boot. 7

Here we go with Adam. After pissing on Johnny Cash’s corpse last week, how can he top that? Shoot Marvin Gaye again? Grudge fuck a zombie Otis Redding? He’ll be doing Smoky’s “Tracks of My Tears.” Hey! Who took away “I raided my mom’s Mary Kay Cadillac trunk” emo boy and replaced him on stage with the love child of KD Lang and Don Draper? This is really subtle, earnest and heartfelt, and he does a spectacular job with it. Smoky proves that wax is animate and gets up to applaud. It’s unique yet comfortable, and without question, the best of the night. Wow. 9

Danny will be doing one of my favorite Motown tunes, “Get Ready.” He sounds likeably soulful on this, and does a great job with it. The judges aren’t as high on this as I am, but I thought he was fantastic. Not quite as showstopping as Adam, but I really enjoyed this. 8

Last but not least, we have Allison, who was inexplicably in the bottom 3 last week. (Yo, America, what up?) Another of my favorite Motown songs, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” Damn, do I love her voice, and she completely blows doors with this. How does someone who is only 16 sound like she’s been smoking, drinking and experiencing life for four decades? I will rate Adam’s performance slightly higher from a technical standpoint, but this was my absolute favorite of them all. 8.

TNRLM Top 3: Adam, Allison, Danny

TNRLM Bottom 3: Michael, Megan, Scott

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BSG Finale "Daybreak"

So, Battlestar Galactica came to an end Friday, concluding one of the longest sustained runs of quality television ever. Yeah, there were a few clunkers along the way ("Black Market" and "The Woman King" come to mind), but for the most part, BSG raised the bar for how we'll think about science fiction on TV, with superlative special effects, unparalleled acting, intelligent scripts and feature quality directing.

The tale of our ragtag fleet came to an end with the beautiful, elegiac, visionary and occasionally confounding episode "Daybreak." If you're a geek like me, by now you've watched and rewatched this landmark episode, and read all about the polarizing fan reaction to what transpired. I have some quibbles, which I'll get into in just a minute, but I will give credit to Ron Moore and David Eick for taking their show to the end in an uncompromising fashion, and producing one of the most interesting and dramatic cappers to a series ever.

What "Daybreak" got right:
  • When Moore was trying to break the story for the finale, he struggled for days before walking into the writers room and scribbling on the whiteboard: "it's the characters, stupid." And that's exactly right. At its heart, BSG was less about moving the pieces around on the chessboard in order to get to a perfectly logical conclusion from a plot machinations standpoint, and more about the human (and Cylon) reactions to a near apocalypse. Many complained about the time spent in both parts of "Daybreak" on flashbacks to the pre-holocaust lives of Roslin, Adama, Baltar, Lee and Kara on Caprica. Personally, I thought this was an important and moving way of reminding us of the journeys of these characters. No, it didn't exactly show us anything completely revelatory, but we saw how Roslin summoned her inner strength for the first time in the wake of personal hardship. How the Tighs were bound by love and affection in the galaxy's most dysfunctional relationship. Kara's maniacal zest for life that treads on the fine line of self-destruction. Lee's inner turmoil, balancing what he wants with what he knows is the "right" thing to do. Adama's sense of duty, and recognition that the only place he truly feels like himself is in command of a ship. Baltar's self-serving narcissism which brought about the near destruction, and eventual survival, of the human race. At the end of the day, the characters on BSG weren't stock cardboard cutouts -- hero, scientist, villain, leader, badass, robot -- they were all fully realized and deeply flawed individuals that we were lucky to spend 4 seasons with.
  • Space Porn! Holy shit, was that a battle for the ages. It's hard to believe how far we've come from the original series, where they would replay the same shots of a viper flying over and over, to the epic battle we saw in "Daybreak," which puts 99% of the visual effects we see in movies to shame. So many breathtaking images. Old school and new school centurions fighting it out. Galactica ramming the colony. Galactica passing over the moon and seeing Earth.
  • The music, as always, was note for note perfect. And how awesome was it that Bear McCreary worked in a bit of the classic BSG theme as Anders took the fleet on a mission into the sun?
  • The character endings. Adama gives Laura one last look at the destination they've been struggling for four years to reach. Whose eyes didn't water up when he put that ring on her hand, just after she passed peacefully? Ellen and Tigh finally getting the time together they've always wanted. The Agathons walking through a field with Hera. The joy on Lee's face as he decides he wants to go exploring, unencumbered by expectations, unrequited love or the Adama legacy. The peace that washes over Kara's face as she knows her journey is over, her destiny fulfilled. Caprica and Gaius building a life together, with Baltar explaining that he knows a bit about farming. For a show that's been almost unrelentingly dark, it was nice to see so many of these characters reach a place of happiness.
  • The funny! There were laughs to be had in the finale, which was suprising. Starbuck complaining about Athena telling Sharon "the plan." Gaius and Caprica seeing their "head" versions of each other.Cavil bitching about the monologuing in the CIC.
  • The symmetry. I thought the payoff of having the fleet reach "our" Earth 150,000 years ago was a good one. It brought together themes of humanity and our relationship with technology, as well as giving the audience a personal investment in the fates of the crew. It also deepened the "this has happened before" mantra that we've seen since the beginning of the show.

All that said, there were some things about "Daybreak" that just didn't sit too well with me. Overall, I give the episode an A-, just based on the stunning dramatic achievements of "Daybreak," as well as the residual goodwill toward a series that definitely takes a place in the pantheon of all time greats.

