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Monthly Archives: November 2008

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24 Redemption Review

24 Redemption’s title is meant to refer to Jack Bauer’s need for redemption, but after a missing season on top previous seasons that that have suffered from aimless drifting, it’s the series itself that needs redemption. Unfortunately 24 Redemption doesn’t do much to redeem the series, it does offer Jack Bauer redemption but Jack Bauer, unlike Kiefer Sutherland, doesn’t actually need it.

24 usually takes place in Los Angeles, but for 24 Redemption it instead does the trendy LA thing by heading to Africa where its title character pretends to care about the suffering of children in a fictional African country. Which is of course the ultimate trendy celebrity thing to do. Jack Bauer is at his best in full on action mode, but 24 Redemption starts slowly. Having learned nothing from failed Hollywood “White Action Hero Rescues Africa” movies such as Tears of the Sun or Blood Diamond, 24 inflicts the usual cliches on us.

Jack Bauer, as is traditional after a season, is a shattered man who has taken refuge, this time at a school run by a Special Forces buddy, the oddly Scottish, and generally wasted, Robert Carlyle. Naturally Jack bonds with a young boy. Naturally there’s a good deal of preaching about the problem of child soldiers. By the time the bad guys come on the scene, Jack crustily snaps into action mode, but winds up captured and tortured, and finally carries out a long quest to reach the US embassy with the kids, where he’s taken into custody to appear at a Senate hearing on torture.

In the background, the Hillary Clinton stand in is being sworn in as President, and oddly manages to be more irritating than the real thing. Her smug son has a junkie broker friend who’s involved in money laundering on behalf of terrorists, a plot being masterminded by the sort of disposable evil rich businessman who appears in every episode, and in this case is played by Jon Voight.

24 Redemption is mostly unnecessary, and while it has a handful of good characters and performances, notably Gil Bellows as an unsympathetic US embassy staffer, a corrupt and cowardly UN official and Tony Todd being dragged in to play General Juma, mostly it fails at doing what 24 does best, sticking Jack Bauer in the middle of a fast moving confusing crisis with a ticking clock running all the while.

Legend of the Seeker 1×04 Brennidon episode review

Legend of the Seeker 1×04 Brennidon is very much a kids episode, not in the sense that it is for kids, at least any more than the rest of Legend of the Seeker is, but in that it deals with parents and children. First Richard stumbles into Brennidon, the town where he was born, while Zedd copes with a paternity claim from a woman he knew a long time ago. Kahlan meanwhile serving as the Confessor listens to personal disputes in another small community nearby.

Brennidon is the first episode that does a decent job of testing Richard’s ideals and skills in a real fight against tyranny, even if it reverts to the kind of Zorro setup that plays out as a little too goofy. Some scenes are well done, beginning with Richard’s arrival at a cemetery featuring the tombstones of the children killed by Darken Rahl in order to slay the Seeker. Even the discover of his “mother” is handled well enough, but his “brother” is a painfully predictable character we’ve seen before in endless novels and movies and TV shows, whose every switch back and forth is loudly telegraphed.

By the time Richard hatches a plan to stop the D’Harans and get the people of Brennidon to rise up, silly season is well underway. But the real silliness comes in the entire Zedd’s paternity storyline, and by the time a serious overdramatic payoff comes in the final scene, it’s much too late. It’s clear that the producers of Legend of the Seeker have a comedy quota to fill every episode, so that the series plays out a little more like Hercules, and Zedd winds up filling that quota more often than not. Which is a shame since he is the one character on the show you can still take seriously.

The Brennidon solution begins well but ends in cliche, and it would be interesting for Richard to come back a few episodes later, and see that his well meaning attempts to free Brennidon, only resulted in the massacre of everyone who lived there.

End of November Box Office Roundup

To no one’s great surprise, despite being reviled by just about everyone, Four Christmases does its part for the Christmas Creep, and I do mean creep, by topping the box office with a horrifying 46 million dollars. Bolt meanwhile crawled out from under the shadow of Twilight and Madagascar to roll into second place, up from 3rd, with 26 million for a 66 million dollar total, putting a little more fire in Disney’s hopes of ending its subjection to Steve Jobs.

