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Tag: review

Circus of Heroes

by on Feb.08, 2010, under TV

In the beginning of this season of Heroes – the show that I used to love, started to hate, came to enjoy again and am now ambivalent about – the writers did what they needed to do by immediately injecting new characters and twists to the saga that was turning a little to telenovella-esque. The characters we had known and loved were able to evolve forward(-ish) and react to these new elements. Unfortunately at times even this new line feels stretched, stale, or overly tangled. And even with all that, there always seem to be some loose ends that threatent to unravel the tenuous hold the show seems to have on my patience. But tonight this chapter finals comes to an end. The big question is will the end tie a nice bow on the season or be the noose by which the series draws its own demise.

[me watching the Heroes season finale]

Okay. I will start with the positive. Most of the mainstays ended up either where I hoped/expected or in a place I can accept. Some got there with more hoopla than generally necessary, but they got there none the less. The writers were also good to avoid huge cliffhangers for next season (well, perhaps one). In general, with exception to some of the Sylar in Parkman’s head moments from earlier in the season, I’ve enjoyed his character arc this season and it’s correlation with Peter’s; the finale did well in completing that arc. All in all, this close was very reminiscent of the season one capper.

As for negatives, there actually are fewer than I expected. Samuel was a sociopath to the bitter end, but i’d anticipate no less. It is odd how full of himself he can be and how much if a manipulator he is, and yet he does so through coersion and omission and almost never seems to blatantly lie.  But really the negatives in my mind are more with the season than with the finale.  Where the season occasionally suffered from convoluted story arcs that didn’t always circle back as expected, the season closer did not suffer as such.

So to sum up:

Heroes Chapter 4:  C-
Heroes Chapter 4 Finale:  B+
Heroes Chatper 5 Outlook:  B?

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Dollhouse Dismantled

by on Feb.01, 2010, under TV

The final chapter has been closed.  Joss Whedon’s latest attempt at television success came to a bittersweet close last Friday.  Clearly I’ve had my druthers with the handling of this show (see here, herehere, and here), but I will try to keep this post about the show’s ending and avoid the downward spiral of network reproach.

Joss Whedon, in a word, is a genius.  Though it wasn’t aired on television, he had capped last season with a shocking look at what the future could hold for the technology of the Dollhouse – what seemed morally questionable became innocent and tame by comparison to the potential abuses.  Then in the second season Joss showed us bit by bit how such a future could come to be – weaving the various “flashbacks” from the fast forward into the regular season and filling in the gaps of how the technology could progress as such.

While I am sad to see the show end, I think that having a defined end point allowed for one of the best series wrap-ups I can ever remember seeing on television.  Whedon and co. delivered one-two punches week after week with the twists and turns in the plot for the past few months.  Characters who seemed infallible would fall, characters who seemed incorrigible would be redeemed, and characters who seemed as transparent as glass would turn out to have unimaginable secrets.

In the final hour, we were returned to the 10-years forward view of things, where despite (or perhaps as a result of) our heroes’ efforts, chaos reigns.  But where the previous flash forward showed an isolated snapshot of the future mixed with glimpses of the road to it, this episode was a mission to set all things right in the world.  As is common with a Joss Whedon wrap-up (e.g., Wash, Anya, Wesley), there were casualties.  And as would be realistic, there were bumps in the road to redemption.  But all things said and done, I couldn’t imagine it ending any other way.

It is ashame that the show did not garner the success or the due that it deserved – if you asked people about the show, they would either love it or not know what you are talking about (unfortunately the latter would be the majority).  But I enjoyed it while it lasted, I can feel confident in the ending laid out, and look forward to Joss’ next project (hopefully in no way tied to FOX).

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Flash Forward

by on Sep.24, 2009, under TV

Off and on I’ve had conversations about this new show coming this fall and about how it could be the new Lost (which I’m somewhat ashamed that I never found the time to watch).  Well the premiere has arrived and I’m here to report on my thoughts.  In short, it has promise and I will be keeping my eye on it at least in the short term.

