Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day Thirty-one - Kevin Smith: Burn In Hell, "So much mad respect, man."

Today's Couchbound is a little special to me.

Not only does it mark my first completed calendar month of the project (thirty-one days down, three hundred thirty-four left to go)... but, in a few hours, after finishing today's bit, I'm going to be front row, a little off center, to Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes when they do their Getting Old bit in Durango.

I'm actually pretty psyched (and a little sheepish, concerning what he has to say about critics during BIH), despite the crap I may give Smith on the podcast.

So, in order to rev myself up, I decided today's Netflix dish would be Kevin Smith's post-Red State Q&A, Burn in Hell... and I think, even if I weren't about to see them live, this would be a great inspirational piece for any creatives out there.

I'm sure there are some art school hipsters out there who would beg to disagree in most vehement terms, but his messages concerning life, death, and creativity are spot on, if a little meandery here and there.

Full disclosure, there were points during his art speech where he was going on about having sex in a Denny's bathroom that I completely focused on both his voice and the story-at-that-moment that I forgot that it was all just a giant metaphor about how passionate you have to be for your craft.

I think the most powerful story he told, though, came in his relating of his father's death and how profoundly it effected him. It honestly moved me to tears and I had to pause the stream the first time I watched it a few months back. I was able to blink them back today, but they were still there.

Both times I've heard that segment, I've thought about my own relationship to my parents and felt a wrenching pain because I know that the day is coming. Maybe not soon and maybe misfortune will befall me ahead of them, but at some point it is coming. I think about my relationship with mine and Smith's with his family and I can't help but be jealous because I'm not the success he is at life and they had those wonderful moments, even despite the screaming at the end.

I wish I could give those moments (you know, sans screaming) to my parents... and I aim to change that to more than just a wish and make it a reality.

That's how moving this Q&A was to me.

It's a certainty that I can recommend this to any creative (or just anyone interested). Sure, it's a little vulgar, but that's the man's medium. Heck, it's my medium, when I'm not censoring myself for print or daily interactions.

To the point, though, it's honest, warm, and real... and is something we rarely get from our artists, a peak behind the curtain into the personal.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day Thirty - Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire, or "Kind of tame, actually."

I'm a bit of a japanophile.

I love anime, watch The Last Samurai (and enjoy it, unironically), and love the old Zatoichi television series to death. Black and white period drama with swordplay and shamisen music? I'm there.

With that in mind, I was a bit disappointed with the first episode of this three part documentary on Japan which covered the end of the Warring States period.

It hints at the significance of various aspects of samurai life, but only the highlights of what a Westerner would expect to have already gleaned from various channels. Seppuku, Kendo, the Shogunate... the key battle that ended the Sengoku (the Warring States period of Japan), the Battle of Sekigahara, is given maybe five minutes of screen time... as much as, say, Gettysburg would be given in a longitudinal study of Lincoln's presidency.

And, I think that's the problem with this documentary. It's more a high school history lesson on Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate (which would rule japan for hundreds of years), than an in-depth study of Japan itself. It would be like watching something called "A History of Rome" that only focused on Julius Caesar.

I do find it tongue in cheek that the makers got Richard Chamberlain to narrate the doc, as he is famous for portraying the English hero of the 80's miniseries Shogun, based on James Clavell's novel (though, in the novel, they changed the name to Toranaga instead of Tokugawa). The book and series tell the tale of an Englishman trapped in Japan during the period of time just before the Tokugawa Shogunate was established. Sort of like getting Daniel Day-Lewis to do that doc on Lincoln or Charlton Heston to do the Rome doc.

Still, for a highlights doc, it's not terrible. I just wish they'd talk more about the land, the law, and the culture than what was given. It's a short documentary, though, only clocking in around an hour an episode. Certainly not a grand Ken Burns style epic that gives you everything from top to bottom about a particular subject. Maybe they just didn't have the time?

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day Twenty-nine - Beware the Gonzo, or "Not quite John Hughes, but it does try."

I'm generally a sucker for the well done Teen Outcast movie.

Charlie Bartlett, Nick & Norah, heck... even the cheese of The New Guy is fun and oddly redeeming, even if ludicrous.

Beware the Gonzo tries, and tries hard, to be both relevant and believable and, for the a portion, it delivers... but there's a little too much gloss and fakery. The villains are too glib and pompous, the leads too hot, the geeks too, well, obvious.

It does have its good points, though. It manages to pull off it's Scooby-Doo investigative reporting with a mild amount of panache, and has a pretty decent coterie of background characters to make the setting feel lived in and real. Unfortunately, it never really utilizes them all that much.

Take, for instance, the interns... a pair of sophomores who show up during the cafe interview sequence claiming they want to learn. That's all well and good, but they're only shown as bouncers (both for the cafe and the concert).

