Wednesday, November 25, 2009

V Thoughts

So, we’ve now seen the first four episodes of ABC’s remake of V. I think it’s probably safe to assume that they’re going to make more, but for the near future, this is what we have to judge. Now, to be honest, I hadn’t actually seen the original mini-series until SyFy (God, I hate typing that) was kind enough to air it shortly before the first episode premiere. I had always just assumed that it wasn’t very good, not in small part because you rarely hear people talking about how great it was, plus it was a made-for-TV sci-fi mini series from the early 80s. It’s hard to have particularly high expectations for that.

But, as it turned out, the original was actually totally awesome. I mean, of course there’s a huge amount of suspension of disbelief required and the alien’s over-arching goal type stuff is downright stupid, but the basic premise and execution was very good. Okay, fine, what it all comes down to is that I thought an alien invasion as a heavy handed metaphor for the rise of fascism was totally cool.

Even though the idea that an occupation as nebulous as “scientist” could be used as a way to discriminate is totally ridiculous (fun fact: my business card actually states my position as Scientist, clearly, I would be screwed), the portrayal of this world takeover was still really well done. And I know that the strategy in that mini-series was very much based upon the control of information and the isolation of individual human cities so that the aliens could control them, so clearly the update has to take a very different tact.

And I’m okay with that. I’m excited to watch a different alien strategy that still retains the original menace of the peaceful display of clearly overwhelming power.

So, I wouldn’t say that I had high hopes for this show, but after seeing the original it now had something to live up to. And, so, well, does it? To be honest, I’m still on the fence, but that’s actually a step up from my initial impressions. After the first two episodes, I was almost ready to stop watching, but now I can say that I will still be watching it when it starts back up.

Clearly the show has a lot of problems. For one, I don’t like that the Vs have infiltrated humanity for the past twenty years. It’s been done. Plenty of times. Of course, then it gets even worse because there’s V traitors as well, so we don’t know who to trust, on both sides. I’m sorry, but we just finished Battlestar Galactica, can’t we move on with a different starting point? Can't the general American consciousness have a new fear besides the people around us?

Next, I understand that this one is trying to be updating the alien invasion genre with the idea of PR as the primary weapon. And, on the surface, I think I can appreciate that. But, well, that’s not really all that interesting. Plans to poison some of the population with the flu vaccine, are just, weird. I mean, we’ve done that to ourselves (or have we?). Or faking an assassination attempt. By the way, under what kind of ridiculous rules would the FBI hand over a human terrorist to an alien government? That requires some suspension of disbelief I’m not ready to make. But the alien’s plan relied on it.

In watching V, there’s just so many decisions I don’t appreciate or just don’t understand. For one, there’s just no way that the aliens can be expected to keep the whole reptilian thing a secret in today’s world. Especially now that the aliens have passports to walk around the city. Admittedly, the pointless cameras in their jackets could help protect the aliens from getting abducted a little bit, but not much.

All you need is for someone to abduct a V, then film the removal of its face. In the best case, they’ll film it just like a terror execution, except the subject won’t end up dead. The bag will get pulled off its head and that’ll be that. The true face of a V will be apparent for the whole world to see. I want to see that. I admit it’s not very clever, but it’s no more heavy-handed than most of the other things they’re doing on this show.

Let’s see, obviously, we’re still waiting to find out what the aliens larger scale goals are, so, while they can’t be more ridiculous than the original ones, they can certainly be worse. And I definitely don’t know how I should feel about that armada they showed at the end. Of course, assuming they can’t go faster than light, there’s probably a couple years till they get here. Personally, I’d like to think that the 29 ships here are not the first wave, but rather some crazy off shoot that are addicted to that weird power that Morena Baccarin has (I admit, I would probably follow Morena Baccarin across the galaxy to destroy another civilization, so it’s hardly unbelievable).

But otherwise, it’s just little things. Like they’ve got that cool homing device that kills people and it’s got video, but the quality is too poor to identify the target. I mean, really? Really? Is that what you’re going with? It transmit video, but not to the point where it might actually be useful? How about, it’s just heat sensing. There, almost no picture and it doesn’t have to be stupid.

Or, torturing a human by making him think that he’s covered with snakes. Are you kidding me? That’s the lamest torture I’ve ever heard of. I mean, it would suck for, at max, a minute or so. Then you’d just get used to being covered with snakes and wait for the real torture. In the original, that torture chair was covered with instruments of pain. Just looking at that chair seemed like a good enough reason to talk.

