Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Too Old For This SHHHtuff!

How I Met Your Mother: Murtaugh
Season 4, Episode 19

You have to love an ensemble sitcom. This week's episode just shows how a strong cast can mean nonstop laughter throughout. From dealing with children to the idea of coming to terms with getting older, "Murtaugh" had some hilarious scenes for our five New Yorkers to endure. Join me on a clever romp into using a 1980's cop action film as a metaphor for growing up.

The show's cold open was priceless. Barney playing laser tag and beating the crap out of prepubescent kids for the opportunity to earn the most tickets was great. I love that they keep Barney as almost this innocent child, who just happens to like to have sex all the time.

After hearing this story, Ted pulls out the Murtaugh List. This list includes all things that Ted is now too old for. Some things on the list include drinking from a beer bong and pulling all nighters, as well dying your hair a crazy color(See: picture above). The namesake of the list is Danny Glover's character from Lethal Weapon, Roger Murtaugh and his famous quote, "I'm too old for this shit." Barney sees the list as a challenge and makes a bet with Ted that he can do everything on it. The challenge begins with Barney running to the bathroom and piercing his ear(which is number one on the list). This leads to Barney going through the rest of the episode with a freakishly ugly red ear.

Meanwhile, Marshall is excited as he is embarking on a new task, taking over Lily's kindergarten basketball team. You have to love the level he takes it with these kids. Channeling Bob Knight, Marshall belittles kids and runs them to the brink. I relate very much to Marshall in this episode, as I myself coach elementary basketball. Marshall does take it too far and the interaction he has with the far more nurturing Lily is great. I think any young couple with long-term intentions run into the problem these two have in dealing with parenting values.

Throughout the episode we see how the entire group must come to terms with their age. Whether it be from growing up, to learning their boundaries. In the end Ted makes a decision to eliminate the list after watching all four Lethal Weapons and realizing that Murtaugh isn't really too old for the shit since he keeps coming back in sequels. Because if he truly was, he would have retired the first time he was on patrol with Riggs. And then Richard Donner wouldn't be wiping his ass with $100 bills.

The high point for the night had to be the basketball game. Since what we see on the screen every week is told through the perspective of Ted's flashbacks, the game is shown how Marshall described it. At the beginning of the game the opposing team (actually only a year older) is shown as a group of high school-level athletes. Mid way through, they morph into college stars and one of them transforms into a "Teen Wolf" and the game gets out of control. How else could Marshall explain that his team lost by over 100 points then for a freakishly hairy man beast to do backflips into dunks. Overall, it was a great episode that truly hit home.


Killin' Time With 24

24: 11:00 P.M.- 12:00P.M.
Season 7, Episode 16

Welcome to "Killin' Time With 24." A weekly 24 discussion hosted by your faithful That's A Wrap! editors, Billy and Jim.

Every Tuesday morning we post our live discussion of the previous evening's episode of 24. What we liked, disliked and where we would like to see the series go while avoiding any real work. It's like a virtual coffee break.

Sit back and let us do the complaining for you.

(21:00:30) Jim: 24 - and we're live!
(21:00:43) Billy: The worlds deadliest bio-weapon??
(21:00:47) Jim: EvAH!
(21:00:49) Billy: What the eff? (21:01:02) Billy: It looked like dry ice to me.
(21:01:13) Jim: how are they going to justify Jack surviving something worse than smallpox or ebola?
(21:01:45) Billy: Jack Bauer is invincible. (21:01:50) Billy: apparently.
(21:02:47) Jim: indeed
(21:03:25) Billy: So, we've had only two legitimately GOOD episodes this season. hopefully this won't disappoint.
(21:03:38) Jim: naked Jack time (21:03:45) Jim: I thought this seeason was missing something
(21:03:45) Billy: SUNNY MACER! (21:03:59) Billy: We have not seen her in four years! (21:05:04) Billy: Nice call back to previous seasons with Jack's tats, scars and old CDC people
(21:05:45) Jim: how could this security company be so big that the US freaking government is sweating having to assault them... THEY. ARE. THE. GOVERNMENT.
(21:06:29) Billy: We ARE in a recession. And the president is a Republican, maybe she cut back on EVERYTHING. (21:07:01) Billy: Though, Jon Voight makes a compelling counterpoint to your gripe. (21:07:18) Billy: Oh God, another Brannon Braga episode (21:09:42) Billy: What the hell is Jon "Hodges" Voight's lackey's name?
(21:10:13) Jim: Didn't catch Mr. Good Idea's name. for once, I'd like to see the villain say, "Know what - you're right. This has gone a little too far. I'm outta here."
(21:10:48) Billy: Wow, 15 minutes to identify the infection. Things have gotten super Goddamn fast over the last four years since Season 3. (21:11:15) Billy: Rick Berman?! (21:11:28) Billy: As White House Chief of Staff? (21:12:03) Billy: Leaving the private sector? Getting fired from Star Trek doesn't equate to LEAVING.
(21:12:03) Jim: couldn't they get the Biscuit? He was CoS just a couple months ago. (21:13:35) Jim: and Berman didn't leave Star Trek. He killed it. That's life saying Leonardo DiCaprio LEFT the Titanic.
(21:14:13) Billy: Oh no, the United States is FUCKED with him as Chief of Staff.
(21:14:26) Jim: at that point, I say let the terrorists win
(21:16:37) Billy: So, I suppose that when this commercial break ends we will find out whether or not Jack is infected. I bet no, since it's not a cliffhanger.
(21:17:23) Jim: Jack's Lady is about to be sad
(21:18:00) Billy: You know, aside from her tendency towards annoying morality(only because they happen at inopportune times), I really like Renee.
(21:18:19) Jim: does she look like somebody ready to handle a debrief?
(21:18:44) Billy: She looks like somebody who is lamenting not being able to jump Jack's bones.
(21:18:45) Jim: but she toughens up pretty quick (21:19:04) Jim: wow, FD really is hot for Aaron
(21:19:12) Billy: Oh noes, Aaron, don't fall for it.
(21:19:23) Jim: this season is like 24: The Near-Boinking
(21:20:21) Billy: I suspected that the "rift" between the first daughter and former Chief of Staff was an affair of some sort. (21:21:07) Billy: they need to drop a Goddamn missile on that facility.
(21:21:33) Jim: did they just reference the chicken guy episode from X-Files?
(21:21:42) Billy: Creutzfeld-jacob? Everything I know about that I learned from the X-files. (21:22:06) Billy: I can say that about most things. I'm very sad.
(21:22:09) Jim: as long as Jack avoids KFC he should be fine then
(21:23:17) Billy: Of course it sounds like Jack isn't going to be contagious. (21:23:41) Billy: So he can get back in the game.
(21:23:45) Jim: Hey, it's the One Smart Bad Guy (21:25:00) Jim: saving Tony, good plan... probably getting killed for it, but still...
(21:25:07) Billy: Wait a minute...I just thought of something, why is Sunny Macer in DC? (21:25:34) Billy: Wait, what the hell was that?
(21:25:59) Jim: the results of his blood work (21:26:12) Jim: they're going to tease us about it for a little longer
(21:26:25) Billy: Seriously, they are going to cliffhanger THAT over a commercial? Ugh.
(21:29:30) Jim: see, he's okay
(21:29:43) Billy: What. A. Fucking. Cock. Tease.
(21:29:55) Jim: crapola
(21:29:58) Billy: Jack is infected! (21:30:00) Billy: Huzzah!
(21:30:10) Jim: Sweet! No cure!
(21:30:34) Billy: I shouldn't be happy that Jack is going to potentially die. (21:31:12) Billy: But this vulnerability is something that the series has lacked since season 2.
(21:31:42) Jim: we can fear for our favorite character again - definitely a sweet decision
(21:32:45) Billy: Now, of course, at the 11th hour (or 24th hour rather) they will more than likely find a cure...but still.
(21:33:10) Jim: gotta fill the time someow (21:33:17) Jim: somehow
(21:34:57) Billy: Greg!! The smart bad guy has a name! (21:40:29) Billy: How is a non-contagious toxin(my biology professor wife would like to contend that it is not a virus because it's non-propagating) the most deadly bio-weapon ever?
(21:41:37) Jim: yeah, it would be deadly, but isn't the main advanatage of biological weapons the ease with which they can spread throughout a civilian population?
(21:41:51) Billy: Bingo (21:45:00) Billy: They won't let Jack Bauer play with the other kids? That won't last long.
(21:45:29) Jim: they're taking him out of the action way too quick here
(21:48:29) Billy: 11:51 already? Wow, what a fast moving episode.
(21:48:51) Jim: yeah, that's gotta be a good sign (21:49:22) Jim: despite it being more filler - a get the pieces in place episode - I've been interested throughout
(21:49:31) Billy: I agree. (21:50:11) Billy: It's been very interesting. My theory is 24+ "virus" = good. (21:50:40) Billy: Moss is dead. (21:50:53) Billy: A missile is gonna knock his heli down.
(21:50:56) Jim: It'll get Jack involved again for sure
(21:50:59) Billy: I just feel it.
(21:51:21) Jim: BATTLE!
(21:51:51) Billy: I love it when this show surprises me by NOT doing something. (21:52:30) Billy: good Bad Guy is looking MIGHTY Squirrelly.
(21:53:05) Jim: indeed, that's rarely a good sign
(21:54:02) Billy: Bad good guy, it seems.
(21:55:26) Jim: oh, I just remembered I knew Bad Good Bad Guy from Empire Records and The Last Don
(21:55:36) Billy: Heh. (21:57:35) Billy: Tony gave that guy a look, like he knew him.
(21:57:39) Jim: so maybe it was talking about it throughout, but I was really locked in this week... a nice change of pace
(21:58:00) Billy: I'm pleasantly surprised. I liked it. (21:58:47) Billy: the lack of serious White House shenanigans, and Jack being humanized worked wonders.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Off the Shelf - Firefly Part 1 (of 15)

Firefly: Serenity
Season 1, Episode 1

Welcome to Off the Shelf, where we'll revisit some of the greatest television shows of my DVD collection.

