Space Ramblings

Category Archives: Misc Reviews

Longmire Pilot review

Longmire is the kind of TV show that television used to be full of. The eponymous protagonist with a tough past and a ready quip, talking to people, unraveling a mystery and then riding off into the sunset. It’s a type of television that is almost as endangered as the Western and Longmire is both.

Longmire will be compared to Justified, but it doesn’t have much in common with Justified’s hipster frontier. It’s not knowing or self-aware. It isn’t aimed at viewers who want a postmodern soap opera, a True Blood, Game of Thrones, Sopranos or Justified, that is far enough away from Days of Our Lives to make them feel clever for watching it. It’s just a good old-fashioned sheriff  cop show. And it’s a good 40 minutes of television that reminds you that the old stuff works.

The cast isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough to it. The West fills out the landscape against which every great detective show takes place, whether it’s New York City or Hawaii or Singapore. And the stories take, what is obviously a series of mystery novels, and condense them into something that plays on TV for 40 minutes or less.

There’s Sheriff Longmire, the beleaguered lawman mourning his wife and fighting off a younger rival. Solving crimes by noticing things, instead of by calling in lab techs. There’s Katee Sackhoff’s tolerable Vic, as a homicide detective not working in a small country, who fills out the usual sidekick role. But mostly there’s a wide frontier full of cowboy chic from Indian pollongmire posterice to mounted elk heads, old wood and antique guns.

The pilot isn’t anything you haven’t seen hundreds of variations on. The mysterious murder victim whose life unrolls the secrets that led to his death. A young girl forced into prostitution. A setup and a gunfight. It’s everything you’ve seen in Hawaii 5-0, Vega$, The Fall Guy, McCloud and a hundred other TV shows. But it’s rendered clean and fresh. It’s not original and it doesn’t quite feel new, but it feels open in a way that most television doesn’t anymore.

Longmire isn’t great television, but it’s good television. I don’t give good odds for its survival, because like Terriers, the authentic detective show doesn’t play on cable television anymore. A detective can be neurotic and weird, because cable is supposed to showcase screwed up people, but the story has to be there just as a soapy arc to showcase more weird allies and villains. It can’t be something as clean and succinct as Longmire.

And yet Longmire is the perfect antidote to the CSI’s, Law and Orders and NCIS’s that took over free television and the hipster soaps that are one shade away from fifty shades of grey. It’s television as it used to be and it still has appeal. That’s why Tom Selleck’s bland take on Jesse Stone has been a surprising success for CBS. USA has managed to make the occasional detective show work. FX blew it with Terriers. Maybe A&E can hit a home run with Longmire.

Arkham City game review

It’s hard work being Batman and Arkham City is one of the few Batman games to get that right. Superman can just power through obstacles, but Batman has to study the enemy and use strategy to gain an advantage over superior numbers and firepower. You can, on occasion, punch and kick your way through a mob, but more often you have to find a vantage point, hide, and use some of your belt of your tricks to take them down.

That’s what makes Arkham City interesting, but after a while it’s also what makes it tedious. Grinding through a mob is at least fun, dancing between gargoyles and trying to take out every thug, one by one, knowing that if a single thing goes wrong, you’re going to be replaying this room, isn’t all that much fun and after doing it for the twentieth time, it isn’t that interesting.

Arkham City is at its best when you’re soaring between the rooftops in a city gone mad, springing to the occasional rescue. And while the stray missions, like tracking down containers for Bane, aren’t that interesting, the main story, with a cockney accented Penguin as a villain psychotic enough to upstage Joker, works more often than not. There are weaker diversions than others. Not only are you tasked with the dubious challenge of saving Arkham’s inmates before Hugo Strange kills them, there’s an entire Bioshock middle section with an abandoned city of the future, a mysterious energy fluid and a hallucinogenic quest to succeed Ra’s Al Ghul by fighting his giant head that come off silly. But mostly the game’s only weakness is its console roots, the bosses that have to be fought by hitting them with the same attacks over and over again, while they fill the field with explosions and stomp you and the handholding instructions.

