Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-four - Legend of the Legendary Heroes: Episode 1, "More Slayers than Lodoss."

There are two types of fantasy anime... tongue-in-cheek and high fantasy. Tongue-in-cheek is usually all about comedy and reference humor, usually with comedy duos of the straightman/funnyman variety with titles like Scrapped Princess or The Slayers. High Fantasy also has comedy, but for the most part it's straight up Tolkien-esque adventure like The Record of the Lodoss War. LotLH is definitely of the former variety.

The pilot starts off with a brief prologue sequence about how the world was once ruled by demons and monsters who had the power to destroy the world... and that it was only when more powerful heroes arose that the world was spared and life settled into its current feudal state. Flash forward to this world's present day and a hero king is trying to reform the corruption of the noble class with the help of his talented underlings, among them a blue mage (magic copier) named Ryner and a master swordswoman named Ferris. Together they are traveling the frontiers between kingdoms looking for relics of the ancient heroes.

I have to say, LotLH starts off pretty bland and generic, very much like a poor man's Slayers. Attempts are made to make the leads interesting via personality quirks (Ferris loves a Japanese confection called dango to the point of obsession and Ryner is rumored to be a lecherous perv), but there's nothing in the pilot that is engaging enough to keep me interested. Everything is too clean cut and generic, from the plot to the art to the voice acting, nothing stands out as anything other than "blah."

And this is yet another example of Funimation dumping under-performing series onto Netflix because the quality stuff has already been snapped up by Crunchyroll or hasn't been licensed at all (;_; Hyouka). I honestly don't think I can recommend LotLH based on this single episode and, really, have no desire whatsoever to continue the series to see if it gets any better. There is a lot more content available on the Stream that I'd much rather check out than this. It's not terrible, but it's definitely not thrilling or even mildly interesting... so I'm gonna pass and recommend that you do too. You know, unless you're just dying for something similar to The Slayers but without the same magic.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-three - Barbie: Life in the Dream House, "Wait... WHAT?!"

Three years ago, I never thought that I would ever enjoy a cartoon based on the girls' toy brand My Little Pony... then Friendship is Magic was made and it was gloriously fun, smart, and stylistic with the dual qualities of being accessible to its target audience, but chock full of references and homages for adults.

To be frank, I didn't think it was possible for lightning to strike twice... and, to a certain extent, it hasn't. Life in the Dreamhouse is shallow and decidedly lacking in comparison to MLP:FiM. That said, it is still surprisingly (and I do mean SURPRISINGLY) entertaining to a thirtysomething male adult such as myself.

First of all, let's get one thing straight, it is vapid... often painfully vapid... but the grand majority of the time it is a meta-vapid of the likes of Legally Blonde and Clueless.

The series is very much self-aware of how silly and shallow it is to only be concerned with boys and fashion, and it relishes in that fact. Sure, almost all of the conflict in this small web-series on Netflix centers around the contents of Barbie's closet, and no less than twice does her AI clothes horse go all HAL9000 on her and her friends, but it's very much winking at the audience just how obsessed her brand is with haute couture.

Then there are all the nods that seem to indicate that the characters are aware that they are dolls. There are the obvious joints, the direct references to being "articulated," and the fact all of their measurements are exactly the same... that and Barbie has had 130+ careers and over 40+ anniversaries with her beau, Ken. The food is plastic and deus ex'd in, their accessories are oversized (check out the pink Nokia that Barbie's friend, Teresa, uses), and their hips are all too big to fit on the Dreamhouse's water slide.

I think the icing on the cake are all of the references that pop up. There's Star Wars, Indiana Jones (quite a bit, actually), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Wizard of Oz, to name the major ones. Let me tell you, inserting geek humor into a series like this can make comedy gold... and does. I especially liked when Barbie recreated the Map Room sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Genius.

