Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Well, I’ve come to the official conclusion that I need to stop doing long summary posts where I talk about a lot of things in very little detail. That’s, like, the exact opposite of what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be talking way too much about a single topic that I’ve been obsessing over. And, I have not been obsessing over Chuck. Or House. Or V. Or Stargate Universe. I have been obsessing over Human Target a little bit, but it’s hard not to when you have back to back guest stars in Grace Park and Moon Bloodgood.

In any case, I have been obsessing over Justified.

But, because I spent all that time writing about those shows I didn’t even care about, I didn’t write about nearly enough of the random things I wanted to write about Justified.

Like how the opening theme is extremely reminiscent of True Blood. I don’t know why that should be the case, but it is. I guess they both are set in the South, so there is that. Also, True Blood’s imagery during the theme is meant to be at least a little disturbing while Justified’s just wants something running while the credits roll. I’m not sure if it has a goal at all, in fact. On a related note the country song playing for True Blood is downright awesome while Justified’s song is totally forgettable. And more rap influenced, I think.

Also, I didn’t get to talk about how one of the fellow US Marshals is played by a young women who was in an episode of Firefly. I’m glad that she’s gotten another role. I think it’s funny that she speaks exactly the same way and it fits just as well here. Also, she looked pretty good in his hat. Clearly, the whole team should wear cowboy hats. That would be awesome.

Okay, I think I’m done obsessing over Justified for at least a little while and I’m ready to talk about Clash of the Titans (the topic of this post, in case you forgot; it’s okay, clearly I did). Of course, to be honest, I don’t really have that much to say about it. I just wanted an excuse to put up another post and keep talking about Justified. But, whatever. I saw it. So, I’ll write about it. Probably too much. So, it’ll all work out.

Interestingly, I did not see the original movie. Apparently, I’m a failure and was unable to find it playing on TV and record it, otherwise I would totally have watched it. I wonder why they weren’t playing it all the time during the preceding weeks. I have’t seen that version, so all I can do is guess, but I’m thinking that it’s because the original hasn’t aged very well.

I mean, a lot of those 80s fantasy-esque journey movies haven’t aged very well. I submit Krull as an example. Also Labrynth. Not The Dark Crystal, though, if only because I actually saw it when I was young and therefore the nostalgia helps it out. I think Conan the Barbarian fits as well. I’m thinking Willow was sufficiently tongue-in-cheek so it’s probably aged alright. But, that’s not relevant.

So, yeah, I can’t compare it to its past filmed rendition, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it compared somewhat favorably (how’s that for insulting a movie I haven’t even seen but was sufficiently popular that the studios decided to remake?). For that matter, I never really read any of the Greek mythology stuff, so I can’t even compare it to the past rendition as recorded by somebody whose name I should know from the oral tradition.

As such, I can only judge it by the standards of the action adventure movies of this day and age. Oh, also, I didn’t see it in 3D. So, I won’t be comparing it to the excellence of How to Train Your Dragon either. And it should be thankful for that, because How to Train Your Dragon wins hands down. I mean, even the love interest is cuter and she’s not even real (but she’s wearing a skirt covered in actual skulls, which beats boring old Greek attire every day of the week).

So, did I like it? Eh. It was okay. It was better than the first 5-10 minutes suggested it was going to be, that’s for sure. Once the journey actually started, I think it found its feet pretty well and there was certainly fun to be had by all.

Liam Neeson was pretty cool as Zeus but Hades never really did it for me. I liked that he was pale, but it wasn’t really working with the long hair and beard as well. It just made him look Norse rather than Greek (I swear, I’m not trying to bring How to Train Your Dragon into this review, it just happens all on its own). To be clear, I’m not saying that Hades has to have hair made of blue fire and be voiced by James Woods, but well, I guess, I, um, yeah. I liked Disney’s version of Hades better, okay.

Even worse than a Norse Hades was the most boring Underworld ever imagined. I’m sorry, but I’ve been playing Dante’s Inferno (but was eventually distracted by other games, primarily FFXIII, which is a topic for some other post), and so my standards for visualizations of Hell are kind of high. I know, it’s not Hell, but come on, there should at least be souls somewhere in the Underworld, shouldn’t there? I mean, Hades enters some former king’s private chamber in the Underworld at one point, which is primarily decorated with dead trees, fog and candles. Private chamber! Seriously, that’s what you’re going with? There’s nobody constantly drowning in the River Styx? There’s nobody else around at all, anywhere? It was just a really boring Underworld. I can see why nobody wants to go there, but, it’s hardly menacing.

