Sunday, May 29, 2011

Any requests?

I've decided I'm going to scale things back a bit.  I've been posting an average of one review a day for the last six months now, and while that's been fun, it's getting to be a bit exhausting reviewing everything I watch. (Plus the laundry keeps backing up.  You'd be amazed how cranky people get when they don't have clean underwear.  I keep telling them, just turn them inside out, then they're good for five more days, but that doesn't seem to satisfy them.)  So I've decided to only dedicate myself to continue the posts I've been having the most fun writing:  Doctor Who, K9, Star Trek, movies and books. I'll probably still do the occasional review of other stuff as it strikes me, I'm just not dedicating myself to reviewing every single episode of everything.

That is, of course, unless you want me to.

I'm grateful to each and every one of my nine loyal readers (and yes, I'm counting you too Evan-- Scott Gordon is a second account for one of the other eight, which brings me back to nine), and if there's a specific series I've been reviewing that you've been enjoying reading about, I'd be willing to keep doing that one too.  The thing is, when I check my stats, the majority of the hits I get are for this picture:

1,948 hits out of 8,202 hits in May were for this picture.
...so I don't have a clear idea of what people might be enjoying.  So if you'd like me to continue with my reviews of Primeval, Transformers, Tiger & Bunny, SGU or Survivors just leave a comment and let me know.  I live to serve.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to folding underwear.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

AVP-R Aliens vs Predator - Requiem

Spoiler Level: High

I was totally prepared to not like this movie.  It's hard to find anything good said about it on the web (but you know my feelings on that-- "I am fanboy, hear me bitch,") and to be honest I wasn't thrilled with the premise.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of Aliens and Predators fighting it out, but I don't want it to be on present-day Earth. These are freakin' Aliens with a capital A and alien Predators. I want to see them fighting it out in their natural habitat of outer space. I went along with the contrived concept of a Predator-built Alien Tomb on Earth in the first one because I really wanted to see a bunch of Predators and Aliens have it out, and since that was all I wanted from the movie I enjoyed it enough.  My complaint wasn't that it was only rated PG-13 and not violent enough; my complaint was that it wasn't set in space in the future.  And so this film comes along, and not only is it still set on modern-day Earth but now in a town and the big deal seems to be that it's now rated R, so it can be much more violent!  So I never got around to seeing it when it came out.

But now Predators is out on DVD and I want to see that, and since AVP-R is the only movie I haven't seen from both franchises I figured I'd watch it first.

And you know what?  It didn't suck!

Maybe my standards were low.  Maybe fandom's standards are too high.  Maybe I'm too easily pleased.  Maybe it's all of the above.

For starters, I didn't expect it to be a direct sequel to Alien vs. Predator. I didn't expect it to follow up directly on the Predator-Alien we saw hatch at the end of that movie, so I found the fact that it was to be very cool. It also made sense why it would take place in an American town on Earth, since the "Predalien" makes the ship crash and all the face huggers escape. (Although I'm a little hazy on why the drop ship left Saturn and headed back to Earth in the first place.)  So again, while I'm not thrilled with the premise of an Aliens movie taking place on modern-day Earth, they way it came about made more sense to me than in the previous film.

When I walked out of the first AVP film, some of my friends were talking about how disappointed they were with it.  I said "I just wanted to see some Aliens and Predators fight.  I'm happy."  In that sense, I'm just as happy with this film, as the one lone Predator who received the ship's distress call has to face off against an infested town full of Aliens, a super Predalien, and the planet's locals (ie, the human stars of the movie).  That makes for a cool movie of Aliens and Predators fighting.

On the down side, once that's all established it becomes every other horror movie of some alien menace picking off townsfolk one by one.  The only thing it has going for it here is that the menace is Aliens and Predators. Not long into the movie I started playing the Scream game where you figure out who's going to die and who isn't based on horror movie rules.

The other big drawback is the movie is shot so dark that it's really hard to tell what's going on a lot of the time. When you're only going by shadows it becomes hard to tell if the dreadlocks you're seeing belong to the Predator or the Predalien.  That frequently got very frustrating.

But those elements notwithstanding, I think I actually enjoyed this one more than the previous movie, since it doesn't take place in a tomb but in a wider environment with Aliens running around everywhere.  But then again I always did like Aliens better than Alien, for pretty much the same reason.

I also liked the way it was handled.  The locals start to realize they're in over the head and call in the National Guard.  The National Guard gets wiped out, and after reviewing their camera footage the military decides the only way to contain the infestation is to nuke the city. So now they have the only three survivors in custody, a Predator weapon, and footage of the Aliens. That's got potential. Will it have any impact on Predators, or will that film ignore this film entirely?  Beats me, but I'm glad I watched this one first, just in case.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Primeval - Series 1, Episode 6

Spoiler Level: High

A very cool episode, as the stakes are upped and we get some wonderful timey- wimey goodness. The latest Anomaly incursion is not from the past, but from the future! And the future doesn't look too bright, since it's got giant killer intelligent bat-monkeys.

I question the wisdom of burying the killed soldiers in the past.  Why not bring their bodies back through the anomaly and bury them in their own time?  The obvious answer is because this way they've created the encampment they found, giving us a cool time loop.  Which I have to confess is cool, but it nags at me that it has to defy common sense to happen. It would make more sense if the Anomaly closed, the team had to spend a few weeks or months or years (or even just days) in the past so they would have to bury their dead, then the Anomaly to get home opens up so they jump at the chance to get through it and abandon their equipment.

I'm also curious how the few baby bat-monkeys escaping into the past has affected the timeline so much that Claudia is no longer there.  I'm assuming it's a consequence of something larger having happened to the timeline, which we'll find out about in the next episode.  (Or I'll find out about, anyway, since I'm years behind on the show. You probably already know.) It's interesting that Claudia started seeing her reflection as an Anomaly before the timeline was changed.  Maybe the timeline change was meant to happen?

