Wednesday, October 31, 2007


ENTOURAGE
Season 4 Episode 11
“No Cannes Do”
Written by Doug Ellin and Rob Weiss
Directed by Dan Attias

Vince and the boys are set to leave for the Medellin premiere at Cannes, when a red level terror alert delays their flight by three hours. With time to kill, Billy asks for a meeting with Anna, whom he wants in Silo. E reluctantly sets it up and the meet goes down.
At the meeting, Anna is clearly seeking help from E as to whether she should take the project, but E doesn’t give her any indication either way.
Meanwhile, LAX gets shut down completely and the boys have no way to get to Cannes. So Ari gets Lloyd to scramble, and they find that the last private flight getting out has been chartered by Sydney Pollack.
Ari gets in touch with Pollack (who turns out to have been Ari’s client once, before Pollack fired him) and manages to wrangle 5 seats to Cannes.

Following the meeting with Anna, Billy is now even more convinced he wants her in Silo, and is willing to re-write a part to fit her in. And because Billy wants her in, Vince wants her in too. But E doesn’t really believe in the script, so he’s caught in the middle: he’s supposed to convince one client to say “Yes” to a project he’s not 100% behind because his other client (and best friend) wants him to.
E then gets a call from Anna, and since they aren’t leaving for Cannes just yet, goes on over to see her.
After having read the script, Anna doesn’t get it, and wants E’s honest opinion as to whether she should do Silo or not. At first, E convinces her that she should do it. But during their toast to celebrate Anna’s new film project, honesty comes into play, and E admits to his crush on Anna, and Anna admits she thought he was cute too.
With all that honesty out there, E ‘fesses up and admits he doesn’t like Silo.
Cut away in what turns out to be a sadly truncated subplot. (E tells the boys later on that Anna fired him.)

Getting to the Van Nuys airport, it turns out that Ari miscounted the number of heads. It looks like Turtle is about to forego Cannes, when Vince says it’s everybody or nobody, and they’ll just have to find another way to get to Cannes.
Fortuitously, Kanye West shows up, and Turtle knows him. Seems Kanye is headed out on his own 727, and when Vince and the boys ask him if they can make a stop at Cannes, Kanye says “Yes.”


During all the “will they get to Cannes or won’t they” drama, Ari is caught between Mrs. Ari (who’s annoyed at Ari because he just can’t come out and say that he doesn’t really want her to come along on this boys’ field trip) and Lloyd (who’s annoyed at Ari because he promised that if Mrs. Ari wouldn’t go to Cannes, that he’d take Lloyd; when the Pollack head count goes into effect though, Lloyd is the first to get deep sixed).
So Mrs. Ari goes on some vendetta shopping and Lloyd takes Tom on a cruise, and both wife and assistant still love Ari before he wings his way off to Cannes.

So this one’s a great episode, despite having Anna Faris say “Bye-bye” in a very “blink of an eye” way. She was a lot of fun and I’m sort’a bummed to see her go after just 3 episodes. But hey, at least she was here.

(Images courtesy of hbo.com.)





AFTERTHOUGHTS (20)

20.1 Following the news of the marathon Justice League casting session (check out Afterthoughts (19) in the Archive), WB is going announcement-happy with two new helmers attached to the film adaptations of The Flash and Green Lantern.

First off, The Flash has had a number of names going through its revolving door, from David S. Goyer, to Shawn Levy. Now Levy, who has walked away from The Flash for “undisclosed reasons,” is replaced by David Dobkin.
While Levy has films like Cheaper By The Dozen and Night At The Museum under his belt, Dobkin counts Shanghai Knights and The Wedding Crashers among his credits.
Based on the movies above, it seems WB is moving towards a more comedic approach to the Flash than its other superhero franchises.
Dobkin has confirmed that The Flash will be a direct spin-off of George Miller’s Justice League, and will feature the Wally West incarnation. (It’s interesting to note though that with this set-up, Dobkin has apparently no say in the casting of the Flash, as that decision is currently in Miller’s court.)

Meanwhile, there’s Green Lantern, which has been handed to Greg Berlanti, who helmed The Broken Hearts Club before writing and executive producing such TV fare as Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, and Dirty Sexy Money.
Berlanti is slated to write the script with Marc Guggenheim (who is also a writer-producer on Brothers & Sisters, and has written Amazing Spider-Man, Blade, and Wolverine comics) and Michael Green (co-executive producer on Heroes, and past writer of the Superman/Batman comic).
It’s unclear at this point whether this is also a Justice League spin-off, as the Variety story only mentions the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, while Miller’s Justice League will be featuring the John Stewart Lantern.

While I’m not particularly a fan of either, and thus not overly thrilled at having Dobkin and Berlanti handling DC’s upcoming salvoes in the live-action superheroics war with Marvel, I am slightly more excited about Green Lantern, as it’s got Michael Green working on the script.
Here’s hoping both films keep on running smoothly from here on out.

20.2 In other Justice League-related news, casting rumours continue to float, in the absence of official word from WB about Miller’s final choices.
A short-lived rumour concerning Hellboy’s Rupert Evans as Superman was quickly debunked, while more recently, The Grudge 2’s Teresa Palmer has been reported as Miller’s choice for Wonder Woman. (The latter rumour has yet to be confirmed or debunked.)

(Images courtesy of the-trades.com [David Dobkin], abc.com [Greg Berlanti], comicworld.gr [Rupert Evans], and askmen.com [Teresa Palmer].)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007





HEROES
Season 2
Volume Two: Generations
Chapter Three: “Kindred”
Written by: J.J. Philbin
Directed by: Paul Edwards
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

So it turns out that Ricky wants Peter to help with a heist at a local bookie’s. But while the plan’s being discussed, Peter picks up on a stray thought from Will (Star Trek: Enterprise’s Dominic Keating), who’s planning to screw everyone and take the money. Peter announces this, but of course, Ricky takes Will’s word.
Peter then tries to access his powers, shirtless of course, to better lure Caitlin into his personal gravity. Caitlin meanwhile, keeps Peter’s powers a secret and takes to calling him “pretty boy.”
The heist goes off without too much of a hitch, and Peter uses his TK to move an armoured truck to facilitate their escape. Conveniently enough, Caitlin is again the only one to witness Peter in action.
Back at the pub, Will tries to take the money, shooting Peter in the process. But the bullets are spewed out by Peter’s body, and he uses his TK to nearly strangle poor Will. Caitlin gets Peter to stop, and Will scampers off into the night.
Ricky sees all this, and takes it in stride, grateful for the save. He hands the box over to Peter, and gives him an honourary tattoo (a Celtic-inspired design) to signify his new status as a member of the family.
With the box now in his hands, Peter is still reluctant to open it, due to his fear that he may not like who he really is. And though Caitlin assures Peter that he’s a “good soul; I can tell” (I’m sure she tells that to all the shirtless, superpowered Americans who come through the pub’s door), she eventually asks him if he’s happy with who he is right now. Peter says “Yes,” and he leaves off opening the box for another day, as they go into liplock.
Meanwhile, the “Godsend” sigil is momentarily revealed to be an element hidden in the design of the tattoo, before disappearing, leaving Peter’s skin apparently untouched…

Mo returns from Haiti, much to Matt’s annoyance, since he feels he’ll need to keep an eye out for Mo while he does the deep cover stuff.
Mo moves into his new laboratory space, which happens to be poor Isaac’s loft. (Oh, look, recycled set!)
While there, he snoops around, and finds the eighth painting in the series of Isaac paintings-yet-to-take-place, and what should the image be but… (more on that later!)

Ando’s back to doing the sarariman thing at Yamagato (with a boss who does a fantastic job of looking constipated), when he notices writing on the hilt of the Takezo Kensei sword, a message for him to open the hilt, which turns out to be hollow. Inside, a bunch of teeny scrolls, upon which Hiro has apparently written to Ando from the past.
Segue into flashbacks from previous episodes, leading up to Takezo’s drive-by arrowing and regeneration.
Initially freaked-out by his insta-healing, Takezo comes around when he realizes that he’s not the only freak around (Hiro reveals his powers), and, better yet, he can become “richer than the Pope!” So Hiro, feeling he needs to force the hero issue, teleports Takezo to the place where he is to do battle with 90 angry ronin and retrieve the Fire Scroll.
Hiro waits for Takezo to return in Yaeko’s company, all the while mooning after her when she talks about the “gentle” Takezo (as opposed to the “brute” he sometimes is). Takezo returns, triumphant, and Hiro sees this as a successful mission, as Takezo has apparently succumbed to the whole “hero” thing.
Hiro says he should take his leave now that things look to be on the right track, and Takezo tries to dissuade him, saying Hiro is his “conscience.” But Hiro is steadfast. That is, until he sees Yaeko enraptured by the company of Takezo. Poor, love-smitten fool, Hiro decides he can stay for a little while longer.