And the principal... what could've been an interesting adversarial relationship (see Robert Downey Jr. in Charlie Bartlett for a much more compelling one) is instead just a token role.

This is pretty much the case for main antagonist Riley, as well. He's supposed to be this monolith of all that's wrong with the school, but never really does anything other than be smug and pop on screen for a "he's up to something" moment. Really, the only thing I thought was believable from him was his freakout and, by then, it was too little, too late.

Overall, the film isn't too bad, but it wastes all its opportunities... focusing way too hard on the lead and his petty drama and not following up on the possibilities it throws off as one-liners (the other Gonzo papers, a possible law drama over the skipped expulsion scene, etc.).

I mean, Gonzo's dad is a freaking lawyer, for crying out loud... and not a single moment is given that takes advantage of that. In fact, it feels like the writer/director was actively avoiding it.


Maybe he was trying not to be cliche, but I still wanted at least a little active participation from his parents, instead of the off-screen asskissing by his mother to the principal.

I mean, seriously? That's the message we want to spread? Fight the good fight until authority makes it too rough on you?

Still, I enjoyed the film. It wasn't stellar... it wasn't even great... but, it was alright.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day Twenty-eight - Out of Sight, or "Clooney and his Quiet Cool."

Elmore Leonard novels, when brought to screen by the right people, just exude class... even when they deal with the worst examples of humanity.

Case in point, Jackie Brown (though most folks attribute the groove to Tarentino, I prefer to give Elmore credit for his fine characterization)... and, in this case, Out of Sight. I'd also like to bring up Get Shorty as the exception to the rule, because while the cast would've been stellar, they just never gelled like the other two pieces.

I'm talking about chemistry.

Clooney can pretty much ride his charm in any film he wants, but I was really shocked when it came to Jennifer Lopez. I wasn't too impressed by Anaconda, but Selena proved she could have what it took. With Out of Sight? I actually saw a little real emotion. Not much, mind you... her half-blowup in the hotel bathroom felt forced on her part, though Soderbergh did a good job with cuts and framing to amp the tension... at least, to my eye.

When they're together on screen? Well, I was convinced.

Then there's the supporting cast, which was also awesome.

Ving Rhames is pretty solid in just about any film, so long as you don't ask him to get too crazy... and, even then, it can work (Bringing Out the Dead). Dennis Farina is great as well, cynical yet supportive, the perfect noir father figure to act as a conscience, but not be a buzzkill. Don Cheadle can definitely do bad. I felt the tension even as I was laughing at his character's delusions of grandeur... and it wasn't hard to imagine Steve Zahn as a burnout. He can sell that role pretty easily.

I was a bit disappointed when it came to Michael Keaton. It was a really bit role and I was expecting him to show up at least once more during the denouement, maybe be the second man on the transport with Lopez, but no dice. Also, there wasn't enough of Luis Guzman. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe another flashback scene in the third act... just something... and I was disappointed.

Great cameo for Samuel Jackson, though. I really would've liked to have seen that trip to Florida as its own movie. It fit, though, ending the film there... hinting at the breakout, one last grand romantic gesture on behalf of Lopez.

Plotwise, only two things didn't make sense to me.

First was the dream sequence. It felt out of place to have a fantasy in a film that was otherwise completely grounded. Sure, we have a few flashbacks, but it's a frame story. We gain depth when and as we need it. Having the fantasy bath sequence only served to muddle things and didn't have any call backs. Personally, the only reason I think Soderbergh did it was to get some more skinship between his two leads. Pretty unnecessary when they both of them make metaphorical love just talking about Faye Dunaway movies.

Second was Steve Zahn's exit. Even if he was forced, he still needed a comeuppance for his part in the act two crackhead hit. But maybe that's just me.

Overall, this is a great film. Noirish, good jazz/funk soundtrack, satisfying ending, very few holes. I wish JLo still made films like this. Clooney still does, though his can be a bit preachier since he stopped doing Ocean's sequels.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day Twenty-seven - The Adventures of Tintin, or "I want this crew to do an Uncharted movie... RIGHT NOW!"

So, let me just give you a roll call:

Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jamie Bell, and Toby Jones.

Does that sound good enough for you? Cast and crew strong enough to tickle your fancy?

It certainly did mine.

Granted, when I saw Spielberg's name attached, I had mixed feelings because his projects are either really good or just meh... but when Jackson, Wright, Serkis, Craig and the others popped up as attached?


And that's pretty much what The Adventures of Tintin is. It was like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with even better writing and much more dynamic action sequences thanks to the tremendous job that WETA did on the CGI and motion capture.