The basic premise of Flash Forward seems to be this:  one day, out of the blue, everyone on Earth blacks out at the same exact moment and all for a period of 137 seconds.  During this blackout period, everyone gets a glimpse at that slice of time some 6 months in the future (though some see nothing at all).  The immediate result is calamity – countless deaths and injuries due to various types of vehicular accidents or inopportune locales (e.g., surfing), followed by chaos of people looting and taking advantage of the confusion.  But as the dust settles, there is a sense of unification – everyone has a definitive fate to consider and certainly something in common with every fellow man that they can talk about.

The epicenter of the story is around an FBI team that seems to quickly coalesce as the goto team in figuring out what happened to the world and what the visions tell us about our fate.  While the show is a fast-paced drama and I was able to connect with many of the characters very quickly, I have to say that I was surprised by some of the casting – specifically the large number of comedic talent used in such a serious show.  Among the FBI investigative team, they have cast John Cho (popularly renown as Harold), Joseph Fiennes (ok, serious – but I can’t help but picture him in Shakespearian garb), and Seth MacFarlane.  I have no doubt that everyone will play their roles well, but I can’t help but feel that some of their better talents will remain untapped in such a series.

The real drama and intrigue is in finding out who saw what and the mosaic (to use their word) that slowly comes together from the individual fragments.  It will also be interesting to whether knowing the future will have any impact on it – whether any of the outcomes can be avoided because they have been revealed, or whether they are preordained.  I have a feeling that they picked 6 months as the flash date so that they can put a nice bow on the season if it doesn’t get renewed, but it is way to early to call anything right now.  Another angle that is arising is the idea that this may not have been an accident and that at least one individual has been identified as having not been effected.  So there are definitely some fascinating mysteries to be unraveled.

So to sum up, I’ll likely keep watching the show and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It has all of the right ingredients and a cast I can get into.  But the moment MacFarlane starts doing funny voices, I think I may have to change the channel.

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Transformers: Rise of the Fallen

by on Jun.24, 2009, under movies

transformers-poster-big

I did something I don’t tend to do – I went to a midnight showing of a new movie – the Transformers sequel. While I greatly enjoyed it and I’m glad I went, a movie of nearly 3 hours in length is a tough mid-week pill to swallow. Though my boss was sympathetic to my late arrival at work since he was at the theater with me last night. Anyway, I’d seen the trailers and I’d heard some musings about who or what things were supposed to be in this movie, but I try to leave all that baggage at the door with these types of things and let the movie stand on its own. And it did – big-time. From start to finish there was not a dull moment. While I’m generally not a big fan of pointless action, this never felt like that type of movie – all the suspense seemed appropriate in measure.

Comparisons: Michael Bay’s second outing with this franchise definitely got into robot-based action much sooner. Within the first minutes of the film there were Autobots chasing Decepticons through the streets of Shanghai. And while in the first movie much of the dramatic tension (and comic relief) was among the human characters, in this chapter the robots offered more of the drama and comedy. The one thing that seemed a bit like a departure from the first film, though, was that the Transformers seemed a little less impervious – while I expect bot-on-bot carnage, the military arm involved seemed to be taking down a lot more targets on there own this time. Perhaps it went unspoken that the troops involved were defaultly equipped with more effective weaponry. But all-in-all, this was a solid sequel to the first and carries the story forward well.

Contrasts to the Source: While I was a huge Transformers fan as a kid and looked forward to these movies like a fanboy, I’m not a purist. In truth, adapting the cartoon as it was to a movie would have been cheesy and lacked realism in a lot of areas (e.g., scale issues with several of the transformers, body styles that were a bit too dependent on the vehicle forms). But for you purists out there (assuming you are even interested after the first movie), this movie deviates even further from the canon. For instance, there are several new members introduced with names from the show but that had little resemblance in shape or personality to their source. It was clear that the writers used the source material very loosely and in some cases only included recognizable names to give fanboys a momentary grin. But given how well the story is written, I have no issue with that whatsoever.

