Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Leaving the Queue: "Not quite as bad as last time, but still... a shame."

It's that time again, as little red dates have started showing up in the columns of my Instant Queue.

Yes, it's time to say goodbye to several titles that are leaving Netflix in a much lamentable fashion (well, at least for some). A few are tremendous, a few are just idle curiosities, and at least one is a Saturday Matinee that is only worth watching with friends.

Still, I'm sad to see all of these go... for one reason or another... but, let's get started.

Fire and Ice

Ralph Bakshi, love him or hate him, has created some of the most iconic feature-length animation in the history of the medium. Instead of forcing animation to be kid's fare, he very purposefully has created adult content, telling mature-audience stories for almost half a century at this point... though, his heydays were definitely in the 70's and 80's.

Telling an epic, but lowbrow, fantasy tale of the likes you'd see in Heavy Metal magazine, Fire and Ice is a rotoscoped sword and sorcery epic very much in the vein of Conan or Krull. It's hard to describe other than violent and sexual, with an eye for buxom damsels and buff adventurers.

The film itself can definitely be hit or miss depending on the viewer, but I like it for its AD&D mentality and liberal sexuality.

Paper Man

Moving on, we get Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds, and Emma Stone in a slightly surreal tale about a previously successful writer (Daniels) suffering from massive writer's block who moves away from the city in order to find some semblance of peace, both from the pressure of his unfinished followup novel and the delusion that he has an imaginary superhero best friend (Reynolds) who is there to buck him up.

Along the way he meets a teen (Stone) with her own mental issues and the two form an unlikely bond over mild insanity and writing.

I like Paper Man both for its cast and its premise, though I can never rightly get behind the imaginary friend angle. Maybe if Reynolds' super hero weren't quite so over the top and more subtle like Kieran Culkin's Christopher.

An interesting movie, if not tremendous.

The 10th Kingdom

Now this one is a real shame, I think.

Cuter and sweeter than it's darker successors (Grimm and Once Upon A Time), The 10th Kingdom follows a young New Yorker who crosses over into the land of fairy tales and find adventure, mystery, and romance in what could easily pass as a well staged Renn Faire.

Bearing the same story crossovers of most modern fantasy films and series (Shrek, Fables, etc.), The 10th Kingdom was a ten hour NBC mini-series that had shockingly good production value for its era. With the mentality of Alice in Wonderland meets Grimm's Fairy Tales, the series pulled quite a few guest stars including Ann-Margaret, Ed O'Neill, and Dianne Wiest... as well as lead/supporting roles for Kimberley Williams, John Larroquette, and Scott Cohen.

It's saccharinly sweet, but very entertaining... alas, I just never found the time.

Shout-out to my sister, Erin, as this is one of her favorite series.

As Good As It Gets

This Oscar-winner is probably the most disappointing to lose.

Probably my favorite film of Nicholson's career, aside from The Shining, As Good As It Gets tells the tale of successful writer, but unsuccessful human being, Melvin who struggles to deal both with his OCD and his horrible personal skills (sound like anyone you know, dear readers?) in the face of relationship drama as his tries to woo the only woman who can seem to stand him (Helen Hunt) while trying to be a good friend and neighbor to the down on his luck Greg Kinnear.

If ever there was a Tsundere character in American Cinema, I think it would be Melvin... and I definitely think that it deserved the Oscar noms and nods that it got.

I think I could've done without Fat Harold Ramis, though... man, he really let himself go in the 90's.

Rat Race

Last, but not least, is Rat Race.

Well, maybe it is least, in this select group of films as I honestly enjoyed all of them (including Fire and Ice) more than I did Rat Race, but still... it's an okay movie.

Set in the vein of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Cannonball Run, Rat Race is a thousand mile road-race movie in which a group of random tourists in Vegas are selected by John Cleese and his henchmen to compete for a two million dollar prize... all so that, unknowing to the competitors, the super-rich can bet on their progress, or lack thereof, or... well, anything, really.

