Monday, September 28, 2009

That's A Wrap! Podcast Wincest Edition

There's no actual wincest in this episode of the podcast! I assure you! Though we do explain what it is at one point!

This week's podcast is chalk full of Supernatural discussion. We chat a bit about how we came to the show and some of the highs and lows of the first two seasons as well as some discussion about the portrayal of Lucifer in the current season.

We try to keep spoilers to a minimum for those of you who have not seen Supernatural, but beware, some made it through. Don't blame us for not warning you!

So, go ahead and take a listen. We'll be your best friend!

That's A Wrap! Podcast Wincest Edition 1:01:32


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't Stare at an Eclipse

Mad Men: Seven Twenty Three
Season 3, Episode 7

After last week seemed to throw so much upheaval into the world of Sterling Cooper with multiple characters coming, going, glad to be there, sad to leave and some who were coming going and some who were going staying... whew. Things this week are much more about settling down a new status quo at Sterling Cooper and could we really imagine that the episode where Connie Hilton started giving business to Don and Sterling Cooper be one that ended with so many characters so colossally disappointed. Or that Don would be the most destroyed?

But this show has always been more about the reality that exists behind our fantasies. The nonlinear bit at the beginning let us know things wouldn't be ending well for anybody this week, showing Don bloodied, Peggy depressed in bed with someone and Betty laying on a couch seemingly lost in another dream world. But Don could take a bloody nose much easier than he'll accept a contact with Sterling Cooper. His roving eye refuses to commit to three years, even with the promise of thousands of dollars and the enormous Hilton account. At least he won't commit easily. All things considered, he'd rather be free to look at the sun.

For starters, in case you missed it, the title is the date Don signs his three year contract with Sterling Cooper, complete with standard non-compete clause (i.e., no agency of your own until 1966, pal). For weeks now, I've been imagining Conrad backing Don at his own ad agency and dreaming of the staff members he would take with him. It was similar to the conversation the boys around the office have had since early in season one, but Don's always remained. But if Don always had the world on a string, the one thing he could NEVER get over was the wanderlust that he's served since he was young Dick Whitman. In the end, Don can't flirt professionally anymore. It's interesting that he's so concerned about being free to flirt or even leave his job at the drop of a hat, while in the same episode he gets shot down by Sally's teacher and rolled by a pair of thieving hitchhikers. And I wasn't even sure if he was flirting with the teacher when she went off on him. So basically, Don takes three huge hits this week and I think the one that left a physical scar hurt the least.

Don flirted with leaving in season one before a pile of money was dropped in his lap. He was talking about running off with Midge at one point. But he remembered how much he didn't want to be Dick Whitman anymore and he stayed. Then he did it again, in an enormous misjudgment suggesting to Rachel Menken that they run away together. He flirted with leaving last year during his extended trip to the west coast (again with shades of the man he was before Korea - his inner-Dick) and one more time rather than working under Duck in the finale. And from the time he used the fact that he didn't have a contract to beat Duck, it began a ticking clock until that card was going to be taken from him. You can't play a hand that big and pull your big bargaining chip back into your pocket again. It only can really be done once, and that is a lesson Bert Cooper knows.

This time felt so close to pushing Don out of Sterling Cooper, especially since Roger made his latest bad moves. If there was a worse move than trying to be buddy-buddy with Don again (that ship had some holes when he flirted with Betty and sailed for good when he married Don's secretary), it was calling Betty behind Don's back and expecting her not to rat him out.

But it's been an interesting change of fortune that Roger, the jovial and personable guy we liked so much early on, has become a utter fool and bumbles this enormously. Meanwhile, the one note joke of Bert Cooper, the eccentric old man who was rarely seen, insisted everyone remove their shoes in his office and decorated his wall with tentacle porn, is (when he needs to be) the sharpest assassin in the group. He always knew what would be sacrificed in bringing the British in. He rarely misses the flaws in others. And he wisely sat on his knowledge of Don not being Don, but actually a criminal named Dick Whitman. After letting Roger goof around and Don roam a bit (to the point of trying to hang out with the hicks headed to Niagra Falls), brings out the card that he knew would win any argument with Don. And he isn't a smug prick about it like Roger would be, just explaining the cold reality of the situation. "After all, when it comes down to it, who's really signing the contract, anyway?"

Of course, this scene recalled an earlier one where Connie, like Bert, sat in Don's chair and forced the man who likes to be a master of his universe into a position of weakness. It was spectacularly dis-jarring to see someone else sitting in Don's chair, let alone see it twice in the same episode. The shows ultimate hustler, the man who has almost never let a client put him in a position of weakness, was beaten and hustled not once or twice or thrice, but pretty much four times this week. If Betty had actually had sex with Henry Francis, an adviser for the governor who she met at Roger's party, instead of just flirting and buying the over-sized fainting couch, it might have been the worst weekend of Don's life.

I have to comment on that couch. As they established early in the episode, people should be standing and gathering in front of the fireplace. Even Don realized the one problem in the room was moving the end table away from the fireplace (man, he was on fire at the start of the day, but his life went off the rails quick). So rather than cheating on her husband or just continuing to be a bad mother, she buys the biggest, ugliest and most ridiculous-looking fainting couch because the gentleman she has an eye for told her a story about it.

Poor Peggy has had some rotten luck this year, just as when she asked for a raise, she is unlucky enough to come visit for no reason besides subtly asking for the Hilton account right after Don has a terrible meeting. Considering how much I care about this relationship more than any other in the artist, I've rarely felt as bad watching this show as I did when he absolutely tore into Peggy. While he had a reasonable complaint, he went about six angry levels too far because of his anger about having to sign an exclusive contract. We can only hope she doesn't bolt to Grey with Duck. If it was a bad idea before, it became a horrific one after having sex with him. We can only hope Don relaxes a bit and doesn't make the mistake of driving away his best writer.

The situation now might stinks for Don, and really as Betty pointed out it was pretty nonsensical not to sign it. Where else would he want to be in three years? But the pipe-dream of Don forming his own company was just that. There are too many great characters at the agency that Matt Weiner and company can tell so many stories with. Just imagine more stories with Roger being a buffoon, Pete maybe become a bit closer to how cool Don is, Joan's inevitable return... and let's not forget about Bert Cooper. After that last showdown, Don sure won't.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Looking Ahead

Dollhouse: Vows
Season 2, Episode 1

I've mentioned it a couple of other places, most notably our lonely little podcast, I've mentioned the Year of Second Chances. I stopped watching Dollhouse two-thirds of the way through the first season after numerous reviews that bounced between adequate and disappointing. But I wasn't counting on one thing, my friends. I wasn't counting on "Epitaph One," the spectacular unaired 13th episode of the first season. After watching that, purchasing the BluRay and actually enjoying the last couple episodes (dominated by the hilarity that is Alan Tudyk) and the unaired pilot... I'm actually excited for Dollhouse. Who'd have believed it?! That doesn't even factor in my geeking out over the casting of Jamie "Apollo" Bamber and Alexis "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce" Denisof.

