Saturday, October 30, 2010

K9 - "The Bounty Hunter"

Spoiler Level: Fairly Highish

Not the picture I wanted to use, but my computer's acting up and it's not letting me install the codecs I need to make a proper screen capture.  This will have to do.

Another good offering.  Darius is still a whiner, but the other characters have still been decent.  The "Bounty Hunter" in question is a man named Ahab, who I believe said he was from the year 500,000.  Apparently both he and the Jixon followed K9 through the time stream, which implies that K9 was not escaping Gallifrey and the Time War after all.  I figured the whole memory loss thing was simply because they weren't allowed to use the Doctor Who mythos, but it looks like it's actually being built up into its own story arc.  Which would also explain why K9 survived the Time War, if he left Gallifrey before it happened.  I wonder if they're allowed to use Leela?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Superman: Doomsday

Spoiler Level: High

DC's first Original Video Animation (or in this case, Animated Original Movie) is arguably one of the most influential stories told about Superman: his battle with Doomsday, resulting in his death and rebirth.  It was certainly a big one for me; it was because of this storyline that I started reading Superman, and became a huge Superman fan, devotedly reading the four Superman comics (being published as a "Superman Weekly" format) for nearly a decade.

This film actually covers three comic arcs: The Death of Superman, Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen.  So it has a lot of material to cover in a mere 77 minutes.  You'd think that would make it rushed, but the story here is more of an retelling than a straight-out adaptation, and it works really well.

Let's start out with Doomsday:  now that Doomsday's origin has been told in the comics, his discovery and release on Earth can be tweaked to fit.  Originally Doomsday was just bound and buried in a vault on Earth, and broke out on his own.  The implication in later issues was that he was a Cadmus experiment that had gone horribly wrong that they tried to dispose of without anyone knowing.  But by the time the storylines had run their course that was way too mundane an origin, so when the official origin came out he was now a Kryptonian experiment that had been jettisoned into space, where he roamed the universe causing more and more destruction until he was finally trapped and buried on Earth.  So as a result, in this movie he's now stumbled upon in a buried spaceship with an alien warning.  So that's a bit of retconning that actually improves on the comics.

Clark's relationship with Lois is a totally new take:  in the original, Clark had already proposed to Lois, she had accepted, so he revealed he was Superman.  Here it's exactly the opposite: Superman and Lois are an item (and they shower in each others homes a lot), but he hasn't told her he's Clark yet.  Not that she hasn't pretty much figured it out on her own, and is in fact getting peeved with him for not opening up and telling her.  It's a dynamic that makes for an interesting story, but it kind of gives me the creeps.  Not Superman Returns creeps, but it still feels wrong:  it was always important to Clark that Lois love him for who he truly is, and this flies in the face of all that.  Yet it manages to combine the element of Lois learning the truth about him yet still have the emotional drama of the watching the man she loves battle to the death in front of her.

And what a battle it is.  Doomsday takes advantage of the PG-13 rating, mercilessly killing anyone in his path, often by doing terrible things to their heads.  There's just enough done off -camera or in shadow that when combined with a lack of blood keeps it horrifying without becoming gratuitous.  And then once Doomsday faces off against Superman, it just intensifies as neither one has to hold back-- something you rarely see with Superman.  Buildings are destroyed left and right, and while it's never come straight out and stated that there's still people in them, we see plenty of people in other buildings and no evacuations.  The final attack where Superman defeats Doomsday is actually more dramatic here than it felt in the comic.

This movie doesn't acknowledge the rest of the DCU, so the "Funeral for a Friend" arc focuses just on Lois, Jimmy and Martha Kent, and doesn't last very long.  We have a nice seen with Martha and Lois, and then pretty soon Superman's back-- but of course it's not really Clark, it's the beginning of the "Reign of the Supermen."  But four new Supermen would require a movie all on its own, so instead they ditch Steel and The Cyborg all together and combine Superboy and the The Eradicator into one character-- a clone created by Lex Luthor to be under his control, but who becomes a "dark Superman" imposing his own justice on the world.  So instead of Kal-El coming back in black-and-silver to fight The Cyborg, he comes back in black-and-silver to fight The Dark Clone Superman Who Acts Like the Eradicator.  It's a change that needs to be made for it to work in this format, and it does work.  (And they still gave him long hair.  That's another thing that kept me reading for years.)

One last thing:  maybe it's just because I've seen this one twice now, but the theme they've created her for Superman is pretty good too.  Not as good as the Green Lantern: First Flight theme, but still a worthy theme for Superman.  It's a shame it's not included on the "DC 75" CD.

