Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buck Reviews 24: Day 7, 11:00 PM - 12:00 AM

This week's episode was a little light. Not necessarily bad, but not the 24 gold standard either.





• Hey, it’s Dr. Sunny Macer from Season 3! Loved the double-take she and her partner give Jack when they saw his scars. Did she and Jack never actually interact the last time she was on the show (She was at the hotel for most of her screentime, and Jack was never actually at that location.)? I found it odd that she introduced herself to him in this episode.
• Hodges thinks Tony will turn again? I doubt it.
• Your false modesty isn’t fooling me, Olivia! Chief of Staff is what you’ve been waiting for.
• Renee is totally in love with Jack, isn’t she? And is it my imagination, or has she gotten paler as the day wore on? (Maybe it’s just the fluorescents…)
• Ah, a crisis of conscience from Hodges’ right-hand man.
• Larry thrives much more in the office setting than when he’s in the field.
• Holy crap! Jack smiled! And he made a funny!
• This has been a good tension-builder episode. I would have liked a bit more action, but the build-up to it has been handled rather well.
• I know Tony’s helping them, and at this point, the FBI’s taking any help they can get, but earlier in the day we had an argument about how Tony couldn’t go to the White House because he would be arrested. I assume they’re just giving him a pass pending a successful end to the hostilities?
• Nice twist. And nicely played by Hodges’ assistant.
• Mexican stand-off. Nice.



Thoughts:
Overall, not a lot to talk about. Kind of a filler episode, but it still had some good beats. Watching these online, I don’t see the preview for next week’s episode (which is fine by me, as FOX has a history of putting massive spoilers in those previews), but I’m assuming we’re going to see a nice ol’ shoot-out with Jack and Renee swooping in to save the day.

Man, do we really have 8 episodes left? Where do we go from here?



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hooper Reviews Heroes: Fugitives - Episode 7

Heroes Season 3
Volume Four: Fugitives


Episode Seven: "Cold Snap"


What Happened:

Bryan Fuller returned with "Shades of Gray," but this week he really lets 'er rip.

First off, you can tell the writing duties have shifted, providing more specifics for camera shots, as the direction of the episode was superior to what's come before. Technically, it was better than anything this (half of the) season.

One of the parting shots last week was of Sylar in Danko's apartment, while Danko was present. This episode opens with Danko shaving and we see his routine, the meticulous nature of it, until the door alarm goes off ("The front door is open," chimes a voice). Grabbing a gun, he makes his way through is apartment to the entryway, closing the door. It's then, as he stalks into this living room, that he sees the present Sylar left him: Doyle, the Puppetmaster, all trussed up and unconscious with a note: "My gift to you."

HRG ducks around honking cars in stalled traffic and gets into a Angela Petrelli's car. With Nathan and Peter both flapping in the wind, it's up to the Company Man to keep the Angela's secret agenda on track. They back and forth about how HRG needs to give over a big fish to Danko, she suggesting Rebel and HRG offering up...her. She does him a favor and gives him her umbrella; he does one right back and says "don't go home." Theirs is a peculiar, but dynamic relationship. Spymaster and spy.

And he did, fortunately, leave her on guard. Shortly after he leaves, she asks the driver why they've stopped and as he's answering, plainclothes agents yank him out of the car and reach in for Angela, too. Then she jerks awake; it was one of her visions. She leans forward and tells the driver not to stop, ah, but there's construction- His door opens and he's pulled out, but she's long gone, having ducked out. She sidles up to a businessman. Silly me, what a day to forget an umbrella, can I share? she coos.

Danko has Mohinder brought to room marked "Human Resources; it's the storage room for the drugged heroes, including the mortally wounded Daphne. Thinking he's been brought to help her, Mohinder demands she be taken to a hospital. And then he's zapped and hooked up; remember, he was about to work with Nathan. HRG is offered a "ta da..." gift by Danko - the Puppetmaster, who did unpleasant things to Claire and Sandra. Danko claims he caught him. HRG offers to snag Rebel in return, by letting Tracy go and using her as bait. If the plan goes awry, she can always be killed in "self-defense." Tracy is briefly shown concentrating and breathing out frosty air...under the heat lamps.