I honestly can't imagine higher expectations for a second season premiere of a show I stopped watching before the first season finale. These are strange times indeed. But could Dollhouse, which has never been as good when I've watched it on TV as opposed to later, actually deliver when it never had before? Yeah, I'm even one of those Whedon is My Master Now guys that couldn't get over the problems with "Man on the Street." So far this show has always fallen into the Heroes Hole (though not as deep) where a show has all the possibilities in the world (in this case the wonderful themes involving identity and self-discovery), but never came through with living up to its own potential.

I'm not too hesitant to label "Vows" the best episode of Dollhouse ever aired, trailing only "Epitaph One" and perhaps the unaired pilot, "Echo." This still isn't Whedon in his prime, but while one storyline takes on the larger themes of the show that were rarely fully addressed last year, the other is perhaps one of the better Engagement-oriented plots yet. Are there still issues? Hell yeah, but the future is looking quite a bit brighter right now.

One of the continuing issues with the series is that the Engagements are rarely as interesting as other things going on. The Dollhouse missions were never as interesting as the far too thinly addressed pursuit of the organization by Ballard. But this week I can't say how much Amy Acker rules from inside the Dollhouse. Unlike the psycho that Alpha became, or the altruistic Echo that remained wholly devoted to Caroline owning her body, Whiskey/Dr. Saunders has become pretty much her own person. She goes to so many places emotionally and thematically this week. From justifiable rage to depression and fear, her interactions with Topher, steal the show. The scene where in her confusion she unsuccessfully attempts to seduce him is actually somewhat haunting. Saunders would be able to handle things so much easier if Topher had made this all one of his games like so much else. In the end, admitting she has thoughts of her own and, unlike Echo, her fear of the death that giving her body back to the original owner would entail, is the first time we've really felt empathy for an Active character instead of the body's true owner. I give some credit making her disappearance mean something besides Acker has another show and can only be in three episodes.

As much as I complain about this show, they manage to pull an idea from the original pilot that I loved. I'm a big fan of roles within roles, and people playing characters playing at being someone else. One of my favorite examples is the final scene of Boogie Nights when Mark Wahlberg is playing Eddie Adams playing Dirk Diggler playing Brock Landers. So when Echo walking back in to Ballard's room and revealed she was an FBI agent pretending to be a blushing bride, I got a kick out of that. But even an Apollo-Helo grudge match couldn't make this plot much more than it was... filler. They continue to hint at Echo's glitching to other personalities, but I'm too anxious to see Ballard and Echo working to take down the Dollhouse (as glimpsed in the future in "Epitaph One") to put up with much more of this. As always the show manages to frustrate by taking so long to get where we want it to be and the adventures they use to fill time are uneven at best.

I have to say that I'm a little disappointing how thin the explanation of DeWitt allowing Ballard to be "the client" and let him use Echo as an undercover agent to go after an arms dealer that he failed to bring down while with the FBI. The idea that she's curious about the glitch-factory that is Echo isn't just paper thin. It isn't even toilet paper thin... well, certainly not two-ply. Not the best week for DeWitt or Boyd. The two were only really utilized to set-up the threat of Buffy/Angel vet Alexis Denisof's new character Senator Daniel Perrin. And then Boyd makes a play for Dr. Saunders (did he become an insensitive dick over the summer or is that just inherent in the Head of Security position?) that blows up in his face. Like much else, Perrin is barely introduced, just sceen giving a speech in Washington. His real level of information and motivations have yet to be hinted at or examined.

I've raged against Eliza Dushku's limited range as much as anybody, but give her credit for really selling the movements between the various personalities near the climactic showdown between Bamber's arms dealer and Echo and Paul. It might not have been the step forward I wanted, but I will admit it was handled quite well. And if the ending, which hints at her Echo becoming a more unified and consistent personality perhaps she'll be able to sell her "role" better. The end goal being her getting to the point where she is Caroline consistently and can play that character just accessing other abilities or skill sets.

The execution of the episode is above what we normally expect from the series, but it is frustrating that after an entire season was devoted to setting the scene that we have to endure another episode along those lines. I brought up Heroes earlier. Where that show is three levels past dead to me, Dollhouse at least looks like it is moving in the other direction. That Echo will evolve into Caroline and she and Ballard will take on this global conspiracy. That the larger dangers of the Dollhouse will be exploited. That the show will become what it could be. But for now we still have chess pieces moving slowly and we're still waiting.


Let Me Ask You An Important Question

Supernatural: Free To Be You And Me
Season 5, Episode 3

Have you ever stopped and thought, "why are the Winchesters so damn important?" If you're reading this, then the answer for you will be fairly obvious: they are the main characters on one of your favorite television shows. And that's cool, but think about that question within the context of the show. Dean is the vessel for the archangel Michael and Sam is the last child standing after the Yellow-Eyed Demon's child battle royal ended. He was the focus of the demon world's plot to release Lucifer by breaking the final seal. Hell, Chuck is off somewhere writing the "gospel" of the Winchester brothers. That's a lot of emphasis on two twenty-something hunters. Clearly both Heaven and Hell have big things in mind for these boys.

I don't have an answer to this question, but I desperately hope the the writers eventually do. We were given some tantalizing tips as to the significance of one of the Winchesters as well as the return of a very old friend, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Great Winchester Break-Up of 2009 continues in this episode with Sam working at a bar with the MOST nosy waitress of all time. Sam's in the area of some serious Book of Revelation events and so he calls Bobby to dispatch some hunters to clean up the demon activity. It's good to see Bobby back home and doing his thing. Surely Bobby isn't going to be in that wheelchair forever and I cannot wait to see some more stories focusing on him.

Dean gets to team up with Castiel in an attempt to find God by trapping an interrogating the archangel Raphael. This is pretty much the funniest portion of the night with Dean dropping a ton of one-liners ranging from calling Raphael a "Teenage Mutant Ninjangel" to telling Cas that the last time he teleported him somewhere Dean didn't "poop for a week." Clearly the writers love this pairing since Misha Collins is a series regular now. I do love these scenes, Castiel and Dean trolling for girls in a strip club is surprisingly funny. But there is a greater importance to these events.

Raphael tells Cas that God is dead and Lucifer is who resurrected him. The demoralizing thing about this is that it is very much a possibility. Everything that Raphael tells Cas could be the truth, Lucifer would want to make the angels fight themselves to make the apocalypse easier to achieve. And as Dean points out, this situation is very much like the same one that he and Sam faced back in season one. Does Cas believe that his father is still out there somewhere? Cas has hope, he still believes God is out there. But what about Dean, Cas asks how he is doing being away from his brother. Dean says he's doing great. But the look on his face betrays his his true feelings. It would be smart to remember that Dean also said he was doing great after he made his deal with the crossroads demon.

Speaking of the other Winchester brother, Sam's vacation from the supernatural wasn't going to last long as the hunters dispatched by Bobby run afoul of a multitude of demons and return to confront Sam. The surviving hunters get Sam to admit the demon blood addiction and the raising of Lucifer. Sam successfully denies the demon blood that the hunters pour in his mouth but the damage is already done. Sam, who is trying to prove to himself and his brother that anyone can change, is at a crossroads. When he gets a visit from an old friend: Jessica. Yes, THAT Jessica, the one who died in the pilot episode.