And while I’m passably okay with the feudal Japan subplot at the moment, the whole Wonder Twins thing is wearing thin, and I truly hope this ends up being a pivotal, relevant thread.
Anyway, while in Mexico, Alejandro tries to steal a car in broad daylight (duh!), and is spotted by the cops. Chase ensues, which ends with Alejandro’s arrest. Maya goes to the jail, thinking to bail him out on their remaining $14.
Things go bad, of course, and Maya is about to be arrested herself when she uses her power. After being released from his cell, Alejandro calms Maya down, and saves the lives of the two cops and the American teen-ager who happened to be in the cell next to Alejandro.
Just as the Wonder Twins are about to make their great escape, the kid says he’s got a car, and they spring him too, and pile into the vehicle.

Then, in the first of two subplots that see the return of some familiar faces, we discover that D.L. died after all*, and Niki is about to leave Micah with some relatives, while she intends to go off to do something important and (what else is new?) mysterious.
Micah is brought to New Orleans, where he is greeted by (look who else just beamed down from the Enterprise), Nichelle Nichols!
We also find out that Niki has contacted Bob, and wants them to take away her powers. Bob of course, needs something in return from her (which he does not disclose, the big tease).

Returning character subplot two: Oh, look who’s in a dodgy blue screen beach. Sylar!
Apparently the rat bastard was dragged away during last season’s finale by (gasp!) Candice, the b!tch!
She’s now going by the name “Michelle,” and doesn’t look at all like Missy Peregrym (sigh). When Sylar forces “Michelle” to drop the illusion though, they turn out to be in some dingy hovel, and Sylar still has stitches from the impaling he received in the Season One finale.
Moreover, Sylar seems to have lost the powers he so painstakingly stole from all his Season One victims. And when “Michelle” tries to persuade Sylar that he needs her help (in a semi-awkward seduction scene recalling Mystique trying to get into Wolvie’s pants in X2), Sylar decides he’s going to start from Square One, today.
He bashes “Michelle” in the side of the head with a coffee mug, then proceeds to do his brain-eating thing (off screen, of course). We also see that, as was implied last season, Candice/Michelle was indeed overweight.
But when Sylar tries to use the illusion power, it doesn’t work, and frustrated, he exits the hovel, and we pull away to see it’s in the middle of a dense forest somewhere. (Didn’t recognize the geography, though the “Salvaje” clue outside the hovel makes me suspect this subplot may collapse into another one somewhere down the road.)

And, to address last episode’s cliffhanger, Claire tries to convince West that he didn’t actually see what he thought he saw. West of course, is dead certain he saw her cut off her toe, and that it grew back.
West makes Claire cry (the schmuck!), but then reveals to her that he can fly! (Taking off from school premises in broad daylight. Sure, students were in class just then, but there are such things as windows, doofus!)
Cue more dodgy effects and iffy flying bits. Later, on a beach somewhere, West and Claire get into a “who’s got the cooler power” debate. Claire then sees the tell-tale mark on the neck of someone who’s been abducted by the Company. And when she quizzes West, he tells her that he lost an entire day once, and the last thing he remembers before the lost day was a man with Horn-Rimmed Glasses.
(I’m gonna have to check at this point, but didn’t West see Mr. B in the parking lot, when he almost ran Claire over in Chapter One? Or were his eyes too locked onto Claire? And whatever happened to Claire’s car? Did we even file police reports? Or is that how far beneath the radar the “Butlers” need to stay that they won’t even do that?)
When Claire gets back home, she greets Mr. B, and gives him a loaded, foreboding look.
At the same time, Mo snaps the Isaac painting with his cell and zaps the jpeg over to Mr. B.
The image? A very dead Mr. B, shot through the eye, with Claire standing in the shadowed background, apparently being kissed by some shadowy figure or other. (Or at least, it looked like she was being kissed…)

Okay. Though I did appreciate the story Hiro was telling Ando, the “real” one, as opposed to the Takezo legends Hiro grew up with, and Hayden Panettiere continues to knock her scenes out of the park, the episode itself felt scattershot.
Again, as with some of the more problematic episodes from Season 1, this one seemed to have too many subplots, and some (like the Wonder Twins one) are quickly becoming tiresome. Honestly, what still keeps me nominally engaged with the plight of the Wonder Twins is Dania Ramirez’s performance. Clearly, she was underutilized in X-Men: The Last Stand.

On the plus side though, Mr. B is apparently getting sucked into the whole murder mystery (and here I thought the potential victims would be limited to the earlier generation of “heroes”), and there’s the implication that Claire will have something to do with his murder. I just hope that this subplot develops well, and the fact that Claire is being implicated in the murder-to-be, brings something interesting to my pet theory regarding the killer’s identity. (I am also taking Bob’s cue and being a tease at this point.)

I am concerned though that they’ve apparently kick-started 3 new subplots (the powerless Sylar; Micah in New Orleans; and Niki doing stuff for Bob), while still having all the others on-board, and with the post-Veronica Mars Kristen Bell still unseen.
Clear some of the board, people.

It’s also unfortunate that they couldn’t get Missy Peregrym back to reprise her role as Candice, since she’d already been shanghaied by Reaper. As a result, what was reportedly intended to be a multi-episode arc featuring a Sylar/Candice team-up, ended up being just another brain sandwich for Sylar. Sigh.

Oh, and no Granny P, Mrs. B, and Mr. Muggles this chapter. Boo! Hiss!

* Whether D.L. died as a result of the wound he received in Season 1’s tail-end, or some other occurrence in the four months which took place off-screen, has yet to be established.

(Images courtesy of comicbookresources.com.)

Monday, October 29, 2007



MURDER PARTY
(Review)

It’s Halloween, and Christopher S. Hawley (Chris Sharp) is all set for a night of horror DVDs, but Sir Lancelot (an incredible Puff Snooty) plays chair hog and refuses to budge. So our hapless hero decides to Project Runway himself a costume and show up at a “Murder Party,” an invitation to which he found out on the street.
Thus begins the largely amusing events of Jeremy Saulnier’s Murder Party.

As an exercise in low-budget horror, Murder Party hits more often than it misses, with particular strengths being its unpredictability, and aim to confound audience expectations.
Of course, the reality of a film that makes it a point to surprise is the distinct possibility that the viewer may not necessarily be crazy about the directions the narrative takes. (The “truth” sequence is one that I’m still half-half on.)

All in all though, Murder Party is an agreeable little film that hits most of its marks, and does manage to have some thrills and some laughs and take some shots at the Williamsburg art scene.
Hardcore horror geeks may find Murder Party’s gore quotient a little on the low side. They may also find it a tad too talky. But if you’ve been ‘round these parts before, you’ll know I like my horror in a broad range, and Murder Party, though perhaps uneven, is nonetheless an entertaining way to spend an hour and 20 minutes.

Parting shot: Murder Party nabbed the Best Narrative Feature Audience Award at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, as well as the Best Feature Film at the Vail Film Festival.

Parting shot 2: For the perversely curious, Murder Party is the first title under the Magnet Films banner, a subsidiary of Magnolia Pictures for “wild, unquantifiable and uncompromised” films. Magnolia Pictures is owned by American billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, who was recently booted off Dancing with the Stars.
Upcoming films under Magnet include Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Dainipponjin (Big Man Japan), Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate (starring terminally hot Asia Argento), and Tony Stone’s “heavy metal Viking epic,” Severed Ways.

(Murder Party OS courtesy of impawards.com; image courtesy of radaronline.com.)



