Sunday, June 30, 2013

Leaving the Queue: "Wow... this... this actual hurts that these are leaving. Like, real physical pain."

While everyone who uses Netflix has to resign themselves to the fact that not every title one puts in the queue will last forever, streaming into infinity, it's hit me a lot harder since I've started the Couchbound project.

I've come to terms with the fact that my queue will never end, as there are always things that seem interesting enough to put in it but that I may never get around to due to mood or timing, but still... this month hurts...

...REALLY hurts...

...thanks to the fact that I actually want to watch these movies/series not only for my own pleasure, but for the blog. Now that they're leaving, I lament that I spent so much time on other things, with other (subpar) films and shows, mainly because I wanted to be fair and not always go for the overly supportive fluff pieces that I know I'd write about them (as I've done it before).


Alright, let's get on with it. If they gotta go, they gotta go.

Downton Abbey

Everyone and their mother (including my own) loves this show. It's gotten so popular that it gets tons of live tweets by many, many people (including plenty of celebs) when each new episode airs in America. The fact that it airs first in Britain causes much spoiler-fear in the hearts and minds of pretty much everyone on this side of The Pond.

A upstairs/downstairs period piece about a flagging family of aristocrats in England, the series is filled with gossip, intrigue, propriety, and going against said propriety... which is, I think, the main draw for most folks.

Regardless of why people have flocked to the show, it's a veritable phenom... almost single-handedly revitalizing interest in PBS and Masterpiece Theatre.

Totally worth it... and, as of July 1, totally gone.

True Grit

Nominated for ten Academy Awards (and, to my dismay, winning none), the Coen Bros. update of True Grit threw out the campy, Disney-adventure style of the John Wayne "classic" and thrust Jeff Bridges into the role of the irascibly dogged and racist U.S.Marshall, Rooster Cogburn.

Where Wayne was a somewhat unbelievable grumpy old drunk, I was and ever shall be dazzled by Bridges' portrayal. The same could be said for Matt Damon (taking over for the buffoonery of Glen Campbell) and Hailee Steinfeld (who was certainly more believable than Kim Darby).

The film is so much more brutal and satisfying in portraying the "Grit" of the novel, giving the West not the rose-colored shading of Wayne's family adventure, but a real mean and utterly more believable feel and pathos.

So good... so worth getting to own (which I have), so sorry it's going away.

Death Race 2000

Cult Camp amped almost to eleven, Death Race 2000 (not to be confused with the 2008 remake that sucked all the satire out of it) is a truly odd, truly classic treatise on media violence, sex, and America as a whole.

Set in a dystopia where America is a fascist dictatorship, the government puts on a coast to coast road race where the drivers get more points for killing each other and however many pedestrians they can runover than for actually racing.

Starring Keith Caradine and Sylvester Stallone, this Corman film is so utterly bad that it's actually pretty darn good. With cheesy lines and confusing, superfluous interlude scenes to break up the horrifying violence, Death Race 2000 actually manages to successfully lampoon everything from post-Vietnam America to Spectator Sports, Healthcare and so much more.

I was introduced to Death Race 2000 by a very dear friend of mine almost a decade ago, having never, ever been exposed to it before. I don't know how I managed that, but I thank him for showing me the terrible, terrible light.

So long, Frankenstein... you deserved so much better than what Jason Statham did to you.

The Game

Personally, I think David Fincher is one of the greatest directors of our time. He and Chris Nolan are tops in my book when it comes to powerful cinema that takes you places you were really never expecting to go... but are ultimately glad for it.

In this film he takes Michael Douglas on a joyride of conspiracy and existentialism where he can't trust anyone, not family or even seemingly unconnected strangers who couldn't possibly be tied to the network of identity-thieves trying to ruin his life.

Given an invitation to Consumer Recreation Services by his black sheep brother (Sean Penn), wealthy Nicholas Van Orten (Douglas) is put through the ringer as his world is turned upside-down as he approaches his 48th birthday... his own father having committed suicide at the same age.

The Game is a smart, creepy thriller that keeps you wondering right up until the very last moment. The lengths that CRS goes to in punishing Nicholas is insane and almost unbelievable, but there's never any doubt that what he is put through is vicious and full of meaning.

I love James Rebhorn as the bit player with so much to reveal... and Deborah Unger plays her part beautifully.