But, it all really comes down to the fact that, much like Battlestar Galactica, there’s almost no one to like. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like the FBI agent, and I don’t like the black V who is obsessed with John May, and I definitely don’t like the news reporter or Georgie or the FBI agent’s kid either. There’s just not any humans to root for besides Joel Gretsch and I think he’s only going to start getting interesting once he decides to become a soldier. Okay, I am kind of rooting for the FBI agent’s kid to get it on with the cute blonde V, but I don’t think that entirely counts.

So, with all these complaints, what managed to push me from dropping the show all the way up to on the fence? The idea of skinning a V as the ultimate punishment. There seems to be a, possibly strong, suggestion that the Vs are actually kind of obsessed with humanity or at least the idea of “humans”.

In the original, the aliens looked down on humanity absolutely. They viewed themselves as putting on a costume in order to lull the prey into a false sense of security. They hated the skin they were wearing and removed it on the ship at the earliest convenience. In this version, it seems like they almost view their human faces as their true faces. And they all have human names by which they address even each other. And this goes back to the beginning, considering that the original insurgent was simply named John May.

Of course, we have no idea what this means or why, but it’s promising. Quite simply, it’s a reason to keep watching. Because, I can imagine some interesting stuff coming from that basic fact. That the aliens want to be human.

And, I would like to finish on the one brilliant decision made for this show. That would be the casting of the V Threat Assessment agent. I immediately recognized her as a Cylon from Battlestar. I love how that immediately made me completely not trust her and fear that new organization. Just because she had already been a fake human in an entirely different universe. That casting decision gives that character so much extra background that I couldn’t help but applaud it. I hope she’s not actually an alien, but I love that she has to prove it, just because of who the actress is. Good job, guys.

That is all.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

This Fall’s Lineup

So, I know it’s been awhile, but it’s getting to be time for me to put my thoughts down on the shows that have been on for the past two months (wow, that’s a lot of procrastinating). Anyways, I’m just going to go by day of the week, starting with Monday. Not just because that’s the start of the work week, but also because there’s nothing on on Sundays, since I don’t watch The Simpsons or anything by Seth MacFarlane (okay, I watch them, but I don’t watch them, watch them).

So, Mondays. Here we go.

Fox was kind enough to front load the week with House and Lie to Me. With House, I don’t know, it’s not doing that much for me this season. I mean, I like having the old team back together, but it mainly serves to remind me why they felt the pressure to get a new team in the first place. Cameron is boring now and she’s been boring for a long time. Maybe she should have gotten AIDS. Maybe that’s a terrible thing for me to say. Hmm, on second thought, definitely that’s a terrible thing for me to say. Obviously, Hugh Laurie remains ridiculously awesome. And I enjoyed the two hour premiere in the mental hospital. I thought it was an interesting look at House as someone who is being forced to recognize that he really is broken. Realizing that he’s actually not God, just like everyone’s been trying to tell him for the last however many seasons. The problem, though, is that we all still want him to actually be God, which kind of throws everything through a loop. Really, though, there just hasn’t been that much excitement. And, no, Chase killing James Earl Jones does not count as exciting. Admittedly, the presence of James Earl Jones does count as exciting, but that doesn’t count.

Lie to Me is pretty much the same as ever. Tim Roth is awesome (I love the way Lightman walks, he looks like such a misanthropic freak). His daughter continues to annoy me. So, no complaints, but it’s hardly breaking any ground.

Let’s see, I do watch two of the four comedies that CBS puts out. That would be How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory. The former has been stuck in a rut for awhile, but Dr. Horrible makes everything at least awesome. I think my favorite thing about it remains the way they continue to play with the idea of telling stories. In a weird way, this is the only sitcom where I think it’s okay for the characters to constantly have witty lines and comebacks, because that’s the way they remember it (which means it’s not necessarily the way it actually happened, just to be clear). I like how whenever two different people tell the same story, everything is slightly different. I think it’s cool. In a weird way, I hope that the final episode of the show is something like How I Met Your Father and we get to hear things from that perspective as well.

Then there’s Big Bang Theory. I cannot understand why this show has some of the best ratings of the season. I mean, the highest praise I can give it is something along the lines of: it doesn’t totally suck. It’s watchable. For the most part, at least. Seriously, that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. It’s definitely better than Two and a Half Men, but that’s what is commonly called a “back-handed compliment”. That show is terrible (and it has like the 3rd highest ratings of the season, so maybe it’s not surprising that Big Bang Theory is doing so well).