PUSHING DAISIES
Season 1 Episode 2
“Dummy”
Written by Peter Ocko
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

Chuck’s sudden arrival in Ned’s life may be great for Ned, but Emerson and Olive are less than thrilled. Olive feels a distance growing between her and Ned, and has taken to some snooping, noting the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much physical intimacy between Chuck and Ned.
Emerson meanwhile, has tried to deal with the stress by knitting, but really, nothing beats a murder (in Emerson’s book, at least): one Bernard Slaybeck (Jonathan Mangum, from The Drew Carey Show), apparently a hit-and-run victim.
But when Chuck gets all Jabberwocky with the revived Bernard (asking him if there was something that he left undone), the minute passes, and all they’re able to get out of Bernard concerning his death is, a crash test dummy killed him.

Fulfilling Bernard‘s last wish, Chuck and Ned take a pie over to Dandy Lion Worldwide Industries, where they must tell Jeanine from Promotions (Riki Lindhome, from Pulse and TV’s Gilmore Girls) that Bernard loved her. While there, we discover that Chuck speaks Japanese (aside from a bunch of other languages), and that the car of the future—the Dandy Lion SX—could very well run on dandelion weed.
When they find Jeanine though, she claims not to have known any Bernard. She does however, take the pie and, unseen by anyone, scarfs it down while crying.
Meanwhile, Chuck sneaks away from the tour and discovers a room filled with crash test dummies, though one, tellingly, lacks its mask and jumpsuit.

When they confer with Emerson, both he and Chuck agree that they need to break into Dandy Lion later that night. Not only do they find that the room with the crash test dummies now contains a whole bunch of dead people (which, when “interviewed” by Ned, don’t seem to have been murdered), but that Jeanine actually did know Bernard.
Moving to The Pie Hole, Jeanine wolfs down pies like there’s no tomorrow, then spends an inordinately long amount of time in the lavatory. Between eating and bathroom breaks, they discover that Jeanine couldn’t talk at work because she was being watched, and that, yes, she did have a relationship with Bernard. She also wants to show them something.
On the drive there though, Jeanine’s Dandy Lion SX explodes.

At hospital, Jeanine tells Emerson and Ned that she wanted to show them the “bodies in the big hole.” This turns out to be a massive pit filled with the crash test dummies that used to be in Dandy Lion; someone wants them buried to keep whatever data’s been recorded in them a secret.
Ned and Chuck and Emerson are unable to act on this knowledge though, as someone wearing a crash test dummy outfit tasers them into unconsciousness. The Crash Test Dummy Killer tries to murder all three by crashing an SX (already a potential death trap because of a design flaw, the big secret worth killing Bernard for) with them in it, but Emerson manages to get them free with his trusty knitting needle.
A car chase occurs, but the Crash Test Dummy Killer is caught by the cops, and Ned and company are saved from the SX exploding by none other than Olive herself, out giving Digby a walk.

Oh, and Jeanine takes her first steps to overcoming her eating disorder…

There’s a lot of stuff that’s great in this second episode (particularly the theme of secrets, and how it’s pretty evident that the three main characters of Pushing Daisies hardly know anything about each other, just as we, the audience, hardly know anything about them… yet), but what seals the deal, making the case for Pushing Daisies currently being the most amusing, inventive, and yes, moving hour of primetime television, is Olive’s Musical Moment with Digby and Manuel (Omar Avila; The Punisher and TV’s Watch Over Me). Brilliant.
What else can I say? The writing’s funny and touching, the cast is amazing, and Jim Dale’s narration is spot-on. Check it out, people.

Parting shot: ABC has given Pushing Daisies a full season pick-up, pumping up the original 13 episode order to a full 22. I say again: Brilliant.

Parting shot 2: A review of the Pushing Daisies Pilot—TV Watch 2007 (3)—can be found in the Archive.

(Images courtesy of pushing-daisies.com.)
Dexter Morgan

DEXTER
Season 2 Episode 3
‘An Inconvenient Lie’
Written by Melissa Rosenberg
Directed by Tony Goldwyn

Dexter’s at his first NA meeting and while others are sharing about their need for another pill and another hit, he’s going down his own shopping list of needs: duct tape, rope, etc. Anything to damp out the same repetitive, whiny story from junkie loser after junkie loser. All the while, he’s being eyed with interest by one particular female junkie (Jaime Murray, from TV’s Hustle and the upcoming The Deaths of Ian Stone), until he sneaks out a mere ten minutes after the meeting’s started.
But Rita rips him a new one when he gets to her place without his Newcomer Chip. So he promises to get one the following night.

Meanwhile, the Bay Harbor Butcher investigation goes into full swing, as Masuka is named LFI (Lead Forensics Investigator), and Deb and Angel are pulled into Lundy’s Task Force.
The department is then subsequently flooded by relatives and loved ones of missing persons, anxious to know if their husband/wife/son/daughter/lover/father/mother is one of the still unidentified victims.
Deb is assigned to interview the concerned relatives and staring this sort of desperate loss straight in the face initially proves too much for her, and she talks to Lundy to get her off the Task Force, claiming a backlog on her other cases. Lundy agrees to find her a replacement.
But when a day has passed and Lundy still hasn’t taken her off the Task Force (and she’s faced with a grieving mother looking for her little girl), Deb again confronts Lundy, saying she’s the last person who should be on the Task Force, as she was engaged to a serial killer and didn’t even know it.
Lundy says that’s exactly why he chose her for the Task Force, because she’s “seen into the heart and mind of a killer.” And because she got through it, and continues to get through it.
As a compromise, Lundy tells Deb to finish the interviews for the day, and if she still wants out, then he’ll find her a replacement.
Before the day is out though, Deb stumbles on what could be a pattern: two of the missing have criminal records. And when Deb puts the idea in front of Lundy, that maybe the Bay Harbor Butcher’s victims were “bad guys,” he tells her to check the remains against the criminal database.

When Dex returns to NA, he gets a Newcomer Chip, and shares, introducing himself as “Bob” and claims to be a heroin addict. The “one particular female junkie” who was eyeing him the previous night approaches him at the end of the meeting and takes him out for coffee.
Her name’s Lila and she calls him out on the bullsh!t he spewed at the meeting. As their conversation goes on, Dex realizes that when Lila talks about what it feels like to be an addict, she’s talking about things he can identify with. Things he knows.
Unnerved, Dex hurriedly leaves the diner. And when he tells Rita that NA won’t help and he’d rather face this alone, she takes him at his word and kicks him out, later on making it clear that she won’t take him back unless he does NA.

Confused, Dex starts scoping out his new victim, Roger Hicks, a used car salesman who’s murdered two women thus far. What starts out as a recon mission to get some of Hicks‘ DNA though, ends with Dex buying a mini-van (apparently due to Hicks‘ spiel about the roomy back, which can actually accommodate a deer carcass).
On a second recon trip, Dex sees Hicks‘ next potential victim, and feels he must act before this woman becomes Hicks‘ third, but can’t because of the on-going Bay Harbor Butcher investigation and Doakes’ continued interest in his affairs.

Back at work, Masuka gets Dex onto his team, and shows Dex the Field Morgue, where the recovered bodies are being stored. It’s an eerie sight, seeing Dex enter this huge, refrigerated space, where the body parts of his victims are laid out, incomplete and in disarray.
Later on, dropping off some dental records for Masuka, Dex runs into Lundy, who is sitting amongst the dead, waiting for them to answer the question: Why were they chosen?
During their conversation, Dex says that, of course, killing someone can never be justified. Lundy says, actually, there is one justification: if it would mean saving the life of an innocent.
Dex realizes that Lundy and his father would have agreed on that.
So he finally goes after Hicks, and it’s during their conversation that Hicks makes Dex realize that he does, after all, truly care for Rita, the subconscious reason for his purchase of the mini-van (what LaGuerta called a “Mommy Mobile”). Of course, Hicks pisses Dex off when he says, rather unwisely, “You’re better off without that c*nt.” Dex ices him for that.

Upon that realization—that Rita and the kids really do mean a lot to him—Dex returns to NA, and shares, revealing his real name, and talking about the “Dark Passenger” that rides with him.
Doakes arrives at the meeting, and it suddenly all makes sense to him, that wrongness he felt about Dex. And in a great reversal, Doakes sympathizes with Dex’s apparent plight, and says, Ok, just don’t get in my way at work, and we’re cool.
Triumphant—now that Doakes is off his back—and on a catharsis high, Dex visits Rita and shares his elation. Rita’s happy (and she loves the mini-van), but that all comes to a screeching halt when she sees who Dex’s sponsor is: Lila.

