What’s So Terrible About ‘Man of Steel’ ? Where Do I Start?

screamSince I published my scathing review, folks have been asking for details about what I dislike so intensely about the abomination that is Man of Steel, so I will hit the highlights here, in an extraordinarily spoilerific post. Though I do not think this movie can be “ruined,” I will show MoS more courtesy than it shows Superman (or his fans) by not spitting on it without fair warning.

So, if you want to read what I have to say bitch about, make the jump…
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Can The CW’s Arrow Hit the Bull’s-eye?

When The CW announced it was going with a new comic-based series called ARROW this fall, I was not impressed. It seemed like a desperation move to replace SMALLVILLE, which had served the network well for 10 seasons. And the fact that Justin Hartley, who played the Green Arrow on SMALLVILLE, was not going to star in the new version was even worse news to me. Then came hints that the production was trying to go with a younger, edgier characterization, and I had visions of hipster-wannabe hero, firing off arrows in a cheesy fedora.

But this extended preview clip — the one shown to advertisers at this spring’s Upfront presentations (when the majority of commercials for an entire season are sold) — has started to change my mind. It looks like it’s trying to go with a very realistic take on the character (mentioning broken bones that weren’t set properly while he was on the island alone). I still think it’s being a little haughty by dropping the “green” from Arrow’s name, and lead actor Stephen Amell makes Oliver Queen seem quite cold and standoffish, but the action sequences look exciting, and a show can hardly go wrong by casting Katie Cassidy as love interest Dinah Lance.

ARROW will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

SMALLVILLE 10.21-10.22: Finale, Parts 1 and 2

Waaaay back in the day, in mid-2001, just before SMALLVILLE debuted on The WB, I had a chance to interview Al Gough, who developed the series alongside Miles Millar. Gough talked about how the series would be completely focused on Clark Kent before he becomes Superman. He told me about the No Tights, No Flights Rule, meaning Clark would not be able to fly, and he would never don the iconic long underwear. Well, not never: Gough admitted he could envision the last shot of the last episode showing Clark putting on the red-and-blue suit and flying out of frame.

Flash-forward 10 seasons, and SMALLVILLE has wrapped up on The CW on May 13, 2011… without Gough or Millar, who left the series after the seventh season. Both guys were always gregarious and forthcoming whenever I interviewed them for SOAP OPERA WEEKLY, and I have missed their influence on the series. SMALLVILLE changed after the original executive producers left – I’m not sure the Blur would have been the same huge element under Gough and Millar – but the show has finally arrived at a destination somewhat similar to what I think Gough and Millar had envisioned. Clark put on the suit and flew – just for a little bit longer than originally planned.
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SMALLVILLE 10.18: Booster

There’s a new hero in Metropolis, one who fancies himself a golden god: He’s Booster Gold, “the greatest hero you’ve never heard of – until now.” And he is intent on replacing the Blur as the protector of Metropolis and the greatest hero of all time. Unfortunately, he is shameless self-promoting glory hound who engages in superheroics for the paycheck, not because he believes in what he’s doing. And then there was the introduction of a new hero-in-the-making, the Blue Beetle.

Booster (Eric Martsolf) traveled back in time from the 25th century, and uses his knowledge of history to be in the right place at the right time to make himself appear to be a hero – and then cash in. Booster always sticks around for the photo op after his big save, and cultivates corporate sponsorships. (He even wears logo patches on his uniform!) But the bigger drawback is the fact that Booster is pretty much a jerk. More than confidant, Booster is smug and condescending to Clark (Tom Welling), viewing the Kansas farmboy as…well, a naïve fool for wanting to do the right thing for its own sake, rather than for the glory. Booster’s quest for fame was complicated when one of his stunts resulted in the release of alien technology – a scarab that transforms into high-tech battle armor – and the living tech bonded with teenager Jaime Reyes (Jaren Brandt Bartlett), turning him into an out-of-control menace who tries to kill Booster.
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CAPRICA 1.6: The one with James Marsters

Barnabus

Last week viewers got to visit New Cap City in V-World, but this week we finally visited one of the other planets of the 12 colonies when we got a glimpse of Tauron City, home of Vergis Industries. But the thing most people will probably remember about this week’s episode is the appearance of James Marsters as Barnabus Greeley, an authority figure in the Caprica City cell of Soldiers of The One.

