Saturday, April 30, 2011

Doctor Who--"Day of the Moon"

“Day of the Moon” sounds like someone might be dropping breeches before the end credits. Those of you with your fingers crossed for Karen Gillan will be disappointed. So will anyone else holding out hope for another character. The title actually refers to the Apollo moon landing, which plays heavily into the resolution of the silence story. For now, anyway. I assume we are not done with them this series.

Right off the bat, I liked this episode far better than part one. But it was still enormously overcomplicated and trying too hard to be clever. Steven Moffat is obviously dropping in all sorts of subtle points which will become more important in the overall series, but feel out of place at the moment. I can appreciate a writer attempting to make a deeper than usual show, but it does feel strange when the future repeat value when a viewer understands everything that is happening is a richer experience than watching the first time around. Some bits are too obtuse, I guess is the best way to put it.

The episode is the darkest we have seen in a long time. It begins months after the end of the previous story. The cliffhanger is resolved in such a blink and you will miss it manner that one has to wonder why it was set up in the first place. The real story begins with Team TARDIS being hunted down by Canton Delaware after they have spent all this time doing recon on the Silence. They are are “killed” by Delaware and taken to Area 51 where the Doctor has been held prisoner in the interim. It is all a ruse to get them together so they can surmise a way to defeat the Silence, who have ruled the Earth since the Stone Age through the power of suggestion.

The Doctor decides to use the moon landing and a highly unfortunate statement by a captured silence that humans “ought to kill them on sight” to broadcast that message to the whole world watching on television. Human do rise up to kill every Silence they see. The aliens are forced to flee Earth or face their own genocide.

The silence kidnap Amy in the middle of it all. Her kidnapping serves no real purpose other than some character development for Rory. His vow to find her anywhere harkens back to his guarding her inside the Pandorica for 2,000 years. His dedication makes his eavesdropping discovery Amy is pregnant and appears to hint it might be the doctor’s rather than Rory’s more painful. Rory is almost as put upon as Mickey Smith used to be.

The Doctor may very well have something to do with the baby. Any discovers photos of her with the same little girl in the space suit while searching a nest of Silence. The very last scene of the episode shows the little girl months later claiming to be dying, then regenerating like a Time Lord. Since the Doctor performs a discreet medical scan on Amy, he surely suspects something is up.

“Day of the Moon” is entertaining, but very little of it has to do with defeating the Silence. If more than ten minutes of screen time is devoted to their defeat, I would be shocked to know it. The bulk of screen time is hints at what is to come in the future. I am anxious to find out, mind you, but what an odd way to resolve a two part story. It is unusual to cast aside the main story in order to ask more questions.

Nitpick for old school Wholigans: When the Team TARDIS members are being “killed,” River Song actually does die by plunging out of a skyscraper. With the rest of the team assembled, the TARDIS travels back in time to position itself under her in order to break her fall. Although she died originally, the Doctor changes events to save her. But wait--he has said in the past that is against the rules of time travel. More specifically, he refused to travel back in time to save Adric after he sacrificed himself to destroy the Cybermen back in “Earthshock.” Can this be reconciled? Perhaps the doctor no longer cares about the rules of time since the Time Lords are gone. The Tenth Doctor was keen to break the rules there towards the ends of his tenure. The Eleventh Doctor maybe more so.

“Day of the Moon” is more exciting than the premiere. It can be puzzling in parts with the knowledge you do not know how long you will have to wait for a pauoff, but anticipating that you need to know this stuff to appreciate the impending payoff nakes it a must see.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #96

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

Camp of the saints links to Raising McCain.
Motor City times links to Taco Bell Demands Apology from Law Firm Dropping Class Action Suit.
Sentry Journal links to Taco Bell Demands Apology from Law Firm Dropping Class Action Suit.
Classic Liberal links to The Significance of the Resurrection.
Proof Positive links to Drew Barrymore and Stevie Lynn Leow.
Say Anything Blog links to Drew Barrymore and Stevie Lynn Leow.
Teresamerica links to Drew Barrymore.
Drew Barrymore video links to Drew Barrymore.
So Kathy Griffin links to The X-Files "Fight Club."
New Horizon links to Doctor Who "The Impossible Astronaut" and FMJRA #94.
Anamiros links to Doctor Who "The Impossible Astronaut."
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA #95, Blogroll Spotlight #91, and Karen Gillan.
Troglopundit links to The Eating Dead.

A sincere thank you to all who linked this week. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

X-Files--"Invocation"

“Invocation” revisit’s the hit and miss motif of the creepy, murderous child which The X-Files did frequently in its early years, but mercifully leet pass on in later seasons. While some episodes with such kids are very good, I am inclined to think it is a worn out gimmick that does not have the emotional impact it once did. It does not pack much of a wallop here, either, but it is not really the point. “Invocation” gives Doggett some much needed character development, though still with too many blank spots to make the episode a classic.

Billy Underwood, a seven year old child who was kidnapped from a playground ten years ago mysteriously returns to the same playground ten years later having not aged a day. In fact, a medical exam shows he still has the remnants of an illness he was treated for days before his disappearance. Not only has he not aged, but he is literally the exact same as he was the day he went missing.

Doggett has a particularly high emotional response to missing children cases. He does not buy that billy is the exacyt age he was when he disappeared. He is more inclined to think a teenage suspect who was questioned in the matter a decade ago has held Billy all this time, perhaps stunting his growth. While Doggett harasses the suspect now, Scully, while not quite pinning down a paranormal cause, is nevertheless there is not a normal explanation for the case.

Billy turns out to be homicidal with all the trimmings. He tries to stab his little brother on two occasions. Everyone but Scully rationalizes he has been traumatized by whatever he experienced the previous ten years. But Billy also keeps disappearing and reappearing His reappearance in the former suspect’s car leads to his arrest, interrogation, and eventual admission that he was bullied by his stepfather to kidnap billy years ago. He tried to protect the boy, but his stepfather eventually murdered him. In a twist, Billy’s brother has now been kidnapped, too. The “ghost” of Billy, lead the agents to his brother’s rescue as well as his own, shallow grave.

While Billy and his family’s plight evokes a lot of sympathy, “Invocation” is a character driven episode. The emphasis is on Doggett. There is a clearly personal need for him to solve this case, and he does not want to hear any supernatural goings on as the sole explanation. We discover subtly exactly why as he pulls out a photo of a young boy from his wallet during a quiet moment. We are not clued in on anything beyond that at this point, which is a shame. It is obvious the boy is his son. He must have been kidnapped with the outcome of the kidnapping turning out badly. But why do the writers not let us in on that? We do not even learn his name is Luke yet.

What is worse than the lack of overt explanation is Scully. She yanks Doggett back once when he gets too insistent Billy talk about his ordeal the first time they meet. Doggett insists he has much experience dealing with missing children. At that point, we are thinking professional experience, and that may very well be the case, but he also talking about personal experience. Scully tells him he is full of it. Okay, I realize he lied to her when they first met, so she still questions his honestly. But where is the old Scully who had an empathy for suffering people? The one who used to bring mulder back to reality whenever his obsession with proving the paranormal made him lose sight of the real people involved? Lord, I miss her.

There was a time when she would have known something was up with Doggett. They would have discussed the issue of Luke’s kidnapping. You would think after spending so much time with mulder’s obsession over discovering the fate of his sister, she would be more in tuned with Doggett’s pain. The revelation would have created a bond between the two of them while also letting the audience in on Doggett’s past. We might have even started liking the guy. But no, it is a wasted opportunity.

Another point I dislike about Scully now is how rapidly she accepts paranormal explanations for things, but cannot explain why because she lacks Mulder’s expertise in the subject. She compensates by being cold and rigid. Doggett has taken her old role of urging to consider the case a normal crime that may happen again to another little boy if it is not solved. The problem is that Mulder, whom she is trying pitifully to channel, could be snapped out of his one track mind towards the paranormal when a person was in danger. She is not channeling that aspect of Mulder’s personality. Doggett lascks her old skill of pulling the True Believer back to reality.

Quite frankly, s\Scully is useless here. She does literally nothing but stand around and berate Doggett while he does all the investigative legwork. He is the one to eventually rescue Billy’s kidnapped brother and arrest the culprit beyond the crime while Scully trots along behind him without any proactive gestures on her part. Top cap it all off, when Doggett wants some explanation at the end for how Billy’s ghost appeared, she tells him there is not one and storms off brooding. I get it. She is in pain over mulder being missing, good heavens, her behavior is atrocious.

