Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Warehouse 13: Season One

As someone who loves science fiction, it’s unfortunate that I’ve got an almost irrational resistance to programming on Syfy. It goes all the way back to their brutal treatment of Farscape, and while logic tells me that Battlestar Galactica should have made up for that misstep, I still find it hard to trust the network to this day. Or maybe it’s just that most of their programming sucks, and is aimed at the lowest common denominator.

Needless to say, I skipped Warehouse 13 when it was on last year, and once I started watching this set I assumed I had made the right decision, as the first four or five episodes (out of 12) aren’t much to write home about. The warehouse in question is located in the hinterlands of South Dakota. It houses a seemingly infinite number of artifacts from history – artifacts that inexplicably contain strange and unique powers (you’ve seen it before at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the beginning of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). For instance, Edgar Allen Poe’s quill makes whatever it writes happen, while Lewis Carroll’s mirror contains the spirit of an evil Alice.

There’s a schlubby caretaker named Artie Nielsen (the always great Saul Rubinek), who in the 90-minute pilot enlists the aid of two Secret Service agents, Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), both of whom are far too attractive for their professions. Their job is to trek across the U.S., hunt down artifacts, and bring them back to the warehouse – but not before getting in all manner of trouble first. There’s also the owner of Warehouse 13, the mysterious Mrs. Frederic (C.C.H. Pounder), who instills fear with her steely gaze, as well as Leena (Genelle Williams), a quiet, possibly psychic woman who runs the B & B where the Warehouse employees reside, which is one of the show’s stranger narrative moves. Why can’t they just get apartments, like normal people?

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

If somebody asked me to make a short list of my favorite writers and/or directors working today, Richard Curtis isn’t the first person who’d leap to mind. He might not even be the fifth. Despite that, I count myself as a big, big fan of his stuff, going all the way back to Blackadder, and right up to his most recent work, Pirate Radio, a movie which didn’t do well at the box office and got some fairly tepid reviews upon release. Like Curtis’s Love Actually before it, I suspect Pirate Radio (or The Boat That Rocked, for those of you in the U.K.) will go on to become a favorite of many, many people, because it’s an utterly charming, daffy piece of cinema that doesn’t want to do much more than entertain the hell out of you for a couple hours. And that it does. When it was announced that Curtis would be writing an episode for this season of Doctor Who, naturally I was interested in the prospect, but if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t expect all that much from it, and even less so once it came out that it would be about Vincent van Gogh.

For starters, Curtis has no track record writing science-fiction or fantasy (at least not the type one thinks of when bandying about such terms), and while it seemed gratifying to have such a high profile writer onboard, nothing in his works indicated that, with only 45 minutes to play, he’d likely create anything more than an amusing romp. Perhaps it was less Curtis himself, and more the new series having a pretty bad track record when it comes to tackling historical figures, regardless of who’s writing them. In fact, they typically seem to end up…amusing romps. Probably the best was the first one, “The Unquiet Dead,” which featured Charles Dickens, and from there they’ve kind of incrementally gone downhill. I didn’t think the formula could get much worse than “The Unicorn and the Wasp” with Agatha Christie, but along came “Victory of the Daleks” with Winston Churchill to prove me wrong. So imagine my surprise upon discovering that Curtis trashed my expectations by creating a deep, lovely, tortured thing of beauty that reduced me to tears. I have really got to start trusting this guy. His name is a stamp of quality no matter what “they” say.

Vincent and the Doctor” is the new standard by which these types of stories will, or at least should be measured. I have never quite understood the point of the Doctor meeting up with famous figures from the past only so that we can laugh at them and their quaint, backwards ways, all while cramming in little in-jokes that play off of what we know about these people from today’s perspective. Curtis presents us with a fictitious riff on van Gogh that lays waste to the previous approach. His story demands that we feel for van Gogh and his problems, which in turn gives the episode a gravitas that’s lacking in stuff like “The Shakespeare Code,” in which young Will was little more than a smarmy Casanova. Curtis comes from a place that has a huge amount of respect for this artist, as well as understanding that van Gogh’s troubled history was a big part of what made him the artist he was. Curtis also wisely avoids tackling the infamous ear-cutting incident, which is something a lesser writer would’ve worked into the story by having the alien lob it off or some such nonsense.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood

Last week I posted a quick update saying that I would wait until this week to write about both of these episodes, but that “The Hungry Earth” was a “very good setup.” Having had a week to reflect on that, I’m not so sure that’s the case, and yet I still think “The Hungry Earth” is a very or at least reasonably good episode, but perhaps not an effective setup for “Cold Blood,” unless you enjoy bait and switch. The tone and feel of “The Hungry Earth” is vastly different than “Cold Blood” (how about from here on out I refer to the episodes as THE and CB respectively?), and a fairly inconsequential amount of the information the episode delivers has much of anything to do with the second half. Probably the single most important bit that carries over from one episode to the next is the Doctor, Amy, and Rory seeing future versions of Amy and Rory off in the distance at the very start, but we’ll get to that in due course.

THE plays like one part spooky horror story and one part scientific fiasco. It’s a clear homage not so much to the classic series Silurians tales, but other stories from the Jon Pertwee era like “Inferno” and “The Daemons.” Heck, even the earth swallowing people up takes me back to Peter Davison’s “Frontios.” One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about this season is the conscious decision to go for more rural settings, as opposed to the urban backdrops which so dominated the Davies era. It’s given the season a much different texture, and one that’s a welcome change, and you can’t get much more rural than the countryside, an old church and graveyard, and a tiny cast. In so many ways both THE and CB are perhaps the closest to classic Doctor Who the new series has yet produced, which I’m not entirely sure is a good thing, because trying to hammer an old formula into a new box is an often dicey proposition, and I quite honestly am not sure if it works all that well here. The best episodes of the new series have been the ones that did something with Doctor Who that we’ve never seen before, and if the new series has proven anything, it’s that it’s best to keep moving forward.

