Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 3:00A.M.-4:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 20

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, don't forget to check out the latest episode of the That's a Wrap! Podcast: Sorry, Joel Edition!

It's totally cool and filled with summer movie talk as well as plenty of Harry Potter vitriol. Check it out!

(14:56:56) Jim: I suppose they needed another time-killer, set-the-table episode, but man it was boring last night
(14:57:18) Billy: So, I'm here in Cali, apparently living 24 season 3...dodging Pig Flu...
(14:57:29) Jim: I mean, I spent half the episode arguing what utter bullshit it was that people are getting up at 3:30am in the morning to cook breakfast
(14:57:38) Billy: And it's been more exciting that last nights episode.
(14:58:09) Billy: Apparently we're got two separate gay characters now.
(14:58:17) Billy: Not that there's anything wrong with that!
(14:58:38) Billy: But I got the feeling that the 3am breakfast patsy was gay.

(14:58:58) Jim: I have it bad enough with a job where I have to get up at six the morning, even I can't get up an extra half hour to make breakfast.
(14:59:13) Jim: No fucking way these people should be awake

(14:59:20) Billy: Hah
(15:00:00) Billy: I agree, and if I can jump the gun just a bit, I must say that I was uber excited to see the CTU servers and the classic theme playing along with it.

(15:00:08) Jim: That's what I loved about other years, they are trying to make the ultimate drama at a time when there is no fucking reason that anybody should be awake
(15:00:43) Jim: Indeed, the return of Chloe was excellently handled as well, especially her scene with Morris

(15:00:47) Billy: It kinda feels like this entire season is a prequel to the eventual season 8.
(15:00:58) Jim: AKA the most under-utilized star of a previous season since Kate Warner
(15:01:32) Billy: Because they sure as shit aren't going to catch all those consortium guys and gals in four hours.
(15:01:46) Jim: I hope not.
(15:02:34) Jim: I know they want things to be more self contained, but at this point it would be nice to have holdover villains... besides Nina and the Chinese guy.

(15:03:08) Billy: I suspect Tony will be killed, but I almost hope he comes back as a villain
(15:03:13) Jim: We've reached the point a few years ago where its just impossible to believe this many Americans want to attack America without setting a half of a season in Montana
(15:03:32) Jim: Yes, no redemption for Tony until his death... Jack needs a Moriarty

(15:03:34) Billy: Well, I play a ton of video games
(15:03:47) Jim: Yes you do.
(15:03:47) Billy: and Private Military Corporations are the new boogeyman
(15:03:54) Billy: in gaming.
(15:04:31) Billy: and so, I can sorta buy the PMC explanation. and they totally flat out said that Hodges is batshit insane.

(15:04:51) Jim: Yeah, I appreciated that.
(15:05:40) Jim: It was nice to cover their implausible plot shifts by making a character mentally unbalanced instead of leaving it hanging back there... for further examples see Jack's Dad.

(15:05:51) Billy: Agreed
(15:06:00) Billy: I'm still loving Jack-Renee

(15:06:18) Jim: Yeah, I'm just getting pissed they haven't had ENOUGH development there
(15:06:19) Billy: I cannot wait to see season 8 just because of them.
(15:06:38) Jim: I really don't want to have them tease it all day just to have them hold hands in the last 5 minutes (RE: Season 2)
(15:06:54) Billy: I suspect that's all we'll get
(15:07:06) Billy: and I also suspect that season 8 will begin with them together

(15:07:09) Jim: Renee would be the first romantic interest that I'd actaully anxiously await the return of
(15:07:11) Billy: as the heads of CTU
(15:07:20) Billy: which would hearken back to season 1

(15:08:02) Jim: She would be a nice, rule-bending, but less psychotic version of Jack... He could use that sense of balance
(15:08:57) Billy: Yeah, and it's honestly the only thing I have to look forward to on this show these days
(15:09:18) Jim: I realize this is a bit off topic, but who besides Jack, Renee and Chloe would you want working for CTU next year to take down Tony's Cabal?
(15:09:46) Billy: I don't want Janeane Garafalo back
(15:09:50) Jim: Agreed.
(15:09:57) Billy: Ideally I'd like a new cast
(15:10:00) Billy: totally
(15:10:16) Billy: aside from the Jack, Renee and Chloe

(15:10:41) Jim: I wouldn't mind Doyle... just about the only character I liked from last season.
(15:10:41) Billy: Morris (carlos Rota) was cast on Stargate Universe, so he's out.
(15:10:53) Billy: I actually think Chase could come back

(15:11:05) Jim: I was pissed for the longest time that they blinded him for absolutely no reason.
(15:11:14) Billy: but if they didn't bring him back yet, it will never happen.
(15:11:33) Jim: Has James Badge Dale done anything since the Departed?
(15:11:40) Jim: He'd probably be up for it

(15:11:57) Billy: It would be easy to bring him back
(15:12:06) Billy: and he technically didn't let Jack down.
(15:12:17) Billy: It could provide some tension with Kim
(15:12:26) Billy: and I've heard she'll be back next season.
(15:12:34) Billy: In some capacity.

(15:13:13) Jim: One thing I'd absolutely fucking love is if they had Kim and Chase work together like mature adults without bringing their past into it to angst things up
(15:13:30) Jim: I realize that goes against the core of Kim's character, but it'd be a nice change of pace

(15:13:39) Billy: Fact is, Jack's action days are mostly gone.
(15:13:52) Jim: Make me think she's actually grown up a bit... how old is her character supposed to be?
(15:14:07) Billy: they need a Doyle, Chase, or Curtis, who people like to go out and do the heavy lifting.
(15:14:16) Billy: while Jack works from the inside.

(15:14:24) Jim: Yeah, Jack needs to be more Season One Jack.
(15:14:36) Billy: With some action, but plausibly done.
(15:14:53) Billy: As to the question of Kim's age, she was 16 in season 1
(15:15:12) Billy: and I believe that something like 14 years have passed since season 1.

(15:15:15) Jim: How about a cool limitation, like he has to walk with a cane, spinning out of his illness currently? He could hate it for a few hours but then fuck somebody up with it.
(15:15:50) Billy: He's going to have some long lasting problems from this illness
(15:15:54) Jim: No the cane is too House... but something
(15:16:16) Billy: part of me thinks that he's going to bite it and the "cure" is total macguffin.
(15:16:56) Jim: I disagree... with Tony going evil there is officially NOBODY besides Jack that can carry the show.
(15:17:14) Jim: And if tony is somehow redeemed in the next two hours and Jack dies I'm done watching the show forever.
(15:17:24) Jim: you can hold me to that.

(15:17:45) Billy: Whoa, whoa, this isn't fucking Heroes...Tony's NOT going to become a good guy again.
(15:18:01) Billy: He's not Nathan fucking Petrelli...

(15:19:43) Jim: I'm just saying... that would kill the show for me... and to avoid being a hypocrite I've given up on Heroes and finally took it off my DVR list last night so I could watch the Sox-Tribe game while 24 was recording
(15:20:08) Jim: Right after deleting the last couple episode unwatched.

(15:20:31) Billy: Well, not to go off topic but after last night's Heroes finale...I won't be coming back for season 4
(15:20:52) Jim: Heroes is over???? I thought the world seemed a little brighter!
(15:21:28) Jim: Once 24 wraps, we've got to have a wicked cool TV season wrap-up podcast

(15:21:41) Billy: Well, over for the year, over for me but sadly not OVER over...
(15:21:57) Billy: Wicked cool for our four listeners?
(15:22:07) Billy: Three of which were us...

(15:22:11) Jim: Yep! God bless them, everyone.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/22/09)!

Holy big comic week, Batman! At long, long last we learn "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader." And while Marvel throws everything and the kitchen sink and two Avengers books at us, our good buddy BKV takes a few minutes from working on Lost to let loose another issue of the greatest comic on the shelves.

Also, don't forget to check out the latest episode of the That's a Wrap! Podcast: Sorry, Joel Edition!