Anyways, why do I watch it? Because it’s kind of an interesting perspective on how cool Hollywood-types think nerds are. It’s interesting because they typically get the activities right (with the exception of Klingon Boggle, that’s above and beyond), but they don’t know how nerds participate in those activities. They get excited about the wrong parts of the things they do. Here’s an example: in one show they’re playing Rock Band and all trying to look totally into it and pretending they’re rock stars. But, that’s not how these nerds would actually play Rock Band. They would be standing there, essentially motionless, and getting near perfect scores, totally focused. When the song ended, they would all give a bunch of crap to the one guy who got a 98%. Okay, one more example, in another episode, they’re playing some CCG and they get excited when they win (which intuitively makes sense), but again, that’s not what would really get them excited. They’d be totally into the crazy, non-intuitive strategy they’d come up with that allowed them to win. In the show, the nerdiest character is always counting cards and knows what’s in his opponents hand, but the way he would actually win would be by using two or three cards together in a way that the rules barely allow and completely destroying his opponent in a way that no one else present even fully understands. That’s how nerds play those games.

Alright, that was another digression. Anyways, that’s the main reason I watch it. I guess I have to give it credit that the only two jokes it knows are occasionally funny. The first joke is that the most ridiculously socially inept one is ridiculously socially inept and at least two of them think the fact that they’re not quite as incapable of interacting with people as him makes them cooler than him, but any normal people they interact with can’t actually tell the difference. The second joke is, um, that Penny’s hot, maybe, okay, fine there is no second joke. Everything even remotely funny is contained in that first one.

And lastly, ABC has Castle. Or, more accurately, 43 minutes of Nathan Fillion filled goodness. Aside from the previous episode in which he dressed up as one Malcolm Reynolds, the season hasn’t been quite as much fun as last season. He doesn’t get to be cutely annoying as often. But he’s still hilarious, of course. That can never change. Nor would we want it to. So, I still love it. Also, his daughter doesn’t annoy me, and it’s not just because she’s a really cute redhead (dammit, just looked up her age, scratch that), it’s because she doesn’t get in the way of Nathan Fillion being awesome, as opposed to the daughter in Lie to Me, who is constantly interfering with Tim Roth being awesome.

Alright, Tuesdays.

Oh, yeah, Tuesdays are totally empty until V next week. I really hope that it’s both a) watchable and b) watched, so that there will be something to actually watch on Tuesdays. My main concern is that they clearly spent a lot of time and effort making sure that Morena Baccarin is not ridiculously hot. Okay, fine, all they did was cut her hair, but seriously, who made that decision? Is he or she still working? If so, why? Really a terrible call. But, they kind of made up for it by bringing in Joel Gretsch, because he’s cool. On a random, pointless digression, he was in that random sci-fi action bomb Push. When I finally got around to seeing it on Blu-ray, I actually kind of liked it, to my surprise. I mean, it was clearly pretty bad, but it had some real positives. For example, Dakota Fanning was not relentlessly annoying. See: real positive, right there. In all seriousness, I liked the world and the rules it was creating, even though it kept getting tripped up by it’s own stupidity. And I must admit that I was surprised that Dakota Fanning never got around to telling Chris Evans that she’s his sister (okay, I don’t actually know that, but come on, she has to be, and no I didn’t spoil anything). Sorry about that, back to TV.

Ye olde Wednesday. I admit I sorta gave Modern Family a change. I think I lasted for almost a full minute before stopping it. So, yeah, sorry, I hear it’s funny. Otherwise, it’s just Glee, which has a tough time walking the thin line between making fun of its cliches and just being one of those cliches. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re batting .500 on that one, to be honest. Wow, that was a strange set of mixed metaphors right there, my apologies. Of course I still watch it, for the times when they get it right (like this one ballad where, out of nowhere, there’s all these sparkly-things floating behind the girl, just to make it that much more dramatic). For the most part, though, I think this show peaked at its pilot. Which is too bad.

Okay, Thursdays.

So, Fringe, yeah. Ratings kinda dropped when they moved it out of Tuesday. Maybe that’s because it didn’t have any competition on Tuesday. But, my thoughts. I’m sorry to see Agent Francis die. And not just because of his last name, which is clearly ridiculously awesome. I think his character brought a lot to the team as the “real” FBI agent that they coordinate with. I’m guessing that maybe they’re planning to use the random hot FBI agent from the first episode of the season to do his old job, but they haven’t gotten around to actually making that transition yet (otherwise, I have no idea why they introduced her for two episodes and then totally forgot about her, except maybe because they realized they didn’t need another hot FBI agent what with Olivia and Astrid already meeting the required two hot regular female special agents per show). Otherwise, I don’t know how strongly I feel about this show. It’s still fun though. And I’ve enjoyed the multiple, clearly-stated references to the X-Files. I think it’s interesting that they view themselves as taking place in the same universe. I wonder if they’ll do anything with that (I vote for a Skinner cameo, personally). Also, I think it’s extra interesting that during Fringe, the Fox/Fringe logos around the commercial breaks have the black goo in them. I can’t help but wonder, most likely idly, whether that has any significance.