While, yes, it really is just a tongue in cheek commercial for the toy line, Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse has enough redeeming references and meta-humor to actually keep me (and my friends) oddly entertained. I can't even remember what we stopped watching before it, I just know I clicked on LitD as a joke and we were all blown away, laughing our asses off the entire time... you know, when we weren't in shock. Weird, irreverent, vapid fun... you should check it out.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-two - The Nightmare Before Christmas, "Life's no fun without a good scare. :)"

Well, Happy Thanksgiving, Potatoes~

I tried to hold off on holiday films till this very day due to the fact that it seems like the season starts earlier and earlier every year purely for the convenience of retailers... but you're here to read about what's fun on Netflix, not listen to me grouse about the lack of holiday spirit from corporations.

Anyways, to kick off the season, I decided to start with one of my favorite holiday movies of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas... and boy is it worth it!

Directed by Henry Selick and executive produced by (and based on the unique art style of) Tim Burton, Nightmare follows the turbulent appropriation of the Christmas holiday by the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington. It seems that he's grown bored with the same old scares and is looking for something new, which he finds after wandering into an enchanted forest with portals to every major holiday.

Falling into Christmastown and discovering the wonders of toys and elves and tinsel, Jack is enamored by the glittering sights, sounds, and all-around warmth of the holiday and aims to capture some of that magic for himself... eventually deciding to just steal the whole bloody thing for his town's inhabitants of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. In fact, the meat of the second act is all how he and the other monsters go about trying to create Christmas with their own slant, missing the point entirely, but still with a good heart.

It's only when the world rejects Jack's horror-filled Christmas and the town's villain, Oogey Boogey (the Boogie Man), threatens the captured Santa Claus' life, that Jack realizes what a fool he's been and races to save both Saint Nick and Christmas, itself.

Storywise, it's a simple fable that relies on its unique style and art to prop up what is mostly a series of misunderstandings between human, elf, and beast, but the narrative is really helped by the almost tragic love story between Jack and Sally (the rag-doll-Frankenstein girl), who admires the Pumpkin King from afar and is the only prescient person in town, warned as she is by her visions of disaster and really the only Halloweentown resident comfortable in her stitched skin.

The music, written and produced (and often sung) by Danny Elfman, is a treat that reminds me of the Broadway stage and, despite a few moments of rushed/awkward lyricism, is a tremendously catchy series of tunes. It's worth owning the album just so you can pop it into your car's sound system and sing along on your commute home... and is really great for trips with the kiddos (so much more than any of that Kids Bop crap).

Getting back to the art and style, Tim Burton's quirky horrors and gothic designs, which also come out in his other films like Beetlegeuse and Batman, make Nightmare a really special entry into stop-motion animation. It really is the gold standard after Harryhausen for the pinnacle of the art form and, in my opinion, surpassed him. As I mentioned in this past week's blog, we owe so much debt to Harryhausen, and it shows here, but as much as we probably wouldn't have Nightmare without him, I still prefer it to all of his works combine, Nightmare is just that dear to me.

Now that I think about it, The Nightmare Before Christmas was the first DVD that I ever bought... and I did it before I even had my own player (back in the days when computers only had CD-drives and the Playstation 2 had yet to be released). I purchased it on a mall trip to Albuquerque while I was visiting friends from college. It's kind of amazing how, in just a little over a decade, we've already jumped formats again (to Blu-Ray) and things are starting to push towards completely digital downloads and streaming. But enough about that.

I would be shocked if you haven't seen Nightmare yet, but... if you haven't... I can say with the utmost confidence that it is one of the finest holiday, animated, and musical productions out in the world today and it's a blessing to have it on the Instant Stream. Check it out, alone or with family, and preferably with a warm mug of cocoa top with marshmallows and tucked under a comfy blanket.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-one - MST3K: Werewolf, "What is it with vaguely European productions?"

