Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Finally, FINALLY, saw "The Next Doctor," the latest "Doctor Who" Christmas special. Enjoyed it thoroughly although I'm afraid I heard so many good things about it before finally getting a chance to watch it, my expectations were unnaturally high and it didn't entirely live up to them. My main problem is that I'm just burned out on the Cybermen. At least last year's Christmas special gave us some new baddies to sink our teeth into rather than just giving us more Cybermen or Daleks or some combination of the two. Although I have to admit, the "Transformer"-style Cyberman in all its towering glory was pretty damn cool.
Beyond my Cyberman fatigue, though, I loved just about everything else. David Morrissey as The Other Doctor gave a great performance -- and I won't spoil the plot for those who haven't seen it yet -- but he did a wonderful job of creating a sad yet heroic character. Every scene between him and David Tennant was terrific. Loved the parallels between the two doctors and Ten's concern for his Morrissey's Doctor. And, gah, the line at the end where Ten admits that ultimately, all of his companions "broke my heart," so sad and so well done.
I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel about not having one continuing companion for the Doctor in the four upcoming specials. I've always enjoyed those relationships and seeing the stories through the eyes of those other characters. If "The Next Doctor" is any indication of the quality of storytelling we'll be getting during Tennant's last year, then I'm confident we'll be seeing some great stuff. I've decided not to worry and just enjoy the rest of the ride. Especially if there's more swordfighting!
Now on with the show..or the blog...you know what I mean. If you can't wait for the new TV season to start, then why not spoil yourself silly then by reading these leaked scripts for a whole mess of upcoming pilots, courtesy of Spoiler TV? They got yer "Virtuosity." They got yer "Caprica." They got yer "Dollhouse." Sadly, they also have yer American-ized version of "Spaced." And they've got yer Nathan Fillion pilot, "Castle," which is actually the only one I've read yet. And I have to say, it looks like a really, really promising show. Although the premise owes a lot to "Bones" -- mystery writer helps solve crimes -- the characters are quite original and the dialogue is genuinely funny. I can't wait to see Nathan in this. This might be the show of his that actually lasts!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
+ This makes me sad: Eight Signs That Apple Customers Are No Longer Special
+ io9 has a helpful list of sci-fi marathons to help us while away the holiday hours. Looks like Friday's the day I finally figure out what all the "Highlander" fuss was about...like ten years ago. It's never too late, though, right?
+ Three words: Extreme Poodle Grooming. Oh my God, I don't think I've laughed this hard in days. You have to check it out just for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Poodle. I'll give you a sampling with the truly messed-up camel dog:
It's just so, so wrong in so many ways...but still I laugh and laugh.
And thus, with visions of camel-shaped dogs still fresh in our minds, I bid you farewell for two days while I make with the Christmas festivities. Since it is technically a birthday celebration, I'm hoping there'll be cake! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope your holiday is peaceful, relaxing and filled with good friends and good cheer!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
10. Father's Day
What It's About (In 20 Words or Less): Dear Rose, please don't mess with the space-time continuum to save your father. No, really. Cut it out.
Why I Love It: Making this list helped me realize that I'm sucker for the sad episodes. "Father's Day" is a stand-out from Season 1, showing just how devoted The Doctor has become to Rose when he takes her back in time to the day her father was killed. The Doctor warns her, emphatically, not to interfere because quite literally, all hell will break loose. Except, Rose being Rose, she saves her dad and all hell breaks loose. This episode really gives Rose some depth beyond the whole chip-eating, Mickey-dumping damsel in distress thing. And it establishes her character as someone who really has no regard for the rules of time travel -- something which comes into play many times later on. Eccleston is wonderful as we watch him alternately want to comfort Rose or club her like a baby seal.
What It's About: Menacing stone angels attack. The only way to stop them? Don't blink. Ever.
Why I Love It: For some reason, it's difficult for me to describe exactly what I love most about this episode. It's Doctor-lite, focusing instead on a young woman named Sally Sparrow who's trying to figure out why people in her life keep disappearing into the past and why someone named The Doctor is trying to protect her. The story is so tight and well-written. The whole episode just flies by, going from one jaw-dropping moment to another. The monsters are wonderfully creepy, sneaking up on people in one frozen, horrifying pose after another. All I can say is, "Blink" is one perfect package of an episode.
8. School Reunion
What It's About: Giant alien bats use brainy kids to take over the universe. Doctor's former companion returns. Many awkward moments ensue.