And speaking of Claudia, I rather liked the character development this episode.  As I said in my last Primeval review, at most Helen may have been declared dead thus making Nick single, and at the very least Nick & Helen can definitely be considered to be separated at this point, so I have no real issue with Nick & Claudia falling in love.  The look Nick shoots Helen after Claudia kisses him goodbye is great.  "See?  I've moved on.  You want to leave me for eight years, I'm not going to sit around pining for you forever." And then Helen's got to be all bitchy and throw out that she & Stephen had an affair before she left. 

Which should make me think less of Stephen, but the poor guy's so bland that all I can think is that it finally gives his character a little depth.  He's Nick's loyal right-hand man and the object of Abby's affections, but that's been pretty much it.  Now his loyalty makes a bit more sense; it could have been out of guilt.  His explanation that telling Nick what happened after she disappeared just seamed pointless does make sense.

So all in all, a great debut season.  Looking forward to finding out more about the new timeline next episode!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation - ''Up the Long Ladder''

Spoiler Level: High

Melinda Snodgrass wrote good Trek episodes.  In this one, the Enterprise investi- gates a distress call from a lost colony, who have adopted a more simple way of life by getting back to basics and farming.  When their planet is in danger of being destroyed by solar flares, they refuse to evacuate without their livestock.  This episode truly is Pigs In Space!

It turns out the ship carrying them also had another set of colonists, who founded a high-tech colony of clones on a different world.  When the Enterprise finds them, they learn that they've cloned themselves so many times that flaws are starting to creep into their DNA, and they're now in danger of extinction.

The big issue is of course that the high-tech colonists steal some of Riker's and Pulaski's DNA so they can make fresh clones for their colony, which of course ticks off Riker and Pulaski. They beam down to the colony's clone chamber and disintegrate the clones being made of themselves. The colonists accuse them of murder, and they defend themselves by saying they have the right to decide what is done with their bodies.  It's a pretty blatant parallel for the abortion debate, but it's very superficial as the discussion is never carried any further than those two lines. Since the Starfleet officers are considered the good guys and the colonists were deceptive and therefore the bad guys, it's probably safe to assume that the show was trying to take the pro-choice side of the argument, but since no argument is really made the viewer is left to side with either position that they already agree with, and in that sense the episode really wimps out by not firmly taking a side at all.  The argument was made much better in "The Child."

There's also a very minor B-plot where Worf comes down with a childhood Klingon disease, and in gratitude to Pulaski for keeping it quiet from Picard Worf performs a Klingon Tea Ceremony with her.  It's a good scene for both characters, another nice character developing moment, and another good example of how Pulaski was starting to become a part of the Enterprise family.

Okay, time for the geeking-out observations.

The colony ship Mariposa left Earth in 2123, which fits in nicely with Star Trek: Enterprise, as that was the time period that a lot of Earth colonies were getting started, yet still before the launch of the NX-01 Enterprise.  The Mariposa is also a DY-500, which is a nice reference back to the DY-100 from Classic Trek.
The ship also came from the European Hegemony, which was, to quote Picard, "a loose alliance formed at the late end of the twenty-second century.  It was the first stirrings of world government." Now this fits in nicely with Trek history, as it puts it after World War III as we saw it in the Star Trek: First Contact movie, and fits in fairly well with Trip's assertion to T'Pol that humanity has pulled together over the last 50 years. (Or did he say 100?  That would work better, but I can't remember which episode he said it in.)  However if you want to try and fit this in with the real world, it means that the European Union will not lead to a world government, but will more likely be broken up due to World War III. So spend those euros while you still can!



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Survivors - ''Corn Dolly''

Spoiler Level: High

Things start to look up when Abby, Jenny & Greg run into Charles Vaughan, Loraine & Mick.  Charles Vaughan has been accomplishing what Abby wanted to do-- he's started a farm and created a place where survivors can gather and try to work together. And unlike Wormly and the previous people she's met, Charles is actually a nice guy, and is keeping people together out of mutual need and help rather than out of fear. It's a much more upbeat and optimistic outlook.

Charles has also been able to gather some numbers as best he can; it seems that only 1 in every 5,000 people survived.  He has no record of any two people from the same family surviving, or any two people who knew each other surviving, or any two people who even knew of each other surviving.  It really puts just how devastating the plague was into perspective.

Sadly, when the group returns to Charles's farm they learn that nearly everyone is dying from food poisoning.  They had recently caught fish from a local river; apparently, it's become contaminated.  It's another example of how day-to-day life becomes much more hazardous for anyone who's survived the plague.  Jenny is considering staying, and Greg, who's becoming very romantically attached to Jenny, is considering staying with her. Abby of course won't stop traveling until she finds out what's happened to her son.

So of course it has to be too good to be true.  Charles's fatal flaw is that he's so hung up on the future if the species that he fails to see people as people anymore.  They're a resource; x number of people needed to keep the farm going, y number of people needed to start new towns and new communities.  He can't even bring himself to be upset about the deaths of the people on his farm; he's more upset that this means having to start over again.

And the real deal breaker is that he feels if the human race is to survive, it's imperative that as many babies be born as possible. So he's taken it on himself to impregnate as many women as possible.  Apparently without telling them about each other. And telling them all he loves them.  And then he starts moving in on Abby.

The worst part is, when it comes to the need for a new generation to be born, he's not really wrong; it's pointed out that with no two people in the same family having survived, no infants could have survived, so we've probably already lost an entire generation. And with such a limited gene pool remaining, there is going to need to be a lot of crossbreeding; most likely, traditional standards of monogamy are going to need to be thrown out the window.