It's a silly ensemble piece that pulls from plenty of fine folks including Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Seth Green, Kathy Najimy, John Lovitz, and many more, with cameo bits for a plethora of familiar faces.

Often silly, occasionally very stupid (a Smash Mouth finisher?), Rat Race is a cute little matinee movie that is fairly safe for families to enjoy together even as it is unabashedly shallow in just about every aspect. Still, it's great to see all these funny people working on a fun movie.

And, yeah... I think that's it.  A mostly sad day as several excellent films and series make their adieus (along with several other "meh" films) in what has become a regular, lamentable cycle, as titles drop off the stream.

See you, Space Cowboys.

Day Two Hundred and Twelve - Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood: Season 1, Pilot, "Same ole, same ole, when it comes to FMA, but it's good to see the Elric Bros. again~"

There's a small problem that comes with the territory of Anime and Manga that occasionally happens with Western IP as well. An overabundance of popularity sometimes results in an overabundance of reboots.

That's kind of the case with Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood.

A super popular manga series in Japan, FMA spawned a very successful series and several movies/OVAs... a decade ago... the problem being that the TV series caught up to the unfinished manga and, not having anywhere else to go, they ended the anime.

(Historical Note: Naruto and Bleach got around this problem by generating entire seasons of original content in the anime that are completely separate from the manga continuities but fit nicely in between "time skip" sections.)

Not wanting to let a good profit center die, long after the television series ended and long into the continuing manga series, another studio decided to take up the challenge of rebooting it and telling the same basic story but with the continuing plot points of the manga and higher quality art.

We're not immune to this sort of thing as IPs get rebooted all the time around Hollywood: Star Trek, Batman, etc.. Still, it's a little hard to swallow in the case of anime since it's often just "same shit, different day."

That said, I still enjoyed the pilot episode for FMA:Brotherhood.

Following the standard anime trope of giving you an action episode before any backstory, episode 1 (entitled "Fullmetal Alchemist") doesn't do any explaining, thrusting the viewer into a random chase sequence where a rogue alchemist on a mission to destroy has to be captured and it's up to Edward and Alphonse Elric to bring him in... or down.

Several major players are introduced, including Col. Roy Mustang and the boisterous and heavily-muscled Major Armstrong, and their powers and personalities are given plenty of screen time, but the majority of the episode is dedicated to quick action and teases at the overall mystery.

If you've read or seen the manga or previous series, then you know the basic setups for the all characters already and there are no real surprises so far other than the choice of intro villains. Even the denouement with Lust and Gluttony, two of several homunculi who form the main antagonists of the series, are filling the roles they've already done previously.

So, no alarms and no surprises, here.

I do like the higher resolution graphics and action, though. The alchemy is much more impressive this go'round and it's all much more flashy and pleasing, I just hope it doesn't fall into a rut of just giving me a slightly altered universe of the same things I've already seen before. I really want them to surprise me at some point in this series. I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers, so I'll have to just wait and see.

Great news on the audio front, though, as this is one of the few titles that has both the English and Japanese dubs. I feel bad for the English voice cast, but they just don't sound right to me... so I'm very happy the Japanese dub is available with full subtitles.

Anyways, onwards and upwards as the series continues next time with the required flashback episode that tells the heroes' origins (a standard followup to the "action episode pilot" trope in anime).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Eleven - 30 Rock: Season 1, Pilot, "Well, I laughed..."

...but I honestly don't get what the hubbub was over this series.

The opening bit with the hotdogs/Rhoda-themesong was equal parts brilliant and wretched. Pretty much the same thing could be said about the rest of the episode (or, at least, the major set pieces). Mixed in with the vapidness are occasional moments of genius.

It makes me very angry... because I have to suffer through that vapidness to get to the genius.

I feel like that shouldn't be the point. That genius should always be striven for (striven? strove?) not this base mixture of the two, even if one is there to obviously highlight the other through satire.

I feel bad only half-liking this show. Partially because Tina Fey is awesome (and darling, but mostly the awesome), but also because if I don't say I'm instantly in love with it, I feel like I'm stupid and missing something, which seems to be the case.