Not constrained by the need for doable practical effects (or half-practical/half-cgi a la Transformers), the storyboard artists were able to go crazy and the computer graphics folks obliged them terrifically. This is none more obvious than during the chase sequence through the flooding streets of Bagghar.

Tintin and Haddock are chasing the villain and his mutinous crew while they, themselves, are being chased by the Sheik's guards. An errant rpg round sets the dam off and the next five to ten minutes encompass tons of action as so much is going on. We chase the principals, the pets, the scrolls... avoid gunshots, torrents of water, and a hotel that is being dragged along by a freaking tank!

Tons of things are happening, both on and off screen, in this single sequence and it's all brilliant! It was like watching an entire chapter play out in Uncharted with dynamic camera. THIS is what I want from my adventure films.

Acting-wise, everyone is superb... from the principals to the bumbling cops, Thomson and Thompson (voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost... squee!), to the mutinous crew of Haddock's ship.

Everyone has just the right amount of personality and presence. I especially loved the crew. They have their own motivations and bumble around just as much as Thomson and Thompson, but still manage to have menace and never just fade into the background like so many stormtroopers of old.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to everyone, especially those who like a grand old adventure.

Very cool that it's on Netflix, but it should also be in everyone's collection. Hope they make a sequel.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day Twenty-six - TEDTalks: Smart Laughs, Episodes 2 and 3, or "You make me cry, Ze."

Every couple of months... well, sometimes every couple of months... more often than not, the way it goes is that I completely forget about TED for almost a year, then randomly find a link to it on StumbleUpon or Reddit and I'm back for a long, emotional, and enlightening binge.

And it really is a binge. Hours and hours of free time spent watching folks wiser than me.

See, I really want to go to a TED conference. Hell, I want to speak at a TED conference, but I'm so deathly afraid that I'm not worthy... of either.

Anyways, while searching through the annals of Netflix (well, scrolling through the recommended documentaries bar because I've watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Indie Game), I saw Smart Laughs and just had to add it to my queue.

I'm glad I did because, so far, I've seen none of these segments before during any of my binges. At least, not that I remember.

The first one I'll report on here is episode 2 and is entitled "Rives on 4AM."

At it's core, it's really just a funny little comment on the grand collective unconsciousness and how tiny thoughts and phrases filter through the zeitgeist at various places. How our minds look for connections and actually sometimes find them, whether they are coincidence or not.

It's cute, it's funny, and it's short. Only ten minutes long. It both lampoons and, if you turn your head and squint, could completely justify the existence of conspiracy theorists.

For the most part, though, it just makes me think. Also, laugh, but mostly think.

And I like to think.

In fact, it's probably both my greatest strength and weakness, but I digress.

The second segment I'll report is episode 3, "Ze Frank's Web Playroom," which is actually, oddly enough, his second segment in the series as his talk from the early 2000's "Nerdcore Comedy" is the first episode.

This one really touched me.

Not only was it an interesting demonstration of several thought provoking interactive web experiences that he's created or sponsored, but it really demonstrated how he, personally, had changed in the years since his previous talk "Nerdcore."

It also really got to me during the Pain Pack demo.

For any reader of this blog who doesn't know me personally, I occasionally suffer from deep bouts of depression and social anxiety. I've had at least one major depressive episode in my life that seriously impacted my lifepath.

It was pretty bad.

Most times, I manage to get by with coping mechanisms and am usually relatively happy most of the time.

That said, observing the Pain Pack portion of the segment hit me right in the feels. Hearing first the original message that inspired him, then his (and, subsequently, the world's) musical response, had me crying openly.

Just thinking about it has me tearing up.

I think Ze and Rives are very much on the nose about our connections to the social media zeitgeist and collective unconsciousness... and they managed to convey these messages in smart, funny, and emotive ways.

I respect them... and envy them... and hope that one day I might be worthy of that same stage... that I have something just as relevant to say. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but I'm a dreamer.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day Twenty-five - Better Off Ted: Season 1, Episode 3, or "Family. Yay."

More palette cleansing and it's time for some awkward workplace comedy complete with fourth-wall breakage.

First, I want to talk about this episode's Veridian commercial. Not quite as cute as those previous, but still just as dysfunctional, it hints at child labor, complete corporate domination of all waking hours for work, cloning, resurrection, and tops it all of with feigned enthusiasm. I both like it and hate it, simultaneously appalled and amused.

Pretty much what they were going for, I think. I just wish it were a little more subtle and realistic, like the pilot.

Anyway, there are three plots running through the episode: Lem and Phil are having trouble with who's in charge in the lab, Ted and Linda are dealing with their attraction to each other, and Veronica appropriates Ted's daughter Rose to make navigating tense managerial meetings easier. 