So the season is unfolding quite nicely, with the Bay Harbor Butcher investigation and Dex is an addict subplots developing in interesting ways. And though I did suspect they were going to make Lila Dex’s sponsor, and that this would set Rita off, that final shot of her at the wheel of the mini-van, as she sees Lila, and Dex totally oblivious to Rita’s reaction, was priceless.
There’s also something about Lila I can’t quite pin down at the moment, though I wouldn’t at all be surprised if she’s got some deep, dark secret aside from being an addict.

(Image courtesy of sho.com.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007



CHUCK
Season 1 Episode 3
“Chuck Versus the Tango”
Written by: Matt Miller
Directed by: Jason Ensler
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

We open on two men checking out a “water lily painting” (Chuck’s words, not mine) in Tehran, and for some reason, one man shoots the other. We then follow the painting as it hops around the globe, where the one man-shooting-the-other motif repeats.

Meanwhile, over at the Buy More, Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) is looking at either Harry Tang or Chuck for the Assistant Manager position, which will bump up Chuck’s salary to a whopping $13 an hour! (But sorry, no personal parking space.)
So Big Mike has Chuck and his team fix a whole bunch of computers to prove that Chuck deserves the promotion.
But when Sarah shows Chuck pictures of all the people killed in front of the water lily painting (and after he spots the newspaper announcing an art auction), the code name “La Ciudad” is spewed out by the Intersect.
Turns out La Ciudad is an elusive international arms dealer, whom no one alive has actually seen. Expecting La Ciudad to pop up at the art auction, Sarah and Casey are dispatched to bring the criminal in. And since no one knows what La Ciudad looks like, Chuck is drafted for his first field mission. (Though even Chuck has no idea what La Ciudad looks like as there is no photo on file, it’s everyone’s hope that something will trigger the Intersect while Chuck mingles at the auction.)

While working with Sarah on his cover ID, the exact circumstances of Chuck’s ejection from Stanford are revealed: apparently, Bryce found a bunch of stolen exams beneath Chuck’s bed, a crime for which he tells Sarah he is innocent.
Also, due to a little spy humour on Casey’s part, Chuck ends up learning the tango from Capt. Awesome, who happens to have spent a semester in Buenos Aires. (The tango lesson montage is one of the funniest sequences of the episode, where we also discover that Casey has a pet bonsai.)

At the auction, Chuck mistakes an MI6 agent for La Ciudad, and while both Sarah and Casey are off doing the spy thing, Chuck sees the water lily painting, does the tango, then is abducted by the real La Ciudad. Chuck’s brought to La Ciudad’s hotel room, and is about to be tossed over the balcony, when he tells La Ciudad that the painting’s frame has been switched (and it’s the frame the arms dealer wants, because of the plutonium that’s hidden in it).
Having no more use for Chuck, La Ciudad is about to execute him, when Sarah and Casey find the hotel room, thanks to the GPS tracking device on Chuck’s watch. In the ensuing gunfight, La Ciudad escapes, taking Chuck’s Buy More ID.
Intel indicates La Ciudad is headed out of the US, but actually backtracks to kill Chuck.
Casey faces off against La Ciudad’s goons, while Sarah goes toe-to-toe with the arms dealer. Baddies are subdued, and all’s well that ends well.

In a Buy More subplot, Morgan and the rest of the Nerd Herders wind up fixing the busted computers (for which Morgan has a deathly fear of, so he’s useless except for “moral support”). But Morgan ends up locked in the storage area, and is abandoned, till Chuck (who has the key) gets him out after all the art auction action.

Granted, La Ciudad’s identity wasn’t really a surprise, but Chuck nonetheless continues to be an entertaining hour (lovin’ that graphic opening credits sequence), with some nice, honest relationships on display (particularly between Chuck and Sarah, and Chuck and Ellie). And we are also gradually learning about the stuff I’m interested in, Chuck’s Stanford years, which is nicely revealed due to the requirements of the spy game, instead of through a normal conversation.
Here’s hoping more of that history comes out in episodes to come.

(Images courtesy of nbc.com.)



HATCHET
(Review)

After a brief prologue featuring Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, as ‘gator hunting redneck Sampson, we plunge into Mardi Gras to the screeches of Marilyn Manson, and are introduced to Ben (Joel David Moore, from Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential), who’s just broken up with his girlfriend of eight years and isn’t really getting into the par-tay mood.
When Ben decides to head off to join a Haunted Swamp Tour, his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond; TV’s The Cosby Show and Scream 3) reluctantly opts to accompany him. The tour, conducted by Shawn (Parry Shen, from TV’s Brothers & Sisters and the upcoming mockumentary Finishing The Game) goes awry, of course, as the group is hunted down by the deformed psycho killer, Victor Crowley (another genre icon, the man who was Jason, Kane Hodder).

Like Scott Glosserman’s Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Hatchet boasts Englund and Hodder as members of its cast, and is a throwback to the glory days of the slasher movie.
Unlike Behind The Mask, which ably deconstructs the slasher film with calculated intelligence, Hatchet is content to deliver a straight-forward slasher with a good dose of humour.
Or that’s what it tries to deliver, at least.

I wish I could say Hatchet comes alive the minute Shawn’s Scare Boat runs aground and the body count starts its rise, but it sadly doesn’t. Save for a bunch of appropriately gory and over-the-top killshots, the majority of Hatchet is a script that’s borderline passable, performances that come to about the same level, and humour that, at best, doesn’t really work, and at worst, is eye-rollingly annoying.
This is your standard slasher right here, with characters whom—due to their irritating natures (particularly Shawn)—the audience just can’t wait to get picked off one by one by the mad killer.

True, Hatchet isn’t a sequel or a remake, and it’s pretty much removed from the current idea of Hollywood horror. What it is though, is the 80’s idea of Hollywood horror, back in the day when Michael and Jason and Freddy were boffo box office.
Reactionary horror is all well and good (and in some cases, necessary), but I just don’t see the wisdom of bucking the current trend by adopting a nearly three-decade old trend, and not bringing anything new to the table. In principle, that isn’t much different from remaking any old 80’s slasher movie. Like David Arquette’s The Tripper, Hatchet revisits that particular horror heyday but fails in achieving something significantly interesting and noteworthy.

Even the bits that should have, by all rights, been fun for a horror geek like myself (like Tony Todd popping up as Rev. Zombie) fall flat. Just about the only commendable elements of Hatchet are the killshots, orchestrated by John Carl Buechler, one of old school horror’s lower tier make-up effects masters. (Buechler did work on the first 3 Ghoulies films, From Beyond, the 7th installment of Friday the 13th, and the 4th Elm Street film, aside from a host of other low budget genre movies. Buechler also appears in Hatchet as the urine-imbibing Jack Cracker.)
Director Adam Green takes a decidedly lo-fi approach to the material, having Buechler bring the buckets of bright red mess back to American horror. But if that’s all you’re in it for, you may as well just edit the film down to a five-minute reel of gory deaths and forego the rest of Hatchet.
Or, better yet, just watch Behind The Mask. It may not be as gory as Hatchet, but it’s got the smarts, and some pretty good performances to boot.
And if you really still want the gore, you can get that five-minute Hatchet reel, and everyone goes home happy.

Parting shot: Aside from doing time as Victor Crowley under some low budget Elephant Man make-up, Hodder also appears in flashback as Victor’s father, and is the Stunt Coordinator on Hatchet.

Parting shot 2: Despite my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to Hatchet, I am looking forward to Green’s follow-up, Spiral, not just to see if it’s any better than Hatchet, but also because the cast has got Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, Chuck’s Zachary Levi, and Joan of Arcadia’s Amber Tamblyn in it.

Parting shot 3: Reviews of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Tripper can be found in the Archive.

(Hatchet OS courtesy of impawards.com; DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com.)