I own it on DVD... I just wish I could share it via Netflix. Alas, no longer.

Finally, there's...

Snow Falling On Cedars

Set in post-World War Two Puget Sound, Cedars tells a tale of love, racism, and murder as a Japanese-American fisherman is put on trial for killing a white man and it seems that only the white ex-boyfriend (Ethan Hawke) of his wife (also, Japanese-American) can save him by looking past race and finding out the truth.

It's a depressing tale, but the thing that really works for me about the film is the star-crossed love that Ishmael (Hawke) and Hatsue (Youki Kudoh) share before they are torn apart by duty, culture, and the War. It's a bitter story that mixes love and hate very freely. Perhaps its a little heavy handed, but the drama and quality are both there.

James Rebhorn is here again as the prosecutor, but we also have greats like Richard Jenkins and Max Von Sydow along for the ride.

On a personal note, back when VHS was still a thing, my Mother bought a copy of this film... and, by some strange factory mishap, we got the Spanish-language version. The cover was just the standard English-language copy that everyone else got, just that it was dubbed in Spanish.

This fact is relevant to absolutely nothing, but I just thought I'd mention it.

And, with that, I think I'm done. I love all of these films and I am so very sad to see them go. Hopefully their license-holders will negotiate them back onto Netflix in the near-future, but you never know. Granted, I own several of them (or know people who do) should I ever get the itch... but it's nice to have them on the stream, for convenience sake if nothing else.

Still, they're all quality, for one reason or another.

See you, Space Cowboys.

Day One Hundred and Eighty-one - Numb3rs: Season 1, Episode 8, "And, thusly, we fall into the procedural rut."

Numb3rs isn't alone in the company of shows that get comfortable in their routines and overlook the pitfalls they walk into as a 20+-episode-a-year procedural. BONES, however strong and admirable its quirky, female lead, is a much worse example of this sort of thing.

Still, I have to wonder what the writers were thinking by overlooking the obvious and being so damnably blatant with their true killer.

This episode follows Don and Charlie as they try and track down a killer who may have let an innocent man take the fall for their own crime, thanks to coincidences and flawed science. It's a case that rattles Don's chain as well as our own confidence in the certainties of forensic science.

There's actually a real pertinent message about the faith we put in our experts to be had here... if it wasn't muffled but the inane Keystone Kops routine that the FBI goes through in this episode from almost the first minute on the scene. It's weird how incompetent writing can overshadow shoddy science.

I speak, of course, of the actual killer.

Not to spoil, but like so many procedural writers before them, this episode's authors made it so the true culprit was painfully obvious from almost the moment you met him. Not because he was an other and not necessarily because he seems innocuous and was introduced early (that being a standard trope), but because any rational person would begin to question him the moment his story came into doubt.

When said witness calls into question another suspects alibi... which may or may not be solid, said witness should've been followed up, but no, while the rest of the audience (I hope) knew, just knew, what was going on off-screen, the rest of the characters are off chasing fruitless leads.

Then there's the oblique evidence... why does no one ever make the connection of the garrote wire when we're shown quite a few instances of it throughout the episode WHICH CONNECT THE WITNESS TO BOTH CRIMES!


I get just a bit hot under the collar when supposedly smarter shows dumb things down to this level and show willful ignorance to their own clues all for the sake of filling time. Cause that's the sad fact of this episode of Numb3rs. If anyone had made the connection between the witness' profession and the easy access to wire it allows, the show would've been over in ten minutes flat.

But we can't have that with an hour long, prime time procedural, can we?

I think the only saving grace for this particular 40-some-odd minutes (Netflix doesn't have commercials, remember) of mystery entertainment is the mild phase of healthy self-doubt that Don goes through. Sure, it's muted by the sheer incompetence that the freakin' FBI shows this episode, but hey... at least Charlie manages to insert some well needed doubt into the certitude of the bureaucratic machine that is our Justice System.

One or two bad episodes do not a horrible series make, though... I got my nice little moment of Peter MacNicol and a brief bit with the ever beautiful Navi Rawat (though, she didn't really get to shine as a character, just as a hood ornimant this epi >:( ).