Let’s see, beyond Fringe, there’s Community and FlashForward. Let’s start with Community. This show is awesome. Very hilarious. And I don’t even get most of the 80s teen comedy references (I should really watch The Breakfast Club sometime). I really appreciate just the basic idea of this sitcom. It’s a great eclectic group of people that become friends and support each other in community college. All while telling jokes at a ridiculously fast pace. This is the funniest show on television right now (sorry, The Office can’t win because I cannot handle those episodes when half of it is Michael making an ass of himself, which is, like every episode).

Alright, FlashForward. I guess I like it. It’s better than I thought it would be. I mean, I’m watching it, so that’s something. Admittedly, I keep falling behind, but I’m not lost yet. So, yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how many people’s visions come true on whenever that is. I’m not sure if I’ll keep watching after that point. Of course, that’s like April or something, so I guess they’ve got me for more than a little while. Whatever, moving on, I guess (wow, I didn’t realize how apathetic I was about this show until I tried to write about it).

And, last but not least, Friday.

Let’s see, Friday’s actually been pretty busy, what with: Dollhouse, Psych, White Collar, Sanctuary, Eureka, and Stargate Universe. Yes, I actually watch some cable TV shows as well. I think I’ll skip over Psych and Eureka since they both started long before the fall and finished up in September/early October. Oh, wait, I have to say that Psych needs to come up with more excuses to have Rachel Leigh Cook show up because she is way too hot to only show up occasionally as Shawn’s girlfriend. I have no strong feelings for Eureka, or Warehouse 13 for that matter (except that I think it’s awesome to see Mindy Crenshaw from Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh still working...and getting hotter and, um, older). And, I think I’ll skip White Collar too, since there’s only been one episode and all I can say for sure is that I think I’ll keep watching it, but I don’t think it’s anything special. And it’s hard to like it too much since it’s starring Bryce Larkin and he was mean to Chuck.

Alright, that narrows it down to just Dollhouse, Sanctuary and Stargate Universe. I think I can do Sanctuary pretty quick: what are they thinking? I have not appreciated a single decision they’ve made so far this season, except, maybe, and I really mean maybe, killing the chick who could turn invisible. I didn’t like her as a love interest for the main guy (since he should be pining unsuccessfully for the hot blonde), but that didn’t mean I wanted her dead. Jeez, what’s with you people? Plus, it’s looking like we’re going to have multiple episodes without the hot blonde because we think she’s dead right now. That’s annoying, because the hot blonde is, um, hot. Also, the random chick they came up with to substitute for her is more than slightly annoying. So, yeah, I’m not happy right now. They really need to undo a lot of the stupid decisions they’ve made.

Hmm, that wasn’t quite as quick as I was expecting it to be. Well, on to Stargate Universe. This is the first Stargate show I’ve watched. I thought the movie was terrible when it came out 15 years ago. That means I was sufficiently young to only barely even be able to recognize when a movie is terrible. But I could still tell. But, well, I thought I’d give this one a chance. They pretty much promised that it wouldn’t really be about Stargates and stuff like that and, so far, that has proven true. Per normal for SyFy (sigh) space shows (*cough* BSG *cough*), I don’t actually like anyone in the show. Anyone. But, I’m still watching it for some reason. Because I like the ship. And they treat it respectfully and so I’ll continue to watch it for the sake of learning about this ship and its history and mission. If I have to tolerate a bunch of annoying, bickering and oftentimes downright stupid people, then so be it.

And we’ll finish this up with Dollhouse. It’s been an interesting season for Dollhouse. Too bad it’s almost certainly the last. Epitaph One was one of the weirdest decisions I’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s really set sometime in, like, season 3 or 4, but Joss was apparently worried he’d never get that far and the ideas were so cool he just had to make it now. At least, that’s the story I’m telling. And it’s certainly interesting. The idea that you can remotely wipe someone and steal their body is downright cool and scary. The idea that someone decided to make Stephen King’s Cell a reality is, well, odd, but we know he just misses the Reavers.