This definitely isn't my favorite episode of the series, but it's still amusing enough to be decent. The Phil and Lem tension never really reaches their normal levels of mad science (though, they try with the two man hazmat suit at the end). Lem's dual affair hijinks are pretty good, but only for the one line at the end, really. And Linda and Ted, while they're always cute together, you just don't feel the pressure that Linda's ex is supposed to apply (maybe because he's not seen), nor is Ted's eventual rejection (and Linda's reaction) all that believable.

Sadly, that's the problem with the show, I think. They're forced into that sitcom status quo mentality where everything has to be back where it started at the end of the episode for the sake of preserving the maximum amount of both sexual and comedic tension.

The perspective shots from the hazmat suits during the fiberglass kissing scene were pretty good, though... an actually inspired cinematography choice. Too bad I can't find any pictures of it to demonstrate. Instead, you'll have to live with this side shot as they mash lips separated by transparent aluminum (I wish!).

See? Cute.

As always, Veronica is pretty much the most effective character in the episode due to sheer severity of performance by Portia de Rossi. Andrea Anders is hella cute, and I love the personality she puts forth with Linda, but Veronica can't help but get me to laugh.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day Twenty-four - Phineas and Ferb: Season 2, Episode 31. or "Caramelldansen!!"

It should be no secret now that I love Phineas and Ferb.

It's a great show that features tons of whimsy, fun songs, and an entirely awesome outlook on life. The fact of the matter is, P&F is one of my regrets concerning dropping my cable/satellite subscriptions. My mainstay programs like The Daily Show, Community, and Castle can all be seen on their respective streams (well, I'm crossing my fingers for Community), but P&F? Pretty much, I have to rely on Netflix for them as they don't stream and their DVD releases are few, far between, and aren't full season sets.

Still... what we get on Netflix is quite a lot and, now that Disney is licensing out a larger portion of their catalog, I have little doubt I'll be getting more.

After the last few Doctor Who epis, I've felt the need for comfort television. Last night, it was Me & Orson. Today, it's P&F... and I chose one of my favorite episodes to do it with: Summer Belongs To You!

A special double episode, Summer Belongs To You stretches beyond the regular two parters to fill 45 minutes of world traveling fun with several awesome music skits. The first song features the epis' two guest stars, Clay Aiken and Chaka Khan. Even though it's the weakest song in the epi, it's not that bad, really.

The side story involves Doof and Vanessa nominally on vacation in Tokyo, though Doof is shown to have kidnapped Major Monogram and is going to frame him for being naughty at a Good Guys Convention. This causes drama for Vanessa who just wanted to spend time with her dad.

From there we get to one of my favorite sequences on the show... EVER.

J-Pop Welcome to Tokyo!

I'll just leave this here. Credit to dOrea-SaN for the gif.
It's a helluva short sequence, only around a minute long, but I can't help but laugh out loud every time it zooms by, a huge smile on my face the entire time.

Normally, horrid spoofs on anime infuriated me, but even though the mashup of P&F's and general anime stylings is an assault on the eyes, the references are just too cute not to enjoy. From Caramelldansen to Leekspin to Ganguro... they are all points of actual memes and real life style instead of just Americans making fun like South Park, Simpsons, or Clerks. It just feels like it was done by actual fans instead of folks looking for a quick snark.

After the boys get vegetable oil from Stacey's Baa-san (Grandmother), who looks exactly like her, just older and gray, the boys manage to save Vanessa from falling off Tokyo Tower and it's off to the Himalayas where there's time for a Bollywood music sequence courtesy of one of Baljeet's relatives.

This one I'm not too sure about as I'm not familiar with Bollywood too well. I still thought it was fun, though. Especially when it got to the mini-fridge. It really reminded me of the Mexican-Jewish Cultural Festival from Picture This.

The Himalayas section also features the first appearance of the Klimpaloon. Yeah, you'll just have to see it for yourself. I'm not even going to link it.

After another brief musical sequence, where they're all bouncing across the world (sometimes further back than they should if they were keeping to their schedule), it's off to Paris where Candace goes to look for Jeremy, Bufford and Baljeet search for fuel, Phineas and Isabella look for parts (which gives Izzy a chance to lament that Phineas doesn't see her in a romantic way), and Ferb and Vanessa... well, they go to the Eiffel Tower.

I really wanted this to be a key moment to advance the Ferb and Vanessa shippage storyline. At the very least, I was expecting another peck on the cheek like he got in Vanessassary Roughness, but no dice. Instead he is left on the Tower holding a rose as she is whisked away by Doof, Monogram, and Perry who have showed up to "save" her.

Poor Ferb.

I have to wonder if this is the way it's going to eventually end for this particular shippage. Especially since Seth Green is the voice of Major Monogram's son in later episodes and both he and Vanessa are closer in age and have already had an actual date.