Turns out it's not Jess at all, instead it's our best good friend Lucifer. He tells Sam that contrary to what he believes, there are no second chances and that life sucks. Lucifer is apparently looking for Sam but can't find him(Lucifer is an angel after all, so Cas's sigils are doing their job). What isn't explained is how Lucifer is speaking to Sam at all. But that's not as important as what Lucifer tells Sam. Sam is the intended vessel for Lucifer. Just as Dean is Michael's vessel, Sam is intended as the meat-suit for Lucifer. Lucifer tells Sam that he will never lie to him and that he wants to give Sam a gift. It's incredibly creepy and Mark Pellegrino is spectacular as the devil. I love the direction that they are going with Lucifer. Is he all evil? Is he lying? He seems like an okay guy, which is what makes him so dangerous.

This leads me back to my first question: why are the Winchester brothers so important? It's an important question, one I hope is resolved. I can't help but think that this season is going to inevitably end with a Dean-Michael/Sam-Lucifer throwdown. I feel like Sam and Dean are going to be reunited soon, their separation doesn't seem tenable and with Lucifer's revelation to Sam, he needs the support of his family more than ever. But how is Dean going to react to this news? Probably not well. One thing is for sure, I can't wait to find out where it all goes from here.

And don't forget to check out the Supernatural themed That's A Wrap Podcast going up Sunday/Monday this week!


Spooky, With a Side of Icky

Fringe: Night of Desirable Objects
Season 2, Episode 2

This is actually more of what the series needs. The biggest problem with a lot of mythology-heavy programs is finding the right balance between carrying on with your "Big Plan" and taking adequate breaks to just explore the world your characters inhabit. To bring The X-Files into it yet again, you need to pace out your conspiracy with some cool Monsters of the Week. And where this show struggled through most of the first season was having a "monster" that didn't tie back to Walter or Bell's research. If this is supposed to be a world where the impossible happens, it can't all tie back to these two guys working in a Harvard basement. But at the same time you can't ignore the audience's burning questions (see Lost - The Hatch for all necessary examples) particularity after a summer-long hiatus.

This week's episode tries to break away from the Bishop/Bell brand of fringe science, but at the same time move the story along in the mystery of what happened to Olivia on her summer vacation on Earth-2. So how does all of this story-telling balance out?

Fairly well, actually. As far as monsters go, the Super-Mutant-Baby that looks more Grant Morrison Mutant than Jack Kirby Mutuant is executed well enough. In general they keep him hidden underground, following the Jaws approach that everything is scarier when it's out of sight if your director is executing the scenes well enough. But when they do finally show this week's monster, it holds up under visual inspection. I'd say its a great job by the effects department, certainly a big step above the alligator-ish monster from late last season.

More than anything else I was just so jazzed to have all the characters discover what was going on along with me. The loop of scenes last year where everybody was freaked out until Walter popped up and tremembered the base experiment that he and/or Bell did wore out pretty thoroughly. But to have him in a situation where he is confused and uncovering something he didn't imagine (Peter telling him the woman with Lupus did give birth) is kind of a rare treat. His enthusiasm is generally enjoyable and given that he can separate the idea of it murdering people it lacks the dark reality that Peter or Olivia would approach the situation with. He's just amazed someone did it.

Speaking of Peter and Olivia, the highlight of the episode by far is their final exploration of the house and confrontation with the Super-Mutant-Baby. Where the story dragged noticeably until the coffins of the woman and S-M-B were pulled up, this sequence near the end stole the show. The entire scene is directed by Brad Anderson (the man behind the camera for "The Cost" one of my favorite episodes of The Wire), who manages to overcome the rather forced setting of the S-M-B's tunnels. At times he pulls out a little too much so we can see things, which isn't as impressive as the claustrophobic approach I would have expected.

The big problem this week is keeping all those stories moving at the same time. As nice as it is that they are having Olivia suffer side-effects/super-powers from her trip and using that to further her resolve to remember things, I found myself missing the heavy dose of Walter and Peter interactions we got in the premiere. A lot of it is that they are both just far more interesting characters than the rather straight-laced Olivia.

Her questioning of her recent history is far more enjoyable when Fake Face Charlie is around and doing his sneaky act. So far, in a real limited amount of screen time, Acevedo's done a great job playing a completely different person impersonating the role he played last year. And his vague and discomforting instructions from the magic typewriter instantly make every scene with Olivia more interesting given the added information that we as the audience have about FFC. The one ball that kind off falls to the ground in all of this week's juggling is our latest addition, Agent Jessup, who has virtually nothing to do and shares hardly any screen time with anyone else of consequence. As much as I enjoy Acevedo's performance, until he is revealed, we're going to keep seeing Jessup pushed into the background. At this point I'm wishing they hadn't even bothered to introduce her until later in the year. Everything she brought to the table structurally so far could have been done by Charlie or FFC. Bringing her out early is doing FAR more harm than good.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


How I Met Your Mother: Definitions
Season 5, Episode 1

Barney: "Lily, can't you just let us be happy?"
Lily: "You're not happy! You Just think you're happy because you feel happy."

Yes, How I Met Your Mother is back for it's fifth season and though many things have changed through the course of the series, Definitions felt like a proper return.

First of all I do have to get something off of my chest, we mistakenly forgot to delete the series recording on our DVR for Heroes and it recorded instead of HIMYM. Apologies to show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for getting my hands on HIMYM in a shady way, I promise it won't happen again. Trust me, I'm NEVER watching Heroes again. There might be people who still like that show, I like to think these people's parents are related.

Right, back to the topic at hand! When we last saw the gang Marshall and Lily had already moved out to their Dowisetrepla apartment, Ted was offered a position as a college professor and Robin and Barney had finally sort of become an item. Interestingly enough, Ted's story here has less of an impact than the supposed 'B' plot of Robin and Barney.

Don't get me wrong, Ted's story is great. It's wonderful to get that tantalizing little clue to the mothers identity and the moment with Ted questioning himself over the correct spelling of 'professor' while standing at the front of the lecture hall was probably the biggest laugh-out-loud moment for me. Hey Ted, it's okay, we've all had trouble remembering if professor has one 'f' or two, it's cool. The problem with Ted's story is that he is...kind of a douche. Which is to say that he acts like ninety-eight percent of all college professors I've had the displeasure to attend class with.

The parts of the episode with Ted spastically jumping from cool-guy-"call me Ted" professor to authoritative dictator professor all felt true to the character of Ted Mosby, but didn't hold much laughter because it's exactly where I expected Ted to go. Though we are creeping towards the eventual culmination of the series with Ted finding his future special-lady-friend, it's hard not to feel like Ted and Marshall are being slightly marginalized.

Ted at least has the new job driving him, Marshall, who hasn't really had much to do since the wedding in season two, continues to be trivialized here as he mostly just acts as a sidekick to both Ted and Lily. Jason Segal can handle more than he's being given here and some of Marshall's best stuff was the drama at the end of season one and beginning of season two. Marshall is my favorite character, so it's hard not to feel slighted when we see him used mostly as a punchline.