Before we dive into a longer running show over the summer, let's take a relatively quick peek through each episode of Joss Whedon's cult favorite, Firefly.

Mal - "Well we're still flying."
Simon - "That's not much."
Mal - "It's enough."

So why start with this particular show? The first big advantage is the short length, which will allow us to dig through the entire run of the series (pilot, 13 more episodes and the BDM - That's Big Damn Movie for you newbies). Do I love the series enough to spend the time on it? This is a space western people. A western set in space. "You had me at hello." And thirdly, this is a place I'd like to highlight shows that got a bum wrap or at least weren't ratings monsters. Kind of like an Island of Misfit Toys for television shows. Maybe we'll get to some behemoth shows someday, but for now this is my little corner of the sky. And few shows got as crappy a hand dealt as Fox gave this one. Any meeting between you and Fox executive over your once in a lifetime labor of love project where the conversation starts with, "We're debuting you on Friday night." -- just run out of the room screaming. Add to that the idea to air the pilot months later, after the show had been canned for doing what virtually every show in existence since The X-Files more than 15 years ago did - stink on Friday.

So maybe its fitting that a show that never had a chance was at least meant to open with resounding loss. The Battle of Serenity Valley gets to show us a Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) who believes in his cause, commands his troops with honor and courage and hasn't sacrificed his faith to the conflict. The joy on his face after taking down an enemy plane makes him believe the impossible can happen. Then that man dies with his rebellion. At least his death is a figurative one... sorry Bendis.

Six years later, Mal and his fellow soldier Zoe (Gina Torres) led a salvage mission that is quickly revealed to be a criminal enterprise run from a bug-shaped space freighter called Serenity. Of course, they're immediately shown up by their pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk) and his dinosaur toys.

"Everything looks good from here. Yes.. yes... this is a fertile land and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land and we will call it... ... This Land."

Wash often serves as the comic relief for the show, always with a deadpan joke to break the tension. It difficult to describe how much fun Whedon's trademarked humor gives the show, letting the audience relax without breaking the mood in a generally serious show. The robbery of a derelict vessel established that our cast aren't the heroes of this universe, they're out to make a buck. It also shows the first of many back-up plans Mal uses to get out by the skin of his teeth.

From the technical side, the science of the universe isn't explained all at once, but the realistic approach (aside from gravity on ships) is terrific. The concept is that of a space adventure set amongst a single solar system (albeit a significantly larger one than ours with at least dozens of habitable or pseudo-habitable worlds) with no faster than light travel, no aliens, no laser blasters and most excellently - no sound in space.

The pilot, written and directed by Joss Whedon, does what his most recent series failed to do. It quickly and efficiently introduces the cast, gives them unique personalities and considering there are nine main characters that's no small order. Mal is the gruff captain loyal only to his ship and crew. Zoe is his utterly devoted second-in-command. Wash is her jester husband. Kaylee is the eternally optimistic mechanic played by the joyful Jewel Staite. The X-Files veteran, Adam Baldwin (no relation) stars as Jayne, the crude braggart mercenary.

Upon the ship's return to the mostly respectable planet of Persephone, we're introduced to Inara, a Companion (prostitute) and the only respectable member of the crew, played by Morrena Baccarin, and a Shepperd (monk) named Book, played by Ron Glass. In addition to little touches like the names of these professions, the individuality of the world is developed with the considerable use of Mandarin Chinese (most commonly for endearments and cursing). A small item that develops a history where only two significant societies lasted and isn't the type of thing we'd seen on other science fiction shows up to that point.

Here on Persephone, the ship will take on passengers to make some extra money on the way to Boros, a planet where they hope to spend their ill-gotten gains. But the dusty and dirty docking port is the other end of the Serenity spectrum. For all the fancy spaceships, the heart of the story is one of people on the edge of a civilization. Like something out of a western, the marketplace in a mishmash of American and Chinese cultures that would be more in place on Deadwood than Star Trek. The ship itself is barely holding itself together, with Kaylee mentioning numerous parts are needed (including a compression coil that will come back to haunt him). And I must mention Kaylee's umbrella... pure fun.

Even Romo Lampkin himself shows up, with Mark Sheppard playing Badger, one of the crew's criminal contacts. Because the goods Mal salvaged are labeled and the Alliance saw the ship, Badger won't risk fulfilling his end of the bargain. A numbers disadvantage forces Mal, Zoe and Jayne must leave with their tails between their legs, much the the latter's disgruntlement. This forces them to deal with another contact named Patience, who we learn has a tendency to shoot Mal during business transactions.

Among the passengers, there's Simon Tam (Sean Maher), Book and Dobson, who probably isn't long for this world since he's the only one not in the title credits. Mal's conflicts with Book and Jayne show him as a man without faith, who nevertheless defends his crew without reservation. Everything quickly comes to a head, Dobson is a federal agent trying to arrest Simon and their confrontation ends with the sweetest character in the show, Kaylee, getting shot. Simon agrees to treat her if Mal runs from the Alliance cruiser en route.

The reason Simon is on the run is his sister, River, who he smuggled aboard in a cryogenic shipping container. She's been recently rescued from a government program disguised as a school that has severely altered her physically and mentally. The main story of the series and movie is the development and resolution of the government/business interests search to reclaim her. Where else Whedon planned to go in his imagined seven-year run we'll probably never know. The big conflict within the crew is the very altruistic mission of escape and survival with the often more mercurial interests of the original crew members, specifically Mal.

Poor Jayne confronts the Alliance agent, but doesn't even get to torture Dobson to find out how far the Alliance was behind them (Poor Lawrence was not a good liar). I was gonna get me an ear. But it sets up that Jayne might be willing to turn against Mal at any point throughout the rest of the episode. One final conflict before their arrival to deal with Patience is passing by a Reaver vessel. Only mentioned once beforehand, the sheer terror they evoke without ever appearing on screen in the series credits both the actors performances and the restraint of the creators, working in little moments like Inara would kill herself if they are boarded and Jayne (who seems to fear nothing else) refusing to venture near them.

At White Falls, the moon run by Patience, we see even more of the Western influence of the series, as they ride horses and have a good old-fashioned shoot out. The entire sequence is a credit to how smart Mal can be about tactical decisions. He absolutely knows from one conversation that Patience plans on shooting him. And looking over the meeting grounds, he can figure out just where the ambush will work out and where the sniper will be. This is where the earlier scene with Dobson pays off, since we're never sure who Jayne will be shooting. But once he shoots poor Two Fry and his big hat (the money with Dobson wasn't good enough), Mal and Zoe get their own little O-K Corral. Mal even gets to shoot a horse. But being the honest thief he is, lets Patience keep the goods.

On the ship, Dobson escapes, assaulting Book in the process, and takes River hostage. And oh yeah, the gorram Reavers are coming back. After a nice, little fight with Simon, Dobson puts a gun to River's head only for the first definitive moment of the series, after riding up on a horse, Mal climbs the entrance and without breaking stride puts a bullet in the Fed's head. The escape from the Reavers delivers a similar moment for Wash, Kaylee and Serenity, pulling an nice little Crazy Ivan and blasting off into space.

A large portion of the greatness of this show is that they rarely have a bigger goal than get away to get another job. And because Mal now considers Simon part of the crew and he is (all evidence to the contrary) still a decent man, the Tams stay on board and despite the romantic tension with Irana, he gets to sit back with his two great loves - Serenity and a great pile of empty space in front of them.

The entire episode comes off as more short-length movie than television episode with Whedon bringing his writing and directing A-game, making a specific point to take advantage of widescreen for the first substantive time in his career (left side Waaaaghh). It didn't take long at all for him to establish every character's identity and grow comfortable winding his cameras throughout the vessel. One of my favorite moments is how Whedon fakes us out about Kaylee's survival just before the arrival on White Falls.

