Saturday, September 18, 2004

GateWorld - Stargate SG-1 In the Making: 'Avatar'

Notes from a Stargate SG-1 producer wherein he agrees that the trapped-in-a-virtual-reality-game episode from a few weeks back was a overused, hackneyed idea, and somehow fails to convince me that they managed to find a fresh take on it.
Movie-List - Sin City Trailer Page

I suspect this is going to look as weird and unappealing to the average moviegoer as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But as someone who has been reading the Sin City comics from day one, I'm excited about a movie trying to hard to faithfully adapt their visual style. Not quite sure how it'll look when all is said and done, but I'll be there to watch.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My reaction to last night's episode of Nip/Tuck:

Eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew.
After three episodes of Father of the Pride, I'm out. Just too much TV in that time slot I'd rather see next week (season premiere of One Tree Hill, first half of the season finale of The Amazing Race 5, and the series finale of Amish in the City). As it is, with the DVR, I can only watch or record two shows at the same time, so I either watch or tape the third show on the old TV upstairs as it is. And Father of the Pride...

On last night's episode, the parents found drugs (catnip, because they're lions, get it?) in the house, and blamed their teenage daughter for being a nip-head, not believing her denials. Then, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, the parents accidentally ended up taking catnip themselves, acting high and immature just when their daughter--sober as a judge--was being interviewed for the gifted and talented program at her school. And it turns out that the catnip wasn't hers after all, but really belonged to the grandfather. Oh, my sides hurt from laughing so hard. Because, you see, while it may seem like a tired and hackneyed sitcom premise, the fact that the characters are cartoon lions, and the drug was catnip, not a real human drug, just makes it HI-larious.

So, I'm out.

(Having said that, the bits with Siegfried and Roy continue to be the best parts of the show, even more so knowing that they're done with the real characters' approval.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fox Hangs Up Tru Calling

You know, I really liked the first season of Tru Calling, and was looking forward to its return. Now it's pushed back to mid-season, with only 13 episodes ordered.

Screw 'em. I'm still only going to watch the shows I like, not the ones I'm "supposed" to watch. Shows live, shows die, and it's not my job to keep things I don't enjoy on the air, not when the ones I enjoy aren't getting the same attention. Take that, Arrested Development!

This is a movie trailer for something I know absolutely nothing about. Looks kind of neat, though. (It'll probably be crap once it's actually released, but... you know.)

The same company has done an adaptation of War of the Worlds that is apparently pretty faithful to the original novel. And I like Victorian science fiction, so I'd be curious about that, too...
Sam Davatchi's Page

Every now and then, I feel like I have no life. And then I find someone who has created a web page detailing--complete with screen captures--all the changes between the various versions of Star Wars. And suddenly, I feel like I lead a rich and fulfilling life.

I'm going to go read a comic book now.
Despite much critical ribbing, I decided to catch the premiere of LAX last night. (Actually, I watched about half of it before deciding I was too tired, but that's half an hour more than I watched of the Everwood season premiere. And I recorded the whole thing, and watched the remainder this evening.) I want to say there was more to my decision than my ongoing attraction to Heather Locklear, but I can't be arsed to make up a reason right now. And, yeah, the critics haven't been kind, but they had the same lukewarm comments about CSI before it premiered. (Oh, wait. I don't like CSI. Bad example. Anyway...)

So I watched it, and it wasn't all that bad. Not groundbreaking or anything, but pretty watchable. And it's not like by watching it, I'm supporting it over something better, because there's nothing else in that time slot I want to see. So I'll tune in next week.

I think part of the appeal for me is that as far as I'm concerned, airports are Hell on earth. So there is scope for all sorts of mishaps and conflict in that setting, because it's such a site of human misery. I think TV Guide claims it's an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Las Vegas, the show, but I can't watch Las Vegas, because even though it's supposed to be a glamorized fantasy, it's still the place I write on my return address, and the two just don't match up in my head. LAX is a fantasy, too, where an airport only hires the prettiest people, but at least it's a fantasy I'm not supposed to be living down the street from. And it's beautifully produced, and on the Bitchville* Scale, the writing wasn't too horrible.

And, of course, there's the appeal of Heather Locklear.