At the end of last year we lost Alyson Hannigan when she went out on maternity leave and I can't really say that the show hurt from the loss of her Lily. We don't really gain much from her return (aside from a smaller role for Marshall to play) except for some classic 'Aldrin Justice' as Lily locks Robin and Barney in the bedroom until they define their relationship. As much as Lily annoys me, it's good to see that her characterization has been kept fairly consistent. I like the fact that Lily is a kindergarten teacher who essentially acts like a 5-year-old around her friends.

And of course we have the the supposed 'B' plot - Robin and Barney's relationship. Going into this season I was worried about how these two being a couple would neuter the Barnacle. I can say with confidence that after tonight I don't have that worry. Essentially to placate Lily, Robin and Barney decide to "lie" about their relationship to escape the room. I loved the fact that to these two the lie is the relationship. They may not even realize it at a conscious level, thinking instead that they are perpetrating an elaborate lie (which they indicate earlier turns the two of them on) but when Barney suggests brunch... yeah, they're a couple. But it works, Robin won't get angry if Barney says some disgusting thing about a woman and Robin can hold her own with Barney in drinking and smoking. It was actually sort of sweet in a twisted and disgusting way, which is to say just like Barney and Robin.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

Mad Men: Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency
Season 3, Episode 6

First, a moment to bask in a well-deserved Emmy win for Best Drama... yep, that hit the spot. And while neither Jon Hamm or Elisabeth Moss walked away with their own statue (a shame since Season Two might have been Moss' best chance given her excellent story last year), the entire cast and crew can share the honor of crafting one of the best dramas on television. And if last week signaled the season kicking off the ground, then last night we officially reached cruising altitude.

This week, Sterling Cooper had to deal with their own version of a British Invasion as their recent corporate overlords paid the company a visit, led by the eponymous Guy. By a strong margin the best episode of the season thus far, "Guy" had me (over just one part of a storyline) laugh out loud, get significantly grossed out, chuckle a bit, nearly fall out of my chair laughing and ultimately feel really bad about. I'd say more, but that would be telling, so we'll get into it after the jump.

After last week's episode spent so much time outside the walls of Sterling Cooper, it was nice to get back in the swing of things. That isn't mentioned to bash the story lines that take place in the Draper home (which are almost always more enjoyable than some of the family life struggles of later seasons of The Sopranos), especially the final scene with Don holding baby Gene and talking to Sally. That might be one of my favorite scenes of the series for reasons I'll get into later. But there is such a wealth of characters in the office that even days when most of them are ignored or sidelined, there's still too many compelling stories to get through. And I'm not just saying that because it means some screen time for the lovely Julie McNiven (Hildy and Supernatural's Anna Milton), who I always get overjoyed just seeing... in a non-stalker-ish way.

We'll get into Don and Joan's specific story lines in a moment, but obviously we need to talk about poor Guy. His arrival is likened to the coming of the Lord from on high. Ready to bestow great riches (given Don a job overseeing creative for London AND New York) and meat out firm justice (pulling the noose tighter around Roger's neck and making a call between Pete and Ken for Head of Accounts), it in reality is as a replacement for Lane Pryce, just shifting out on Brit for another. After we realize he isn't handing out a golden goose for Don, there's absolutely nothing to like about this guy. Sure, he's personable and friendly and magnanimous for the moment at least, but generally you can't go looking for leadership from a man who uses the same phrases over and over again as Guy seems to love. Since he brings so little to the table, it's perfectly alright that we laughed when the living mistake that is Lois mows over his foot, covering Pete and the guys in a blood spraying worthy of Dexter.

When a single bit means so many different things together, it's generally a great sign of quality. Doing tragedy or comedy alone is tough enough. But to hit them simultaneously and then bounce back and forth between the two the rest of the way, that's a step above my friends. At first we laugh, but that's only for an instant as the shock kicks in. Then we see Joan kneeling next to this man's mangled foot and fashioning a field dressing to try and stop him from bleeding to death, and that's when we realize it wasn't that funny. But a bit later Roger is making jokes ("Just when he got it in the door") while the janitor is squeegeeing the blood from Pete's office window. And let me tell you that gore is always funny when a squeegee is involved. Just say squeegee... it's comedy gold, I'm serious. But then we realize in the hospital that he really is losing that foot, which his co-workers assume means he lost his entire life... at least as far as his career is concerned ("He'll never golf again.").

This week might have signaled the end of the fall of Roger Sterling. I mean how can it get any lower than being left out of Guy's new organizational flow chart for the company... followed immediately by being hand written in underneath Burt Cooper while Guy has already moved on to the next subject. His cruel (but still funny) jokes about the ultimate fate of Guy's foot hopefully will signal him beginning to climb back into the swing of things and take an active hand in account management. If he gets back on his a-game and Pryce starts lining up his thinking with Don's view of the future, Sterling Cooper might actually have dodged a huge bullet.

So much depends on how Pryce handles the mother of all accounts Don's drinking buddy from a few weeks back, Connie (now revealed as Conrad Hilton played by Mr. Hey, It's That Guy - Chelcie Ross). This will either take them all to another level like Don's Madison Square Garden deal would have before Pryce and the Brits pulled the plug on it, or give Don the financial flexibility to branch out on his own. Because there's no way Don fails to get the promotion that he and everyone else saw coming and loses TWO once in a lifetime deals in the span of a month to corporate small-mindedness.

In a twist of his usual fortunes, Don gets let down at the office, but steps up substantially at home. While Betty is still telling Sally stories about fairies working for her new baby brother (who was already Rosemary's baby as far as Sally was concerned), Don diffusing the situation by talking to her about the unknown and the unexpected as good things, not necessarily frightening. In other words, (to use the perfect parallel they do with the nightlight) that you don't have to be afraid of the dark. It's wonderful in bringing up the idea of perception that we touch on in the office and in Joan's story. Don's speech to close out the show really was a great example of how much Matthew Weiner and company deserved the second consecutive Writing Emmy they received earlier in the night.

But getting back to perception, poor Joan is the star of this episode. Her perceptions of the life with her doctor husband have now completely fallen apart. Again, it's telling about the time that the part of her life that effected her openly the most wasn't when he raped her last season on Don's office floor. Instead it was when he revealed that not only did he fail to win the chief residency they had accepted as a given for so long, but that his career as a surgeon is effectively over in New York. And I don't think ANY of us want to see Ms. Manhattan herself shuffled off to Mississippi. It would be like a bad version of Doc Hollywood.

For a lot of the time, we consider Joan a bit of a joke. Not in her capabilities, as she showed handling the accident with Guy and the lawnmower or managing the way the entire office acts on any given day, Joan could be put anywhere at anytime and would deal with anything better than most. But its a joke that she couldn't imagine more for herself since she had more inherent potential that even Peggy. She could run an ad agency, but instead she can't even muster the courage to ask to keep the job she excels spectacularly at (even after saving the boss' life) because her loser husband let her down yet again. She doesn't look for more than the grocery bag of gist and dry cleaning bill she is offered.