So all in all this was a very good kick-off movie for the DCU OVAs (I realize I should be calling them OAMs, but I'm an anime fan from the 80's) and a good way to show Superman's most famous battle to people who have probably never read the comics.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Assassin"

Spoiler Level: High

Now again, while watching the episode I didn't think twice about this, but I guess with my memory it hadn't occurred to me that... um... to be honest, trying to even explain it makes my head spin, so instead I'll just quote what's posted on the episode guide  from

"In a chronological flow of events, the series begins with the action on Christophsis ("Cat and Mouse," "The Hidden Enemy"), which introduces Ahsoka to the Clone Wars ("The New Padawan," which was incorporated into feature film). Then, the kidnapping of Rotta the Hutt introduces Ziro the Hutt, and the movie ends with Ziro's incarceration. Many Season One and Season Two episodes then follow, with Season Two's trilogy of Boba Fett episodes introducing Aurra Sing into the storyline. The crashing of the Slave I leads the Jedi to mistakenly believe that Aurra is dead, until she surfaces in this episode, which brings back Ziro -- chronologically -- for the first time since his imprisonment. The story continues in the next Season Three episode, "Evil Plans", and Aurra will somehow be freed from captivity in time for Cad Bane's attack on the Senate in Season One's "Hostage Crisis." The drama surrounding Ziro and his freedom then picks up in "Hunt for Ziro," the ninth episode of this season."

I'm starting to think they're just writing whatever they feel like writing, irregardless of what they've already written, and then trying to figure out if they can put it all in some kind of order after the fact.

The episode itself was enjoyable.  I particularly liked the use of Yoda's theme for when Ahsoka went to talk to him, and Princess Leia's theme for Alderaan.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stargate Universe - "Divided"

Spoiler Level: High

Well, it finally happened-- I finally reached a point where I was interested in watching SGU again!  Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, hasn't posted the latest Clone Wars yet.  But I did want to see a new (for me) SGU over rewatching Next Gen!  So that's got to count for something, right?

An interesting thing happens when I hit bottom on a show:  my expectations get so low that either I start appreciating the things they do right, or there are no things I feel they're doing right so I bail.  If this episode is any indication, SGU is falling into the former.  Granted, I've had six months (and a warning from Rich) to make peace with the fact that the characters aren't going to act the way I would like to see them act, so it was easier to go in expecting them to continue to work against their own self-interests.

And I have to admit, I could even see their point of view: yes, in all free nations, the military answers to the civilians, as it should be.  But I disagree with Rush's inclusion of "in microcosm."  These people are there because they were assisting a military operation in the first place.  Why should that change because they're cut off from Earth?  It's also the military's job to protect the civilians in their care and to get them home safely.  By trying to take over and make all future military decisions have to through them, the civilians are jeopardizing themselves.

And here's the problem:  When the shuttle wouldn't dock with Destiny because of Rush's seizing control of the computer, it never occurred to me that he didn't know that would happen.  Oh sure, Rush and Young agreed not to try and kill each other anymore, but only reasonable characters abide by their word.  So I felt a bit of forgiveness when Rush said he had no idea.  And then he goes and lies to Eli and Young by saying that he can't stop the transfer, and is pretty much willing to let Young die to get control of the ship, and has to be talked out of it.  So y'know, 1 point up, 2 points down.

I think part of the problem I have with this show is that the character's are SO much of a retread of the BSG characters.  Young is Commander Adama, Rush is Baltar, Scott is Apollo, Greer is Starbuck.  Eli feels like the only original character with any personality.

But despite all that-- or maybe because I'm making my peace with it-- I enjoyed this episode.  Lines like "Remember, we still have to live with these people tomorrow" gave me hope.  Maybe now that everything's come to a head, they'll start looking at new ways to live and work together for their own common good.

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to Krissie's Caps for the screen capture!  This was exactly the image I was looking for!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Smallville - "Homecoming"

Spoiler Rating: High

Woah!  This episode was so good, I assumed it must have been written by Geoff Johns!  (Well, that and because of the Legion tie-in.) Kudos to Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders.

I had very low expectations for this episode; and the opening teaser played right in to them.  A return to Smallville High, a return of a classic freak of the week, people with resentment towards Clark.  Ho-hum.  An understandable look back at the show's beginnings in the show's final season.