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


ENTOURAGE
Season 4 Episode 10
“Snow Job”
Written by: Doug Ellin and Ally Musika
Directed by: Ken Whittingham

We return to developments on the Lost in the Clouds adaptation Billy is supposed to be working on.
Dana Gordon freaks when Walsh sends in a script called Silo, which is a futuristic space epic that has absolutely zero to do with Lost in the Clouds. Since E is MIA (more on that later), Ari has Vince read the script himself to see what the problem is. (Besides, Vince is producing.)
Thus begins a crisis as Walsh refuses to write the script the studio paid for (the money already having been spent so he can’t even return it). Ari zooms into Kill Mode and offers up Richard Kelly (who kicked my a$$ into orbit with Donnie Darko) as the new writer/director to replace Walsh. But after reading the script, Vince finds he loves it and wants to do this movie instead of Lost in the Clouds.
Vince even winds up talking to Walsh on the phone, Billy having locked himself into the bathroom with a bottle of whiskey and a gun, since he believed he’d frakked Vince up good with Silo. Of course, Vince loved the script, and the gun wasn’t loaded anyway.
Vince then tells Ari to read the script, and to make it happen.
Ari keeps on going on Kill Mode, bysteps Dana Gordon, and goes directly to her boss, Richard Wimmer (John Heard). What follows is a great scene where Ari Gold, SuperAgent, works his magic, and convinces Wimmer that Silo is the summer tentpole the studio needs to get it out of the red. When Dana is asked for her opinion on the script, she describes it as “Blade Runner meets Field of Dreams,” and Wimmer is sold.
At the end of it all though, Dana’s still pissed and wishes Ari would just die. (I love Dana.)


And while all this drama is going on, E is on his first day on the job as Anna Faris’ manager, at a photo shoot way up in the hills where cellular reception is nonexistent.
At the shoot, E meets Anna’s boyfriend, Dave (CSI: NY’s A.J. Buckley), who’s been hanging around Anna of late, since the CW passed on his pilot.
Dave is opinionated, ultra-critical, and jealous that E may have a thing for Anna (which of course, he does). Dave winds up making a complete a$$ of himself, and Anna dumps him.
E arrives as the boys, Ari, and Billy are toasting to Silo. Demanding to know what went down, E is tossed the script, and when he flips it open, asks, “Where’s the snow?”


As with the previous episode, this one’s a great half-hour, as we slide back into Hollywood mode and see Vince’s new project coming together. We also see E getting in deeper with Anna Faris, and not being available for Vince and Ari when the whole Silo thing exploded. It should be interesting to see if (or when) Vince will call E out about his responsibilities.

(Images courtesy of hbo.com.)



THE FERRYMAN
(Review)

Big Dave (Tamer Hassan; Louis Leterrier’s Danny the Dog and David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises) and Suze (Kerry Fox; Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave and Po-Chih Leong‘s The Wisdom of Crocodiles) are taking two couples on their yacht Dionysus for a six day cruise to Fiji. But when a distress signal is intercepted, they must enter a strange, massive fogbank to see if they can be of assistance. What they find there will turn their holiday into a violent and bloody nightmare.

A New Zealand/UK co-production, The Ferryman is a nasty little number that capitalizes on the terror on the high seas scenario of films like Dead Calm and Knife in the Water, with an added supernatural twist to make things more interesting.
Directed by Chris Graham, The Ferryman takes just enough time to establish character (Tate, played by Sally Stockwell, is the spoiled, shallow, and screwed-up American; Julian—dude, it’s Apoc from The Matrix!—Arahanga’s Zane, the capable and confident Kiwi) before the proceedings quickly go to Hell in a handbasket with the introduction of the Greek (genre heavyweight John Rhys Davies) into the closed ecosystem of the Dionysus.

Once that takes place, the narrative takes a definite turn towards some very dark territories, the tension and anxiety magnified by the claustrophobic setting. What was so bungled in Masters of Horror’s “Dream Cruise” fires on most of its cylinders here, and with a grim, blackly disturbing end, The Ferryman is definitely worth a look-see.
Granted, some performances are better than others, but over-all, this is a cruise horror geeks will probably enjoy.
Unless you’ve already got a thing against traveling by sea, in which case, you should avoid this one like the plague.

Notable Musical Track: Split Enz’s “Dirty Creature”; a welcome blast from the past…

Parting shot: Reviews of Danny The Dog and Masters of Horror’s “Dream Cruise” can be found in the Archive.

(The Ferryman OS courtesy of impawards.com; DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com.)


Monday, October 22, 2007



BEHIND THE MASK:
THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON
(Review)

In a world where Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees actually exist, there is a town called Glen Echo, where, a long time ago, a boy named Leslie Vernon was murdered by the townsfolk. Today, he’s about to start his bloody reign of terror.
And he’s bringing a documentary film crew with him…

Directed by Scott Glosserman, Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a sly and smart deconstruction of the slasher film, that, like the first two Scream films before it, has a bloody fun time getting at the heart of the genre’s conventions.
Since there is too much here that I don’t want to spoil for those who’ve yet to see it, I’ll keep this review short.
What I can say is that this is a solid entry in the annals of slasher movies that is a definite must-see, if you grew up on the genre, as I did. In Behind The Mask, you get to see the murder by numbers aspect of your average slasher movie, from the killer’s perspective. You see the hours of preparation and forethought that go into a psycho’s craft, some of which is funny, some of which is just downright disturbing, and all of which goes a long way to explain the things that go down in said average slasher movie.

What makes Behind The Mask even more of a treat are the formidable principals, Nathan Baesel (who played the religious Deputy Lewis Sirk, in the sadly cancelled Invasion) and Angela Goethals (Maya Driscoll from 24 Day 4). As Leslie Vernon and journalism grad student Taylor Gentry respectively, they anchor the piece and submit interesting, effective performances. Baesel in particular, takes a strangely textured and honest approach to the material, showing us what that relentless killer up on the screen is actually thinking as he’s stalking his prey, looking oh-so-scary as he walks, while everyone else is running their a$$es off.
Baesel gives us a curious anti-hero who comes across as very human, someone who truly cares about what he’s doing. Of course, “what he’s doing” just happens to be planning the slaughter of innocents.

From the presence of genre icons Robert Englund and Zelda Rubinstein (repeat after me: “This house is clean”), to the Kane Hodder cameo, to the visual nods to past slasher classics, to The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” (which plays over the end title crawl), Behind The Mask is a great example of how a tired genre can still produce works that are worth a horror geek’s time and attention.

(Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon OS courtesy of impawards.com; DVD cover art courtesy of anchorbayentertainment.com.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007





HEROES
Season 2
Volume Two: Generations
Chapter Two: “Lizards”
Written by: Michael Green
Directed by: Allan Arkush
(WARNING: SPOILERS)
(SERIOUSLY…)

Okay. Let’s backtrack.
When the whole Takezo Kensei thing was introduced in Season 1, with Hiro being a time traveler, my first instinctive theory was that Hiro would wind up back in time and actually be Kensei, thus inspiring himself to be the man—and hero—he grows up to be. That sort of circular symmetry fascinates me to no end.
Then, I tweaked that theory when I began to suspect that Daddy Sulu’s power could have been immortality of some sort, and that he was incredibly old, and that he had actually been Kensei, and he was really telling Hiro stories of himself.
Well, as it turns out, my first theory was right. Sort of.
Back in feudal Japan, Hiro is forced to wear Kensei’s armour to rescue Yaeko, and in an interesting play on the conventions of masked heroes, refuses to take off his mask when Yaeko requests to lay eyes upon his countenance.
Hiro’s efforts though, are enough for Yaeko to be smitten with Kensei, and when she expects Kensei (the real one) to help her rescue her father, Kensei agrees to go along with the harebrained scheme hatched by Hiro (aka “The Carp”), a scheme which will turn him into the hero history purports him to be.
But in feudal Japan’s version of a drive-by shooting, Kensei is plugged with arrows and apparently dies. For a few seconds, I thought, that’s it? That’s Anders’ role in all this?! So Hiro really does get to be Kensei?
But Hiro pulls out one of the arrows, and, lo and behold, the wound closes up! Hmmm. One must keep in mind, this Volume is entitled “Generations.” (Though Heroes writers Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite seem to imply that identical powers do not necessarily equate to an actual filial connection.)