As always, still better than BONES, I just wish they hadn't made it so damned easy (that's a Tobolowsky reference, btw).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day One Hundred and Eighty - The Longest Yard, "It's like The Replacements... but with no heart or tact."

There's just something about Adam Sandler that spoils movies... he honestly hasn't made a decent one since Punch-Drunk Love and The Wedding Singer.

I can't tell if its just that he's out of ideas, considering this is just a flimsy remake of a classic film, or if he surrounds himself with terrible writers and pitch-men. Either way, what should've been at least a decent update instead was an unbalanced, top heavy crapfest.

Taking the lead role once held by costar Burt Reynolds, Sandler plays ex-footballer Crewe who is sent to prison for parole violations and forced to put together a team of cons to fight the Warden's (James Cromwell) guards who are all semi-pro.

I mean, it's Texas... and they take their football seriously there.

Perhaps, too seriously.

Anyway, with the help of former Heisman winner Scarborough (Reynolds) and prison scrounger Caretaker (Chris Rock), Crewe manages to win over the toughest cons with the biggest grudges, all to take on the sadistic guards.

It's formula, for the most part... and that's kind of the problem, because they don't stick to it, instead inserting your typical Sandlerian comedy beats that just ruin key moments. I was especially mad at point late in the third act where Sandler has his old standby Rob Schnieder do his apparently contractually obligated "You can DO EET" moment that just immediately pulls you entirely out of the film.

As much as the movie is filled with great characters and subsequent character potential, it's hindered by the need to be ridiculous. I mean, honestly, Terry Crews is a physical comedy genius, but making his gimmick entirely about McDonalds? Pathetic. It's great to see old hats like Bob Sapp and Michael Irvin, but they're used so disappointingly.

Honestly, the only redeeming feature of the film is the soundtrack... which was like listening to what Madden has been doing for the past decade, giving a great combination of solid Rock, Techno, and Hiphop.

If you're looking for a much better zero-to-hero football movie, I'd definitely recommend The Replacements or Varsity Blues over this.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-nine - One Week, "Part-Ode to Canada, Part-Inspirational Road Movie"

Before 50/50 threw up-and-comer Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the pains of spinal cancer, back in 2008 Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek, Fringe) had his own brush with the Big C... the metastatic, all-but-uncurable kind.

Playing Ben Tyler, a burnt out literature teacher in Toronto, Jackson's character confronts his mortality by not even trying... instead electing to buy a motorcycle on the spur of the moment and follow the sage advice from the side of a coffee cup to "Go West."

And "Go West" he does.

Leaving his fiance (Liane Balaban) angry and confused that he doesn't immediately go into treatment and his parents clueless, Ben starts a road trip that traverses the length of Canada, taking in the majesty and the kitsch tourist traps along the way.

While not quite "On the Road" and not quite "Stranger than Fiction," the film follows quite a few road trip movie tropes to their inevitable conclusions. Ben meets medicine men/women of varying modes and persuasions, from druggies to farmers to busker-mountain-women, and each one helps him on his quest for personal enlightenment and how to not be just a "patient."

I like Joshua Jackson here. He's got that quiet intensity that serves him well both in One Week and in Fringe (where I love him most). Sure, there isn't much to the film besides introspective moments and montages of Canadian scenery, but it's still a pretty darn good movie about finding one's self.

There are a few weak bits here and there... the endings for one. The film definitely suffers from the same malaise that the LotR trilogy did in that you think you're to a good spot to finish and there's a fade out, but instead of credits you get another scene... and another... and another, but it still manages to strive on.

I also wasn't a fan of the occasional stock footage that snuck in because they didn't have the budget to CGI-up some wildlife. The video quality shifts jarringly at those moments and it instantly pulled me out.

For the most part, though, I like the hell out of it... it just feels a bit too much like a love song to Canada. It's not quite the American chest-thumping you get in Über-patriotic military films on our side of the border, but you still feel the schmaltz when a German couple compliments Ben for living in the beautiful landscapes of Canada and he sardonically replies, "I know."

Still, worth the watch... I just don't know if I'll ever need to RE-watch it.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-eight - Radioland Murders, "How much YOU love ME? Well, how about how much I love YOU?!"

The last movie to come out of Lucasfilms in the 90's before good old George put the entire studio into "Prequel Mode" for production of The Phantom Menace, for some reason Radioland Murders never caught on, making a paltry 1.3 Million in the theaters and only getting a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.