Looking back, it seems Fox decided to shelve this opening due to its relaxed pace, fearing it would never hold a television audience.
And yes, it seemed more than a little backhanded to air it after announcing a cancellation. But given the already difficult time slot, delaying the episode that contains the character introductions and the back story of Mal's history in the Unification War on the side of the Independents (a.k.a. the Browncoats), was all a death-knell for the show. In our review for the second episode, "The Train Job," we'll discuss how well it served covering these points. But the issue for now is that the pilot did an excellent job covering these points, even if the rather slow pace of the double-sized episode would admittedly be a tough sell for a new audience.

But the series itself was a dream for me - just a bunch of grunts out on the edge of things, making their own way and more concerned about being just than lawful. The moment of moral superiority when Mal murders the Alliance officer (a good guy) who threatened his crew, exemplified the good-bad guys concept perfectly.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Terminator: Brought To You In Part By DODGE, Grab Life By The Horns!

Terminator:TSCC: To The Lighthouse
Season 2, Episode 20

It's hard to believe that we're almost finished with this season. There's been some ups (fun in the future) and there have been some MAJOR downs (the somber-Sarah Quadrilligy). It's hard to keep faith that this series is going to be renewed with it's sagging ratings, but considering the amount of Dodge product placement in each episode how much does Fox really spend on this show? I can't wait to see a Dodge-branded T-800 endoskeleton.

All product placement griping aside, how does this episode stand up? Hit the jump to find out!

I'll cut right to the chase, it was a pretty damn good episode, but it's mostly set up for the finale stretch. The good news? We finally see the return of Sarah's ex-beau, Charley. The bad news? Terminator does it's best 24 aping by killing him off in the end.

Charley just couldn't catch a break on this show. First Sarah and John ditch him when they time-jump eight years into the future, then when he finally finds out that the duo aren't dead, Cromartie kills his wife! It's enough to make a guy despise Sarah Connor and become a crazy isolationist fisher. Charley is living in the titular Lighthouse, surrounded by perimeter alarms and Semtex charges he's waiting for something bad to happen. Of course, that "something bad" is presumed to be more killer robots. You just know as a soon as Charley tells John and Sarah about his defenses that they are going to be used at some point in the future and sure enough it happens.

Remember Sarah being told that she would die of breast cancer? Well, the whole reason that she takes John to see Charley (while Cameron and Derek empty the weapon storage in anticipation of the move to the new safe house) is because she's found what she believes is a tumor. She's never trusted Cameron and recent revelations regarding Jesse have made her regret trusting Derek. So, Sarah leaves to get an examination and of course everything goes to pot. All three groups (four if you include John Henry) are attacked.

Sarah finds that the "tumor" is in fact not a toomah but rather a transmitter. Of course, it all makes sense now, the somber-Sarah Quadrilligy actually had some purpose, as we flashback to Ed Winston (the guy we presumed was killed by Sarah in the fall finale, but actually was torturing her), realizing that the "tumor" is actually a transceiver.

It turns out that these simultaneous attacks are orchestrated by a mystery person who knows much about the T-800s. As I mentioned, John Henry is attacked too. A breach in his code from the Internet reveals that a second AI (this one expressly created by Cyberdyne and Miles Dyson) is attempting to communicate with John Henry.

The reveal of a software based AI, which we can presume is SkyNet, is intriguing since that is part of the Terminator mythos from T3. It also begs the question, if SkyNet exists what is John Henry? The first thing I thought of was the biblical story of Cain and Abel. But which AI is which? I think it's safe to assume that this second AI is not up to good, but whether or not John Henry will be able to avoid being corrupted by his "brother" is a question that I don't have an answer for.

In the end Charley is killed protecting John. When Sarah finds Charley's body we notice that his boat and John are both missing. Did John escape on the boat? It's possible, it's also possible that John was taken along with the boat by the attackers.

It's exciting that we once again have a main villain pursuing the Connor clan. Possibly even a modern day SkyNet. Glimpses of the future that we've seen seem to indicate that some of the terminators (the T-1000 seen in last week's episode in particular) are demonstrating their own agenda. Is it possible that in the future John Henry AND SkyNet command their own robot army? If that's the case, then John Henry may end up being an ally to John Connor. I'm just spit balling at this point. There are many questions waiting to be answered and I'm just glad that the show has become interesting enough on it's own that I want to theorize about those questions. I just hope that Fox will renew the series for one more season. Please Fox! Just one more!


Another One Bites (the Dust)

Dollhouse: Echoes
Season 1, Episode 7

And we're back to form after an exceptionally average episode. We're back to reminding people that despite having an international reach and possible plans to realign global society, the Dollhouse can still work as nothing more than a high-class prostitution ring. It's nice to stay in touch with your roots, right? This week's episode does nothing to convince me that this will ever be a good show. The question needs to be asked if this will ever be more than a rarely mediocre effort.

Through the numerous looks into her pre-Big Wipe past, the show hasn't established a very compelling history for Caroline, since Dushku hits the same notes she did in the Angel arc where Faith was starting her desire for redemption when talking with DeWitt and before that she proved that trying to uncover a corrupt chemical testing never ends well (cough28DaysLatercough). But at least the moderately interesting history with the company behind the Dollhouse helps establish the eventual motivation for her rebellion.

The main point of this episode, that the outbreak of an inhibition degrading chemical (coughBandCandycough) infects a college campus as well as the Dollhouse organization, doesn't work well at all. It's a funny gimmick if it infects characters we've learned to like over the course of years (coughBandCandycough), but not if it we hate the characters. Topher is a creepy Xander ripoff, DeWitt runs a prostitution/assassination branch office (like a sociopathic version of Michael Scott) and Dominic tried to kill the lead character a couple weeks ago. Until Echo develops more of a personality and Ivy is revealed as the spy, Boyd and Ballard are the only characters worth paying attention to/giving a damn about it. So obviously, its a terrible episode when they are the two least featured characters. Sure enough, when Boyd giggles and utters, "Wow, did not maintain control of that situation." It's just about the only chuckle-worthy part of the episode.

Just because the Dolls always glitching is getting old, doesn't mean letting them work (except Echo) as normal (for a while at least) while the puppet masters freak out is an ingenious twist. It seems more sophomoric than impressive. That the writers of this episode (Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain) are the show runners isn't inspiring much faith that things can improve. And the combining of glitching and tweaking isn't funny, sad or dramatic - it's just more of the same confusing mishmash reality, nothing more than a deus ex machina to let Topher explain how the problem will solve itself.

Our good buddy Ballard is looking far too domesticated, making breakfast for his Doll-friend, but quickly at least states his determination to continue pushing. Why leave your best ass kicker on the sidelines so much? Why is he talking about doing things instead of doing things?! This does not compute.

As for the revelation of the name of the company being behind the Dollhouse as the Rossum Corporation, the mystery behind the company is only interesting if we've started to care about the people being hurt by them. Victor, Mellie and Sierra are (except for the briefest of flashes this week) creatures without human personalities. And as I mention above, Caroline/Echo isn't anyone we've especially been made empathetic with. Her flashback scenes set before the Big Wipe aren't interesting since we know it all falls apart and her being a PETA-ish sympathizer doesn't work any better for her character than it did for Brenda Walsh.

Final score: D


Friday, March 27, 2009

Closing In...

Friday Night Lights: A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
Season 3, Episode 11

As the strong rebound of the third season winds down, we're getting into gut check time. They can't make things too easy for the team or our favorite characters. It looks like mighty Dillon is heading for another chance at a state title, their second in three years, which means its about time for everyone to take a trip through the ringer. But after months of simmering, things finally come to a head between big, bad Joe McCoy and his golden-armed son, JD. Plus, how can you turn down an episode named after a Dylan song? Unless you're Billy and inexplicably unwilling to give one of the best shows on tv a shot.

The slow burn of independence we've seen from JD the last few weeks seems to be the story that could power the show into a hypothetical fourth season. Of course, that's dependent on the show actually being picked up, so let's just leave our fingers crossed. Since the one-shot story involving the team's fullback, JaMarcus, fell pretty much on its face, it isn't just the Panthers' playoff hopes that sit on the Chosen One's shoulders. And the development of his anger has been very organic through his disapproval of a girlfriend like Madison, "She is a plague!" Joe started this year as an annoying man trying to passive-aggressively get his own way to an overly forceful influence on his son to the kind of person that would slap his boy around in a parking lot. Obviously, it's going to be a long week to see how this effects the McCoys, the team's state title game, and Eric and Tami (who witness and break up the incident). The last scene back at the Taylor's house does a great job in just two conversation contrasting the two defining families of this season and applying Eric's generally calm and collected approach to defuse a very tense situation.

It's been a great and fluid development this season of Joe McCoy pushing JD into the line-up to trying to coach from the stands to going off the hook disagreeing about the plays that (as his far calmer wife, Katie states) Eric is calling. One other note, besides state championship games, nothing rocks like a game played in a monsoon. It worked in "Mud Bowl" and it works here. And credit to Eric for having the guts to go for a two point conversion instead of risking overtime. I wish more real coaches has the stones. I suppose having the writers on your side helps.