But that doesn't mean you treat women like cattle.  Just because a woman can have a child doesn't mean she's obligated to become a baby factory, and quite frankly if the human race has fallen so low that that's the only way for the us to survive, then maybe our time has already ended.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Doctor Who - ''The Rebel Flesh,'' Part 1

Spoiler Level: High

I feel like I've only seen half of the episode and therefore can't fairly review it, which is interesting because that doesn't normally happen to me with the Doctor Who two-parters.  More on that later.

The TARDIS arrives on Earth in the future, at a factory that makes dopplegangers out of synthetic flesh. Since the synthetic flesh is made from acid, it's dangerous to work with and the staff all use "Gangers" of themselves to do the job.  But once a solar storm hits the factory, the Gangers come to life on their own.  They're confused and frightened, and the original people they're based on are just as frightened of them. The Doctor recognizes them to be real people in their own right, duplicates of the originals right down to every last memory but just as deserving of life as their originals.  And most of the originals, while a bit uncomfortable with this, are open to exploring what to do about it until their leader kills her Ganger, leading to the drawing of battlelines.  Oh, and due to the Doctor's trying to figure out just what the synthetic flesh was, a batch of it has now duplicated itself on the Doctor.  Cue the "time-vortex scream" sound and roll credits.

Now normally at this point I feel like I've been given a lot of questions and it makes me want to speculate.  But in this case, I kind of feel like things progressed along inevitable lines, so while I'm entertained, I don't really have a lot of curiosity on where the story is going to go.  Not so much predictable as just... inevitable.

The Doctor's trying to reconcile the Gangers and their originals together was great; it's so typically optimistic of him.  Now in the old classic Who days the duplicates probably would have automatically been out to kill their originals.  When one of the originals expressed this concern, the Doctor asks him, "Are you prone to violence?"  "No," he replies.  "Then what makes you think your Ganger would be?" And it's a great point. And it made me think what I'd do in that situation.  I think I'd actually like to sit down and have a talk with myself!  Would it be enlightening?  Would it be annoying?  Would it be like finding a long-lost twin, or would getting to see all the little imperfections that my mind's eye leaves out be too disturbing? But no one seems to really look at this way; the Doctor is more concerned about preserving new life, and the originals are more creeped out by having duplicates of themselves.  It's never stated outright, but it's obvious they feel threatened that they will lose their individuality to what they consider nothing more than a technological glitch.

So the leader turning on her Ganger and killing her ("That is so like me," she says before she dies) feels inevitable; the complete breakdown of trust between the two sides becomes inevitable; and even the Ganger of the Doctor showing up at the end felt inevitable. I feel like the second half's outcome is going to be inevitable as well-- both sides fighting each other until everyone is lost, a tragedy tale of humanity's inability to accept itself.

Hopefully I'm wrong; it would be nice to be surprised.  And that's why I feel like it's unfair to review this story at this point. The intention may very well be to make me feel like it's inevitable to deliberately set up for a surprise at the end.  I won't know until I see it.

Speaking of which, I'll have to wait an extra week to see it, since BBC America is skipping Doctor Who next week because it's Memorial Day weekend.  Which really bugs me, because (a) it airs on Saturday and Memorial Day isn't until Monday; do that many people really travel that far for their backyard barbecues? And (b) we live in the age of Tivo. Okay, I suppose it might impact actual live ratings but it's not like it's going to make it harder for anyone to catch it.  And (c), by losing the same-day airing (especially in the middle of a two-parter!) they're going to lose more people to illegal downloads. At least we'll only be behind the UK for two episodes and not for eight due to the show taking a summer break this year, but for some people that one-week delay is just too much  They've proven that same-day airings boosts the ratings, so I presume it also cuts down on downloading; I guess this will reinforce that one way or the other.  A nice compromise would be to offer the legal download on iTunes and Amazon at the same time as it airs in the UK, and then just air the episode a week later on BBC America, but I sincerely doubt they'll do that.

And lastly, I do rather like the feel of the story, as it feels very much like a classic series story, and it being shot in a castle helps that.  I also like Rory getting a moment to shine with Jenny; someone's appreciating him from the get go, and it's obviously boosting his ego. Looking forward to the (perhaps not so inevitable?) conclusion.

Monday, May 23, 2011

K9 - ''Mutant Copper''

Spoiler Level: High

The Good:

* The story has a very good premise. One of the CCPCs has been implanted with human DNA.  The implantation doesn't take well and the CCPC goes rogue, becoming an unlikely ally to K9 and company.

* We get a good look at the future totalitarian England, as it's announced the CCPCs now have the right to enter homes without permission and to search without a warrant, "to make the world a safer place for everyone who isn't guilty," and we actually see citizens protesting.

* The "mutated" CCPC has some amusing dialogue, as he continues to talk in the stereotypical "English Bobby" style and actually has quite a few amusing scenes.

* New character Marcus, who also believes in rebelling against the system.  He's likable and adds a nice mix to the Starkey-Jorjie-Darius love triangle; it's even nice to see Starkey and Darius allied in their mutual jealousy of the newcomer's closeness with Jorjie.

* We get some explanations as to what the CCPCs really are and how they work.