But what the episode actually was was so much more and so much better.  Brainiac returning as the Legion's Brainiac 5!  And in typical Smallville fashion, he's wearing a green shirt.  And through Brainiac we see not only how far Clark has come (wow, did Tom Welling really look that young in the first season?), but we get a glimpse of  the future Superman we've been waiting for him to become.

Now, I did want to smack Clark upside the head when he was trying to explain to the Lois of 2017 that he was from the past.  He started off well -- "I'm from another time" is pretty straight-forward-- but once she wasn't getting it, he could have straightened the whole conversation out with, "No, I mean a second ago I was in the year 2010." So seeing Future Clark was a very welcome relief.  And seeing him look like "Clark Kent," with the glasses, the swept-back hair and the suit and trenchcoat was even better.

I have always been a big, big fan of the "Lois knows Clark is Superman" approach.  When I was growing up, Lois was always in the dark and spent most of her time trying to figure out how to prove Clark was Superman, always ending with "Well I feel foolish, I can't believe I thought you could be Superman."  In fact, what got me to become an avid reader of  Superman was when I read "Death of Superman" and realized that Lois now knew and they were engaged.  With Lois knowing, she could be more of her own character, with her own goals often (but not always) coinciding with Clark's.  She becomes his support and his motivation, and she humanizes Clark as a character.  So I am so, so glad that the glimpse of 2017 showed the two of them moving forward towards this.  This is what I loved about Superman.

I also loved, loved, loved that Clark's angst is the darkness he needs to leave behind.  That's always been one of my biggest gripes about Smallville; angst is Batman's shtick, not Superman's.  Once again, a supporting character is saying everything to Clark that I've wanted to.

And Chloe's actually off of the opening titles now?  This thing with her being gone is running a lot longer than I expected it to.  Maybe she's off filming something else?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force #1

Spoiler Level: High, especially for the endings of both original 1980's Micronauts comic runs.

Finally!  Marvel's Micronauts are back, and not as guest stars, but in their OWN mighty Marvel magazine!

Well okay, the book is spinning out of "The Incredible Hulks" so they have to share the title, even though the Hulk isn't in it.  And okay, they're still not allowed to be called "The Micronauts," so now they're Enigma Force.  But that's okay.  It's still Commander Rann, Marionette and Bug.  And to be honest, I think Enigma Force is a better name than Microns, anyway.  Microns worked, but the Enigma Force itself was actually the driving power behind the Time Travelers, Captain Universe, and many other key elements of the original Micronauts comic, so having the team take that as their name feels very, very right.

Now, I was a huge fan of the original Micronauts, and I have to admit, I always get confused on how to take new attempts at the Microverse.  Most notably because of Micronauts: The New Voyages.

New Voyages was Marvel's relaunch of the Micronauts.  The constant warfare with Baron Karza has wiped out all life on Homeworld, so the Micronauts leave in the Endeavor II to explore the wonders of the Microverse.  They discover the Makers of the Microverse, and that the pain of the holocaust that Homeworld has endured has driven its Worldmind insane, and that pain is rippling out, destroying the Microverse itself.  To save the Microverse, each of the Micronauts sacrifice themselves via the Prometheus Pits, which breaks them down and redistributes them throughout the molecules of Homeworld, and starts life throughout the Microverse anew.

So.  As pleased as I am to see the gang back again, the question in the back of my mind whenever I read new stories with them is, "Is Marvel disregarding New Voyages, or does this story fit in somehow?"

Now, there's an easy explanation for this: Even though the implication from the end of New Voyages was that the Micronauts were creating new life and weren't rebooting the Microverse timeline, it could simply be that the new life patterned itself after its donors, and gave rise to a very similar Microverse, with a new Commander Arcturus Rann, Princess Mari, Bug, and even a new King of Spartak.  However this time the race from Spartak weren't called Acroyers, the despot who took over wasn't called Baron Karza, and Rann's robot wasn't Biotron.  This is perfect, because it allows Marvel to keep the basics of the Micronauts history, but alter any details the writers may want to for modern audiences.  Plus it gives Marvel the bonus out of being able to bring back everything original that Bill Mantlo created about the Microverse without using anything that falls under the Micronauts toy license.

(And as to the time differences-- the time needed for new life to grow, evolve, give rise to a new civilization, and then have Commander Rann embark on another 1000 year journey-- there's two very good explanations: (1) Time in the sub-atomic Microverse may travel at different speeds; and (2) This is the same Marvel Universe where Franklin Richards was a member of Power Pack, but he's still a little kid and all the rest of Power Pack are now adults.  It's comic book time.  Don't over think it.)