Along with the McCoys, the big conflict that can have long-lasting results is the plan to redistrict Dillon and reopen the long defunct East Dillon. And after getting his life pretty trashed the last couple weeks, it's nice to have Buddy take over the boosters to ensure all the key current and future Panther players are on the right side of the District line. Of course, I love Buddy and how humorous his devotion to the Panthers can be, but to see him show some form of remorse over his life in contrast to Joe continuing to be a smug bastard is the type of scene I never get tired of having. Eric and Buddy arguing over the fudging of the district line is great, since we almost never see Eric take the "don't ask, don't tell" path and it usually has horrendous consequences (see the Voodoo Era). And if nothing else, he should have learned that keeping secrets from Tami is never a bad idea.

While it might not have as much an influence on future seasons, the story that shines just as impressively as that of the McCoy Family, is that of the Saracens. The further deteriorating condition for his grandmother has Matt battling himself, the doctors and his mother to accept that things will only get worse as time passes for her. Given how controlled and quiet Matt is at most times, to see him get this upset is a nice reflection on how much the woman means to him. Rather than coming off as close-minded, it seems he just needs some time to get to the point of acceptance. It all ends with a great scene where Matt tells his mom that he wants her to stay and she admits to never considering leaving.

I can say, I've never enjoyed Lyla as much as I do when she's getting drunk with Mindy and the Riggins brothers, doing battle on videogame racing. My only complaint about the funny scene is - why no MarioKart? 'Sup with that Jason Katims and Co.? But obviously, when Tim Riggins thinks you're letting yourself go too much, it's time to dial that shit back a bit. The Buddy-Tim conference on her status is both funny, poignant and shows that at times the brash fullback can drop some knowledge. For example, he rather quickly makes the jump that it isn't this one betrayal/mistake from her father, but the culminated idea that she's let her once incredibly important family fall apart around her.

And as much as I chuckle at the idea of Lyla being one of the top students in the school and getting into Vanderbilt, I always get perturbed at the idea of not being able to go to the school you want without a fund from Mom and Dad. They're called scholarships, grants and student loans, people! Hey, it worked for me... and yes, I'm putting aside the fact that I'll be paying those loans back until I'm middle-aged. But still, if Vanderbilt is such a big dream (hard to believe since I can't ever recall that institution's name ever being uttered before on the show) she'd find a freaking way. Just as the insightful Mr. Riggins points out to her.

A week later, Tyra is now back in the swing of things flirting with Landry, prepping for her sister's wedding (while not so subtly mocking it) and fretting over her future. And any excuse that gets Mindy Collette and Landry Clark in a conversation is great. Even as friends, scenes with her and Landry prepping for a bridal shower (thunderstorm included) are comedy gold my friend. Adrianne Palicki takes big steps this week to remind us she can be a terrific and subtle actress, crossing what we can call the Minka Kelly Corollary. In her final conversation with her mother, she can sell the sadness of her situation and hope in the future. It's good to have her back in Dillon and continuing her personal odyssey.

While the blow-up between Joe and his son was in itself well handled tonight and supplies a great deal of tension for the last couple episodes, it isn't enough to say I'd really be looking forward to a FNL without Saracen, Riggins, Tyra, Street and Smash and I suppose to a far lesser extend Lyla. But for now, with those two of those characters already gone and Tyra back in to her status quo, the show is at least firing on all cylinders for the rest of the way this season.

Final score: B+


Can Paper Be A Future?

The Office: Two Weeks
Season 5 Episode 20
Here we go. The episode five years in the making. I almost feel so much joy I don't even know where to go. Can someone say "VICTORY"? The tides have now changed at our favorite Scranton workplace. The question is, who will take the reigns?

Michael has put in his two weeks notice and will be leaving Dunder Mifflin. As per usual, Scott is shown in a totally unreal situation by drinking Scotch and doing basically nothing. I cannot see any place that would let some one get away with this behavior with a two weeks resignation. SIGH, I guess I'll just get through this episode and the pain will be gone of seeing Michael Scott.

When reality finally hits him, Michael realizes he probably has no chance of finding another decent paying job. This of course is due to our economy(another rant, another time). Michael's bright idea, make his own paper company. Still on the job, he tries to recruit those from the branch to join him on his new venture. Naturally, no one chooses to go with him. He tries to make his own letterhead for the to be formed Michael Scott Paper Company, which is found by Charles. This leads to his termination short of his two weeks.

I don't know if my two outstandingly witty readers realize, but the concept of companies relying on paper is a dying commodity. I just recently was accepted to another college and this will make the third that does all their tracking of students paperless. I am even certain that you get a tax break for filing your taxes online.

Michael trying to create any company on his own could work,right? I don't think so. Even with Pam making a Jerry Mcguire esque maneuver to leave with him in an attempt to start the Michael Scott Paper Company will soon lead to the end of Michael Scott. I do like that the writers paired Pam with Michael. The two together on the Lecture Circuit two parter was one of few times I enjoyed Steve Carrell this season.

Going to the Pam situation. I can't help think that our romantic duo of Pam and Jim will hit a rocky path. Either they will struggle fiancially, or the new boss, Charles, will think Jim has a conflict of interest. Something about the way Charles has treated Jim so far makes me feel like there is going to be something going down with them before the season concludes.

Two Weeks made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The way those three year old candies your grandmother gives you where you can only get two thirds of the wrapper off it does. You WANT to feel hope that Pam and Michael will succeed. But if the writers want to stay true to what is happening in our country, they can't.

Now to my last sentance of the opening. Where do they go with a new office manager. Obviously they are hiring from outside the building. So expect a new cast member to arrive. Do the writers want someone as outlandish as Michael Scott, or do we finally let Dwight shine? I will leave this question for my clever contributors to decide.

This review will be off next week, as the show is off next week. I will be back in two weeks for a two part review. If anyone saw the teaser after Thursday episode, OH SHOCKING, Ryan back with a different look.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fun Times With Space/Time Paradoxes(Paradoxii?)

Lost: He's Our You
Season 5, Episode 10

Battlestar Galactica is gone, so now most of my television Sci-Fi hopes and dreams are pinned on Lost. It's probably not fair to expect Lost to carry the torch left behind by BSG, but, what the hell, I'm just that kind of guy.

So, did this week's Lost keep me happy in my post-BSG bliss? Hit the jump to find out!

Well, the answer is unsurprisingly complicated, much like Lost itself. If I wanted to keep it concise, I would just say that the episode was good. Middle of the road, with no real nagging issues to derail the whole thing, but just not entirely exciting. Sure, there was the ending, oh boy, what an ending...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

If I had one big problem with this episode(and honestly this is a gripe that is probably not going to be rectified anytime soon) it's that the producers have created several "mysteries" with the express purpose of having something mysterious. Specifically the mysteries surrounding Sayid's break with Ben(somewhat answered here), why Kate returned to the island sans-Aaron, where Ben went before the flight, how he got all banged up and what happened to Desmond. Honestly, while intriguing, these ideas seemingly only exist to extend the storyline for the rest of the season. Once the Oceanic 6 arrived back on the island--what then? What is the overarching plot supposed to be? Ostensibly the group must get back to the present, but then what? Back in season one, two and three the goal was to get off the island. That was easy to grasp, but what now?

So, how does Lost begin to answer these questions? Well, by falling back on the tired flashback crutch. It's not that I didn't appreciate getting most of the off-island questions answered for Sayid, it's just that I don't want to fall back into old routines that I thought we'd gotten rid of.

In the end, "He's Our You" is a serviceable episode that doesn't particularly stand out except for one giant white elephant in the proverbial room: Sayid's shooting of poor little '70s Ben Linus. Yes, Sayid tries his damnedest to test the "Grandfather Paradox Theory" by emptying a round in young Ben's chest. Upon first brush this is exciting, but upon further inspection we realize that more than likely little Ben isn't going to die, instead the island will save him. He will remember that it was Sayid who tried to kill him and he will morph into the sneaky bastard that we all love to hate.

I'm reminded of a certain line..."All of this happened before and all of this has--" Too soon? Sorry, BSG is still on the mind.

All in all this episode is a perfectly capable one, but serves mostly as filler until we begin our sprint to the season finale finish line. It's quite indicative of the quality of this season that a somewhat filler episode is one in which Sayid effectively kills Ben. Don't worry, I find the irony quite hilarious.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Comic Time! (3/25/09)

DC makes a comeback this week with James Robinson launching his first post-Superman Superman. Meanwhile, our good buddies at Marvel pound out a couple new Avengers books and Cap and Matt Murdock continue to impress with every new issue. So let's pound through some comics.

Comic Reviews for Week of 03-25-2009

CAPTAIN AMERICA #48 - "Old Enemies and Friends: Part 3"
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Butch Guice

Considering how many books get substantively better or worse with each month or every change of a creative team, Captain America has been a consistent rare gem throughout Brubaker's four-plus year run. And with Guice continuing to impress in this small arc, the title now has backup artist. If there's one drawback this week, it's his tendency to make the setting too dark. In an attempt to match Steve Epting's moody approach, the fight scene ends up a bit less exciting than it could have been. But at least it isn't as prominent as it was in the first two issues of the arc.