But, because we’ve seen Epitaph One, everything in season two becomes about how we get there. So, things like Topher working on remote wiping as a way to deal with instances when dolls go out of control becomes much more sinister than it necessarily should be. Speaking of Topher, I would just like to give him a gold star as most improved character of the season. Last season, he was just some dude who wished he was Alan Tudyk (and then Alan Tudyk came along and showed us all that no one can be Alan Tudyk except Alan Tudyk). But, now, he’s my favorite character. I loved the episode when Dr. Saunders was torturing him and asking him why he made her hate him. I loved that his response was that he didn’t. He gave her the ability to decide for herself and she chose to hate him. His greatest creation was a fully functioning, independent-thinking being. And she hated him to her core.

Oh, I also like the notes that Echo is keeping inside her sleeping chamber. In summary, Dollhouse has gotten a lot better than it was at the start. Too bad it’s all finishing up. Also, I have to admit that I’m not that excited about Summer Glau showing up (not because I’m not excited to see River again, though). I’m just worried because I don’t really want to watch her be evil. Or if she is going to be evil, I want her to be really hot while being evil. So, I’ll reserve judgement until I find out just how hot she turns out. On a side note, she was very hot in her cameo in The Big Bang Theory. Not that that’s a surprise or anything.

Okay, I’m caught up. And I can look forward to more Chuck (for better or worse, I thought the end of season two provided very nice closure for the show, but apparently other people desperately wanted more). And, more importantly, I can continue patiently waiting for Day One. I know, it’s gone from an exciting post-apocalypse show, to a 13-episode event run, to a four episode mini-series with the possibility of getting picked up for the following season. But, I still have hope, okay. Give me a break alright. Yeah, I don’t have that much hope. Maybe a little more hope than I had for Virtuality. A little.

Well, that is all.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9

Well, you’re probably not surprised, but I saw District 9 at midnight on Thursday. Hopefully, you’re at least a little impressed that I saw it even though I was at work at five that morning (hopefully, you’re impressed that I was at work at five that morning, period). Anyways, I saw it.

Let me list what I knew going in. It’s made by the guy who was going to make Halo because Peter Jackson saw some short he made about aliens in Johannesburg that I never bothered to see. Everyone who sees it loves it. Oh, and it’s about apartheid. I guess I also knew that it involved aliens in Johannesburg and I kind of assumed it was building upon the short film he’d made but that I had never seen.

So, yeah, I didn’t know much. I think I knew just the right amount. Actually, I probably didn’t need to know that everyone who sees it loves it. It would have been nice not to have known that, but then I probably wouldn’t have seen it at midnight, so...yeah.

Anyways, if you had decided to wait outside the theater at two in the morning to ask me if I liked it, I don’t think I would have said that I loved it. I would have said that other reviewers were raving a little bit too much because they miss having a movie like The Dark Knight to rave about this summer. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have said that I liked it. That it was really interesting. That I wanted to see it again. I mean, I would have recommended it. I just would have tried to explain to you that it was a little over-rated.

But, you didn’t wait outside. So, you’re getting my reaction now that I’ve had some time to contemplate it (and I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating it). And, well, yeah, I loved it. It’s not over-rated at all. You should never ask my opinion about those kinds of things at two in morning. So, um, good thing you didn't.

The more time that passes, the more I liked it. The more I want to see it again. The more I want to see another one. The more I...I don’t know...the more that I just want more. I start wondering, or hoping really, that maybe there was something after the credits that I missed because I was too tired to stick around to find out. I just want to see and contemplate and experience that universe again.

Let’s put it in simple terms. It’s a very, very good sci-fi movie. It’s also an incredibly angry movie. With more than a touch of sadness. It can’t help but remind me of Children of Men. Only it’s not about how a hopeless future takes away our will to be human. This movie believes that we don’t really have a will to be human at all. Given the opportunity to be inhuman, that’s what we’ll be.

There is no trust in this movie. There’s no trust in authority or corporations or humanity at all. There’s no trust in human decency. It’s sad.

But that’s only the first part of what I thought about. I thought about how the authorities were at least as barbaric as the Nigerian gangsters. I thought about one of the things a minor character said about the company. They didn’t even try to hide the things they were doing. I thought about how it was noted that this character was in prison for exposing the crimes of the company. I'm doubtful the company was punished for what it was doing.

I thought about how that company was ever even given the authority to police District 9. In my imagination, they won a bid to police it. They won this bid when it was known that they were the number two weapons manufacturer in the world. I assume they undercut everyone who wanted to actually improve or help the aliens, and no one bothered to question why.

I think about the company’s slogan to its military police. “A smile is cheaper than a bullet.” I think of how little smiling there was in this movie. I think of how often the military police were smiling while they were shooting.