As things are as uncertain as ever at Sterling Cooper, I couldn't help but imagine an ad agency with a signature client like Hilton with Don running things, Peggy in creative, Pete managing accounts and Joan running the office. It would be a force to be reckoned with, but is far too sunny an dream for this world.

One last note, Billy mentioned how long my last review is and this one is a beast too, but that just goes to show us that there's more to this show than most. I mean I could have written more about poor Pryce being shipped off to Bombay to solve another problem with no thanks or the inferiority of Mr. John Hooker running things in place of Joan, but then I'd be even more annoying. Hopefully, some people might discuss the things I've missed in the comments below... one can always dream.


Friday, September 18, 2009

War, What Is It Good For? Episode Titles, Apparently.

Supernatural: Good God, Y'all
Season 5, Episode 2

One of the things that oftentimes annoys me in television is overuse of character angst. My wife would tell you that main character angst is the reason she refuses to watch Alias and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (though she has no problem with angsty Winchester brothers, hmmm). Yes, angsty characters can be annoying, but when the drama is EARNED, when it makes sense for the characters to be "whiny," as my wife would say, then I will accept it. That's part of the reason why I could readily accept watching the two aforementioned television shows. Sydney Bristow was obnoxious but her fiance had just been killed by the man she thought of as a surrogate father and her boss. And Buffy? Well, she did die a couple of times and there was that whole "having sex with Angel turns him into an evil dude" thing. So, it makes sense for those characters.

At the end of last week's episode we had a dramatic quasi-"breakup" between Dean and Sam. They were going to hunt together still but Dean admitted that he doesn't trust Sam anymore. In my last review I admitted that I didn't buy Dean's seeming to forgive and then reject his brother; I'm happy to say that after tonight's episode the producers have sold me on the Winchester rift in an organic way. Although I fear some fans will be upset by the outcome of tonight's episode, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

First things first, it appears as if Bobby's confidence that he would walk again from last episode was not because of determination on his behalf. No, the first thing he says upon seeing Castiel is a demand for angelic healing. I'm not sure I like this turn at all. Bobby is a determined motherfrakker. Everything we've seen of his character for the last five seasons tells me that he wouldn't rely on an angel (or anyone else, for that matter) for assistance in getting back on his feet. Of course Bobby likely knows that no other power will get him walking again and this is his form of despair, but it's depressing to see him like this. Bobby is usually a rock. I'd expect Bobby to man-up and prepare in any way that he can for the oncoming apocalypse. It's hard to watch Bobby in this state, as one of my favorite characters and a proxy father figure for the boys you want him to be back to full health, if not for himself then for Dean and Sam.

On the surface this episode seems like a diversion from the main plot line of the season. In some respects is absolutely is, Lucifer is not seen and though Castiel is positive God is responsible for his revival (and Dean and Sam's teleportation away from Lucifer) he has not met him yet. But, there are just so many things that are set up in this episode that it cannot truly be considered a standalone.

Cas indicates that the only prudent way to stop Lucifer is to find God. Apparently the only way to find God is use an amulet that burns when in His presence. Just where is this amulet that Cas needs? Right around Dean Winchester's neck. That's right, the amulet that Sammy gave to Dean. Ok, ok, what?! Look, I know during the flashback where Sam gives Dean the amulet it's said that the amulet was special, but what? This reveal just came completely out of nowhere. There was literally no buildup to it in the least. I don't recall during season four anyone even looking at that damn amulet, let alone a reference to it by any of the myriad angels in the season. Maybe I'm missing something, but this really felt like deus ex machina, a way to artificially make Dean even more important than he already is.

One thing I did like about this whole scene was Cas calling Dean on cell phone. Because of the sigils that Cas carved on the boys' ribcages not even he can find them. It's a funny scene but it speaks volumes, the writers realized that having an angel on the boys side was too big of a "get out of jail free" card. So now Cas can't magically find and save Dean and Sam. Which of course leads us to the main plot of the episode.

Rufus (Badass Laureate Steven Williams, beloved by me for his turn as 'X' on The X-Files) calls Bobby on a satellite phone with a cry for help. The phone disconnects before Bobby can get the whole story, but we get to hear some important stuff. A town in Colorado is overrun with demons and Rufus desperately needs help. You can surely see where this is going.

So this town is out in the middle of nowhere, there is no cell phone reception and it looks like the entire town is caught in the middle of this demon showdown. No cell phones means that Castiel isn't going to save the boys at the last minute. Between Rufus showing up in the pre-title sequence and the re-introduction of long gone guest stars, this episode felt like a veritable reunion episode. Yes, tonight marks the return of Ellen and Jo Harvelle, both of whom haven't been seen since season two. Personally, I was excited to see Jo back. And she's hunting with her mother! It's like the anti-Winchesters! I sincerely hope that we get to see more of these two during this season. I loved the arc with the Roadhouse in season two and I always enjoy stories where the boys meet up with other hunters.

It turns out that there are no demons in town, just one sadistic horseman: War (Titus Welliver, who just so happened to guest star as an eco-terrorist in my favorite standalone X-Files episode). War's coming is straight out of the Book of Revelation. Of course, like any modern horseman should, War rides a sweet-ass red Ford Mustang. War has been using a ring to make the townsfolk believe that demons are among them so that they will begin to...well...war with each other.

After figuring this all out the boys stop War by cutting his ring (fingers and all) right off.

For those playing along at home, the correct answer to "when should we have known there were no demons in town," was when Sam used the demon killing knife on a couple of "demons" in the convenience store and there wasn't a light show. I noticed that something was up, but Sammy didn't because he was too busy being a demon blood junkie. Yes, God may have given Sam "demon blood methadone" in the last episode but he's clearly not past the cravings. Dean and Sam have a sit down at the end where Sam admits that he's not doing any better, he doesn't trust himself anymore than Dean trusts him and he needs to find his own way. Dean agrees without a fight, which takes Sam aback. But Dean offers Sam the Impala. That act alone speaks volumes. Dean is protective of two things: his brother and his car. By offering his car to Sam he is telling Sam that he does still sort of trust him and he expects to see him again. Sam denying the car is a way of signaling to Dean he won't be around for a while.

Last week I complained about the Sam/Dean rift. But with Sam admitting that he needs help and he's endangering Dean there is a reason for the angst and drama. It makes the final scene in last week's premiere infinitely better in retrospect. These boys have been through hell (literally, in Deans case) and this was bound to happen. The only question is how long? The Winchesters always seem to have these break-up spats, so how long will this one last?


Better the Second Time Around?

Fringe: A New Day in the Old Town
Season 2, Episode 1

I suppose I've been down this road more than most. Give something a shot, feel it comes up short and move on. But on rare occasions sometimes a show can sneak back into my schedule. And if this year is the year of anything, its the Year of Second Chances. Two shows I had completely written off and one I never wanted to give the time of day are anchoring the second half of my television week. But more than my disappointment in most of the first season of Dollhouse and my (until recently) ignorance of the fun that is the Winchester brothers, Fringe was a show I wasn't going to get into. I watched three of the first four episodes, found its vain attempt to be the next X-Files insulting and changed the channel. It just wasn't going to happen. Only then it did.