Things to Know Before You Go: (1) This movie is around 2 hours and 45 minutes long – so be sure you and anyone in your party are prepared for that kind of sitting. (2) While there are definitely elements in the movie geared towards a younger audience (such as a comical pair of Autobots referred to as ‘the twins’) younger is really teen/tween. I will not likely be taking my 5 year-old to see this (though she has seen the first) – I might let her see it on DVD when it comes out, but the immersive nature of a cinema multiplies all the violence and drama to a level that could be too much for the grade school crowd (plus at home you can pause for potty breaks). Plus there are some sensual elements that they wouldn’t likely get and don’t need to see plastered across a huge screen. (3) Unless you and your SO are into these types of movies, I wouldn’t call it a date movie. When my cohorts suggested the showing, a thought that didn’t cross my mind was ‘should I pass and see if my wife wants to see this with me?’ She was never into the Transformers as a kid, she only mildly enjoyed the first movie, and oddly isn’t nearly as aroused by Megan Fox as I am. And I think that Bay knew his audience was mostly male as he did include in the middle of some major melee some Baywatch-esque slow-motion running scenes with Megan and Shia (at least I assume he was in those scenes).

Those are my two cents. I hope they help. By the way, if you were expecting a book review today (a) you obviously didn’t read all of last weeks book review and (b) I’m sorry to disappoint. I DID get the 11th Dresden Files book as a Father’s Day gift and I’m about 120 pages through it already. If I finish before next week, you will have your review. But most likely it will be the following week or later. I will do my best to fill in the gaps. Thanks for reading.

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From the First to the Last

by on May.10, 2009, under TV

The end has come, and it was an amazing ending. I’m speaking about the season finale of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.  The episode was chock full of action, suspense, answers and resolutions – everything a season closer should have.  Before you continue reading I want to point out two things:  if you don’t watch the show, most of the rest of this will not make sense; if you do watch the show but haven’t watch the finale, then this may spoil some things for you.  So if you fall into either of the aforementioned categories, you best stop here.

Throughout the season, the story arc has been well orchestrated and has built a strong and believeable canon.  And by the penultimate episode, several elements were poised for a climactic conflict – the Dollhouse continued to operate unaware of its own flaws, both Paul Ballard and Alpha were poised to step forward and get what they were after, and Echo has subtlely been more than she is expected to be.  On Friday night, it all came to a head revealing several mysteries in the process (including some that we may not have realized were mysteries to begin with).

This finale was a perfect conclusion to the current arc (though hopefully not the series as a whole – see prior post).  And the action started before the episode even began.  Last weeks episode, “Briar Rose”, was an artful set to the thrilling spike that was “Omega” which continued nearly off the very heals of its predecessor.  Following prior Paul’s infiltration and the revelation that his agoraphobic accomplice is none other than the inconspicuous Alpha, the Dollhouse has to gain control of the chaos in their laps (including Victor’s medical status, Echo’s absence, and Paul’s presence).  Interwoven with the efforts to piece together the present puzzle, there are flashbacks to the confluence of events that led to Alpha’s original breakdown and escape.  And while Ballard is busy convincing Topher that there is more to a person than a map of their brain, Alpha attempts to make a Bonnie to his Clyde out of Echo (or as he put it the Omega to his Alpha – hence the title).

After Alpha’s plans backfire (sorry for the spoiler, but hey – you were warned … and you should have seen it coming anyway), the denouement includes Alpha being shelved, November being set free, Echo returning to the hen house, and Paul possibly finding an unlikely new place to roost.  Along the way we also discovered that Amy Acker’s Dr. Saunders is actually a doll version of the previous doctor (who happened to be played by George Frankly from MathNet), that Chrissy Seaver can hack it as an adult actress, and that serial killers shouldn’t be used as actives – especially in engagements fulfilling someone else’s serial killer fantasy.  I just hope that Fox sees the forest through the trees with this one and give the show another season to find its audience.  Otherwise this precipice to the next chapter is just an amazing ending.

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