I want to feel bad for Joe Estevez as he's the obvious black sheep actor of the family. Where Martin, Charlie, and Emilio have had such grand careers, he's stuck in crappy films like Werewolf and Soultaker. Now, don't get me wrong, he adds a lot of comedic value to such movies, especially with the help of Mike and the Bots, but still... kinda depressing.

Set in the greater Flagstaff, AZ area, Werewolf first follows a half hour of skinwalker drama as a group of European scientists find the skeleton of a long dead lycanthrope and discover than not only is it real, but it has infected one of their Native American laborers. After a small mount of Howling-level wolf antics, the pictures nominal main character, the writer Paul (also European), who falls into the honeytrap of Natalie who falls into his lap and somehow gains the lycanthropy virus.

The villain, Yuri (who is cursed with both bad hair and lighting), spends a good half hour of the film "discovering" the particulars of the werewolf curse, stealing some lycan blood from the hospital and infecting a random (also European) security guard who apparently transforms while circling the block in "Flagstaff" (Glendale, California) due to the fact that he passes THE SAME GAS STATION half a dozen times. Talk about reusing your stock footage. It's pretty damn hilarious to watch him go through the transformation over the period of 5-10 minutes and freak out, killing himself in a fiery explosion.

There's also a hilarious sequence where film lead Paul, now a wurewelf (no, seriously, listen to Natalie pronounce it), starts dry humping his own bed in the throws of lunar fever. This tendency recurs when he kills some random couple in the middle of their foreplay on a muddy road. Well, he kills the girl, anyway, by giving her neck raspberries.

Werewolf is a crap movie that is made hilarious by Mike and the Bots. Keep an eye out for Militiaman Santa, the most effeminate biker ever, and that SAME DAMN GAS STATION! The inbetweeners are a bit hit or miss. The 50's love song with the guys in drag was blah, but Mike as a Were-Crow was freaking hilarious. All in all a worthy pick to have in rotation on Netflix.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty - Ray Harryhausen:Special Effects Titan, "We owe you so much, sir. Thank you."

You never really stop to think about who influences you as an artist, a writer, a creative... until someone actually presents you with the question, and it's amazing just how much of modern special effects driven cinema that we can trace, either directly or otherwise, to Ray Harryhausen.

Spanning the breadth of his filmography from his humble beginnings as a young animator to the grand stop motion auteur that we know him as from his later years in the industry, this doc goes to great lengths examining both his work and the way his movies have influence major motion picture directors and artists. Everyone from John Lasseter to Ray Bradbury to Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg, pretty much every big name in Hollywood when it comes to fantasy, horror, and scifi makes an appearance, explaining just how much they've benefited from his example.

Not only was it nice to see old favorites that I actually am familiar with, like Clash of the Titans and Jason & the Argonauts, but I had no idea about films like the Beast from 20000 Fathoms or Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. I've found so many old fantasy flicks that I really want to watch now. Octopus movies, dinosaur movies, fairy tales... they all look creepy and amazing!

It's also pretty cool that they have plenty of candid conversations with the man, himself, talking about pretty much his entire career over the course of an hour and a half. So often, docs like this rely on second and (irk) third party sources, so it's nice to have some first-hand testimonials to get a real feel for the practical stuff that happened on set.

If you're any fan of filmmaking and old fantasy classics, this is an entertaining doc with lots of familiar faces, both from real people and maquettes that have been ingrained in your memories from the collective unconsciousness. Check it out!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-nine - MST3K: I Accuse My Parents, "Eleanor Roosevelt is PISSED!"

I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Joel (though I do love Godzilla vs. Megalon and Cave Dwellers), but I have to say that this is a strangely strong episode from his era.

It might have something to do with the fact that I'm a huuuuuuge lover of shorts. One of my main pleasures in life is winding down the night with a few of the plethora of shorts (educational or news reels) that Mike, Bill, and Kevin over at Rifftrax produce. In this old episode, Joel and the bots watch an interesting little piece about Truck Farming from the 50's. While it's a bit more pointed an issue of late, the plight of immigrant workers, it's kind of fun to watch MST3K lampshade the issue that the serial tries to gloss over.