I must be missing something. Because I'm stupid. That's the only explanation... because otherwise I'm just another arrogant television critic who's lost the point.

That said, yes, Alec Baldwin is excellent in his smarm, the writers are exactly as I envisioned them (I even saw a thinner, less desperate version of me), and I cannot imagine why Jack McBrayer hasn't played a grown up version of Moral Oral yet (Dino, maybe you could get on that?).

Maybe it just takes some getting used to... some settling time as, sure, this was the pilot and often pilots have a certain amount of cooling off before all the actors gel together and the show really gets off the ground.

I'm going to hope that's the case because there's plenty of excellent, subtle comedy in this show. It's just that, from this small example, I'm having a hard time understanding why it got seven seasons while Better Off Ted got cut short with one and a half.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Ten - Kimjongilia, "A strange mishmash of testimonials and NK Prop films."

I'm a big fan of VICE's efforts to peak behind the veil of North Korea's secrecy and tyranny, so when ANY documentary pops up on Netflix concerning the country, I generally put it into my queue until I feel the need for something non-fiction.

In this particular case, I probably could've done without.

Not to minimize the plight and suffering that the subjects of Kimjongilia went through in escaping the horror of the totalitarian state they were born to, it's less an analytical/descriptive piece and more an appeal to emotion.

Occasionally, the film puts up timelines describing the rise of the Kim family, turning everything above the 38th parallel into a dictatorial communist regime under the cult of personality for the Kim line, but... for the most part... it's just a series of testimonials of survivors who have escaped to China, Mongolia, and the South describing the suffering that they went through.

These testimonials are intercut with odd modern dance routines where the sole character is one of the infamous North Korean female traffic wardens who recreates moments of pain, despair, abuse, and suicide through interpretive dance.

Also providing contrast are dozens and dozens of NK propaganda performances and films which send up Dear Leader and promise that everything is just fine and dandy, despite the fact that the country is in a deplorable state, being crushed by the iron rule of the elite few.

Perhaps the format is necessary due to the extremely limited footage available from inside the dictatorship, but... as emotive the testimonials are, I'm not getting much out of this doc. Of course I sympathize, empathize with this people and the countless others still trapped under the yoke of the Kim Dynasty, but this film is all about pulling heart strings with barely anything in the way of facts and analysis.

I find it more than a little ironic that it plays so while airing propaganda that claims it's the West that is dying and decadent, trying to convince through emotion the opposite is true.

Yes, "Up is Down" to them, but just counterclaiming that "Up is Up" doesn't make for an all that interesting documentary.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Nine - Numb3rs: Season 2, Episode 2, "Awkwaaaaarrrdddd~"

I wanted to talk about this episode of Numb3rs not because of its weekly mystery, which is dull and has boring/overly-convenient math, but because it features the first official act acknowledging the series arcing shippage of Charlie and Amita.

After hinting about it almost the entirety of the half-sized first season (13 episodes instead of the standard 22-24), Charlie finally gets up the nerve to ask Amita out, to which she instantly agrees. It's not the actual question and answer that got to me, it's the subtle little gasp she emits when he praises an idea of hers.

It's such a simple little tell on her part, but it still manages to give me chills (plus, her cute little twintails didn't hurt, either). After that, the rest of the episode sort of breezed by me.

Sure, there was the meh mystery itself, centering on a botched jewel heist, which uncovers a kidnapping, which leads to bookies, and much worse... that, I can easily let wash over into nothingness. It doesn't matter.

What did matter were the progressive scenes of Charlie and Amita's progress, or lack thereof.

See, the date doesn't go well. After promising not to talk about work... which, for both of them, IS math (and is pretty much the only thing that they're passionate about)... the find that they really can't seem to talk about anything BUT math. This, of course, turns the date into a series of awkward sips of wine and picking at salads.