Before any X-Phile asks, yes, I have taken into consideration Gillian Anderson is tired of the role at this point, so her negative feelings are shining through. That is not as good excuse, however., nor is it a serious evaluation of the problem. The writers are changing the dynamic of Scully from Skeptic to Reluctant Believer, but it is simply not working. That is not what the Scully we all know and love is about.

While I try to avoid speculating what might have been when reviewing episodes, this is the first of the eighth season episodes I am certain would have been vastly improved if it was a Mulder and Scully case. I cannot put my finger on exactly why, since Doggett’s personal issues are what we are supposed to hang our hat on. Maybe it is because Mulder always had a soft spot for children who were crime victims. Scully did, too, back in better days.

As far as comparing “Invocation” to episodes from the final two seasons, it is still one of the most solid. The continued unnecessary tension between Scully and Doggett is annoyingly ridiculous, particularly considering what he has done for her over the last couple episodes. She had bonded with Mulder over far less far more quickly. Certainly there is a desire to keep him at arm’s length in hopes Mulder will return, but she is still acting like an unprofessional ingrate. If I were Doggett, I would be begging for a transfer after this one. It is definitely a Doggett episode, but it would have been better if we had been given more details about his son--like his name--to build up more sympathy, but there you go.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Karen Gillan

Last week’s of the first episode of Doctor Who series six broke ratings records. My cashing in on the interest in Karen Gillan photos paid dividends right along with it, so I am not going to let a good thing pass me by. Here are two more of the lovely Ms. Gillan, including one those shows off what is generally considered her best asset--those gams:(Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Superman Renouncing the United States Further Sign of the Death of Comics

As the resident comic book guy, I should comment on the recent revelation superman is about to renounce his American citizenship because he is tired of his actions being associated with American policy. In other words, truth and justice are now separate from the American way as far as he is concerned.

First and foremost, this is a stunt to boost sales. A tasteless stunt, but a stunt nevertheless. Sales for comic books have taken a huge dive in recent years. They sell half as much as they did a decade ago. There are a lot of reasons for this--cover prices rising much higher than inflation, the popularity of Pokemon cards, and kids reading Harry Potter instead. But what you can really trace the problem back to is collector speculation over stunts like this. In other words, comics publishers never learn.

I was at my peak as a comics fan back in 1990 when it became an industry driven more by superstar artists than characters. There were a handful of artists who were able to sell just about any comic by drawing the issue. Marvel Comics, the company who was fortunate enough to employ most of these artists, got the idea to give each of these artists a new title featuring a major, popular character to both draw and write for themselves.

To make the launch of these new titles special, each one had a gimmick. There were multiple covers, trading cards included, hog rams on the covers--all sorts of peculiar variations. Collectors brought up multiple copies of these issues in all variations tas speculation on their value. To illustrate, the Amazing Spider-Man was the best selling title featuring the character, selling 400,000 copies per month in 1990. When Todd McFarlane, arguably the hottest artist in comics at the time, launched the adjective free Spider-Man #1 in the summer of 1990, it was sold with three different covers: a black, a silver, and a scarce platinum cover. Marvel sold five million copies. A years later, their were six variations of Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 for which marvel sold eight million.

The problem is that the same 400,00 regular readers were buying up all the millions of copies expecting to eventually make a mint off them. Anyone who understood supply and demand knew that was foolhardy, but comic publishers do not care about the secondary market like fans do. They kept pumping out comics with all sorts of special gimmicks while creating ’events” to justify them. Remember that Superman has been dead? Batman had his back broken? Captain America was murdered? Spider-man revealed his secret identity to the world? Now Superman is renouncing his citizenship. After being dead, for a while, no less.

The gravy train did not last for publishers. By about 1994 oor so, collectors started seeing those millions of copies of comics they had boxes of in the closet flooding the market. Comics stores could not give them away because everyone had at least ten copies they wre trying to unload themselves. Including me, in all honest. Fans left the hobby in droves even as publishers attempted to adjust to their misjudgment. Even a publisher of new comics needs to watch what is happening in the secondary market.

These days comics have been relegated to maintaining the copyrights in order to license characters out for movies, toys, and fast food premiums. The only reason Disney bought Marvel comics was to produce film projects and have Spider-Man appear at Disneyland. The content of comics is pretty much irrelevant beyond keeping characters in the public’s awareness. Hence, we are back to stunts in order to do so.

If history is any indication, two things will happen. One, Superman will return to status quo once interest in his citizenship renunciation dies down. Two, publishers making so much money off licensing fees they can consider publishing comics a loss leader can ignore how fans feel about these gimmicks. There is nothing anyone can do about it other than lament the rapid death of the comic book industry.

Formspring Question #143--Royal Pains Edition

You had some nasty things to say on your Tumblr about the royal wedding. I was hoping for an extended brutalization at the Eye. Are you going to disappoint me?
More than likely.

It is true I do not get the fascination with royalty. These people put their pants on one leg at a time. The only difference is those pants are the most expensive brand available and paid for by the taxes of the same working people the royals would not touch with a ten foot pole and asbestos gloves. For the most part, at any rate. Princess Diana, for instance. I will give credit where credit is due. Nevertheless, the whole concept of paying a fortune to elevate a useless class of elites offends my sensibilities.

In reading my Twitter stream from this morning, I have noticed a lot of people whose opinions I respect are less harsh about the idea. The royal pageant offers a fantasy escapism. What little girl does not want to be a princess at one time or another? So I opt not to tweak the wedding in my usual brutally sarcastic manner.

I still cannot let it go without commenting on the bread and circuses element of it all, however. The United Kingdom is fighting wars in the midst of economic troubles just as bad as the United States. To not only fund such a spectacle, but have so many Britons of all stripes be so enthralled with the wedding reeks of distracting the population from the country’s serious problems.

Maybe I am just being cynical and such a distraction is a good thing for a burdened people. But somehow, I just cannot swallow that idea.

Formspring Question #142--Chief Knockahoma Edition

I was going to ask you to comment on the Roger McDowell incident in San Francisco, but then Derek Lowe got arrested for DUI. What's a Braves fan to do?
I learned from the John Rocker controversy back in 2000 how frustrating it is to be a fan of anything that relies on fallible people in the public eye. For whatever reason, I was on the spot as an Atlanta Braves fan to comment on rocker’s interview, to denounce him personally and probably eschew the braves in general. Sure, rocker was/is a racist and homophobe, but all I cared about was enjoying the World Series. I have been asked to criticize Jimmy Buffett and Gillian Anderson in recent times for reasonable political opinions, not even anything offensive.

If having an ignorant opinion and blurting it out in public was a crime, we would all be in trouble. As I have said before, being a bigot is an individual’s right. I am a No Thought Police kind of guy.

I understand baseball’s need to protect its brand. It has put McDowell on administrative leave for he homophobic statements. I am confident lowe will receive some sort of punishment if convicted for Dui, as well. It is unfortunate they are both associated with a team I root for, because it does reflect poorly on the organization. But I do not feel obligated to quit enjoying Braves’ games because of it.

Could something ever occur that would prompt me to do so/ Maybe. The NFL has lost a lot of luster in recent years because the game has swept drug use, spousal abuse, animal cruelty, and even manslaughter under the rug because players put fans in the seats. Then again, I cannot muster much of a righteous indignation about that, either. I have such a dim view of human morality to begin with, not much shocks me. I am afraid to encounter something that would.

X-Files--"Roadrunners"

Back in the day, it was with “Roadrunners’ that X-Philes began seriously complaining how the departure of david duchovny was negatively affecting the show. Specifically, fans believed the creators were over compensating with too much gore and the working relationship between scully and Doggett was being forced. The former is nothing new. The series has been compensating for bad scripts with bloody shock value from the beginning. Not that the unnecessary gore of “Roadrunners” does not detract from the bad script, but it is the development Scully/Doggett relation that really kills the episode.