In 3rd, some of the screaming teenage girls still lingered to see Twilight, which takes home the sappy 26 million dollar cake for a 119 million dollars. Go female director! Quantum of Solace, last week’s number 2, had a sharper drop with a fourth place finish of 19.5 million for a 142 million dollar total. What this means is that James Bond is being outdone by a teenage girl and her secretly gay vampire boyfriend. Not good for old double seven ought.

In 5th, despite all of Oprah’s promotion, Australia comes out in 5th place with only 20 million dollars. Though to be fair to Nicole Kidman’s creepy plastic face, Australia is the only movie in the top 5 playing in less than 3000 theaters.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa took a tumble to 6th but still pulled in 14 million more in its 4th week of release to score a total of 159 million dollars. Transporter 3 debuted in 7th place with 18 million, solid numbers for this pointless franchise in any other weekend.

Role Models drops sharply from 5th to 8th with 5 million for a 57 million dollar total, terminating Role Models briefly if unlikely ride. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas goes up to 8th place from 9th with 1.6 for a 5 mil total. Not bad numbers if you consider that it’s playing in 20 percent of the theaters that Role Models is. But Milk proves that dead gay pols trump little dead Holocaust boys for number 10 pulling in over a million despite playing in only a few dozen theaters. Someone please explain those box office numbers to me, because I’m picturing one of those 50’s telephone booths deals here.

Legend of the Seeker 1×03 Bounty episode review

If the two episodes that formed Legend of the Seeker’s pilot avoided the inevitable Hercules comparisons that Sam Raimi’s name would bring up, Legend of the Seeker 1×03 Bounty delivers a heaping bounty of those with a guest starring appearance by Ted Raimi, hopefully the last one, as a wacky mapmaker who makes maps of the Seeker’s location and sells them to different bounty hunters, resulting in more wacky antics.

Meanwhile Richard gets involved in helping a young girl free her brother from a mythical monster, only to discover that the girl is really another bounty hunter, albeit amateur, who shoves Kahlan into a monster’s pit and tries to hand over Richard to the D’Harans. When captured though she admits that she was simply trying to make a deal with the D’Harans to free her brother who was being held for stealing food. Naturally Richard selflessly agrees to rescue him anyway, and the gang manage to imprison and disarm numerous guards without actually killing them, while Zedd traps the rest with the monster, leading to a happy ending all around. Toward the end Zedd even says the words, Addictive Magic.

Now I’m not Richard Goodkind’s biggest fan, but he had to be kicking things right around the time that Richard begins preaching selfless altruism to Kahlan. Goodkind’s writing is hardly consistent in that regard and his potluck dinner of Ayn Rand meets World of Time isn’t all that well thought out, but his Richard might make sacrifices, but neither was he this relentlessly stupid or senselessly altruistic. By keeping Richard immature and giving him generic hero ideals, the show is throwing away whatever uniqueness it might have taken from the novels for a completely generic fantasy fare.

To Sum up the Batman RIP Conclusion, What the Hell?

There’s one word that sums up the Batman RIP Conclusion written by Grant Morrison. Actually there’s a bunch of words and most of them only have four letters. But speaking of words and reasons, the only real reason DC has readers is because the idiots who run it have inherited some amazing and historic characters, including Batman and Superman. Batman RIP however is a reminder of why DC should not have readers, why it should instead have every person who bought issue after issue of Batman RIP standing outside their building with arms full of rotten tomatoes.

It’s not that Batman RIP is that bad, it’s actually almost coherent compared to the rambling insanity that came before it. It’s as if a drunken Grant Morrison scripted issue after issue in a drunken stupor and then suddenly snapped out of it, took a long break and brought in your average mediocre replacement writer to finish it for him. The mediocre replacement writer read over the whole thing, banged his or her head on a table a couple of times and tried to make it work.