The Bad:

* Just as I suspected, the people making this show don't understand the difference between a cyborg and a robot. I'm gathering they think "cybernetic organism" means an artificial organism made out of cybernetics, as opposed to a living organism fused with cybernetics. This mistake wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so crucial to the plot.  By infusing a CCPC with human DNA, they really have turned him into an actual cyborg.  The real problem with this is when they keep discussing whether or not to remove the human elements and return him to being a cyborg, which kept driving us nuts, because if you remove the human elements then he's no longer a cyborg!  And this wasn't just one or two lines, this was all throughout the show.  Thorne even refers to K9 as a cyborg at one point. Once I hit on the "artificial organism made out of cybernetics" theory I tried really hard to rewrite my brain to process their use of the word "cyborg" to mean that, but I didn't have much success.  So the lack of understanding basic science fiction terms totally undermined what was an otherwise good premise.  (It also shows a lack of understanding of the term "mutation," but I won't even get into that.)

* The "mutant" copper's voice is on a ridiculously higher pitch, so I had to strain to understand anything he was saying.

* Marcus's eventual betrayal was way too obvious; halfway through the episode I just thought out of the blue, "this guy's going to turn out to be a traitor."  And he was. He didn't do anything obvious to tip the viewer off; it was just the obvious formula. On the plus side, at least he wasn't evil, just more of a hypocrite.

* The biggest sin of all: When trying to decide what to do with him, K9 and crew come to the conclusion that the attempt to fuse human and robot hasn't worked, and they need to make him completely one or the other.  Since they can't make him completely human, they opt for returning him back to a completely robotic state.  (Which of course they keep referring to as "make him a cyborg again."  Arrrrghh!)  Then just as Professor Gryffen is ready to start, Thorne shows up at the door.  Now that the bad guys are here, everyone starts shouting "We're not going to let you take him and turn him back into a [robot]!"  Hello?!?  That's exactly what you were about to do!!!  There's absolutely no reason given for this.  It's this complete and total reversal defying all logic that pushes this episode over the edge.  I could overlook the other flaws in the episode (if I tried really hard, and believe me, I did) but this point just sunk it.

The Ugly:

* K9 laughs again.

This one does have a lot going for it, so I really wanted to put this one in the win column, but I just can't.  So K9's total to date is 11 wins, 7 losses.


Sadly, K9 is still not available in the US, but Amazon has now started listing import DVDs. While they are region free, these are in PAL format, so you'll need a player that can convert them to NTSC to play them here in America. Oh, and they're out of stock. But hey, it's a start.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Primeval - Series 1, Episode 5

Spoiler Level: High

Another enjoyable episode, even if it did defy logic a few times.

Connor neglectfully leaves a window open, so Rex escapes.  Luckily for him, Rex decides to stay close to him and stows away in his car. It's one of those "Oh, what a bonehead!" moments that you can relate to, which helps you forgive him.

However when the giant Pteranodon then swoops down for him and Stephen yells "Make for the trees!!" but instead Connor makes a straight line down the wide open field, you lose a bit of sympathy and can't really be too sorry for him if he winds up as Dino Chow.  But he doesn't.

Similarly, when Claudia slips in the blood which makes the Anurognathus flock chase her, she asks Nick if she has any blood on her. He tells her to take of her shirt, but the majority of the blood is on her pants!  And where did all the extra blood stains on the undershirt come from later?  It didn't really make a whole lot of sense.

Those nitpicks aside, the story was fun.  It's nice to see Connor and Abby growing closer, and Nick is putting himself in an unusual position by falling in love with Claudia while his wife keeps popping back up.  (Although I think he mentioned at one point that Helen was declared dead, which technically makes him single again.) For a second I thought we might not see Helen this episode, but she was nice enough to help out Claudia.  And the effects of the Pteranodon were especially cool.

All in all, a much more enjoyable hour than SGU's been.  ;P

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation - ''Samaritan Snare''

Spoiler Level: High

Geordi beams over to a Pakled ship to help them out, which turns out to be a trap to capture people smarter than they are who can improve their technology.  Meanwhile, Wesley and Picard take a long shuttle ride together to Starbase 515, where Wesley will be taking more Starfleet Academy exams and Picard will be getting his artificial heart replaced.

My friends and I always loved the Pakleds.  "Make it go" is one of those phrases that we never quit saying.  It's a shame the Pakleds were only used once, but they're kind of a one-trick pony.

The Picard and Wesley scenes are generally good, with the possible exception of when Wesley confronts Picard on the fact that he doesn't like kids. I guess Riker didn't do a very good job of making sure that Picard projected an image of friendliness. But seeing Picard eventually open up to Wesley and the two of them starting to bond works very well.

Having Pulaski be the specialist who needs to save Picard's life in the end felt a bit forced at the time, but seeing it now (and knowing she would ultimately be the one to finish the operation) it just struck me as another way they were trying to bring her into the family.

Speaking of the Enterprise's extended family, Sonya Gomez got a repeat appearance in this episode, and it was great to have someone else in engineering that we knew while Geordi was off the ship.  It's a shame they didn't keep her around.

There's also some great ship shots in this episode, as they use multiple angles of the Pakled ship and the Enterprise.  There's also some great shots using the Enterprise viewscreen; having that giant viewscreen that took up the entire front wall really was a great design.
Deanna stands in front of the viewscreen showing Geordi.
And lastly, we have an even more blatant example of The Amazing Transmorphing Shuttle, last seen in "Unnatural Selection."  The same footage of the Sakharov with its newer design is used for take-off, but then all the exterior shots of it flying are the older egg-shaped design again.  (And just to nit-pick, when they're departing Wesley identifies the shuttle as Shuttlecraft Two, but all the footage of the shuttlecraft-- in both forms-- has it marked as "01"!)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Smallville - ''Finale''

Spoiler Level: High As It Gets

As I've mentioned before, I have to wait until Tuesday mornings for the WB.com to post the latest episodes. Normally that's not a problem, but in this case, the wait's been driving me nuts. I've been going out of my way to avoid everyone's reviews. Finally I decided not to wait any longer, and purchased the episode through Amazon.