I gave the full first season a whirl on BluRay and like the second time I watched Dollhouse, the lowered expectations helped. This wasn't the next X-Files and was never going to be. The conspiracies are too limited. The direction cares more about looking pretty than setting a mood. It's X-Files Lite, or Diet X-Files and you know what? I really like Diet Pepsi. You can have some fun with Diet X-Files. The scripts get better and the actors really come into their own as the season goes on. And a pair of twists in last year's finale had me ready and raring to go for last night's premiere. And if you didn't watch the season one finale, don't read another sentence unless you like things being spoiled for you.

Putting aside my love and respect for Mr. Leonard Nimoy, the most important reveal of the finale was the idea hinted at mid-season that Joshua "Quack! Quack!" Jackson's character Peter is actually from the primary alternate reality that our characters have been interacting with (which the DC fanboy in me refers to as Earth-2), stolen as a child by his "father" because his son died. This might very well be the move that saved the show long term for me. John Noble (The Return of the King) is a fine actor and there were few performers who could have elevated Dr. Walter Bishop above the level of a joke. The trouble is his illness often comes off as shtick. He's stuck acting goofy for the most part as comic relief. The storytelling has now given him a way to add depth to his work because his interactions with Peter and possibly the cause of his advanced mental illness are the result of a moving tragedy.

This first episode since the reveal uses the wonderful device of Peter's approaching birthday (see party hat wearing cow above) to have Walter fretting over making him a custard that this Peter hates, but the late Earth-1 Peter loved as a small child. And of course at some point Walter effectively became Earth-2 Peter's father, so the son goes along with it as he does so many of Walter's eccentricities. And that's something else that made the show enjoyable. One of my very few gripes about The X-Files was that over time Scully saw far too much to remain a skeptic for so long. Once this show got past the Doubting Thomas Syndrome things picked up quite a bit, which has mostly involved Peter going with the flow as opposed to positing "That's impossible." every fifteen minutes like a commercial break alert.

The biggest problem this week is pulling a Lost-Season-Two-Premiere on us. They teased us with William Bell (Nimoy) for the entirety of season one only to reveal his swank location in the World Trade Center on Earth-2 in the last scene. Of course, why reveal anything when you can have Olivia show up with amnesia and drag it out some more. That's just plain annoying television.

Hopefully, they can get back in the swing of things in short order and don't drag that out too long. Olivia's usually the primary lead, so its unusual to see her so sidelined (in the hospital and scatter-brained). But it does give Peter and Walter a little more time to shine then they normally get. But even Olivia's best scene with Charlie is mostly about Kurt Acevedo telling a moving story and saying farewell to his character.

One of the biggest concerns was answered very quickly this year. After successfully taking down the first big bad last season, who was going to be a threat to the main team? Surely not Bell, he's Nimoy-tastic! Enter our Earth-2 Super Soldier disguised as our good friend Agent Charlie Francis, who will be a nice insidious force even without his changing identity device (I dub him Fake Face Francis). It was fairly easy to call that he was going bye-bye. When a new character shows up, like Agent Jessup, someone was on their way out (we call that one MI-5-itis) and it wasn't going to be any of the three leads. We can all just be glad it wasn't The Wire veteran Lance Reddick's Special Agent Broyles. The man has been a terrific contributor (this show's version of Skinner) once he stopped calling Olivia, "Le-A-Sun." Of course that was before he made the icky moment with Nina Sharp. That was just not fun.

But for the most part the show is fun. I mean this isn't Heroes seasons two and three level problems, just a few imperfections and limitations. Don't expect too much high drama and you can get a kick out of it most weeks. At least I hope we can... whether the show flows well week-to-week as opposed to a complete season at once on BD remains to be seen.


Monday, September 14, 2009

And Off We Go

Mad Men: The Fog
Season 3, Episode 5

One of the more universal complaints or concerns about the third season of Mad Men has been the slow burn approach to the first four episodes compared to the last two years. I've never really understood that complaint since the first season mystery about Dick Whitman didn't really develop until the fifth episode "5G", when we meet Adam. Honestly, I have found this season's slow approach a nice chance to highlight the punchline that Roger Sterling has become (How will it get worse than singing in black face in "Old Kentucky Home"? Because you know it will.) and the expectation of the birth of Betty and Don's third child.

But the waiting game is officially over as Don and Betty's story leaps forward and the continued difficulties in integrating the new British management at Sterling Cooper highlight the largest episode of the year in turns of scope.

The real gift of Mad Men is the gift of hindsight.. of knowing where things are heading. And it isn't just dates like Roger's daughter having a wedding the day after Kennedy will be assassinated. The conversation between Pete and Hollis (one of many Yankees fans I find I am able to like without reserve) about televisions is a humorous stand-out given the perspective of the 21st century. The actor who plays the largely thankless role of elevator operator Hollis, La Monde Byrd, is always terrific in what he can say without speaking. How he feels excluded from the idea of the Pete's typical American Dream (outside of watching baseball) and how from our perspective we know that can change, that's one of the little moments that make the show for me. Scenes like that, which in the course of the overall episode (with far bigger scenes involving Peggy and Don, Duck's return and the long sequences involving Don and Peggy at the hospital for the birth of Gene Ver. 2.0) are really rather small and insignificant still bring so much to the table. It's a credit to Matthew Weiner and his writing staff. This tiny scene in the elevator is probably my favorite moment and I couldn't call it one of the five most substantive sequences in the episode.

The majority of the episode is spent at the hospital. Right away we get another of the little cultural quirks the show is so good at pointing out. The idea that the father's job is done when he gets the mother into the building is cute given every birth scene we've watching in every television show and movie over the course of my lifetime. Heck, John Travolta was there for Mickey's birth and he was just the cab driver. But it kind of works here, letting Don share the waiting room with a prison guard and first time dad and Betty going through the birth alone. Don's scenes highlight how, despite recent efforts, he can't make this life mean as much to him as it did before he had achieved it. The idea he had when he was Dick Whitman of this life has worked out so superbly for him professionally, but so hollowly from a personal standpoint. He just isn't the man who can be that involved in his family as the prison guard is. He can't honestly believe in rededicating himself to his family because of this child's birth as the guard does. But for now he continues to make his half-hearted efforts. If the show does last until 1970 as producers have mentioned, I can't imagine Don and Betty still together. But perhaps that is another truth of the time period we'll see. They will both allow themselves to be trapped and miserable for the sake of a mental image of family life.

Back in the advertising world, I have to credit Duck in his little talent poaching mission (even if he makes the enormous misjudgment of having the meeting with both and slighting Pete in the process). Besides Don, there's no one in creative more worth having than Peggy, both in terms of current talent level and in how her forward thinking attitude will make her even more valuable as the rest of the world catches up throughout the 1960s and 70s. And while Pete has his numerous flaws and is often more antiquated than Peggy (see the hilarious Charleston dance sequence from two weeks ago), his pursuit of directing ads towards African Americans is well ahead of the rest of his peers. Of course, as his conversation with Hollis highlights, he isn't invested in social change (like Paul would be), it's just a matter of money to be made. But still, it's a progressive leap of thought that we don't see often at Sterling Cooper from anyone besides Don and Peggy.