19... percent!

Just thinking about it, I feel like Gene Hackman's character at the end of The Birdcage, exasperated and confused, spouting, "I don't understand!"

Set in the late 30's, the golden age of radio, Radioland Murders is a quirky murder mystery with tons of slapstick and wit wrapped around a melodramatic series of murders on opening night of WBN's (stand in for Chicago's WGN) brand new radio network.

The night is utter chaos already as debut jitters have everyone from the writers to the sponsors birthing kittens, but as the bodies stack up, the laughs just get louder as leads Brian Benben (Dream On) and Mary Stuart Masterson (Fried Green Tomatoes) try and track down the killer while dealing with their own marital issues.

Supporting them is probably one of the greatest ensembles of character actors, comedians, and old standbys that I have ever seen assembled, including: Jeffrey Tambor, Ned Beatty, Corbin Bersen, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, Harvey Korman, Peter Macnichols (whom regular readers know that I just adore), and Larry Miller... as well as the last film appearances of George Burns and Rosemary Clooney.

And Stephen Tobolowsky... Steven-freaking-Tobolowsky... while I love him in pretty much everything he does, this has to be one of my favorite roles for him. Usually when I see him, he's a one-trick background pony like the role as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day or Sammy in Memento... great, but just a side note to the primary action. Here, he's a major character with an end twist that allows from some really riveting climax drama and action.

He's just golden.

And pretty much the same can be said for the majority of the film. I cannot understand why it has such a bad rap.

Sure, it's cheesy and melodramatic, but that's half the fun! The other half being a stylized romp through the nostalgia of the radio era. I have to say, I get much more enjoyment out of Radioland Murders than Woody Allen's Radio Days.

Sometimes the tastes of others just boggles my mind.

I love Radioland Murders and I think, if you give it a chance, you will too. It has that same sort of retro sheen and witty banter that made Clue so great (though the latter is obviously superior). But, who knows, maybe I'm wrong? Going over the critics, I find myself soundly in the minority.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-seven - Louis C.K.:Live at the Beacon, "That is, like, the worst thing I've ever said..."

You know, I don't think I've ever sat down and actually watched anything Louis C.K. has ever done before.

Sure, some of his bits and a small portion of his television show have somehow managed to filter through the white noise of the conglomomedia I consume on a regular basis, but I've never watched anything that he has ever done from start to finish.


I think I have truly been missing out, because I was laughing out loud for the large majority of this special and was wearing a goofy grin on my face for the rest of the time.

Louis C.K. is vulgar, obscene, and profane... yet, also, subtle... complex... honest.

There's just something about the way he delivers the worst possible line in the best possible way that boggles my mind. He can take something horribly disgusting, racist, and sexist and put a spin on it such that not only are you laughing, but you're right there with him, unable to disagree.

Whether it's dog-faced babies or ejaculating in a friendly person's eyes, what should've filled me with revulsion and disgust instead had me almost falling out of my seat because I find it so hilarious.

I don't think it would have the same effect the second time as a lot of his best jokes tend to rely on shock factor to boost the gain on the laughs, but still... that first time was pretty darn tight.

Now, it's not exactly the smartest humor out there. He's certainly no Eddie Izzard when it comes to intelligent, well-connected humor with tons of callbacks sprinkled throughout a brilliant set. No, Louis C.K., for as funny as he is, is still catering to the LCD crowd, but at no point do I feel like an idiot for being there in the bilge with him (and everyone else), laughing all the way.

Can I recommend Louis C.K.? Most certainly. Is he my favorite comic of all time (or likely to be)? Not a freaking chance. But I definitely enjoyed his set at the Beacon much more than I honestly expected to... and I look forward to hunting down more of his routines.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-six - Longmire: Pilot, "See this, Umpteen Generic Network Procedurals... THIS... is how you do a cop drama."

Of course, that's not fair... I've seen plenty of and reviewed several actually decent procedurals, no small percentage of which are actually available on Netflix right this very moment. It's just that I get so bitter and cynical over titles like BONES that I can't help but jump up and down and wave wildly at good catches like Longmire.