I think about my own assumptions and distrust just while watching the movie. I think of how I felt when I first saw an alien take off a guys arm, for no apparent reason. How I felt when the humans simply killed it right there. They were putting an animal down. I agreed with them.

I think of how I felt when the main character burned down a shack full of the aliens’ eggs. He first shows the camera how to abort the eggs. We hear the scream of the young one inside as its life supply is cut off. Then they take a flame thrower to the rest of them. We can hear the screaming in the background as the main character explains to us that the popping sound is the eggs exploding from the heat. He laughs as he tells us its just like popping popcorn. I was horrified.

And then we’re introduced to the main alien character. He’s collecting a mysterious fluid and the only thing I’m thinking is wondering how he is planning to use it against us. Wondering if this is the stuff that will enable them to take over the planet, like they’ve secretly been hoping for the last twenty years. Looking back, I’m a little horrified with myself for that.

But, mostly, I think about the aliens. I know that Neill has done some interviews and stuff where he talks about how he envisions the backstory of the aliens. I skimmed a quick thing where he talks about a hive mind and the lack of a queen. I stopped reading at that point. The aliens have a rather different backstory in my mind. Of course, I have to admit that he gets final say. But, within the narrative of the movie, everyone can give the aliens their own history. Because, no one really knows about the aliens.

Alright, from here on out, don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie. Seriously. Just go see the movie. You’ll going to regret reading this if you don’t. I don’t care if you’ve already had someone describe every single thing that happened in the movie in excruciating detail. Go see the movie. We clear? Good.

So, one of the big questions to me throughout the movie, is why the aliens allow this happen to themselves. Why don’t they defend themselves? They have tons of these extremely powerful weapons, but they don’t use them. They trade them away for food. They have no conception of the idea of stealing or using these weapons to take food. They don’t seem to know how to threaten. They’ll lash out, often without a clear reason why, but they otherwise don’t seem to know how to use violence for an agenda. But, mostly, they don’t use their weapons.

One possibility is that, sometime in the past twenty years, humans made it clear that if the aliens used the weapons, they would be killed immediately. But that doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t think these aliens are intelligent enough to think that through. Besides, I don’t think that would be enough of a deterrent to stop them from ever using the weapons. Plus, they get killed immediately for doing tons of things (like taking a guys arm off) and we still see them doing those things.

No, I think they have to be told to use the weapons. I think these aliens have an extremely hierarchal society and the lowest classes aren’t capable of making those kinds of decisions. They can fend for themselves to some extent, but they have no conception of the future. Or the past, for all I know.

I think these guys require a leader. They require an alien with more intelligence to tell them what to do. I think the main alien (Christopher Johnson) was that leader on the ship. It’s clear that he is capable of planning, since he’s been collecting the liquid for twenty years in order to get back to the ship. Also, at least initially, he has an alien following him around and doing what he says. It’s also clear that even Christopher’s child is significantly more intelligent than that one.

Also, this might be reading too much into things, but he calls the other aliens “my people”. But the other interesting thing is that the other aliens came to Mikus’s rescue at the end. I think, if he wanted, he could be the leader for the aliens left on the earth. They would follow him.

Alright, so here’s my slightly crazy theory. We know that the liquid can turn non-aliens into aliens, right? So, what if the aliens are so hierarchal, because some of the societal classes didn’t start out as the aliens? What if Christopher is an original alien, but the rest of these worker bees started out as something else. Just saying.

I guess I have to admit that my theory doesn’t do the best job of keeping myself open minded (because now I’m suggesting that the aliens are quite capable of the subjugation of other species). Admittedly, I’m hardly suggesting that the aliens go to other planets to find life to turn into themselves. In my mind, the workers started out as some other non-sentient species living on the alien planet and were turned into the barely intelligent beings we see.

Well, that’s my two cents on the aliens’ background. Do with it what you will. And I think the reason that Christopher Johnson hasn’t been trying to lead his people is that his only goal was to get the ship back in operation. To get home. He could live with the treatment the aliens were receiving because he believed it would be temporary. That they would be able to go home eventually. But, when he saw truly horrible things that the company was doing to his people, I think it changed his priorities a little bit. Suddenly, getting his people off this world became a much higher priority than it had been. He finally understood that this world wasn’t safe for his people.

In some ways, I wonder what would have happened if him and his son hadn’t managed to get away. Would he have started trying to unite the aliens once they moved out to District 10? Would he have started working towards improving their situation here, instead of merely trying to get them off the planet? I hope so. That would be pretty cool to watch, too. In some ways, I wonder if Mikus would do that. The movie seems to suggest that he’s just trying to hide out for the next three years. But, I think he’s grown enough to be the leader the aliens need.