Comics for the Week of 04/22/2009

DAREDEVIL #118 - "Return of the King, Part 3"
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Michael Lark

Well, since the return of Wilson Fisk seemed doomed to fall apart, at least Brubaker has made things more interesting and complicated than him betraying Murdock to return to power. Fisk seems to be deteriorating mentally, or he gained the power to converse with the dead. But either way the alliance falls apart, the book certainly seems to have even more life to it with the return of the main antagonist of the series. Even the rather unimpressive Lady Bullseye character becomes far more engaging once pulled into the situation when Murdock and Fisk are also both in the mix. Rather silly characters like Turk and Owlsley become more urgent and credible when they can share the page with the Kingpin. Unlike the various crime lords of a series like Batman, Marvel seemed to create such an overwhelming personality in Wilson Fisk that nothing else has managed to live up.

It seems this entire story will be set in a tremendous snow storm, if for no other reason than to let Lark continue to raise his already impressive game to a new level. Much like predecessor Alex Maleev, this style would never work in a main-line team book like the New Avengers, but for a gritty crime-noir like Daredevil its a wonderful match of artist and theme.

If anything, this book might be in danger of becoming too gritty. I mean for Murdock to have his first girlfriend become a villain, get murdered, rising from the dead and become a villain again, his greatest love dragged into a world of pornography and drugs and later murdered, his wife assaulted and driven insane, institutionalized and taken away by her parents...... when is enough, enough? On top of everything else, even Foggy, the one supportive constant in Matt's life fire's his partner (how does that work exactly?) and leaves due to his involvement with Fisk. Once we get through this arc can the poor bastard get a break for a while? Despite how well-done his pain is handled, we're pushing the barrier of "too much."

Final Score: B-

DETECTIVE COMICS #853 - "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Part 2 of 2"
Written by Neil Gaiman, Art by Andy Kubert

Step 1: Get complaints about Kubert delaying this final Bruce Wayne story through two-thirds of the miniseries establishing his replacement as Batman.

Step 2: Reread chapter one to remember all we'd forgotten about the arc over the many, many weeks.

Step 3: Read this issue.

Step 4: Try and contain review to something more objective than a love letter... (that was Billy's big hook with Collateral, so must strive for originality)

After all that, I'm left absolutely floored by each of these two issues, but of course the second volume will have a much more visceral and immediate impact with readers. Whereas the first set-up the concept of a viewing of Batman's body with various friends and enemies telling the story of his life and death, this issue continues the concept, but quickly reveals the meaning behind all this. It turns out that the mysterious woman isn't Gaiman's Death (ah, nuts).

For all my griping about his delays both here and earlier at the start of Morrison's run of the main title, I have to concede that Kubert did so far beyond a phenominal job here, referencing multiple eras of the art of the Dark Knight from Golden Age to present day and its something a more iconic name like Jim Lee or John Cassaday might not have been able to achieve while still having all the same delays.

Three pages in the middle are the highlight of highlights here, with the image of Batman cast against his city, battles and enemies. Wonderfully rendered, but with Gaiman brilliantly burning down this history to the most basic elements. And like what Morrison tried to do in Final Crisis, examines the cyclical nature of storytelling in comics... the utter lack of endings. At the same time mature and innocent, the grand conclusion to the Bruce Wayne character is far more than I hoped for and a far more meaningful conclusion than his death in Final Crisis or any in-continuity battle could have been.

I know I'm being pretty unspecific, but the idea of ruining anything in this series seems too abhorrent to attempt. Perhaps on par with his work on The Sandman, Gaiman is reaching a rare pinnacle for comics that doesn't come along too often. Read this story. Read it now. Seriously, these are just come reviews, go find both issues and tear into them ASAP. The internet will be here when you get back.

Final Score: A

EX MACHINA #41 - "Ring Out the Old, Chapter One"
Written by Brian K. Vaughn, Art by Tony Harris

After too long a wait (again), Vaughn continues on his final year of this comic which due to lasting longer than Y: The Last Man and maintaining its quality far better than Fables or any mainstream book with its constantly revolving creative teams, has secured the honor of best comic in the world. A near impossibly high standard of expectations come every month.

It's those kind of expectations that make stand alone issues like number 40, where Vaughn and Harris inserted themselves into the story, a little harder to accept. And then issues like this seem to be more about set-up of what's coming. The forces plotting Hundred's downfall are still in the planning stages, reporters are circling with some vague references to hidden secrets in his past and of course we've known from the first issue that everything end in tragedy. Let's just say his dream of becoming President of the United States isn't destined for success.

This issue's flashback again highlights a battle between the Great Machine and Pherson, who given his more recent prominence in these makes me think he'll be around in the main story before everything is said and done and feature prominently. Vaughn continues to show that Hundred did manage to sometime do some good in the GM days while never becoming as competent as a more mainstream "super-hero."

Final Score: A

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #25 - "Escape From the Eighth City, Chapter Three"
Written by Duane Swierczynski, Art by Travel Foreman

As cool as the concept of the Iron Fist is, the book is easier to take one arc at a time, as when I caught up on the book after Fraction left the title. But lately this story has seen much more impressive in concept than in execution. The idea of the many Immortal Weapons teaming up to rescue the prisoners of the Eighth City of Hell has never seemed as grand as we thought. With the grand escape winding down, we've yet to really see the grand scope of the city or found one person worth saving in the entire story.

A big part of my problem is the art, we've never really stood back and looked at this city, robbing the story of its scope. This is supposed to be the mystical equivalent of HELL, not just a collection of rooms and an arena that could be anywhere in the world. Too often is a wide shot nothing but two characters in the foreground with a white background. And that's supposed to be impressive how?

And nothing has been done to personalize any of the people suffering in hell besides the first Iron Fist, who is revealed to be the King of Hell... not too much sympathy there. And besides three or four people looking malnourished in the background, the poor oppressed innocents that are the purpose for this entire grand adventure have been entirely absent. We can only hope that the conclusion of this story, which thus far has them being let escape so the demons can come along for the ride, will raise the stakes a little. But so far, it's been a disappointment.

Final Score: C+

MIGHTY AVENGERS #24 - "Chasing Ghosts"
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Rafa Sandoval

Ugh. The artwork in this title has officially hit a brick wall. For every one panel that Sandoval handles adequately, there's a dozen pages that are absolutely disgusting. The only character with a consistent look seems to be Jocasta, a robot. Besides that its an absolute crap shoot if a character's face will be decently handled or a borderline-abstract mess. And because of that we all roll a snake-eyes... and not the good kind that's also a ninja.

Slott has at least done a decent job (though yes, one of his biggest problems is moving things along a little too quickly). By making the main source of their information, the astral projection of the Scarlett Witch, actually be a trick of Loki's, he tied it the larger Marvel Universe (Osborne's Cabal)and let them continue to move from one big fight to another and establish a significant first opponent.

They've also managed to bring one of the Maximoff kids back into the hero's fold with an excuse so ridiculous that the writer really has to make fun of it a bit himself. Quite possibly the most tongue-in-cheek reboot since Bob Newhart made the entire run of his show a dream of a previous television show.

Final Score: C

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

How much can you really appreciate a book where the main artist is one of your least favorite in the industry? Tan's normally weak work has actually devolved a bit since his days on Uncanny X-Men. But this arc has at least has been redeemed by the addition of Bachalo. His work on the battle and the Hood's battle with the demon giving him powers is damn impressive. In fact almost everything about the villain has been more interesting in this story so far.

The Hood being tortured by a demon driving him after Dr. Strange and having hot bad guy sex with some old Iron Man foe is vastly more interesting than Spider-Man's karmic dilemma of flying in a stolen Quinjet. It just comes off as a very forced version of Spider-Man banter that he usually handles so deftly. I mean he couldn't think of anything for Spidey to complain about for the flight to New Orleans than the fact that they stole their Quinjet back from Norman Osborne. Since when does Spider-Man have a problem messing around with the Green Goblin???? C'Mon!

Hopefully, this might all pay off with a very interesting bad guy taking on the title of Sorcerer Supreme... and no I'm not talking about the son of the devil. If all this shoving of the Hood into the role is all a diversion, I'm going to punch a wall. The last few years, he's managed to outshine virtually every other bad guy that Marvel's premiere team has come up against. This is actually an excellent book if you only pay attention to the pages that he's on.

Final Score: B

THOR #601 - "Defining Moments"
Written by J. Michael Straczynski, Art by Marko Djurdjevic

Things generally aren't meant to be so interesting and engaging in one of these transition issues. With the big jump to issue 600 tearing down the status quo that JMS had developed over the last couple of years, this issue spend most of the time setting everyone on a new path. While Loki continues to distract Thor with a mission to find Sif before her imminent death, Little Bill and Kelda continue their star-crossed romance despite the Asgardians moving to Latveria because... um... Balder's stupid? And the Warriors Three forsake Asgard to join up with their buddy Thor.