So now that I've reconciled it in my mind, what I want to know is... have the writers come to that conclusion?  Or are they just writing this as if New Voyages never happened and they can't mention Baron Karza by name?

To assist us in this, the new Enigma Force #1 has a nifty little "Legends of the Microverse" timeline in the back.  ...Which could be either a timeline of the "new" Microverse or just be writer Scott Reed ignoring New Voyages and not being able to mention Baron Karza by name.

(And to top it all off, the name of their Bio-Ship is the Endeavor III.  Which makes me very happy and makes me smile... and also leaves me wondering even more.  Maybe only the ending of New Voyages didn't happen?  Maybe they got better?)

So, as to the story of itself: is it worthy of the Micronauts?  Oh, yes.  This issue felt more like the Micronauts to me than the entire runs at Image and Devil's Due.  (Who had the opposite problem, in that they had the rights to the toys, but not the Microverse and original characters Bill Mantlo created for Marvel.)  Commander Rann has a goatee now and is harboring an angsty, dark secret about his 1000 year history.  Mari is more of a 21st Century angrier kick-butt female fighter than the original 1970's angry kick-butt female fighter.  Bug is a little more serious, but still the light-hearted one of the team.  (And he was a regular in Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy?  Did I know that and not buy it anyway, or did I just miss that completely?)  New team members include Carl the Death's Head Robot, who I love; he's got the ferocity and armored look of Acroyer and the banter of Microtron.  We have Jentorra, who is from the planet K'ai, a sub-atomic world that the Hulk spent a lot of time in (okay, there's a flashback featuring the Hulk for one panel).  And we have a nasty alien Psyklop.

There's space battles, lots of action, lots of humorous dialogue, and lots of rich characterization.  Rann and Mari were generally a couple, but they had their times when they weren't, and for a while Mari was even involved with Bug.  This book acknowledges all of that by having Rann & Mari being divorced and Bug flirting with Mari while Mari's getting jealous over Jentorra's interest in Rann.

Would I read this as an ongoing?  In a heartbeat.  Do I think it'll sell well enough that I'll get to?  No.  But at least, for three issues, the Micronauts are back in spotlight.

The Micronauts are dead-- Long Live Enigma Force!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Green Lantern: First Flight

Spoiler Level: High

Now THIS is one I first saw about a year ago when it was released.  I didn't want to review it until I'd finished watching all the bonus features, and since Rich and I recently watched it as part of our ongoing series of watching all the DCU OVAs, I figured it was long overdue.

The movie itself is AWESOME.  It doesn't adapt any one Green Lantern story; rather, it's a new take pulling from all the various Green Lantern mythos.  But all the key elements are here:  Hal Jordan, test pilot for Ferris Industries, is whisked away by a summons from dying Green Lantern Abin Sur to become his replacement in the Green Lantern Corps, a universe-wide police force run by the small, blue Guardians.  He's trained by a fanatical Green Lantern named Sinestro, who ends up turning on the Corps and becoming Hal's greatest enemy.

The details are different; Abin Sur looks much more alien now, and his reasons for coming to Earth (in a spaceship instead of under the power of his ring) are different, but those reasons get changed every few decades in the comics as well.  There's lots of appearances from other well known Green Lantern Corps members as well.  But this version treats them all differently; just because someone is a prominent Green Lantern in the comics doesn't mean that they'll be bullet proof here.

All in all, it's a faithful yet fresh take on Green Lantern, and a wonderful starting point for more stories.  In many ways it treats the source material in the way a big-budget live action movie would.  Hopefully the actual big-budget live-action Green Lantern movie being made now will do as good a job as this video did.

Being a big GL fan, this is the only DCU OVA I bought, and I bought the two-disc version.  There are some great bonus features on here, including the wonderful "Duck Dogers" episode "The Green Loontern" (talk about a lot of cool GL cameos!), documentaries looking at the history of the Green Lantern comics and the mega-event "Blackest Night," which was just about to start when this DVD was released.  What's missing, however, is anything on the making of this video.  That's because Warner Premiere likes to put the "making of" featurettes on the previous DCU OVA DVD (LOL) as a teaser to get you to buy the next one that's coming up.  Which I suppose I could understand, but for someone like me who is content to just watch the others and only wants to own the Green Lantern one, I would have liked it to be on here.