I've just finished watching it.

My immediate reaction? A decent ending... but not 100% satisfying.

The satisfying:

* Apokolips looked fantastic. I mean, every shot of Apokolips is just pure gold.  This is Apokolips brought to life.  I never thought Smallville would attempt anything like this.

* At long last, the return of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor.

* Some very beautiful montages of the ten year journey we've had with this show.

* Clark being an inspiration to Ollie.  As I've stated in the last few episodes, this is a Clark Kent that I can believe is Superman, and it leads to his being an inspiration to everyone in the world's time of need.

* Clark having reconciled his past and his destiny, his humanity and his Kryptonian heritage.

* Clark finally flies!

* The music, and not just the John Williams music; Louis Fabre's Blur/Superman theme that's been used for the end credits since Season 8 gets a lot of use in here, until it finally gives way to the all-out John Williams score.  A fantastic way to show Clark taking that final step.  And the swoosh effect on the closing producer credits was great.  I only wish they had kept on going and done the entire closing credits in that style to the John Williams music, but in this modern age of "squish the credits to the side while we run another commercial" it probably wasn't worth spending the extra money on.

* Getting to see The Suit in action.

The unsatisfying:

* Ten years and we get NO money shot of Tom Welling standing tall in the costume, cape blowing in the breeze behind him?!?  Really?!? Once he gets the suit, all the shots with his face are from the neck up so you don't see the costume; all the shots of the costume are from a distance so you don't see his face.  Doctor Fate got a full-body shot in his costume.  Superman should have gotten a full-body shot in the costume.

* Darkseid's final battle being in Lionel's body. Yeah, that really didn't work for me.  Not quite as unsatisfying as Doomsday, but still a disappointment.

* I've been asking for years how they were going to get around Luthor not recognizing Superman as Clark Kent right away; I thought they were going to just go with the fact that yes, Luthor knows in this version.  But instead, they bring out the old memory-wipe ploy.  Ahhh, I should have expected the old memory-wipe ploy. I could live with that if it just wiped out his memories of Clark; but it didn't.  It wiped out all his memories. So, umm, if every single memory of his life has been wiped out, then that means he went from a total amnesiac to President of the United States in 7 years?!? Not to mention, if everything that happened to him in this series is gone, then what's his motivation?

It's a shame really, because this show just got better and better over the last three years, and I feel like they slipped a groove at the end.  Nowhere near as badly as Star Trek: Enterprise did, mind you; this is an okay ending, but it's just okay, and the previous years have shown me that they could have delivered.

And so, we close the book on Smallville.   It may have been a bumpy ride, but overall there were more highs than lows. I'd like to thank Home of the Nutty one last time for the screen caps, and all the folks who worked on the show for striving so hard to entertain me.   Thanks to everyone involved.



This episode is available to watch for free (with commercials) at http://www.cwtv.com/cw-video/smallville/. Amazon is still only charging the regular 1-episode price even though it's a double length episode.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tiger & Bunny - ''The Wolf Knows What the Ill Beast Thinks''

Spoiler Level: High

We learn more about the strange new NEXT as he continues his killing spree, and the heroes of Hero TV try out figure out who he is and why he's doing it.

Who he is is Lunatic.  And why he's doing it is that question that has faced comic book super-heroes since the 80's and especially during the 90's-- Lunatic believes in his own brand of justice, where the bad guys deserve to die.

In that aspect this show has definitely turned into more of a straight-forward super hero show, with the reality TV show factor as more of an add-on. Although it is refreshing to note that, as a rogue "hero," Lunatic has no corporate sponsors.  This could be great material for a future episode, but I'm suspecting it won't even be mentioned.

The thing is, even before he's made himself public, Lunatic's attitude has already begun resonating with the people, as a young kid scoffs at Kotetsu for just arresting bad guys when he has the chance to kill them.  Kotetsu, ever the old school hero, balks at the concept, but it's one I've run into with comic fans plenty of times.  (For example, I used to work with a guy who also a comics fan.  We got along really well but liked completely different things.  He kept insisting that the Superman comics needed to have Lois Lane be murdered so that Superman could become darker and grimmer.  I always argued back that there's a zillion other characters out there for that already; the point of Superman is that he's the eternal role model, the one to look up to and aspire to be like.) While the attitude isn't as prevalent as it was in the 90's, it made enough of an impact on the comic book world that the argument will probably never go away, and I feel its becoming a part of the main story here reflects that.

As always, this episode is available to watch for free at http://www.vizanime.com/tiger-and-bunny.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Transformers: Prime - ''Out of His Head''

Spoiler Level: High

Things progress in logical fashion from last week's episode; Megatron's consciousness takes over Bumblebee's body, he uses it to restore his own body, and then kicks Starscream's butt.

But predictable doesn't necessarily mean boring, as Megatron's return has been a long time coming, and this was a great throw-down between Megatron and Starscream.  Plus this episode gave Ratchet a nice chance to be in the spotlight.

As always, this episode is currently available to watch for free at http://www.hubworld.com/transformers/shows/prime/videos.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doctor Who - ''The Doctor's Wife''

Spoiler Level: High

Wow.  One expects big things when you hear the name "Neil Gaiman," but this was just magical.

Since Steven Moffat said we were going to learn a lot about River Song this season, when the title "The Doctor's Wife" was announced I figured that meant this episode would be focusing on her.  Then we saw the previews and River was nowhere to be found and I thought, "Oh, no, not another fake-out like Jenny Who." But Neil Gaiman delivered the goods big time.  Who's truly the Doctor's wife?  Well, who else but the TARDIS?