Paris is also where we get more hints of Bufford's hidden depths... he speaks fluent French and reads Voltaire? 

Anyways, onwards and upwards... it's another crash landing and time for a moment of existential fugue for Phineas. He loses hope and it's up to the disgruntled Isabella to build him back up. Poignant, self-sacrificing (as she'd rather just stare at the sunset with him), and a perfect mood. Well done, writers.

Another redesign of the vehicle and another physics defying save later... and it's time to party. The Fireside Girls have put one together and the episode ends on a longish song that sums up the entire summer that P&F have adventured through.

I really, really love this episode. It has everything you want from P&F (well, almost... "Poor Ferb," indeed) and more (mostly).

For the longest time, I was afraid that this was going to be the series finale as it was just too epic in time and scope. It led me to believe that P&F hadn't been renewed (or whatever they do at the Disney Channel, since it's got a weird numbering and season schedule to begin with) and that freaked me out, but when more episodes showed up afterwards, I easily calmed down.

Once again, P&F is completely worth the watch... especially for folks who like music and whimsy. It's NOT just a kids show, people. Go out there and get hooked!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day Twenty-three - Me and Orson Welles, or "That's Showbusiness, Baby!"

For any creative type there exist movies that bring forth a sort of kinship between the film and the audience that seems to transcend time, setting, and character.

I caught flickers of that feeling when I watched movies like The Words, or Cradle Will Rock, or oddly enough, The Number 27.

In all honesty, it's probably safe to say that about any person and their particular archetype. There are everyman movies and there are type specific films. For Texans, perhaps that film is Friday Night Lights or Varsity Blues. For single moms, perhaps that film is Beaches.

For frat boys? Van Wilder or Old School... or Animal House.

When I sat down to watch Me & Orson Welles, I don't know what I was expecting. Sure, I'd seen a brief preview during the "Behind the Scenes" featurettes at my local multiplex, but it had never come for a theatrical run. And, sure, it had a pretty decent pedigree, seeing as how Richard Linklater was the director... but it also had Zac Efron.

Let's just say that I remained cautious concerning any movie where he was the lead.

Perhaps that was unfair. Granted, his early career had him heavily involved in the High School Musical franchise. While that might make him golden in the eyes of several million formerly pre-teen girls (who have no doubt graduated college at this point), even a decent enough turn in the remake of Hairspray wasn't enough to redeem him in my eyes.

After Me & Orson Welles, though... well... I have to say that I'm looking forward to what he may have to offer in the future.

That's not to say that he wasn't a tiny bit awkward. There were definitely moments where I felt he was too clean cut... too pretty for the role he was trying to portray. Certain weighted pauses or lingering stares did feel out of place, here and there, but overall? I think he did a pretty decent job.

And that's to say nothing about his costars, Claire Danes and Christian McKay. Holy crap did they sell me on their roles... especially the latter.

While Claire did a suburb job representing the charming, yet mercenary, backstage producer that her character was, McKay was tremendous as the suave, demanding, and quite overbearing personality that was the great Orson Welles. There were times when I was looking at him where I really could see McKay up there on the screen in Citizen Kane and not the man himself.  And Kane had nothing to do with this film.


Now, it could have been that Welles was just that dramatic a character... or at least that our image of him calls him such... that McKay's rendition of him hit all the notes that I was expecting? I cannot help but say, "well done, man."

Overall, if you have a passion for film, the stage, or even writing as a singular purpose, there are moments... hell, entire scenes for you in this movie. I would be proud to have this in my collection.

Luckily, for my budget, it's on Netflix.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day Twenty-two - Dr.Who: Series 1, Episodes 9 & 10, or "Women (and some men) SWOON for Capt.Jack!"

Alright, I'm quickly burning out on Dr.Who again and need to revitalize with other media, so... in the interests of due diligence... I'm making today's post cover the two interconnected episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances."

I do this mainly because these are the intro episodes for Captain Jack Harkness, 51st Century Time Agent (former), out to make a quick buck and romance anything with a sex drive... and I do mean that literally.

It seems that Capt. Jack is using a Chula "warship" as a lure for time travelers to bring them to London during the Blitzkrieg. In doing so, he's inadvertently released a swarm of nanobots that are rewriting humans into a flawed hybrid of what those bots think humans should look like... namely a four year old boy, presently cadeverish, and with a pointed Mommy fetish.

Seems the child is going around, searching for his mother aimlessly, not quite recognizing that he's turning anything he touches (and eventually breathes on) into mindless drones in gasmasks.

But The Doctor is on the case, and he and Rose are there to team up with, flirt, and waggle their fingers under the nose of, you guessed it, Capt. Jack.