With the exclusion of the last few pages, which definitely have a sense of being rushed to get a book out on time, Djurdjevic's art is it's standard fabulous. In the scene with the Warriors Three, I have to say he draws one of the better goats you'll ever see in a comic. Things start to become a little less fantastic in the scene where Loki visits Blake, an honestly frightening sequence given the unestablished abilities of the busted ass walking stick/Mjolnir. Marko's lines become less sharp, but still human-looking.

One thing that previous incarnations of Thor has always lacked until now is a consistent human voice to balance out the Asgardians. Excluding the brief time Eric Masterson held the hammer in the 1990s, the book has always tended to come off a bit... foreign, for lack of a better word. But JMS has consistently endeavored to blend this fantastic world into ours, separating them from their standard mythology than included the destruction in Ragnarok. From day one, Don Blake has been set-up as a unique human voice to balance Thor and his opening scene yet another great one between the two with more of their wonderful chemistry. Not bad considering the two
exist on different planes of existence at any given moment.

Final Score: A-


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 2:00A.M.-3:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 19

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, don't forget to check out the latest episode of the That's a Wrap! Podcast: Sorry, Joel Edition!

It's totally cool and filled with summer movie talk as well as plenty of Harry Potter vitriol. Check it out!

(22:04:15) Billy: So, did you notice that the Tony's informant was actually Executive Producer Jon Cassar?
(22:04:48) Jim: and it's all being run by Denzel Washington's assistant coach
(22:04:59) Billy: Buh?
(22:05:07) Jim: will patton
(22:05:17) Jim: from Remember the Titans/Gone in 60 Seconds
(22:05:23) Jim: and shtuff
(22:05:42) Billy: Uh, yeah, don't know him...see, I like GOOD movies...
(22:06:00) Jim: yeah, I’ll watch just about anything with sports in it once...
(22:06:06) Jim: or fifteen times
(22:06:19) Billy: You sad, sad bastard....
(22:06:26) Jim: he was in Armageddon too
(22:06:36) Billy: Moving right along!
(22:07:10) Billy: Was I the only one who got choked up upon finding out that baby Bauer was named Teri?
(22:07:26) Jim: [Jack's] so old.... they should really kill him off
(22:07:36) Jim: who wants an action show with Grandpa Jack in the lead
(22:07:39) Jim: ?
(22:08:23) Billy: Plus, Kim certainly finds her way around town...she's had more guys that 24's had presidents
(22:08:50) Jim: fyi, Will Patton was also in Entrapment and The Postman... should we be concerned that our big bad is the Olivier of crappy movies?
(22:09:02) Billy: I was kinda hoping they would throw us old timers a bone and have her guy be Chase. But, at least it wasn't C. Thomas Howell.
(22:09:16) Jim: indeed, the less Howell the better
(22:10:41) Jim: But James Badge Dale probably thinks he's too good for 24 since he got wasted in a Scorsese movie
(22:11:57) Billy: Well, I'm inclined to agree after watching the shitty acting in this episode...namely Sutherland's ill acting.
(22:12:20) Jim: he can't even flail around convincingly
(22:12:35) Billy: Plus, Tony (the character) is an awful actor, I'm surprised no one caught on to him sooner.
(22:13:03) Billy: I reckon Jack is going to get the miracle cure now so he can stop Tony....
(22:13:28) Jim: I'm just getting tired about the evidence convicting a character coming 5 minutes too late as always, just to keep the bad guys going
(22:14:12) Billy: Well, I'm just tired of 6 bad guys.
(22:14:27) Jim: I mean, this sloppy villain stuff never would have gone down back in the day of Ira Gaines
(22:14:32) Billy: I miss season one so very much.
(22:15:58) Billy: One thing I did like was the Jack/Renee stuff. I was almost waiting for Jack to go in for the kiss when she was found alive. Like "What the hell, I'm almost dead, anyway."
(22:16:03) Jim: A shame her kid wasn't in town though, Kim should have brought Teri _______ to see grandpa
(22:16:45) Jim: it’s an honest shame that they continue to hold off on the most convincing chemistry on the show in a long time
(22:17:25) Billy: I know, right, it'll happen eventually. Then next season when SPOILER ALERT
(22:17:37) Billy: CTU comes back in NYC
(22:17:50) Billy: Those crazy kids will be together.
(22:19:27) Jim: well, they deserve an honest shot... I'm damn tired of Jack not being able to be with his ladies
(22:19:56) Billy: He just needs a woman who knows how to be out in the field.
(22:20:11) Billy: Hell, she's already tortured a dude already.
(22:20:15) Jim: and doesn't murder his wife
(22:20:37) Billy: Teri Bauer used to torture people all the time, but mostly with her nagging...
(22:21:11) Jim: no just imagine if they made her a supersoldier when she had amnesia
(22:21:21) Jim: how good would that plot diversion have been then?
(22:21:45) Billy: A SO CALLED Supersoldier?
(22:22:07) Jim: John [Doggett]?
(22:22:10) Jim: Is that you?
(22:22:26) Billy: Obscure X-files references for the win!
(22:22:32) Jim: zing
(22:23:01) Billy: So, Hodges had his last bit of insanity and then death...
(22:23:22) Jim: he ain't dead yet
(22:23:36) Jim: They wouldn't have shown him going to the hospital if he was dead
(22:23:51) Jim: they can get a little more milage out of Angelina's dad
(22:24:27) Jim: seriously, it fakesd a heart attack, hasn't jack survived like 11 of those?
(22:24:41) Billy: I like how they mentioned the fact that he's certifiable; like they know how much scenery he's chewing and had to justify it.
(22:25:29) Jim: I'll take washed up semi-name actors for 100 Alex
(22:25:42) Jim: it's the 24 villain blueprint
(22:25:54) Jim: dating back to the star of Flashback, the one that wasn't Keifer
(22:27:32) Billy: Remember that year the villian was Stephen Sommers BFF and resident Mummy: Arnold Vosloo?
(22:28:41) Jim: you mean star of G.I. Joe Arnold Vosloo?
(22:30:02) Billy: Holy Hannah! He's Zartan? Jesus, it's like some sick nightmare...he's not australian.
(22:31:08) Billy: I think it's telling that we've barely talked about the episode....
(22:31:30) Jim: yeah, this has been the imdb take on 24
(22:31:46) Jim: right now, I've entered the countdown to season's end.
(22:32:06) Billy: It's not as bad as six. And it's not as bland as four.
(22:32:29) Jim: No, the Jack-Renee stuff has me keeping an eye open if nothing else
(22:32:36) Billy: And if Renee and Jack end up together then this hopeless romantic will be satisfied.
(22:33:22) Jim: damn... us and 24 have devolved into the equivalent of Hugh Grant fans... with torture
(22:33:41) Billy: ...
(22:33:47) Billy: I feel dirty now.
(22:33:57) Jim: it'll be okay, Billy.
(22:34:03) Jim: It'll be ok.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

That's a Wrap! Podcast!

After a lengthy break, the That's a Wrap! Podcast returns. Yes, we were very broken up over the loss of Battlestar Galactica, though judging by the massive THREE downloads our BSG retrospective received most of our followers were not.

But fear not, because this week your intrepid TAW! editors take a look into this summer in movies!

We promise that there is very little speak of killer robots.

Click the link to download the summer movie special:Sorry, Joel Edition! (1:18:29)


Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/15/09)!

The world without Supes keeps rolling along with nary a hick-up, Captain America takes a break before hitting the big number Five-Oh, followed immediately by Six-Oh-Oh and while one X-book continues to stall out another looks to cement itself as the best team book on the shelves each month. Hit the jump for our take on a few of this week's titles.