The rescue of the remains of the Human Torch from an opponent Cap faced as Winter Soldier was an excellent narrative device to help Bucky move past that portion of his life and embrace more of who he was during his days with Steve Rogers and the Invaders. The exciting and sometimes comical appearance of old teammate Namor was a good decision to build upon that main theme.

As good as this book is, I expect it to cost us in the coming months. We're only two issues away from #50 and then a little number realignment to follow-up with #600. But nobody says good things come cheap.

Final score: B

DAREDEVIL #117 - "The Return of the King: Part One"
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Michael Lark

It's both costly and utterly enjoyable whenever Brubaker's two big books land the same week. As good as any writer in comics, his run with Lark on Daredevil has become worthy of comparison to the Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis Eras. While I might question the decision to bring back one of the definitive New York-based villains so soon after his latest exodus, it at least separates this issue for hype if nothing else.

Our main problem this week is the cover. As you can tell by looking above Daredevil and the Kingpin aren't exactly coming to blows over the attacks on each by the Hand. They very well may before the conclusion of the story line, but for now this issue seems more like a second consecutive prelude to the action of the arc.

The writing is as crisp as ever this month and Lark raises his game significantly with an issue set in the middle of a huge snowstorm. And even if there isn't a single substantive fight scene, I;m enjoying both the nice slow burn building up the drama and the ever-present burdens in Murdock's life that continue to drag out from the loss of his wife's sanity (and custody). And the development of his romance with Dakota North has brought another strong character to the regular background. Hopefully, she can avoid any run-ins with Bullseye-like individuals, now that she's grown on Matt and the readers.

Final Score: B-

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #24 - "Li Park, The Reluctant Weapon Vs. Unstoppable Forces of Evil"
Written by Duane Swierczynski, Art by Kano

And another wonderful tradition continues! So many comics fall into the standard six-issue arc ruts, this title continues to do a great job breaking that type of thing up. Even with a strong lead and plenty of other supporting roles, the trip through time to cover the history of another Iron Fist. This version is probably the most original approach (excluding the Iron Fist of the distant future, of course) yet. A pacifist artists, Park, is only selected due to a massive plague and he tricks, rather than defeats, the dragon to claim his place as an Immortal Weapon.

Perhaps it's a bit of a right wing fantasy when he realizes that sometimes you need to forget the thinking and kick some butt. It's somewhat redeeming to have his ultimate victory involve retreating with the survivors of a slaughter and wandering for a decade. To stand out, these one shots stand out, we need a deeper approach than good guy starts, beats bad guy and goes home and the pacifist angle certainly makes it all seem fresh. And yes, I am glad I finished discussing the book without having to write out Swierczynski.

Final score: B-

MIGHTY AVENGERS #23 - "Three Words"
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Khoi Pham

After the painful experience of Osborn's Dark Avengers, the return of the old-school, classic Avengers vibe of this title was just the fix I needed. Wrapping a nice and tidy three-issue story, this latest team concept is right up my alley. Vision and Stature were far and away my favorite members of the Young Avengers, the Hulk is used in limited quantities to hit Gods and what-not, and this title takes the first interesting crack at Hank Pym (as the second-smartest guy in the room with a big chip on his shoulder) in... well, ever. Oh, and we all get to revel in what a jackass Tony Stark is.

And despite promises of numerous changes in roster throughout Slott's run, hopefully we can get used to these characters a bit. So much time is spent in these three issues establishing the threat, getting the players in place, setting up a second villain, defeating the first, establishing and developing the tension between Stark and Pym, etc., etc. Most interactions seem hollow (including all references to Daughtry), but hopefully that will improve as we see more of a cast that's been mostly ignored by other titles for several years.

But the big problem is Pham's style. It's too hectic in the action with so few things even looking clear with a general lack of movement. The problem is most prevalent in the face where's no real sense of emotion.

The big final reveal of the issue is the actual identity of a founding member of this newest team of Avengers. While the callback to the good old days is worth a smirk, it will most likely be resolved quickly because it violates Slott's main thesis for a team of characters without significant ties to other books. Hopefully it won't kill too much time in this team gelling together to deal with and resolve the impostor. For a creative team that zipped out a quick three issue story, Slott still seems to be dragging his feet too much.

Final score: C+

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Billy Tan and Various

It takes an issue full of other artists to remind me how awkward and lifeless most of Tan's work appears to be. Especially in light of the stellar opening pages by Chris Bachalo, where his take of the hell-reality of the demon Dormammu makes the most of a limited amount of room. Nobody does tortured souls and a harsh reality like the sharp lines of Bachalo. His pages throughout are without a doubt the highlight of the issue. It's that scene and the conversation between Dr. Strange and Wiccan of Young Avengers (man they sure are getting around since their book shows no signs of coming back) that highlights the issue. Most of the scenes with the actual Avengers team are just killing time to pace out the story here in the first issue of a new arc. All the interesting things happen to characters that aren't featured on the main team.

The majority of the book belongs to Tan, who doesn't differentiate well between gender, facial expressions, panel positions... it's like looking evokes words like Finch-ian.

Hey, remember when Spider-Man's identity was known to numerous members of the hero and villain community? Remember the biggest event in the pages of Civil War was him revealing his identity to the world? Remember how Marvel retconned that change like 15 seconds later with Brand New Day? Well, now he reveals his identity to the Avengers... this has all happened crappily before and... yada yada yada.

Bendis deserves some credit for pulling our attention away from the significance of the reveal by diverting into one of his on-occasion amusing side-track discussions. And here it works for the most part, Jessica Jones' reaction to Peter Parker manages to massage the moment into the background. It annoys me less. And I suppose that's something at least.

Final score: C-

SUPERMAN #686 - "Yesterday and Tomorrow"
Written by James Robinson, Art by Renato Guedes

Even after the mediocre job building up the movement of Superman to New Krypton, the decent start to the World of New Krypton maxi-series and very strong opening in Action Comics' World Without Superman actually had me near giddy to see what Robinson could do without forcing in the beats of an editorial staff. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the weakest of the three. I still have faith that Robinson can improve things, but for now he's still wasting time in the past with Superman telling Guardian, Mon-El, Jimmy Olsen and Steel. The further this book moves away from the Man of Steel and establishes it's own identity, the better. With only a year to tell these stories before the big guy returns, we're looking at two or three main arcs and then time's up.

Guedes isn't one of my preferred artists, but the care he takes with his splash pages and a very impressive establishing image of Ironworks highlights the issue. He's also handles the addition of shadows nicely, establishing differences between interior and exterior scenes and times of day. They might be a little too prevalent, but at least isn't a big distraction and adds an extra dimension to visualizing the cityscape.

Mon-El's secret identity is annoying on several levels. Why does he take the last name Kent? To annoy me by flaunting some of the inherent kookiness of the Superman mythology. Why does is take a job with the Science Police? It's retreading the same ground we've seen Wonder Woman cover in previous years. Some of his better ideas revolve around the ways he makes characters unique. Harper isn't touched on too much, but Mon-El as a man with nearly the power of Superman, but no experience. If Superman battled Rampage, he'd know exactly how far he could go without killing her and his strategy would never leave a human not being hurt to chance. But for now we've got a kid learning the ropes. I can only hope him joining the SP will tie a couple of stories together and let Harper get a little more face time and become something more than a guy in yellow and blue giving orders to cops. Ah well, nobody ever built a background overnight.

Final score: C


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope

Heroes: Cold Snap
Season 3, Episode 20

It's not that surprising that it's been a long time since I've had anything to look forward to on this series. As I've mentioned many times over, the second season was wildly disappointing and the third has been more a pain to get through than anything else. But this week marks the return of Bryan Fuller, who wrote a pair of episodes in the first season, including "Company Man," the highlight of series from a storytelling perspective. Almost as large a reason to rejoice, the Jeph Loeb Era is in our rear view mirror. The once great comic book scribe managed to suck most of the joy from the series the last couple of years, much like he has in every comic he's touched in the last five years.

All of that being said, we're still a long way from calling this show "mediocre." But at least some of my long held complaints are addressed this week. Continue below the jump and maybe we can find some way to frame Tim Kring for some type of felony.

Well, cutting back on characters is a big part of what this show needed to do. So we get a week with no Sylar, no Claire (Thank the Lord!) and almost no Peter. It all makes up for a steady helping of Hiro and Ando. And in that constructive spirit, they allow Tracy Stauss to sacrifice herself and Daphne to "go to the moon" a.k.a. die, only six episodes later than she should have. I cannot restate often enough how much I favor trimming this staff. Especially since we know Tracy probably has more twins out there, so we've got a few to work our way through.

It's a cute little slap to the earlier portions of season three when Daphne calls Matt to task for their underdeveloped and rather simple "love story." It's horribly funny that Greg Grunberg, excellent in other series, is completely unable to convey affection towards Daphne. Better luck next time, Heroes writers!

Giving their relatively powerless individuals something simple to fill their time with, the Japanese dynamic duo get to babysit . It's almost enjoyable to watch Hiro reflecting on watching his mother die late in season two. That's right... reflecting. He actually stopped bouncing around like a toddler in need of Ritalin, and thought about how his life was effected by something.