When the movie gets started proper there's a bit of a downturn due to the fact there's intensely heavy moralizing over drinking and the like, but the guys manage to eek out quite a few one-liners at the expense of the protagonist of I Accuse My Parents, a high schooler who is able to get into night clubs and lie to pretty much every one he meets over the condition of his home life (his parents are bitter lushes).

With a parade of squeaky-clean-looking, but painfully corrupt and awkward ne'erdowells, IAMP is a cautionary tale that seems to be made by uptight church-going folk who really have no idea what nightclubs, loose women, and criminals are like. It's even accidentally hilarious without the commentary from the MSTie crew... not unlike Reefer Madness, in that regard.

I'm a bit confused as to why this is all the fault of the parents, considering the dark lengths film villain Charlie goes to in order to ruin the young loverbird's life, but whatever. At least Joel and the Bots are on my side in that regard. What's even sadder is how everything is just fine and dandy at the religious diner. No questions, room and board, all for the cost of a church-going existence. Talk about your moralizing... and at such a late stage in the movie, too.

There has to be a school or genre that films like this fall into, but I'll be damned if I can make the connection. I honestly think the only thing missing is a pair of hard boiled G-men out to squash the lowlives and pontificate on the woes of misspent youth... but, at least, there's the hilarious scam check from the second club that is populated with Filet Mignon and Lobster Dinners.

As far as the inbetweener sketches, I really liked Gypsy recreating romantic interest Kitty's song routine... but not so much for the Mads, as much as I like TV's Frank and Dr.Forrester, their invention and ending bits aren't all that thrilling.

At the end of the day, MST3K:IAMP is yet another fun ride with my only wish being that the ENTIRETY of the series was available instead of these five or six episode rotations that flow through on a quarterly basis.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-eight - Fringe: Season 4, Episode 15, "Squeeze-tube Love"

One of the main arcs of this season deals with the fact that Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) was erased from both universes, but through sheer force of will was able to break his way back in to a world where the love of his life, Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), doesn't remember him at all. That is, until her memories from the old timeline begin to overwrite the present ones... something that she is conflicted about to say the least.

Meanwhile, season arcs aside, the MotW (Monster of the Week) is a serial killer who is stealing the juices from men in loving relationships, dumping their bodies, and using their concentrated pheromones to seduce their wives before he murders them as well. As far as mysteries go, it's not all that compelling, but that's not the real meat of the episode.

No, the real meat is Olivia's gradual realization that, despite the fact that it means the loss of her old self, she actually does want to give into the memory rewrite and love Peter. Normally, that would be a bad thing... in fact, Walter (John Noble), goes so far as to laud Peter for his restraint in trying to stay away from Olivia in the hopes that absence will stop or at least slow the overwrite.

There's also the continuation of the Observer subplot where Peter goes on a search for the one seemingly good Observer who is trying, however obscurely, to help humanity. I like the Observer storyline, and know it's going to come to a head in season 5, but after a while it just becomes so much noise such that I never understand why the other Observers don't just kill the Fringe teams in both worlds. It really makes no sense to keep the one group of people who can stop you alive.

From a storytelling standpoint, the episode is one of the weaker ones when you consider the actual mystery. The arcing bits are great, but those are the only things to care about. The cinematography is your standard Abrams greatness, as he and his crew really know how to put a show together that is beautiful, moody, and compelling. I don't think I could ever be disappointed by Fringe, no matter how freaky or weird it gets. It has all of the strengths and none of the weaknesses of its more famous cousin, Lost.

Will I continue to recommend Fringe? Yes, of course... and that's probably why I should stop watching it for the blog. I'm pretty sure that all of my fawning is getting repetitive and puerile at this point. Maybe I'll come back to it for Couchbound for the finale, maybe there will be something that I just can't wait to tell you about in the interim which forces me to go back on my word, but if there's one thing I really want for the blog, it's authenticity, not pandering... so we'll see.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-seven - Dr.Who: Series 2, Episode 7, "Good thing there was an extra Rickey... er, Mickey... whatever."

