I admit I was highly skeptical of DC Comics’ plan to relaunch its entire line of comics as the so-called “New 52.” Relaunches – or, as I refer to them, “excuses to print a new issue No. 1 – a more than a dime a dozen, and never seem to last even a dozen years anymore. But reading the revamped line has led to some pleasant surprises. However, DC’s latest attempt to change its logo is a total flop, in my opinion. The instant I saw it I christened it the “DC Scab,” because that’s exactly what it looks like!
For a lot of Americans, the Super Bowl is the one time of year we actually want to pay attention to commercials. Some years, it feels like the game gets in the way of the real entertainment. But the 2011 game was a tight contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the Pack pulling out a 31-25 nail-biter.
The best spot, far and away, was “Volkswagen: The Force,” featuring the kid dressed as Darth Vader. Coming in second for me was, “Pepsi Max: Love Hurts,” featuring the woman torturing her husband and, ultimately, knocking out another woman by braining her with a can of Pepsi Max. The “NFL Best Fans Ever” spot worked, even if it was a bit heavy on characters younger viewers might never have even heard of. “Doritos: House Sitting” was funny, and the trailers for Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor looked quite good (Thor vs. the Destroyer? I’m there!). “Coke: Border” was nice, if simplistic.
I was prepared to hate NBC’s newest superhero series, THE CAPE. After all, it looked pretty campy, and I just happen to hate circus settings, so things did not look good at the start. Luckily, THE CAPE improved steadily over the course of its inaugural hour.
THE CAPE is refreshingly free of overt camp and snarkiness; at least the initial two hours played the story straight. And the tale was a surprisingly straightforward superhero origin tale: Vince Faraday (David Lyons) was a cop wrongly accused of a crime, and then presumed dead in one of those amazingly unlikely explosions in which no body is found. But he survived, and undertook special training with a mentor to mold himself into a living weapon to strike at his nemesis, corporate mogul Peter Fleming (James Frain) a man so powerful he is untouchable by conventional justice. Vince keeps his true identity a secret in order to protect his loved ones from that menace (who has a sort of villain name of his own, being known as the murderer “Chess”), and yearns to clear his name so his son can grow up proud. That’s a lot of comic baggage for one show. Toss in a sexy sidekick, and you have a TV show.
If living well is the best revenge, then Conan O’Brien has given Jay Leno his just deserts, in the form of his new program, CONAN, which packed more laughs into its inaugural episode than Jay has mustered in all the shows combined since he wrested THE TONIGHT SHOW away from his erstwhile successor.
Conan may have got a little (okay, a lot) self-indulgent in the premiere of his new chat show, but I think the guy can be forgiven, considering all he has endured in the name of telling jokes on TV late at night. His travails with THE TONIGHT SHOW have been well-documented, and his return to the small-screen in his own show well-promoted. It seems to me like the wait was worth it.
The new guys
The plan for The A-Team
was to adapt a cheesy 1980s action TV series for the big screen by distilling its spirit and repackaging it with 21st century effects, and, to quote Col. John “Hannibal” Smith himself: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Loud, fast-moving, violent and filled with explosions and wisecracks, it’s hard to imagine a more faithful adaptation of the explosion-laden, wisecracking TV series. Befitting the larger venue, the movie characters feel bigger: Bradley Cole’s Templeton “Faceman” Peck is much more in-your-face; brash and boastful, rather than coolly confident. B.A. Baracus gets fleshed out much more fully by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson than Mr. T was ever allowed to do on the small screen. And Sharlto Copley’s (District 9) “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock is completely divorced from reality – touching down only occasionally to refuel before taking off on another flight of fancy. Only mastermind Hannibal seems smaller than he was on TV, perhaps because Liam Neeson, as the acting heavyweight in the cast, chooses to actually play him as a thinker, even though his plans are even more outrageous than the wild scams George Peppard dreamed up on a weekly TV budget.
“I got a bad feeling about this.”
I wonder how many LOST fans felt the same way as the final episode unspooled with the sort of musical montage that usually ends episodes. Well, in the words of Sawyer: “Sonofabitch.”
They did it.
LOST ended nearly perfectly.
The-powers-that-be chose to end the story, rather than merely answer questions. Here we the viewing audience were, wondering how the lingering questions were going to be addressed, but it looks to me that show-runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said, “Screw that, we’re closing all the character arcs.” After watching the characters finish their journeys, I’ll be damned if I can think of any nagging leftover questions that still seem to matter. I feel totally satisfied by the story. So what if we don’t know the original human name of the Man in Black. Walt was “special” because…well, because he was. Maybe all kids were revered because of the pregnancy thing.