Marsters’ genre cred is unimpeachable: He broke through as that other soulful vampire, Spike, on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, moved on to playing SMALLVILLE’s Brainiac and, recently, the amoral Capt. John Hart on TORCHWOOD. Here Barnabus is a True Believer: he practices self-mortification as a way of avoiding sin – yet isn’t averse to belonging to a violent terrorist cell. I guess it’s all in how he can justify it to himself. Torturing his own flesh with that cilice is pretty extreme. And, despite his asking, “What gets unleashed when this thing gets to Gemenon?” I suspect he rejected Lacy’s (Magda Apanowicz) appeal for transport to Gemenon more out of concern for getting caught by the authorities than humanitarian worry over the morality/lethality of whatever cargo she wanted to drag along. STO are in the middle of campaign of bombing holocafes, for gods’ sakes, so he’s a believer in situational ethics, at least. Important tidbit: Keon (Liam Sproule) built the device that Ben used to destroy Maglev 23. Marsters’ appearance was brief but effective. I want to know more about this guy!
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Soap Opera Weekly: 11/4/09

The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we’ve seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.

This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering “universal health care” — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn’t compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!

It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl…er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.

Of course, that could be due to the clichés in the plotline: Morris Chestnut played a man with a mysterious past that comes back to haunt him just as he’s about to propose. And the FBI office investigating the case has a mole tipping off the bad guys, so our heroine — played by Elizabeth Mitchell, who has loads of science-fiction cred herself, thanks to her much-admired run as LOST’s Juliet — has to act as a lone wolf. That is, when she isn’t playing heroic single mom to surly teen Tyler, who has the requisite doofus best friend and a thing for comely newcomer Lisa. Zzzz…

Chad was told, “Compromising one’s principles for the greater good is not a shameful act. It is a noble one.” So if you want to watch V as currently constituted, then that’s fine. It’s diverting enough. But don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s for the greater good; it’s actually more of a lowest common denominator.

Contrast all this with STARGATE UNIVERSE, which takes some familiar ideas (It’s basically STARGATE crossed with STAR TREK: VOYAGER and a dash of LOST IN SPACE) and mashes them up into something greater than the sum of its parts. All SGU did was add a bunch of interesting character conflict, and really think about its premise; what’s really powerful and interesting about it? Then the-powers-that-be wrote good stories around those characters and ideas. Simple, right?

Simple as A-B-C. But can ABC pull it off with V?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

V Redux: It Came From Madison Avenue

The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we’ve seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.

 

Morena Baccarin

This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering “universal health care” — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn’t compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!

 

It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And, well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl…er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.

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Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 2/6/09

“That’s the thing about spies: You never know who they are.” — Michael Weston

BURN NOTICE was chockablock with familiar guest stars this week. Marla Sokoloff (ex-Claire, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES; ex-Lucy, THE PRACTICE) played a bumbling would-be spy who worked for a crooked art dealer played by Joel Gretsch (ex-Tom, THE 4400), who also employed a thug played by M.C. Gainey’s (Tom, LOST; ex-Dick Dentner, YOUNG AND RESTLESS). And Silas Weir Mitchell (ex-Haywire, PRISON BREAK) reappeared as arms dealer Seymour, who is trying to attach himself to Michael, Fiona and Sam as a sort of fourth musketeer. Former lovers Michael and Fi dealt with the awkward fallout from last week’s return tryst — mainly because Sam would not let it go. (I think Sam was acting on behalf of the audience there by badgering them.) They grudgingly acknowledged their connection when he admitted he had brought her a Spanish omelet the next morning, and she suggested that maybe she should stick around next time. That was it, but at least it was something. Say, what do Sam and Fiona do when they’re not helping Michael? I know Sam is supposed to be retired, but he needs to support himself somehow. (He can’t live off rich widows all the time, can he?) And when was the last time Fi took a job of her own? Surely something needs to be blown up somewhere in the world…. Speaking of things that go to pieces, the bane of Michael’s existence continues to be the “clients” he always seems to stumble into helping. These amateurs invariably try to “help” and just make things worse. I’m glad Michael accepted that envelope full of money at the end this time; he does too many jobs for free. And he did have to pay back Seymour for procuring the shotguns with the specialized “disruptor shells” that proved to be the coolest gadget this week (edging out the car battery-electromagnet). Disruptor shells are filled with water, and used by bomb squads to disable explosives without igniting them. They also make nifty non-lethal antipersonnel weapons.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best part of 11TH HOUR is the opening title sequence: A ticking clock intercut into the opening teaser. With the clock hand sweeping from 9 to 11, the music swells as the episode’s “dire” threat is established. Sadly, the rest of the episode rarely lives up to that tension-filled intro.