As far as two-parters go, Age of Steel was definitely better than it's companion piece, Rise of the Cybermen. It felt very much like its predecessor was all about the tease of Cybermen than about the silly threat they post.

I mean, sure, they have no mercy or need for sleep, and can march endlessly in their quest for more humans to upgrade, but their only weapon is grabbing onto you with their electric jazz hands of death. I have a suspicious feeling that, without their Deus Ex mind control ear buds, just about every soul under seventy could've easily avoided their wrath long enough to find The Doctor's eventual solution.

Still, in spite of that, Age of Steel is a quaint little tale of free will versus control, as evidenced by several of the minor characters who don't survive the night, including (but not limited to): the evil henchman, Rickey, Mrs.Moore, Jackie 2.0, and thousands more residents of London. I honestly don't get why the CyberController didn't just upgrade The Doctor, Rose, and Pete. It's what I would've done as a metallic despot with no soul, but then we wouldn't have had a chance to see David Tennant's stirring speech about the imagination, creativity, passion, and pain of humanity.

Personally, I think I could've written a better one... but that's just my opinion and the Free Market has spoken as I haven't gotten paid the big bucks to do just that.

Another thing to like about this episode is that it finally gives Mickey a chance to be something other than an afterthought, something that the writers were apparently aware of and struggling with for some time. Sure, we'll see him again later (or will we?), but I think this was a fitting enough sendoff to the character such that he didn't need to come back.

As far as cheesy (often alien, but not here) threats go, I don't hate how the Cybermen were presented. They're just as ridiculous as they've always been, but in comparison to the majority of Whovian villainy (Weeping Angels notwithstanding), they're not horrible. I don't know, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, I'm glad they didn't get all that radical a redesign (just look at the furor over Daleks of different colors) from their classic motif, but they're still utterly laughable to look at.

On the whole, I can be happy with this episode because 1)they killed Jackie (well, alt-Jackie, anyway), 2)they killed Mickey (Rickey), 3)Mickey is done being a companion, and 4)Pete isn't ready to be a father in ANY universe. It's still mostly crap to me, but it didn't hurt to watch as much as many other episodes of Dr.Who.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-six - MST3K: The Beginning of the End, "Yay! More Riffs on Netflix!"

It's hard to imagine that Peter Graves was in a giant grasshopper movie back in the 50's.

Well, wait. Actually, it isn't that hard to imagine Peter Graves in a giant grasshopper movie in the 50's. After all, his Airplane co-star Leslie Nielsen was similarly in another 50's era B-movie scifi classic: Forbidden Planet.

Still, I think Leslie got the better end of the deal... and Graves more than made up for this drek during his tenure as Mr.Phelps on the Mission:Impossible series. Cheese, to be sure, but classy cheese.

Anyways, The Beginning of the End has Graves staring as a bug scientist who is assisting a deaf-mute plant scientist in growing overly large strawberries and tomatoes in the hopes of ending world hunger. Sure, you can't eat their efforts yet, what with the fact that they're fertilized with radioactive manure (no, seriously), but they have high hopes for the future... if it wasn't for the fact that some of the locusts that fed off of the giant plants are themselves muting and turning into giant, town-destroying people eaters!

RUN! It's the INVASION OF THE GIANT GRASSHOPPERS! Somebody find those industrious ants to hurry along the coming of winter and freeze the evil, lazy grasshoppers out! No pity food for you this year, slacker!

It's sad... I had such high hopes for the intrepid female reporter lead, but she takes a side-seat to Peter Graves' scientist role almost the moment he shows up twenty minutes into the film. What's the point of setting up an independent, smart, adventurous woman if you're just going to foist her off in favor of a stereotyped dominant male? It's depressing how easily they fall for each other, embracing tenderly whenever things look grim in the last half hour in between moments of bravado and SCIENCE on behalf of Graves.