Why I Love It: The head bat is played by Anthony Stewart Head which alone is enough to catapult this one into the top ten. But more importantly, this episode gets to the heart of what it's like to be the Doctor's companion...and more importantly, what it's like when he casts you off. As the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith, Elizabeth Sladen is wonderful, portraying her character's equal measures of happiness at again seeing the man who gave her so much and her anger at the fact that he took it all away...and left her in Croydon. And to watch Rose slowly realize she's seeing her own future is all kinds of crushing. Also, we're reminded once again that the Doctor, as wonderful as he can be, is also kind of a selfish jerk.
7. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End
What It's About: Daleks again. Yawn. The good news? The Doctor and all his companions join forces to -- shockingly -- save the universe.
Why I Love It: People either love or hate this episode, but I'm a sucker for neatly tied-up endings even if they are completely devastating and wrong. Which these endings are. Rose gets her man -- sort of. (But really, what woman is going to complain about having a Ten doppelganger hanging around her house?) Donna, after becoming the most important person in the universe, is forced to go back to her old, sad life without even memories to comfort her. The Doctor is left with no one and nothing yet again. The whole end of this episode is just misery, but the absolute joy of seeing Jack, Rose, Martha, Sarah Jane, Harriet Jones (former prime minister), Mickey, Jackie, Donna and the Doctor all working together, quipping together, fighting wacky evil together more than makes up for those last harsh minutes.
6. Turn Left
What It's About: Donna Noble does "It's A Wonderful Life"...except it's not so wonderful without the Doctor.
Why I Love It: I'm saying it loud and proud -- Donna Noble is my favorite companion. She's smart, she's funny, she's compassionate, she's tough and she knows how to cut the Doctor down to size. And she's not at all romantically interested in her "space man," which is something of a welcome relief after Rose and Martha and her unrequited love. Donna just wants to be the Doctor's best buddy and see the universe. "Turn Left" is a great look at what Donna -- and the world -- would be like without the Doctor. The scenes between her and a time-travelling Rose as Rose tries to explain to her what life could be are wonderful. Catherine Tate does a great job riding the edge of desperation and despair as her already sad life gets a whole lot sadder.
5. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
What It's About: A creepy little kid in a gas mask torments orphaned children during the London Blitz. And then there's Captain Jack.
Why I Love It: First of all, this episode is really quite unnerving. It shows just how much can go right with a low-budget monster that basically involves giving a child actor a gas mask. (So please kill off the Slitheen. Please.) Even better, these episodes introduce us to the inimitable ladies' man (and mans' man) Captain Jack, who quickly becomes indispensable to the Who/Torchwood mythos. Ultimately, though, these episodes are a terrific showcase for Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. His utter desperation at the end as he pleads with the universe to have things go right just this once is heartbreaking and cuts to the core of his Doctor's loneliness and his burning desire to move past the rage that's always bubbling so close to the surface. When he finally dances with Rose, breaking down that wall between them, his happiness is contagious.
4. Human Nature/Family of Blood
What It's About: Hunted by a murderous alien family, the Doctor hides by becoming human. Oh, and he falls in love. Bad human!
Why I Love It: If you're a David Tennant fan, you can't not love this episode. He's amazing as John Smith, the Doctor's human self who ultimately must "die" in order to bring the Doctor back and save the world. The best part is that the Doctor's human self is kind of a pompous jerk who is incredibly afraid -- as anyone would be -- of dying and leaving the life he's built for himself. This episode also shows just how cruel the Doctor can be, whether intentionally as he condemns the alien family to eternities of torment, or unintentionally when he asks the woman who loved John to come with him, not realizing how unbearable that would be for any human being. Tennant's performance throughout is absolutely beautiful. Also, on a completely shallow note, this episode is responsible for my favorite Tennant ad-libbing ever:
3. The Christmas Invasion
What It's About: Doctor Nine regenerates into Doctor Ten. There's a glitch just as aliens try to invade Earth on Christmas Eve.
Why I Love It: Oh "Christmas Invasion," I love you so. It's kinda ballsy to introduce your new Doctor by having him sleep through half the episode. That makes the first half drag a bit, but man, when Ten wakes and gets into the act, every second is pure gold. First off, this episode is hilarious with so many classic lines: "Not bad for a man in his jim-jams." There's the Doctor's sword fight with the alien in which he gets his hand lopped off (a hand that makes more cameo in this series than most of the secondary characters) and still wins...by using an orange. There's The Doctor's soliloquy about who he is -- "Am I...ginger?" -- and his random quoting of "The Lion King." For his first full episode, Tennant is great channeling elements of previous Doctors while still making this character his own. He's chatty, he's charming, he swashes a few buckles, and he's menacing, bringing down not just foes but friends, ending poor Harriet Jones' days as prime minister with just six little words. And the Doctor sharing Christmas dinner with Rose, Jackie and Micky is one of the sweetest scenes of the whole series. And did I mention there was sword fighting??
2. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
What It's About: Daleks. Cybermen. Torchwood. Impending destruction of universe. Doctor and Rose get all three of their hearts ripped out.
Why I Love It: For one thing, Daleks and Cybermen trash talk each other, which is what I deeply hope happens when the real-life Alien/Robot war finally ensues. (And you know it will.) This is also the episode that takes us inside Torchwood for the first time. Oh, and Rose's sweet, awkward, sorta blowsy parents get back together, thanks to one undead dad from an alternate universe. And Mickey's actually cool. But most of all, I love this episode because it makes me cry like a small sad child. That moment when the gap between the universes close and all we see are Rose and the Doctor on either side of that wall -- oh man, it does me in every time. And that beach scene! If nothing else, Billie Piper is one hell of a crier. I will admit, though, to questioning the wisdom of her make-up choices every time I watch her meltdown.
1. The Runaway Bride
What It's About: Bride Donna Noble gets transported to the TARDIS and meets a Doctor still mourning Rose. Also, giant evil spiders!
Why I Love It: I feel like this is a weird choice, but I can't help it: "The Runaway Bride" is my favorite episode of Doctor Who. It's funny. It's exciting. It's sad. And honest to God, there's a TARDIS car chase! Catherine Tate and David Tennant are awesome together from the get-go. She's perfect in her irritation at missing her wedding by being transported, you know, to OUTER SPACE. Self-absorbed as she is, she's still concerned about the Doctor's obvious sadness. "What was your friend's name?" "Her name was Rose." Gah. And Tennant, as always, does a great job tempering his enthusiasm at helping Donna while simultaneously dealing with his character's loss. Perfection.
Now it's your turn. Tell me your favorites.
+ The "Twilight" sequel has a release date already: November 2009. Just in time to exsanguinate some holiday poultry! Vampires love that.
+ I've never been a big Stargate fan, but I might have to tune in for the latest incarnation -- Stargate: Universe. Why? Because it's going to star the wonderful Robert Carlyle. Plus, the plot sounds kind of intriguing:
(The show) follows a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians left to fend for themselves when forced through a stargate after their hidden base comes under attack.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The story so far has Gaeta going away for a little R&R because he and everyone else in the fleet has had a nutty over that bummer called Earth. Gaeta gets caught in a rather unfortunate incident involving a Raptor. (Which is a space ship, not a dinosaur, for those who don't watch the show. But really, how cool would it be if the ship was shaped like a dinosaur? Oh yeah.) In the meantime, Gaeta's magical new boyfriend that we never, ever even caught a hint of except for that long-ish hug in "Revelations" is pining for him back aboard Galactica and trying to take a Raptor out to find him. Meanwhile, back aboard Gaeta's ship, Felix also seems to have forgotten that he's newly gay as he shares some very uncomfortable yet intimate looks with Boomer. (Or is it another Eight? Swear to God, I can't keep these cylons apart.)
My description is making these mini-episodes, which take place during the upcoming first episode of season 4.5, sound mawkish and crappy and they're not at all. The acting, as with any BSG episode, is very good and the writing is tight. There's a tension building nicely aboard the distressed Raptor (not shaped like a dinosaur) and there's just enough minor WTF moments to keep me enticed -- like what is Cylon Saul Tigh doing still in command in CIC? Did they all just have a group hug and decide to be sad together? If so, awesome. I love space emo. So overall, the quality of these little mini-movies is terrific and it has me counting not just the days, but the minutes until BSG's January 16 premiere.
My only problem is the whole Gaeta/Hoshi storyline. I mean, yes, okay, they hinted at some stuff between Felix and Baltar but who hasn't slept with Baltar? I think Lampkin's dog slept with the guy. It's just to be expected. But this Gaeta/Hoshi thing just came out of left field. Actually, it came out of the parking lot that's a ten-minute walk away from left field. I'm confuzzled.
And really, they choose Hoshi as the love interest? There wasn't some hot fighter pilot we haven't seen before? Felix chooses Middle Management Comb-Over Guy? Felix, I've seen your pecs and you have a lovely singing voice. You're totally shortselling yourself. Seriously, though, BSG has always been really good at telegraphing character traits well in advance of their full fruition. It's one of the things I've always loved about the writing and storytelling on this truly magnificent series. I sort of expected the same standard with these webisodes. I'm a-ok loving it if Felix is gay, but throw me some substantial clues over the last five years, please, so it doesn't just feel like a stunt. A stunt is not something I would wish on even my least favorite character.