Comic Reviews for Week of 04/15/2009

ACTION COMICS #876 - "The Sleepers: Part 2"
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Eddy Barrows and Sidney Teles

The year without Superman continues to roll along nicely in Rucka's run here. The plot doesn't advance too much, consisting almost entirely of a fight between Ursa and the new Nightwing and Flamebird. The full background of the characters will most likely be explored next month with a bit of exposition as Chris Kent goes from one mom to another with a visit with Lois Lane. While there's sure to be some excuse to Chris' rapid aging and I hate giving up the potential of the Superman-With-a-Kid plots, making him the focus of the book very nicely ties this title into the Superman-mythos and provides them a way to keep Lois involved in the action, researching her family's connection to the anti-Superman government forces and meeting her slightly aged briefly adopted son.

The artwork's a cut above average and though the action scenes (which of course makes up the vast majority of the issue) aren't as clear as they could be, it just a bit of a diversion to how bloody and extremely violent the fight is. Everything still makes sense, but crams an M-rated fight into a T-rated book. I'm always in favor of that. The facial expressions might be uneven at best and there's a vague sexual undertone to the battle that's a little discomforting, but that isn't exactly an unexplored area in comic artwork.

Final score: C+

CAPTAIN AMERICA #49 - "The Daughter of Time"
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Luke Ross

I wasn't a page in before muttering, "It's one of those issues." Heading into any major issue there's two standard approaches and neither ever impressed me that much. It's either set-up for the big issue or a time-killer. How hard is it to plan ahead and just have the previous arc conclude here? Instead this issue abandons our current crew (mainly Bucky and the Black Widow)to check up with Steve Rogers' old girlfriend Sharon Carter.

While I never had a problem with the character (she was always a more enjoyable girlfriend than Diamondback), Carter's appearance here just seems to be holding the series in the past. Brubaker has done such a spectacular job inserting a new man behind one of the most iconic masks in the Marvel Universe, but it's a step back to spend an entire issue away from that character just before the two most important issues in his brief history.

Ross' artwork actually looks worse in the light of day. Whereas his previous arc was covered in shadows that obscured his most of his shortcomings.

The story itself is just annoying. First, getting past the idea that Sharon has not noticed the incision scar where she lost her child for six months... yeah, not quite buying that to any degree. And watching her have a romantic dinner with Grandpa Bob, complete with creepy beard, is not exactly a worthy rebound guy for Steve Rogers one true love. Nuts to that.

Final score: C+

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Greg Land

After a decent start that looked to return this title to it's status as the definitive X-title, things have downshifted into another excuse for Greg Land to copy poses from pornography. The team made entirely female villains seems to be crafted right into the artist's rather questionable wheelhouse. More importantly their showdown with Domino seems like an excuse to through another female in there and unfortunately distances the main team from the action far too much. Even the goal of the villains seems to be to return even more hot females to life.

The intriguing subplot of Beast's team of mad-ish scientists even manages to stall out. Joined by Joss Whedon's creation, Dr. Kavita Roa, the assembled scientists do nothing but sit around and try to sound interesting while doing little more than recapping the plot we've known for a couple years regarding the depowering of the mutants.

Fraction, usually a top-tier writer stumbles considerably. Besides allowing his book to begin devolving into a Land photoshop effort, even the order of the plot seems unusual. Wolverine goes from being enraged about the violation of a friend's tomb in Japan to recruiting Northstar onto the team and making cute little Canadian jokes. There doesn't seem to be a reason for Wolverine to be in the second scene besides enraging me for leaving Cyclops completely out of the issue. I can't avoid the ominous feeling that this book might not improve in the immediate future.

Final score: C-

Writtin by Peter David, Art by Valentine de Landro and Marco Santucci

Well, we're done with the mind-blowing revelations at the end of every issue at this point and onto simply impressive reveals. But this book is now officially rolling along. Madrox, now 80 years in the future with an adult Layla Miller, is simultaneously becoming involved in a rebellion against Sentinels and finding his first reason in months to live. While Layla's future crew each manages to have a distinct sound established in sometimes little more than one or two panels, David takes things to another level with as great a leader as the team could ask for. Considering that until the dark days of Messiah Complex, Layla and Madrox were by far the two best characters on the book, there's no problem reintroducing their well-handled and darkly comic banter into the writing.

Meanwhile the other members of XF Investigations aren't just spinning their heels. While Siryn and Monet keep the house in order, Guido and Rictor are playing catch-up, going after Madrox's pastor Dup. Newer member Longshot gets his first very cool sequence, playing the more standard private eye hired as a bodyguard and all the expected female entanglements these plots usually have. And given how rarely writers and artists have demonstrated his power in the past, his action scene perfectly illustrated the change between what should happen and what Longshot's power makes happen.

Final score: B+


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 1:00A.M.-2:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 18

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.

(22:00:00) Billy: What perfectly shitty ending to an otherwise wonderful episode.
(22:00:08) Jim: yep
(22:00:26) Jim: but there was no silent countdown, so maybe Head FBI Guy will survive
(22:00:35) Billy: I really doubt it
(22:00:43) Jim: even if its three years from now as a villain/hero/villain
(22:00:50) Billy: The Law Of Television Dicks says that he is dead.
(22:01:16) Jim: yep, he went cool guy for no reason, "Heck yeah, let's raid the place without orders."
(22:01:19) Jim: Good as dead.
(22:01:24) Billy: You see, The Law Of Television Dicks states that when an otherwise dickish character does something awesome, they will die.
(22:01:55) Jim: Is it me or did Kim get like 12% less attractive?
(22:02:16) Billy: I was thinking roughly the same thing, she's gotten old.
(22:02:30) Billy: And had too much plastic surgery.
(22:03:25) Billy: I'm sure we'll see her again, it's telling that Kim Bauer was not the worst part of the episode.
(22:03:51) Jim: She was still bad
(22:04:09) Billy: I totally turned to Melissa at the beginning of the episode and called Tony's evil turn.
(22:04:12) Jim: It's just that the overall quality has slipped enough that she gained ground by default
(22:04:33) Billy: He was doing the Mike Novick "shifty eye" routine.
(22:05:10) Jim: yeah, it was painfully obvious by the point that he didn't have a gun to hold off the final bad guy
(22:06:08) Jim: and this just reeks of the very worst, we didn't have this planned for the first half of the season, but ran out of time. So ignore most of what this character has done for the last 13 hours.
(22:06:48) Billy: It just pisses me off so much because it betrays every thing before it. So he pretended to be a good guy, killed his buddy (the Goa'uld Tanneth) just to get to this virus? Which by the way he could have gotten to like five hours earlier by shooting Jack in the back of the skull...
(22:07:28) Jim: Yeah, what exactly was his reason for wanting it, but not wanting Jonas Hodges to get it.
(22:07:59) Jim: and if that was part of his goal, why not tell Jack about the bioweapon like three or four hours earlier
(22:09:21) Billy: So, great, now Jack "Alzheimers" Bauer has to kill Tony...again.
(22:11:02) Jim: at what point do we break out the "jump the shark" comments. I'd call this a moment, but it feels like there have been like 27 JTS moments the last two seasons
(22:12:28) Billy: It's much more frustrating than usual because I REALLY liked the episode. I totally dug the Tony action scenes. It was like Metal Gear Solid: Tony, Renee was fine, Moss was awesome, Jeanne Garafolo had like one line, Kim wasn't awful
(22:13:18) Billy: Hell, even the president and Hodges was interesting. There was actual tension in this episode.
(22:13:32) Jim: I know, it's like everything was rolling along just fine and then someone let one rip... metaphorically speaking.
(22:14:45) Billy: Well, it did smell faintly of shit...
(22:15:10) Jim: But even though the episodes seem better, I consistently find myself wishing at the end that we were like three hours closer to the end of the season
(22:15:19) Jim: and I've felt that way for a solid month now
(22:15:34) Billy: Wait, how many episodes do we have left?
(22:15:39) Billy: It's not three?
(22:15:44) Billy: Oh jesus.
(22:16:30) Jim: I was dreading it the moment the missles blew up... the "Oh Crap What Shit Are They Going To Pull to Keep The Year Going"
(22:17:11) Billy: They totally could have kept Tony infiltrating that base for four more episodes and I would be just goddamn fine with it...
(22:17:20) Jim: Yep
(22:17:45) Jim: C'mon guys, how about we end this year after 20 hours just to be different?
(22:18:40) Billy: That would be one HELL of a cliffhanger.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Double Dragon Take on Dollhouse

Dollhouse: Needs/Spy in the House of Love
Season 1, Episodes 8/9

Rather than jumping out immediately for the third "Well, it's not great but it convinced me to stick around another week" of the short season after last week's episode, "Needs," I held off in hopes off not being let down yet again. So after having raised the bar, I was slightly more impressed to find a second consecutive episode in "Spy in the House of Love" that not only failed to disappoint, but maybe raised the bar even a little further. So hit the jump and will analyze a nice little turn towards decent-level television.