This is an early Mike episode and you can tell that he's still trying to find his way around his main host duties. Still, even his weak start is better than most of Joel's best, but that's a matter of opinion and taste. I'm sure there are plenty of Joel fans who think I have none of those, so there you go.

There's not much to say about the inbetweeners as they're pretty lame (also, my opinion), The Mads try to combat the impression that they're sissy boys who are worried about their figures and waiting for women-oriented talk shows to come on by throwing on "the game" and boxing each other. Not all that funny, really. And then there's Tom Servo's stand up comedy routine that doesn't even make me crack a smile, and Crow's fifteen act play about Peter Graves which is just Peter Graves narrating his life while letting you know every other line that he's Peter Graves. Peter Graves? Peter Graves. Yes, there IS such a thing as too on the nose and that skit managed it.

While it's not the best episode of MST3k, it's not terrible. I'd certainly watch it over Doctor Who (and DID). By the by, happy early 50th anniversary, Doc. Maybe I'll watch you again tomorrow and finish up that Cybermen two-parter from yesterday.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-five - Dr.Who: Series 2, Episode 6, "DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!"

If there's one thing that I hate about Dr.Who, and I've probably mentioned this before, it's the constant refresh of old fan-favorite villains. I know that I'm the minority, but I despise the Daleks and Cybermen, and guess who shows up in this alternate reality of Earth that The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey manage to MacGuffin their way into?

The Cybermen.

Toasters on their heads and everything, the Cybermen have returned to the Whovian universe... well, a version of it anyway, where Britain is a society under siege with curfews for the poor and zeppelins for the rich. This is also a Britain where Rose's father, Pete, is still alive and married to Jackie. Also, they're in the money... and there's no Rose. Well, there is a Rose, but not the one played by Billy Piper. No, the Rose in this universe is a lapdog. Literally.

Anyways, the meat of the episode is the coup that a Howard Hughes type attempts against the President of the UK (Get it? President instead of Prime Minister? It really IS a parallel universe! XP) in the form of the Human 2.0 Upgrade, which turns out to be a forced conversion into Cybermen.

Aside from the return of the Cybermen, I'm also annoyed by the instant stupidity that both Mickey and Rose seem to catch when they find out that they're in an alternate reality. Despite Mickey knowing just what can happen in A-U stories thanks to movies and television, he still runs off to visit his not-dead A-U grandma... and Rose does the same in looking for Pete, her father. I mean, really? Have they learned absolutely nothing thanks to their time traveling antics? Especially Rose after she nearly destroyed all reality by trying to save her father from the car accident that killed him in her own universe?

It's also annoying how spoonfed the clues are concerning the "eventual" reveal of the Cybermen. Whether it's the earbud antennae that form the familiar head box or the out of focus Cyber at the beginning and the near constant shots of their stomping feet during the rank and file attack on Jackie's birthday party... it's all just one big already spoiled tease.

More ham-fisted writing on behalf of the crew, I suppose. Only so much you can do to get the primary conflicts of an episode this ridiculous started.

But, it's all to be expected, I guess. Dr.Who is only okay on its best of days, so there are bound to be some pandering crapfests here and there, even if it had been improving lately. Sad thing for me is that this is a two part episode (which I will get to, probably in the next few days). Such is life.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-four - Fringe: Season 4, Episode 12, "Timecop Physics, Minimal Effects Necessary"

The last episode of Fringe that I did for the blog was the pilot. Here, we skip a bit, settling in on the middle of the fourth season and a LOT of stuff has gone down between the two. Suffice it to say, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice not watching the series from beginning to end.

That said, the reason I'm doing it is because this episode is where I left off before completely shunning broadcast/satellite television in favor of internet streaming and DVDs. And boy is it a doozy of one, despite the fact that there's not a lot of progress concerning the major season and series arcs that Fringe has become known for.