They're both working on Don's case, of course, so things get awkward while crunching numbers in a subsequent scene and it's not until the end of the episode that wise old Peter MacNicol swoops in to state what should be obvious to the both of them, granted he only mentions it to Charlie while the two are hovering over a pool hockey table: they communicate beautifully via math... so what if that's all they have to talk about (at least, so far)?

It's a great statement both for it's immediacy to their relationship and as an overall universal truth... math is the language of the universe! Having it so that two TV geniuses flirt with it is all the better.

Yes, Numb3rs is a pretty generic crime drama and the math hooks grow stale after a while, but it's nice to see awkward supernerds do their mating dances... mainly because I'm a supernerd of a different sort and it gives little lonely me hope.

And that's television in a nutshell, folks... keeping the flames alive for yet another day!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Eight - The Mask of Zorro, "It's hard enough to get Mexican-American heros on the Silver Screen..."

...without two of them being British.

I say that, but it's still a good thing to have Antonio Banderas, still a rising and bankable star in the 90's, bringing forth the old Californian pulp hero, Zorro... a Latino hero who has almost always been played by Anglos.

For the most part, my favorite memories of Zorro don't center around the Disney adventure series or the Douglas Fairbanks films, but on George Hamilton and Zorro, The Gay Blade... which is, sadly, not available on Instant Stream.

Still, Martin Campbell managed to produce a gritty, oddly realistic portrayal of Spanish and Mexican-America that still had a lovely tinge of romance and panache.

I especially liked Banderas' transformation from the filthy thief to the elite and cultured swordsman needed to inherit the mantle of The Fox, not to mention the wild exuberance and physicality of Catherine Zeta-Jones' Elena Montero/De La Vega. They both portray their characters with grace and heated sensuality.

Pulpy goodness that it is, though, The Mask of Zorro leads you by the nose from plot point to plot point, with there never being any real mystery or suspense. You never get the feeling that the good guys won't prevail or that the leads won't fall in love. It's all very much rote and predictable.

It's hard to argue, however, with the fun (and practical!) action sequences and just the right amount of comedic beats to keep the non-vengeance related fight scenes light-hearted and the actual vengeance fight scenes serious.

There just needed to be more intrigue!

I think I would've much preferred if they'd made it into a mini-series or full season prime-time soap opera with the same level of production value so as to draw at the suspense and make the romance between Alejandro and Elena out to be more that just a few short sequences of lusty passion.

But, when you know, you know, I suppose... when your soul mate arrives.

The Mask of Zorro definitely holds up as an adventure flick and has very few faults to contrast its plucky swordfighting and fiery romance. If you haven't yet checked it out, I can certainly recommend it... especially if you're a fan of pulp adventure.

I just wish The Gay Blade was streaming.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seven - Clerks, "I'm not even supposed to BE HERE today!"

Well, that's not really true. I actually am supposed to be here today... and every day... until the year (and Couchbound Project) is done.

I just really love that line.

Just like I really, truly love Clerks... I just wish it wasn't so damned rough. I mean would it have killed Kevin and Scott to insist on a couple of retakes for flubbed lines? Or was the rest of the coverage just that bad that this was the best they could cut together?

Maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills here, because it's actually pretty impressive just how long a lot of these takes are and, for the most part, I see honest delivery. I just wince so hard at the awkward takes from both the side characters and the leads.

The Indie Film of ALL Indie Films, Clerks was the breakout debut of Kevin Smith and his View Askew cohorts. Set in (and sometimes above) a small Jersey convenience store and it's video store neighbor, Clerks tells the story of a day in the life of two counter jockeys who are more concerned with slacking and their love lives (well, one of their love lives, anyway) than their jobs... perhaps rightly so, considering the crap they have to put up with both from their customers and each other.

A film about slacker ennui, Clerks struck a cord with quite a few disaffected Gen Xers both for its sardonic wit and its on the nose commentary concerning the lack of fulfillment of the American Dream... in spite of some of its more, shall we say, surreal sequences.

To be frank, I'm not a huge fan of a lot of the bits. For the most part, they're far too hammy and only serve as an excuse for some cheap navel gazing from the leads and supporting players, but I love how earnest the film is despite its naive writing and unconventional pacing.