Read the rest of the recap for this two-parter by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nip/Tuck: The Sixth and Final Season

Only on Nip/Tuck can a character utter a line like “Dildo sales are down. It’s the goddamn economy,” and make it sound a perfectly reasonable thing to say. There are aspects I will miss about Nip/Tuck, and one of them is its ability to take the most outlandishly offensive situation and make it seem relatively normal, at least within the context of the show. But all good and bad things must come to an end, and Nip/Tuck, from Season Three onwards, was equal parts of both. The Sixth Season aired in two parts (with a month break in the middle), which at the time were marketed as Seasons Six and Seven. There is no Season Seven, but there is a 19-episode sixth season, and all those episodes are collected in this set. Through watching this block, however, it certainly seems like two different seasons. Confused? Annoyed? Allow me to elaborate and pontificate.

The first ten episodes are all but unwatchable in their awfulness. Not merely content to disturb viewers, these episodes largely depress as well, although it seems unlikely that was the goal. The flaccid economy, and its effect on the plastic surgery business, is stressed in the first episode, but what does it say about a show when such a topic is one of the bright spots? Sean (Dylan Walsh) is still dating anesthesiologist Teddy Rowe, who used to be played by Katee Sackhoff, but now resides in the body of Rose McGowan, which is a true “what the fuck?” soap opera switch, given that it’s hard to think of two actresses that are any less alike in both their method and appearance. Teddy slowly begins revealing her true, black widow colors as the narrative progresses, and on the camping trip from hell, Teddy’s shit hits the fan and splatters all over the place.

And one must wonder how many viewers the show lost in that block. How many people failed to come back to the show in January for the final nine episodes? I’m willing to bet plenty, which is a shame because, believe it or not, after years of excess, Nip/Tuck managed to deliver a nicely restrained, oftentimes poignant batch of episodes to close out the series. The story picks up a few months after the first ten in the set, and Sean and Christian are going to pick up a lifetime achievement award. Only after they receive the award does Sean discover that Christian bought it via a hefty donation, at which point Sean goes ballistic. And from there, the season peels one layer of the onion away after the next, dissecting McNamara and Troy’s friendship and partnership, all while providing endings for every other character on the show as well (most are surprisingly happy, some a little warped, and in one case we lose a character altogether).

Read this entire DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season

It’s almost hard to believe that Curb Your Enthusiasm has been a comedy staple for 10 years. After all, it spends far more time off the air than it does on, and the number of episodes produced to date is only 70 (although we’re getting yet another 10 in 2011). Back at the start of the decade, who would’ve guessed that the adventures of one bald asshole would outlive other HBO staples like Sex and the City, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under?

At the close of Season Six, Cheryl had finally kicked Larry to the curb (ahem), and the displaced Katrina victims, the Blacks, had moved into the David homestead. Everything seemed perfect, and once again, a Curb season ended with a sense of finality about it. Where could the joke possibly go from there? It would’ve been easy enough to start Season Seven with the Blacks gone from the show, and out of Larry’s life, explained away by a couple lines of dialogue between Larry and Jeff. But the show doesn’t take the easy way out, and instead the first two episodes showcase his attempts to get Loretta (Vivica A. Fox) out of his life for good. When she’s diagnosed with cancer, he crafts what seems to be a foolproof scheme, which in the end of course fails. Lucky for Larry, a series of contrived misunderstandings involving “Vehicular Fellatio” lead to the swift exit of Loretta and the rest of the Blacks, save for Leon (J.B. Smoove), who doesn’t really seem to care that his family has moved away. And thank goodness for that, because we really, really like Leon. As far as I’m concerned, he and Larry can end up in a rest home together, should this series ever end.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Doctor Who: Amy's Choice

Here we are, more or less mid-season, and as someone who’s recapping this block of episodes week in and out, as well as someone who’s been deconstructing this series for years now, I’m frankly a bit flummoxed by Steven Moffat’s inaugural year. It’s starting to feel as if the season is only going to make total sense once it’s over and done with. Some time ago, long before the season began, Moffat was saying that he wanted the season to be referred to as Season One, rather than Season Five, and that’s starting to make a whole lot more sense. Aside from the occasional references to the past, everything about this year feels as if some kind of reset button has been hit, and yet it remains difficult to watch without bringing the baggage of the last five years into the equation, even though I’m fairly certain Moffat would prefer that we didn’t. I mean, it’s hard to picture a character like Mickey Smith, for instance, fitting into any part of this narrative in any kind of believable manner, and yet you almost want somebody like him to turn up in a scene just to remind you that you’re still watching the same show.

I continue to want to compare this material to stuff from seasons’ past, and yet this nagging feeling keeps telling me that’s just an unfair thing to do. I wonder if Moffat’s even got some kind of grand master plan that extends beyond this block of 13 episodes? None of this means I’m not enjoying the season, just that it’s a much different kind of enjoyment than what I’ve become accustomed to during the Davies years, which began feeling predictable about three years in. Say what you will about this season, but, at least at this stage, it is most certainly not predictable. In some ways watching this season is as disorienting as the predicament in which our heroes find themselves in this week’s episode. As viewers, we’re experiencing a new reality of the series, while we keep thinking back on what we came to know prior to this season’s start. Which is the real “Doctor Who?” The Davies or the Moffat era? Both, or maybe neither? I’ll likely elaborate on all of this further during the final recap of the season.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.