Having the soul of the TARDIS being deposited into a human body so we can hear the TARDIS's point of view is just pure genius. I loved that she started out immediately calling the Doctor "Thief!" since he stole her in the first place, and then the twist that she looks at it as she was stealing a Time Lord so she could see the universe was just absolutely wonderful.  They were both destined to go on this trip together.

So, time for me to get nerdy on the age issue again!  Idris (and I love that name-- it's like an abbreviation of "I, TARDIS." Anyway, I/DRIS) states that she and the Doctor have been traveling together for 700 years.  So the Doctor must have stolen her and fled Gallifrey when he was around 200 years old, which makes sense.  I would have loved a Susan reference in there as well, but I'll have to settle for the flood of other delicious references, such as the previous control rooms, the way the Doctor has always referred to her as "old girl" in the past and "sexy" more recently, and their argument on why she rarely takes him where he actually wants to go.

And corridors!!  We get to see some TARDIS corridors!  I was very pleased with that.  I have mixed feelings about the secondary control room being the previous one.  On the one hand, I was genuinely surprised, since I had thought that they'd literally destroyed that set, so that was really cool.  On the other hand, it's a bit soon to evoke much nostalgia for me, so I was hoping to see one of the earlier classic control rooms. No matter-- this way still worked great.

This is my favorite episode of the season so far, and it may end up being the best episode of this season, period.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Smallville - ''Prophecy''

Spoiler Level: High

As I write this, the final episode is still three days away from airing, and I won't get to see it for another week.  But by the time this post goes live, it will have already aired.  So the observations and speculations I'm going to make may be kind of pointless, but what the heck!  I'm going to go ahead and make them anyway.

I was hoping that Clark would get the suit at the end of this episode, and then the two hour finale would be like the two hour premiere of most Superman shows, with him establishing himself in Metropolis as Superman.  And for a minute there it really looked like that was what was going to happen, with Clark returning to the Fortress of Solitude and telling Jor-El he's ready. But then he pulls the crystal, the lights go out, and he walks away, leaving the suit behind him.  Aww, rats.

And along those lines, it occurs to me that the Fortress of Solitude has been anything but.  Clark never gets to be alone when he goes there, he's always got to deal with Jor-El being all over his back!

The story itself was okay, although it does suffer from some classic Poor Smallville Judgment that we haven't seen in a while.  Oh what the heck, let's make all the wrong choices, just once more for old times' sake! Lois's fear of Toyman hurting Clark now that he's powerless makes sense, but really, it never occurred to her (a) she could simply woosh over to him and protect him like he always protects her, and (b) once she put herself under his control he wouldn't make her do terrible things?!? I get the emotion they were going for, but the logic just makes it one of those scenes were you yell at the screen, "Are you kidding me?!?" especially since they've been doing so much better avoiding this kind of scene over the last two years.

Now Lois's saying she can't marry him because it's not fair for her to take him from the people who need rescuing, while sad, makes more sense.  It's also a bit frustrating because we've already seen it play out in the comics and Lois & Clark, but hey, for a new audience it's something that needs to be shown.  We of course know that Clark needs to have at least moments of a normal life and not be Superman 24/7 or even he starts to crack under the pressure and that Lois will learn this soon enough... and it'll have to be soon, since there's only one episode left.

And ohhhh, that wonderful Legion of Doom sequence!!! Captain Cold!!  Black Manta!! Solomon Grundy!! Looking comic book perfect!!! Oh, how sweet it is. (Not to mention that Toyman's little mind-control toys looked like Starro.) I doubt we'll see them in the finale; I think this is more to establish that just as the Justice League is coming in to their own (and did you notice that Clark actually referred to them as "the league" this time?), their rogues gallery has come together as well, and the stage is set for the never-ending battle between good and evil.

And lastly, with this episode Smallville beats out Stargate SG-1 to become the record holder for longest running science fiction show in US TV history. (Unless you count the two-hour "Absolute Justice" episode as two episodes, in which case last week's episode was the record breaker.)  While I feel Stargate SG-1 was a much better show overall and is far more deserving of the title, Smallville has grown into a great show.  Congratulations, Smallville.



Thanks, as always, to Home of the Nutty for the screen capture.  And as always, this episode is currently available to view for free (with commercials) at http://www.cwtv.com/cw-video/smallville/.  At least it was as of this writing; with "Finale" being two hours, I don't know for sure!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Survivors - ''Gone Away''

Spoiler Level: Medium

Things continue to come together as Abby, Greg and Jenny find each other and team up.  Even the wandering vagrant from the previous two episodes shows up at Abby's camp.  Every time I think he's done his bit and is gone for good, he shows up again in the next episode.  Now I'm expecting to see him again, so I probably won't.

Abby's group attempt to forage some groceries, only to find that the grocery store has been "claimed" by the militant group that Abby ran into in the previous episode, and they consider anyone who isn't a member of their group a looter. Wanting no part of them or their tactics, Abby argues that she has as much right to the food there as they do.  The result is a power struggle, with the obvious balance-tipper being whoever holds the guns holds the power.

What keeps it from being a total downer is Abby's optimism.  Even when she's becoming disenchanted with humanity itself, it's because she just assumed everyone would want to work together, that the plague had made everyone equal.  Even while she's becoming discouraged at how people are behaving, she's still inspiring people like Jenny and Greg, who are starting to see her as a leader-- the kind that people choose to follow out of trust and loyalty as opposed to the kind people feel forced to follow out of fear.  It's a ray of hope and optimism in the bleakest landscape possible.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thor

Spoiler Level: Medium

Another great Marvel movie, and a great start to the 2011 summer movie season!

I'll confess I've only read a handful or issues of the Thor comic book.  Most of what I know about Thor came from the Avengers, and most of what I know about Asgard came from the fantastic New Mutants Special Edition #1 in 1985.  Oh, and I remember watching reruns of the old Thor cartoons from 1966.  So while I'm no expert, I know enough to appreciate all the things they got right.