Some of the issues I had with "Daybreak:"
  • First and foremost, you have got to start with Starbuck. I mean, what the FRAK was that? I don't mind a little mystery, or ambiguity, but you brought a beloved character BACK FROM THE DEAD, spend a year having her question her nature and suffer one existential crisis after another, only to find her groove during the mutiny, then communicate with her dead father via some type of hallucination/projection and discover the key to an ancient Cylon song (which turns out to be the coordinates to "our" Earth), then wind up on the destination planet and then go "mission accomplished, I'm outta here" and VANISH INTO THIN FUCKING AIR. Katee Sackhoff played the hell out of the role the entire time, chewing up and spitting out whatever was given to her. And the look of peace on her face in the field with Lee was well, well earned and well, well played. But to offer no clue or no explanation to Starbuck's resurrected nature, and then chalk it up to "she was a messenger of god" is sloppy and a disservice to all the fans of the character. If she took off alone in a viper, or went with the toasters on the baseship, or went off on her own like Tyrol or Adama, or just got "lost" in the forest or a crowd -- that would have been a more compelling and less frustrating ending for the character. Like I said, I don't necessarily mind the ambiguity or mystery here. If we never understood "what" Starbuck was, I might not have liked it, but I wouldn't have HATED it. Having her defy all the laws of physics and abruptly break the rules of "reality" that we've established for four fucking years, and then DISAPPEAR is all kinds of wrong.
  • It seems like a nitpick, but during Adama's flashback, he goes through an interview back on Caprica for a private sector job, before the original Cylon attack, and is hooked up to what appears to be a lie detector. I like the notion, in that he rejects that life and realizes that he's spent his life as a warrior, and he's not yet ready to fade out of the military life. However, during that interview, they ask him if "he is a Cylon." Huh? It wasn't until AFTER the attacks, and all the events of the miniseries, that anyone in the fleet (or in humanity, for that matter) realized that Cylons could be disguised as humans. So why would a regular manager ask him that question?
  • Some of the things in the final, present day Earth coda were driving in a thumbtack with a sledgehammer. Yes, it was nice to see RDM in a little cameo reading National Geographic about "Eve." However, they could have framed that a little differently, as not to be too distracting and take us completely out of the reality of the series. And yes, the nature of the series was an epic struggle between man and machine, and coming to grips with the potential downside of our technological ambitions. But the shots of all the robots were just too damned on the nose. Again, if we had those playing in the background, or in one corner of the screen on a slightly out of focus TV in a store window, it might have made the point more subtly, and not have seemed quite so heavy handed - particularly when you have two "angels/demons" walking through Times Square offering a commentary.
  • And finally, I think the show overreached with its explanation that "god," or the "divine" was behind everything. I don't mind shows that take a position and stick to it for the entire run. BSG was never shy about asking questions regarding faith and religion. There were prophecies, and scrolls, and visions, and cults, and myths. That's fine for dramatic storytelling and for having the characters, and the audience, ponder the imponderables. But to have the wrap up of the show plainly boil it all down to "god did it" cheapens everything we've seen before. Dead Racetrack's hand was divinely moved to hit the pre-armed nukes button, which happened to launch them at the colony at the right time. Starbuck was brought back from the dead and recreated wholly and humanly (along with a shiny new viper, complete with faux-earth coordinates) because god did it. Gaius and Caprica saw "angelic" versions of themselves to pass along helpful, preordained advice, because god did it. Starbuck would be the only one in position by the FTL controls when the shit was going down, so that she could magically enter the coordinates to the "new" Earth because god willed it. If whatever divine being exists in the Galactica universe is all knowing and all powerful, and orchestrated these "moves" all along, then it completely diminishes the drama, the stakes, the casualties, the human choices and the sacrifices we've been following for four long seasons now. If the resurrected Starbuck had been killed by her almost mutinous crew on the garbage ship, would god have popped in a third magical version of her a week later? If that version had been shot in the hallways of the colony by a toaster, would a fourth version have magically popped into the CIC just to push that button? Look, I like questions of fate and faith, and think they provide a tremendous framework in which to tell stories. But RDM and crew established early on that despite the religious undercurrents in the nature of the series, it was a gritty, quasi-realistic universe. Conversely, a show like Buffy put forth a universe where magic "really" happens, and creatures and gods from other dimensions have inexplicable powers. Trek established a universe where all powerful beings like the Q can snap their fingers and move a starship to another galaxy in the blink of an eye or bring a character back from the dead. BSG, despite having robots indistinguishable from humans and faster than light travel, didn't set up a fictional world where characters can magically return from the dead, and then VANISH INTO THIN AIR. To pull that out of their asses the last 10 minutes seems a deus ex machina too far, and will always leave a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.

Okay, rant over. Despite a few misgivings about the finale, I'm glad we had four years of this groundbreaking and remarkable show. Thanks for the experience Galactica, it was a pleasure going on the journey with you.


I'll take potpourri for $5,500, Alex

Someone has attempted a BSG timeline.

LA Times chats with Ron Moore.

TWOP's 10 Reasons BSG is leaving at the right time.

IF Magazine talks to Tahmoh Penikett about BSG and Dollhouse.

Move The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party to Atlanta? In a dome? Uh, NO. Antiseptic atmosphere. Tailgating with the homeless. Diminished south Georgia and Florida recruiting. Fewer available tickets. "Neutral site" games should have a singular location for tradition and history. College football in a dome sucks.

Stafford has a good pro day workout.

Alan Sepinwall's favorite BSG episodes.

Richt doesn't have a problem with Spurrier or Urban Meyer
. I'll just pretend I didn't read this, and that they are both still gaping assholes.

RDM talks about the "Daniel fiasco." I still think it would have made sense.

AfterEllen chats with Jane Espenson about Buffy, Caprica, Dollhouse and BSG.

Highlights from Joss's recent conference call.

Fun look at the history of Batman logos.

Video Q&A with Kate Vernon (aka Ellen Tigh). Gods, she's adorable.

More with Kate and Michael Hogan. Who wouldn't want a happy hour with the Tighs? (Though apparently, if you can't keep up with the Tighs shot for shot, you wind up in an alley puking on yourself, Adama).

Yeah, I need some new furniture.

TV Guide chats with Elizabeth Mitchell.

10 guys you're allowed to have a man-crush on.

io9 thinks about 10 great sci-fi endings.

Interesting chat with the guy in control of Batman's film rights.

Lost's Damon Lindelof chats about Watchmen.

Sarah Silverman sums up how to think about "divas."

Rivals looks at 2009 UGA.

When TV shows change their DNA.

A history of Trek Movie titles.

80s sitcom intros. Ahhhh, my eyes!

Annoying habits of a geeky spouse.

The things to say during sex flowchart.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick thoughts on Geek Friday

Friday brought us a potent twofer: the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, and the infamous Dollhouse episode that was supposed to cure cancer and make the baby Jesus weep.

How'd it go?

First, BSG ended in much the same way that it's carried on through four seasons: brilliantly acted, extremely thought-provoking, stunningly realized and jaw-droppingly beautiful. It's a show with a grand scope and rich mythos that also handles the little character moments like no other, yet seems to disappointingly gloss over some of the underlying details that help us get to those big and small places. All in all, I found it to be a rich, rewarding finale, with a few head-scratching flaws. A-

Second, Dollhouse didn't bring world peace, but it finally hit its stride and has turned into something that I can now unabashedly love. All the elements came together, and this one was a masterpiece. A+

More later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

All those years of med school, and I'm a janitor?