Across the country, Hiro and Ando find themselves taking care of Matt Parkman, the baby and not the telepath sci-fi'ed back to infanthood. Turns out Janice Parkman (the two-timing ex) had her a baby boy - Parkman's. The two don't know what to do. Save Matt Parkman, was their quest, but this isn't their Matt Parkman to (want to) save. Hiro wants grandeur, Ando thinks there's more to the situation and the baby turns on the TV (look, adult Matt Parkman in a bomb vest on the news!). Hiro turns it off. This goes back and forth as our Japanese duo argue, with Hiro finally unplugging the TV (bad Baby! No TV for you.). It's only when Baby Matt turns the TV on...while it's unplugged...that Hiro and Ando start paying attention.

After Angela's escape, over in Building 26, Noah hangs up the phone and says she escaped. Probably tipped off, fumes Danko. She is clairvoyant, reminds HRG. And then the lights go out. "Rebel, rebel," quips HRG.

Tracy's heat room is shut off and she freeze-breaks her shackles, leaving through the unlocked door. Rebel guides Tracy through B26 to "Human Resources." She unhooks the important people (Matt, Mohinder, Daphne) while leaving the rest to rot. That she did that is impressive for her selfish character. Matt mentally blocks them from the guards they run across and, once on the street, Tracy ditches them. Matt carries Daphne to a hospital, Mohinder in tow.

Things move quickly. Matt gets Daphne into a hospital, nudging the doctor's gray matter so he won't report it as a gunshot wound. Matt and Mohinder stay with her.

Tracy slips into a department store and is in a dressing room, stealing clothes (creatively freezing off the security tags) when instead of a helpful assistant knocking (a different size?), it's HRG chiding Tracy that she should've stayed with the telepath. She threatens the wicked cold snap she's been building up; HRG thinks his drawn gun would finish her before the cold got him. A battle he doesn't want to fight. Lead me to Rebel, he claims, and he'll let her go - still on the run, but with a chance.

Hiro stars packing a bag for the baby; they will take him with them. Ando wonders if Hiro is so cold to the baby because of his own strained childhood: distant father...departed mother. It's then that Hiro tells Ando that he held his mother as she died when traveling back into the past (see Season Three, volume 3: Villains). He's trying not to cry, to be brave for the baby (of course nearly making Ando cry). Someone enters the home, breaking their Moment. They pull an ET and hide in the baby's closet, but Janice knows they aren't babysitters and gets a bit testy. When they start in about Baby Matt's power, she starts to believe they are genuinely there to help. Ah, but then the door again: agents.

They need Janice and Baby Matt for questioning. But he's just a baby.... She realized the danger Baby Matt is in and goes with the agents, saying they can get the boy from his babysitters. The agents clearly don't believe her and storm the house. Baby Matt brushes a hand against Hiro's face. Ando shoots his red lightning against the agents with forceful effect, only to get a gun butt to the face.

Hiro, previously powerless, freezes time. Yatta!

Turns out the "go/ignition" power of Baby Matt's works with people, too. Unfortunately, the touch only brings back the time freezing, not teleportation, so Hiro has to put Ando in a wheelbarrow and cart him twelve miles to the bus stop before restarting time. Toddler Touch and Go. Hurm.

Tracy passes an ATM that speaks her name, gives her money and a receipt that lists a Union Station locker containing ID and a boarding pass. She hops in a cab. Micah, watching from the sidelines, follows her.

So to be clear: Micah is Rebel, helping the nasty tart that looks like his mom. Can this end well?