Much of the story is based loosely on the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It is a about a small town that holds a lottery in order to choose a person to stone to death. In “Roadrunners,” citizens of a not on the map small community are a religious cult which periodically selects someone new as the host of a giant, parasitic worm which attaches itself to the chosen one’s spine. The cult believes this worm is the Second Coming, but cannot find a host who can survive long enough for the worm to do…whatever wonderful thing it is supposed to do. Grant special powers or something. No one ever clarifies. Maybe they do not know themselves. There is a running theme these religious folks are idiots, so maybe they are being played by the worm. Like I said, it is a bad script. Do not waste time thinking about it.

Think instead about Scully, and how badly her character is demeaned. She runs off to Utah without Doggett in order to investigate a missing persons case. She is looking for a hitchhiker who accidentally became part of the exchange of the worm. In spite of showing him respect as a colleague at the end of the previous episode, she still does not want to connect with him in anticipation Mulder will return. It is a petty thing for her to do. I am not an expert on the real FBI, but I would imagine upward promotion means changes in partners quite often. It is professional courtesy to work with new agents. So Scully is being unusually petty for the character. She is not normally a pouting woman.

Nor is she normally as dumb as she is here. She becomes trapped in the community through every contrived horror film cliché known to (wo)man--her gas tank is sabotaged by a station attendant, no one has a working phone, only the creepy people at a boarding house will even speak to her, she has to spend the night there, and they have a medical crisis with the new guy infected with the worm in order to distract her. If that is not bad enough, when she is along with the guy, she decides to look for a way to escape, so she gives him her freaking gun! Again, I am no expert on the FBI, but I do know giving up your gun is verboten. Heck, I am not an FBI agent and I would not have done it. There is immediate danger ahead.

Naturally, she is captured, sans gun, and the worm is forced on her spine. Scully begsw pitifully for them to stop because she is pregnant. There is something that should have crossed her mind before handing over her weapon. The whole sequence is demeaning to Scully. You should never reduce your heroine to a crying, whimpering mess in the face of the bad guys. She has never done that before when her life was threatened. In fact, the times she has broken down in tears were always after such incidents when she felt she could privately rely on Mulder for consoling.

Scully has been the damsel in distress before, but never quite this way. She got herself into this mess by doing dumb things. She was reduced to a puddle of tears when the worst of it occurred. When rescue finally comes, because Doggett has followed his cop instincts to find her, he finds her half-naked, spread-eagle tied to a bed. Every bit of this is the classic male fantasy of rescuing the naïve, helpless female, and she will be yours, you dashing hero, you. The only point that diminishes this thought is Doggett taking his knife and cutting open Scully’s back, sans anesthetic, to pull the worm out and kill it. Nothing like slicing between a woman’s shoulder blades to ruin the knight in shining armor wins the damsel’s heart archetype.

The cult does not seem to much care Doggett killed god, either. They just stand around in silence as he carries the profusely bleeding Scully to the arriving emergency personnel. If the thought of scully profusely bleeding disturbs you, realize that is the tamest of the gory scenes. We get the whole visual joy of watching Doggett slice into her back and yank the squiggling worm out, which is on top of her pulling part of the worm out of the first guy’s back earlier in the episode. It is hard enough to swallow Scully survived the emergency surgery period, but even more difficult to know ahe did not miscarry under all the stress she suffered. Stress suffered from any of the three previous episodes, either, for that matter.

To top it all off, she apologizes to Doggett for not involving him initially. She does not thank him for preventing a giant worm from burrowing into her brain, but I suppose she is taking small steps here. Doggett assures here she was, in fact, very dumb. In the span of a lackluster episode, Scully has been reduced to incompetent second fiddle in favor of Doggett This comes after her stumbling from the previous episode. Very, very bad for ardent members of Team Scully.

Very, very bad describes “Roadrunners” in general. It is a bad script that destroys everything we love about Scully in order to make Doggett look good in the eyes of the audience. It does not work. “Roadrunners” breaks Scully down to far while making Doggett look invincibly heroic. Performing emergency surgery on a woman with a pocket knife? Really, guys? Just so he can lecture her later how important he is to these cases? For heaven’s sake.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Mila Kunis

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Formspring Question #141--The Babylon Project Edition

You're almost done with the X-Files. Any chance B5 is next?
You have a fifty/fifty shot at this point. Covering The Wild Wild West and The X-Files was a self-indulgence none of my readers interested in reviews requested. I have gotten numerous inquiries about whether I will pick back up with the trek reviews that began this whole shebang. I should probably accommodate at some point.

I like Babylon 5 far more than Star Trek: Voyager, though the first couple seasons are often a chore to get through. The series did not hit its stride until the Shadow War heated up. As for VOY..,ugh. You all just want to see me suffer while ripping a very bad show.

Interested parties should weigh in. I have never done a poll here before. I may do that just too make the decision official. the X-Files will not be wrapped up until the first week of June, so there is still plenty of time for me to be swayed one way or the other.

X-Files--"Patience"

I am quite confident the title “Patience” has a double meaning. In the context of the story, it represents the plot of waiting 44 years to seek revenge. As for the show as a whole, it is a request for fans to give the new dynamic some time to gel. The former is easier to cope with than the latter.

“Patience” is a standard monster of the week episode. In certain ways, it is a throwback to the earliest and best of the series. Unfortunately, it terribly misses the mark in others. The plot is that a giant man-bat, which is very much like a mute version of the Man-Bat from DC Comics, is committing a string of murders relating to a 44 year old corpse dredged out of a river. The man-bat appears to be stalking a man who killed another man-bat back in 1956, but does not appear to be intelligent enough to know the difference between the man it is looking for and others like the undertaker and police detective associated with the newly discovered corpse.

To mention the good first, the make up job on the man-bat is superb. I would rank it right up there with Flukeman. But aside from the agents literally engaging in a physical brawl with the man-bat in the climax, that is where the similarities to Flukeman and any other classic critter end. The early days of The X-Files were famous for keeping the mystery as long as possible, oftentimes leaving the enite decision of what really happened up to the audience. In “Patience,” we see the man-bat in all it glory in the teaser. No mystery whatsoever, which is particularly bad since the first act has scully and Doggett sparring over what their killer is when the audience already knows. The teaser could have been the opening scene to any generic horror film. Like any horror film, there are subsequent gruesome kills shown in their full glory, too. For horror fans, that is great. For X-Philes, not so much.

X-Philes have to take pleasure in something else in “Patience.” it does feature an extraordinary amount of character development for a monster of the week episode. I have mixed emotions about it. Mulder’s shadow hangs heavy on Scully. It is reasonable for her to miss her partner terribly and to keep Doggett at arm’s length in anticipation of Mulder’s quick return dump him. The problem is how much the creators are forcing her to play Mulder’s role as the Believer against Doggett’s Horse Sense Skepticism. He cannot play the scientist role she used to do, but he is the longtime jaded cop who has seen everything, but still cannot believe the wildest bits of the X-Files.

The dynamic is strained. For one thing, the episode is book ended by Scully staring sadly at Mulder’s desk nameplate. In the beginning, it prompts her to curtly insist Doggett not get too comfortable. When mulder returns, this will be his office again. By the end of the episode, she thanks Doggett for looking out for her, then puts the nameplate in mulder’s desk and tells Doggett she will get him a desk, too. The latter look at the nameplate before putting it away felt like an apology to the absent Mulder. I do not feel as though what came between the bookends was terribly convincing enough to get us from one to the other.

Scully tries too hard to be Mulder. Doggett makes a statement early on that he has read through the x-Files and notes most of them were solved through a leap in logic by Mulder, who was probably the only one who could make such a leap. Scully makes such a leap as well when she finally assumes the killer really is a man-bat monster. The local detective, who is not hip to the idea of a woman senior FBI agent in the first place, does not want to play the investigation her way. Just to prove scully is not doing a very good job playing mulder, her request to exhume the corpse only she thinks is related to the man-bat gets the detective killed. Talk about piling on to her failure.

To his credit, Doggett is sympathetic. He knows she misses Mulder for one. But he also casts his ego aside to force the chauvinist detective to respect Scully. He intervenes to get him to cooperate with her seeming leap in logic even though he does not buy the man-bat theory, either. He does not browbeat her mistakes when she is obviously out her comfort zone here. Finally, he has her back when the man-bat physically attacks.