Wednesday's Lost was yet another enjoyable romp through the trippy Dharma days, putting all the pieces in place and setting the stage for a run to the season end game.

Basically, we had Sawyer trying to integrate the returning O6ers into the DI back in 1977, while Sun, Lapidus, Ben, our two new characters and (presumably) a bunch of redshirts are stuck in the "present" with a soon to be resurrected Locke and a strangely "tangible" Christian Sheppard.

I'm really enjoying the new "read a book at night like Churchill" leadership of Sawyer, and his quick thinking in handling the Dharma registration (along with Juliet) and the capture of Sayid. And while he has every right to rub Jack's nose in some of the good doctor's decisions gone awry, I thought their final scenes together were written a little too archly. Wouldn't a skilled conman have played things with Jack a little closer to the vest? Inspire confidence and engender some trust, at least on the surface, rather than risk agitating a headstrong wild card? Sawyer and Juliet have a good thing going there in the 70s, so why get things off the rails by pissing off Jack and openly mooning for Kate? Other than that, "Namaste" was filled with the usual goodness, questions, answers and quotes:

"Dude, your English is awesome."

I understand we had to get Jack and company integrated into the DI, but it seems like it was way too easy to change a sub manifest and make it all happen.

What happened to Faraday? When asked if he's "here," Sawyer just says "not anymore." Is that mentally? Spatially? Chronologically? Also, I tweeted on this yesterday, but the problems many of us were having reconciling Charlotte's age with the little red headed girl Dan spotted in the DI are simply a "mistake." In their official Lost podcast, Darlton said that Charlotte was originally intended to be an older character, one that would have been a young, red headed girl in 1977. However, actress Rebecca Mader (born in 1979, BTW) didn't want to play someone in her late 30s, so the line where Ben gives her birthdate was changed to say that the character was born in 1979, and it wasn't caught in the editing process. So, no big time traveling mysteries here. Just a rare continuity error, and Charlotte was born in 1970, and it was her that Dan saw back in the DI days.

Speaking of birthdays, however, here's another one that doesn't quite line up. Amy's baby, we learned this week, is Ethan Rom. (And how great was Elizabeth Mitchell's subtle reaction to learning that little tidbit?) If Ethan was born in 1977, that would make him in his late 20s when Ethan encountered our Losties in 2004 and kidnapped Claire (and even younger when he helped Richard Alpert recruit Juliet). Does anyone think that William Mapother, who played Ethan, looked in his 20s? (The actor was born in 1965, which makes him around 40 when those scenes take place). Something more to this, or just one of those things we let go (like Walt getting so much bigger during 3 months of island time)? And why is his last name "Rom" and not "Goodspeed?"

Michael Emerson can get so much mileage out of such innocuous lines like “How would I know?” Plus, his response when Lapidus says that the freighter was filled with folks who wanted to get Ben, “And how did that work out for everyone?”

Note that Jack doesn't tell Sawyer that Ben was on Ajira Air 316. Nor does he mention Locke's body.

"It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, because back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead."

Did Juliet leave Kate's name of the initial revised manifest just to make Kate squirm a bit? If so, you go, girl.

“Based on your aptitude test, you’ll be doing janitorial work.” Major HEE.

So young Ben, who was really well cast it appears, brings Sayid a sandwich, believing him to be one of the Hostiles. Hasn't young Ben already met the Hostiles at this point? Do we know for sure when Ben had his encounter with Richard in the jungle? Would he then view Sayid as a potential ally?

"Well, I appreciate your input there, Quick Draw."

How great was that little moment with Sawyer and Juliet looking for his UGA sweatshirt? There was a wonderfully played casualness that said quite a bit about their relationship and comfortable they are with each other.

'I ain't here to play Nostradamus to these people. Besides, Faraday's got some interesting theories on what we can and can't do here.''

"What if they ask us who's president in 1977?" (Sadly, many of us recall the answer to that question).

Remember back in season two, when Michael was instructed by Ben to bring 4 people to the dock in return for his son? Those four were Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sawyer. Is it a coincidence that those four Oceanic 816ers are now faux-DIers back in 1977 with young Ben?

Did we hear the numbers being broadcast in the "present?" What's up with that?

Is the version of Christian that Frank and Sun encountered in the old Dharma shack tangible? He certainly appeared so, since he was able to grab a picture off the wall and hand it to Sun. Has he always been this way? And who was the blonde chick in the shack, in the background? Is that supposed to be Claire?

All in all, another good one. Until next time, Namaste.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's country night, y'all (Idol Top 11)

Tonight on Idol we have “music from the Grand Ole Opry.” I grew up in a household where country music was appreciated and listened to (along with rock, jazz, blues, standards and hell, even polka), so it’s not like tonight’s selections will be totally unfamiliar to me. However, the country music I like falls into a pretty narrow band: the “classics;” funny, clever songs about getting drunk and laid; and anything uptempo. I have a very low tolerance for ballads, and country ballads are right there with Celine Dion schmaltz for trying my patience (plus, they tend to encourage the Idolettes to oversing). So hopefully we won’t hear too many of those tonight. Okay, on with the show.

Hey, Randy Travis as a mentor. Cool.

Batting lead off is Michael, doing “Ain’t Goin Down Until The Sun Comes Up.” This is an extraordinarily difficult song to sing, with all the fast paced lyrics, and he handles it pretty well. It’s not quite as crisp as it could be, and at times, he gets a bit slurry and lazy with the extended notes. Not bad. 6

Allison is up next performing “Blame it on Your Heart.” Wow, her voice sounds great. She gives the song some character, though she doesn’t hit some of the lyrics quite as clearly as she could have. Simon is obviously struggling with appraising country music, but Randy, with his authentic shit-kicking, pick-em-up-truck driving background, calls Allison’s song “dope.” I think most of the Wranglers wearing audience thinks that means something else. 8

Kris gives up his six string binky to perform “To Make You Feel My Love.” I’m not particularly fond of the song, and I don’t feel his love. I feel like a nap. The judges seem to like it, and christen him a “tender puppy dawg.” I think I’ve seen that on the menu at a Pak's local Korean restaurant. Meh. 4