Also, I don’t know if it’s just me but I wasn’t really into the girls either. Apparently Gemma Arterton (fun fact: I’ve been thinking her name was Gemma Atherton for pretty much forever and I recently realized it’s because there’s a random douche in one episode of Firefly named Atherton) is going to be super popular for being incredibly hot after Prince of Persia comes out (have you seen her in the trailers for that?) but somehow she is not really hot in this. I don’t know why. On the other hand, Alexa Davalos as Io is rather pretty. I don’t have any complaints about her.

Let’s see, then there’s the ragtag team of surviving legion dudes to help Perseus out. Nobody really memorable besides the two hunters who join in out of the goodness of their hearts. They were pretty cool. And I was glad when they recognized that going into the Underworld would be hazardous to their health, except I was sad because they were actually kind of cool and then they weren’t around anymore. Everybody else is pretty cookie-cutter as far as I’m concerned. I guess I was happy to see the battle hardened old dude final die, although I’m not entirely sure exactly which God’s eyes he believed he was spitting in.

On the topic of the cool hunters, I enjoyed watching them confidently kill their scorpion like professionals while Perseus was struggling with his. From a choreography perspective, though, it was a terrible idea. You’ve got two separate groups fighting identical monsters. Who comes up with that? It makes it really hard to follow the action because you’re never sure which scorpion you’re looking at because they look the same. Why not just let the two scorpions be different colors or something? It would have made that extended fight scene much easier to follow.

Man, now that I’m writing about it, I’m realizing that all I have are complaints. I think it gets a fair number of passes on most of those things, though, because the fights were actually pretty well shot and the action was well done. And that’s what I had actually come to see (okay, I had also come to get a preview of the hotness of Gemma Arterton and so was sent home disappointed on that count).

Actually, one more complaint. What is Perseus’s problem with being part God? What’s so terrible about that and, possibly more importantly, how does he think he’s thrown it away? I mean, one of our ending scenes is him bragging about how he’ll continue his (immortal) life living as a man and then we see him riding on the beach on his HORSE WITH WINGS! I feel like someone needs to take him aside and let him know that mortals don’t get to ride those things. Also, they don’t end up with the girl who never ages. Even if she’s not as hot as she will be in her next movie.

But seriously, how can he not take a perspective more along the lines of how he can be better than a God because he’s part human? That would be way better. If he were proving the superiority of demigods rather than trying to prove the superiority of mortals all while not actually being mortal. It’s like he believes there something inherently wrong with the Gods, his creators, just because they’re not very good at looking out for their creations. As if that type of irresponsibility is solely in the realm of the Gods.

Yeah, I don’t know but every time he talked about not wanting to use his immortal side annoyed me. Particularly when it was clear that he was pulling from it all the time without even knowing it.

But, well, I’m moving on. It was fun. The whole “Release the Kraken” line was not as cool as I had been lead to believe it would be. Mt. Olympus was rather cool though. I liked that the floor was a scale model of the land. And that there were clouds at their feet. I liked how it created this sense that the Gods simply believed they were better than the mortals and that was that. Also, the glass tower thing that housed little statues of people was cool too. Particularly when it broke.

And that is all.


Monday, April 5, 2010

TV Update

Okay, obviously, I’ve been really, really lax about updating this recently, and, to be totally honest, that’s probably not changing anytime soon. But, this is me not caring. Also, this is me then insincerely apologizing immediately after stating that I don’t care. Sorry. About both those things, I swear.

Anyways, what motivated me to actually write a post again? Um, it was a variety of reasons, but really only one good one. It’s called Justified. I’ll get to it in a little while, but I think I should cover some of the other TV thoughts first.

Let’s see. Chuck. I have to admit, I’m falling behind. Five weeks behind at this point. Yeah, I know, it’s too bad. It’s just that, really, season three wasn’t necessary at the end of season two and it’s no more necessary now. I wish it were, but it’s not. Season two was the absolutely correct way to end Chuck’s character arc and so they’ve had to start a new one. But this new one is dark and sad and frustrating, instead of cute and silly. I haven’t given up yet, but I don’t have much hope.