What it boils down to is Scully is being humor at best, patronized at worst throughout the episode. Ultimately, she realizes this and accepts Doggett’s way of doing things has merit. I feel like Scully is being demeaned, but I am going to chalk it up to a heavy handed attempt at closure for the way she used to interact with Mulder. Doggett as a character has to be given a chance to find his own groove with her. He never did so all that well, but we have thirty-eight more reviews to explore that.

When I rate episodes of a series, I do so within the context of the series. The final two seasons of The X-Files are so radically different than those that came before, it is not always fair to compare them to old episodes. I am not keen on the man-bat’s reveal in its entirety during the teaser, now did I enjoy all the scully trying to find her way stuff while Doggett runs interference. But as far as seasons eight and nine go, “Patience” qualifies as a decent outing. I cannot see how it could be anyone’s favorite, but I cannot see anyone despising it, either. It is necessary viewing for any X-Phile who did not abandon the series once David Duchovny went off to pursue a failed movie career as a way of introducing the Scully/Doggett partnership.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco and Melissa Rauch

Two cuties for the price of one on this Kaley Cuoco Day. Melissa Rauch has the hot nerd look down pat, therefore she deserves a little attention, too. For those of you who require more Kaley Cuoco skin than offered above, here you go:I deliver, folks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Formspring Question #140--Eating Dead Edition

If a vegetarian died and became a zombie, would he still want brains?
No, he would want graaaaiiiinnnnsss. Man, that is one old, worn out joke.

But seriously, zombies eat brains. It is their thing. I do not think it matters if the zombie was a vegetarian when he was alive. Or diabetic, or anything else along those lines. something like that might make for an interesting twist on The Walking Dead, though. It would not be any less plausible than asking us to believe there is a shortage of guns and ammo in Georgia.

Barack Obama Releases Long Form Birth Certificate

Now that you birthers have seen the real deal, can we focus on more important issues like Obama's gross incompetence instead?

X-Files--"Without"

I have made the observation in the past the first part of a two part story is almost always lacking something because it is mostly build up to a big pay off in the second part. Hence, it is difficult to judge a first part fairly. I was quite harsh on “Within” regardless, but after having watched the superior second part, I feel the story should have been a two hour premiere event. Pairing them up double length still would not have made it a classic, but things would have run far more smoothly.

The episode begins where we left off--a literal cliffhanger. Doggett has Mulder backed to the edge of a cliff with Gibson Praise. Mulder lets the boy go as Doggett requests, but then dives off the cliff to avoid capture. This sequence is the only part of the episode which is laughably dumb. Where is mulder going with the boy? There is nowhere to run from the top of the cliff. He is not going to throw Praise off the cliff to kill him because he is actually the alien bounty Hunter in disguise. The aliens want Praise alive for experimentation. The Alien Bounty hunter is tough, but has been injured in far less serious circumstances than an eighty foot fall from a cliff. Why did he think jumping was a good idea, particularly when he makes short work of other FBI agents throughout the episode? Just attack Doggett, dude? Another problem: Gibson gets away to hide out in the desert, somehow escaping a small army of FBI agents in the process. Um, how exactly can a twelve year old boy give the FBI the slip in the middle of the desert?

I think the big reason I would like for the opening episodes to be one movie is because there would have been less of a need to contrive a cliffhanger like thisd one to bring viewers back next week. The resolution is too illogical to believe. The powers that be should have come up with something far better. Fortunately, the resolution of the cliffhanger is the only bad aspect of the episode.

Doggett and his task force are baffled to discover Faux Mulder missing from his Wile E. Coyote plunge. Scully immediately suspects it was the Alien Bounty Hunter, not Mulder. It is about time she does so, too. She has seen the alien Bounty Hunter shape shift repeatedly since the second season without ever acknowledging that is not a natural thing to be doing. Doggett does not buy it. He is more inclined to think Mulder survived the fall. He has seen stranger things as an NYPD detective.

His task force heads out to search the boarding school praise has been living in to see if he is hiding there. Scully notices a girl sneaking off into the desert and follows her right to a secret hideaway for praise. He is hiding out there with a fractured leg. So not only did the kid elude the FBI task force, he did it with a broken leg. Doggett is on top his game, no?

Doggett has to come around at least somewhat to Scully’s way of thinking as the Alien Bounty Hunter assumes the identity of other people, including Scully at one point, to search for praise and smack a few agents around for good measure.

Scully and Skinner decide to rescue Praise on their own without Doggett’s knowledge since they cannot trust that any person is not the Alien Bounty Hunter. While they were gone, Praise hears Mulder screaming in pain from the space ship which is parked in the nearby desert, but invisible. Scully and Skinner eventually catch up to him. Scully feels the connection to Mulder, too, --shipper alert!--and stays behind as Skinner takes Gibson to the hospital. She never runs into the ship, but does get distracted when Doggett finds her. They mutually draw the conclusion the alien bounty hunter will head for the hospital to find praise.

Things are a bit odd here. Skinner has time to get Praise settled into a hospital room, so how long was scully wandering through the desert Doggett found her/ what prompted the Alien bounty hunter to go to the hospital? Scully speculates one of Doggett’s men is the Alien Bounty Hunter, but none of them knew what skinner was up to. You have to fill in the blanks that skinner informed the task force of praise’s whereabouts, and somehow the Alien Bounty hunter learned from that. I guess. I do not know. We are supposed to be distracted by Mulder’s only line in two episodes--shouting Scully’s name from inside the ship--to care about such minor issues.

There is a big confrontation at the hospital in which Scully has to kill the alien bounty hunter by shooting him in the neck. For some reason, his acid blood does not have the usual eye burning effect on her or Praise. But no matter. Mean she realizes killing him means no more connection to finding Mulder, she breaks down in hysterical tears. Doggett comforts her. I do not think enough of an emotional connection is established to convince fans, but I am going to be generous and call it a touching moment.

Doing so helps me swallow the concept the shadowy powers that be have placed Doggett on this task force because they know he would have to write up aliens and bounty hunters with green, scidic blood, and prodigy in his report. Doing so would curtail his career. Why would anyone want to cut off Doggett’s career advancement? Part of the mystery, folks. But they finally do their worst to him--he ends the episode assigned to the X-Files.

Yeah, that thing about the X-File budget being cut into non-existence? That is so last season. We are back in business now.

In spite of the snark, I think “Without” is an entertaining episode. It is the action that makes it interesting. We do not often get to see a lot of gun play along with the intrigue on this series. It has flaws, no doubt. Aside from the cliffhanger resolution and gibson’s broken leg which only sort of causes him any problem, Scully becomes a true believer in aliens way too fast. While it is true she is going to play Mulder’s True believer shtick to Doggett’s Skeptic, there is such a thing as too much, too soon. But it has got to happen sometime, and I suppose hitting the ground running is the way episodic television has to do things. I cannot consider any of these points a huge detriment., particularly with the final scene of a defeated Mulder surrounded by Alien Bounty Hunters is the last image we will have of him in our minds for a dozen episodes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sarah Shahi

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Browsing the Browsers

A few months ago, my sister gave me a brand new laptop. I had to use Internet Explorer for the first time in at least six years in order to download Firefox. But before I could get to Mozilla, I noticed IE 7 had a feature that could enlarge the display by any percentage I wanted. That was a blessing for my pitiful lone peeper, so I declined Firefox to stick with IE 7, numerous warts and all.

Internet Explorer 7 and I had a happy, though often sluggish and reluctant to handle Java relationship all these months. A couple days ago, it became clear IE 7’s inability web browsing was overshadowing any benefits I received from easily enlarging pages to any size I needed, so I switched to IE 9. I am profoundly disappointed with the switch. As far as I am concerned, IE 9 has been just as slow and troublesome, but does not allow for the entire page to be enlarged. Only the fonts. What a gyp. Why would a developer get rid of such a useful feature two browsers later?

In response to my disappointment, I downloaded Firefox 4 and Chrome whatever the heck generation it is. Thirteen, I think. I have been playing with all three to find out which is the best. I am still having a tough time with the pros and cons.

I have gotten used to IE over the last few months. I am prone to get into a groove and stick with it, even if it is not the best, because it works for me. Hence, I stuck with IE 7 much longer than I should have as far as optimal browsing is concerned. So I am still comfortable with where everything is, but only having the fonts enlarged is annoying. Plus, even though I have downloaded the latest updates, I am still having problems with java.