Arkham City’s story breaks no new ground. Batman once again driven to the point of wondering whether he shouldn’t kill the Joker. The voice acting is good enough, so is the writing, though it makes it seem as if Batman’s allies are obnoxious and controlling, Alfred in particular is more annoying than all the supervillains put together. The climax tries too hard and it doesn’t seem likely that Batman would carry out Joker’s body to the cops, rather than Talia’s, unless the game is going for a gay subtext, but no one is playing this for the story. Just the thrill of launching a line and soaring above a mad art deco Gotham of skyscrapers, penthouse verandas, dirty alleys and crime in the streets.

Cherry 2000

In the old WPIX days, Cherry 2000 was one of those movies that was always in rotation. The love story of a man, a woman and a robot was how the station ads described it and it wasn’t an inaccurate description.

Cherry 2000 is one of those movies barely strange enough to qualify as a cult film and not nearly bad enough, despite its premise to be worth seeing on the “so good it’s bad” grounds.

The story is simple enough to be completely ridiculous. An executive’s sexbot (who in true Hollywood fashion usually reserved for hookers he truly loves) breaks down causing him to hire a beautiful female tracker to find a replacement body for her that he can stick the mini disc with her memories into in the lawless parts of California after the breakup of the united states and the collapse of civilization.

Cherry 2000 dances on the edge of satire with its mockery of California and its strange fusion of Mad Max and a love story, but never crosses the line. It has moments of striking visual style, especially in a western town on the edge of civilization that blends the wild west with a 1980’s view of 21’st century technology or when the executive ends up in the surreal ranch of the local warlord, Lester who sounds like a granola compound leader… But it’s mostly bland.

Despite some epic settings the action scenes fizzle and the love story never adds up. The male lead is too bland to hold the spotlight and Melanie Griffith’s tracker with red hair, a machine gun and a tender heart becomes the focus of the film.

Which makes Cherry 2000 a peculiar movie about a woman who rams through armed barricades for a living but falls for a man who is in love with a sexbot for no obvious reason except that he is good looking and then mopes about waiting for him to wise up while dodging bullets.

It’s weird but it’s not weird weird, it dances around satire but never gets there, but it’s a strange artifact of a time when movies like this got tossed off without a second thought.

Smallville 8×20 Beast review

Well I’ve got to give Smallville credit for one thing, they may have jacked the plot for Buffy Season 5, but they’ve done a much better job with the alternating human to world destroyer big bad thing, than Buffy ever did. That’s not to say that Smallville Season 8 hasn’t lagged a lot, particularly anything involving the post-Lex Luthorcorp or Green Arrow, but the series does make a convincing case that it can keep going ad infinitum. Which if the CW has anything to say about it, is exactly what will happen. Even if Clark is wearing a dress and blonde wig, two seasons on. Smallville 8×20 Beast does go back to the usual abused woman storyline that teen oriented shows constantly chuck in to educate their base demographic that having a controlling abusive boyfriend is a bad idea, but it still works well enough, if only because Chloe manages to be convincingly rational, while behaving irrationally, and avoids the Lifetime river of tears moments you would usually expect to see thrown in here. Evil Medic slash Doomsday has meanwhile covered the ground from whiny to self-entitled sociopath, and by the time the season finale comes around, I’m sure we’ll see him kick the crap out of Clark in the season finale, only to have Clark make a comeback in the Season 9 opener, as he usually does. Chloe’s fate will probably be up in the air until negotiations work themselves out with the actress. Considering that the result of the negotiations turned Chloe into the center of the storylines for Season 8, I’d say that the producers may not be willing to bend over that far backward again.