Of course, any amount of good will this storyline earns is wasted in the re-powering of Hiro. Apparently, the Baby Genesis Device, a.k.a. Matt Parkman Jr., gives him back the ability to freeze time, but not teleport. I understand the desire to have the franchise character have a power, I just don't trust the other writers to maintain this limitation. And, alright, thanks Mr. Fuller for the Wrath of Khan reference.

Ever since the idea of Rebel was revealed, I've anxiously been awaiting the moment young Micah would return to show us the joys of young actors going through puberty. And when he turns around and rips off a humorously deep and raspy, "Taxi" I got my chuckle. There's only so much joy one can take from so obvious a mystery dragged out about four episodes too long. But the payoff scene lets one of this show's characters actually act heroic for the first time in too long and gives Danko the first scene in seven episodes where he looks like a badass. Of course, both will be ruined by the terrible special effects and further reduced of meaning if Tracy comes back.

In the final main storyline, Angela Petrelli tries to avoid Danko's men now that he's running the government operation. More than anything else, this storyline comes off as weak filler, just getting Angela into her story's place - on the run with Peter. This is just more of the same plot driving the characters as opposed to the other way around.

Am I looking forward to next week's episode? No, not really. The show needs to be more consistent and go a couple weeks without bringing Tracy or Daphne back to life. And maybe at least straddle the line between the Hand of God plot devices running things and the characterization developing things more fluidly. Ideally, someday crossing that line, but let's not expect the second coming of Jesus Christ just yet. Of course, this was the best the show's been in a long time, so let's revel in the average-ness of it all.

Final score: C-


Killin' Time With 24

24: 10:00 P.M.- 11:00P.M.
Season 7, Episode 15

Welcome to "Killin' Time With 24." A weekly morning-after 24 discussion hosted by your faithful That's A Wrap! editors, Billy and Jim.

Every Tuesday morning we get together to discuss the previous evening's episode of 24. What we liked, disliked and where we would like to see the series go while avoiding any real work. It's like a virtual coffee break.

Sit back and let us do the complaining for you.

Also, please check out our Battlestar Galactica podcast special HERE! Beware spoilers!

(10:45:39) Billy: Executive Producer and one of the critical directors of 24, Jon Cassar, never reached a contract agreement and will not be returning for season 8.
(10:45:56) Billy: It's a goddamn shame seeing as how he directed last night's episode.
(10:46:08) Billy: and it was not a bad episode!
(10:46:11) Jim: wow, the guy responsible for so many good moments over the years
(10:46:34) Jim: no, it was far more interesting than anything we'd seen in a while this year
(10:46:49) Billy: With a couple of exceptions.
(10:46:57) Jim: it luckily only took moss about 30 minutes longer than it did you to piece together the events at Mayer's house
(10:47:10) Billy: I know, right, good for him!
(10:47:24) Billy: I was excited that they decided to not make him a total idiot.
(10:47:43) Jim: of course, much like bill during the white house takeover, i have to question why tony is still alive
(10:47:59) Jim: they couldn't at least wound him?
(10:48:12) Billy: Tony is alive to show us where Jack could be.
(10:48:18) Billy: Tony is shadow-Jack.
(10:48:39) Billy: Which might seem like a stupid thing to say, since Jack is usually all dark and broody...
(10:48:59) Billy: But Jack still has Kim--Tony has no one.
(10:49:19) Billy: Kim weighs on Jack's mind all the time.
(10:49:20) Jim: Jack got his pseudo-interested FBI lady too
(10:50:20) Billy: And so he makes decisions to save Connor "I'm a rotating guest star now that Enterprise is done" Trineer's character.
(10:51:12) Billy: Although, Christ, I thought Trineer was toast the second they introduced the pregnant wife. Kudos to the writers for not going the easy route.
(10:52:00) Jim: one thing that bugged me last night is the ingenuity of the villains... from taking over the White House, to being able to jam all means of communication whenever its convenient for extending the plot, retaking the bio-weapon via a freight helecopter, etc.
(10:53:08) Billy: Right, I agree, jamming communication didn't bug me too much because we've seen it before. But the helicopter pick up of the weapon was total Deus ex machina.
(10:53:08) Jim: and I'm really questioning what the goals of this American company are now that the FBI pretty much know they're smuggling in WMDs
(10:54:50) Billy: I think Starkwood's intention was to fake a terrorist attack, provoking the government into enlisting their help to find the attackers.
(10:54:54) Jim: I mean the rogue paramilitary group was fun in season two and other times since, but how many Americans are really going to work for an organization whose end goal is importing and controlling these weapons?
(10:55:22) Billy: Since they were arguing about their Senate sub-commitee issues last night.
(10:55:49) Billy: Of course, the FBI (Moss and Renee only as far as we know) knows now, so what would be their endgame...
(10:56:15) Jim: overlook the completely preposterous idea that the government would actually outsource significant military actions
(10:56:22) Jim: to a private army
(10:56:28) Billy: Ahem...
(10:56:40) Billy: Methinks you need to read the newspaper more, buddy.
(10:56:56) Jim: damn...
(10:57:02) Jim: it is hard to convey sarcasm through an IM
(10:57:14) Billy: Ha ha, touche.
(10:58:54) Jim: anyway, maybe its just a bit overwhelming after all these years. after virtually every Russian, Chinese and Arab-based plot has had significant data and tacticle support from rich American businessmen. You think they'd run out of guys that hate their own country that much... I mean is there some Montana anti-government ranch that caters to billionaires?
(10:59:26) Billy: Let's just be glad that it's not angry arabs again.
(11:00:15) Billy: I frankly like the idea that this Neo-Con wet dream television show, so often shows that rich white americans can do evil.
(11:01:42) Jim: I'm just worried for the rest of the season. We wasted the African dictator enemies with a terribly-executed plot and poor episodes and now when the quality hints at improving, we're marching over the same ground covered time and again
(11:02:36) Billy: Let's get some of the annoyances out of the way. Thankfully they weren't too big: The White House shenanigans need to frickin' end. It's just too much, I can't stand it anymore. I'm upset that Senator Red Foreman died, I was hoping they would bring him back as the president next year and we could forget about Little Miss Sherry Palmer-rip off.
(11:03:51) Jim: Yeah, it's time to stop centering the show around the White House so much. The president really doesn't need to be this invested and involved in everything.
(11:04:11) Jim: How many times can we watch politicians stab one another in the back?
(11:04:15) Jim: This is Fox, not CSPAN
(11:05:07) Billy: Yeah and the president's daughter was totally leaking info (and going on a date) with Vala Mal Doran's husband from Stargate SG-1.
(11:05:21) Billy: So that was stupid too....
(11:05:25) Billy: too geeky?
(11:06:51) Jim: Yeah, I like how the very first thing this girl does is sell out her mother's most trusted adviser... it makes you wonder how she ever got kicked out of the campaign before. I liked her a lot better when she was all sweet on Aaron as opposed to turning into mini-Sherry
(11:07:01) Jim: no, not too geeky
(11:07:10) Jim: for me at least
(11:07:14) Billy: Ha ha.
(11:07:26) Billy: So, the good stuff.
(11:07:45) Billy: The action was fairly riveting last night
(11:08:26) Billy: I did enjoy seeing Jack and Tony together, kicking ass. I fear Tony may die again.
(11:09:14) Billy: And Jack had the greatest line last night. Tony: You stop that guy and it'll be two on ten. Jack: Two on Nine.
(11:09:15) Jim: I wish Jack and Tony would have started shooting like two seconds earlier... it was edited like they were waiting to be discovered, like they had the opportunity to start before the enemy was prepared and taked out at least three more guys
(11:09:31) Billy: Agreed
(11:10:04) Billy: However, they did know there was a bio weapon in those containers, I could be an apologist and suggest they were trying to limit gun fire.
(11:10:12) Billy: To prevent an accidental release.
(11:10:22) Jim: but the shoot-out itself through the trailer jump was all too cool for school
(11:10:42) Jim: well that would make even more sense to start shooting before the trailer was lowered into the line of fire
(11:11:16) Billy: I love, love, loved Jack being exposed to the weapon.
(11:11:38) Billy: Though I honestly doubt Jack will ACTUALLY be infected with anything.
(11:11:58) Jim: yep, it'll allow them to keep him out of action for a little bit, suffer physically instead of the angst-fest he normally lives through
(11:12:07) Jim: it would be cool if he died at the end
(11:12:08) Billy: But for the first time in a long damn time, I felt excited and fearful for Jack Bauer's wellbeing.
(11:12:27) Jim: i could totally see him pulling a george mason the rest of the way
(11:12:36) Billy: Absolutely no one would expect Jack dying in the end.
(11:12:43) Billy: It would be one hell of a shock.
(11:12:49) Jim: except me apparently
(11:13:07) Billy: Well, I wouldn't expect it!
(11:13:37) Billy: This could be the reason Kim comes back....if indeed she is actually returning.
(11:14:10) Jim: it would be dramatic and we could forgive leaving tony alive to let him become the new lead
(11:14:47) Billy: at least for one last season.