Lil takes on “Independence Day,” typically a song for a big voice. It sounds odd hearing it without a twang, and much like when contestants take on Whitney or Mariah, living up to Martina McBride vocals can be a challenge. It’s a workmanlike take on the song, and Simon, when he can remember Lil’s name (he wants to call her “Little,” and thinks “Lil” is short for that, like “Lil Kim,” who is on another entirely different reality spectacle) says she reminds him of a wedding singer. I think I would have rather heard Adam Sandler screaming drunken profanity at the bridal party. Plus, Little keeps going on with the judges about how she wants to show America she can sing anything. Lil? Stop arguing and take your lumps. 4

Adam looks like he would fit right in at the Grand Ole Opry, doesn't he? Randy Travis is astonished that someone would do “Ring of Fire” with sitars. Or that a dude would wear nail polish. Something tells me Randy doesn’t watch Project Runway, or have the Logo channel on his cable system. Well, THAT, was completely different. I’ll give the boy props for a bold and unique take on the material. I don’t even know what to make of that. Chris Daughtry and Blake Lewis both did wildly spun versions of tunes on their theme nights, and it worked for them, but this was kind of a head scratching mess. 3

Scott follows that up with “Wild Angels,” another Martina McBride song. It reminded me of a Barry Manilow b-side (and I say that liking Barry Manilow). His vocals are warm and safe, but they occasionally get lost behind the band and the piano. Still, it’s a slight uptick on quality from the last few performances. 5

Alexis is from the south, and claims to like country music. She’s doing “Jolene,” which I had wanted Carly to do last year. Her version is slightly more ethereal and modulated than I expected, based on what I saw last week. She could have definitely kicked it up a notch and had more fun with it. Eh. No one is really taking charge tonight. Where’s the fun, people? 6

Danny will treat us with “Jesus Take the Wheel.” I like the tone of Danny’s voice, but I’m not a big fan of the song. Maybe Jesus didn’t take the wheel, because he was too busy helping Kurt Warner with his new contract. Paula seems a little on her meds this evening, and the judges are all cranky, but fairly constructive compared to seasons past. 6

Here comes Anoop with “Always on my Mind.” A really, really good performance. Unlike a lot of Idolettes, he keeps strong voice and good tone through the quiet parts and doesn’t let them drop off in favor of just the power notes. My first exposure to him was last week’s awful “Billie Jean,” and he showed light years of improvement from that. Outstanding. 8

Hey, a Fringe commercial! When the fuck is this show coming back!

Megan will be doing “Walking After Midnight.” Miss “Caw Caw” puts a torch singer spin on the song, and cracks and coughs through a few notes (she was apparently sick all week), but does an otherwise likeable version. Certainly not a train wreck, and no avians were harmed. 6

Matt closes us out with “So Small.” It’s very poised and heartfelt, and he works it well with the piano. 7

Country night is often the trainwreck for Idol, and it was surprising that nobody had a complete face planting disaster (well, almost nobody, depending on how much you think Johnny Cash is spinning in his grave). But I would have liked a little more variety in the performances, and a little more fun. Didn’t anybody want to sing about getting drunk, running moonshine, being in jail or hating your ex?

TNRLM Top 3: Anoop, Allison, Matt

TNRLM Bottom 3: Adam, Kris, Lil

Starbuck's parentage in question?

If you listen to Ron Moore's BSG podcasts like I do, then you just became aware of this little piece of news:

Daniel, the 7th Cylon, who was boxed by Cavil (as we learned in "No Exit") is in no way, shape or form related to Kara Thrace. He is not, as many of us have presumed, her father. Moore said that Daniel was intended to be a minor character/mention at most, mainly used to create a "Cain and Abel" parallel with Cavil, and reveal more about Cavil's backstory and character than anything.

He did not call this "revelation" from the "Islanded in a Stream of Stars" podcast a spoiler, but thought he should address it to clear up some misconceptions about Daniel and Kara that he says he was seeing on the internet. Many folks, including yours truly, assumed from the way the episodes have been playing out, particularly in "Someone to Watch Over Me," that Daniel was indeed Dreilide Thrace. Nope, says Moore. He didn't provide any further clarification on Daniel or Kara.

Personally, I thought that made a whole lot sense:
  • Would explain how Dreilide recognized the BSG version of "Watchtower."
  • Would explain how Kara was able to see him in the bar, via her own "half Cylon" projection.
  • Would explain where he went (since he was "boxed" or killed by Cavil).
  • Might explain, somewhat, how Kara was able to come back from the dead (resurrected via Cylon technology, into a body created by DNA taken from her back in "The Farm").
  • Daniel was described as an artistic type, which is also in line with Kara's childhood experiences.
  • And it seems silly now, but both names start with a "D." (Dreilide is inspired by two German terms, which mean "third eye." Or metaphysically, "inner eye" or "gateway to the soul." Both of these would also seem Cylon-ish).

Does this clarification mean that we'll learn something more (and different than what we presumed) about Kara's nature and destiny in the finale Friday?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'll take potpourri for $5,400, Alex

Here's a great add on for your Firefox browser: FoxyTunes. It adds controls for iTunes right into your browser, saving the laziest among us from having to (gasp!) toggle back and forth between two programs if you listen while you surf. (h/t T-Recs)

Still haven't gotten your fill of Watchmen? How about a movie podcast with Kevin Smith discussing the film? It's long, but awesome. (And the podcast was interesting enough that I went back and subscribed to the /film podcast. Lots of good geekery in there).

Dollhouse and Sarah Connor show ratings improvement!
Both shows are also showing plot and content improvement, but will it be enough to get more seasons?

Joss talks to TV Guide about next week's pivotal episode.

The Live Feed chats with Ron Moore about the BSG finale.

EW has a fantastic slideshow walk through the history of BSG.

Buddy TV's list of the top 25 eps of BSG.

Carla Gugino's 5 favorite films (and cool that it includes 12 Monkeys).

Because no one can see enough Christina Hendricks pictures.

SI's Andy Staples looks at the SEC.

A funny comic for fans of the Watchmen graphic novel.

Just in case there's a gift giving occasion coming up.

Does this mean that Michael Vick's salary will be paid by taxes on the successful?

Scans of TV Guide (print version) feature on BSG.

Want a close up look at Chuck's chart from the back of the Tron poster? Look here. More on Chuck here.

What if Stan Lee wrote Watchmen?

Could there possibly be 10 defenses for the Howard the Duck movie?

These anti-bay marriage people are really lunatics. And I totally want to marry a robot.