The Incredible Hulk game review

What if you remade Grand Theft Auto starring the Hulk? That’s the not so secret premise of The Incredible Hulk game. A Sandbox game with Wanted levels, selective missions and lots of easter eggs to find scattered around the Marvel Universe version of Manhattan, The Incredible Hulk game is a hybrid between a platformer and Grand Theft Auto, incorporating many of the latter’s gameplay features. The problem is that the game borrows both the good and the bad, giving you a large city to play with and saddles you with boring missions, some of which require you to escort or protect whiny and annoying characters and their lab equipment all within a narrow time limit. And for any game designers taking notes, that’s the difference between imitating Grand Theft Auto and learning the lessons of Grand Theft Auto.

Despite many of the annoying missions, The Incredible Hulk still boasts a ridiculously fun concept, giving you a somewhat smaller version of Manhattan to play with. Climb the Empire State, King Kong style or tear off a lampost and swing it around as a club while battling a giant 10 story robot sent by the evil Paragon corporation. Fight City Hall by smashing it to pieces, every building is destructible, or race through Central Park leaping over the trees.

But like most sandbox games, there’s only so much freedom you can take before you get bored, and while The Incredible Hulk offers an incredible setting, it doesn’t do very much with it. The missions run the gamut from the redundant to the frustrating and miss the point of what the Hulk is all about, which isn’t taking cell phone calls and escorting scientists around a map. The in game voice narration from Ed Norton doesn’t help by reminding you that is a game tie in with a movie that was equally clueless about the Hulk and its audience.

Like most movie tie in games, you shouldn’t go in expecting too much from The Incredible Hulk. The graphics are shockingly bland and crude. The city, despite featuring both real New York City and imaginary Marvel universe landmarks from the Apollo Theater to the Daily Bugle, is generic. But that doesn’t mean the game still isn’t fun as long as you don’t expect it to offer much beyond the sandbox play. And once you’ve exhausted the fun of jumping off the Chrysler Building or navigating Manhattan by rooftops while dodging armored troopers hunting for you, you’ve also exhausted everything worthwhile about the game.

The Boys 26 A New Year, an Old Issue

It’s a new year, a new month and Issue 26 of The Boys which is a lot like Issue 25 of The Boys, except for well not very much. At this point it’s safe to say that Garth Ennis is not just the master of pointless tangent stories, but of writing issue after issue in which nothing happens. Take Issue 26, which features a standoff between two G-Wiz teams, obvious X-Men parodies, you might think that in this issue we might see something like that. Wrong. Next issue maybe, not this old issue.

But we learn something new about the G-Wiz teams from Hughie being undercover there. Right? Wrong. We get some of the same wacky antics we’ve been getting in the previous issues. There’s nothing new here. Nothing new at all, except that Hughie tries to stay on after the bugs have been planted in the hopes of teaching them right from wrong. While Butcher tells him that a Supe is a Supe, a category that for some reason doesn’t include him and Hughie.

About the only halfway worthwhile material involves Annie and Hughie’s ongoing relationship, though the visuals get a lot more graphic than anyone needs to see, but for all that it’s sweet, it’s basically recycled material from previous issues. No new ground is being broken either. Finally Butcher does find something on the hard drives he stole last issue, but we’re never told what. And the investigation into Silver’s suicide leads to a home, but again any developments on that would wind up in some future issue, which at this rate would be somewhere around 2012. Good going.

Legend of the Seeker 1×07 Identity

A potentially half-decent episode that has the gang of three headed to Calabra where the ruins conceal one of the Boxes of Orden, Legend of the Seeker 1×07 Identity is interrupted by the usual wacky shenanigans when Shota stops by to cast a spell that switches appearances between Richard and a doofus living in town who dreams of a life of adventure, instead of domestic bliss.

Shota experiences a vision of Richard dying at the hands of Nass, a heavy who works for Darken Rahl, and is paid in huge barrels of dark eye makeup. What does evil and dark eye makeup have in common, who knows. But there’s a clear overlap. So Shota comes up with an ideal solution, which is to use magic to force them to switch identities. This leaves Richard dealing with a forced arranged marriage, while the doofus tries to hit on Kahlan. Of course it all goes badly, and I don’t just mean the awkward flirting.