Meanwhile, back in the present, Parkman’s first case as a detective winds up being Daddy Sulu’s murder. And since Granny P’s fingerprint was lifted off the photo fragment found on Daddy S, Angela’s brought in. Granny P, canny little minx, not only twigs onto the fact that Parkman is reading her mind, but also reveals that (gasp!) she slept with Daddy S a long, long time ago*. (Man, somewhere during this Volume, we really better see a flashback episode with the young Petrellis, Linderman, and Nakamura… Lots’a hanky panky there…)
Even as Nathan arrives at the police station however, she is attacked in the interrogation room, by an apparently invisible presence. She’s saved though, and the mystery of who is targeting the previous generation of Heroes quickly takes center stage. (I have a preliminary pet theory of who might be the killer, but it’s too early to spring it, and I’m still trying to reconcile what we see of Daddy S’ death, and the attack on Angela.)
Also, Daddy S’ messy date with NY pavement was apparently one of eight paintings by Isaac that have yet to come to fruition, and that painting is the only one of the eight that HRG’s seen.

In other present day subplots, amidst a sea of questionable accents, the amnesiac Peter escapes his Irish captors, only to have to save Caitlin (Katie Carr, Hayden Panettiere's co-star in Raising Helen, where she incidentally also played a character named "Caitlin") from some dastardly goons. This complicates the problem that began when Peter was found in the shipping container that was supposed to have a whole caboodle of iPods in it. So Caitlin’s brother, Ricky (Holt McCallany, from David Fincher’s Fight Club and CSI: Miami), makes a deal with Peter: help us with this one small job to pay off these goons and get them off our backs, and I’ll give you this box that contains everything we found on you, “Peter.”

And while that’s going down in Ireland, Maya and Alejandro are coming ever closer to America. Here, we find out they’re twins, and that Alejandro seems to be immune to Maya’s power, and that he can somehow cancel its effects—“Wonder Twin powers, activate!”—thereby preventing the death of whoever is struck down by it. (The question that arises here is, does Alejandro’s power work on Maya because they’re twins, or can his power affect others as well?)

In yet another subplot, Mo’s first day on the job brings him to Port-Au-Prince, where a third superpowered someone contracts the virus. And who should it be but the Haitian himself! He seems ready to face the judgment God is meting out to his sinner’s a$$ and is initially unwilling to receive Mo’s help. He gets it anyway, and when he finds out that Mo is working for the Company, he steals Mo’s memories (or so they make it seem).
When Mo contacts HRG though, who steps into Copy Kingdom but the Haitian. Yahoo! Partners reunited! Part of their agenda: find the other seven Isaac paintings-yet-to-take-place. (Could they be paintings of the other murders-about-to-happen? Jeez, I hope they don’t bump off Granny P… You all know how much I love Cristine Rose.)

In other Butler/Bennet news, Mr. Muggles does indeed miss his time in the spotlight, in that other far away life in Odessa, as he indulges in some masochism by watching a dog show on TV. Poor Mr. Muggles.
Oh, and Claire’s new ride is stolen.
She’s also chafing under the “keep your head down” edict (with a great line with a lot of resonance and honesty: “I can’t not be who I am, whatever that is”; it sounds awkward, I know, but Panettiere pulls it off brilliantly) and is curious about her powers’ limitations and mechanics. This subplot leads to a scene that so outdoes the autopsy scene from Season 1, it‘s not even funny.
It’s a great, audacious bit that segues neatly into the chapter’s cliffhanger, as West witnesses Claire’s regeneration in action.
And when Claire rushes out into the driveway, West is gone, baby, gone. But Mr. Muggles is barking, up, at the sky.
Look up, Claire! Look! Up!

So this episode seems more cohesive that the season opener, or maybe it’s because I’m acclimating to each subplot and how it works in the overall scheme of things. (I’m also finding the groove of the feudal Japan subplot, which is the one I had the most trouble with in the previous episode.)
Of course, now I’m wary of the other subplots that have yet to kick in and how they’ll ultimately fit in with everything else that’s going on: there’s the still unseen Niki-Micah-D.L. trio, as well as Sylar, and the yet-to-be-introduced Kristen Bell. (Another Trek alum, Nichelle Nichols, is also still waiting in the wings.)
Again, I hope the writers juggle those balls well…

* They better not spring some sort of “Oh, by the way, the end result of my little dalliance with Daddy Sulu is Hiro,” ‘cause that would make Hiro half-brothers with Peter and Nathan, and a half-uncle to Claire, and things would get preposterously incestuous…

Parting shot: This totally escaped me before: the necklace amnesiac Peter was wearing—I’d completely forgotten that that was the Haitian’s!
Hmmm, something owned by the Haitian, on an amnesiac’s person…

(Images courtesy of comicbookresources.com.)


THE INVISIBLE
(Review)

Nicholas Powell (Justin Chatwin; Tom Cruise’s son in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and undercover cop Eddie on Lost) is a smart and promising honour student just a few days away from graduation. But a confluence of unfortunate events involving his mother Diane (Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, soon to be seen in Frank Darabont‘s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist), his best friend Pete (Joan of Arcadia’s Chris Marquette), and school miscreant Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva; TV’s Vanished), results in a tragedy that causes Nicholas to return, unseen and unheard by others, no longer able to physically interact with the world around him. And even as Nicholas gradually discovers how he ended up like this, Detective Brian Larson (Callum Keith Rennie; Leoben from Battlestar Galactica) tries to get to the truth of Nicholas’ disappearance.

Based on the novel and film Den Osynlige, The Invisible is directed by David S. Goyer, someone who I know is both capable of kicking my a$$ (with his scripts for Dark City, Blade II, and Batman Begins), and disappointing me tremendously (writing Blade, and writing and directing Blade: Trinity). He’s also capable of coming up with some interesting television (the sadly short-lived Threshold) and some not-so-interesting television (Blade: The Series).
With The Invisible, Goyer does get some things right, though the great film this could have been manages to elude his grasp.

It’s fortunate that Goyer lucks out on some key casting choices, among them, Chatwin and Harden. Chatwin’s performance as the young man who is finally finding the courage to defy parental authority only to have fate deal him a very strange hand, is balanced beautifully by the apparently cold and distant maternal figure played wonderfully by Harden.
Goyer’s cinematographer, Gabriel Beristain, also succeeds in capturing some interesting imagery. (Beristain also shot Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade II and Hideo Nakata’s The Ring Two, and can be seen playing himself in Zak Penn’s entertaining faux documentary Incident at Loch Ness.)

Sadly though, the film feels a little longish, and we get to spend a little too much time witnessing characters seemingly ready to do everything but the right thing. Much of The Invisible is a testament to the weakness of the human spirit, as people manage to disappoint Nicholas at every turn.
With at least one relationship, Goyer and scriptwriters Mick Davis and Christine Roum, fail to get us to sympathize with the character, while only barely succeeding with another. Most of the time, I found myself getting aggravated and annoyed with the people on-screen, fully understanding Nicholas’ tumult of feelings. How bone-headed could these people be?!
The final scene then left me with the feeling that a number of issues remained unresolved even as the end credits began to roll. As moving as some scenes were, The Invisible in its entirety doesn’t quite gel together as well as I’d hoped.

Curiously, it almost seems as if Goyer and company were aiming to find a balance between a cerebral art house experience (where one would ponder things like the intimacy between attacker and victim, the nature of atonement, and the alienation and isolation of the youth) and an emotional Hollywood button-pusher (with its preponderance of Modern Rock Moments where tracks by Kill Hannah, Death Cab For Cutie, and Snow Patrol, play during key scenes, most of which occur in MTV slow-mo).
The mix just doesn’t work here though, and while some scenes seem blatantly manipulative (and are thus ultimately ineffective), others seem devoid of any honest emotion, causing one to think—just as Nicholas voices out more than once in the film—“We don’t have time for this.”

It’s sad that I found Goyer wanting on this. Admittedly, this is a sight better than Blade: Trinity, but somehow, The Invisible doesn’t completely deliver.
Having never read nor seen Den Osynlige, I have no way of knowing how close (or distant) Goyer’s version is to either. If it’s one thing though that’s come out of my partial dissatisfaction with The Invisible, it’s that I am now more curious than ever to check out Den Osynlige.
Maybe then, seeing those other, earlier versions of the tale—in a curious parallel of Nicholas’ cinematic journey—I’ll better understand some of the choices Goyer made with The Invisible. And with any luck, I’ll come to appreciate it more.

(The Invisible OS courtesy of wildaboutmovies.com; DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com.)