SMALLVILLE, on the other hand, opened with a bang — two bombshells, actually: Oliver Queen bought a controlling interest in LuthorCorp, and a literal bomb exploded in the board room.Ollie survived, but was confined to a hospital bed for the rest of the episode. Apparently the new Queen Industries/LuthorCorp company has a lousy HMO, as Ollie was not given a hospital gown, leaving poor Justin Hartley (ex-Fox, PASSIONS) bare-chested around all those pretty nurses. Meanwhile, Clark and Lana basked in the glow of being boyfriend/girlfriend superheroes at long last. Clark has been completely obsessed with Lana since high school, and the opportunity to at last share not only his secret but his bed with her was a nice payoff for longtime viewers. However, like any good soap, the happy couple was not afforded much bliss. Villainous Lex used the Toyman to set a kryptonite bomb on the roof of the Daily Planet, forcing Lana to use her special nanobot armor to absorb the kryptonite, rendering it radioactive to Clark. And, since she cannot remove the (invisible) armor, Clark cannot come with 6 feet of her without risking death. Talk about a complication! Still, in a touching moment of complete devotion, Clark forced himself to embrace the sobbing Lana once last time. She matched his heroic move with one of her own: Walking out of his life before her very presence could end it. Wow, Lex is gonna have to pay for this…

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 2/2/09

The mutiny began on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA as Felix Gaeta’s disillusionment with the Cylon alliance dovetailed with Vice President Tom Zarek’s lust for power, prompting Gaeta to bust Zarek out of the brig, but when his plan to sneak the vice president off Galactica went sideways, Zarek picked up a wrench and brained Chief Laird. Zarek warned Gaeta this was only the first death; their coup was going to be messy. And it was. When Lee arrived on Galactica he was accosted by several Marines and pilots, including Skulls and Racetrack, but luckily Kara showed up, guns blazing. She didn’t hesitate to drop Skulls and Marine, growling, “I can do this all day.” I loved how Kara was practically giddy with the thrill o battle, impulsively kissing Lee. Gaeta used his position at CIC to control flow of information to the bridge, but eventually word leaked to command staff that there was a mutiny under way, forcing Gaeta to act openly: “Admiral Adama, I am removing you from command of this ship.” Adama replied with fury, warning the mutineers there will be, “No forgiveness! No amnesty!” as he, Tigh and Hoshi were herded toward the brig. Elsewhere, skinjobs Sam, Sharon (with daughter Hera) and Caprica-Six were rounded up, but Galen helped Lee and Bill Adama evade the mutineers.

This episode was packed with action — a tableau of spent shell casings on the deck spoke volumes — and even more paranoia than usual. Bill Adama even got his hands dirty, staring down Nowart, then wrestling away his gun and shooting Moldanado in the frakkin’ face! And talk about a cliff-hanger: Bill put Laura on the Raptor like Rick putting Ilsa on the plane at the end of Casablanca; then he stood, shoulder-to-shoulder with Tigh — “It’s been an honor to serve with you, my friend,” he acknowledged — as the Marines stormed the room and Gaeta ordered Laura’s Raptor shot down. “To be continued….” Are they frakkin’ kidding me??!?! How can I wait an entire week to find out what will happen!

Will Hannah ever find a way to balance her personal and professional lives on SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL? Already wrestling with “dating” Alex as her “real” self, Hannah, Belle had to deal with a wife who demanded to know what Belle and her husband spent their time doing. As it turned out, Belle was providing him with “GFE” — the Girlfriend Experience, in which she basically chatted with the guy for a while before getting down to business. Belle realized she can be a girlfriend for pay, but not for her own peace of mind. And just when Hannah seemed ready to surrender to the emptiness of anyone who has devoted her life completely to career, there was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Bambi, reminding Belle of the excitement of the Life. What’s a girl to do?

If you’re a girl like SMALLVILLE’s Lana Lang, it appears the answer to fixing your life lies in going out and getting a mad scientist to give you superpowers, so you can fight evil side-by-side with your super-squeeze. Kristen Kreuk is playing Lana as a guest star, after going off-contract, and this version of the character is vastly changed: She’s more mature in every way, from her take-charge attitude about life to her sexy new haircut. She is determined to use ex-husband Lex’s unethical human experimentation against him, and to help Clark. “I did it so that I could actually do some good in the world,” she told him. “You and I are equals now. And together, we can help make the world a better place.” So a new day dawned (literally), with Clark and Lana embracing as fellow superheroes. How long will that last?

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 10/31/08

LIFE ON MARS was actually…well, kinda…sweet last night. Sam ran into the 1973 version of his mother, Rose, played by Jennifer Ferrin (ex-Jennifer, AS THE WORLD TURNS). What an odd coincidence, that Ferrin should guest in prime time on the same day that ATWT was featuring flashbacks to Jennifer’s marriage and death, eh? Seems Rose got in trouble with a loan shark connected to a local gangster who was paying off cops, so Sam took it upon himself to investigate (and carefully avoid contact with his younger self). 