On its own, "Needs" was a strong episode with a terrible ending. The four main dolls (Echo, Victor, Sierra and November) recover their original personalities and attempt an escape. And besides Echo's moronic decision to stay behind (although given what we saw of her past, it's probably just stupid enough to be in character), things work out for them alright. The revelations that November probably retreated into it after the death of her daughter and Sierra was kidnapped into it by a client paint two strong opposing pictures of how people end up there.

More than anything, the theme last week was developing what an evil organization the Dollhouse really is. It's also the big problem since even Boyd is compromised by association, the Dolls are wiped again at the end of the things and Ballard's only big appearance is to discover the bug and have an utterly unnecessary sex dream. At least we can say they aren't shying away from exploring his somewhat obsessive attitude, even if the reasons why are still unexplored.

My biggest problem with "Needs" was that besides once again showing how significantly more interesting Sierra and Victor are than Echo, is that the entire escape is something the Dollhouse knew about and allowed in order to get the Dolls that are rebelling a sense of resolution, which is meant to stop their glitching... yeah, cause whenever my internet is running slow I have my computer visit Dr. Melfi, fixes things right up. But the development just immediately devalues everything the audience had been rooting for the entire hour.

Ballard's quest, mostly stalled out in "Needs" with the aforementioned crappy little dream sequence, but takes a huge leap forward as he reveals a growing obsession and a second message delivered through November/Mellie that manages to flip his little relationship upside-down in an instant. A very quick improvement to a pain-in-the-butt storyline, I have to say.

In the second hour, Topher discovers the technology the spy has been using to alter the programming. With DeWitt called away, rage-o-holic Dominic loads Sierra with the program of a spy to infiltrate the NSA and uncover evidence on the traitor.

Her break-in is well done and one of the more engaging sequences in the show so far, coming off like a prime years Alias sequence. Yet again, I argue that Sierra is a much more interesting doll than Echo, just as Dichen Lachman has much more range as an actress than Eliza Dushku.

In a neat little trick to reliving the day, another storyline reveals a few of the things we missed earlier in the day in the discovery process and flips it to show another side to Victor's Ms. Lonely Hearts Engagement with an elderly lady. After being dropped off he quickly leaves on his own for a weekend of fun with DeWitt. I'd like to say that were I in a similar situation, I wouldn't... um... dip my pen in the company ink, but to be in the same situation I'd be evil. So who am I to judge?

On the Echo front, besides the rather creepy sequence where she suggest Topher "change" her so she can help, attempts to trace down the spy herself. As a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Tim Roth's character from Lie to Me. Her interviews give us a little more depth on the members of the organizations and her fight with Dominic is the most exciting sequence in the show, raising the stakes on even Sierra's infiltration.

I have to hand it to writer David Solomon for pulling the wool over our eyes with the possibility of different spies with multiple perspectives and loyalties. And even more impressive is the deft way they rewind the day from multiple perspectives without telling the entire story in any one of them, but with each making the others better.

The show managed for a bit to make some other characters, especially DeWitt, interesting. But mostly it seems temporary and the criminal lack of Ballard's development continues to haunt things. But the possibility of Echo developing into more to the organization than just a Doll (did the same thing perhaps once happen to Saunders or Topher or Ivy?) gives the show more than the two themes of Echo discovering her personality and Ballard finding her. The subtle handling of all of this, including Boyd graduating from handler to head of security, makes the show seem more mature than the show has been this far. Now if only they can keep it up......

Final score: C/B+


Friday, April 10, 2009

Like Meeting Old Friends...Drunken, Angry Old Friends

Rescue Me: Baptism
Season 5, Episode 1

When last we saw firefighter Tommy Gavin he was enjoying an uncharacteristically quiet baseball game with his alcoholic father. The game was quiet because Tommy's dad passed away during the game and as the camera moved away and faded to black the audience was left just as dumbfounded as Tommy. Season four was a complete wash, a boring mess that frustrated viewers.

Does the new season continue the trend? Hit the Jump to find out!

The answer is thankfully, no, at least not so far. Season five is set to be the longest season of the series so far with 22 episodes and it remains to be seen if Leary and Tolan can keep the pace up beyond this first episode, but thankfully for right now it appears that they've solved their problems.

One of the complaints garnered last season was the lack of fire sequences, consider this complaint rectified, the first episode contains not one but two fire scenes. Which is great becuase, the series...is...about...firefighters.

In the end, it's business as usual. Tommy is a big bundle of anger, but he's still sober unlike his cousin Mickey who falls off the wagon in the episode.

All in all I have little to say about this episode, it's a big step forward compared to last season but it's not the most explosive episode. This is purely set up and I'm very interested in seeing how things shape up. Especially some of the side stories like Black Shawn and Tommy's daughter and Garrity/Mike's bar. That says nothing of Michael J. Fox's return to TV as Janet's new beau. It's a solid beginning to be sure, and after almost two years without the show, I guess that's all I can ask for for now.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/8/09)!

It's a short week with DC continuing the legacy of Batman and Superman getting his first full issue on New Krypton. The only non-limited series just happens to be a sweet rebound issue for Green Lantern. It's a real case of quality over quantity though, as two-thirds of this weeks reviews are fantastic and this third still strong. Hit the jump to enter the land of spoilers.

Comic Reviews for the Week of 04/08/2009

Batman: Battle For the Cowl #2 (of 3) - "Army of One"
Written and Art by Tony Daniels

Not to sound too petty, but it's now two issues of Battle For the Cowl that have been released before Andy Kubert managed to get us the second issue of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" and I am just mad as hell about it. Artists whose delays ruin what otherwise should be definitive works should be banned to the independents. We don't need them screwing things up in the big leagues.

But let's focus on Daniel's absolutely fantastic arc to reveal the new Batman. Considering the universal opinion is that Richard Grayson is only substantive choice, the journey getting there has been pretty impressive. The main villain of the series is revealed as a even more demented than usual Jason Todd. I stand in favor of that considering the recurring attempts by DC to put him on the side of the angels have never come close to working or sticking. Dressed in his own version of the Batsuit, Jason tears through most of the other contenders for the name and setting up an showdown with Bruce's Son #1 in the finale.

Despite Tim Drake wearing the titular cowl this month, it isn't exactly a note in his favor that while not mocking him, nobody really takes it seriously and he ends up in a place that doesn't exactly scream for an eleventh hour comeback. So being the only one seemingly not to wear the costume yet, Grayson remains the favorite. Since we can assume DC won't turn Batman into a murdering sociopath.

Daniel's artwork is just more of the same that we saw during the majority of Grant Morrison's run on the main title. And you can never really have enough greatness. He manages to keep selling exciting and bloody battle scenes that never become confusing or unrealistic (for a Batman comic). Todd especially looks fabulous with glowing red eyes and numerous weapons.

Only the rather predictable nature of the entire effort drags the score down slightly. At this point though, a change in the finale would probably devalue the effort. Too much time has been spent preparing Nightwing to take the leap, including a fantastic speech this week from Alfred, the elder-statesman of the Bat-Family.

Final score: A-

Green Lantern #39 - "Agent Orange: Part One"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Philip Tan

After the extremely disappointing conclusion to the previous arc, which introduced both the Blue and Red Lantern Corps, this new arc got off to a fabulous start. Supposedly the Orange (Avarice, i.e. Greed) Lanterns as yet another destructive force in the universe while Ganthet's Blue Lanterns search out the source of the Indigo (Compassion) Lanterns. And yes, I probably should continue reminding everyone which portion of the emotional spectrum powers each Corp. Johns is certainly kind enough to work it into the dialogue enough to keep things straight. But you'll have to remember the Green Corp yourself. If you can't keep that straight reading this book, then I can't do anything for you.

Tan's art actually jumps right on par with series regulars Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Schiver. And that's quite a statement, my friends. He even handles the mixture of colors on Jordan, temporarily sporting a pair of rings, much better. As Ganthet reassures him that his place is meant to be on the Green side, reaffirming his identity (a crucial improvement over the various colors that have tried to dominate the title character last issue) the green in his uniform dominates his appearance much more than before. It's a nice little case of the art reinforcing the storytelling.