Jack Harkness is pretty much a fan favorite and, if my recollection of fandom is accurate enough, has been from the start. That sort of devil may care, suave mentality... always up for a shag and equal opportunity as to who with, Capt. Jack is sex in uniform.

And American, if his accent holds true. Would've thought accents would shift in thirty-one centuries (at least to something NOT British) and, I guess, they have.

Anyways, the episodes draw out the drama as the trio plus Mary (the only person actually supposed to be in London during the Blitz) get chased here and there, first by the kid and then by the drones. Really, there are plenty of points where any and all of them should've been captured and converted. Especially in those long, dithering sequences when they're supposedly trapped, only to be given a reprieve at the last second.


Still, it's a relatively fun and lighthearted episode, even considering the dark tone of the war, the orphans, the sick, and the unwed teenaged mothers. I think that's mostly due to Capt. Jack and the jealous back and forth he and The Doctor have over Rose.

Over Rose, though? I mean, Billy Piper's alright, but she's no Karen Gillian... and certainly no Alex Kingston. Rawr! Her and Claudia Black, man. Smart women with guns! Yowza.


Anyways, at least she's no Donna. (Ouch! Poor Catherine Tate~)

As I mentioned above, I'm a little burnt out on The Doctor, so I'm going to step away for a few days and watch something else, but don't worry. I've promised to soldier on.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day Twenty-one - Dr.Who: Series 1, Episode 7, or "Hey! That's... that's Simon Pegg!"

I was actually pretty excited to see this episode when watching it's preview a few days ago during the credits roll for Dalek. You can pretty much guess why.

I mean, Simon Pegg.

That's all that had to be said.

The man (and his contemporaries, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost) helped revitalize not only the zombie movie, not only the buddy-cop movie, but also the Mission Impossible franchise (at least, he and JJ Abrams were the only reasons I cared about MI:3... and he, Jeremy Renner, and Brad Bird were the only reasons I cared about MI:GP).

I'm trying to figure out, though, if he's the sole reason why I enjoyed the episode or not.

Honestly, I can't tell.

I say this because, well... even the non-Editor bits of the episode don't seem to bother me all that much. Sure it has an overly-simple solution and a pretty contrived future-tech for gathering and sifting through the countless teraquads of information from across the galaxy, but... it seems like an actually solid speculative scifi venture.

I mean, using the human brain as a temporary (or permanent, in the case of the Editor's staff) processor is the stuff of a great scifi short story of the likes of Phillip K Dick or Kurt Vonnegut. Sure, they way they go about it here is just cheeky and lame, but it's a solid trope.

Not to mention the fact that, thanks to one-off companion Adam, we actually get a real human reaction to the perils of time travel.

Granted, we've seen Rose have an existential crisis (The End of the World) and seen her react to the consequences of her becoming a time traveler (Aliens of London/World War Three)... but, both times, I felt very little from her in terms of actual emotional conflict. It just felt like Billie Piper rehearsing lines... not Rose Tyler actually living them.

Here, Adam (Bruno Langley), actually feels like a man out of time... and it's interesting to see how he deals with it. It feels real. Natural, even.

Personally, I think this is the best episode of the lot, so far. Sure, it still has its requisite cheese, mostly in the form of its random alien villain who, for most of the episode, isn't seen. When we do get the CGI reveal, it's mostly meh and its ultimate fate annoying keeps with Dr.Who's typical deus ex solutions, but oh well.

Simon Pegg.

And that's all that needs to be said, really.

Too bad he couldn't turn out to be the Master. I really could've dug that. I'm still looking forward to Derek Jacobi's version, though.

You know who would make a great Doctor (if he's not too busy)?

Stephen Fry!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day Twenty - Margin Call, or "The Choices We Make For Money"

When filmmakers take on Wall Street, it's usually either a cutthroat battle of wills between the entrenched establishment and an ambitious up-and-comer (to capitalize on the Bear vs. Bull dichotomy) or a surreal sort of feel-good comedy that really does the exact same thing.

To illustrate the point... think of, well, Wall Street and The Associate.

Or, perhaps, Boiler Room and Trading Places.

Here, with Margin Call, we are given a more human look at probably one of the worst financial disasters in near memory. It's not a stirring or comedic look at David vs. Goliath. It's just one long night and day where Goliath, as a conglomerate of flawed men and women under a single corporate banner, decides to throw the rest of the economy under the bus to save itself.

And it does so with a pretty stellar cast.

It's a pretty large ensemble and they are all quality people: Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons, etc., etc..

The problem is, without all the Hollywood flourish and drama, it's really kind of boring at points.

I mean, I both love it and hate it for what it is... a harsh look at corporate mentality contrasted with very personal moments for all involved. It's really interesting to trace each individual as they wrestle with their woes.