The best sequence of the night came when Sam put aside the police work to indulge his wish to just spend more time with his mother. He sat at her table, staring lovingly at her and gazing longingly at his old Tinkertoys. When he serenely asked her, “Howare you?” Jason O’Mara‘s face expressed Sam’s love and devotion beautifully. His eyes were filled with a sloppy mix of yearning, regret, pain and nostalgia. This was his mother the way she really was, not how he perceived her as a child. He was able to appreciate her as strong and determined to protect her family. Ferrin played “Rose Tyler” as earnest and sincere, but with rough edges that while clearly sanded down, were still evident (and not just in her Brooklyn accent). Policewoman Annie dismissed Sam’s mommy yammering as sublimated Oedipal yearnings to sleep with his mother — which predictably revolted him. But but when mobster moll Adrienne dosed Sam with LSD, he did hallucinate having sex with Rose. But then again, he also imagined little robots crawling out of his mouth. Later, when Sam and the boys busted the gangster club, he spotted his mother there, because she was intending to…uh, work off her debt.The disillusionment and embarrassment in Sam’s tear-filled eyes was utterly devastating. This was a great night for O’Mara. 

The episode also showed a willingness to wink at the audience, with cameo appearances by ’70s hipsters “Jim Croce” and “Joe Namath.” But even funnier,Michael Imperioli was allowed import one of Paulie Walnuts’ frequent lines from when he would spot Tony on THE SOPRANOS: “There he is!” When Ray saw Sam, he called out, “There he is, the man of the hour.” The night’s clue to Sam’s disposition in 2008 came via a glimpse of a dude wearing a Nirvana T-shirt while the sounds of a hospital respirator were heard. But those pesky little robots also appeared. 

I figured it was time to check in on SMALLVILLE once again, where intrepid news photographer Jimmy Olsen captured a blurry photo of the “Good Samaritan” who was rescuing people and vowed to put a face on the smudge. When Jimmy stopped by the Kent farm to share his theory that the Samaritan went to Smallville High, he realized that the hero’s career paralleled Clark’s movements — and that Clark himself had “hero potential.” And a tendency to wear red and blue, just like the blurry hero in his photo. Jimmy’s eyes grew wide and his mouth hung open as he realized, “It’s you.” Clark denied it and ran to Chloe. Jimmy soon followed, begging to be let in on the secret. “I guess I’ll have to prove it,” he resolved. This echoed a staple plotline of the comic books, especially Lois’ solo title, Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, in which she spent much of the late 1950s-early ’60s attempting to suss out the Man of Steel’s secret identity, and prove that Clark was Superman. She would constantly dream up bizarre schemes to force Clark to act as Superman and blow his cover. But though there weer some close calls, he never did. On SMALLVILLE, Lois got to know the newest Planet reporter, Sebastian Kane, who immediately hit on her (then again, who wouldn’t?). Kane had the secret ability to steal memories, and was secretly sent by Tess Mercer to learn if Lois had stolen the Kryptonian crystal. Lois preparing for her date set up a scene in which Clark was embarrassed to zip the pneumatic Lois into her skintight red dress. The byplay between Tom Welling and Erica Durance this season has been fun to watch. 

I have also enjoyed watching the groundwork being layed for Clark to eventually adopt his costumed identity. Clark told Ollie that maybe his role is to “give people hope; someone to believe in.” After J’onn J’onzz — sorry, Martian Manhunter — lectured him about the need for secrecy last week, Chloe broached the subject of adopting an alias to protect his identity, like Oliver’s Green Arrow. Speaking of Oliver (played by PASSIONS’ ex-Fox, Justin Hartley), Clark berated him for drinking too much and tossing aside his GA leathers. Clark also lamented the fact that, “I can’t mindwipe the people who already know my secret” — an obvious reference to the recent Identity Crisis comic book series. Clark enlisted Oliver to protect his identity in a manner similar to the way Clark donned green leather to preserve Oliver’s secret. When Jimmy was conveniently mugged, Oliver saved him in an outfit with a cape. As Ollie perched on a ledge above an American flag with his cape flapping in the breeze, Clark noticed the way people were mesmerized by the image. Hopefully, that gave him an idea, LOL. Buying the ruse, Jimmy nevertheless suggested that Clark is the kind of guy people can count on, whether they are strangers or friends — he’s always there for them. Furthering the lessons, Lois claimed she didn’t tell Clark she was working Kane undercover in order to protect him. And, after being saved by the Samaritan twice, she’s a true believer, and vowed to track down the hero. “I won’t stop until I land the first worldwide exclusive interview,” she chirped. “Watch me.” Somehow, I think she’ll get it. 

Did you catch the joke lines?
• The “Faster than a speeding bullet” headline above the photo?
•Oliver mentioned going to a summit of friends in Europe who like to dress up and kick butts. (Justice League Europe, anyone?)
•And the coup de grace: Oliver snorting that he’s “not the party boy on lost rum-soaked weekends” or “a multinational corporate titan.” Take that, Tony Stark/Iron Man!