And wow, did they get a lot right. The costume, the hammer, spinning the hammer, the relationship between Thor and Loki, Jane Foster, the references to Dr. Donald Blake, Odin, the Odinsleep, Sif, the Warriors Three... well, okay, I have a beef with the Warriors Three.  Volstagg is way too thin.
What is, for me, the definitive Volstagg moment.



I absolutely LOVED the Rainbow Bridge.  I was afraid they would consider it too cheesy and not use it, but they found a way to make it faithful and still look cool by today's standards-- it's a giant crystal bridge, pulsing and flowing with every color of the rainbow.  Fantastic.

Being the first Thor film, it's also a great origin tale in its own right, as we see Thor go from over-confident, over-eager, and yes even arrogant, and watch him grow into the hero he's meant to be.  As I said, my knowledge of Thor isn't extensive, so this works as a proper introduction to the character's history for me.

And damn, Chris Hemsworth is the same actor who played George Kirk in Star Trek ('09)?  Wow.  He didn't even blip on my radar in that movie, but here he's hot.  And I normally don't go for guys with beards.  What a difference long hair, an accent, and a good shirtless scene can make.

There's some great additional Marvel Universe easter eggs in this movie as well, but I'm not going to reveal them here. I think we've all gotten used to the cameo by Nick Fury by now as the build-up to the Avengers movie continues, but the others completely surprised me.  Marvel is doing a fantastic job of tying these films together in little ways and truly making it feel like a bigger interconnected universe.  In a lot of ways it reminds me of when comics were new to me.

My only real regret is that I didn't get to watch The Incredible Hulk Returns before seeing this movie. I've still never seen it, and I really wanted to see the only other (and widely regarded as terrible) attempt at a live-action Thor before seeing it done here, where I had confidence that they were going to do it right.

And do it right they did.  On to Captain America!

Friday, May 13, 2011

K9 - ''Lost Library of Ukko''

Spoiler Level: Medium

An excellent episode! Thorne is a huge improve- ment over Drake.  Just as his first episode was about prisons, Thorne is still thinking of good ways to lock up those he considers a threat, and he sets up a trap to try out a new one on Starkey.

Darius isn't annoying, Starkey is more of the angry rebel, Thorne is actually menacing, and while K9 is still talking on the casual side he never crosses the line. The alien Librarian from Ukko may look a bit silly with her librarian glasses, but her sharp demeanor makes her interesting to watch. And there's the added revelation that The Department isn't only based in England, but is spread out around the entire world, making it a bit more ominous.

This episode is an unequivocal win, making K9's total score to date 11 wins, 6 losses.

Sadly, K9 is still not available in the US, but Amazon has now started listing import DVDs. While they are region free, these are in PAL format, so you'll need a player that can convert them to NTSC to play them here in America. Oh, and they're out of stock. But hey, it's a start.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tiger & Bunny - ''Fire Is a Good Servant But a Bad Master''

Spoiler Level: High

Another good character episode, this time focusing on Fire Emblem as he's accused of murdering some bad guys in jail.  They bad guys were talking about how fun it is to murder hostages in general and child hostages in specific, so it's hard to feel any sympathy for them, yet Kotetsu manages to. It's that kind of value for all human life that makes Kotetsu a hero.

Even though we saw none of Hero TV this episode, it's still a very satisfying episode, as we see elements from the previous episodes are starting to come together. The criminals who were killed were from the first episode, Kotetsu recognizes an assassin (in a very cool piece of mecha) as the same guy who planted the bomb in episode 3, and somehow it all seems tied to the organization that killed Barnaby's parents.  So while I may be a bit disappointed that the show has lost some of the edge that makes it different, it's still a well-written show and holding my interest.

(Although it hasn't completely lost the reality show edge-- at one point, Barnaby is content to let Kotetsu take the lead after the assassin, because there are no cameras around and no points to be awarded.  It's little touches like that that keep the concept alive.)

As usual, this episode is available to watch for free at http://www.vizanime.com/tiger-and-bunny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Transformers: Prime - ''Sick Mind''

Spoiler Level: High

Megatron is finally on his way back. And ironically, it looks like the Autobots are going to help him get there.

When Optimus gets infected with a plague created centuries ago by Megatron, the Autobots have no choice but to send a team to hack into Megatron's mind and find the cure... which has the nasty side-effect of stirring his mind back to consciousness.  It's a delightful irony that in order to save their leader they inadvertently save their enemy's leader as well.

It's also a nice way to give Bumblebee the spotlight, despite his not really being able to talk.  Pingu is a great example of how a character doesn't need to really speak a real language for you to understand what they're saying, and Bumblebee not only shows that well here, he has the same innocent charm as Pingu.

One question-- I get that Transformers can create plagues that affect machines, but can you really call it biological warfare then?

As usual, this episode is currently available to watch for free at  http://www.hubworld.com/transformers/shows/prime/videos.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Doctor Who - ''Curse of the Black Spot''

Spoiler Level: High 

The new season continues to be lots of fun. I can enjoy pirate stories more than, say, zombies or vampire stories, but when I saw the preview for this episode and saw that this was going to be a pirate story, I wasn't really excited.  I thought the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were okay, but after seeing them once I never cared if I saw them again.  To be honest, the only reason I saw them at all was because my daughter wanted to see them, and I was doing the responsible parent thing of monitoring what my kid watches.  But really I just didn't care.  You know what I'm going to say by now... not enough spaceships in them.