It's beautiful simply because it's so rough and you can almost see the love Smith & Co. put into it.

While, yes, I wish someone had been in the editing bay with them to talk them out of a few things (like their sketchy sound effects during quite a few scenes), overall Clerks is a testament both to its creators almost zen-like simplicity when it comes to their art and the film industry as a whole which needed Indie Flicks like this and Do The Right Thing to push non-studio creators into the limelight.

A fact I find ironic now that Spike Lee is doing a Kickstarter campaign.

Clerks probably isn't for everyone. It's foul, over the top, and has disjointed whimsy in all the wrong places (not to mention rough acting everywhere), but it's worth seeing for anyone who's a fan of film as a medium... both for what should and shouldn't be done... and realizing that, perhaps, there's no such thing as either.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Six - Killer Klowns From Outer Space, "ANOTHER DOOR?!"

Cult classics are one of the best reasons to subscribe to Netflix. There are just so many "so bad they're good" movies on the stream that I'm pretty sure I could've spent a good part of the year just watching Troma or Sgt.Kabukiman or Remo Williams.

One such "classic" is Killer Klowns... a 80's b-movie that would've done quite well at the drive-in, were there any left around.

It's camp and unapologetic about it. In fact, I think they kind of revel in it. The animatronic masks are cheesy as all get out, even as they fit quite well as nightmare fuel, and the Klowns that wear them are big, lumbering oafs that can barely pantomime their stage direction.

That said, as horrible as the effects and acting are (especially from the leads), it's a fun little gag movie.

I especially like the kill sequences. When the Klowns are out and about, harvesting humans who aren't in the know, there are quite a few scenes of goofy, one-off attacks. Standouts for me were the Punch & Judy bit and the Shadow Puppets.

To be honest, I was actually kinda surprised that they didn't fall back on the good old horror movie trope of gratuitous nudity. This was the 80's, after all, and it's not like they didn't have a scene or two where they could've gone for it. I don't know whether to laud them their decision for taking the high road or shake my head at the wasted opportunity to put more frat boys in seats.

Still, they managed to keep a PG-13 rating, which is rare for a horror movie, so I guess I cannot blame them their stylistic and editorial choices.

Also kudos to John Vernon for his appearance as the gruff deputy who gets turned into a marionette. Most folks probably remember him from Animal House, but this is a fun role for him as well. I kind of wish they could've done more with that bit, but oh well.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is good old, campy fun that's generally safe for the whole family to enjoy. Sure, the Klowns might be a bit too much for the really young, but it's actually rather cathartic to see the demonic jesters get taken down.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Five - People Will Talk, "But then, they always do."

That Cary Grant was, most probably, the single most charming and beguiling actor of his era is undeniable in my opinion. The man was a powerhouse of presence and some of the greatest of classic films came over the span of his career.

There are actually quite a few Cary Grant films up on Netflix and for that I'm glad, as I probably would've never been exposed to half of them through normal channels, partially because I've given up cable/satellite with the likes of TCM and AMC which occasionally show some classic films but certainly not all of them.

Personally, my favorite is To Catch a Thief, but that's not why I'm blogging tonight. No, I'm typing furiously away thanks to one of his lesser known works, People Will Talk.

I find People Will Talk to be oddly interesting... not because it's a great film, by any standard, but because Grant manages to pull it along by sheer force of his charm alone. The plot meanders, the conflicts and weak and easily dealt with, and the chemistry between Grant's and Jeanne Crain's characters, well, I wouldn't believe it if it were done by any other person.

I mean, honestly, it's a "love at first sight" situation that is never really resolved, and only from the Miss Higgins' (Crain) perspective, but they call stark attention to it. It's plainly said and we really have no idea why or how Grant's Dr.Praetorius fell for a desperate woman, but through calm, husky timbre, he manages to smooth it all over and away.