Speaking of Peggy, her conversation with Don, while well-written and excellently performed by both Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, isn't as excellent as Don's hospital bedside visit to Peggy that we viewed in flashback last season. For now, it's tough watching my two favorite characters at odds. Their mentor-student relationship was always special, both in terms of mutual respect (including how Don never gave her an inch that she didn't earn) and the fact that it was valuable enough for Don to never make it anything beyond platonic. But this conversation, with Peggy requesting a well-deserved raise that Don cannot get her due to the penny-pinching British overlords, does more for Don in a thematic sense. Peggy so values achieving what Don has (and not in the malicious way Pete had in previous seasons), while he finds his life so unfulfilled. Structurally, it is all a bit more important to Peggy, considering she is getting offers from outside of Sterling Cooper.

And that has been the cruel realization for Don this season. His trip to California last year and Betty throwing him out has spurned him to try and make a better go of it with his family. So he has thus far avoided the clear mutual interest between himself and Sally's teacher, Suzanne Farrell. And the real tragedy of it is that Don and Betty can't be happy together without one of them massively changing. Women like Rachel Menken, Suzanne and (in a professional sense) Peggy all relate to him in a way that Betty or (in a professional sense) Joan never could. Part of the appeal of Don isn't how well he fits in the current setting, but how open and progressive he comes off (be it his views of raising children, the abilities of women in the workforce or relative indifference to race). He accepts the world he has to work in, but we know through hindsight that people like Don and Peggy and their worldview will last long after the Bettys and Rogers are left in the rear-view mirror in the coming decade.

While I've ignored her thus far and just inferred she doesn't deserve her husband, I really don't have anything against Betty... honest. Especially not January Jones' wonderful performance, which is once again stellar in her ability to convey such sadness in almost all things. But she is ultimately the weak girl that her parent's raised her to become. She has her husband and children and too much of her life has always been about maintaining that dream and lifestyle. Don isn't as much her partner as a means to an end. And the great tragedy of her situation is how trapped and dependent it has made her. Despite the big kick out last year, Don's coming and going in the family is almost entirely his own decision. When he wants to leave, he can. When he wants to return, Betty will eventually let him. While Bobby and Gene have been significantly non-entities beyond their figurative value, I honestly think half the time Don is staying for Sally, not Betty.

A random note before wrapping things up, it was nice to see Yeardley "Lisa Simpson" Smith as a nurse at the hospital and she never came off as being nearly as annoying as Lisa is. Well done!

Final score: B+


The Good, The Bland, And The Ugly

Back by popular absolutely no-one's demand, it's the That's a Wrap! Podcast! This week we take a look back at the summer movie season to find out which movies we loved and which ones we wish would fall into a well and die. We also get a chance to preview the fall television slate to discuss what we're going to be watching this season.

I'm not going to lie, this week's Cast is NSFH. What is NSFH? Well, you've heard of NSFW, not safe for work, NSFH is not safe for humanity. We, uh, we might have gone a bit overboard with the swearing. Seriously folks, if you think this week's podcast is bad--just imagine the stuff we cut.

Marvel: as Billy gets his hate on Up.

Behold: as Garrett talks about a movie he's never seen(try to guess which one!).

Astonish: as Jim becomes the angriest G.I. Joe fan ever.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Return of the TAWp!

Welcome back to the That's A Wrap! TAWp Nine in its latest form with yet another deviation of the total number of posts. As always, your faithful That's a Wrap! Editors pick individual favorites in a particular category. Together the picks combine to create VOLTRON! Well, ok, not quite as cool as robotic kitties of doom, but it's close.

As we reboot the website for the new Fall TV season, we're mixing it up with a list featuring highlights from the big screen. This week we chronicle SIX big Oscar and box office heavyweights of the Fall and Winter seasons.

3. Jim - Invictus (12/11/2009)

I've been on an Eastwood tear this summer. I've long been a vocal supporter of how great Mystic River was, been in awe of Unforgiven and Letters From Iwo Jimo and recently really enjoyed Gran Torino. Excluding the hick-up that was Million Dollar Baby (and I blame that on Hilary Swank, she's been nothing but bad news since she ruined the Karate Kid series for me), he's generally aces. And a political/social drama starring his Unforgiven buddy, Morgan Freeman... You had me at hello, Clint. And it's a sports movie, too! Eastwood-political/social drama/Freeman/sports - That's like a parallelogram of awesome right there.

This Oscar front-runner stars Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela attempting to unify his country in the aftermath of apartheid around hosting the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon, plays South African team captain Francois Pienaar.

3. Billy - Zombieland (10/2/09)

Ok, ok, so this one is not going to be on anyone's Oscar list this year, but I just cannot pass up the allure of a good zombie movie. And by "good" I mean...well, I'll watch just about any zombie movie at least once. I have absolutely no illusions that this is going to be anywhere near as funny or enchanting as the zombie-comedy standard bearer Shaun of the Dead but I just don't care. I love horror movies and this October seems to have a lack of anything that looks remotely interesting (Saw 12 is coming out, right?), so Zombieland is at least filling that niche for me.

If zombies don't do it for you (and if not, what the hell is wrong with you?) then how about Woody Harrelson? Remember when he was awesome? He was totally in White Men Can't Jump! He was the titular "white man!" Seriously though, the cast looks totally bonkers: Bill Murray, Jesse Eisenberg, Mike White, Abigail Breslin. I just can't pass this one up.

2. Jim - Brothers (12/4/2009)

Like all my picks on today's list, this remake of a 2004 Danish drama peaks my interest with a stellar director in Jim Sheridan. Between My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer and In America, he's got one of my favorite imdb pages. And his cast in this one certainly has a lot of potential with Tobey Maguire as a soldier believed to be KIA, Natalie Portman as his wife and mother of two young girls and Jake Gyllenhaal as Maguire's drifter brother.

Like most Sheridan films, this appears to be a tough emotional journey for characters we'll care about with great tragedy and in the end something hopeful and life-affirming. It's a tried and true formula that works for me like killer robots works for Billy. And really, we plan the summer for the fun movies. The highlights from this time of year are meant to be meaningful and emotionally challenging. And that my friends is right up Sheridan's alley.

2. Billy - Where The Wild Things Are (10/16/09)

I'm in for this one because of two words: Spike. Jonze. After being absolutely bowled over by Jonze's previous films Being John Malkovich and Adaptation I would sit through anything that he directs. Seriously, do you think those movies were great because of the Charlie Kaufman scripts? Synecdoche, New York and Being Human say hello. Add Jonze's keen direction to a movie based on Maurice Sendak's classic children's book and you have a match made in heaven.

Want another reason to see this movie? Watch the trailer, it's full of CGI Wild Things and they look fabulous! My usual feeling is this: Special effects aren't. I've got to a place where I look at most every big budget special effect blockbuster and just don't believe anything on the screen could be real. It's rare when I see something truly otherworldly and think that it looks like it could exist within our space, but by God those wild things fit that bill. I still have some misgivings with the voice cast(Tony Soprano? Really?) but am willing to forgive them because it just looks so damn fun.