Oh there are elements that sort of work, Batman’s inner narration, the monk’s flashback, Jezebel Jet’s betrayal, Batman being ultimately aware of everything going on. But that doesn’t even begin to sweep up the mess that came before. The Black Glove meanwhile might be Thomas Wayne, except he sort of isn’t, and there is someone else he must be, except we aren’t told who. And naturally he dies in a burning helicopter crash, exactly the way that Hush just died. How original. Meanwhile Batman has vanished, except it seems he hasn’t, and the Joker is hunting down the members of the Black Glove in horrific ways, except we aren’t shown that either. So to sum up, Grant, thanks for wasting our time and money. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Buffy Season 8 Issue 19 Time of Your Life Part 4 comic review

After a long break Buffy Season 8 Issue 19 Time of Your Life Part 4 stumbles in out of the rain and boy is it a mess. It’s appropriate that Time of Your Life wraps up on the same day that Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP wraps up, because they have something big in common, they’re both fumbled messes. Buffy specifically is big on the action but bad on the making sense. Time of Your Life had that problem from the convoluted flashback ridden launch in Time of Your Life Part 1,but elements were brought in that made it interesting.

The return of Fray to the Buffy universe was high on the list, but Fray seemed oddly willing to listen to evil future Willow, despite knowing that she was tied to Harth and his army of Lurks, and knock out and tie up Buffy. Meanwhile evil future Willow’s plan seemed to come down to getting Buffy to kill her, and while that is a powerful moment, as Buffy kills Willow in the future only to be rescued by Willow in the past, it seemed like that needed much more of a reason to tie it together, especially since future Willow unrolled a complex plan when all she needed to do was hurt some innocent bystanders enough to make the case for her own termination.

Meanwhile over on the home front, centaur Dawn and Xander and a bunch of forest creatures battle the incorporeal and then corporeal demon army sent by Warren and Amy at the behest of the mysterious masked guy known only as Twilight, apparently with the help of Angel, which really makes this old home week, though if Angel is evil now, that is really playing a bit too much havoc with the Buffyverse.

So far we’ve had two sets of four issues based on gimmicks, Buffy goes to Japan, Buffy goes to the future, in which the basic storytelling has been neglected, in favor of Dawn fighting a giant robot in Tokyo (ha ha because that’s just like a Japanese monster movie), Dawn as a centaur, the return of more old characters, Buffy in a lesbian storyline as a not too subtly calculate attempt to get attention (which succeeded) and Buffy killing future Willow. And meanwhile the thread of Buffy Season 8 that was actually interesting has slipped away, this time on Joss Whedon’s watch. What a surprise.

Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles 2×10 Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point episode review

Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles 2×10 Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point should have been the episode to redeem the series’ recent slump. For one thing it was written by the writing team of Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller, who have a fairly good track record on the show. For another it actually offers some big events. Unfortunately though it’s rooted in Sarah’s bizarre obsession with three dots, set up in the previous episode, which lead her to investigate an AI company without funding, and then bizarrely enough fund it, only to realize that the whole thing is a scam.

On the Ellison vs Scottish Terminator front, not only are the gratuitous biblical references and metaphors back, but Skynet actually gets two names, Babylon and John Henry, while the Scottish Terminatrix seems determined to have people teach the poor kicked around AI some morals and ethics, which is a bit on the inexplicable side.

Meanwhile it turns out that Riley comes from the future and has been working with Jessie as part of some operation aimed at John. Her story is that he’s gotten fixated on Cameron and is making bad decisions, this sort of pays out considering that John’s behavior took a turn for the wacky after Samson and Delilah when Cameron told him she loved him, while in evil killer mode. This is a marginally better explanation than the ridiculous “John is all shook up after killing a man who tried to murder him and needs therapy” story we’ve gotten so far this season. The likelier story though is that she’s a Gray.

The bulk of the episode though involves Sarah getting to know and getting involved with the head of the AI firm, who’s also the father of the firm’s chief and only researcher, who plays her easily, followed by Sarah bursting in and beating the crap out of him. Now I’m all for a tough Sarah Connor, but I don’t think anyone buys Lena Heady beating the hell out of a man her own size, let alone shoving him around the room like he’s a rag doll. Linda Hamilton maybe. Lena Heady, certainly not. But the real issue is that the series’ Sarah is a weaker more diffuse character, not the tough mother who stuck to her guns above all else. She crumbles when the CEO begins his pathetic hammy routine about doing it all for his son and his dead mother. Just as she crumbled back in the bowling alley bathroom and when faced with the snitch and so many times before.

In the first two Terminator movies, the humans survived in no small part because they were as willing to fight for their lives as the Terminators were to kill them. In the series that is increasingly no longer the case.

