HEROES Is Bleeding Out

Heroes' Claire

Well, HEROES returned from hiatus with a two-hour “event” that, truth be told, was more of a non-event. As soon as I heard Mohinder’s navel-gazing voice-over in the opening frames, I knew the show hadn’t changed, and I was in for a long night. (To be fair, I’ve always hated Dr. Suresh’s monologues, even back in the halcyon days of the first season.) “Events” kicked off with Claire moping around the sinister Sullivan Brothers carnival, lugging boxes of teddy bears (Her nickname is Claire-Bear, get it?) while Eli the replicating man did his impression of the world’s least-subtle spy. (I actually could not help wondering if Hayden Panettiere identified with her character being stalked by creepy older guys, LOL.)

Elsewhere, Hiro’s (Masi Oka) plotline had him talking in complete gibberish –which was sort of a microcosm of the series itself. HEROES used to be about the sense of wonder that came from being special, It was important to be different; it was cool to be different. Now what is the show? What is HEROES trying to say? Apparently nothing, as it has devolved into a self-referential muddle with no direction.
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Movies I Loved (and Hated) in 2009

The Hurt Locker

From Adventureland to Zombieland, there was quite a lot to like about movies in 2009 – and the good stuff was spread out over the course of the year. Both The Hurt Locker and Watchmen were released way back in March, and Avatar came out in mid-December. And while it’s not on this particular list, I quite enjoyed Sherlock Holmes (see my review), which was unwrapped on Christmas Day. I know, I know, it’s Jan. 2 – what took me so long to post this end-of-year list? Well, I’m still watching stuff, okay? I haven’t managed to catch Up yet, so reserve a potential 12th slot for that one.

And I want to emphasize that these are movies that I loved – not necessarily the best-made or deepest films of the year. I leave that to experts who have actually seen everything. (People still read Roger Ebert, right? Or is it all about Rotten Tomatoes now?) I know Watchmen has flaws, and The Hangover is rather silly, but hey, I enjoyed ‘em. So there! Now, on with the list…

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Avatar: Like Life, Only Better

avatar

Neytiri and Jake as a Na'vi

Writer/director James Cameron’s first film since the blockbuster Titanic is another big-budget widescreen epic — but Avatar is like nothing you have ever seen before. It is a space opera, but on a much grander scale than ever before attempted.

Set on the physics-defying jungle world of Pandora, the movie stars Sam Worthington (Marcus, Terminator: Salvation) as Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine recruited for a science project that projects human minds into cloned bodies that mix human DNA with genetic material from the Na’vi, a race of 10-foot-tall blue, cat-like people who inhabit Pandora. A sociology team is studying Na’vi, while a military-industrial conglomeration is mining the world for a valuable mineral (an obvious McGuffin with the unlikely name Unobtianium). Jake is also recruited by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) to gather intel on the Na’vi in case the military ever needs to take action. Jake does his job — for Dr. Augustine’s science team and Quaritch – but perhaps a little too well. More than merely learning from the Na’vi, he goes native. And falls in love with Neytiri (Zoë Saldana, who played Uhura in this summer’s Star Trek).

Cameron is a master at world-building. Part of the reason the running time is so long is because he is willing to devote time to exploring Na’vi culture. Jake’s assimilation is not covered in a quick montage; he spends months there, and we explore the planet right alongside him as he becomes immersed in Na’vi spiritual culture. Cameron understands that it is important to like the Na’vi if we are going to root for them. And you will cheer for them.
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Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 9/2/08

Thanks to a lot of excellent series on cable, it did not feel like a long summer at all. In fact, I was genuinely shocked to realize it is now September — and time for new fall series already!