That's not to say there aren't connections to said arcs, though, as the majority of the episode happens in a small town that has been cut off from the rest of the universe. Attempting to leave only results in a mobius strip-like occurrence where you wind up back at the other side of town, a la Pleasantville. Instead of quaint, 50's era Americana, though, this town is populated with residents gone insane and precious few survivors who are constantly in fear for their lives.

Enter Olivia, Peter, and Walter, who show up to town quite accidentally to investigate a suspicious fringe event just up the highway only to become trapped themselves. Of course, being who they are, they manage to survive the rampaging psychopaths and deduce the nature of the cross-dimensional event that is plaguing the town, finding a safe zone before the entire area is destroyed.

While not quite a bottle episode, I do like how close it comes, with the Fringe team caught and unable to escape, doing their best to help the trapped townsfolk while dealing with their own issues, particularly THIS universe's Olivia starting to manifest the memories of Peter's Olivia (say, Olivia-Prime?)... which causes a bit of confusion for Peter at the end of the episode when Newlivia fully slides into the persona and memories of Olivia-Prime.

It's all very sad and can be a little confusing (especially if you're skipping straight to this from the pilot some 90 episodes ago)... a lot of water under the bridge that the writers are trying to rectify, but they're doing a very interesting job of it, especially considering how brave and bold the concepts are that they're trying to explore as the series wears on. The Observers, multiple versions of the same person from different realities with startlingly different motivations, fantastic science fiction that is just too preposterous to believe outside of television, but also vaguely fun and convincing.

Definitely the spiritual successor of the X-Files, but much more liberal with the lengths it is willing to go to stretch the bounds of reality. People tend to give it a lot of crap because of how weird and obfuscating the previous JJ Abrams show, LOST, became downright silly, but I think Fringe is much more grounded... and yes, I realize that I'm typing this concerning a show about alternate universes and surviving huge cross-dimensional events.

I highly recommend Fringe, as mentioned above, from start to finish. It's compelling, dramatic, fantastic, romantic, and just plain fun. Check it. NOW!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-three - Scrubs: Season 1, Episode 2, "Rowdy? No!"

I love Scrubs... well, mostly.

There was that time where it changed networks and lost (then regained) most of its cast while never truly bouncing back from the transition. Then there was all of the on-again/off-again romantic hijinks between JD and Elliot that was almost as melodramatic as its prime time drama counterparts like ER and Gray's Anatomy.

Q.E.D., early Scrubs is best Scrubs... even if I do love how JD and Elliot eventually take their forever waffling relationship... and this episode is, most assuredly, early Scrubs.

JD and Elliot are playing it cool, not together and officially trying the "just friends" thing, Turk and Carla are busy doing their pre-dating dance, and Dr.Cox? Well, Dr.Cox hasn't yet acquired his perfect foil in the form of Drew Carey alum, Christa Miller. While JD is trying connect with a good patient (with a bad habit) and looking for help from his mentor (Dr.Cox), Elliot pisses off the nurses and has to rely on Turk to help pull her foot from her mouth.

While, thematically, this episode definitely falls into the series' shakedown period, folks still growing comfortable in their roles and relationships starting to develop, a lot of the small asides and circumstantial jokes are started to crop up... like JD's fourth wall breaking and his daydream sequences.


I'm especially fond of Dr.Kelso's blatantly obvious two-faced nature and JD and Turk's constant repositioning of their stuffed dog, Rowdy, so as to cause Elliot discomfort. Well, that might not be their reasoning, now that I think about it. It's almost as if, by moving him around, they're allowing Rowdy to live life (or his taxidermied unlife) to the fullest.

It's also nice to see Carla and Turk before they got together. Their relationship, marriage, and family life were the social bedrock that allowed main character JD the flexibility and stability to have a consistently foiled lovelife to keep the comedy and drama going for the duration of many of its seasons. It was a great contrast... for the series... but it's good to see their beginnings, again.