If you haven't seen the webisodes (in which case, thank you for reading this far), here they are:
Monday, December 15, 2008
+ From MSNBC: Top Archaeology Finds of 2008
+ From Ds.ign.com: Top 10 Overused Plot Devices
+ From Time's Nerd World: Top Ten Hubble Photos
+ From Spout: Top Ten Board Games We'd Like To See As Movies
+ From Stephen King's Brain: Top Ten Movies of 2008
Gotta love a man who includes "The Ruins" in his annual rundown.
+ From Cracked: Ten Most Devastating Insults of All Time
+ From Mental Floss: Top 10 (Okay, 12) Things You Might Not Know About 'A Christmas Story' (even if you've seen it 90 times)
+ From Wired: Top Ten Amazing Chemistry Videos
+ From TIME: Top 10 of Everything of 2008
Which totally seems like overkill but I include them because they are venerable.
Okay, that was only nine, but I've left a spot open so you can let me know if any good lists you've spotted -- or written -- recently. Sharing is always appreciated.
Friday, December 12, 2008
+ "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake opens today. The Los Angeles Times liked it even if they did make me vomit just a bit when describing Keanu Reeves as "the greatest stone face since Buster Keaton." Those two names just shouldn't be in the same sentence together.
+ Maureen Ryan writes about "Fable," which is being turned into a series pilot for ABC next season. I've never read any of the "Fable" tales but the whole scenario sounds intriguing.
Despite those fantastical elements -- “Fables” features magic, witches, an army of wooden soldiers and the like -- the saga works, thanks to Willingham’s keen eye for detail, the momentum he builds up over time, the series’ terrific sense of humor, and the way that he grounds every story with realistic emotional stakes for the characters. The goal is not just to defeat the evil Empire, the goal is to find and keep love. There’s one wedding in “Fables” that brought a tear to my eye.
Given how skittish the networks are about ambitious storytelling -- heck, NBC just whacked a third of its primetime schedule in order to clear room for Jay Leno’s new talk show -- should ABC even attempt to bring “Fables” to life? Should it make the attempt despite the fact that NBC attempted a "Fables" adaptation a few years ago and failed?+ And because it's Friday, I offer you this classic piece of American kitsch -- a monkey wearing a little hat and riding a dog:
Monday, December 08, 2008
+ Catch the first of the "Battlestar" webisodes three days early, this Friday at noon on the Sci-Fi Channel website. You also can check out the totally amusing 13-minute recap of the entire series here. You may have seen the first eight minutes a while back but it features five minutes of new stuff.
+ Here's a preview of the "30 Rock" Christmas episode. Hearing Alec Baldwin utter the words, "...bet on monkey wrestling..." is gift enough for me:
So, to recap, learn each and every word of "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros" by downloading the official MP3 from www.flightlipdub.com. Then videotape yourself lip-synching the song. Then upload your video to the aforementioned www.flightlipdub.com site. Easy as pie! And if you do a video, be sure to tell us here at The Park Bench so we can check it out.
My issue is this: when he is "acting," Kiefer Sutherland does one of two things with his voice: he either shouts -- which I call his outdoor voice -- or whispers in a very shouty way -- also known as his indoor voice. And a good 75 percent of the time, he uses those two options in completely the wrong setting.
Come January 11, I will be faced with a tough decision: do I watch "24" with my finger poised attentively over the volume button or do I just forego the aggravation and let Kiefer's voice carry on without me this year?
Can I really miss out, though, on all the fun the shouty voice offers me? Like wondering how the terrorists can't hear him 10 miles away let alone when he's hiding in a sewer pipe under their feet shouting hushed, top-secret instructions back to CTU? How dogs aren't instantly rendered mute by his decibels? How his lady friends' ears don't bleed when he "whispers" sweet nothings? How Chloe could stand getting all those text messages in ALL CAPS? How that cougar that tried to eat Kim wasn't frightened away simply by the sound of her genes?
Truthfully, as much as he aggravates me, I don't know if I can give up completely on Mr. Shouty Inappropriately Loud McShouty-Pants. The only solution might be to include cotton balls in the man-purse I carry in Jack's honor every Sunday night. Also drinking. And mocking. Softly. Quietly. With tonal variation.
How do you feel about the Kief?
Thursday, December 04, 2008
+ Also this March comes the return of "Reaper," on St. Patrick's Day. It will be introduced by leprechauns. Not really. Maybe a drunk Boston Celtics fan but that's still unconfirmed.
