Saturday, July 16, 2005

Crap! The new Harry Potter book arrived in the mail today, and I'm not done with the book I'm currently reading (Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson). I had ordered the Potter book from, and had received an email from them warning me that I might not receive the book exactly on the release date, which suited me just fine. So I didn't rush to finish the Patterson book. And then it just shows up! So, plan is to finish the Patterson one tonight, and then move on to Harry Potter. (And never mind all the books on the on-deck circle--sorry, Mags--that just got pushed back one slot again.)

Last night saw the season premiere of SciFi Friday's season premiere. It also saw a power outage here from 9:15 to 11:05 or so, and I was concerned I wouldn't actually be able to see the premieres of Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica. But, thanks to SciFi reruning their whole lineup twice, and the power coming back on just in time, it all worked out. (Still pretty miserable, though. Couldn't read or watch TV or anything, because it was dark, didn't want to leave the house because that would have meant disengaging the garage door opener... Fortunately, didn't have much in the refrigerator. Still, the loss of air conditioning meant for some discomfort. Thank goodness it was less than two hours, and at night!)

Stargate SG-1 felt pretty much the same, familiar show, considering the major cast changes. Richard Dean Anderson gone, Amanda Tapping taking a break, Ben Browder joining as the lead and Claudia Black (both from Farscape) as a long-term guest star, Beau Bridges joining... It was all handled pretty well, all things considered. Best decision the producers could have made was using flashbacks to establish an existing relationship between Browder's new character and the old characters, so there's none of that stupid "Let's be wary of the new guy until he proves that his different, foreign ways are actually useful and valuable to the team, no matter how strange they may seem to us" crap that completely turned me off of TNT's The Closer. The actual story--learning that the legends of King Arthur and Merlin are somehow tied into the greater Stargate background mythology, and investigating that--was familiar enough territory for the show, so while we were getting to know the new characters, it was clear that they were appearing in the same show that's been running for the past eight years.

Stargate Atlantis continued right on from where last season's cliffhanger ended, so fewer surprises there. This week, Mitch Pileggi joined the cast as a recurring guest (I think), and, as usual, he brings the right sort of mix of charm and sleaze to give the character some sort of edge without seeming like a complete jerk. (At least, advance word from the Stargate magazine is that he's there to create some tension; this episode, he's a pretty straightforward soldier-boy.) The other new regular character for the season hasn't shown up yet--he's played by a Baywatch pretty-boy--so I can't comment. I do think the choices they've made for Rainbow Sun Francks' character, Lt. Aiden Ford, are positive moves. He's now some sort of unpredictable human-Wraith hybrid, with an as-yet-unrevealed agenda. Previously, he was a nondescript soldier-boy. This is an improvement.

And then there's Battlestar Galactica. Again, picking up directly from last season's shock cliffhanger--although that apparently wasn't the original plan, according to producer Ron Moore's podcast commentary--this is more of the same, really. Which is just fine; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There are some fantastic sequences this time around: the scenes where Cally, Tyrrol and some third soldier are pinned down in the forest by sniper fire, played without any sort of Hollywood/TV crutches or glamorization is just harrowing, and the effects of the battle to defend the Galactica as it attempts to plot the course of the missing fleet are phenomenal. My personal favorite moment, however, comes in the middle of the battle. We cut to the ship's brig, where President Roslyn is being held, and you can hear the sounds of explosions and everything all around, and the guard asks her if she'll pray with him. Now, Moore points out that he wanted this bit to remind the audience of Laura's growing importance as a religious figure in the overall storyline, but I like it because it's just such a human thing. There's this big fight going on, and this guy, who would just be a nonspeaking extra on almost any other series, is scared shitless and the only thing he can think to do is pray. And it just brings it all down to an identifiable scale.

I swear, it's almost a shame the show is about people in spaceships fighting robots, because that just blinds too many people who can't see past that to recognize that this is one of the best, most affecting human dramas on the air.

And it's way better than Summerland.

And I also watched Two Brothers, a movie about tigers in India in the last century, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who made The Bear. And I'm a sucker for animal movies--I own Buddy, for crying out loud--but I thought this was great. And what I've been saying all along about reviewers being useless? Let me double that for customer reviews, and let there be a law stating that anyone who doesn't understand that "I expected it to be something else" isn't a useful opinion should be smacked.

And while we're making laws like that, let me include people who park in front of other people's driveways when they go to yard sales, and people who sit at a drive-through ATM doing whatever it is that they're doing after they're finished with their transaction, forcing other people to go to the ATM further away where it's harder to turn around and get back onto the road.

Thank you.

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