Richard doesn’t die, neither does doofus, love triumphs over all, and Nass and by extension Darken Rahl get the boxes of Orden. But in the show’s usual tradition of setting up some nugget about Richard’s identity, as Shota reveals that Kahlan will betray him, to which Bridget Regan reacts with the kind of shock and horror reserved for New York based SAG members. So lots of namedropping, with both Shota and the boxes making a appearance in one episode. And another episode of Legend of the Seeker ends.

Drafted 12 Comics review

Well to give Drafted credit, after issue after issue of predictably plodding plots, Drafted 12 finally delivers the sort of issue worth reading. It doesn’t quite justify the Battlestar Galactica cover comparison quote, but it does turn in a solid narrative beginning with Gabriel and Preston descending down into the earth, deep underground, in pursuit of the worm which is about to nest, even as the lone remaining member of the clergymen and his abductors, come face to face with the Worm and with what’s nesting inside, and it isn’t a whole bunch of other worms, but Audrey, or someone who looks a lot like Audrey and claims to be Audrey, who claims that the Worms are the victims and the aliens who came to Earth are the enemy.

It’s an interesting twist, and the first one that looks set to shake up the narrative a bit. Now the obvious route is that Audrey will prove to be a double or clone of some kind who is part of the Worms’ trap. But Drafted 12 does end on an ominous note with the invasion deferred as the aliens begin to rebuild Earth along Blade Runner lines, a brave new world. Gabriel alone and a handful of the resisters and the last remaining clergyman know the truth forming some kind of resistance. It’s an interesting setup for a second chapter.

Of course the basic gullibility of the characters, which is a problem all throughout Drafted, continues on. When the aliens first came along, most of the characters believe them with no real proof, now a second set of aliens come with a different story, and the characters are just eager to believe the same story. So as Drafted goes on, we might well discover that both alien species are only interested in fighting each other and don’t care about humanity or earth except as a tool to win their war. But the humans will really have to stop believing anything and everything an alien tells them.

Legend of the Seeker 1×05 Listener episode review

With Legend of the Seeker 1×05 Listener, you can almost see an identity forming for the series, which by now obviously involves Richard, Kahlan and Zedd wandering around, bumping into some evil and nefarious deed being perpetrated by Darken Rahl’s minions and after a lot of confusion and difficulties, mainly created by their own poor attempts at solving the problem, finally emerge triumphant.

The Richard Goodkind novels were no great prize, but it’s a sad commentary on Hollywood’s lack of creativity, that the producers felt the need to buy the rights to the novels, only to transform them into the same generic fantasy TV series, they could have just as easily come up with by watching Beastmaster reruns. Still with episodes like Listener and last week’s Brennidon, Legend of the Seeker shows that it’s not Hercules, and while it will never be a great TV show, it can be a passably decent and entertaining one, especially as there’s nothing in the same genre currently on TV.

Legend of the Seeker 1×05 Listener features the usual annoying little kid with super powers who just needs to be loved, but will first spend a lot of time testing everyone’s patience. To the credit of everyone involved, the kid comes off fairly well and so does the plot. While Richard and Kahlan deal with the Listener, Zedd disguises himself to accompany the Dragon Corps, Rahl’s elite guard, while wrestling with his own moral dilemma over the fate of a renegade guard who worships the Seeker. Thanks to a decent child actor and an all around entertaining cast, it all plays out pretty well and the kid is transported to the Sisters of Light, who in this version are not fanatics who imprison gifted men in the Palace of the Prophets, but are some sort of hippy nuns living in a secret valley. So basically Sam Raimi might want to start paying royalties to John Marco instead.

Of course there’s plenty of implausibilities, not the least of which is the idea that Kahlan is in love with Richard, who in this reality looks to be half her age with half of her brains, or well anyone’s brains, and whose only contribution to the quest is a magic sword that was given to him. But that’s the choice the show made, and hopefully at some point they’ll make the choice to have Richard actually grow up.

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.

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