Sure, it has a fair share of it's own cheese, be it the kooky Rez vs. Whitefolk conflict and Lou Diamond Phillips as the debonair Tonto to Longmire's Kemosabe, but there are far too many pluses that cancel out said minuses.

For one thing, it's got a great supporting cast in the Sheriff's Office, including Katee Sackhoff, Bailey Chase, and Adam Bartley, who all insert just the right amount of grit, pluck, and naivete that make for a great, combustible combination.

For another, series lead Robert Taylor is perfect as the gruff cowboy sheriff with hidden depths. Whether its his obsession with his wife's ashes, the measured way he annoys his subordinates to try and bring out the best in them, or just his general swagger, Sheriff Longmire is the perfect protagonist to carry a modern day western. I honestly think only Jeff Bridges could do it better.

The pilot episode revolves around a murder discovered when Longmire's deputy, Vic (Sackhoff), calls him in for a dead sheep. From there the main mystery expands into a tale of prostitution, fatherhood, and jumps to conclusion that threaten Longmire's relationship with his best bud, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips).

LDP definitely annoys me the most in this role. He has too much presence to be a supporting actor in this way, being much more suited to a lead gig. It's just too distracting to have him as the convenient foil for Longmire.

Of secondary issue are the tribal parts. Whether they're the tribal police, the bus boy, or the gun dealer... most of the Native actors feel a bit under-prepared for their roles. It's distracting, to say the least.

Granted, it could be much worse (see pretty much every other mainstream depiction of Native Americans in just about all media. There are quite a few exceptions out there, but I've yet to see it here in Longmire.

If you're a fan of Westerns or well done Cop Dramas, I think you're pretty safe with Longmire. I look forward to checking it out more as time goes by.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-five - John Hodgman: Ragnarok, "Jobs, Dates, Movies, Boredom"

I'm about to commit a blasphemy.

I like John Hodgman, but I don't love John Hodgman.

It's funny. He epitomizes what it is to be an erudite, New York hipster. A true hipster, not a scene kid, who makes light of his intellectualism while doing his best to successfully rock a porn'stache and belittle both the audience and his "assistants" with faux ridicule and disdain.

He's playing a very specific character and there's just one problem... he's a little too awkward at being, well, awkward.

There's an odd hesitance to quite a few of his jokes throughout the special that pull you out and ruin the mood he's trying to create as a fake holier/smarter-than-thou guru of the Mayan apocalypse.

He does try though, and for that I laud him.

While I cannot really get behind the kooky mid-performance interlude by Cynthia Hopkins, it was an interesting change of pace from your normal standup special, making it an almost vaudevillian variety show with guest spots and supporting crew.

I just find it a bit sad that most of his jokes never quite hit the mark. At best, he's able to elicit a smile or two and the occasional chortle, but there are never any real laugh out loud moments. I definitely could've done without him reminding us of TDS or Mac vs. PC, as a comedian should make a show that stands apart from his previous gigs.

Overall, I enjoyed myself... but not immensely. Ragnarok has this sort of quiet buzz to it, a series of mellow vignettes loosely strung together. Experimental, interesting, but certainly not even close to spectacular. I'd call it an admirable failure, but it doesn't really fail... it just doesn't succeed, either.

Ragnarok is neutral.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-four - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 1, "Oh, Sunnydale... how I've missed you."

It's an almost inevitable constant of every television (or, perhaps, any media) generation that there are shows which encompass the zeitgeist of what it is to be a teen.

In the 80's, the argument could be made in favor of Family Ties, Growing Pains, Family Matters. For the 90's, you would almost certainly throw 90210, Dawson's Creek, and Saved By The Bell into the arena. For the Millenium, you'd be hard pressed to argue against The O.C., Gilmore Girls, and Friday Night Lights.

My favorite started in '97 and carried through seven seasons and a network switch, spawning a spinoff and continuing off the air in the form of Season 8 and 9 comic book series.

Of course, you know already that I'm referring to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy came out at the perfect time in my life as I was the exact same age as all the characters involved. It mixed elements of horror, scifi, and teen dramedy... what could be more perfect for an ubergeek like myself?

This particular episode started it all (on television anyway)... picking up where Kristy Swanson left off with the movie, Buffy (now played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) is starting her sophomore year in a new town hoping to divest herself of her Slayer identity and reboot her life.