This is particularly stirring when it comes to Kevin Spacey's character. Placed as he is, high up in the chain, but not directly responsible for the key decision, he is the voice of reason, the voice of humanity, in a board room where the juniors are too scared to make a stand and the seniors are all on deck with covering their asses. He is poignantly humanized early on when we learn about his own personal issues... and that point is hammered home in the denouement when we are given the double whammy of just how bad his life away from the office really is.

From the moment the shift occurs in the first to second act transition where the narrative goes from Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto as the focus to Spacey, the film really picks up speed and we're treated to the kind of boardmeetings and backstabbing you expect from real life.

But... it's still pretty boring.

Still, it's definitely worth the watch. It has a few essential points to bring across about the economic crisis (that we're still trying to claw our way out of) and they're important ones... they're just not delivered in a manner that feeds the senses and inflames passions.

It's honest... disheartening... depressing... and necessary.

Just not award-winning.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day Nineteen - Dr.Who: Series 1, Episode 6, or "Can you teach a Dalek to feel?"

Of course, that answer to that is a convenient "yes," but we'll get to that later.

Still soldiering on, I am now halfway done with Chris Eccleston's run as The Doctor. It feels like an accomplishment, albeit a very minor one. For one thing, there are just as many episodes ahead of me as there are behind... so just as much pain awaits for the remainder of the season. For another, the episode count will diminish quicker if I keep in mind that the number I've conquered is growing larger.

See? Glass half-full!

Anyways, this episode centers on a huge bunker in the middle of the Utah desert.

Well, it's actually just a closed set somewhere in London, I imagine. The closest we get to seeing Utah is on a CGI map towards the end of the episode. Just because a reconstituted Dalek shoots a hole in the ceiling doesn't mean that's actual Four Corners sunlight.

Still. Bunker. Dalek. Doctor.

Oh, and a Howard Hughes wannabe (no, seriously... they went with a mustache, overactive ego, and everything) who is master and commander of said bunker where tons of alien artifacts are being stored. Including an almost powerless Dalek that is being tortured by the wannabe. His name is Henry van Statten by the way... the wannabe, not the Dalek.

Via a deus ex plot hammer, The Doctor and Rose are pulled through time and space by a signal that we learn to be the Dalek's distress call. It wants help and the Doctor is on the job. That is until he realizes it's a freaking Dalek that needs help. I mean, apart from The Master and the Cybermen, if you've absorbed anything from the scifi collective unconsciousness in the last fifty or so years, you're bound to have heard or seen a Dalek and know they're bad news. Hell, even more so than The Master or Cybermen. Daleks are the enemy.

So, cue Doctor freakout and ignored pleas to destroy this supposed last Dalek (because, like the Borg, there's just no getting rid of a fan-favorite, recognizable series villain)... then cue Rose miraculously healing said last Dalek via another deus ex device... and we have a good twenty minute chase thorough empty warehouse corridors as the revived Dalek does what Daleks do best.


Many dead SWAT guys later, and Rose has somehow managed to convince the last Dalek to stop killing. At least her and the man who has ordered it tortured for years! It appears that, in being revived by Rose's healing touch of nubileness (seeing as how the last person to touch it burst into flames), the Dalek has developed human empathy and conscience. Does it pull a Leviathan (ME3 reference, sorry) and begin helping out?

Nope. It's a Dalek. If it loses its Dalek perfection (I.E. - lust to kill) it is no longer perfect and must self-EXTERMINATE. Of course.

The Daleks have always been stupid villains to me. Well, that's not saying much. Pretty much EVERY Dr.Who villain has been stupid in my opinion.

It will be a while, if I recall, until we get to one I actually enjoy... The Weeping Angels... but that's just me. Plenty of folks love the Daleks and squee whenever they get an episode. I wonder if the Cybermen get as much favoritism?

Anyways, plenty of cheese to be had. Especially when it comes to van Statten and his silly egoism and "preserve it alive at any cost" mentality.

I think the worst offenders in this episode, though, are the writers who are forcing the hints of The Doctor and Rose's eventual romantic entanglements. I mean, really, they've only just met. Sure they're gallivanting across the various epochs of the cosmos and saving the day left and right, but there's just no chemistry. From anyone.

It's a big problem that will only get bigger so long as Rose is in the series.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day Eighteen - Better Off Ted: Pilot, or "Only the good die young."

Every once in a while, a show that I actually really, truly enjoy manages to sneak through the pilot season and make it on the air.

Examples of this would be: Pushing Daisies, Community, and... of course... Better Off Ted.

There was just something about the casual irreverence of BOT that really appealed to me. Even though it followed quite a few standard sitcom tropes, the way it broke the fourth wall, mocked both corporate culture and political correctness, and still managed to be both pessimistic and optimistic depending on which moment it was felt, well, brilliant (a good example of a show that did the same would be Scrubs).