In Canada it's called a Sneaky Snow Plow

How I Met Your Mother: Old King Clancy
Season 4 Episode 18

Who knew that Canadians were such pervs. A great HIMYM episode leads to Ted making ANOTHER life change. I guess in 5 years when I turn 30 I will have some sort of life changing experience that I can start a new chapter in my goal to being a married man. Just like my boy Ted.

Old King Clancy is a re
ference to a sex act that is done in Canada involving who knows what, and maple syrup. The episode references the web site canadiansexacts.org which is currently a site. When you go there it brings up a list of terms for literally what the name of website intends you to see. Once you click on each sex act it brings up a page with Canada's own Alan Thicke in a picture informing you that the site is down in a Canada joke way. Kudos for the producers to take the time and make something this outlandish. And mega props to Thicke for taking 10 minutes out of his BUSY time to get his picture taken in honor of his homeland.

This whole storyline is our main laughter in this episode. Robin has explained she has done one of the sex acts with a Canadian celebrity and was only lured in by wanting to see said celebrities obsecure collection. Robin, in embarassment, will not come out and tell what said things are. Thus leads to Lily getting in a frantic rage to solve the mystery. This leads to numerous Canada jokes. I know that one editor to this site must have especially appreciated a reference to his secret man crush(another secret that only he will reveal).

I never thought that the show could go in a direction of discussing the situation that is currently a problem in our culture, but it is a very slick maneuver on the writers part telling us how stupid upper management is in dealings with money in this economy. I have to admit that I saw Ted's fate with GNB coming. I could see what was to be of his fate with the employee transistion room. This attitude is what leads Ted down the path he is going to take.

Old King Clancy also brought us back to an ultimate theme of the show. At what price do you protect your friends. Obviously in this episode Barney and Marshall take it too far, but in turn all is well and fuzzy pink happy clouds for our New York gang.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dradis Contact! TAW! Podcast

Battlestar week(And Battlestar Galactica itself) has sadly come to a close. But don't fret, we've got you covered. Check out the totally awesome Battlestar Galactica themed That's A Wrap! Podcast. It should go without saying that if you have not watched the BSG finale, you should steer away from this week's show. Don't worry, it'll be here when you've finished. And if you haven't seen any of the series, what the hell are you waiting for? Buy/rent that jam, yo.

Hit the jump for the link to the show!

BSG Special: Dradis Contact!(00:59:23)


Saturday, March 21, 2009

One Step Forward...

Dollhouse: Man on the Street
Season 1, Episode 6

My expectations for this episode (written by Joss Whedon and directed by David Straiton) are probably lower than most. The build-up of this being the dramatic recreation of the series that magically raises it from bad television to the pantheon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly... yeah, that's probably asking too much. Instead I come hoping for something at least on lines of the second episode, "The Target." That episode by Buffy-vet Steve S. DeKnight at least showed some of the potential of the series, convinced me to stick around this far and was average television.

Did it live up to these expectations? Sorta, kinda. Not exactly raving praise, but its still something. Below the jump will get more into the specifics of the episode and where I think this series will rank in the long run.

What's up with the person on the street interviews? Well, it does at least establish that there are rumors about the Dollhouse organization known to the common man. Even if they're quickly mocked or disregarded at least we don't have to watch people not knowing what Ballard is talking about anymore. And they also introduce the concept of the more large scale problem with the Dollhouse. That being - why do you need a free lower class when you could have a programmable one?

Finally we get the episode I wanted all along with an early and strong focus on Tahmoh Penikett's Agent Ballard (including a guest appearance from his Battlestar buddy Romo Lampkin a.k.a. Mark Sheppard). Our main investigative force actually manages to track the deposits to the Dollhouse through corporate fronts. Wow, six episodes in we get some real investigative work. But it takes a big step back when he starts going over the details of the investigation with his freaking neighbor! I think a character should have a line between recklessly determined and mistake-prone. There is no way this could possibly end well. The brutal revelation that she is a Doll isn't much of a surprise at the end, since being used is the only way Ballard doesn't look completely incompetent for involving a civilian. It's still an insanely stupid and unbelievable decision to talk to her about all this.

Without a doubt the fight scenes with Ballard are a highlight of the episode, which doesn't say a lot for the dramatic ability of the episode. Penikett is just good at looking cool while tearing into people. But there is some decent comedy, something the writers have not been able to really bring into this series much. So I have to credit Whedon for putting an actual humorous moment in the middle of a massive confrontation between Ballard and some protection agency goons.

Echo/Caroline/Rebecca Mynor - Is this a porn man?!

Joel Minor - There is no porn!

Tonight's big guest star is Patton Oswalt as Joel Mynor, who has Echo programmed to replace his deceased wife. It's the first real circumstance to show why someone would actually hire a doll as opposed to a prostitute, mercenary or involve the police/government in their problems. Not that a prostitute couldn't do what Echo was hired for this week.

I enjoy Joel's take on Ballard's compromised motivations, but it only highlights that we haven't really learned much about the second lead of the series and the only one of the two that actually has a personality from week to week. I enjoy him being the focus of this episode and hope they keep that up. I've mentioned it a half-dozen times now by Ballard and Boyd really need to be more of the focal point of this series.

I'm glad to see Whedon admitting this organization is clearly a bad thing with Ballard's take on Joel's fantasy of being with his dead wife again to show her their dream house:

And then you sleep with her.

The main advantage of the episode is how much darker things get at the Dollhouse itself with Sierra being raped, Victor being investigated for it and Boyd' nice solo investigation to determine the guilty party is Sierra's handler, Hearn. The big drawback of the Dollhouse is that every person who works there is a creep or worse. Well, except for the Dolls, themselves.

The good this week is an examination of the motivations behind Dollhouse clients (and I suppose the point of it is that they fall short of acceptable), not one, but two confrontations between Ballard and Echo/Caroline. And it's this second confrontation along with Ballard's conversation with Mynor that are the highlight of the episode. Of course Echo does a bit too well in the fight. I mean she doesn't have the proportionate strength of a Slayer here Joss. And we've routinely seen Ballard walk through three, five or more trained opponents without too much difficulty... aside from the bullet in his side.

As far as the deeper reaches of the Dollhouse itself, good job there. The show needs something deeper than what we've seen so far. But even if this---- all comes to fruition, I fear this show will never be more than an inferior riff on Alias. So let's just say I'm not holding out too much hope. But the darker and far more interesting story accomplished the goal of locking me in for little while longer. And the twist with Melanie being a Doll... predictable but nice.

All that being said - I love the global reach of the Dollhouse, the mole inside the organization (obviously the cute, little assistant programmer) and idea that this is all just the testing ground for wide-scale application of the technology. I just don't look forward to the inevitable step backward from the quality of this week.

Final score: B-


Friday, March 20, 2009

Grab Your Gun and Bring in the Cat

Nothing ever comes easy. No joy is bought without sacrifice... especially on this show. For the grand finale to the monumental series, this is a Running Diary of the three hour conclusion to one of the best shows on television today. I hope you all appreciate the fact that I'll be suffering through commercials for you people so the timestamps match up... in the age of the DVR Gods that's a big sacrifice.

We'll be starting with the rerun of last week's "Daybreak: Part 1" at 8pm through the conclusion of everything just after 11pm. I'll be recording "The Last Frakking Special" and watching it tomorrow, unwilling to risk any spoiler this late in the game.


Now since you're all reasonably intelligent individuals, obviously everything gets spoiled since... ya know... it's a frakking diary of what's happening... a witty frakking diary, excuse me.

7:59pm - Here we go with Part 1. Written by series creator Ron D. Moore and directed by Michael Rymer, it was originally shown last week, but Moore has come out saying he meant it as a single piece. As far as series finale titles, I like "Daybreak" it is evocative of a conclusion without being corny. I mean if you care about a show the title of the finale means something for you years later. I mean my personal favorites titles include "The Judgment," "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," "Made in America," "The Truth," "One More For the Road" and "What You Leave Behind." On another note, catching the end of the special and I gotta say, LOVE that sad music.

8:00pm - Here we go, strap in Raptor jocks.

8:02pm - So the finale survivor count starts at 39,516. That's 10,482 down from the start of 33... I'm going out on a limb and guessing that number goes down a bit in the next two hours... and one of them will be Adama. That's my guess at least.

8:06pm - Apparently we're starting with a flashback to Caprica before the Cylon attack. My big problem with this is was it necessary? After everything we've been through the original disaster has been humanized enough. It's the resolution of the new world that matters... the world and life that we've been living since the midpoint of the miniseries.

8:11pm - And the Caprica City police show up to give Roslin some bad news. How about a LIfe on Mars style spin-off with someone in current continuity waking up back here and everyone thinks they're crazy... Life on Caprica... huh? Nah? Yeah, I figured.

8:14pm - And we're finally to the present. All I can say about that is at least we didn't spend the first half of the finale in a mental hospital with Hawkeye and Sydney just to find out a woman killed her baby. Sorry, can you spoil a 25 year old series finale that 106 million Americans watched live and has been show in syndication about 3,000 times? I'm going with no.