Unfortunately for her intentions, Destiny has other ideas and has lured her to The Hellmouth, Sunnydale's ancient name, where all the various big bads and evils of the world tend to gravitate.

In the first episode we're introduced to the majority of those who would become the Scooby Gang: Xander, Willow, Giles, and an oftentimes reluctant Cordelia. They're all staple archetypes that include the stuffy librarian, the shy brain, the goofy sidekick, and the scene girl. We're also treated to brief scenes with her first love interest, the brooding Angel (David Boreanaz of BONES fame), and her first season long mortal enemy, The Master, who is trapped beneath the city in a ruined church, straining to escape and wreak havoc on the world.

The episode (and the series, as a whole) is a mashup of your prototypical teen drama and the supernatural horror films it loves to emulate. Both of its constituent genres are often fraught with cheesiness and there's no difference here. If anything, they're both amped to extreme levels, the vampire makeup and fight scenes eliciting, at the very least, serious eyerolls to newcomers.

That said, I love every second of said cheese.

It's just so over the top that is bounces right off terrible and firmly in the land of completely entertaining. The bad lines, the awkward social interactions, the silly villains... mixed together as they are, they make all the terrible elements into a relatively thrilling teen dramedy that's much more compelling than anything the networks were throwing at us before, during, and pretty much since.

I highly doubt my seventeen year old self would look anything but askance at today's Vampire Diaries which, thanks to the Twi-hard crowd, is all doom and gloom and none of the glib that made Buffy so great. And my thirty-two year old self can still safely enjoy the uber-cheese from the distance of well over a decade, cringing only here and there at obviously dated fashions, catch-phrases, and pick up lines.

Fair warning, this first episode is a two-parter, ending on a "to be continued" moment as the mid-boss of the pilot, The Master's right hand vamp Luke (Brian Thompson), closes in for the kill (you know he'll get dusted and Buffy will prevail)... but I certainly recommend a series watch.

While the cheese remains the same, the characters developed startlingly well over the arc of the series, shifting from uncertain teens to dedicated adults who suffer loss, love daringly, and find their passions... even if a lot of said passion is kicking evil's butt!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-three - Numb3rs: Season 1, Episode 6, "wait... this feels more like a 2nd episode."

Alright, this is one of those weird instances where you know... you just know... that an episode is being aired out of order.

Maybe not quite as obvious as the Firefly and Clerks: The Animated Series debacles around the turn of the millennium, this still felt entirely too out of place showing up here instead of where it was actually supposed to be, my guess being as the immediate followup to the pilot.

Why do I say that?

Because of Navi Rawat, pure and simple.

I can only assume that they wanted to delay raising the issue of her character Amita's burgeoning sexual tension with series star Charlie (David Krumbholtz, who has his own Firefly connection). Maybe the showrunners were worried that too much romance out of the gate would unbalance the next couple of episodes, from which she is conspicuously absent, or maybe they wanted to show a more vulnerable, eccentric Charlie before thrusting a romantic subplot on him.

Honestly, I don't know, as even my gut feeling that this is being shown out of order is just that... a feeling, pure speculation, with nothing solid to back it up other than intuition.


In this episode, Charlie and Don are searching for a rail terrorist who has been sabotaging trains and recreating famous accidents in order to discredit the companies that run the system. Most of the math hoodoo in this on is basic pattern recognition as Charlie is brought in to decode the only consistent clue left at each scene, a paper covered in numbers.

Eventually, over the course of the romantic subplot between Charlie and Amita, they match most of the numbers to the recreated accidents, save for a few which point to a nasty one in the making.

As usual, most of the interesting moments in Numb3rs come from the side characters at home and the university, namely Judd Hirsch's father figure and Peter MacNichol's mentor role. They both have droll insights even as they deal with their own problems.

I especially loved this one moment at the end of the show when Don thanks Amita for her hard work solving the case away from everyone else at the Epps home. Charlie looks over with this look of, I don't know... confusion? Terror? At the thought, perhaps, of Don making a play for his potential girlfriend (their father having earlier warning Charlie that he might let her slip away if he doesn't act soon).

It's subtle little moments like that which really make me happy with the series. It's not the greatest procedural ever... but, of course, it's still better than BONES, even out of order.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-two - Voltron: Lion Force - Season 1, Episodes 1& 2, "Save me from my 5 year old self."