Johns has done a good and quick job introducing a much more unique and enjoyable villain than we had with the rather simplistic Red Lantern leader, Atrocitus. Even if Larfleeze isn't much an improvement in the name department. Neither can live up to the more explored history of Parallax and Sinestro at this time, however. But even better is the continuing evolution of the Guardians into a more complex and struggling organization. Of course the reveal throughout the "Origins and Omens" backup stories throughout the DCU that the scarred Guardian is in fact looking to bring about the Darkest Night clouds over ever scene they are involved in. We still don't know how much the Guardians are being manipulated and how much they are just flawed in recent years. It's one case of us knowing a bit more than the characters and one of the truth being hidden. But each way, Johns adds a bit to the enjoyment of the story in its own way.

Final score: A-

Superman: World of New Krypton #2 (of 12)
Written by Greg Rucka and James Robinson, Art by Pete Woods

Well, besides Robinson replacing Johns as Rucka's writing partner on this title, we get a big leap forward in the quality of storytelling this month. Whereas last month was yet more of the long and mostly inadequate set-up for the series, this issue gets into the meat of things. Now a member of Zod's army in the military guild, Superman's interactions with a domineering, but not maniacal (at least yet) General Zod are just one of the efforts to humanize the Kryptonians. Well not humanize... personalize. They really don't like humans still.

But the development of infighting between the various Guilds of Kryptonese society and meeting the soldiers serving under Kal-El (specifically his second-in-command Nar-As) all serves well to give Superman a more realistic and layered world to spend the year inhabiting. The writers do a fine job of pulling Zod back from his more villainous extremes to the level of a probably evil monster. But even if he reverts to form, which is more than probable, he still improves as a antagonist smart enough to conceal his master plan from the forgiving Kryptonian leadership of Alura.

And Woods artwork struggles with more awkward, pixelated shadows and some clunky facial expressions. For a good example, check out Kal-El's face at the top of page three... that's a little too Bruce Campbell-ish for my tastes. And in general I don't care for a slightly more muscular Superman than last week, especially with the more human and wonderful version on Gary Frank's cover. I've long been of the opinion that Superman doesn't need to be huge and muscular to explain his power. He's freaking Kryptonian!

But at the end of the day, the much improved story bumps this month's grade up slightly. Every little distraction to Superman's day just helps develop a more complete world and realistic characters. Even the easily resolved distraction of the month is a nice comparison of Superman and the other soldiers differing perspectives, which makes it all seem more real... as real as a world full of Kryptonians floating on the opposite side of the Earth's sun can be.

Final score: B-


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Killin' Time With 24

24: 12:00P.M.-1:00A.M.
Season 7, Episode 17

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.

(22:27:52) Jim: so i figured out a way for this all to be believable - if voight actually plays the role as legitimately insane
(22:28:13) Jim: like certifiably institutionalize-level crazy
(22:28:41) Billy: That is the only way. Considering how much scenery that mofo is chewing.
(22:29:33) Jim: and his crazy requests like, hey release my mid-level flunky who one of your men WITNESSED commiting murder... if i lose him, there's only like three or four other people I can have make calls for me
(22:30:51) Billy: Oh my lord, he's making a ton of requests that NO ONE should be giving in to. Why the hell isn't the president telling this douchebag to fuck off. Drop the missile, sacrifice the people to kill this guy.
(22:31:19) Billy: If she gives in now then she'll be taking it in the ass from him forever.
(22:31:42) Jim: seriously, at this point I'm ready for him demand an office next to the president's to make all the decisions he wants indefinitely - and her to allow it
(22:32:23) Jim: what ever happened to the "we don't negotiate with terrorists" ideal? guess it went the way of ryan chappelle's brain
(22:32:39) Billy: "Corner office, nice view, big ass tv...oh and a turkey sandwich on rye with mayo. Tut tut, madam president, I've got bioweapons."
(22:33:49) Jim: seriously why not just address the nation in the morning and say he has the weapons, show the country the evidence and say he needs to turn them over? WTF could he do - use them and hope millions of people aren't demanding his blood for commiting genocide on american soil?
(22:34:38) Jim: It's not like osama could say, get the hell out of the middle east or I'll have some dude crash a plane into you and get anything
(22:35:26) Billy: Or just drop the damned missiles now! those planes were over their targets. I really doubt he could have launched those rockets before those bunker busters turned him into a pile of ash.
(22:35:56) Billy: Plus, those missiles looked hella fake, I think the president just got Photoshop fooled.
(22:36:17) Jim: I just know he'll come up with a bunch of demands that includes the one: "and nobody can know about it." I repeat - just fucking tell people and he is toothless
(22:37:04) Billy: Well, maybe crazy first daughter will redeem herself by allowing creepy reporter to run the story?
(22:38:03) Jim: would you really want aaron back if i told you beforehand it was to stand outside a hotel room while the FD boinks her way through the press corp?
(22:38:10) Jim: it's such a waste
(22:38:40) Jim: unless he's the voice of reason that convinces her to give up her evil ways
(22:38:57) Billy: Well, aside from the crazy first daughter and the wimpy president, it was an ok episode.
(22:39:28) Jim: when she showed him the video I kept thinking back to the words of Barney - "It just takes a really long time to shut down."
(22:40:02) Billy: ha ha
(22:40:19) Jim: but yeah, at least they set up the reintroduction of kim
(22:40:53) Jim: although where was the "So there is a cure! You could't have fucking mentioned it when you said I was dying and there's no cure?! WTF is wrong with you people?!"
(22:41:48) Billy: Right. And can I just say I am fairly tired of Sutherland's basic "I'm hurt/sick/being tortured" acting.
(22:42:07) Billy: Oh, forgot "being tased"
(22:42:28) Billy: He always does that eyes rolled back seizure motion.
(22:42:36) Jim: I know you can excuse it as she researched it a bit, but you really should make sure there isn't a cure that storytelling-wise there's a 99.99999% chance of working before you tell him its hopeless. freaking cockteasing death
(22:42:50) Jim: yeah, jack's hurt acting is just funny at this point
(22:43:05) Billy: It's 24. Cockteasing death is it's business.
(22:43:42) Billy: I'm just glad that they found a way to make reintroducing Kim...gasp!...useful!
(22:44:02) Jim: it's just about a first
(22:44:31) Billy: Though I am kinda sad that there is a possibility of a cure.
(22:44:40) Jim: i know, i know
(22:45:02) Billy: Not that I want Jack to die, it's just...I don't know, interesting to see Jack mortal.
(22:46:00) Jim: yeah, it's like we know we'll be back to Invincible Jack by season's end and until then we have to suffer through In Pain (Eventhough Keifer Only Has That One Annoying Face) Jack
(22:47:05) Billy: But enough with the bitching. Tony was awesome. Playing Solid Snake with the soldiers was pretty cool.
(22:47:25) Jim: Totally cool
(22:47:35) Billy: And, I actually like seeing Jack as the office work guy.
(22:47:54) Billy: Nice change of pace, harkens back to season one.
(22:47:55) Jim: excellent takedown, worthy of comparison to some of Jack's best moments and love his acting skills
(22:48:22) Jim: very nice change of pace to have someone else carry the "in the field" workload
(22:49:29) Billy: Yes. I gotta wonder though, is Chloe done for the day? I know it's still pretty far from the finale, but...
(22:49:50) Jim: I thought they might pull her in to decode the security system, but garafalo was all over that
(22:50:07) Jim: even if it cost yet another helpful person's life
(22:50:33) Billy: Which brings us back to Crazy Voight
(22:50:35) Jim: i kinda understand the perspective of the villains, look at the death rate of people that cooperate with the government
(22:50:58) Jim: he did take it to honest to god crazy with killing that guy
(22:51:23) Jim: sending him crashing into the map of the world was something out of a stallone movie
(22:51:28) Billy: I was thinking insane when he started screaming at Moss.
(22:51:30) Jim: or at least rainer wolfcastle
(22:52:35) Jim: yeah, his "I know I commiting crimes against humanity and treason. But I'm Jon FUCKING Voight!"
(22:53:06) Billy: I especially liked how the search warrant only covered one building...
(22:53:28) Jim: well in all honesty it's not like there was a search warrant
(22:53:59) Jim: there was a executive order, which 24 always uses when convenient
(22:54:03) Jim: saves us some time
(22:54:23) Billy: Damn executive loop holes.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Well, That Was Unpleasant

Terminator:TSCC: Adam Raised A Cain
Season 2, Episode 21

Josh Friedman, are you asking viewers(of which you have few) to abandon this show?