So, today, because I didn't really feel like working, I checked online for some LAX reviews, just to see what people were saying now that I'd had a chance to judge for myself. And it looks like the critics think the acting is okay, and the show is beautifully shot, but that it isn't a believably realistic depiction of an airport. And all I can say is, "Are you completely friggin' retarded?" No, it's not a realistic view of an airport, any more than The West Wing is a realistic portrait of the White House, or CSI is an accurate crime drama. (Because, you know, evidence techs interrogate suspects all the time...) Anyone who has spent any time at all in a hospital won't have failed to notice that it's a great deal slower paced than seen on ER, and yet nobody seems overly critical of that. So to base the complaints about LAX on this point... I swear, it's like the reviewers of America just don't give a shit about whether people like me have any respect for them. A fiction TV series taking liberties with reality? Imagine that! Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that Fahrenheit 9/11 is actually colored by Michael Moore's political beliefs, and may not present a completely objective picture of reality. Geez...

*The Bitchville Scale of bad dialogue comes from the Nick Nolte/Julia Roberts movie I Love Trouble. The film seems pretty clearly intended to be an homage to the sorts of snappy repartee found in movies like The Thin Man, The Front Page, and pretty much anything with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. However, the first serious misstep comes when you notice that the romantic, charming male lead is actually played by Nick Nolte, who more closely resembles a sack of drunken potatoes shoved into a suit. The second misstep comes when the writers fail to realize that having Nolte's character react to Julia Roberts' frosty attitude towards him with witty bon mots like, "Where are you from? Bitchville?" is neither witty nor charming, and is, in fact heavy-handed and irritating. On the Bitchville scale, LAX doesn't necessarily come across like Shakespeare, but it holds its own just fine.

Monday, September 13, 2004

One last quick update: According to Mike Grell's website, he's bringing back his character, Jon Sable, to comics, both in reprints and new stories. Jon Sable, Freelance was a favorite of mine from the late First Comics, back in the 80's, along with Grimjack, also returning in new stories and reprints, and American Flagg, which is also being reprinted. So this is cool.
Oh, for those of you keeping track of such things, Penelope was approved for health insurance. They won't cover constipation (that is now a preexisting condition, thank you very much), but they didn't say anything about the hyperthyroid condition my vet is concerned about. So maybe that's not such a strong possibility after all. Which is good, considering that the idea of radiation therapy for her was freaking me right out. I mean, on the one hand, yes, being able to find her in the dark, probably a good thing. But otherwise...
Much to write about this time around, thanks in part to Blogger not saving a draft of an earlier post on Friday. (Thanks.) So, first, new TV:

The second episode of Medical Investigation--airing in the series' regular Friday timeslot--felt much more like a pilot than the "preview" episode on Thursday night. Part of my thinking is this: Anna Belknap's hair was shorter (which won't really mean anything until I see how she looks next Friday, but in the preview episode, it was the length seen in her promo photo). The slightly less gay reason is that Friday's episode was writen completely by the series creator, while Thursday's was co-written by him and someone else. Thursday's episode also seemed to have more complete production credits at the beginning, whereas the average pilot doesn't have that big a staff. And, aesthetically, the Thursday show seemed a little more polished, a little zippier. It seems clear that after the pilot was produced, someone probably had a note along the lines of, "Could it look more like CSI?" Friday's show was paced and shot more like a medical drama. However, I'm still more inclined to watch this show than CSI for the reasons I said earlier: there seems to be more at stake on this show than on CSI. These characters are working to save people's lives; the CSI characters come in after the lives have already been lost.

And I'm just going to say this about Friday's Stargate Atlantis: At this point, I think I'd vote for any candidate who supported a constitutional ammendment to ban bullshit virtual-reality storylines from all Stargate TV series.

Saturday brought with it the premiere of The Batman, the new animated series about... (figure it out). Now, ten years ago, Warner Bros Television created a groundbreaking animated Batman series that pretty much redefined superhero cartoons. This, by its very nature, was likely to come up short, and most of the reviews I've read seem to take it to task for not being that series from ten years ago. I'll admit, I thought it had its weak moments. The conceit here is that this is a Batman just three years into his career, still learning. In this week's episode, he meets the Joker for the first time. But it's not really the Joker I'm familiar with from the comics. What makes the Batman/Joker matchups sparkle is the mental combat, because the Joker is crazy. Here, it's altogether too physical, and it just doesn't feel quite right. I mean, Batman can get in a punch-up with any villain, he can beat the crap out of any villain. Fighting the Joker is all about figuring out his lunatic mindset, and there just isn't any of that here.