If Robotech opened my eyes to the possibilities of Anime as a medium, I have to give a little credit, albeit reluctantly, to Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

I say "reluctantly" because I haven't watched a single episode of it in almost three decades and, going back to it now, I am horribly embarrassed that my four year old self ever enjoyed it.

It... is... terrible.

I've never seen it in its original form, GoLion, but I can tell that it was definitely meant for the kindergarten set in Japan with what looks to be thrilling, young men's adventure with little subtlety and lots of generic violence. The sad thing is, when it was brought over to America, it was certainly edited and dumbed down for our American kiddos of equivalent age.

Everything from the forced narration that is literally repeated by the characters later in the episodes to the unnecessary captions introducing Castle Doom and the laughable dialogue... it all makes me cringe at the naivete of my toddler self. Not even nostalgia can save Voltron from the butchering it got at the hands of its localizing team.

I mean, what were the scriptwriters thinking when they created Voltron as a pastiche of GoLion? Only moments of unintentional comedy allow one to survive the pain induced by the terrible lines. I mean, really? "Kitty is excited?"

I wonder if even riffing can bring it up to watchable. I will certainly have to be drunk the next time I try.

Voltron is one of those franchises that doesn't hold up at all. At least, with Robotech, there was an attempt at making a grand, over-arcing story and they didn't shirk at the violence and death, presenting it with some semblance of realism.

With Voltron? The only dramatic "death" is that of the convenient exit of Sven to make room for the Princess to become a pilot... and by "death" I mean "plot injury" where he is sent off to some other planet for "medical treatment."

Yes, that's right... they send Sven to a farm upstate.

Not for nothing, I cannot recommend Voltron to anyone save as a cautionary tale of how not to localize Anime. At best, it should be kept around for historical value or for Spoon Parties if you're tired of rewatching The Room.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-one - Toys, "Less about the Toyman and more about his Villain"

There's something so perfect about Toys.

It has just the right amount of whimsy coupled with actual drama, but done in a way that is accessible to folks of all ages.

Set in a fictional toy factory that appears to be run by Willy Wonka's Californian cousins, Toys is nominally the tale of how Robin Williams' character Leslie, as the son of the late owner, discovers his scheming uncle's plans to make war machines out of toys and soldiers out of kids... at least, on the surface.

Watching it now, the movie feels more like a depiction of Uncle Leland (Michael Gambon) and his slow descent into madness as he goes from broken warhorse to reluctant CEO to power mad Lord of War, a would be weapons manufacturer for the new age of modern miniaturized combat. I have to laud Gambon's performance as a REMF who's way past his prime trying to apply cold war principles to a modern company. He and Joan Cusack are the highlights of the film.

That's not to say that Robin Williams isn't fun and masterful, but he's pretty much brilliant in anything he does. Cusack, though, as the eccentric yet insightful robot sister and Gambon as their familial foil just make my day.

I also enjoy LL Cool J as their cousin, Patrick. While it's not the most inspired acting I've seen, it's still a fun role for him. I just wish they'd established the impetus for his third act turn a bit more firmly. His relationship to his grandfather's nurse comes out of nowhere just so she can drop a bomb on him and force a camp switch.

Now that I think about it, my only regret is that there wasn't enough room for Robin Wright's Gwen to really spread her wings in the piece. She's really just a convenient love interest for Leslie and doesn't seem to serve any real purpose. Supposedly she's there to force him to grow up, but I have to say that I see very little difference between pre-Gwen Leslie and post.

Getting off the actors and onto the message, I really like how prescient the film is concerning the current trend in warfare.

Way back in 1992, Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin called it with unmanned drones becoming the vanguard of our armed forces. While I've yet to see the real boots on the ground being replaced by shin-high mini-tanks en masse, aerial drones certainly have a much higher public profile that I think the government would like... and remote controlled bomb and ground surveillance drones and the like are present in most theaters now.

Also, the factory itself... I swear that Google looked to Toys and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for their inspiration.

Toys is a great film that I don't think would be made today, considering what most studios are passing for live-action family entertainment nowadays. The closest we could ever get to the whimsy would be Pixar, I think... and their messages are more universal and less on the nose, which is good.

Finally, the Mtv sequence? Brilliant!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~