SFX talks to the guy that's showing up on every TV show I watch, Mark Sheppard.

Interview with Nathan Fillion.

Patton Oswalt geeks out about Watchmen, Dollhouse (he's on Friday's ep), BSG and Burn Notice.

They're doing a "reimagining" of V, the childhood mini-series about alien lizard people invading Earth. And the iconic role of the hot alien leader will be played by Morena Baccarin.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Faith has a Tru Calling (Dollhouse 1.5)

Each week, Dollhouse comes together a little bit more, with better writing, better performances and more layers to the overarching mythology.

Last night's episode, "True Believer," had Echo going "undercover" into a dangerous cult compound in order to find a cultie that had requested help, and provide the ATF with enough reason to get a warrant and bring the compound leader to justice.

One of my big stumbling blocks with the show has been "why hire a doll" instead of a subject matter expert from the real world. The reasons thus far have been varied and passable, but I really liked what they did with "True Believer," because it was clearly a job uniquely suited to a doll, and because it also revealed some very interesting things about the overall operation. Clearly any new addition to the compound would be viewed with extreme scrutiny, and the combination of Echo's programmed total, unwavering faith and her well executed "blindness" made for a convincing cover. As for how she got this engagement, I loved the reveal that a prominent senator was using the Dollhouse (and hey, even if he was using it for just kinky sex, one can surely see the benefits of having the girl completely disappear and get mindwiped, isn't that right, Elliot Spitzer?). It also gives some validity to the idea that the Dollhouse is afforded a certain protection from legal entanglements.

"True Believer" also had one of Eliza Dushku's better performances, miles removed from the usual tough-talking, sexing it up Southie. He eye and hand movements were realistic, and there was a quiet, stillness and sincerity to her "beliefs" that sold the "Esther Carpenter" character (right up until some of Echo started to seep through at the end). Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams and (of course) Amy Acker also had great moments back at the Dollhouse, and the ensemble is really coming together.

Good Stuff:
  • "If she was any more relaxed, she'd be ooze."
  • The whole scenario with Victor experiencing a boner for Sierra. Or as Topher dubbed it, a "man reaction."
  • Interesting throwaway line during while Topher was on the phone about a "Valsalva Mechanism," which apparently has something to do with neurological coordination between the brain and various bodily functions (and has been used to diagnose stuttering).
  • "I believe I spotted a tumescence."
  • Really good fake out on the "save me" message. When Boyd went to the c-store to review the tapes, I immediately thought "well, why didn't the ATF think of that?" Of course, there was a real good reason the ATF didn't, since the agent in charge actually faked the note.
  • Another good fake out was the appearance of Laurence on the compound in a mask. I thought for sure that Echo's rescuer was going to be Boyd.
  • God's message: "Move your ass!"
  • Mellie, whom I still think is a doll, has obviously been programmed to be Rachel Ray with a better rack. I love that her "leftovers" are always a full tray of Italian food, with none eaten.
  • Echo's "I see perfectly" at the end, directed toward Laurence, was fully of double meaning and well played by Eliza.
  • There was nothing in this eppy to specifically signal it, but I'm beginning to think that Adelle was a one time doll who volunteered for the program and has now moved on to corporate management, giving her better insight and empathy into the nature of the business.

  • Would Ballard and his FBI compatriots really let Mellie and her manicotti hang around while they were reviewing evidence?
  • The line at the end, "she could be anybody," was a little on the nose and groan-worthy.
  • Upon deeper examination, the rational and motives of the cult leader, and Echo's almost immediate acceptance into the cult, don't hold up all that well. We were told that Jonas Sparrow wasn't really a die-hard believer, but more a creepy narcissist with a "man reaction" for young girls. If that's the case, and he didn't really believe the biblical nonsense he was shoveling out to his flock, why would he accept someone who came to him under the guise of a "miracle?" Other than the fact that she looks like Eliza Dushku?
  • I might have to go back and look at the opening scenes, but how exactly did the ATF dude put the "save me" on the back of the note?

Overall, the episodes continue to improve in quality and depth, and next week brings the purported kick off the show hitting its stride. A-

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poll Time (BSG)

Last week's poll asked about your favorite character on Lost. Coming on the heels of a nice Sawyer episode, he lead the voting, followed closely by Locke, Ben and Hurley. Not much love for the ladies, as Sun and Kate didn't get a single vote, though my favorite island XXer, Juliet, did get two.

This week, since the two-part finale of criminally un-Emmyed, but legendary series Battlestar Galactica starts tonight, we want to know:

Who is your favorite character on Battlestar Galactica?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What resolutions do we want on the final Battlestar Galactica?

As all good geeks know, tomorrow brings the first hour of the two-part, three-hour finale of one of television's Best. Shows. Ever.

I've assiduously avoided spoilers and have no idea who will live or die, or what will become of our favorite rag tag fleet and monotheistic toasters. In fact, this year, I've just watched the episodes and let them wash over me, trying to get the full emotional impact of them, rather than taking notes and dissecting every single plot point. This "back half" of s4 has been pretty spectacular, with rich character work, impeccable writing, visionary directing, adrenalized action and FX work, and devastating consequences for many of our favorites.

But as we head into the final episode, entitled "Daybreak," there are still a few things I want to know. Here's a quick list of items I hope get resolved or addressed in some fashion during the those last 180 minutes:

What exactly is Kara Thrace? All inclinations point toward her being a hybrid, daughter of a human mother and possibly the "lost" 7th Cylon, Daniel. If true, how did Daniel escape from Cavill and father a child? And how exactly did Kara "resurrect" after being crushed in that nebula, and where did her shiny new Viper come from?

What's with Kara being the "harbinger of doom?" For whom?

What's up with the Opera House?

What was the Cylon plan? (I'd be happy if we get hints of it, leaving the rest to be explained in the follow up movie, called appropriately enough, The Plan).

What's so special about Hera? Why was she conceived, and other attempts (well, other than Kara, presumably) failed? And what is her destiny or special purpose?

What was with that virus in the episode "A Measure of Salvation?"

What are the "head models" (particularly 6 for Baltar) and how do they work? Who can see them, how do they get their information? And didn't 6 have her own "head Baltar?"

How does Cylon projection work? Who can see it and who can conjure it and "share" it? (Sharon took both Tyrol and Hera into a projection, but 6 and 3 also took Baltar, right?)

Was the Earth we saw nuked and destroyed really "our" Earth?