It’s sad to me to be watching Chuck learn to be a real spy who has to sacrifice people for the greater good. Who has to learn not to develop the relationships with others that he is naturally drawn towards. It makes his character depressing as he has to face the fact that he doesn’t like the person he’s being forced to become. That maybe Bryce Larkin was protecting him all along, all those years ago when he prevented Chuck from getting recruited. I guess, I just didn’t want to watch that and now that I am watching it, I’m struggling to force myself to continue watching it.

Also, bringing in two people related to Superman is just kind of random. Although, I mean, I’ll take whatever excuse they can come up with to bring Kristin Kreuk into the show for a couple episodes (and the episode that they introduced her with was one of the best throwbacks to old school Chuck in a long while). Yeah, I wish I had more to say about Chuck. I’m not sure I’ll watch a season four even if there is one.

Let’s see. House. Why am I still watching this show? No, I mean it. I understand why they keep making new ones, but the show is done. But I can’t seem to pull myself away from him. The evil games he plays on those around him are just too much fun to resist. But they shouldn’t be. I have to be strong and just stop watching because I don’t care anymore. Nobody matters and the medical mysteries aren’t even kind of fun. And yet, I continue watching all the same.

Well, at least Castle is still making Mondays into fun days. Season two has really managed to pick up and it’s been a lot of fun. Nothing in particular changed; it’s just Nathan Fillion doing his thing and, well, sometimes they get it even more right than usual. And I appreciate that. The two episode arc with the villain obsessed with Nikki Heat was just okay (it really felt like a James Patterson story, it kind of makes me wonder if he was doing some of the writing for that one, now that I think about it). But, it finished with an awesome Firefly throwback line so everything even remotely just okay about it was immediately forgiven.

Let’s see. V is starting back up and is already making a very strong effort to convince me to give up on it. It’s hard to say no when they’re really trying to convince me that the show is totally inept and all my hopes that it will one day get interesting are perfectly in vain. Morena Baccarin has already informed us that the fleet we saw at the end of the first four episodes is, in fact, hostile. Which is too bad, I preferred them as a foreboding, mysterious image.

I’m also really weirded out by her and the hot blonde V’s plans for the boy. I think they’re trying to brain wash him. Again, it’s kind of weird and it didn’t seem like they were going to have all that much trouble getting him to sleep with her. He might not enjoy it quite as much once she eats him, though. By the way, I did like the image of her pulling out her real teeth and eating her mate at the end of the last episode. It’s always nice to see some properly alien stuff going on up there.

Otherwise, yeah, there’s not much going for this show.

Oh, but next is Human Target. I’ve definitely been having fun with this show. For one, Rorschach’s (sorry, I could call him by his name but I prefer his Watchmen character, but once he plays Freddy Krueger, I guess I’ll have to just refer to him as Jackie Earle Haley since he’ll have too many iconic characters at that point) new character is totally awesome. I love how he seems so harmless and then he gives this look and you realize he means business. He’s by far my favorite part of the team. In particular, I just like how he’s not really a good guy (just your typical bad guy who does good things). I mean, as comparison, Christopher Chance is really just your average former bad guy doing good things. Current bad guy is way more awesome.

Anyways, this show is a lot of fun. I have to admit that it’s a little awkward how they’re having to try to deal with the fact that all the main characters are male by getting hot female guest stars almost every week (we’ve seen two BSG babes as well as Moon Bloodgood, along with many different women that I don’t already know). It seems like they’re trying to start expanding the team by adding the extra tech cutie (she has a name but they primarily call her new girl, so I haven’t learned it yet) as well as the FBI agent that Christopher has a crush on. On the other hand, they’ve also pulled in a fair number of pretty cool male guest stars too (including both Skinner and the Smoking Man from the X-Files, so that was pretty cool, plus the awesome agent dude from Jericho, who is probably actually going to be a recurring character). So, I guess they might be just trying to deal with the fact that it’s a small main cast.

On a related note, both Mark Valley and Chi McBride are a lot of fun as the other two main characters, so really the whole cast is solid. Which is nice.