So, leave it to Doctor Who to have a pirate story... with a spaceship in it!  That was awesome!  That closing shot of Captain Avery and Toby watching the stars fly past them, as the crew all walked in and lined up behind them for the hero shot... now THAT'S what more pirate movies need! Spaceships!!!

I'm not kidding about this, by the way.

It's nice to see the Doctor having to keep revising his theories on what's going on.  I like it when the Doctor's the one who understands what's Really Going On, but that makes it all the more fun when he realizes he was wrong. When Rich and I were discussing the episode after it ended, we both agreed that the two most out-of-place moments were when the Doctor abandoned the TARDIS and when he did a 180 and decided that everyone wasn't being killed, they were probably being taken somewhere instead. At the time I said to Rich "It's probably one of those things that would have been better explained if this had been a 90-minute story."  And now that the episode has a day or two to percolate in my brain, I think I understand what changed the Doctor's mind in both cases.

Now usually when the Doctor says "I have no idea where the TARDIS is going to land!" it means he needs to stay with the ship, or risk losing it forever.  But in this case he (literally) says "Abandon ship!"  Why? Well, I got to thinking about how he told Amy "It's been towed" as opposed to "It ran away." He could tell there was something wrong with the dimensional planes when he tried to take off; maybe that was the key moment that caused him to start revising his theory again. So if the TARDIS was sliding into this parallel plane, then maybe the people were being taken as well.  Again, following the Doctor's train of thought might have been easier if this story had taken more time to be fleshed out.  But then again, the 11th Doctor tends to ramble on quite quickly and then throw in a "completely disregard what I just said," which can make following his train of thought difficult at the best of times.

And even though Rory's got full companion status now, I was still afraid he really might die. (Again.) Some nice little teases about the overall arc, as well. Nothing new on the pregnancy/future Doctor/glowing-little-girl front, but the return of Amy's dreamworld woman with the silver eyepatch.  Hmmm....


Monday, May 9, 2011

Smallville - ''Dominion''

Spoiler Level: Highish

See, now this is why I still don't feel like I can watch Smallville with my 11-year-old daughter in the room.  This episode had a lot of blood.

Slade Wilson has turned up back in the outside world (so we're told-- we never see him), so Ollie comes back to join Clark in the Phantom Zone to figure out how he escaped.  While there, we learn that the spirit of the original General Zod has merged with the body of the clone Major Zod, so now he's just one Zod with a whole lotta hate.  That may sound a bit convoluted, but it actually works quite well for me.  And apparently Darkseid has given Zod the power to rule the Phantom Zone. So Zod spends his time making the inhabitants of the Phantom Zone fight each other to the death for his entertainment.

I'm glad to see Ollie back, because I felt the show was always stronger with him.  It's also nice to see they haven't forgotten about him being Omega marked by Darkseid, and used it to the full extent here by giving us a reason to believe that Ollie might have really been turned against Clark.  The reference to Orion having defeated Darkseid was also very nice, and finally getting Clark into a red cape was fantastic.

Sadly, showing so much blood and so many gruesome details during the combat (such as the blade coming out of Clark's back) really turned me off.  It just felt over the top and really unnecessary.

Lois pulling a gun on Tess also seemed a bit out of place; did she really need to go that far to get Tess to agree with her? Since Lois wasn't able to keep Tess at gunpoint for three weeks and Tess and Lois willingly  took shifts, I'd say obviously not.

Thanks as always to Home of the Nutty for the screen capture!


This episode is still available to watch for free (with commercials) at http://www.cwtv.com/cw-video/smallville/.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stargate Universe - ''Awakening''

Spoiler Level: High

You know, if there's a genre for movies called "feel good" movies -- works of film created with the deliberate intention of bringing you up-- then logically there must also be a "feel bad" genre, works of film created with the deliberate intention of bringing you down. Stargate Universe is determined to be a "feel bad" series.

As with the last few episodes, there's some great things in this episode.  The alien was very cool; I liked how he was very complacent, like he was just another worker, just trying to do his job when he ran into a bunch of humans.  I loved the seed ship-- not only does it give us a glimpse into how Destiny works, it's a cool design and makes for some excellent ship shots of the two docking, and brings some of the thrill of discovery back to the series.  The brief glimpse we get of the gate manufacturing room is very exciting, as this is probably the first time in Stargate history that we've gotten a look into the manufacturing of Stargates, or seen so many in one place at one time.


But this season is really sliding backwards, and that's the kind of thing that will make me lose interest as a viewer. I've commented a lot on how I liked Rush's progression into a decent human being during the second half of last season, and it seems like with this season they've decided to just throw that all away.


Really, guys?  We had to go with Rush stranding Telford on the seed ship?  We couldn't have had the ships undock on their own, or the aliens be responsible?  We had to make it be Rush's decision?  And let's look at that from an in-universe perspective for a moment... Rush has got control of Destiny, which the seed ship is designed to work for, but he can't switch off or reverse the energy drain from the bridge?  He has to resort to undocking the ships and abandoning Telford?  That's just writing it with the deliberate goal of having a feel-bad story, logic be damned.  It's a major step backwards for the character, and it's getting to be the recurring theme of this series.

And speaking of recurring themes, having the closing shot of everyone by themselves in different parts of the ship while a sad, lonely song is sung has been used so much on this show that it's become a cliché.  I started making up my own vocals about how life sucks before the actual words kicked in, and I wasn't far off.

I'll stick with the show because it's already been canceled so there's only 17 episodes left, I've seen every Stargate up to now, and this show has improved before. But man, it's no wonder viewers kept leaving.  If I thought this show was going to run for another four seasons, I'd probably give up on it again and go finish Primeval instead.

Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea.  I might just do that anyway.

As always, thanks to Krissie's Caps for the screen captures.

SGU Stargate Universe: Complete Final Season