Firefox 4 is a disappointment from past versions, too. It runs sluggishly even though I have a barebones, very few applications browser. It will enlarge the entire page, as well, but it will not stay that way. I have to enlarge every page I visit rather than it being a permanent setting like it was in IE 7. I never thought I would say it, but aside from its better handling of Java, Firefox has fallen behind IE for the first time ever.

Which brings us to Chrome. It is still an unpopular browser outside of the youngest web surfers, but I notice Firefox 4 has copied many of its features. The barebones chrome I have been using is lightning fast, which I like. Again, Chrome will enlarge a page in its entirety, but has to be done for every page visited. No problems with java, but book marking and access to bookmarks has really annoyed me so far. It is the only browser I have ever seen that puts bookmarks on the far right. Exactly where my blind eye cannot see it, of course.

Out of the three, I have wound up using Chrome more than the others. I have still been switching almost arbitrarily between the three when I go online hoping some new ly discovered aspect of one will completely blow the other two out the water. So far, not really. If anyone more technologically minded has any insight on something useful I have not yet discovered, please speak up.

X-Files--"Within"

“Within” is the eighth season premiere. It is the start of big changes for the series dynamic. The episode introduces John Doggett as the Special Agent in charge of finding Mulder. He will eventually pair up with Scully on the X-Files. Scully has moved from the Skeptic to the Reluctant Believer in the wake of Mulder’s abduction. It is a role that does not quite suit the character. Skinner can no longer deny the existence of aliens, either. His newfound belief has made him more of a hands on ally than before. “Within” sets a more serious tone for the season. There are no humor episodes so as to avoid trivializing Mulder’s absence. As a fan of the older, darker episodes, that is one of the few good points of the season. Discussion of aspects of the season will come as we get to them. For now, we should stick with “Within” in all its glory.

As I said above, it is the introduction of Doggett. Like Scully, he is named after a baseball announcer, Jerry Doggett, who was partners with Vin Scully from 1957-1987. The name is a also a play on words: Doggett is looking for Fox Mulder, so he is a ’dog” on a “fox” hunt. Doggett is played by Robert Patrick, probably most famous as the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Patrick beat out other actors Lou Diamond Phillips, Bruce Campbell, Hart Boechner, and Chris Noth for the role. While I try to avoid speculation on what might have been with these reviews, I recall thinking back in the day when these names were being floated about that Noth would have been the best choice, followed by Phillips. I do not recall feeling one way or the other about Patrick. I suppose that is good for the sake of reviews, since I have no significant prejudice as I would with, say, Bruce Campbell, whom I like, but would be a terrible fit in a tensely dramatic season.

“Within” has some scant scenes with David Duchovny as Mulder. Being aware that Duchovny is not going to play a large role in much of the season takes some of the drama out of the search for him. We know he is not going to show up for a while, so the intensity of his friends’ search for him loses some of its meaning. If I may reference some lesser science fiction, it reminds me of Sabrina Lloyd leaving Sliders. Her character was said to have been kidnapped and imprisoned in a breeding facility--she is being repeatedly sexually assaulted, in other words--with no chance the actress was ever going to return, so her friends’ search for her would never turn out successfully. the dynamic is not exactly the same, but one suspected Duchovny wanted an end to his character as quickly as possible just as Lloyd did. Sometimes it is difficult to get into the fiction when real world issues intervene. At least Duchovny did not alien the creative people enough that his character was ultimately gang-raped to death like a certain ms. Lloyd’s, no?

All but the last of Mulder’s appearances in “Within” are ambiguous as to whether they are real or part of Scully’s dream. She is tormented from the beginning by visions of him suffering brutal surgical experiments like having his soft palate drilled and his chest being sawed open with him anaesthetized. (Okay, is that worse than being gang raped by aliens? You make the call: Lloyd or Duchovny, who ticked off their respective creative staff more?) Scully is distraught over Mulder’s disappearance without hints that there was a romantic connection between them, which I appreciate. He was a close friend to whom she has a deep emotional connection. Shippers can read into it what they will, but this thankfully is not done as a tragic lost love story.

Scully arrives at the X-Files office a short time after Mulder’s disappearance to find agents going over the place with a fine toothed comb. They are part of a task force created by Kersh, whom you may remember was the assistant director the agents reported to when they were taken off the x-Files in the first half of the sixth season. I did not care much for the character back then, but he does fit in with what the show is looking for now--someone who is not exactly enthusiastic about ever finding Mulder, much less entertaining the possibility he was taken by aliens. Kersh has appointed Doggett to head the task force. Doggett is a former marine and NYPD detective. He is well respected and ambitious. Professionally speaking, he is the exact opposite of Mulder within the Bureau.

Scully and Skinner are naturally prime suspects since they are the ones who saw Mulder last. But obviously there must be more tension established than that, so Doggett hides his identity from scully when they first meet, then lies to her about knowing Mulder in order to get her honest opinion on his whereabouts. The odd partt is that he later complains she shows him no respect while he is just trying to help Mulder. One practically wants to yell at thee screen, ‘Well, then do not lie to her1 If anyone can help you find mulder, it is her.” The incident is an unnecessary creation of tension. Suspicion that she may have been involved with Mulder’s disappearance--not unreasonable from Doggett’s perspective--would be enough.

Doggett discovers Mulder has been keeping a secret from Scully and Skinner about the aftermath of his medical status after his brain anomaly last season. He had been secretly traveling about to a medical facility on a regular basis prior to his abduction. Post-abduction, someone purchased a tombstone for him in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as stolen his and Scully’s computer, and a file from the FBI--that of Gibson Praise. all of this in an effort to either done by Mulder to fake his abduction as proof of alien existence as Doggett suspects, or aliens cleaning up all traces of their activities as Scully thinks.

The return of Gibson praise is another hugely odd point. He was supposed to be a child prodigy who may have been part alien. He eventually disappeared along with an alien somewhere in Arizona. Then his story was completely dropped for two years until now. If the kid is such a key element to solving the mysteries of the universe, how come no one cared to find him, particularly considering once Doggett is aware someone stole his case file, praise is found within a few hours by both Doggett’s team and Scully separately? If it is that easy to find the kid, how come no one did over the last couple years? Bringing Praise back into the story creates a tie to the series’ past, but also creates some huge logical problems. He is a hugely important missing person, but apparently was not hard to find. Very strange. In the end, Doggett finds Praise in the desert after having been kidnapped by Mulder. To be continued…

The excitement level for “Within” is very subdued for a season premiere. We have to absorb an awful lot of changes to the dynamic which really are not done that well. The inherent, logical tension between Scully and Doggett is ratcheted up unnecessarily by his initial dishonesty. Why bring back Kersh? A new, shadowy character would have been a better choice. The whole Gibson praise reappearance is out of the blue and brings up questions of why no one has cared about him up until now, especially when he is so easy to find. Truth be told, “Within” feels like the creative staff was not expecting to have to make an eighth season, so they cobbled together an episode in a hurry by using old, familiar elements even if they really do not fit. Nostalgia is fine, but I would prefer it be done with more skill. “Within” is not a horrible start, but it does not hold much promise, either.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Brooklyn Decker

Monday, April 25, 2011

Haley Barbour Not Running for President

Political insider are oddly surprised Gov. Haley Barbour has declined tun run in 2012:
Haley Barbour said Monday that he won’t run for president in 2012, removing a fundraising powerhouse with establishment clout from the Republican primary field.

“This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided,” the Mississippi governor said in a statement.

“A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else,” Barbour added. “His [or her] supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”
Barbour’s decision to not run does not surprise me. He is using the buzz words of avoiding a decade’s worth of commitment being too much for him as a cover for the more specific truth--he is identified as being ’too Southern.” A neo-Confederate, really. Deservedly or not, (I do not believe he is a racist) he would wind up fighting off accusations of racism from the day he announced a serious bid for the White House.

I have only had a passing awareness of some of the accusations towards Barbour of being connected to, shall we say “Old South myths,” but I note he is more vilified than fellow southerner Mike Huckabee as far as potential presidential candidates from the old Confederacy go, so it would obviously only get worse for him as he hit the national campaign trail.

While I am not a political insider, I never thought Barbour had much of a chance at winning the nomination. I figured he would be among the first to bow out once he realized his appeal did not extend beyond the South. Perhaps I should lament Barbour’s withdrawal, but there nothing about the (remote) prospect of him becoming elected that ever excited me in the first place.