1. Jim - The Lovely Bones (12/11/2009)

(Note: I am not stealing this phrase from Billy. I wrote mine first. So there, bitches.) Two words - Peter. Jackson. Even after the um... let's call it... uneven job with the remake of King Kong, this is a guy who has built up such an enormous credit of trust with me between The Frighteners, Dead Alive and that little project from a few years ago.

Based on Alice Sebold's 2002 novel, this is one of two projects coming out this year I'm so jazzed for I plan on reading the book first (the other being Cormac McCarthy's The Road). The story of a child's death and how her family go on while she observes from heaven stars Mark Wahlberg, who recently built up a new reservoir of credit with The Departed just as he was running out of love for Boogie Nights, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Atonement's Saoirse Ronan as the murdered child.

1. Billy - The Road (11/25/09)

Part of the reason why I want to see this movie so badly is just because after reading the phenomenal Cormac McCarthy novel this movie is based on I cannot fathom how someone could make it into a compelling film. It's not Watchmen-level unfilmable, but the prose-like narrative is half of what made The Road an impressive read, without that I'm not sure the story will have the same kind of impact. I want to see director John Hillcoat succeed because I do love the book, but I have my worries.

The other reason I want desperately to see this flick? Purely selfish, the bombed out post-apocalyptic southern coast depicted in this movie was filmed in my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. Yeah, it's a silly reason, but I'm itching to see places that I've been substituting for a devastated countryside.

Oh yeah, the cast is wicked awesome too: Viggo Mortensen, Garret Dillahunt, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce. Can't wait to see this flick.


Can We Start A Twitter Trending Topic Called #DeanWinchesterKicksAss?

Supernatural: Sympathy For the Devil
Season 5, Episode 1

It's difficult to get excited for a television premiere when it doesn't feel like the show went anywhere during the summer break. Longtime Supernatural fans will cry out that the show, in fact, has been gone for the entire summer. Ok, ok, for you longtime Supernatural fans the summer must have been GRUELING but for us Johnny-come-lately fans the summer was an excuse to watch the entire series for the first time.

I'll fully admit that I initially wrote this show off as average CW teeny bopper drama until I heard that some of my favorite The X-Files producers we working on this series. So I gave it a shot. Damn. Am I glad I did. Without going into too much gushing fanboy-ism, I'm hooked. Explaining the series to friends as being like if The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer made sweet, sweet love and the culmination of that fateful night was offspring that wasn't as whiny as Mommy Buffy and just as kick-ass as Daddy Mulder is a good indication of how seriously I take this series.

So, the Winchester boys haven't been gone this summer. No, they've been playing consistently in my DVD and Blu-Ray player for the entire summer. When we last saw the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, it was the end of the divisive fourth season. Sam decided to harness his demon powers to stop Lilith with Ruby at his side, unwittingly breaking the final lock holding Satan. With Ruby (and her awful acting) and Lilith dead, the boys are now facing the Prince of Evil himself, Lucifer.

Many fans didn't seem to enjoy the fourth season of the series, and maybe I have a different perspective since I watched the entire season over the course of a week, but I quite enjoyed the demon/angel war presented last year. This year seems to be pushing in much the same direction with the Winchesters at odds with both the demon world and the angels who apparently pushed for war in an attempt to finally defeat Lucifer once and for all.

One of the reasons I loved the fourth season was the way that it made the ongoing story of the previous seasons congeal into a compelling mythology that wasn't entirely visible previously. It gives the older seasons' arcs more gravitas in retrospect and truly feels like this year is the final chapter of a pre-planned story. Regardless of whether the show continues into a sixth season (and all indications are that it will) this five season arc will go down as being very well done and compelling. Maybe not as well thought out as say Babylon 5's arc, but close enough for me to make the connection.

Without going into too many plot specifics(if you haven't watched yet, go!) I will say that this episode was simultaneously satisfying and aggravating. The boys are rescued from the monastery and Castiel is brought back to life by some mysterious third party. It makes me think that the Twitter trending topic #Godishere was more than Twitter Christians reacting to the Supernatural fans trending #luciferiscoming. Viral marketing on behalf of the show, perhaps? Hmm, methinks so.) which is by far the most compelling thing to happen in the episode.

Meg Manning's demon makes her return as our first "face" demon that the boys must go up against. Bobby is possessed and breaks free from control long enough to use the demon killing knife on himself. Bobby doesn't die (Thank God!) but is told by doctors that he will never walk again.

The biggest news that is ACTUALLY spoken (not just implied like Castiel's resurrection by mystery person) is that the Archangel Michael is just itching to get into a brawl with Lucifer but needs a willing person to serve as his host. Not just any person, someone deemed to be Michael's Sword: Dean Winchester. Of course, after Zachariah showed his true colors last season, the last thing Dean wants to agree to is being a meat-suit for an angel throw down.

Lucifer, however, finds a host by convincing a depressed widow (Mark Pellegrino of Lost and Dexter)that God abandoned him and could have saved his late wife and child. It's an interesting dynamic that I cannot wait to see play out over the season. But seriously, if Lucifer shows up at your doorstep and says, "Bro, God's totally a dick, he totally lied about me being the prince of lies," don't believe him!

The big problem I have with the episode is that Dean seemingly forgives Sam early in the episode only to tell Sam later that he will never trust him again. I'm all for a rift between the boys - season four focused on that quite a bit and it turned Dean into my favorite character. Here it seems silly and contrived. The world is ending. Lucifer is rising. Shit is going down. The Winchesters need to man up and save the world. The rift itself wasn't even the big problem, it's just that it occurred at the very end of the episode. We didn't get a cliffhanger of any sort and this Dean/Sam fight seems to happen so frequently that I kind of felt like we'd been down this road before.

In the end the good outweighs the bland. I'm still on board for the rest of this season.

BTW anyone hear those rumors that Jensen "Dean Winchester" Ackles might be playing Captain America? I'm behind anyone who's previously uttered the words, "Criss Angel is a douche," playing Cap.


Let's Dawn of the Dead this Mother.

Like the aforementioned zombie classic, That's a Wrap!'s decaying corpse has risen to once again wreak havoc. After an inexcusable summer layoff filled with pointless things like Billy working full time, Garrett umpiring and me being the insane Red Sox freak that I am... well it's Finally Fall, which for TV and movie fanboys is like Spring... all rebirth and new life. Movie studios begin the Oscar push with some of their highest quality efforts and a whole new season of television shows debut. And not even the fear of five nights of Jay Leno in primetime can stop me from being excited about that.

So expect us back up and running for the indefinite future. Today you'll see Billy's review of the fifth season premiere of our new obsession of the moment, Supernatural, and hopefully a TAWp! six Fall Films coming out between now and the end of the year. Sunday, we'll have a Summer Movie Review/Fall TV Preview Podcast. And Monday morning I'll blast onto the scene with a review of the first eight episodes of this season of AMC's Mad Men. So let's kick the tires and light the fires.