Friday, October 26, 2007

Heroes Season Two

First, before you watch season two, or read this review, you probably should have seen Heroes Season One by now. In other words: Spoiler Alert

I really enjoyed season one of this show. I did feel like the season finale didn't feel so much like a high-impact season finale as it did a pause in the story, the end of an arc. And to be honest I was okay with that.

So far this season, well, I'm not as interested. Each Monday I look forward to Chuck and then watch Heroes because it's on next. I won't say it's dissapointing, it's not. But it's just not fascinating. Once, I tried to explain to a friend how each episode of first season ended not on a cliff-hanger but on a "Oh my gosh, REALLY?" moment.

My prime example of that is when you learn that Nathan is Claire's father. The ends of the episodes almost always were a moment where you got a vital piece of the mythos, where you learned a little more about how everybody was connected. Where suddenly you knew something that you didn't know and you didn't get any screen time to acclimate to the idea.

I can't think of any endings this season that have had that kind of impact. Nothing that has made me gasp and say, "What?" Every moment like that is firmly entrenched in the middle of the hour. Then we almost immediatly get the explanation after the commercial break. While I'm also not a fan of the Lost school of thought where you give questions and more questions but no answers. But when you get the answers too quickly, in a show like Heroes, you just start to get bored.

But honestly, that I could live with, I'd just be a little bored. It's not the worst thing that's happening this season.

I read a an interview in Entertainment Weekly where one of the creators said that he realized he had all these heroes and he "may as well" start having them hook up.

Yup, seemingly on a whim he decided to make this season "Heroes with Hormones" instead of having interesting plots. Suddenly, we have West who seems to have been created to be Claire's boyfriend. West is one-dimensional and creepy, there is no better way to say it. He looks and acts like the season one version of Clark Kent on Smallville . Only he also has the distinction of being an "outsider." Only, any real high school outsider could easily tell the creators that he's acting like what people think high school outsiders are like, not what they really are. And he's just plain creepy. He's a STALKER. Let's remember girls: boys who stare at you through your windows without letting you know they're there? They are peeping toms, not hopeless romantics.

I'm already bored with Peter and his girlfriend because they did the typical tv course of romance: they happen to be of the opposite sex and in the same place, he does something heroic, they dance around the attraction for about ten seconds, they kiss hesitantly once, and then they make out like rabbits. I don't believe them for a second. I do like her accent though, and I liked her interactions with her brother. So she's one-up on West.

The only relationship that I'm more or less okay with is Hiro's "unrequited" love. Maybe it's because the entire situation seems to be taken straight from a manga (and honestly, one scene of the swordsmith's daughter and I was calling her Kaoru) or maybe it's because his attraction to her seems so sweet and genuine. Claire and Peter don't seem to be really in love, just hormonal. I don't know if this is the writers' fault or the actor's. But I'm assuming writers, because Claire had the distinction of being one of the first television teenagers I actually liked.

I won't stop watching the show any time soon, that's for certain. I would still like to own a copy of Heroes Season One. But the show needs to take a deep breath, find it's direction, and move ahead. It needs to capture the storytelling that it had last season, the pace, and perhaps make their "Nightmare Man" (the moniker literally made me laugh out loud) as threatening and fascinating as Sylar.

Or just give Sylar more screen time. Zachary Quinto is now one of my favorite actors, he could carry the show by himself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Dog's Breakfast

A Dog's Breakfast

Okay, I have to admit I was almost worried about this movie. It seemed too good to be true. Two actors I love from Stargate Atlantis make a dark comedy? With David Hewlett directing?

When you add in Kate Hewlett, who I loved in her Atlantis appearance, Christopher Judge, and a chance to see Rachel Luttrell play a different character, I knew I had to see this movie.

I also knew that there was a chance I would be disappointed. Sometimes, when something gets built up in your mind, you're almost afraid to experience it because it might not live up to your expectations.

A Dog's Breakfast is not that kind of movie. It is everything it said it would be, it is a dark comedy, it is hilarious, and really shows off the acting skills of all involved. While Luttrell plays an alien princess, her character is part of a fantastic "Space Soap Opera" spoof that had us all laughing as we watched. I would watch Star Crossed any day of the week.

While Hewlett's character, Patrick, has some mannerisms related to Dr. McKay, in the end he is his own neurotic crazy person. Paul McGillion steals the show, playing Ryan in a way that is absolutely nothing like Dr. Carson Beckett.

The plot is very over the top, and it could have been too much. Patrick doesn't like his sister's fiance, Ryan. So he contemplates killing the man to get him out of the way. His attempts at murder are so inept they usually leave Patrick injured instead of his intended victim.

But in one moment the movie suddenly starts to become so bizarre that you're not sure where it could be going. It's saving grace is that almost at the second where you look at your television and say, "No way" the movie suddenly starts to make a twisted kind of sense.