CHUCK
Season 1 Episode 2
“Chuck Versus the Helicopter”
Written by: Josh Schwartz & Chris Fedak
Directed by: Robert Duncan McNeill
(WARNING: SPOILERS)

So Sarah takes a job at the Wienerlicious just down from the Buy More to keep a close eye on Chuck, while Casey of course, is now a Buy More employee.
Dr. Zarnow (John Fleck, from HBO’s Carnivale) is brought in to take a look at the Intersect data that’s stuck in Chuck’s brain, with the intention of the good doctor getting all of those “really scary, nasty, get-killed-for-having-‘em secrets” out.
But just after seeing “Patient X”—Zarnow is not allowed to actually see Chuck during the test—the doctor is apparently killed by an NSA incinerator (which obliterates every single molecule of the target, so no body is found). And who works for the NSA, but Casey.

Thus begins the amusing, but nonetheless tense tug of war as Sarah thinks Casey’s out to ice Chuck, while Casey thinks Sarah’s the double agent. Poor Chuck’s stuck in the middle, while still hoping that his relationship with Sarah (“which isn’t even remotely real”) can actually go somewhere.
Things come to a head at the dinner that Ellie insists on having so she can finally meet Sarah. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue.

We also discover that another Intersect will be up and running in about six months’ time, and when that happens, Casey is instructed to do what he does best.
Uh-oh…

Sure, the helicopter sequence could have been better executed, but the laughs and action are still coming on strong, and while “Gone, Daddy, Gone,” the Trainspotting nod, and Them are all fantastic, the Lost reference slays them all!

Parting shot: A review of Chuck’s Pilot episode (TV Watch 2007) can be found in the Archive.

(Image courtesy of aintitcool.com.)


Thursday, October 18, 2007






reVIEW (28)
FEAST

Three reasons for this look back at John Gulager’s Feast.
One: There’s a pair of direct-to-DVD sequels on the way.
Two:
Feast was written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who also wrote the screenplay for Saw IV, which is just about to open.
Three: This is the sort of fracking wild trip that’s always worth another look.

The end result of Project Greenlight’s third season, Feast is a monster mash that’s both bloody and funny, that defies expectations and pulls no punches. Out in the middle of nowhere, in The Bear Tavern (“Home of the Grill Kill Museum”), a bunch of strangers are about to face the meanest, smartest, and horniest beasties this side of Alien’s xenomorph and Species' Sil.
Setting the mood from the get-go, with instant (though perhaps unreliable) Monster Movie Victim Stats popping up on-screen as each character is introduced—“Name: Hot Wheels; Occupation: Selling Fireworks to 7th Graders; Life Expectancy: They Wouldn’t Kill a Cripple, Would They?”—Feast quickly establishes the smart-a$$ attitude that will carry us through a 95-minute ride of madcap mayhem that deftly delivers the thrills, scares, and laughs in a smart, sharp, and wickedly humourous package.

What’s pleasantly surprising about Feast is that this is not only a monster movie with a decidedly freaky-a$$ monster (courtesy of Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who’s done effects for Pulse and its sequel, as well as a couple of Heroes episodes), it’s also a film that’s well-shot (by Thomas L. Callaway), well-edited (by Pulse editor Kirk Morri), and well-acted (with people like Alias/Brothers & Sisters’ Balthazar Getty and Numb3rs/The O.C.’s Navi Rawat in the ensemble).
It’s also got buckets of blood and gore and torn appendages (human and otherwise) zinging about on-screen.
And have I mentioned? It’s really funny too.

In Feast, Gulager, Melton, and Dunstan take some post-modern swipes at the conventions of the monster movie, primary among them, not even giving their main characters proper names (Getty and Rawat play “Bozo” and “Heroine” respectively), acknowledging what we in the audience already know: most, perhaps even all, of these people are dead meat walking. Why bother with names when they’re just going to end up a bloody mess of body parts on the tavern floor?
But even with that approach, Gulager and company actually give us individuals with personalities, which makes the fact that there’s actually some good acting here, a massive plus. There’re some great moments in Feast from Baywatch/What About Brian’s Krista Allen (“Tuffy”) and 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander (“Beer Guy”). And it’s a kick and a half to see Henry Rollins (as motivational speaker “Coach”) and Jason Mewes (as himself, though he is credited as the “Edgy Cat”) among the Bear Tavern’s patrons.

Of course, given that this is a monster movie, what some horror geeks could argue is Feast’s crowning glory, is the creature itself. Believe you me, this one’s a corker. You’re lucky if all it does to you is eat you.
So if you haven’t partaken of Feast, then do yourself a great big favour and watch it, before the sequels come barreling our way. And if you’ve already seen it, I’m sure you won’t deny that watching it again sounds like a plan.
Watch it back-to-back with Planet Terror. Now that’s a double-header.

“This is just some leaky barrel radiation toxic dump waste enviro-crap freak-beast accident that crawled out of the sewer, man. That’s all this is. We’re gonna be all right.”
-- Beer Guy, before something awful happens to him

Parting shot: Though I loved the first Saw, I’ve been less than thrilled by the sequels. If Melton and Dunstan can bring to Saw IV the scares and the smarts that are readily apparent in Feast’s script, then there’s hope for Jigsaw yet.
Melton and Dunstan are also involved in the upcoming thriller The Midnight Man, Dunstan’s directorial debut.

Parting shot 2: Some quick bits on some of Feast’s ensemble:
Veteran actor Clu Gulager (who plays “Bartender”) is director John Gulager’s father, and Diane Goldner (“Harley Mama”) is John Gulager’s wife. Go nepotism!
The life of the party, Judah Friedlander is appearing in the upcoming Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, directed by Ti West.
Jason Mewes and Balthazar Getty also worked together on David Arquette’s The Tripper. (Review in Archive.)

Parting shot 3: As naughty and nasty as Feast is, the sequels promise to assault sensibilities even further. The first sequel’s title says it all: Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds.
On talking about the sequels, Dunstan says: "Neo Art & Logic is producing again, and if they let us get away with the vulgarities we've currently scripted, and if we don’t get deported, we just may have the NC-17-rated monsterfest that was only hinted at in the first film."
Boo-yah!

(Feast OS courtesy of impawards.com; image courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; behind the scenes images from Project Greenlight courtesy of bravotv.com.)




reVIEW (27)
THE FORGOTTEN

For those unaware of it, the premise of The Forgotten is an interesting one: Julianne Moore plays a woman with the unlikely name of Telly Paretta, a grieving mother who lost her son in a plane crash some fourteen months ago. One day, she is suddenly told by everyone—including her increasingly estranged husband, played by E.R.’s Anthony Edwards—that she never had a son, that the memories she has of her little boy’s life and death, were all constructs of her mind. Even treasured photos of her son Sam are somehow altered, her boy erased everywhere else except from her memory.
For the first thirty minutes or so of the film, the mind games are enough to keep the audience engaged and curious, but when Telly makes an astounding leap in logic, the story bungles its way into X-Files territory, complete with shadowy operatives apparently working for the government, and never quite recovers from the fatal misstep.

Though it could be argued that Moore chose to do The Forgotten because of all the maternal angst and inner strength she gets to sink her considerable acting teeth into, it boggles the mind why actors of the caliber and talent of Gary Sinese and Alfre Woodard chose to appear in the film, given the glaring flaws in the script itself. It doesn’t help any that director Joseph Ruben is notorious for helming lackluster thrillers like the Julia Roberts-starrer Sleeping With The Enemy, or The Good Son with Macauley Culkin and Elijah Wood.
I can’t even say The Forgotten’s failure is because the material is now inherently hackneyed, given that the X-Files Moment has come and gone: Alex Proyas dealt with much of the same themes and subject matter in the astounding Dark City, in a much more fantastic, yet much more emotionally-satisfying way.
What’s more, the manner in which the film ends does nothing to resolve the primal quandary: the problem is still hanging over everyone’s stupidly smiling face once the credits roll. And the ultimate triumph of Maternal Love over the sinister machinations of Them rings so hollow, I can still hear the echoes nearly half a day after I’ve seen the film.