Also, I think its interesting that the alien population is exploding in District 10. I don’t know what the result of that will be, but I’m sure it will be a source of tension in the future. I can’t help but wonder what Christopher is going to find when he comes back. I hope there’s still a population left to save. I hope Mikus is still alive to provide even the barest proof that humanity can be better than they’ve been.

Man, I want more. Maybe I'll write more later, we'll see. I need to go watch it again.

That is all.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

2 Things From Fox

So, I want to apologize because I’ve been meaning to write this post for over a week. And I’d been meaning to write the first half of this post for over a month, but, well, better late than never right? Right? Well, whatever, it was supposed to be a rhetorical question.

Anyways, there are two new (well new a little while ago, but I think they still count as new) Fox properties that need to be brought up, discussed, and recommended. So that Fox can then cancel them. Or in one case, simply not bother to renew it.

The first one I want to talk about is Glee. Fox has been promoting the show really heavily and one of the songs from it was the top selling single on iTunes for awhile, so it’s actually looking like this is going to last. I have no idea why. Err, let me rephrase that. I love it.

You see, if all you knew about Glee can from those two facts above, you would probably be rather skeptical of this show. I mean, the ads make it clear that it’s supposed to bear more than a passing resemblance to High School Musical. Now, since I think we can all agree that any genius or genius-like properties that might have been in High School Musical were a total fluke, so seeing ads that try to convince us that a show is even remotely like High School Musical should set off tons of warning bells.

But, well, I ignored all those warning bells going off in my head and I watched it. And, let me tell you, this show is the anti-High School Musical. Or you could call it the High School Musical for people old enough to have actually attended high school...and have a sick sense of humor.

This show is sick and evil and subversive. I hope it’s a huge hit. So, here’s my favorite way to compare Glee to its Disney counterpart (I’m getting tired of typing High School Musical). I don’t really remember why Zac Effron’s character signs up to be in the show but I kind of assume it either involved the cute girl whose nude pictures showed up online or him getting detention in theater class. Probably a mixture of both (I feel like there was some choice on his part, though). In Glee, the teacher plants pot in the equivalent character’s locker and threatens to get him thrown off the football team if he doesn’t join the club. That is awesome. It might be more awesome that the teacher got the pot as a free sample from a former-teacher-turned-drug-dealer played by none other than Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!).

Here’s another example. Jane Lynch is in it. If you know who she is, then that should sell you on just how evil and awesome the show is. She plays the cheerleaders‘ coach. And she is as evil as ever (if you don’t know who she is, then you’ll probably recognize her from The 40-Year Old Virgin or, um, the ads for Role Models). Also, another teacher is played by Jayma Mays, who played Hiro’s crush that could speak a bunch of languages...and was super cute.

Yeah, back to the show, that’s the kind of stuff that happens in this show. The best way I can describe it is that the show hates its characters. It thinks they’re pathetic. All of them. And it celebrates just how pathetic they are as they all join Glee to prove “that they can be good at something”. Yes, that’s why they joined Glee.

In a way, it’s pretty depressing because they know just how pathetic they are (that would be the key difference between this and the Disney property that it’s making fun of). And, I mean, our entertainment comes from watching them face that, day in and day out.

I’m pretty sure watching this show (and understanding this) makes me a bad person. Sometimes, I like being a bad person.

At the same time, though, it almost feels like people could also watch this show and totally not get it. I think that’s what makes it brilliant. I mean, you could watch the rival team doing a show-tunes rendition of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, with clapping and dancing, and just think that it’s a fun cover of the song.

You could probably even watch the football player defending his decision to stick with Glee to the other football players by pointing out to them that everyone who lives in this godforsaken town is a loser and that, at best, one or two of them are going to manage to get into a college far enough away to escape the place and just think it’s the typical inspirational speech that this genre is supposed to have.

But man, I don’t know, what if people figure out that this isn’t High School Musical? What if they actually listen to the lyrics or even the words the characters are saying? Yeah, I think we’ll be fine, too.

Okay, next is Virtuality, which aired as a two hour made-for-TV movie, or something. I mean, it’s pretty clearly a pilot, but I’m pretty sure Fox has no intention of taking it to series, because that would be way too awesome for them.