I particularly enjoyed all of the commercials for Veridian Dynamics, the show's omnipresent multinational corporation. Clean, soothing, yet unsettling all at once, they managed to be steeped in an irony that was both depressing and amusing.

It's that duality that brought BOT all of it's charm.

You can see I'm using past tense a lot in this post. That's mainly due to the fact that, sadly, Better Off Ted didn't make it past its second season. For that, I mourn, but acknowledge that even if the ratings had been better, they really didn't have anywhere to go.

Unlike Pushing Daisies, which still had plenty of personal mystery and drama to keep it going for quite some time, and Community, which is less about the characters and more about deconstruction of story and genre using said characters and is sustainable so long as there are tropes to explore, BOT became stuck in its self-made relationship drama. The constant need to will-they/won't-they with the series' natural couple was unsustainable.

But... that has nothing to do with the pilot which, upon watching it again years later, still rings true.

The corporation is a monster, but it's just run by people. Regular people. Well, most of them are regular people. Alright, some of them are regular people. The rest are crazy. Otherwise, why would they (as a collective) even consider freezing a man alive? Especially one of their most valued researchers?

It's funny. It's ridiculous. It's just so over the top that you think it's impossible, even as that little voice in the back of your head tries to tell you that "yes, giant corporations would probably do just that."

It's both a cautionary tale of corporate culture unchecked and a beacon of hope that in said giant, grotesque monster we call a corporation, there are still kind and generous people who are keeping it in check.

We hope.

Still, I love Portia de Rossi in this episode (and the series, at large). I much prefer her take on this character to her Arrested Development persona (blasphemy, I know). She, along with Slavin and Barrett (who play Phil and Lem), do a great job creating the chaos that contrasts the mating dance of Jay Harrington and Andrea Anders' characters.

Fun stuff that is well worth the watch, even at only two seasons.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day Seventeen - Dr.Who: Series 1, Episode 5, or "Obese Aliens Selling Earth... Cheap!"

So, we're back to Chris Eccleston's version of The Doctor, after a lovely week off.

When I last saw The Doctor and Rose, they (and Harriet Jones, MP of Flydale North) were about to be killed by the Slitheen. Well, Rose and Harriet were about to be killed by a stuntman in a rubber suit. The Doctor was being zapped by electricity or something, along with the unnamed UFO experts (some of whom are implied to be members of UNIT, from the canon of the old Dr.Who series).

Of course, The Doctor, Rose, and Harriet all manage to escape to the Cabinet Room which has 3" thick steel doors to keep the gassy, baby-faced claw aliens out.

Still... there is danger afoot.

Seems that the Slitheen aren't a race... they're a family. Of salespeople, no less. They want to sell the Earth, just without all the pesky humans on it. To do so they've invented this whole end of the world scenario and implanted themselves in fat civil servants across the UK in order to instigate nuclear war.

Seems kind of a roundabout way to do it, doesn't it?

The Doctor & Co. don't want that to happen, though. First they go about saving Rickey (Mickey, whatever) and Jackie (Rose's mum) from the Slitheen chasing them last episode. How do they do it? In typical Whovian fashion... or MacGyverian fashion, if you're so inclined... with common household items.

Namely anything with vinegar in it.

See, for some reason, like M.Night's little green men in Signs, the Slitheen have a ridiculously common weakness to something human. In this episode, it's vinegar... which causes the one going after Mickey and Jackie to explode.

How convenient... and messy.

Well, one down and several dozen to go. Time is of the essence, though, because they have to be defeated before the UN releases Britain's nuke codes BACK to its government.

I mean, really? Britain gave up the keys to its own nuclear arsenal? Seriously? Then why did the Slitheen bother? Why not just invade America (which would never hand codes over to the UN)? We've got our fair share of fat politicians for them to take over!

It's just another reason why I cannot just go along for the ride with everyone else concerning Dr.Who. It's like it's written by a twelve year old. Ugh.

Also, the glaring differences between the Slitheen and their practical effects versus their CGI versions are terrible. Whenever the real suits are on screen, they're slow and lumbering goofs... who then turn into fast, graceful, and agile attackers whenever we switch to CGI. It's a terrible and obvious mismatch. They should've just done one or the other... not both.

Still, there are one or two points that make me grin... namely any time Harriet Jones (played by Penelope Wilton, who some folks might recognize as Shaun's mother in Shaun of the Dead) introduces herself. The whole flashing her card and "MP, Flydale North" just cracks me up.

Well, as much as I can crack up when it comes to Dr.Who... which is really just the occasional turn of the corners of my mouth. Still, it's something.

In any case, this is me soldiering on though the first series. Only eight more to go before Tennant. I think I can make it.

I think.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~