What's with "All Along the Watchtower" in the BSG world, and how does it connect to our version?

How did Boomer and Ellen know where to find the fleet?

What happened with Starbuck's ovaries? Was this just a question of genetic material being taken, since she's presumably a hybrid, to aid in Cylon reproduction? (And who knew she was "special," and when did they know it?) And as a result, also being used to "create" the resurrected Kara?

And how does the "all this has happened before, and will happen again" play itself out?

Obviously, some of those questions are bigger than others, but I'm hoping against hope for a fitting conclusion to such a remarkable series. My armchair QB take on how it will wind up? I think that some amalgamation of human/Cylon detente (couple, hybrid, child, etc.), knowing the horrors the war between man and the toasters has exacted, will eventually find its way to "our" Earth, which is not the Earth that was seen desolate and barren. It will end on a slightly ambiguous note (though not a Sopranos black screen of WTF), with the hope that the very last remnants of the human and Cylon races can integrate into our history, and we won't start the cycle all over again.

What about y'all? What do you want to see resolved, and if you're spoiler free, how do you think it will all end?

This week's SI Pop Culture Grid

SI's latest version is here (featuring I Brave that I don't quite know, strangely enough).

TNRLM answers:

Kanye West really needs to...
Go away forever.

I'd run The Amazing Race with...
My old friend Diana, who is amazingly bright and extremely worldly. I have no sense of geography whatsoever, so I'd basically be comic relief. (SI: WTA player Vera Zvonareva obviously wants to score some primo hippie lettuce, and Ken Griffey Jr.? I think you should be the one driving).

Favorite chick flick
Moulin Rouge. Or 10 Things I Hate About You.

When I was 15 I had a crush on...
Hey, I did a whole post on this! Check here!

I'm really sick of hearing about...

Last thing I do before I go to bed is...
Turn on the television sleep timer.

One thing you'd be too embarrassed to buy
I've gotten to the point where I have no shame.

Person you're dying to have a beer with
Ronald D. Moore or Joss Whedon. (SI: Griffey Jr. is planning on opening a new zombie bar).

Song playing on your iPod right now
"Workin' Day and Night" by Michael Jackson (leftover interest spurred by the return of Idol this week).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Even supervillains need a government handout

Funniest thing I've seen in a while:

Hello darkness my old friend (Idol Top 13)

Welcome back, Idol. It's been a while, hasn't it? Last time I saw you, you were stomping on my soul by getting rid of my raven haired, oversinging, tattooed reality crush Carly, and almost anointing a squinty, robotic carnival kewpie doll as your champion, before eventually making a sound decision.

So what's changed? There's a new stage and a new judge, who at first glance, seems like a more lucid Paula. There's a 13th contestant, whose phone number almost goes to a porn service. While I usually fast forward through all the background features and sob stories, it appears Idol went out of its way this year to find a Labor Day telethon worth of tragic circumstances and teenage parents. During last year's audition round, did they fail to hand out an appropriate number of condoms? Sheesh. And evidently, there's going to be some change to how contestants are voted off? As Rorschach would say, "hurm."

If you're new here, and wondering why Idol suddenly pops up in a "reality-free" blog usually commenting on the wonderful world of scripted TV, sports and other musings, check out last year's preamble.

Let's dive in to last night's celebration of the music of Michael Jackson and the Top 13.

First, though, a quick bit about the "King of Pop." Is it possible to hear these tunes now without your irony shields at full strength? For people around my age, we grew up with Michael Jackson, and actually remember it being "cool." In college, I can recall folks gathering in the dorm TV rooms to watching the airing of the amazing "Thriller" video for the 20th time on MTV (remember that? A music channel that played music videos instead of watching paint dry programs about the overexamined and shallow lives of vapid whores?). I bought the cassette tapes (remember those?) for "Off The Wall" and "Thriller" before thinking that perhaps this dude was a bit strange, and I might feel somewhat odd walking up to the counter at Tower Records (remember those?) with "Bad." And that was before two decades of elephant man bones, Bubbles the chimp, a sham marriage to the (real) King's daughter, surrogate moms, enough plastic surgery to keep McNamara/Troy in Ferraris and skanks until Wilbur is an adult and of course, spiked juice boxes and uncomfortable kiddy sleepovers that would make a Catholic priest blush. Still, if you remove all the mind-warping baggage from the Jackson legacy (which admittedly, is hard to do), there's no denying that he has a pretty incredible catalog of perfectly crafted and performed pop songs. So how did our Idolettes do?

First up is Lil, who does "The Way You Make Me Feel." It seems she was going for a pirate look, if instead of parrots on their shoulder, pirates wore a mountain of toilet paper (Paula went full pirate, with actual feathers all over her shoulder). Good voice and not bad. 7

Scott sings "Keep The Faith." Not an MJ song that I recall, and it was blandly performed. And hey! He's blind! The judges seem like they're going to be making borderline condescending comments about his disability and talking about how he's such an inspiration, when they should really just say that he sounds like a vanilla gospel singer. If you closed your eyes (or were blind!), this would have felt right at home on one of those late night infomercials for a CD full of "Songs of Praise!" And Paula starts babbling about Norway? Good to see you've stayed on the meds for a full year. 5

Danny performs "PYT." (Another song in the Jackson oeuvre that just sound "uncomfortable" in hindsight). He's got a nice, smoky, bluesy voice and does a great job with this, sounding like a less constipated Taylor Hicks. Paul starts to cry and predicts he's finals bound. 9

Hmmm. They're mixing up the order of the judges comments. No Randy (Dawg! Mariah! Journey! Yo!), Paula (seal clap! "You're a unique rainbow in a field of unicorns with their very special aura and I love your you!") and then Simon (cogent thoughts, references to karaoke or busking). Not quite sure what to make of this or the new gal yet. Although I'm already dreading how fucking tedious it will be when Seacrest recounts the ramblings of FOUR judges for EACH contestant on the results show (which single handedly should shoot up the stock price of TiVo).