They killed Derek Reese and I can only assume killed the interest of many, many viewers. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brian Austin Green was one of the most compelling reasons to watch this show. Losing his character is a blow that this show may never recover from. Of course, since next week is likely the last episode of the series, it may never have to recover from it.

Derek's death was shocking, quick, and done at the fifteen minute mark. It's a testament to the character that his death rocked me and stuck in my mind for days after.

Aside from the death of it's best character, this episode was damned fine. One of the best hours of television I've seen recently. The interaction between John Henry and...well...between John Henry and everyone who shares a scene with Garrett Dillahunt is exceptional. Of special note is the interaction between Weaver's daughter Savannah and the presumed brother of SkyNet.

I think it's fairly obvious that Weaver is working towards keeping humanity alive for some reason. Her line to Ellison about his and Savannah's future depending on John Henry was very telling. It's a tough place to be in, we know more about John Henry than the Connors, so when Sarah speaks of razing ZeiraCorp to destroy John Henry it is very chilling.

The ending was interesting, Sarah Connor arrested(Presumably on a tip from Weaver. Another clue that she doesn't want humanity destroyed, why have Sarah arrested when she could have met with the Connor clan and killed them all easily) and John on his own would be a great twist, but I'm not sure a show called The Sarah Connor Chronicles has the kumquats to do that...

Then again, I didn't think they'd have the stones to kill Derek...



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts...

Friday Night Lights: Underdogs
Season 3, Episode 12

If anything could immediately improve my week, it was the news of DirecTV and NBC renewing their commitment for another TWO years for Friday Night Lights. All is right in the world. But we'll save the conversation about next season's expectations for the finale airing this coming Friday night. For now, there's a state title on the line for Dillon and a lot to live up to comparing it to season one's finale, "State." There's spoilers below the jump, where we'll see how the episode stacks up on the believability scale with the original lateral that was literally beyond belief.

"Last game, Seven." - Riggins

Man, 13 episodes just isn't that much time. The hurried trip through the playoffs ends here with the Dillon Panthers playing for their second state title in three years against the heavily favored South Texas. And much like last time, the first half is defined by a struggle between Coach and his QB1. It was more than a little jarring to see JD go from never wanting to see the father that was smacking him around five minutes ago to not understanding why Child Protective Services was called in. How is this even a surprise? He freaking smacked you, repeatedly, into the side of a truck!

I suppose you can write it off to the limited amount of time this year and the rather confusing ways of adolescents. But still... Tim or Matt could have played it much better. But as JD, Jeremy Sumpter falls short, since his reaction to Coach (who along with Tami reported the incident as they were legally obligated to do) and blowing up throughout the first half seems so wildly out of character. It just doesn't come off effectively, it's too grating and under-explained. But it does set up the return of the real QB1 for our improbably second half comeback.

Saracen and Tim are the stars of the hour both on and off the field. Coach and Tami bring their A-game like they do every week, but the enormity of the last three seasons bearing down on them, the departing seniors bring their best on the field and on camera. Taylor Kitsch and Zach Gilford know this is their last chance to shine on the field and they sell the hell out of it. Without a doubt the best scene in the episode is the two of them up late the night before the game, playing Frisbee on the lawn in front of the capital building in Austin. Kitsch has evolved to the point where he can make a scene with a smirk.

The two of them combined are such opposite ends of the spectrum with Matt having so many opportunities, but his perspectives so limited by always thinking about the future and Riggins having far less chances, but everything rolling off him never caring about more than the six inches in front of his face (to borrow a line from Pacino). And they are the only two remaining players from episode one giving the scene even more weight that the actors use wonderfully. And as a fan of The Wire, I love when all the pieces fit together like that.

Jeffrey Reiner, the most significant director of the series (first two episodes after the pilot, "State," the first couple of this year, "New York, New York" and next week's finale), knows how to make the football scenes crisp and exciting like nobody else. They do manage to finally make JD seem like the inexperienced freshman he really is, as opposed to the golden boy, throwing two picks and getting sacked en route to a 27-0 halftime score.

The only problem is from the writers... not knowing anyone on defense makes the second half comeback a bit less believable. Obviously the substitution of a calm and collected Matt for the volatile JD changes things on the offense, but when did Ray Lewis join at linebacker? Given how absolutely critical the defense is on the final series, its just awful we don't know any of the characters. It separates the final result (losing at the last second) from the team, almost like they watched it happen to someone else.

Regardless, I like this ending better than "State" because they fail when all is said and done. We have one more episode for them to tie up the characters as something beyond pieces caught up in the machine of Dillon football, so here its all about the game at the end. The agony of the first half, Matt's gritty comeback effort that makes us believe again and the terror of that nameless defense giving up a last second field goal... that really got to me. And how about Riggins staying behind the rest, arm in a sling, just to leave his cleats on the field - the guy who always left everything he had out on the field. Who defined themselves by being a Dillon Panther as much as he did?

"You played great football tonight. This is the game that people are going to talk about for years to come. This is the game you are going to talk about.... You be proud of yourself. Because, gentlemen, you are champions." - Coach Taylor

Matt's continued family troubles and desire for college is once again a ever-shifting subplot with Lorraine's dementia pushing her opinion back and forth on the subject. It's one of the stories I'm anxious to see come to final conclusion next week. Honestly, for a guy playing in a state championship game and with a chance to go to a prestigious art institute in Chicago, his life would be pretty shitty without Julie and his mom in his life. Both developments have really been blessings for him and an audience not anxious to see his life devolve into a Darren Aronofsky movie.

Back in the swing of things, Tyra manages to nail the most dramatic non-game related moment of the show. Her efforts early on to prepare an essay for college admittance with an assist to Landry go from a cliche filled Applebee's metaphor to unbelieving puff piece to something that sells us on the entire concept of the show leading into the big game. It's poetic that in the end it ties everything back to Street being paralyzed. As I mentioned earlier in the year, this inciting incident changed the lives of pretty much every character on this show.

Of course, no Landry moment is as funny as Coach once again calling him "Lance." That little running joke will never get old. Maybe he'll get it right next season when Landry is the only returning senior we've met thus far. And after he nails a heck of a block coming out of the half.

And if it was fun seeing Lila playing video games at the Riggins Mansion, this week the ante is upped to the point that I actually like her scenes. The hilarity of her using coffee filters on the toilet seat is nice, but the star of the sequence is Billy, walking in on her then taking his business to the kitchen sink. Good times.

I do hope that Billy's latest plan to open Riggins' Rigs isn't used as an excuse to derail Tim's plans for college. Even if the show will miss him, more than anyone else, he's grown the last few years and I've become attached enough to want good things for his life. And yes, I realize it is a fictional one, but when it's well done, you still care.

Final score: B+


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Killing Hitler? Nah.

Lost: Whatever Happened Happened
Season 5, Episode 11

Did Lost do the impossible? Did a Kate-centric episode NOT suck? I'm almost in shock over the events of last night's episode, not the least of which was the fact that Kate's story was--gasp!--interesting! That's not to say it was perfect.

Hit the jump for the my full thoughts.

Throughout the history of Lost, the episodes that I've always dreaded the most were the Kate-based ones. The reason for this is simple. Kate is an obnoxious and childish idiot. Plain and simple. In the first few seasons of the show half of the tribulations that the lostaways got into were because Kate wouldn't mind her own damn business and stay out of the frickin' jungle. That says nothing of the pathetic "love triangle" between Jack, Sawyer and herself.

So when I say that as of now, Kate is the only member of the Oceanic 6 who I feel legitimately has a purpose and a reason for being on the island(keeping in mind that we've yet to see Hurley's story prior to boarding Ajira Airlines Flight 316) and is now the character whose story I am most interested on the island, please feel free to express great shock.