Angel After the Fall Issue 14 makes the problem bigger

Angel’s extremely prolonged death finally comes to a close in Angel After the Fall Issue 14. I think Superman took less time to die than Angel did. But the climax of everything is at hand. Gunn has Illyria in Fred’s form and is ready to fulfill what he thinks is the final plan, to bring out Illyria’s form. Meanwhile Spike tries to save Angel with a dose of vampirism by turning him again, which would have made Spike, Angel’s sire, after already being sired by Angel for a truly confusing relationship. Also it would have brought Angelus back for some truly epic ugliness.

Spike however is stopped in his plan by Connor, and everyone is stopped in their tracks by the arrival of some of Wolfram and Hart’s very demonic senior partners, who are pretty much who we thought they would be, arriving on razor clawed jet planes and plotting real estate purchases in Cleveland and the restoration of Angel, who cannot be allowed to die since he is meant to bring on the apocalypse. With scenes like that and after 6 years and all the effort that Wolfram and Hart has invested in Angel, it almost seems as if he would really have been better off defeating them by staying dead.

Gunn meanwhile does his best to manipulate Illyria, only to realize that what Angel had been telling him all along was true, and he was the one being manipulated by the Senior Partners who positioned the whole thing to play out for Angel’s benefit. Angel does return to life, but Illyria gets tired of living, returns to her original gigantic demon queen form and decides to collapse time and end all of existence. Like I said, the problem just got a lot bigger.

November 22nd Weekend Box Office Roundup

To no one’s surprise whatsoever, Twilight topped the box office with a 70 million dollar opening, even though the movie and the series seem to be despised even by the lead actors. It’s not quite Titanic figures, but the movie has tapped into the same kind of audience to beat Quantum of Solace, which sticks to second place with 27 million for a 109 million dollar total.

Obviously there isn’t much demographic overlap between the two movies, so Quantum of Solace probably didn’t take too much of a beating on it. It’s Bolt however which lost out, since it does have some crossover demographics with Twilight, and certainly with any family viewing audiences, opening in 3rd with 27 million, right behind Quantum of Solace. 27 million isn’t bad, but it’s not a major opening weekend for an animated movie.

Meanwhile Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which overlaps demographically with Bolt in a big way, added to its take in 4th place with another 16 million for a 137 million dollar total. The fault here is clearly Disney’s for its poorly scheduled release of Bolt.

Role Models meanwhile slipped down to 5th with 7 million for a handy 48 million dollar total. Changeling slips to 6th where it weeps and wails at a mere 2.4 million for a pathetic 31 million dollar total. High School Musical 3: Senior Year meanwhile serves as the last demographic battleground against Twilight in 7th with 2 million for an 86 million dollar total. Zack and Miri Make a Porno leaves the Weinsteins luckless in 8th with 1.7 million for a 29 million dollar total, still struggling to cross the 30 million finish line before dropping out of the top 10 entirely.

Smallville 8×10 Bride episode review

Last week it was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this week it’s Cloverfield which is the movie to rip off as Smallville 8×10 Bride kicks off with a fairly obviously Cloverfield lifted video opening and then closes with it too, much like the movie. In Smallville’s defense, the Cloverfield imitation is put to good use and makes the cliffhanger episode darker and more epic, but blatant imitation is still blatant imitation, and Smallville really needs to cut it out.

Besides plagiarism, Doomsday comes to town, or rather he’s been around all along in the form of the evil medic with a last name as his first name, Davis Bloome. Since the show is Chloe centered now, he arrives just in time to ruin Chloe’s wedding reception and kidnap her over to the Braniac controlled Fortress of Solitude. Of course this requires some tinkering with Doomsday’s origin, Smallville’s Doomsday is a lot younger than the DC comics version, and he’s the product of General Zod’s efforts and I would imagine he’s a lot weaker. Still it’s a half-decent way to introduce a worthy adversary for Superman.

And besides Doomsday, Bride also features the return of Lex Luthor and Lana Lang, possibly working together, along with more of Lois’ cloying love for Clark, which completely cuts against the grain of the story, is out of character and has been plopped in with no development at all. Naturally quickly after coming home, Lana finds herself in the hospital again. Because no episode with Lana would be complete that did not find her in her own hospital wing. But overall Bride is a well done episode, despite all these problems, and a decent setup for the entry of a real enemy. Let’s hope Smallville doesn’t blow the landing.

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