The bonus feature that I stalled on was the "Bruce Timm Presents 2 Bonus Cartoons" feature.  It's two episodes of Justice League Unlimited, "The Once and Future Thing" parts 1 & 2.   I watched the very beginning and didn't see what it had to do with Green Lantern.  I either turned it off or got distracted before I found out why these episodes were picked.  So now that I've finally gotten to watch them, I can say, "Yes! Awesome! Wonderful!  A great choice!"  Not only was it an episode focusing on Green Lantern John Stewart, it dealt with him meeting a future descendant of his, and featured the Kronos mythology of the hand that started the Universe!  Awesome GL stuff.  Mr. Timm, I apologize for having ever doubted you.

Oh, and I might be totally biased here, but while I think all the musical scores on these videos have been good, this one has been my favorite.   It's the only one I found myself humming the main title theme to.  I've been thinking for a year I should try to make an mp3 of it, and then low and behold, they release it on the "Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection" CD!  So someone high up must have agreed with me, right?  Gonna buy that one as soon as I have the extra money for it.

Word has it that there will be a second GL DCU OVA DVD (ROFL) to coincide with the new movie, but from what I hear it's going to be Tales of the Green Lantern Corps as opposed to a follow up to this DVD.  I'm disappointed that Hal apparently didn't sell well enough to warrant his own follow-up DVD, but I absolutely love the Corps so I'm still psyched about this.  And besides, Hal will be getting his own TV show soon anyway.  It's a good time to be a Green Lantern fan, and this was a fantastic First Flight!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Corruption" and "The Academy"

Spoiler Level: High

"Return to Mandalore!  We now return you to our regularly scheduled Clone War, already in progress!"

Again, not that I minded the flashback episodes-- I'd like to emphasize that what I really minded was that I couldn't tell they were flashback episodes, which is more my problem than theirs-- but it's nice to be having the story moving "forwards" again.

We pick up where we left off at the end of the second season, on Mandalore, although there's nobody running around in Boba Fett armor this time.  Although the local police use a similar, lighter armor, which I really liked.

"Corruption" sets up that there is a lot of corruption on Mandalore, and the corruption runs so deep that someone corrupted at the top must also be corrupt.  Did I mention the corruption?  Maybe it just really stood out to me because it was both the title and the plot to the episode, but someone could have stood to use a thesaurus for the dialogue in this episode.  A quick shot over to got me the following:
atrocity, decadence, degeneration, degradation, depravity, evil, immorality, impurity, infamy, iniquity, looseness, lubricity, perversion, profligacy, sinfulness, turpitude, vice, viciousness, vulgarity, wickedness
 Which is not to say that it wasn't a good episode. It was good to see Padmé in action, and I was surprised that they were talking like children had died from the tainted drink supply.

 And was it just me, or were they playing it that Duchess Satine was the one behind it all?  First she goes and has all the evidence burned, then she gets this odd "Haha, I got away with it!" smirk when Padmé leaves, and then she totally ignores the evidence that the Meddling Kids come to her with.  So was she a red herring, or was I just reading into it?

Oh, and speaking of the Meddling Kids, Cadet Korkie looked so familiar but I couldn't put my finger on why, and it was driving me nuts.  The accent kept making me think he must be reminding me of an actor from Doctor Who.  And then I went to get the images for this blog, and it hit me right away:

He's Conan O'Brien.
This also totally confirms my suspicion that Peter Lorre had a cameo in "Sphere of Influence"...

Smallville - "Supergirl"

Spoiler Level: High

Hmm.  This is an interesting take on Darkseid.  I guess I should have expected a typical Smallville interpretation, but after the great job they've been doing with Hawkman and Darksieid's shadowy teaser, I actually was expecting a big rocky guy who could shoot Omega Effect beams from his eyes and his origin would all be about Apokolips and the New Gods.  Instead he possesses people's bodies after he plants a Dark Seed of doubt in people's Dark Side.  Eh, it's only episode 3.  The season is still young.

On the one hand I love seeing Kara going public with her powers, and that her costume is getting so close to what it should be.  On the other hand, the fanboy in me chafes at Supergirl showing up before Superman.  Oh, sure, she doesn't have the S or the cape yet and Lois has dubbed her Übergirl instead (and I really did love the "MAID OF MIGHT!" headline on the Daily Planet), but still, for the purposes of the story she's leading the way and being an inspiration to Clark instead of vice-versa.