Having mentioned Maternal Love though, the film does seem to display a feminist streak, in that the two main female characters played by Moore and Woodard, are the ones more readily open to accept the fantastic, improbable explanation, as opposed to the male characters, who are either slow on the uptake, totally inept, or outright collaborators.
I think part of the problem is the fact that there is no apparent reason why Telly is immune to the process. Is it because she’s a woman? Surely other women underwent and succumbed to the forgetting. Is it because she’s a parent? But other parents forgot their children as well. Is it (as she underscores in a line of dialogue towards the film’s end) because she is a mother? But again, surely other mothers were made to forget too.
So Telly is apparently an exceptionally strong-willed mother. But what made her so? What events in her life contributed to these characteristics? What is Telly’s psychology? The script doesn’t give us anything to work with on that score.
So we are asked to identify and sympathize with Telly because she is a mother in pain trying to convince everyone else of her sanity, proof that grief is not a sign of weakness, or worse, madness. Fine. Given Moore’s acting chops, that’s the easy part of the deal. It’s all the other stuff that comes along with The Forgotten that’s difficult to swallow.

In the end, the motivation for Them seems almost dismissive, as if to say, We can give you the barest skeleton of a reason, but that’s okay; we’ll just give you another scene of Telly remembering Sam, thus proving her pure, unwavering love for him. Or worse, We don’t need to outline the motivation here since you’ve seen all the motivation for this sort of thing from every single X-Files episode in existence, from back when Mulder first met Scully.
And though I could commend the filmmakers for the naturalistic approach to the fantastic elements of the plot, I choose not to, since that decision didn’t help in raising the credibility of the material one iota: the film is as hard to swallow now as it would be if it had pink laser beams and vari-colored lights pinwheeling through the night sky. (Though seeing Telly on a flying bicycle with Sam might have been an amusing sight.)
The best I can say is, if you’re a Julianne Moore fan, then maybe you should see The Forgotten.
Stress on the “maybe.”

(The Forgotten OS courtesy of impawards.com; DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com.)

(The above review was originally published under the title, “Best Forgotten.”)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007





PLANET TERROR
(Review)

Robert Rodriguez confuses me.
El Mariachi blew me away with its crackling, low budget ingenuity and I had high hopes for whatever Rodriguez would cook up next. What came after however, tended to disappoint, more than anything else.
Desperado just seemed to be El Mariachi on a Hollywood budget, Four Rooms (the anthology he contributed to alongside Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, and Allison Anders) seemed more self-indulgent than actually funny, The Faculty lacked the visual frenzy of Rodriguez’s audacious debut, Once Upon A Time in Mexico didn’t really come alive for me, and Sin City was little more than an interesting ultra-violent visual experience.
Then there are his kiddie movies (the Spy Kids flicks and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl) which were clearly not made with me in mind.
Perhaps the only post-El Mariachi film Rodriguez helmed which I actually enjoyed was his team-up with Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn, a vampire movie which reveled in its B-movie roots.
The only one, that is, till I got to visit Planet Terror.

Originally one half of Grindhouse, Planet Terror is Rodriguez’s crazy-a$$ contribution to the raging subgenre of zombie cinema.
Here, a chemical is unleashed on an unsuspecting Texan populace, which mutates its victims into pustule-ridden monstrosities hungry for flesh. As per the template of your average zombie mash, Planet Terror follows a number of characters who eventually converge to become one ragtag group of survivors that must navigate the chaos of a world that’s suddenly gone Romero.
Among the motley crew are go-go dancer/aspiring stand-up comic Cherry Darling (Scream’s Rose McGowan), anesthesiologist Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, from Pleasantville and Sin City), and the mysterious El Wray (Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez). Along for the ride are biochemist/testicle fetishist Abby (Lost’s Naveen Andrews), would-be barbecue king J.T. (Jeff Fahey, set to appear in Season 4 of Lost), J.T.’s brother Sheriff Hague (former James Cameron collaborator Michael Biehn), and Deputy Tolo (make-up effects maestro Tom Savini). Oh, and a certain Earl McGraw (Michael Parks), who some of you may have seen in Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga as well as Death Proof. (Earl happens to be Dakota’s pop, and Dakota is also actually seen briefly in Death Proof.)

Populating this wild ride with these misfits, Rodriguez delivers a solid exercise in fun, B-movie schlock; this is the sort of tongue-in-cheek insanity that some low budget horror films can only hope to attain. Utilizing a good mix of old school practical make-up effects, digital effects, and painfully obvious dummies, Rodriguez showers the audience with over-the-top gore as the infected transform into oozing grotesqueries ready to chow down on the nearest live human being, while spurting copious amounts of the red stuff as they’re being gunned down, or run over, or chopper rotored, by El Wray and company.

Planet Terror is a runny, rowdy, four-cheese pizza without the dough. It’s messy and messed-up and one of the most lunatic popcorn flicks ever made for the midnight movie crowd.
At long last, Rodriguez is back in the game, and I am so looking forward to his remake of Barbarella, where he re-teams with McGowan (who has since become his real-life Cherry Darling).
Bring it on, baby!

Parting shot: Notable musical moments: Rose McGowan’s cover of “You Belong To Me,” which is played over the end title crawl, and, though it’s not my favourite cover of theirs, Nouvelle Vague’s “Too Drunk To F*ck,” which plays as QT tries to do something nasty to Cherry, only to have something really nasty happen to him…

Parting shot 2: Reportedly, Rodriguez is also set to turn his faux trailer from Grindhouse, Machete—which plays right before Planet Terror starts—into a full-fledged straight-to-DVD film.
More schlocky insanity! With Cheech Marin as a gun-toting priest! Brilliant!

(Planet Terror OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of ew.com; Robert Rodriguez on-set image courtesy of rollingstone.com.)


Monday, October 15, 2007






AFTERTHOUGHTS (19)

It appears that the film adaptation of Justice League of America is really moving now. With the confluence of the impending strike and the delay of Bryan Singer’s Superman sequel, Warner Brothers moved faster than a speeding bullet on this one.
Since they needed a tentpole for 2009, and it was quickly becoming apparent that Singer—still busy on Valkyrie and with The Mayor of Castro Street waiting for him—wasn’t going to deliver it, the studio turned to the JLA script written by Kieran and Michele Mulroney.
Even with a script though, a film of the size and scale of Justice League of America (comprised of seven of the DC Universe’s biggest names, including Superman and Batman) is a daunting task, under normal circumstances. Having a pre-strike priority status is far from normal, of course, and could very well be a double-edged sword.
Still, director George Miller (who’s given us everything from Mad Max to Babe to Happy Feet) seems to be right on target.

Miller has reportedly recruited Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler—who kicked a$$ on Russell Mulcahey’s big boar in the Outback thriller Razorback, shot Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, and collaborated with both Miller and Gibson on the second and third Mad Max films—and is currently in the US for a “marathon casting session” during which time he will see from 35 to 40 actors audition for the seven key roles.
Miller is looking at young actors so they can “grow into their roles over the course of several movies.” If all goes well, this could be a pivotal film that could turn semi-recognizable actors into household names. (Think The Fellowship of the Ring.)
Among those slated for JLA auditions: Michael Angarano (who played Jack’s son, Elliot, on Will & Grace, and already did the superhero thing in Disney’s Sky High); D.J. Cotrona (from the cancelled Windfall); a Friday Night Lights contingent comprised of Adrianne Palicki, Scott Porter, and Minka Kelly; Teresa Palmer from Wolf Creek and The Grudge 2; and Seth Cohen himself, Adam Brody.
The specific role each particular actor is auditioning for is unclear at this point, though I do see possibilities: Porter could be up for Superman, while Cotrona could be auditioning for Batman. And either Angarano or Brody could make for a good Flash (though Angarano seems more physically suited to play the Scarlet Speedster)*. Kelly, Palmer, and Palicki are of course, all tussling it out for the golden lasso and tiara of Wonder Woman.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Miller is supposed to run down his choices for the studio sometime in the middle of this week.

In addition, Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop is also reportedly on-board for costume design.
Awesome.
Check out the item at hollywoodreporter.com, for some more names mentioned as part of the audition roll call.

* I’m assuming, of course, that the Flash in question is Wally West (just as he is on the Justice League animated series) and not the more straight-laced Barry Allen.

Parting shot: Semler won the Best Cinematography Oscar for Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. He also won a couple of Australian film awards for his work on Razorback, and was likewise recognized for Apocalypto (3 wins and 2 nominations).

(Images courtesy of kidactors.com [Michael Angarano]; allocine.fr [D.J. Cotrona]; yahoo.com, austin360.com, and about.com [Adrianne Palicki, Scott Porter, and Minka Kelly]; yahoo.com [Teresa Palmer]; and webwombat.com.au [Adam Brody].)