Then there's the issue of Hume Cronyn's weaselly Professor Elwell who seems to have it in for Dr.Praetorius from the start. He spends the film trying to dig up dirt to get Praetorius fired but, of course, only seems to make himself out to be a petty monster thanks to a climax tribunal in which the good doctor's constant companion, the mysterious Shunderson (Finlay Currie), bares all and takes the wind out of the proceedings... breaking the tension of him having been an oddity for the majority of the film.

Really, I love Hume Cronyn, and I applaud him his professionalism here, but this was not his best role, both in terms of actual screen time or likability. In my own opinion, I preferred his performance in the remake of 12 Angry Men, but that's just me.

It's funny, there's really not much meat to this movie. Nor laughs. Nor romance, though they do try with "magic shots" of Grant and Crain in the sweet embrace of a kiss.

The scandals that the film tries to shop around with (Marrying an already pregnant woman, practicing medicine without hanging a shingle, killing a man who was presumed dead by the man who served sentence for killing him the first time) could've been explored with much more depth and screen time, never really materializing... instead they're pretty much glazed over with barely a thought, and that's a disservice.

That said, Grant still managed to keep my attention throughout the entire film in that hypnotic way that only he could do.

It's no To Catch a Thief, mind you, not by a long shot... nor even close to Arsenic and Old Lace... but there are worse ways to spend an evening.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Four - Star Trek Voyager: Season 5, Episode 11, "Robert Picardo, you wonderful ham, you."

Voyager gets a lot of grief from geek folk across the spectrum, despite it returning to the roots of Star Trek and focusing more on human exploration of the galaxy and less on Alpha Quadrant politics.

A closer hybrid of TOS and TNG than should've been expected, but shipped off to the far reaches of the Milky Way on a near impossible journey home, Voyager played quite a bit of havoc with its crew, but unfortunately relied on cheesy gimmicks like the Borg and sexy add-on characters when ratings flagged (a trap that carried over into Enterprise).

I can't exactly say that I'm a fan of the series as a whole, but I certainly enjoy any episode which revolves around the "Outsider Exploring Humanity" character, The Doctor. Like Data before him, The Doctor (played by scifi character actor Robert Picardo), is an AI who dreams of being human and fully integrating into a crew which sometimes regards him more as a tool than an individual.

Having Seven of Nine join the crew was an annoyance to me, at first, in spite of her skintight catsuit's effect on my lizard brain, but I eventually grew to enjoy her presence strictly from the perspective of The Doctor mentoring her. In this particular episode, both play a major role as The Doctor discovers a conspiracy to violate the sanctity of his memory banks and erase moments of his past.

I like Latent Images (this episode's title) mostly due to the fact that the key dilemma, that The Doctor's decision to choose one life over another causes him an extreme ethical crisis is layered both as a programming paradox issue and an overall ethical quandary. Any rational being with empathy would have the same problem and perhaps react the same way and that's what makes the episode so special. With any other character, the writers could just handwave away the decision with a "and I'll have to live with it the rest of my life" line, but by forcing the dilemma to have more permanent consequences, it's easier to swallow as relevant and poignant.

I am more than a bit disappointed that the writers got lazy and didn't dream up a new argument for sentience (or lack thereof) for Janeway to counter Seven with, as we've pretty much already covered the same ground with Data in TNG long before Voyager was zapped to the Delta Quadrant, but she doesn't hold it for long, so it's a bit forgivable.

I also kind of wish that they had taken this opportunity to off a main cast member (or even a recurring guest crewer) instead of a generic extra. It would've made that much more of a punch, but oh well.

As I implied above, I pretty much just skip around the series for Doctor-centric episodes now, but... if you've never watched it (or, it's just been that long)... I could easily affirm that it's worth going through in its entirety at least once, the same I would say for any Trek series (even Enterprise).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Three - Dr.Who: Series 2, Episode 3, "One of our more 'frumpy' queens... they're ALL 'frumpy', aren't they?"

Finally, after episodes of dreck, there's actually some Dr.Who worth watching... and it's about an alien werewolf, no less.