But it's still freakin' Supergirl vs. Darkseid, so I'm not really complaining.  ;)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Sphere of Influence"

Spoiler Level: Medium

An Ahsoka solo story, as Ahsoka helps her friend Riyo Churchi, who's the Ambassador from Pantora ( and who's kinda cute for being an animated character).  The pair are out to rescue the daughters of Pantora's Chairman.  And yes, the Chairman and his family are all modeled after George Lucas and his real life family, who apparently had a cameo as these characters in Episode III.  So that's kinda' cool.

And that other character in the picture isn't just any old Rodian, it's Greedo himself!  Which I really liked.  But, this being Clone Wars, they have him speaking Basic, which I really don't like.

And once again, this episode is not in the "now;" it takes place prior to episode 37 (Season 2, Episode 15).  And once again I had no idea until I read it on the Clone Wars website.  However, once again this episode also mentions how the Trade Federation is still a part of the Republic, and that Nute Gunray has gone rogue in being a part of the Separatists. Hmmm.  Maybe all these "flashback" episodes are leading up to something?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Supply Lines"

Spoiler Level: Low

A small tale of Senator Bail Organa and Jar Jar Binks trying to persuade the Toydarians to allow them to use their planet to ferry supplies to Ryloth.

I said it before and I'll say it again, Clone Wars is the perfect place for Jar Jar.  Especially when he's voiced by Ahmed Best.   There's enough seriousness in the other 20+ episodes each season that there's room for an episode or two when Jar Jar can have his moments.  Here he succeeds as comic relief, and often his antics are an important part of the story, instead of being a distraction from the drama.

After looking at the Clone Wars web site, I saw that this episode actually takes place before season one, and was supposed to serve as a lead-in to the first episode and set up for the first season's three-episode climax on Ryloth.  Which probably would have worked great if I had remembered any of that.  But nope, not me, just like the "Clone Cadets" episode I had no idea.  I had a memory that we'd seen Toydarians before but absolutely no memory of seeing Ryloth.  Heck, I didn't even realize I've been mispronouncing Twi-Lek all this time-- I've been saying TWIGH-lek, but apparently it's TWEE-lek.  Maybe I'll remember this time.  (I guess this also explains why the Trade Federation is still part of the Republic, which seemed to be a blatant contradiction to Episode II & III to me.)

Not that I mind them expanding on previous events-- I think it's actually a pretty cool idea.  I just wish I had a better memory for these things.  It also makes me glad that I haven't gotten around to buying any of the DVD box sets-- maybe I'll just wait and see if they do a Complete Series Special Edition that puts all the episodes in order.

Smallville - "Shield"

Spoiler Level: High

...or, come back tomorrow, where we learn that posted the next episode this morning!

Lots more comicy goodness; this week it's Deadshot, Cat Grant and the Suicide Squad.  I'm a bit disappointed that Deadshot didn't keep his red eye target thingie, but hey, at least he had it for his introduction.  Very happy about that.

Poor Michael Shanks, once again in a dusty tent going on about Egyptian Gods.  Seems he can't get away from it.  You could tell he was using Hawkman's more stoic and angry attitude as opposed to Daniel Jackson's enthusiastic rambling, but come on, it was scene straight out of Stargate, the deck was stacked against him-- how could I not think of him as Daniel in that scene?  But the conversations between Carter Hall and Lois Lane were great; Carter not pulling any punches about knowing Lois is talking about Clark (which is very refreshing for Smallville), and all the details about Hawkman's origins, totally consistent with his current portrayal in the comics.  Very, very nice indeed.

I also enjoyed Clark's coming to the conclusion that not only is he going to need to step out into the light, he's going to need to show his face when he does it.  The fact that they've been unwilling to put Clark (permanently) in glasses really does make it ridiculous that everyone won't just recognize him right off the bat; hopefully this means they'll be putting him in glasses soon.  (Okay, who's got money on it being in the last episode?)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Smallville - "Lazarus"

Spoiler Level: High

Well, that was a bit of a mess.  Was it just me, or did they cram a million different things into one episode?  (Seriously, it might have been just me, I was up pretty early when I watched it.)

The costume:  Ahh, we get to see it.  And it's the current Superman Returns version, giving me hope that Tom Welling will get to play Superman in the next movie.  Of course I was hoping that Clark would get rid of his black Blur duds and become Superman in this episode, but I'm not too surprised that they weren't willing to give us that in the first episode.  And now they've set it up so he's got to earn it.  Well, I hope he earns it before the last episode.  Even if it's only two or three episodes before the last episode.