X-Files--"Requiem"

We have reached the seventh season finale. It is a pivotal point in the series. As the script was being written, the creators were unaware of the future of the show. It was certain David Duchovny was going to depart. His contract was up, there was some bad blood with the breach of contract lawsuit he had filed against 20th Century Fox the previous summer, and his willingness to gripe about being stuck on the series to the press spelled that out quite obviously. No one knew if The X-Files would be cancelled, continue on as a series with another actor, or move to the big screen, possibly with Duchovny agreeing to participate with the final option.

I will write more about what finally happened tomorrow when I begin reviewing the eighth season. For now, I will deal with the effects on this particular episode. It had to be written as a possible series finale, but with some possibility of carrying on with The X-Files in some form. Writer Chris Carter, who was not given the two hours for the episode he requested, brought back every recurring character to the setting of the Pilot in order to bookend the series. He left the two final pages to be written at the last possible minute to allow time for the network’s decision on The X-File fate.

Carter had a plan either way. If the series was cancelled, the final two pages would have featured Mulder encountering his father onboard the space ship after his abduction. Considering the cynical and/or ironic endings to many episodes, it would have been fitting to conclude Mulder’s search for alien life by being taken by them. If the show was going to carry on, Mulder’s fate would have been a mystery. The final pages would be the reveal that Scully is pregnant. At the last minute, the series was renewed, and Duchovny agreed to become a recurring character towards the end of the eighth season, so Scully wound up pregnant and the mystery of what happened to Mulder went in full swing. But those are the final two pages. The rest of the script has very much a sense of finality to it.

‘Requiem,’ which is a chant or song in remembrance of the dead, begins the X-Files office being audited. The agents have racked up quite an expense budget over the years. Mulder adopts an ambivalent attitude at the possibility of their travel being curtailed in favor of localized intelligence gathering instead. The auditor’s rationale, one which Mulder seems to agree, is that he now knows Samantha’s fate and the Syndicate is gone, so what is left, anyway? Scully is interviewed separately. She is surprisingly more adamant in her defense of the work than Mulder. The switch between the two previews the tone for the final two seasons in which Scully is far less the skeptic when working the X-Files than she ever has been. Nevertheless, you feel like this is the end.

When the auditor leaves, Mulder gets a call from Billy Miles, the Oregon abductee the agents investigated in the Pilot. A deputy has disappeared while investigating a possible UFO crash. In spite of being under budgetary scrutiny, the two travel to Oregon to look for the deputy and space craft.

Maria Coverrarubias appears at a prison in Tunisias where Alex Krycek has been held for months. Krycek has had a habit of popping into the series without explanation since he was first exposed as a spy, but this appearance is the wildest, most inexplicable of them all. The Cigarette Smoking Man, who arranged for his arrest in the first place, wants him in Oregon to look for the space craft, too. Krycek agrees, but for her flimsiest of reasons just to conveniently make him a bigger part of the story.

The agents’ Oregon adventure is a nostalgia trip. They find all the teenagers they met seven years ago have gotten over their abduction experiences and moved on with their lives. They even finsd the “X” spray painted on the road, though I am skeptical paint would have lasted all these years. Like I wrote earlier, Carter is throwing it all in there in case this is the series finale. Billy Miles thinks the space craft, which allegedly collided with an Aitr Force fighter, is still out there. He thinks his detective father is helping cover the incident up. He is right--his real father is dead. The one he is dealing with now is the Alien Bounty Hunter in disguise.

Mulder gets distracted by Scully in two ways. One, she passes out twice in Oregon, once after encountering the invisible space craft, though neither knows that, and another time in the missing deputy’s house. The other way is that he watches her playing with the deputy’s baby while his wife retrieves some medical files. The incidents remind him of all scully has lost while working with him. It brings back the old pangs of guilt from the middle seasons which were my favorite interpretation of the character. He was very protective of her then. Now that he is falling in love, he wants her off the X-Files because of the toll it has taken on her.

They find nothing, so they head back to Washington for the sole purpose of utilizing the Lone Gunmen’s expertise in analizing secret data given to skinner by Krycek as to where the space craft is and what the aliens are doing. Why has Krycek, who was following Mulder and Scully in Oregon, suddenly decide that, yes, he is angry enough at the CSM to stop working for him and help the good guys? Your guess is as good as mind. Carter appears to chalk it up to Krycek’s mercenary personality and leaves it at that. Well, okay.

The aliens are rounding up former abductees, presumably never to return them this time. Mulder plans to prevent this. He refuses to let Scully go since she is a former abductee, but she insists he take Skinner. They have their second tear-jerking shipper moment of the episode--this one does not involve them cuddling in bed like the other--and mulder heads to Oregon with Skinner. There was a possibility skinner would have become a more prominent character should the series be renewed, so his emotional involvement here is a potential set up for that.

Let behind, Scully sullenly examines the medical records of the abductees and learns they have had similar brain function disorders such as mulder suffered at the beginning of the season. This is the point she realizes she was rejected by the space ship when she passed out earlier. The aliens want Mulder. Unfortunately, she passes out again before she can tell anyone. Too bad, because Mulder is taken away right before Skinner’s eyes, along with the other abductees.

Before we learn Scully’s fate, there is an intervening scene in which Krycek allegedly kills the now wheelchair bound CSM down a flight of stairs. As the CSM will not show up again for two years, fans could do nothing but assume this was the lackluster end for a character who should have gone out in a far better blaze of glory. This is a guy who has survived all sorts of ends that no one else could have over the course of the series. Surely Carter could have done better than throw the guy down a flight of stairs. Thankfully, he did. But for two years there...ugh. What an awful idea.

In the end, Scully reveals her health issue is she is pregnant even though she is barren. She and skinner vow to find Mulder. You can say this is the beginning of the super-soldier mythology, but since the terms makes X-Philes cringe as badly as Trekkies at the term Xindi super weapon, we shall hold off on that as long as possible.

“Requiem” is not a bad episode, but it has far too many flaws to have potentially sent the series off. At times, it looks like the x-Files are going to be closed for budgetary reasons, then that Scully might quit. ONE minute, she and Mulder are partners, the next they appear to be in love. There is not a solitary lick of logic in krycek’s appearance, or actions. If Mulder is targeted for abduction for his former heightened brain activity, why not the CSM, since he had brain surgery to experience it, too? The Lonegun man have two minutes of screen time. Really, they are just there to call an ambulance for Scully. It is all very sloppy. It does not surprise me that a lot of fans did not return in the fall. ‘Requiem” is definitely a must see for X-Philes, but deflate expectations.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Lily Cole

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blogroll Spotlight #91

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. As usual, these are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title.

It is Easter Sunday, so there is a usual suspects round up followed by some grace holiday grace from Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill. Have a blessed Easter!

American Digest
American Perspective
Belmont Club
Blazing Cat Fur
Bluegrass Pundit
Camp of the saints
Classic Liberal
Da Tech Guy
Daley Gator
Five Feet of Fury
Gore's Grouse
In a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Jaded Haven
Left Coast Rebel
Liberalguy
Mind Numbed Robot
No Sheeples Here!
Other McCain
Paco Enterprisea
Pirate's Cove
Proof Positive
Right Klik
Sentry Journal
Six Meat Buffet
Teresamerica
Troglopundit
Washington Rebel

X-Files--"Je Souhaite"

“Je Souhaite” (French for “I wish’) will go down in the history of The X-Files for two big reasons. One, it is the first time the series has done three comedy episodes in a row. Perhaps the plan was to lighten the mood prior to the drama of what may or may not have been the series finale the next episode. Two, and more importantly, it is the last monster of the week episode to feature solely Mulder and Scully as partners. Tomorrow’s seventh season finale is a mythology story for the two of them, and they will hook up for a few more episodes before it is all said and done, but those will involve numerous characters added in the wake of David Duchovny’s departure. Things will never be the same again, so old school x-Philes like me have to savor the moment.

The episode features a 500 hundred year old woman--still hot, though--who discovered a genie back in the day. She wished for power and long life, so the genie made her a genie, too. Instead of a lamp, she is wrapped in an oriental rug. However unrolls her gets three wishes. Over the centuries, she has bounced from master to master, but granting their small-minded wishes has always turned out badly for them in the end. The genie has grown cynical of humanity because of the dumb things her masters want.