Michael does "You're Not Alone" (which MJ may have written while huddled under a blanket over card table fort). Awful song, and there's nothing remarkable about his singing or performance. 5

Jasmine makes the "diva choice" of "I'll Be There." Randy makes his first Mariah reference. The performance is obvious and cruise-shippy. 4

Chris takes "Remember The Time." He's comfortable on stage and has a strong voice. Nice "jazzy" arrangement. (what the hell was going on with comments about his wife?) 7

Allison, who is only 16, sings a rocking version of "Give In To Me." What color is her hair? And how does she sound like that when the legal age to purchase cigarettes is 21? I totally didn't expect that voice coming out of her, and it was a nice surprise. It will be interesting to hear how she handles other material, but I liked this one. And she has one of the funniest contestant retorts I've EVER heard on Idol: "I'm not dark -- it's not like I'm cutting myself." 7 + 1 for the funny.

Anoop, who is evidently the "13th" contestant, is about as successful as Antonio Banderas was as the "13th Warrior." He sings "Beat it" (wow, you can't type these MJ song titles without giggling, can you?), and unless America takes leave of their senses, I think that choice will be prescient. Anoop should "beat it." He's swallowed by the sound of the band and is about as threatening as cotton candy. 3

Jorge performs "Never Can Say Goodbye." Awful. Terrible hotel lounge arrangement and he was off key for major stretches. Another funny: Jorge, "I wasn't gonna sing 'Bad.'" Simon, "well, you sorta did." Awesome. 3

Megan has a seizure while performing "Rockin' Robin." At least it looks that way. Since paramedics didn't rush the stage, I'll just assume that was "dancing." I have no idea what to make of her. Seems like she was enthusiastic and having fun, and she did hit some solid notes. (And did I actually hear her making "caw, caw" bird noises at the end? So the audience might understand the important thematic underpinnings of the song? Whew). But clearly the appeal is front and center with a push up bra. 6 (4 + 2, if ya know what I'm sayin).

Adam takes on MJ's obvious, lame and pedantic lecture about race relations, "Black and White." Wow, this is actually enjoyable. Uptempo and rocking, Adam brings the energy of the show back up, and at times, sounds a speech on racial harmony delivered by Axl Rose. In a good way. 8

Matt tries to summon his inner Timberlake at the piano, doing "Human Nature." He takes a breathy and whispery song, and makes it even more breathy and whispery. Yawn. 5

Alexis closes us out with an overcooked version of "Dirty Diana." Shouty and melisma plagued, but not that bad. 6

Well, there we go. All in all, not too terrible, but I wonder about some of the song choices. Did they have access to the entire catalog? No "Off The Wall?" Or "Smooth Criminal?" Or "Thriller?" Or "Workin' Day and Night?" All four of those would have been excellent selections.

TNRLM Top 3: Danny, Adam, Allison

TNRLM Bottom 3: Anoop, Jorge, Jasmine

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A few minutes short of midnight (Watchmen Review)

I would love to give you a completely unbiased and educated opinion about how Watchmen worked solely as a movie, uninformed by the staggering work of brilliance that is the graphic novel. But I just can't. I discovered Watchmen about a decade ago, after a period of shying away from some of my geekier tendencies, and fell in love. Way back in the day, I was a true comic connoisseur. I read scores of titles from DC, Marvel and even Charlton (whose old school characters, acquired by DC, were originally to be used by Alan Moore in Watchmen). I wrote and illustrated my own comics. I read up on the history of the comics as an art form, entity of commerce and reflection of society. So when I paged through Watchmen that very first time, I was amazed at how perfectly every little detail captured not only politics and fears of the cold war era, but also how incisively the book folded the whole medium of comic books in on itself through plot, character, dialogue, color style and layout. Since that first reading, I've pulled the book out about once a year and reread it cover to cover, and each time, I notice something I didn't see before. Or it gives me something to think about in a new way that I didn't consider on a previous analysis. It's that rich, and there's a reason TIME put it on their list of 100 Greatest Novels.

As we all know, the book was deemed "unfilmable" because of the dense narrative, interwoven plotlines, period setting, multiple flashbacks and references to "additional materials" like the "comic within the comic," the police reports, the memoranda, the excerpts from fictional books and such. As excited as I was to finally see this masterpiece reach the screens, I always doubted it could be done, especially in a motion picture. In a 12 part HBO or Showtime miniseries, perhaps. But to condense all that into something under 4 hours, while losing the meta-implications of reading a comic about comic book heroes in real world that didn't have comics about "masked adventurers, well, I had my doubts.

So did I like the Zack Snyder's movie? The short answer is "yes," I did, but with some reservations.

Just like the book, I think I'll need to see this a couple of more times to absorb the full impact of everything that's going on in the movie (though it's not, and couldn't be, as intricately and precisely constructed as the book), and preferably, I'd like to see the full director's cut with the animated "Tales of the Black Freighter" woven in. However, as a 2 hour and 40 minute theatrical journey into the world of Watchmen, I'll say that Snyder aimed the bar extraordinarily high and fell just short, delivering an unflinching and respectful motion picture that immersed me in that world and at times, took my breath away.

One of the trickiest things to pull off in this is the setting, an alternative 80s where cold war tensions have never been higher. The book definitely captured that vibe, and the first time I read it, it reminded me of the way everyone felt after watching that landmark ABC miniseries The Day After. One jittery trigger finger, and the world and all that we knew, would be gone. The Watchmen movie did an admirable job capturing the time and feel of a world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust, though due to time constraints, we seldom got to see the impact of that on characters outside our primary "heroes." The sense of urgency to stop the doomsday clock from ticking down, and when it comes right down to it, the impetus and rationale for the entire story's master plan, hinges on looking into that abyss of mutually assured destruction and feeling a sense of helplessness and despair (or, for one character, a sense of obligation and action). Given more time, I would have wanted to see more about the lives and struggles of the peripheral characters such as the psychiatrist or the news stand guy and his customer or the two cops. It would have help establish more of the national mood in that era, and of course, created a more acute sense of loss at the movie's conclusion. But I understand why those moments were excised, even if it they would have gone a long way to creating a greater emotional resonance outside the travails of Rorschach and the gang.