Lois:  Lois knows!  Lois knows!!  I was always a big fan of the relationship between Clark & Lois once he revealed he was Superman to her and they got engaged (and finally married), so I'm very happy to see this step being taken.  Loved that she deliberately tried to make him jealous of himself.  Here's hoping no amnesia episodes happen this year.

Chloe: Ooooh! Chloe becoming the new Dr. Fate?!?  This has some awesome potential.

Tess: Well she sure got better fast.  Eh, it wouldn't be a Smallville Season Premiere if something didn't go straight back to the status quo.

Lex: When he was first brought in as just the Angry Psycho Lex Clone, I didn't like him very much, and it felt like a soap opera ploy to bring Lex back without Michael Rosenbaum playing him.  But the scene where he gets to talk with Clark he was totally believable as an aged version of Michael Rosenbaum's Lex.  Mackenzie Gray got a lot of Rosenbaum's mannerisms down perfect, and I swear at one point it even looked like he had that little knob on the back of his head like Rosenbaum has.  That scene totally saved having a different actor stepping in as Lex for me.  If only he had said to Clark "...And you never once said 'thank you!'" the scene would have been perfect.

Green Arrow:  Well, he sure didn't get to do much except bleed all over the place.  And wait a minute, Chloe got him back in a prisoner exchange?  Who'd she give the other guys?  I don't like it when Chloe goes all dark...

Other things I really liked:  Clark flying, Cadmus (well, if you're going to have clones, Cadmus is perfect for it), Jonathan Kent being the Jonathan I liked from the comics (even if it is as a ghost), not seeing Metropolis General Hospital once, and of course that glimpse of something Dark at the end...

And lastly... watching the episode on  online TV viewing has finally gone fully commercial.  My family got rid of our satellite dish earlier this year, so I've been watching all of my shows online since spring.  When I started watching shows online, the broadcasting website usually put in one commercial at each break.  (Often the same commercial, which got annoying fast.)  The CW upped it to 3 or 4 per break last year, but with Season 10 they went all out.  I counted no less than 9 commercials in one of the breaks, and at least two of those were full 30-second commercials.  Ahh, the classic days of television are here again.  Now I can run out to the kitchen to get a snack without having to pause the action.  Free commercial television has come full circle.

You can still watch this episode for free with commercials at for a little while longer.  The CW does eventually take the episodes down; last year they would leave each episode up for two weeks, but they currently have 5 episodes up for watching.  Oddly enough, they don't have the next episode, "Shield," which aired last Friday.  Maybe they're holding back a week to give the pay services an edge?  Or maybe I'll have to pay for the next episode?  Tune in to It's Called Entertainment again next week and find out...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Max Headroom: The Complete Series DVD Box Set

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was, without a doubt, one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

It made its debut in the spring of 1987, while I was in my senior year.  It was my first exposure to cyberpunk, and it hit me right where I lived-- the world of TV.  In this future, TV ruled everything.  Off switches were illegal, elections were decided by ratings, and television sets were provided free to the homeless-- which there were a lot of.

The story of both the character and the series used to be pretty well known, but since it has been 23 years since this show was on the air, please indulge me while I reminisce. In this world set "20 minutes into the future," Network 23's top reporter meets with an "accident" where he crashes into a parking gate, and the last thing he sees is the words "Max. headroom 2.3 m." printed on it.  In an experimental process, his brain is then downloaded into a computer, and the program of Edison's mind becomes its own person-- and thinks its name is now Max Headroom.  Once Edison recovers, we follow his adventures in this dystopian future as he chases down hot stories, while Max pops from TV screen to TV screen providing witty commentary.

The entire series itself was commentary on society in general and television in particular, and Max, being a "computer" and not a real person, could get away with saying a lot.  The show was a huge success when it was first introduced as a mid-season replacement, so when it came time for its first fall season, ABC put it up against heavyweights Dallas and Miami Vice.  Suffice to say Max Headroom was squashed within 5 weeks, and rather than try moving it back to its original timeslot, ABC just pulled the plug completely.

Max Headroom is one of those shows that I've been eagerly waiting for a DVD release, and now my wait is fiinally over.  The DVD box set is finally here.  Now for the big question-- is it good enough for this nit-picky fanboy?

The answer is a great big HELL YEAH.