She is rescued from the rug by an idiot employee at a storage rental facility. The guy blows his first wish on making his boss shut up. The genie removes the guy’s mouth. The agents are contacted by the boss to investigate. They discover the former employee, Anson stokes, lives in a trailer park with his crippled brother Leslie and a huge yacht parked across several lots.The agents do not get anywhere with the investigation at this point.

Anson blows his final wish on invisibility, then is promptly killed when struck by a semi while distracted at the prospect of sneaking up to some unsuspecting girls for a little fondling. His body is discovered when a bicyclist flips over it in a cheap, slapstick pratfall that I still laughed out loud over in spite of myself. The special effects done to make the invisible Anson interact with his surroundings were done the old fashioned way, sans CGI save foor his autopsy, with much more impact, if you ask me.

The autopsy sequence is the best bit of the episode. Scully, who refuses to chalk the invisible body up to anything paranormal, is excited at the scientific discovery and alerts some Harvard Medical School professors to visit the morgue to see. Well, not see. You know what I mean. up until Scully paints the body, she is interacting with thin air as though there is something there. I do not know how many takes of the scene were filmed, but even in this, the best one, presumably, Gillian Anderson can barely keep a straight face while pretending there is a body on the slab.

Meanwhile, Leslie rescues the genie for three wishes himself. He is no brighter than his brother. Instead of wishing for his disabilities to be healed, he wants his brother back. Having never read “The Monkey’s Paw,” he forgets to be specific, so his brother comes back a mangled zombie. He blows another wish on something dumb, but cannot use his final wish before Zombie Anson blows up the trailer lighting a match with the gas stove on.

Mulder rescues the genie after the explosion, so he gets three wishes. Surmising past masters have made the mistake of wishing for selfish things, Mulder asks for world peace. The genie promptly gets rid of every human being on Earth other than him. (a world without people. How bad could that be?) He blows his second wish returning things to normal. While crafting his world peace wish as airtight as possible, he is convinced by Scully, who still does not believe the genie has powers, that the journey to world peace is part of man’s purpose. Maybe it should not happen because of one man’s wish. Instead, Mulder’s final wish is to grant the genie’s request--to be become human again.

Je Souhaite” is one of only two or three season seventh season episodes I consider classics. It features the agents in their original roles. Mulder is the True Believer who jumps to the conclusion way too early a genie is involved in the case, but with the lighthearted tone, the leap in logic is not horribly out of place. Scully plays the Skeptic, even clinging to science when examining an invisible body. Her skepticism even trumps her Christian beliefs when she convinces Mulder utopia should come by human effort without supernatural help. As in the past, her skepticism keeps him honest even though he was right about the genie and winds up being the hero by freeing her from her powers.

They saved the best comedy episode for last. “Je Souhaite” is fun, frivolous, and highly entertaining. There are some gruesome bits with the guy losing his mouth and Anson simplified, but both are played hilariously. It is a good thing the agents’ last monster of the week go around is such a marvelous episode. Tomorrow’s installment starts us on radical changes for the series’ increasingly rapid descent towards the end.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Gillian Anderson

The Significance of the Resurrection

I wrote this two years ago. I re-posted it last Easter because I did not think I could write up a better entry. Re-posting might as well become an Easter tradition. here are five Scriptually based points regarding the significance of the Resurrection.

First, the Resurrection proved Jesus was the Messiah:
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah]" (Acts 2:36).
Second, the resurrection proves his sacrifice on our behalf was accepted:
"Delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (I Corinthians 15:17).
Third, the Resurrection made being born again possible:
"We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3)
Fourth, the Resurrection brought about continued intercession:
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Finally, the Resurrection makes our resurrection possible:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (I Corinthians 15:20-21).
I spend a lot of time here recalling experiences with unsavory Christians in the past and not nearly enough exalting the good I have experienced in it. Sometimes it is hard to keep sight of one’s blessings. Easter Sunday is a time to count yours.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Doctor Who--"The Impossible Astronaut"

It has been a long wait, but the sixth series of Doctor Who has finally attired. “The Impossible Astronaut” is the first episode of the show to be filmed in the United States, though some establishing shots have been filmed here sans actors. There has been a big push as of late to get Americans more interested in Doctor Who. BBC America will now air the latest episode hours after the BBC, not months as before. Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, and Karen Gillan have made promotional rounds stateside. One would think all the stops would have been pulled out for the series premiere to be approachable and exciting for new, American viewers. One would be wrong.

Which is not to say “The Impossible Astronaut” is a bad episode. It is, however, bogged down in a lot of backstory from recent series that the audience is expected to automatically know. I do, mind you. Most fans are. River Song has been introduced before, we know she is traveling backwards in time so that the doctor is less familiar with her each time until he does not know her at all in the fourth season’s “Forest of the Dead”. We are familiar with something dangerous out there called the Silence. We know it is eventually going to destroy the TARDIS. We recognize a control panel discovered in this episode as being identical to the one in “The Lodger.” We know all these things, but a new viewer does not, and the poor guy or gal has to be scratching his or her head right now.

River, Amy, and Rory receive invitations to meet in Utah in 2011. When they all arrive, they encounter the Eleventh Doctor, but he is 200 years older. He is there to meet with someone rising out of a lake wearing an astronaut suit. He warns the three not to intervene in the meeting no matter what happens. Intervention becomes difficult to resist as the astronaut, whom the doctor recognizes, murders him, then disappears. The three sadly create a funeral pyre as the Doctor wished. They are joined by a fourth invite---a retired former FBI agent.

A short time later, they encounter the 900 year old version of the Doctor in a diner. He is headed to 1969 after being prompted to strange goings on involving aliens. The three opt to keep his eventual death a secret from him. (yikes. He was very cross at Amy last season for keeping a secret from him. She has not learned.) In 1969, they wind up at the White House. Richard Nixon, who looks more like Bob Dole, has been receiving phone calls for the past week from a mysterious little girl begging for help against aliens. Nixon called in Canton Delaware, a younger version of the FBI agent mentioned above, to handle the matter.

Yes, Canton Delaware. Just to let you know he is an American. I guess Jimmy Applepie would have been too contrived. Delaware is played by the great Mark Shephard. I am always happy to see him show up to play the anti-hero characters he does so well. Maybe it is because I am in an X-Files mindset, but I cannot help but think his outcast status with the FBI and apparent expertise with aliens makes Delaware a Fox Mulder homage.

There are aliens afoot. They are big-headed, black suit wearing critters all over the place. One can only remember them when looking directly at them, so they remain a secret even though Amy, Rory, and River encounter one or more at several points. Following clues, our heroes wind up in an abandoned warehouse in Florida where the little girl’s phone calls allegedly originate. There is an alien spaceship below the warehouse. It has been there for centuries. River and Rory are captured by the aliens as an astronaut appears to the Doctor and Amy above. There is a little girl inside the suit. Amy, believing if she kills the astronaut, she will save the Doctor from the future, shoots the little girl with Delaware’s gun as the cliffhanger.

A couple points. One, amy reveals she is pregnant. I assumed that would be the eventual case. Her giving birth would present an easy way of getting her and rory out the TARDIs without any drama once their time on the show is up. But now I assume the child is significant to the plot. I have mixed emotions about the possibility of a ’special’ child being at the center of a storyline. Two, the Silnce aliens shtick of being forgotten once a person is not looking at them feels like a variation of the Weeping Angels. Has Steven Moffat lost his sense of originality? I certainly hope not. I am holding out for big surprises in the remainder of the sixth series.

“The Impossible Astronaut” is decent, but unusual for a series premiere. There is very little action. The script is dialogue intensive, yet still fails to explain much of the backstory a new viewer really needs to know in order to get up to speed. There is obviously much set up for the series arc to add to the confusion. I am going to stick around for the payoff, but I am curious how many less dedicated fans will. There is not a heck of a lot of reason offered up here to do so.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #95

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

Sentry Journal links to It is Tax Day. Do You Know What Your Elected Officials Are Doing?
Motor City Times links to It is Tax Day. Do You Know What Your Elected Officials Are Doing?
Randy's Roundtable offers weekly thanks.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA #94, Blogroll Spotlight #90, and Kate Upton.
American Power links to FMJRA #94.
New Horizon links to FMJRA #94.
The Other McCain links to Kate Upton.
Say Anything Blog links to January Jones and Kate Upton.
Proof Positive links to January Jones and Kate Upton.
Teresamerica links to Casualties of War.
Blazing Cat Fur added The Eye to its blogroll.