Speaking of Rorschach, the success of the movie falls squarely on how well the central 6 (well, 7) characters were cast, played and written. Here's my take (in order of how well they were executed):

Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). Good god, was he born to play this part. Rorschach is the engine that drives the movie's central investigation, and Haley was spectacular. A damaged, take no prisoners reactionary, Rorschach was everything I had imagined when I read the book. His was the voice I heard in my head, right down the slightly disgusted "hurm." And that voice was the important thing, since Rorschach only has a few moments to emote and act without the full face mask (though when he did get his chance without it in the prison scenes, the performance was equally stellar. His "give me back my face!" sent chills). A+

The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). I know it sounds counter-intuitive to say that a swaggering, murdering, raping psychopath that shoots a Vietnamese woman pregnant with his child was the most "charming" performance in the movie, but damned if that's not true. Morgan brought a metric fuckton of charisma to the role, and added layers to the character of Edward Blake that I didn't get from the book's pages. In fact, because of Morgan, I understood more of the backstory with Sally Jupiter than I ever did previously. It's a fine line to walk, making this character who does so many loathsome things even the littlest bit sympathetic, but Morgan did so with a bravura take on The Comedian. A+

Doctor Manhattan (Billy Crudup). While we only saw him "in the flesh" in flashbacks as Jon Osterman, Crudup was there the whole time, giving a motion capture performance and providing the voice of the only true superpowered being in the world. Crudup's voice work was outstanding, growing more detached throughout the narrative, and sounding like someone who at once understood everything, except the human condition he had lost. A

Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson). Wilson ably captured the ennui and impotence of a middle aged and paunchy Dan Drieberg, who had gotten into the hero game for all the right reasons and then had a little bit of his soul stripped away when the Keane Act forced all the masked adventurers to hang up their capes (with the exception of vigilante Rorschach and government tools Blake and Manhattan). He also hit all the right notes as an enthused and energized Nite Owl once the costume came out of the closet, taking pride in all his Batman-like gizmos and entering into a romance with Laurie. A

Sally Jupiter (Carla Gugino). Gugino was outstanding as former pin up girl and crime fighter Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre and mother of Laurie. She was vivacious in flashbacks to her younger days, when she knowingly used her sexuality and desire for attention to her advantage. She was equally good (with the exception of the makeup) as an older Sally, still clinging to the fond memories of the old days, when she was adored and admired. Her portrayal, along with Morgan's, was another reason I completely bought the Comedian/Sally storyline, even more so than in the comic. A

Ozymandias (Matthew Goode). I've seen Goode in other things, and liked him, but there was something just "off" in this performance. Ozymandias, aka Adrian Veidt, is the smartest man in the world and supposed embodiment of all the perfection man can achieve both mentally and physically. Goode did put forth a cool superiority, but too often came across like a petulant dick rather than as a pinnacle of towering intellectual might. His accent (or accents, as there seemed to be both Brit and German in there) wavered from scene to scene, and a combination of his performance and Snyder's framing/editing made it all too clear all too soon who was behind everything. C+

Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Ackerman). I liked her bangs. She looked good in tight latex and thigh high fuck me boots. Other than that, I didn't buy it for a second. In the comic, Laurie is written to be flighty and confused (evidenced by her continued attempts to quit smoking, which sadly, can't be shown on film. Oh, we can hack a guy's arms off, shoot a pregnant chick dead and show the most brutal rape scene this side of Irreversible, but have someone smoke a cigarette? Heavens no!), caught up in circumstances she can't begin to emotionally process, like being the lover of a giant blue god figure with unlimited power but devastating detachment, or being the child of an illicit, secret and violent union. It's her "heart" and emotionality that helps pull Dan out of his stupor, and eventually, helps reach the last vestiges of Jon's humanity on Mars. But other than looking great, Ackerman totally fails in bringing any emotional subcurrent to the character. While Laurie is often passive, there are many colors to be played, and frankly, she was a blank sheet, that almost took me out of the movie every time she was on the screen. Amy Acker would have been brilliant in this role. D-

So for the most part, the characters and actors worked exceptionally well, though to be an unqualified success and effective illumination of the book, they ALL had to work.

The special effects, costuming, scoring and fighting were tremendous, and the opening credits, compacting a lot of backstory into a six minute Dylan song, were an astonishing piece of art.

Other than Goode and Ackerman, what didn't work for me?

It's a nitpick, but the group called themselves "Watchmen." Maybe that was a directive from the marketing suits, so people would understand, but that's just stupid. What group would call themselves that, knowing the quote from which the name is derived? Would anyone have been lost if they stuck to "Crimebusters" and put the full quote about "Watchmen" on screen? No.

The music. Yes, some was actually referenced in the novel, but the pop culture songs chosen were too literal, too obvious and too painful. ("99 Luftballons?" Really? "Ride of the Valkyries" for Vietnam? And can we please, please, please have a TV and movie moratorium on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah?" I did enjoy "Boogie Man" as The Comedian kicked some hippie ass, though).

Bubastis looked exactly like he should, but how about 10 seconds of a throwaway line to explain that?

The makeup was awful. I mean fucking AWFUL. I think we'd see better old age makeup in a high school production of Cocoon. Morgan and Gugino gave it a valiant try with their voices and actions, but it was through flesh colored spackling put on with all the subtlety of a trowel. And Nixon and Kissinger and other well known and recognized figures? Ugh.

I mentioned previously the lack of attention paid to the secondary characters from the book. Maybe they will be there in the final cut, but their absence took away some of the flavor and diminished the end game stakes.

Still, with plenty of things going against him, I think Snyder delivered as good a picture as he could have for the property. In the motion picture format, I don't think perfection (even recognizing that nothing on film will ever quite capture the full impact of the novel) was attainable. It's a mesmerizing work that I can't wait to see again. A- (that could have easily been an A+ with two, or perhaps even one, casting redo, some better makeup and more insightful music choices).

But what about the SQUID?!!
Okay, I haven't touched on the one defining and game changing difference from the novel, which was substituting attacks all over the world mimicking Manhattan's energy signature instead of a giant, interdimensional squid that attacks (only) New York. Personally, I think that the squid works best in the format it which it appeared. In a comic book, even one with such lofty ideals and complex storytelling as Watchmen, you can juxtapose the surface level silliness of a giant psychic squid attacking the planet from another dimension with the pages and pages of bloody, brutal human carnage and make your point. In a movie, something that fantastical (without many preceding scenes to carefully set it up) would feel out of place, and tonally jarring. The solution the movie offers is one that's more elegant and more believable in the reality of all that we've seen before, and pays off many of the elements and plot strands from the film. My only quibble is that why wouldn't the Soviets launch their bombs anyway, knowing full well that Manhattan was effectively an instrument of the US government? Perhaps another couple of minutes could have been inserted, with New York being attacked first, and Nixon frantically on the phone with the Kremlin assuring the Soviets that Doctor Manhattan is out of control and bent on wiping out humanity unless everyone pulls together.

In the end, a very, very good film. But if you haven't read the book, get yourself to a bookstore NOW.