Far more important to me, was the fact that the main characters reached some kind of closure. Almost everybody got happy endings in the Sideways universe, while events unfolded on the Island the way they had to. In a way, TPTB had it both ways: They gave the fans the sweet ending they wanted but also played out the brutal endgame on the Island. And on this show, it made total sense for Jack to die, yet still be happy. And the final funereal moments, when everyone was gathered in the church, made clever use of the concept of the hereafter to gather all the characters together no matter when they died. Everyone was dead. Some folks died before Jack (the Kwons), some long after (Hugo). “There is no ‘now’ here,” Christian told Jack. They all gathered because needed to be together. Jack needed all of them, and they needed Jack. And this was a true ending. As Jack told Hurley, “There are no shortcuts. No do-overs. What happened, happened. All of this matters.”
Honestly, I don’t think the world needs another Robin Hood movie. And apparently Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and co. agreed, because their new Robin Hood is in no way, shape or form a Robin Hood movie.
There is no robbing the rich and giving to the poor, and while we do meet Little John, Allan A’Dayle and Will Scarlett, this Friar Tuck keeps bees and brews mead, and Maid Marion is a longbow-firing noblewoman trying to protect her land from bands of marauding feral children. Oh, and “Robin Longstride” never even meets the Sheriff of Nottingham!
The story follows Robin and his companions John (Kevin Durand – Keamy from LOST), Allan (Alan Doyle), and Will (ER’s Scott Grimes) as they attempt to return home with King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) after a decade of waging the Crusades. The king, of course, doesn’t make it, so Robin and the boys seize and opportunity to impersonate knights and ferry the royal crown back to England. Once in Nottingham, Robin discovers that not only does he like pretending to be Robert Loxley, he likes Loxley’s wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett), so he decides to stick around. Meanwhile, Godfrey (Mark Strong), decadent Prince John’s (Oscar Isaac) hatchet man, runs around apparently killing barons and pillaging at will. The nobles bluster about a charter of rights (a concept that would eventually become Magna Carter). And Godfrey is also acting as an agent provocateur for the French, who are looking to invade.
They don’t build ‘em like they used to, and they don’t make Iron Man movies like they used to, either. Iron Man 2 is basically more of the same — but slightly less entertaining. And that’s the movie’s only real flaw: It’s just not as fresh and original as the first film. If you loved the first one, you will be very happy with this one.
Robert Downey Jr. is still the center of the film, and he still plays playboy inventor Tony Stark as light a mixture between a petulant child, a nerd, Hugh Hefner — and Capt. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. The self-indulgent Stark is (sort of) reined in by his coolly-efficient assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — until he realizes that she really is better at doing his job than he is.
Stark’s job in this movie is to fend off rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who could be Stark’s less-competent twin. Hammer teams up with Russian madman Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who feels that his father was cheated by Stark’s father, Howard, and creates a supersuit of his own that employs energy whips to incapacitate his foes. Rourke certainly looks and sounds like a survivor of a corrupt Russian prison system, but Vanko’s motives are only barely hinted at — a weakness of the script, not Rourke, who gives it his all. He makes Vanko mad in the sense of being both angry and crazy.
Why? Why did Sun, Jin and Sayid have to die?
Simple. They gave their lives in service of the story. Because their deaths added to the drama. Because a higher power — the-powers-that-be behind LOST — realized that sometimes story threads need to be snipped rather than tied off. Because TPTB have set the endgame in motion, and after six seasons, this all has to mean something. Plus, the characters died heroic, self-sacrificing deaths — the best kind possible, I suppose.
GLEE got off to a rough start for me this week, because I actually did not like the opening number, a rendition of “Ice Ice Baby” performed by Will (Matthew Morrison). I don’t have a problem with Morrison’s rapping – I really enjoyed his versions of “Gold Digger” and “Bust a Move” for example; it’s just that something about “Ice Ice Baby” left me cold. In fact, it wasn’t just Will. I thought the backing vocals were off as well. Maybe the song just wasn’t mixed properly from broadcast. I’ve been trying, but I can’t recall another performance on GLEE that I really actively disliked.
In another misfire, Sue Sylvester did another video, which meant the wonderful Jane Lynch got to perform with guest star Olivia Newton-John on a refurbishing of her hit “Physical.” I thought the vocals were electronically manipulated a little too much, but perhaps the producers had to do it to cover up some mistakes. Sue herself suffered from the mistake of giving Kurt access to her office, so he was able to get hold of video of Sue rocking out to the original “Physical.” The video went viral on the Web (after the gleeks uploaded it) and Sue was humiliated — on a global scale. Of course, in Sue’s case, everything is larger than life, right? Still, it was shocking to see Sue on the other side of the popularity coin – as the butt of “slow-motion laughter.”