A sincere thank you to all who linked this week. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

X-Files--"Fight Club"

It completely slipped my mind over the last eleven years that Kathy Griffin had a guest role on The X-Files. She was not at this point a full on obnoxious, d-list celebrity desperately attempting to slow her descent into obscurity by frequently attacking Bristol Palin, but she had yet to finance all the plastic surgery yet, is playing twins, and has scene in her underwear. You might think ’Fight club” is a wash, but it has a few big laughs that surprisingly make up for Griffin. Not by much, but in a fun, frivolous filler for this series sort of way.

Griffin plays identical sisters, Betty Templeton and LuLu Pfeiffer, who are products of sperm donation by their now imprisoned, but always insane father. After a chance encounter twelve years ago, they have pursued one another across the country attempting to ruin each other’s life. When they are in close proximity, their presence prompts overly aggressive behavior in people nearby. Mulder and scully investigate when two locally based FBI agents beat each other to a pulp while interviewing Betty about two door to door missionaries who also beat each other to a pulp.

Betty and LuLu are competing for the affection of a full time bank robber and part time professional wrestler. They are leaving behind a path of destruction in the process, but the agents still remain one step behind until the big fight in which said wrestler and object of affection will hand over stolen cash as well as put on a good show for a crooked fight promoter. In the interim, Scully discovers the bank robber/wrestler has a twin, too, so she gets the bright idea of bringing him to the fight so each of the sisters can have one. This plan is why Mulder is consider the brilliant one who is never wrong.

Up until this point, “Fight Club” has been a silly sitcom full of pratfalls, absurd fistfights, and mistaken identity scenarios. Had Scully plan worked with all four falling in love, thereby resolving the issue of prompting aggression in surrounding people, I would have considered it the laziest writing imaginable. Instead, both sets of twins prompt aggression, so a huge fight breaks out in the wrestling arena. Both Mulder and Scully get the tar beat out of them, too. Serves them right for not holding out for a better script.

The X-Files has a history of bad late season filler. Whether it is because the creators are running out of steam by that point or they are spending more time on the supposedly more involved season finaler, I cannot say. But “Fight Club” fit’s the usual motif. It is not very serious, nor is it particularly good. But being in the mindseet that it is late season filler, those are the episodes I feel like comparing them to in my pre-Easter generosity. In that regard, it has some big laughs even if the story is extremely predictable. They did not take the easy, happy ending route, however, and I give them some props for that.

“Fight Club” does not belong in the same class as other lighthearted episodes, but if you can stand Griffin in her underwear--no small feat, that--it is an enjoyable watch. I am uncertain why anyone thought the episode was a good idea in the first place, mind you. One high point: the episode takes place in Kansas City. Fats Domino’s version of “Kansas City” plays on a jukebox at one point. Good stuff:

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Karen Gillan

It is St. George’s Day in England, but forget that. Tonight is the premiere for the sixth series of Doctor Who! A new series of Doctor Who means more karen Gillan!

Gillan starts her second series as companion Amy Pond to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. Smith, too, is fast becoming a favorite, but he really cannot compete with a cute, leggy redhead sporting a Scottish accent. I am not the only one who thinks so, either. Gillan photos were a huge draw for the Eye last year. I am looking for a repeat in 2011.

I did not realize she was a guest on Craig Ferguson’s show last night. I was engrossed in the Atlanta Braves v. San Francisco Giants game that ran late into the night because the teams were playing on the west coast. By the time I discover Gillan was on, it was too late. At least the Braves shut out the giants 4-1, so the evening cannot be considered a loss by any reasonable standard.

The Doctor and Amy make a visit to the United States for the first two episodes, so Gillan goes native:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Formspring Question #139--Federation Benefits Edition

What benefits to planets get for seeking membership/joining the federation?
Universal liberty, rights, equality, access to collective knowledge, and mutual defense--all in theory, at least.

X-Files--"Hollywood AD"

“Hollywood AD” is the third and final episode of the seventh season to be written by a cast member. This time around, it is David Duchovny doing the writing and directing chores. Of the three, I plop this one firmly between William B. Davis’ “En Ami” as the best, and Gillian Anderson’s “all things“. Is it a bad episode? Not really, but it reminds me of a quote from Duchovny years ago in which he said Darin Morgan absurdly comedic scripts were his favorite to film because it seemed like Morgan was always trying to destroy the show. An attempt to destroy the show is about the best way to describe “Hollywood AD.”

The story is loosely based on master forger Mark Hoffman, a master forger who, in the ’80’s, convinced the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to buy fake documents which cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Church’s founding. Hoffman hoped his forgeries would pass inspection, but a couple of his Mormon accomplices got cold feet and threatened to expose his fraud. Hoffman planned to kill them with a homemade bomb, but was injured when the bomb went off as he was constructing it. The explosion prompted an investigation which uncovered the entire plot.

The forger in “Hollywood AD” is Micah, Hoffman, a former ’60’s radical who drafts a Gospel of Mary Magdalene which presents Jesus as a Man who carries on a romantic relationship with her. I assume Micah Hoffman is not only based on forger Micah Hoffman, but his background as a Weathermen sounds like a nod to Abbie Hoffman. I would not be too surprised, given the homage/parody tone of the script, if the idea of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a relationship was not a tweak at the direct lift of the last thirty minutes of the seventh season premiere.

Cardinal O’Fallon buys the forgery and an artifact which is claimed to be a bowl with the exact words Jesus used to raise Lazarus from the dead inscribed on it. O’Fallon destroys the forgery, but cannot bring himself to destroy the Lazarus Bowl. O’Fallon poisons Hoffman to keep him quiet, but Hoffman, who has had a change of heart after immersing himself in the life of Christ in order to draft his Gospel of Mary Magdalene, sets a bomb to destroy the forgery himself. The lazarus Bowl turns out to be real, so he rises from the dead just as O’Fallon is being arrested for his murder. The whole case is a wash. Mulder and Scully are suspended pending a possible lawsuit from the Catholic church.

You got all that? Do not fret if you have not. It is all quite irrelevant. The real heart of the episode is the final act. A screenwriter/producer friend of Skinner’s from college follows the agents around during the case hoping to find something interesting enough to film. The film turns out to be an Ed Wood laughably bad project starring gary Shandling and Tea Leoni produced in part by skinner himself. In the end, we discover O’Fallon murders Hoffman then kills himself. The fake Lazarus Bowl Mulder was eating popcorn out of turns out to have actually resurrection powers which raise zombies up for a cross between Thriller and Chicago dance number when no one is looking.

The best way to describe “Hollywood AD,” besides absurd, is self-indulgent. Duchovny made the script heavily Mulder and Duchovny-centric. Scully often plays third fiddle here as Mulder is the center of it all. However, I will note the few scenes she does have present the character as well as she has ever been written. Duchovny has a knack for balancing Scully’s characteristics better than just about any other writer. She is strong, but not hard. Smart, but not aloof. More fun would be the best way to describe her. Nevertheless, Mulder gets the best lines, particularly joke-wise, gets to toss in all sorts of indulgences like hanging out with his real wife Leoni and playing with The Larry Sanders Show that he and Shandling have a thing for one another, and some ax grinding. Certainly Mulder’s irritation as being presented as buffoonish in the film is a jab at his being stuck on a series for which he has a well recorded animosity.

“Hollywood AD” is entertaining, but very sill. I imagine the Duchuvny buffs find it better overall than I do. It is almost like two episodes in one, with the investigation and then the Hollywood bits. Duchovny, an avowed anti-theist, takes some pointed jabs at Christianity’s alleged disinterest in the natural world versus the spiritual which reminds me of Christopher Hitchens’ accusation Mother Teresa was less interested in relieving the physical suffering of people than promoting the church. It is distracting, but so angry atheist amateurish, I have an hard time taking it seriously enough to get angry. Duchovny is having fun here stroking his ego while taking jabs at anything and anyone he does not like. Take that for what it’s worth.

Rating: *** (out of 5)