8:20pm - Five minutes of commercials... thanks for the chance to finish the last paragraph in peace SciFi Channel.

8:21pm - Watching Adama pack up his office, looking around and living the pain of it with that beautiful morose soundtrack. No way this man ever commands from a Cylon Basestar.

8:21pm - Another freaking flashback? Not loving that.

8:25pm - I understand he probably turned himself in, but did I miss a scene. I couldn't remember why Tyrol was in the brig.

8:28pm - As a promo for the Wanted videogame comes up, is this the wrong time to go off on an extended rant about how much that movie sucked compared to the book? Probably.

8:32pm - Watching Adama going back for the picture of Hera is a great little scene. Edward James Olmos is putting on a show tonight.

8:35 pm - Hey I know what you are. You're my daughter. Don't forget it.

8:36pm - I have to say the flashback to Anders' going all Buddha athlete is the first that really adds something to background of the characters.

8:43pm - As Baltar makes his argument for his faith having a place on the new council. I have to call B-S. Things are crazy, but not so much that this group has infiltrated into every ship for the majority. I mean, shouldn't the foundation of a religion that makes up a majority of the fleet have more than one male member? Thank the Gods that Lee isn't a moron here and shoots down the selfish bastard. Good call, Mr. Not The President But Basically Running Things Guy.

8:45pm - What's up with the frakking bird? Is this supposed to be when Lee realizes he loves his brother's fiance? When Zak dies? These flashbacks just seem mostly unneeded and confusing.

8:46pm - Not out of left field, but I love Adama's decision regarding Hera. His world is absolutely and finally falling apart. The loves of his life are both dying and he has no more control. But he has the control to not let this stand. Not this girl. Not on my frakking watch does this pass. And it's a great decision by Moore and Rymer to have the entire crew explain the basics of the plan. It gives more actors a chance to have a moment and hint at their motivations. Besides that, it's too early in the night for a big solo speech yet. A nice decision to pace things. It even includes a scene with my favorite couple (Helo/Athena) at their most heartbreaking.

8:54pm - There's a bit of the big speech. It sets up a great "Everyone with me over here" scene. The first person to move in these things is always important. So it's fitting that Lee is just ahead of Ellen and Tigh. I love Mary McDonnell selling the pain and desperation of Roslin as she marches in last of all. And though I often rag on the character, I have to say that James Callis' Baltar is another excellent performance. I love his reaction to Caprica Six crossing the line, his own stuttering before ultimately not moving and reaction to Roslin.

8:55pm - And above all I love how most of the crew don't cross the line.

8:59pm - Okay, so the Cylon Colony ship is located around a black hole (a.k.a. the accretion disc of a naked singularity) with only one point of entry that has every gun pointed at it? That's pretty cool there. How do you plan around or survive that? Alright... let's get to work. Great ending to hour one.

9:00pm - And now we're off with the two-hour Part 2. It's also by Rymer and Moore, so I suppose that'll make it easier to think of it as a single event.

9:09pm - Now those were some better flashbacks. Maybe I just like them because it had a lot more Adama, including a scene in a bar with Tigh... AND Ellen! But gotta love slutty Roslin, drinking and pissed Adama, lightweight Zak, flirty Kara and even puking Adama. Plus it's a very cool transition out of the flashbacks with a pan up to a night sky becoming outer space above the fleet. I'm Jim and I approve this opening.

9:10pm - A great line from Baltar - End of what?

9:16pm - It's a nice few farewells coming up including this one with Roslin and Cottle Just light a cigar and go and grumble. It's fast and furious bits of fun with Helo addressing the Raptor pilots, Lee discussing the insertion, the Final Five Cylons planning to disrupt the enemy, but most of all Adama on the bridge. Then I want them to throw rocks.

9:20pm - So it's President Romo Lampkin and Admiral Hoshi... guys, you will probably not be seeing Adama at the rendezvous. And Baltar deciding to stay at the last minute is nice, but unexpected... See: The Dream. Hey, Galactica Centurions... nice.

9:28pm - The standard trip around the horn shows us where everybody is. Just leading to the big speech. This is the Admiral. Just so they'll be no misunderstandings later, Galactica's seen a lot of history. Gone through a lot of battles. This will be her last. She will not fail us if we do not fail her. If we succeed in our mission, Galactica will bring us home. If we don't, it doesn't matter anyway. Action Stations!

9:31pm - After getting pounded, Anders shows us a bit of that perfection he talked about to give them a chance.

9:32pm - BRACE FOR IMPACT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! HOLY FRAK!! Um... they... with the ship... Did... Did... did they just equal the atmo-jump?

9:34pm - I love watching Lee lead the assault team of Centurions and humans. We're in this together guys.

9:36pm - It's about time, Boomer.

9:42pm - Glad the lead bad guy Dean Stockwell got a chance to shine here. The Married to the Mob vet digs into his biggest, smirk-worthy bit of the night. Really, you think? Please continue stating the perfectly obvious. It fills me with confidence.

9:46pm - It's great to see the kid at least make it back to Mom and Dad... I don't think they'll make it through with her. Gods damn it. And Boomer finally gets hers from a pissed off Athena which culminates in the first Great-with-a-capital-G flashback of the night with the execution and origin of the Tell the Old Man I owed him one line.

9:49pm - They'll be back to the ship in 5 minutes. I now have no idea what's happening in the last hour. I stopped caring because the ride is on.

9:55pm - Helo got shot! My second favorite character! But Hera runs off to start what looks to be the Opera House sequence we've been waiting years for.

10:00pm - I have to give it up to Moore and Rymer right now. I never, ever, nerver imagined the scene would be pulled off that magnificently. Well done.

10:01pm - Kicking off another hour with Adama wasting a Simon hardcore. Very nice.

10:05pm - And Baltar's great speech revels the mystery behind Head Six and Head Baltar. I see angels. Angels in this very room. Now I may be mad, but that doesn't mean that I'm not right, because there's another force at work here. There always has been. I'm coming down on the side of that being poetic and not corny.

10:09pm - Redemption technology? So that can't be everything right? Right?

10:10pm - I love both Adama's grunt explanation of Cylon Final Five information exchange and Cavil's line You're only keeping two civilizations waiting! Not sure which I like more.

- Cally finally gets justice courtesy of her great love, Tyrol... Of course it does end intergalactic peace. Holy crap, Cavil pulled a Cobain!

10:12pm - So Racetrack destroys the Cylons and Kara needs to make the jump. And Galactica is the Dying Leader! Cue the Song The Changes the Universe.

10:16pm - As Galactica finishes the jump and breaks her back like a giant metallic Batman, I can't help but think about what a great job throughout the series and especially these last half dozen at establishing the ship as a character in its own right.

10:18pm - Where we are is where we're gonna stay. You know, I do miss the rains down in Africa! Earth Again!

10:19pm - Sorry to break up the Galactica-a-thon, but Cyclops in the Wolverine movie???? Cool.

10:22pm - As we start talking about settlement, I love the entry point being Africa, the cradle of life, as opposed to the more Hollywood approach of North America. I approve. It's also a wonderfully light scene to break the tension with Cottle, Baltar, Adama and LT. Hoshi.

10:25pm - This scene where Lee suggests really breaking the cycle is just wonderfully written and maybe my favorite Lee Adama scene ever. A clean slate for humanity and the humanish Cylons and a Basestar and freedom for the Centurions.

10:27pm - So Anders will be piloting the fleet into the sun... I have to say getting shot and going brain dead was the most powerful dramatic advancement of his time on the show.

10:33pm - Of course, Adama is the last one off and my favorite flashback involves him choosing Galactica over what's comfortable and easy. Of course seeing Galactica/Anders riding off into the sun(set) is like something out of a western.

10:42pm - I like that Adama gets to name the planet. But... he wasn't meant for this world. His farewells really make the room dusty. Whattya hear Starbuck? Nothing but the rain. Grab your gun and bring in the cat.

10:48pm - Kara, gone too? Was she ever real just disappearing while standing next to Lee in a empty field? One last mind frak, huh Moore? At this point even the bird can't annoy me with a great flashback from these two saying Hello and Good-

10:55pm - A farewell for Laura and Bill. The bit with the ring is just lovely and the strings they add to his already excellent theme take it to another level altogether.

11:01pm - HELO LIVES!!!!!! Thank you, Ron Moore! You're a big softy, you are!

11:05pm - A nice little farewell for Adama (and man are they ever taking the Return of the King approach to endings upon endings) and one last (little) big speech. It almost heavenly. Reminds me of you.

11:09pm - From Hera to 150,000 years later, Head Six, Head Baltar and Ron Moore????? This I don't know how I feel about. They freaking had me until here but.... I just don't know.

11:10pm - So it's Cylon toys, a practical warning for our future and the Song That Changed the Universe - Hendrix style... somewhere Bob Dylan shakes his head and lights up a cigarette.

11:19pm - I've just been thinking about it... and going back to type in Adama's big pre-jump speech... and all I can say is... can't wait for tomorrow's podcast!