Next up is Fringe, which is only just restarting. I have to say that I’m always against flashback episodes and so my reaction to the most recent one is no different. It’s a waste of time. I didn’t learn anything new (except how Nina lost her arm, which does not count as new because I already knew she had lost her arm and I didn’t care how). I guess it was kind of interesting to hear how Bishop and Bell had a falling out (and here I was assuming that Leonard Nimoy just didn’t want to have to put on a bunch of make up to look young for some stupid flashback episode).

Also, I just want to say that I’m 100% against whatever thing the show seems to want to have going on between Olivia and Peter. It’s a mistake and here’s hoping to it not actually happening and the writers are just threatening us poor innocent viewers with it. I think it would screw up most of the dynamics in the show and wouldn’t add anything to either character. That’s my two cents, at least.

Lastly, before Justified, Stargate Universe is starting back up. And, well, the first thing they do is break their promise about not being lame and bring pointless aliens into my otherwise perfectly decent sci fi show. Darn. It was so much more interesting when people weren’t diverting power from the shields to the weapons and when the only dangers were those inherent to living on a ship that wasn’t really intended for passengers. Or the dangers of living with people who are really stupid and make bad decisions all the time. That too.

So, we’ll just have to see on this one. It’s looking grim, but I have hope that they’ll get back to the regularly scheduled plot shortly. Although the plots about power plays and politics in the ruling of the ship are almost evening more annoying than the aliens. Why can’t we just have the plots of a group of people trying to work together to make this ship work? That was actually watchable. Now we’re looking at a character who is essentially the head of human resources trying to convince the people to rise up against the head scientist and army commander. It’s all very weird.

Okay. Justified. Wow, I wrote all that just so that I could have the excuse to write about this show. Yes, it is that good. This show is awesome.

Personally, I really wish that this first season was, like, I don’t know, maybe 100 episodes. And they were airing about, three a week. I think at that pace I could maybe be satisfied. To be honest, I almost considered not watching any more after the first episode because I wasn’t sure I could handle just watching one a week and I was thinking that it might be better to just wait and buy the DVD set and watch the entire season in one sitting.

But that required me to make the executive decision not to watch an episode when I could. And that wasn’t feasible. So, here I am. Watching it. And loving it.

So, what was our first lesson from watching this show? Apparently, if you want to make a Western and you want to set it in the present, you have to put it in the South. Even though the accents aren’t the same, they feel right. And the countryside is tall green reeds and grass and cattails instead of the low-lying desert shrubbery, but again, it feels untamed.

The key to this show is Timothy Oliphant. I admit I haven’t seen Deadwood but it has risen to the very top of my list, entirely from the first three episodes of this show (yeah, it’s not like his performances in Hitman or Live Free or Die Hard were going to convince me that he is actually awesome). I love his cowboy hat. I love his delivery of his lines. Measured, but intelligent. The dialogue isn’t as lyrical as Joss Whedon’s in Firefly, but it has its own rhythms that feel almost as right.

And I love the idea where the show gets its title. Justified. Timothy Oliphant is so quick on the draw that he always waits until his target has already pulled out his own weapon with an intention to kill and then he shoots and kills him.

“He pulled first. It was Justified.”

His boss just sighs. What more can he do?

The show’s other strength is its bad guys. This show remembers that true Westerns have bad guys who are just as cool as the good guys. Or at least as developed. The dialogue between him and the villains is priceless. Everyone wants out of this crappy town and everyone is working towards that goal in his or her own way. Theirs just happens to be against the law and his just happens to be upholding the law. The conversations are often hostile, but the level of mutual respect is downright sweet.

And then there’s his character itself. His ex-wife describes him as the angriest man she’s ever met. He certainly shoots to kill, but he seems willing to forgive a man at the drop of the hat. It’s hard to know how much he wants to kill the person who he knows is dangerous and is thinking of killing him. It was cool watching him discuss the dangers of the draw to a soon-to-be criminal. How he drew before the guy could even remotely react as a way to talk this guy down instead of risking that the situation were to get out of hand.

I think he’s well on his way to becoming a classic Western hero. He’s a good guy trying to do good things, albeit not necessarily through kind or gentle means. But his first thought is of others. Not necessarily all others. But others. Getting into that main group is easy but so is getting out. All in all, it’s very chivalrous. And I’m totally into it. Probably to the point of obsessive. I can’t wait to watch it again tomorrow.

That is all.