I'm a little bummed how little early characterization there is for The Janitor, but I know there's plenty of good to come from our favorite JD hater, so no real worries there. I guess I don't have any real substantial complaints other than that it's just an alright series at this point. Plenty of potential, but not exactly a shining effort from the get-go. It gets better, though, so there's that.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-two - Rowan Atkinson Live! "Oh, well... I'm sorry... I didn't, um... right."

I know it's sacrilege, but I'm really not all that much of a fan of Mr.Bean... and Blackadder could be hit or miss, depending on the episode... and don't even get me started on Johnny English (poor Gillian Anderson). Still, it's not that I don't think Rowan Atkinson is a good comedy writer/performer, it's just that his schtick generally isn't my thing.

To be honest, I could really see the wit and humor that went into the majority of the sketches in LIVE, but I just never really felt like laughing. In fact, for the entirety of the performance, I'm pretty sure that I only chuckled a few times... and never outright laughed out loud. There were many jokes that brought a smile to my face, but that's about it.

Standout performances for the set I think were the dating sketch, the three-part wedding sequence, and the acting class bit that rounds out the show. I was especially fond of that last one due to all of the hammy, melodramatic pantomiming. Good stuff, but as I mentioned before, just amusing.

On the flip side, I really had a problem with his Indian Restaurant bit where he playacts being a server, complete with wardrobe and accent, to a bunch of drunk of their ass football fans. Sure, it's comedy, but I found it blatantly offensive. I mean, at least he didn't cork his face, but it was still pretty bad.

I think, if you're a big fan of his physical comedy, this show will be up your alley, but it didn't do anything for me. Maybe I'm just too much of a comedy snob of late, as it seems like most of the routines that I watch just aren't up to my standards.

Hmm... a little light in the bytes, today. Just not much to say about this show, unfortunately. Oh well.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Twenty-one - Leverage: Season 1, Episode 4, "Preachy Miracle Blues"

You know, I want to love Leverage... the problem is, several episodes in, I think I'm only ever going to be in "like mode" with the series.

It has a hippish jazz soundtrack that heavily features the bass line, is very much in tune with the "punish the corporate overloads" zeitgeist of income disparity America, and manages to pull off most of its capers (at least the ones we've seen for far) in forty minutes of "To Catch A Thief" theatrics. There's just the right amount of intra-team rivalries and friendships, none of the bad guys are ever all that sympathetic, and there's a soft wit that pervades but doesn't overpower... but therein lie some of Leverage's weaknesses.

Take this episode, for example. Billed as a personal job for an old friend of Nate's, The Miracle Job is about trying to scam a manic real estate developer into giving up his plans to first tear down a church... and then stop him from turning the "miracle" they used to scare him off into a religious themed amusement park which is just so off the scales ridiculous, that the episode loses me right there.

I mean, seriously, it felt like I was watching an updated version of The A-Team what with all of its melodramatic villains and corny solutions... and, in a way, Leverage is just that, only transplanted into the modern day and without the US Army making a bumbling chase in the background.

Not that I don't mind seeing DB Sweeney make a guest appearance as the priest, but I've seen him in too many roguish roles to take him seriously as a man of the cloth (rather like how Ray Wise can never do the same in Psyche, as hard as he tries).

There are a few good points to the episode, though... early on, when Nate visits his preacher friend in the hospital, there's an intercom announcement in the background that is a nice, subdued reference to his son dying previous to the series. Also, there's finally a direct mention of the tension between Nate and Sophie, which anyone can see in just about every episode, considering how much they try and emphasize the chemistry.

Still, despite its occasional strengths, Leverage is just an "alright" series, never burgeoning on genius or compelling. It's the kind of show that you can easily have on in the background and never really care about. Sure, it's fun... but ultimately, it's just generic and sterile and, well, empty. It's not bad, but it will never be great, I think.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~