On an unrelated note (okay fine it’s related), I’ve see two different takes on HAL this past 10 days or so. In Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and not related to this post at all, we’ve got Kevin Spacey’s take on HAL. It was certainly interesting. Particularly because he wasn’t evil. Yeah, it blew my mind too. Anyways, in Virtuality, HAL is named Jane and it’s not really clear if she’s evil or just incompetent.

Sorry, the show, movie...err, thing. It’s the next project from everyone’s favorite sci-i genre hero who is not JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, or Bryan Fuller (does he count as sci-fi, or just fantasy?). If you guessed Ron Moore, then good job.

So, if you watched Battlestar Galactica, you know a couple things about Mr. Moore. You know he likes shaky-cam shots of outer space. You know he does relatively hard sci-fi that’s typically more about people than action. You know he probably takes himself too seriously. You know his stuff might be worth watching. And, well, there you go. You know as much me.

Well, this shows’ driving concept is, probably, better than BSG’s. It’s a team being sent across the galaxy to begin preparations for humanity to leave Earth, which is experiencing cataclysmic climates, or something. What’s important is that they’re saving the world, okay. Anyways, it’s a reality show back home. I think that’s both awesome and incredibly real.

I mean, if a team was going out to save the world, I’m pretty sure I would want to tune in occasionally (okay, yeah, I probably wouldn’t but whatever).

So, not unlike dozens of other sci-fi properties the crew gets to feel the pressure of the world on their shoulders (most recently, I would throw out Danny Boyle’s Sunshine as a genre example). Plus, they get to feel the pressure of being on TV all the time (whoo!).

But, there’s one last piece to the puzzle. They can do virtual reality scenarios (like the holo deck in Star Trek) as a way to escape the space shuttle. Except, there’s something not quite right in the virtual reality.

There’s something that doesn’t seem to like them, something that is hurting them (either mentally or physically). And Jane isn’t helping.

And, well, that might be all we ever get. But, man, it was cool. It was cool because this something’s intention are anything but clear. It’s making them all feel things worse than death, but that’s inspiring them to keep working together and actually go forward. Obviously, there’s better ways to get people moving, but it did get them moving. But is that what it wanted?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever find out either. I wish I knew.

That is all.


Friday, June 5, 2009


Okay, so I saw Up.  And, well, I can’t really believe it, but it just won the award for best Pixar movie.  I’m still blown away.  I’m still recovering.  I can barely believe what I just watched.  All I want to do is go back and watch those first 10-15 minutes again.  And again.  And again.  I’ll just cry the whole time.  

It’s that beautiful.  It’s that touching.  It’s that perfect.  

It’s amazing to me that Pixar movies manage to keep getting better.  I still remember how much Toy Story spoke to me when I was much younger.  That was back before they’d proven how good they were.  They followed it up with A Bug’s Life, which I didn’t really like.  I didn’t really like Toy Story 2 either.  Or Monster’s Inc. (although that one’s grown on me).  From that point on, though, Cars is their only blemish.

I mean, c’mon, it wasn’t that long ago when Finding Nemo was hands down the best thing they’d done since Toy Story.  But then they did The Incredibles and Ratatouille and Wall-E.  And now they’ve done Up.  

And it is perfect.

Obviously, Finding Nemo is about being a parent.  About the adventure of dedicating your life to your offspring and it’s a great movie.  

To me, The Incredibles was Pixar’s take on the superhero genre and it was my favorite up until tonight.  But it was also about family and about finding your place in the world, not on your own, but with the company and approval of those you love.  But it was also about the desire to be special and stand out.

Ratatouille was an ode to food that stunned me with its beauty.  But more than that, it was about having a passion for something.  About loving it and believing in it absolutely and the excitement and joy of sharing that passion with others.  

Wall-E was a love story.  Between two inanimate objects.  It’s Pixar take on the sci-fi genre.  It’s the best sci-fi movie in a long time.  It’s a lot of things.  But, really, it’s just a love story and the lengths that one will go to for love.  My favorite thing about Wall-E is that he never realized that he saved humanity from itself.  The only thing he cared about was being with Eve.  On a side note, I never believed that the movie was about, or against, material excess.  If anything, I think it was rather worshipful of the beauty that Wall-E created with humanity’s trash.  And on the ship, the population had never been given the option to choose and so it can’t be condemning their excesses.

And then there’s Up.  It’s about loss.  About accepting loss and moving forward.  But it’s about dreams.  About living with dreams, about missing out on dreams, and about the dreams of those you love.  At the same time, it’s a gorgeous fantasy about exploration and escaping a world that has left you behind.  

There’s so much to love about this movie.  I can’t help but love Karl.  I loved the journey he made.  I loved getting to see him smile again.  

That is all.