The group I watched it with was almost constantly laughing and talking to the screen. I know I am going to put it on my list of films to buy and own.

As an added bonus, the DVD actually contains special features. I expected it to be a nearly bare disc, with the movie and perhaps some subtitling options. Instead there are featurettes, commentary, and a few deleted and extended scenes. The deleted scenes, like almost every set I've seen, aren't really worth inclusion if it wasn't for clearer versions of the scenes from Star Crossed. But the featurettes are actually revealing and interesting. You see behind-the-scenes moments and interviews with everyone involved. David Hewlett still has a great sarcastic sense of humor as a person.

This movie is absolutely worth renting, and if you already like the actors at all then go ahead and buy it. It is well worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series

I wanted to like this show. I really did. I'd heard that it was fantastic, I'd heard all these tales of how great it was and how tragic it was that it had been canceled.

Of course, since half the people involved have gone on to make huge hit movies like Knocked Up, it has been hyped up and talked about even more.

Normally, I give new series one disc to impress me. If I don't like the first episode, I at least give it on more. I usually try to give it three. This had three episodes on the first disc. Perfect!

But really, I should have given up halfway through the first episode when I realized it was like an homage to a bad 80's movie. Only it was a bad homage, the kind where instead of remembering the great elements of a genre and improving on it they instead just reproduce the genre entirely.

I knew everything that was coming before it happened. I couldn't even stand to watch the second episode because I knew it would just be a rehash of every other "My parents are out of town and I'm going to invite a few friends over but then the party gets out of control!" Even Mean Girls couldn't improve on that old plotline.

I know I was supposed to sympathize with the main character, but I just couldn't care. She made stupid decisions every thirty seconds, and while I can understand why she would be friends with the drummer (no, I can't remember anyone's names from the show) I can't understand why she would want to be in the same room with James Franco.

If you want a show that is as funny and difficult to deal with as high school, and at least moderatly realistic go with MMy So-Called Life. If you want one that takes the high school drama and makes it better, pick up Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

But don't bother with Freaks and Geeks.

Edit and addition: I have to admit something after reading up on the series on Wikipedia. I did not watch the second or third episode in their entirety. I actually have a huge aversion to watching people embarrass themselves, and so I skipped through most of the kegger in the second episode. Turns out that her brother switches the beer with a non-alcoholic variety and the kids act drunk anyway. This DOES in fact bring something new to the story, and I have to admit that I commend them for that. Since I haven't sent the show back yet, I might watch this episode completely.

But I don't believe it will really change how I feel about the show or the characters, so I've already taken the rest of the show off of my queue.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

RKO 281

RKO 281 - The Battle Over Citizen Kane

Last night I watched RKO 281, and to be honest with you I had no idea watching it that it was an HBO made-for-tv movie.

It was very well done, and very well made. Production values were very high. Honestly, I couldn't really offer more about the plot and writing than has been said in numerous reviews. It glosses over things, it changes history around. It's "historical fiction" and "based on a true story" at it's best.

One thing I disagree with: several people have disparaged the portrayal of Marion Davies. I thought Melanie Griffith did a fantastic job, and I loved the character. I thought she had a lot of strength, and I can't see it as a negative portrayal at all. I think people went into watching it and expected, because it was based on Citizen Kane, for her to be portrayed unfairly.

I think that the acting is what is so phenomenal in this film. It is full of powerhouse actors, huge names, and they all earn their reputations here. I noticed it was nominated for a lot of awards for casting, and that makes perfect sense.

Liev Schreiber really embodies Orson Welles. One thing that I was amazed by when I watched Citizen Kane in my first film class so many years ago was that Orson Welles was an extremely handsome man. If People magazine had been around, he would have been the sexiest man alive at least once.

Schreiber has that appeal, and that dashing handsomeness. But he also has the ego, and the enigmatic nature. If he hadn't been up against Jack Lemmon, he could have easily gotten an Emmy from the role. And if the film had been released theatrically, he would have deserved an Oscar nomination.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Wonderfalls: The Complete Viewer Collection

Wonderfalls - The Complete Series

I realize that I still have one more disc to go before I'm done watching this series. But I have to go ahead and weigh in that I'm watching that last disc under duress.

Why? Because despite the fact that I honestly don't like the main character, that I think she has no one to blame but herself, I still want to know what happens in the end. Darnit.

The story is just inventive enough to pull me in, it's just interesting enough that I want to push play on the next episode. And I blame every bit of that on the character Eric, the poor bartender who is in love with our heroine Jaye. That and Mahandra, Jaye's best friend. I can only hope that the two of them, with a little help from talking animals, will actually convince Jaye to stop being miserable and get on with it.

Wonderfalls was canceled before they finished airing four episodes. Many people have said that it was stupid to cancel it so early, and a lot has been said about what a missed chance it was.