Welcome back, GOSSIP GIRL. It certainly was a long, hot summer in the Hamptons, playground to New York’s elite, and hunting ground for Nate and Chuck Bass, who apparently availed themselves of every available (and, in the case of Nate, unavailable) female on Long Island. The storylines took a while to get rolling while viewers were caught up on where everyone is. Luckily, there was plenty of eye candy to distract everyone. Yes, the already impossibly good-looking cast somehow managed to get even more impossibly attractive. When Blake Lively‘s Serena was unsubtlely dressed as a Greek goddess, it didn’t seem like bragging. And onlyLeighton Meester‘s Blair could stand beside her and make you ignore Serena. She’s almost pretty enough to make you believe that scion evil, Chuck Bass, really would show up to greet her with a bouquet of roses. But c’mon — he’s Chuck Bass…supervillain! No way he goes all doe-eyed and weak in the knees over a frail — no matter how gorgeous she is. Skipping out on Blair in the season finale? That’sChuck Bass. Mooning over Blair in the fall premiere? That’s not the Chuck Bass I got to know over the course of last season. And what’s Blair’s damage? Apparently she thinks she can tame him and turn him into the man he should be. Not likely. He’s Lex Luthor and “B” is queen of the B’s — as in bitches. My hope is the Chuck/Blair affair goes south in some monumentally painful way that turns them both back to the dark side.

It cannot be a coincidence that Nate’s cougar looks an awful lot like Serena. And Dan still has the worst timing — whether it’s Serena and Nate’s PDA leaving him Pretty Damn Angry or having two of his good-time gals show up at the same party. He can’t catch a break; but maybe he doesn’t deserve one at this point. Little J seems to have done her penance in a sweatshop and earned redemption with the now-together Eric. What would Gossip Girl say?

I’ll tell you what I have to say about ONE TREE HILL: It really overdosed on the fantasy sequences…and exposition. The dialogue has always been clunky, but here the storytelling dragged, too. The big problem with too many dreams-within-dreams is that the viewer can never relax and accept the story — because it might be another attempt at “Gotcha!” plotting. When crazy Nanny Carrie reared her ugly (okay, undeniably pretty) head, who didn’t think Dan was having a crash-induced hallucination? This Misery-inspired plotline seems poised to inspire misery in fans, because there is no rooting interest. Are we supposed to be pulling for the brother-killer or the kid-napper? Dan won’t die, and the nanny won’t fly away on her umbrella.

It was no dream that Lucas settled on Peyton — especially since the show seemed to spend all last season setting up Lucas/Peyton as this one true love story. As a convert who only drank the Kool-Aid at the beginning of last season, I don’t have the baggage of the previous four years — Peyton appears to be Lucas’ Great Love from high school, and Brooke seemed to be a mere dalliance. But veteran viewers like my colleague Mala inform me that Brooke and Lucas really were in love, and casually tossing her aside is wrong. Lindsey sure seemed to be a serious relationship, but as Michaela McManus was cast as the new ADA on LAW & ORDER: SVU, I knew Lucas wasn’t going to get hitched to Lindsey. Not that he got hitched to anyone, by the way. He and Peyton spend the episode making goo-goo eyes at each other instead of actually tying the knot — which doesn’t bode well. The next opportunity for nuptials doesn’t arise until November. (I guess Jamie can dance the reception, unveiling the routine he’s polishing to accompany Flo Rida‘s “In the Ayer.”)

And, finally, farewell to THE MIDDLEMAN, which wrapped up its run with a … middling (sorry) story of an alternate reality where everything that is good and noble about our world is twisted and evil. There were some entertaining shout-outs to the cult movie Escape From New York, but eventually the references got so thick (Officer Van Cleef, Carpenter Rd., 1997) that they drowned out the shout-out to two classics — the film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension (the Oscillation Overthruster; the seashell-shaped warp generator), and the STAR TREK episode featuring the Mirror Universe Trek (the goatees and sword through the Fatboy logo). It began to weigh down the story. The best part was Matt Keeslar‘s interpretation of Snake Plissken as a Middleman. From the eyepatch to the wild hairdo, big gun to his growling dialogue, Keeslar did a heck of a Kurt Russellimpression. And Noser and Lacey and the crew (except Pip) all looked cooler. Why is it everyone always looks so much sexier in evil parallel dimensions? Apparently meglomaniacal dictators make it their business to dole out copious amounts of leather and cosmetics instead of food.

But will ABC Family dish out another season of MIDDLEMAN? Stay tuned…