+ How awesome is this? A do-it-yourself R2-D2 dreidel -- or "droidel," as they call it. There's instructions and everything. I'm absolutely going to build one of these.
+ Remember that cute German polar bear Knut that everyone (including me) was ga-ga over last year? He's still cute but now he's brown and apparently he's the Corey Haim of the German zoo world, causing trouble and wreaking havoc.
The Germans are kicking him out but it looks like other zoos are lining up to adopt him, so all is well. I think he looks cute as a brown bear....
+ ETA: Last night on CBC's "The Hour," Dave Foley announced that Kids in the Hall have signed a deal with the Canadian network to produce an eight-part special called "Death Comes to Town." Can't wait!
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Data has been piling up lately. You've seen it on your televisions and in your movie theaters and tucked away in the pages of your People magazines and US Weeklies. The question is out there, just waiting to be answered. And I believe we're the ones best qualified to tackle this difficult subject:
Are British male actors getting hotter or is my eyesight just getting better?
Let's look at the evidence chronologically. In the 1930s and 1940s, we had Cary Grant, the standard bearer of British male pulchritude:
In the 1960s, we had Sean Connery and Michael Caine -- and let's face it, the standards got a little bit lower:
In the 1980s, we started doing a bit better with Julian Sands:
Things started rolling nicely in the 1990s with the likes of Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson:
And then, holy hell, the new millennium dawns, the dam of British hotness breaks and suddenly they're everywhere! There's Daniel Craig...
and Orlando Bloom...
and Gerard Butler...
and Henry Ian Cusick...
and David Tennent...
And dozens more. Besides the actors, even that old "unattractive inbred royalty" thing has been busted:
In fact, hot British men have become so ubiquitous, we even have them filling in as hot American men. To wit, there's him:
Ladies, this is but a small sampling -- and I'm not even bringing Australians into the equation!* I'm no kind of scientist, but I'd say the facts -- and the photographic evidence -- speak for themselves.
What do you think? Are we in the Golden Age of Hot British Actors? And if so, what did we do to deserve this and can we do it again, please?
* ETA: Except I did, just there, with Simon Baker who I totally didn't realize was Australian. Oops. He's too cute to dock from the list though....
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
+ Not to suggest that "House" is formulaic or anything*, but Cracked had a great item on "How to Write Your Own 'House' Episode" and yes, it does include the always-popular furrowed-brow moment.
+ Speaking of formulas that are good in spite of themselves, there's a new preview of "24" out which includes a glimpse of an old friend and also moments of Jack Bauer neither whispering nor shouting but instead making a grammatical error. It's pretty much everything you'd expect from "24." The new season debuts on Jan. 12...and I really, really want to make a cougar joke right now but will show maturity and restrain myself. Or maybe not: Cougar!
+ The DVD of "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" comes out today and features more than three hours of extras including deleted scenes, gag reel, full-length documentary and audio commentary by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, which better include a personal apology for disappointing the hell out of me with this movie. A movie which I will nonetheless buy because X-Files owns me and I am a sad, sad person.
+ "Battlestar Galactica" webisodes debut on Dec. 12 and I'm giddy as a school girl! Two episodes will be posted per week for five weeks, leading up to BSG's Jan. 16 season premiere. Even more awesome, the webisodes were written by Jane Espenson and Seamus Kevin Fahey, staffers who penned some of last year's best episodes. And in other way awesome BSG news, "Caprica" has finally been greenlit as a series for Sci-Fi. Now I'm beyond giddy and verging on delirious. I need pie to celebrate!
+ Have I mentioned I love the internets? Today on Twitter I was following the back and forth between Wil Wheaton and Greg Grunberg of "Heroes" as they exchanged compliments and eventually concocted the idea of Wheaton appearing in an upcoming episode of the NBC series. And now io9 has to go and be dicks about the whole thing and semi-mock Wheaton with a poll on what sort of superpower he should have when he joins the superhero league. I don't see how you can run a site like io9 and mock Wil Wheaton. It seems positively unpatriotic. (However, if he were to have a superpower, I would vote for gills. How cool would that be?)
+ Park Bench reader Crone51 sent in this great musical tribute to smart women by singer-songwriter Richard Thompson. "I want a woman from Mensa with a furrowed brow..." It's wonderful. Enjoy:
+ I got an e-mail recently announcing the debut of a new website called Book View Cafe (www.bookviewcafe.com) that offers new and unpublished literature by authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre and Laura Ann Gilman, all for free. Writers also will be offering extended versions of their work and other goodies for a small fee. Looks like an interesting experiment in publishing....
* But it is.