Honestly, the show suffered unfairly from airing around the same time as Joan of Arcadia. You can't really avoid the fact that both shows were different takes on the same idea: modern day Joan of Arc reluctantly follows cryptic advice and helps people.

Joan of Arcadia took a more literally approach, and a more religious one. But it did it very well. God was cryptic, but not overly so. Joan didn't want to listen, but she did. As the first season progressed, she was more adept at doing what was needed, at solving the riddle of what she should be doing. The second season fell apart, but Wonderfalls was long gone by then.

Jaye isn't a lovable character. She doesn't recognize the things her family does for her, or how they care for her. She focuses only on their flaws. She doesn't recognize the fact that her life in retail is partially her fault. She complains constantly about following the animals' advice, and she never gets better at following it. The animals, for their part, never get any better at giving it. "Give him heart!" What in the world is THAT supposed to mean? No wonder Jaye gets it wrong.

Eric, as much as I like him, is also hopeless for Jaye and there's no reason for him to be that I can see. Mahandra is the only character I can believe, because she doesn't let Jaye make excuses. The storylines are also completely over the top. Runaway nuns? Mating macaws? It's so hard to take it seriously, and you can't really view it as a comedy either.

I realize Jaye is realistic, and actually a lot like me. But I see no reason for me to watch a tv show about myself.

If you're curious about the premise, it might be worth renting the first disc of Wonderfalls. But don't expect the next big thing. It's just decent.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chuck on NBC

I've now see two episodes of NBC's new show Chuck. I was eagerly awaiting the pilot episode because I'd read so much about it when I was researching posts for The TV Show Blog.

The pilot was interesting and fun. The characters were introduced in rather normal ways, and overall I was looking forward to the next episode. In fact, I watched it again on a repeat on SciFi Channel on Sunday night. But after watching the second episode, I'm not sure how I feel about the show as a whole.

I only had a few basic negative reactions:
1. Why is it that if the main character is a nerd, the only way to make them likeable seems to be to make their best friend a BIGGER nerd. The more their best friend fits the stereotype, the more we are supposed to like the main character. I don't dislike Chuck's best friend Morgan. But I want him to be a more filled out character, and to stop pandering to every stereotype.

2. I was set up not to like Sarah by an interview with the creators. They basically said that Sarah was perfect and wonderful, but nobody wants perfect and wonderful so they gave her a flaw: she can't cook. When you could have worked so much with her angst over Bryce, the fact that it seems like they were more than partners, her devotion to the CIA...there are so many more things that could be interesting. They hinted at a duality to her character, but they never really explored it. Maybe they will later. The not-cooking is played for laughs, and it's so old it annoys. Also, if Sarah can't cook, who made the soufflé?

3. I know it's petty, but Ellie's hair in the second episode is just...bad. It's very very distracting, you can barely see her eyes under there. I love her character, and the actress, and I can't take her seriously with that haircut.

4. There is a dangerous slope they're walking on with Chuck. It is the same slope that shows like this always have to worry about: you have to get Chuck to learn and adapt with his circumstances, without making him become so competent that your show stops being about the bumbling geek who is pretending to be a spy. Better shows have fallen victim to it, making their main characters stay too stupid for too long. I worry about Chuck.

5. The spy stuff isn't as well written as it could be. I understand the premise, that even in a situation like that, Chuck's nerd knowledge can save the day, instead of his "government secret" knowledge. But they're having to stretch so hard to make that work sometimes. They are clearly just making up technology, and that makes it hard for people in the know to enjoy the series. The NSA incinerator? No, sorry. The bad CG of the tracker in the radio of the Nerd Herd car? That was just terrible. Also, all the talk of "secrets" is getting old. I've never heard a government operative say "SECRETS!" in that type of context. They would say intelligence, information, data, what have you. But not secrets. Because it's not a secret to them, is it?

Positive thoughts:
1.. I was so happy that Casey began to have a real character in the second episode, and at the end he seemed to actually be changing and evolving as a character. Which is what all good television characters do. Adam Baldwin is too good an actor to waste on a "cold stone killer" who doesn't grow as a person.

2. While the action and spy sequences falter, the comedic pieces and the stories about Buy More are classic. Big Mike is one of my favorite characters in the show, and it's not just because I worked retail and my store manager was named Mike.

3. The moment when Chuck helped Casey figure out where the bad guy took Sarah was actually really good, and an example how to make Chuck save the day without having super knowledge. Chuck flying the helicopter? Not so much. Actually, I much rather would have had Casey talk Chuck through the copter landing than Sarah. She ended up sounding patronizing. Casey could have easily had the line about video games, then we could have found out that he actually played flight sims or something.

4. There are nods being thrown out to nerds left and right, from Lost references to video games. I like shows that can subtly embrace pop culture without dating themselves too much. Also, their use of music is actually very good.

5. Two words: Captain AWESOME.

I'll keep watching the show, but only because right now they've had one good episode and one mediocre one. Everybody misses the mark sometimes.