Having said that, I did find a lot to like about the show. I like most of the designs and the animation. And I liked the multicultural cast (Hispanic police chief, African American and Asian detectives). And, to be honest, it's Batman. It takes a lot for me to be critical here. (Remember my raves about Birds of Prey back when it was on? I stand by them, but even then, I admitted that I wasn't necessarily seeing things clearly.)

Last night, I watched the series premiere of Jack & Bobby, which has been touted as one of the must-see new dramas. For something that was supposed to be all that and a bag of chips, I thought it was just okay. It's kind of The West Wing meets Smallville; we meet a young kid as a teenager, we know he's going to grow up to be President of the United States, so the fun part is watching him get from here to there. The characters felt real, the show looked just fine, and I'll definitely be back next week. I think I was expecting something unbelievable, based on the hype, and whatever I got couldn't live up to those expectations.

This week, I also got a ton of TV shows on DVD. Specifically Alias Season 3, American Dreams Season 1, Everwood Season 1, Angel Season 4, and the complete Keen Eddie. Now, longtime readers of this journal (both of you) have probably heard me wax enthusiastic about Alias, Keen Eddie, and Angel, so those should come as no surprise. Everwood was sort of an impulse purchase. I've just started watching the show on The WB, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. discounts DVD sets pretty heavily before they come out, so I thought I'd get it while it was on sale. I watched the first four episodes so far, and I'm glad I got it.

And then there's American Dreams, which continues to be a personal favorite. So far, I've only watched the first episode three times (each time with a different commentary track; haven't even watched it with the regular soundtrack yet), but I completely remember how it won me over right from the start. It's a family show, but not like any other family show currently on the air. The creator/producer Jonathan Prince talks about the fast-paced editing style, and says they deliberately decided to shoot a family show like a cop show. The show allows characters to be mean and unlikeable at times, and still human. I was surprised to learn that Executive Producer Dick Clark had urged the producers to make the show harder-edged, but that hard edge is what gives the show its reality. The show returns for its third season in a couple of weeks, and I've got plenty of DVDs in the meantime, so expect to hear more.

Oh, and American Dreams is the show responsible for my not renewing my subscription to Entertainment Weakly. They criticized the show because the father, Jack Pryor, wouldn't let his daughter walk home with an African American kid, but would go into business in an African American neighborhood and let his African American employee run the store. Because, of course, racism is just this monolithic behavior, and there are no shades of gray or complexity. People are either one way or another, at least according to EW. This, from the same magazine that had problems with October Sky, the movie about an Appalachian boy who grows up to be a NASA rocket scientist, based on Homer Hickam's autobiography, because they thought the character in the movie felt too cosmopolitan to be from an Appalachian coal town.

As for Alias, I've only gotten through the first episode of the season, plus the bonus animated cartoon (titled, imaginatively, "Animated Alias"). The animation looked familiar, and it turns out it was done by Noodlesoup, the same guys who do The Venture Brothers on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It's slight, and just sort of expands on stuff seen in an episode of the show rather than adding anything new, but it's cute, and it's new Alias than I haven't seen before, not in any form.

Apparently, the DVD release of the third season of 24 includes ten minutes of direct-to-DVD footage introducing characters from the upcoming fourth season. So hopefully, this will only be the beginning of DVD producers coming up with unique added-value features for their sets of TV shows on DVD. (As opposed, say, to the upcoming set of Buck Rogers DVDs, which have no special features, just the episodes, and are way expensive. Not planning on getting them...)

Speaking of DVDs, it has apparently been announced that George Lucas is making still more changes to the upcoming DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy of movies. And, predictably, fans are outraged, in a manner that suggests that this is somehow important. Me, I can see both sides. On the one hand, I understand the desire of an artist to keep refining a work until it most closely matches his original vision. And the original movies were produced under financial and technological constraints that no longer apply, so if George Lucas wants to use his money and contemporary technology to make them look the way he wants them to look, that's his right. They're his movies (even if he didn't direct two of them, by all accounts, they're still pretty much his vision). On the other hand, I can understand the fan point of view that says, "I fell in love with the movie I saw in 1977; I want to see exactly the same movie on DVD." But at the end of the day, I say this:

If you're over 18 and concerned about this, you'd better be registered to vote, and you'd better do so in November's election. Because if your passion, your drive, your firmly-held beliefs are all directed to whichever blinking version of Star Wars you get on DVD, then grow up.