It's not perfect, mind you.  Two things are conspicuously missing: the original British Channel 4 version of the pilot episode, and any appearance in the bonus materials by Matt Frewer, who played both Edison Carter and Max Headroom.  I can assume that Matt Frewer's absence is probably due to him working; if you look at his IMDB profile he's never stopped working since Max Headroom ended, and in a wonderful interview with Matt Blank promoting the DVD he has nothing but positive things to say about Max Headroom, both the character and the series.  As to the original British version not being included, although Lorimar appears to own both the ABC version and the Channel 4 version, I'd imagine Channel 4 would still have to have been paid, which was probably why it was left out.

But more importantly, here's what they did get right:

All 14 episodes are here in original broadcast order.  They're uncut-- in fact, one of the episodes had Edison saying the "s" word, which I'm sure did not go out on air in 1987!  And they look beautiful-- the picture quality is the best I've ever seen this show look.

All 14 episodes have the correct, uncut opening and closing titles as they originally aired-- which is no small thing.  When the first season was rerun on ABC leading up to the second season, they created a new opening sequence, and most of the first season episodes were rerun using that opening instead.  When TechTV ran it, they used an edited-down version of the first season opening.  On top of that, the first season had slight differences in both the opening and closing titles in four out of six episodes of their first season.  Each version is here in the right place.  So there was plenty of ways this could have been screwed up-- but it wasn't.  Great job.

The bonus features are wonderful.  We get a roundtable interview with most of the main cast, a separate interview with W. Morgan Sheppard, who played my favorite character of the series, Blank Reg, and lots of interviews with the production cast going into detail about everything, from Max's origins in the very beginning of the British version all the way up to the show's cancellation.

Even the company logo for The SHOUT! Factory at the beginning fits in perfectly, as it fades into static-- and every Max Headroom episode opened with static.  The menus show many of the computer graphics used on the computers in the show.  It's a fantastic DVD set.  

Being a completest, I have to mention the other things left off of this set.  For one thing, the Lorimar logo is removed from most of the episodes, which wouldn't be a big deal except that the final credit reads "A Chrysalis/Lakeside Production, In association with" ...which makes it feel incomplete.  Also, the previews for both the "next episode" at the end of each episode and for "Tonight, on Max Headroom" at the beginning of the episodes were left off.  I'd like to have had them on here as bonus features, but I'm not sorry they're removed from the actual episodes-- I felt they often gave away too much of the punch of many of the shows more ironic moments.

And of course, Max's final farewell is also nowhere to be seen, but I'm not too surprised about that.  I've never seen it turn up anywhere-- if I hadn't taped it when it first aired, I'd think I imagined it by now.  After the final episode and before the credits ran-- in place of the usual "next week" preview-- Max came on and, imitating Winston Churchill, said "Yes. We will fight on the beaches of Miami.  We will fight them on the sidewalks of Dallas. ... We will never, never, never, never surrender.  And if the ratings system lasts a thousand years, men will still say... this was Max Headroom's finest hour."  Apparently that was a one-time thing-- either you were there for it, or you weren't.  I'm glad I can say I was.

So in short, the parts that are missing I still have on VHS, and I can just throw them all on disc and be happy with that.

So, how does the show hold up after 23 years?  Frighteningly well.

You'd think that in our modern age of cell phones, Twitter and HDTVs that this show would look horribly dated.  Amazingly enough, it doesn't, because the show deliberately went for a retro look to begin with.  Cars have headlights from the 1950s.  Computer keyboards look like old-fashioned typewriters.  So the fact the TVs are wide tube-sets feels like just one more retro thing.  And the lack of modern technology in this future?  That's the scariest part-- it's easy to believe it was deliberately taken away by those in charge.

On seeing this series as an adult, I don't see the characters as just the rich network executives and the homeless with TVs-- I'm seeing an oligarchy where the richest 1% of the population enjoys a world they have shaped to suit themselves.  There's a mention in one episode that VHS tapes are illegal, and an entire episode dedicated to showing how education is only for those who can pay for The Pay Education Television channel, guaranteeing  that the poor masses living in the Fringes stay there, watching the advertising pumped at them nonstop and consuming what they're told to consume.  So as you watch the show unfold and see how much of these peoples lives the networks control, it's not hard to believe that just as off-switches and VCRs were made illegal, so could have been cell phones and internet access.  The only ones who can get near a computer are in Network 23; in fact, it's a bit of a shock to realize that in this society, although Edison Carter and the rest of our heroes have a conscience and try to do right by the masses who can't speak for themselves, they're still members of the privileged elite class.

Long story short:  if you missed this series in 1987, watch it now.  Rent it if you can.  Its lessons are just as relevant today as they were 23 years ago.  Maybe even more so, because 20 minutes into the future isn't that far away anymore.