I know, I know, Kate's flashbacks in this episode were still somewhat obnoxious and we had to see Aaron again but this time there was a purpose to them. Kate realizes that taking Aaron and lying about the rest of the lostaways still on the island was wrong. She decides to go back--not because she is forced to, not because she's depressed, not because she's afraid of curses--No, Kate decides to return because she can and must find Claire and the others. She decides that she must find them and bring them all home. No more lies, no more happy fake homes, Kate finally takes responsibility for everything and is attempting to fix it.

All of our characters have changed this season and last. Most for the worst, but Kate and Sawyer--two characters that I've roundly loathed for years--have grown and morphed into two of the most rounded characters in the cast.

Speaking of Sawyer, I couldn't help but cheer when he informed Kate that he wasn't helping her save Little Ben for any reason other than Juliet. He loves Juliet and although he's somewhat confused by Kate's return, he's still dedicated to Juliet. The pairing works, Sawyer and Juliet are a joy to watch, not quite Penny and Des but still fantastic.

So we know why Kate came back to the island, what else did we learn? Well, we know how Little Ben becomes Horrible-No Good-Very Bad Ben. Apparently Richard (who, we learn, does sorta have to answer to Chuckles Widmore, confirming that Widmore was at some point a major Other player. Opening up major questions about when Penny was conceived.) can take Ben to the Temple to be healed but it will taint him forever. So, when Sawyer and Kate deliver young Ben to Richard fully knowing that what they are doing right there is going to lead to so much of their suffering, it's a powerful moment.

Now, as impressed as I was with the episode, I did have one gripe. And it's something that I suspect I will be standing opposite of most Lost-fanboys on. Miles and Hurley's ridiculous "who's on first"-esque explanation of time travel was not only unfunny, but a terrible waste of time. Seriously, am I to believe that someone who reads as many comic books as Hurley cannot grasp the details of their time travel? No, it was a scene written SOLELY for the dullards in the audience who still don't get what has happened. You know the type, the same kind of people who didn't understand The X-Files despite the entire mythology being wrapped up in season six.

Aside from that niggling point, Lost is poised to finish with it's strongest season yet. I've every confidence that the producers have something epic in store for all of us.


Friday, April 3, 2009

The More Things Stay the Same

ER: And in the End...
Season 15, Episode 22

After 331 episodes, of which I watched the first 179 and the last four and absolutely no others, John Wells and company still managed to pull me back in once more. It's a testament to the enduring nature of the show: that beginnings are hazy, middles are (while sometimes exciting) just a repeating routine and endings are often little more than the next set of beginnings. That concept can be applied to the series as a whole, the various generations of casts the show managed, individual characters and the finale itself. And while my brief return is to an unfamiliar location (the place looks so different - I still don't like the stupid clear patient board), I appreciate the portions of the finale aimed at my group of fans - the old timers coming back to say goodbye to an old favorite.

"Dr. Greene, you coming?" - Carter

In more than a month of considering it, I never came close to thinking of a final line for this show that would have worked that well. And I wouldn't have since I avoided spoilers and had absolutely no idea Rachel would be returning as a prospective medical student. So right off the bat I'll address the (what I figure will be) somewhat controversial decision to include her. Given the irresponsible and terrible manner the character was portrayed while her father died (repeatedly) in season eight, I understand how reluctant some fans might be to see her return. But I will contend that it not only works, but is absolutely necessary.

Because at the end of the day, we can talk about this cast member or that, but the two main characters of the show are without doubt or conversation John Carter and Mark Greene. Carter came into the show as fresh-faced as the audience, matured before our eyes and eventually took over. Mark was our first chief, the leader and as he proved numerous times that he was the one character you could never picture anywhere except running that emergency room at County. For God's sake it took TWO battles with brain tumors to drag him away. And while Carter can always return (I mean Noah Wyle's done with those Librarian movies right?), we can't have Mark return in anything but flashback. We have to make due with Anthony Edwards showing up for the retrospective beforehand (which I wasn't aware of and only caught the last three minutes of god damn it).

But Rachel is the one big tie we have back to Mark and effected the plot in a way 7-year-old Ella couldn't have. Her appearance caught me off guard, that's for sure. As I mentioned I avoided spoilers, but it's been SO long since I watched those episodes back in seasons seven and eight that, like Frank, I didn't recognize her until she told us her name.

Since the last thing the man wanted to do before dying was - Fix Rachel, I forgive her unexplained transition to a dutiful college student trying to study her father's profession at the institution he loved. It set up that final line that brings up another great moment from those first eight years every time I think about it. If the purpose of a finale is not to have some big shock-and-awe event (even missing the last seven years I was already shock-and-awed out), but to remind us of everything we loved, than the final scene was absolutely perfect. There's no need for conclusions on this show. Since day one it has always been about one more tragedy following the next endlessly and the type of people that stand against that tide. So while the staff gathered outside (great moment), Morris whipped through triage,
the theme music kicked up and Carter, back where he belongs at last, invites the next era along with him... yeah it was both dusty in the apartment and utterly appropriate.

As for the characters I had never seen before (i.e. the entire current ER staff except for the nurses - Haleh, Lydia, Chuny, Malik - and desk clerks), the last four episodes have endeared me to only Archie Morris. He was the highlight of the penultimate episode, "I Feel Good" along with seeing Linda Cardellini shaking her groove thing. But her character, Sam, and romantic interest Uncle Jesse come off as the poor man's Abby and Luca, or the homeless man's Carol and Doug. And yes, the fact that I somewhat fell in love with Cardellini when she was playing a high school student in 1999, a full four years after Stamos wrapped up Full House kind of creeps me out with the age thing. And yes, I realize, Cardellini is just a very young-looking 33. Besides that, Angela Bassett is the poor man's Weaver and Brenner is the dead three weeks now man's Mark Greene. I'm sure there was more to each of them than that, but not from my perspective. But Scott Grimes as Archie always seemed fairly unique and always incredibly engaging. If anything he's the billionaire's Malucci, far exceeding previous ER funnymen.

That isn't to say their stories the last few weeks weren't well done, just that in many cases they came off as echoes of stories already told. And my attention in this episode and "Old Times" was definitely elsewhere. If I call the current crew to task for anything, its how blatantly they ripped off "Such Sweet Sorrow" at the conclusion of Neela's farewell episode. I half expected to hear them cue up Don Henley's "Taking You Home," which as an avid Doug-Carol shipper I think I played about 1,000 times in the spring and summer of 2000.

But those callbacks involving the old school ER gang were mostly icing on a cake for me. The finale's old school opening had me locked in from the word go. I enjoyed catching things like Lydia waking up Morris and their conversation paralleling her interaction with Mark in the pilot, Carter's last patient that reminded me of the paramedic Raul in season two's "The Healers", or Brenner's not nearly as inspiring take on Greene's Why We Do This speech to Alexis "Gilmore" Bledel, who if I watched the show more often might have known only starred in this one episode, there to remind us of Carter's first days. But the best story in our final day at County was (excluding the pitch perfect closing) the rather graphic complicated pregnancy that obviously was meant to remind us of "Love's Labour Lost" - one of the top five episodes in the history of the show.

But the moments for the old school, my school, of ER docs is what I came back for these last few weeks. To see Carol and Doug happy with their family on the west coast, to see Susan and Carrie one last time... and when the heck did Carrie become so nice?! To see Elizabeth again and have her spend a quiet moment with her former love, Peter. And above the others to see the show's ultimate bromance, Benton and Carter together just a couple more times. I was thrilled to see the former in the operating room at Northwestern a few weeks ago. Theirs was the ultimate platonic relationship of the show, a truly great friendship born out of their student-teacher history. Their time onscreen together the last few weeks meant a great deal more than Carter's last conversation his his wife, who I'd never seen before outside of a crappy Mission: Impossible movie. The final hug for those guys was a highlight of the episode and I couldn't help but thinking of them trying to get past Gant's death/suicide, yelling about Carter's decision to leave surgery and most of all the physical altercation in season six when Benton was ready to drag Carter to rehab. I got almost as choked up as Noah Wyle for a moment there.

Final score: B+

"Don't ever say you're sorry. See, there's two kinds of doctors... there's the kind that gets rid of their feelings, and the kind that keeps them. If you're gonna keep your feelings, you're gonna get sick from time to time - that's just how it works... Keep your head down... People come in here and they're sick and dying and bleeding, and they need our help. Helping them is more important than how we feel." - Dr. Mark Greene