Set back in the late nineteenth century, during the reign of Queen Victoria... specifically because she is actually THERE... "Tooth and Claw" pits The Doctor and Rose Tyler against a Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform (nee: Alien Werewolf) and some mad Catholic Monks who have somehow developed super-awesome Shaolin bo-fighting styles such that they wire-fu their way around the Torchwood manor house's entire compliment of staff and aristocrats.

I especially liked the touch where they shuck their brown robes for orange garb... which is rather typical for Shaolin monks.

Anyways, the episode starts with the wolves baiting their trap and continues with Rose and The Doctor talking their way into the company of Victoria Regina herself, who happens to be riding through the Scottish countryside thanks to a felled tree blocking her train's progress. The wolves (well, only one wolf, really... and a crap ton of mad monks with staves/guns) want the Queen specifically to infect her with the intelligent lycanthropy virus and usher in the "Reign of the Wolf" which the Doctor hints would be filled with steampunky glory.

Kinda makes me wish they had succeeded, really.

To make a long story short (too late), it seems that the Torchwood Estate was really built to be a trap for the Wolf, not the Queen, and after all the obligatory Whovian chase scenes where extras buy it and Rose, the Doctor, and any plot important characters survive, a MacGuffin is revealed to thwart the beast and save the day.

Really, "Tooth and Claw" is like most any bad Dr.Who episode in its conception, but somehow Russel T. Davies managed to produce an actually believable story arc, from its prologue to its filler scenes to its denouement. Maybe it's all lengths that Rose goes to in pulling a catchphrase from the queen or jokes about her "nakedness" or the primordial Torchwood roots, but nothing ever seems out of place or really all that stretched.

It's been forever, but I've actually managed to watch an episode of Dr.Who that I really rather enjoyed... and I had gotten to the point where I wasn't expecting to ever have that feeling in conjunction with this series again.

Go fig.

Plus, I was treated to the previews of the next episode which features both Anthony Steward Head (GILES!) and the return of Classic Who Companion K-9~! Things are definitely looking up!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Two - The Venture Bros.: Season 1, Pilot, "See, this is what happens..."

...when you watch a crap ton of Jonny Quest and smoke a lot of weed.

But, really, that's a good thing.

Done in the style of the old Hanna-Barbera adventure cartoons from the 60's and 70's, Venture Bros. definitely emulates those awkward, super-science boys shows in all the right ways while lampooning their faults with obvious plays, puns, and reversals.

Focusing on the Venture family, where Dr.Venture is an obvious analog to Dr.Benton Quest and the boys are a cross between the eponymous Jonny and Frank and Joe Hardy from, you guessed it, The Hardy Boys mystery novels. Race Bannon is replaced by the rage-prone Brock Sampson (voiced by Patrick Warburton) who only seems to get amped about sex and violence.

While the series as a whole draws inspiration from just about all things geeky and counter-culture from the past fifty years, from David Bowie to Marvel Comics, the pilot itself only carries a few such references (like the obvious Reed Richards/Mr.Fantastic clone).

There are also a few key design and character issues that never made the transition to the series proper, the most noticeable being the latent sexuality that Dr.Venture subtly exhibits towards an uncaring Brock.

While the regular series definitely paints Dr.Venture as a failure at life and love, there's never any sexual tension between he and Brock save for this one episode... though they are the effective parents of the boys in the form of hetero life-mates.

I don't know if the network wanted to tone down the idea of Doc Venture lusting after Brock, even though the show was firmly rooted in their racier Adult Swim block, but the idea was transferred, instead, to VB's actual Jonny Quest analogs, Action Johnny and Race Bannon who are implied to have had some sort of loving relationship. But that is a conversation for another day when talking about the rest of the series, not the pilot.

The pilot itself is fun, even if some of the jokes run a little too long or have uneven payoffs, like the "we don't have a mom" silence or the ninja's paraphilia. It's easy to see why the series was picked up and it does improve over time. Let's just say that, despite its flaws, there was lots of potential in this pilot.

Also, Hookers, Supervillains, and Violence.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~