Angela meets her friend Millie for lunch, seeking help. Well, she won't get it...at least not without receiving a tongue-lashing about her bizarre behavior since Arthur's death. Angela doesn't want to hear it, she's trying to help her boys and needs cash, clothes, a car. But Millie says then turn yourself in. That won't work for Mrs. Petrelli. She gets up to leave, but Millie relents and forks over all her cash (several hundred); Angela grabs her umbrella. Walking down the street later, she spots some plainclothes and tries to elude them, only to realize she's in a closing ring. Ducking into a hotel, she gets into an elevator before getting nabbed. Instead of going higher, the agents bring her car down. Just before she stops, she hears a thud on the car's roof. The doors open and Peter is there. He flies away with both of them.

Daphne wakes up, healed, and leaves the hospital. To Matt, she says their relationship was a mistake and she's going back on the run. She won't slow down for anyone.

At Union Station, Tracy opens the locker and gets the docs. Micah reveals himself and his role, to Tracy's chagrin. She tells the kid this was set-up to get Rebel - him. Micah wonders how she can be so selfish. He sets off an alarm so they can slip out. They walk through a parking garage, and Micah makes it known he thought, from her political bio, that she was altruistic. Maybe a few years back, but not now, she replies. Danko's forces make some noise and close in. Tracy asks Micah to talk to the sprinklers and get them to go off - and then to run. "Stay ahead of the ice."

Sprinklers drenching her and a squad of commandos, Tracy steps out from behind a car and walks to the middle of the garage. The others circle around her, pinning her in, guns drawn. And then she freezes everything. It isn't a quick freezing flash but works in waves, icing them more and more as she pushes the cold snap out of her. She even freezes herself solid, though she still lives. Micah escapes before the cold reaches him. Danko emerges after the "attack" has stopped and shoots Tracy in the chest, shattering her. HRG comes to his side and looks down (sadly?). A chunk of Tracy's face - her eyes, forehead and the top of her nose - comes into view. A tear runs down from one eye...and it blinks.

Daphne is in Paris when Parkman catches up to her, telling her he knows she loves it. How did he get there so fast? He flew. How'd she get there? Ran on water. And then he starts to actually float and offers her a view of the Eiffel Tower few ever get. She takes him up and they fly together. In the air she figures out this is all an illusion, and she's still in the hospital bed dying. Paris, the argument, reconnecting - it's all to give her a better end than what she got. And because he refuses to let her go. She asks him if he'd do her a favor. Anything. "Fly me to the moon." The jet off up in the sky and then across, a straight line to the moon...that becomes a flat line on the heart-rate monitor. Mohinder consoles Parkman.

Peter and Angela stand in the head of the Statue of Liberty and he asks her what she wants to do now.

To be continued in "Into Asylum."


***

Daphne and Tracy are dead, the latter only until the writers can work in a way to rebuild her. Daphne's death, while sad, is OK. She wasn't adding anything to the story and her relationship with Parkman was pretty contrived (ok, he sees them together in a possible future that also has Sylar a doting husband in oven mitts? Nah. That's like hoping Sandra Bullock and Keanue make it as a couple after Speed). And her power wasn't even used to its fullest offensive capacity.

Hiro has confronted his grief, and with Ando and a new mission, perhaps he can become more of the courageous man he only mimics now.

Danko isn't happy with HRG, but at least got to kill a hero.

Micah is Rebel, the communications hub of a future heroes movement. But is he mature enough to be smart with who he contacts and to accept orders? He's smart, but just a kid.

Angela and Peter might be forming the nucleus of a resistance - brains and power.

No hero is in chains who we care about, but Sylar might be aiding the "enemy."

***

Next week, Sylar propositions Danko...to be his partner (dun dun duuuuun!!!).

Heroes: Fugitives
Episode One: "A Clear and Present Danger"
Episode Two: "Trust and Blood"
Episode Three: "Building 26"
Episode Four: "Cold Wars"
Episode Five: "Exposed"
Episode Six: "Shades of Gray"


-Hooper


Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: Awesome

This seems familiar, but I don't know if I've actually seen it before. Was it a Super Bowl ad?


In any case, it is, in a word...awesome.





-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Unused Final Crisis Cover

Few people know the original ending to Final Crisis didn't culminate in Superman saving the day, as per normal, but rather another titan we all know and love.



Da smackdown with Darkseid woulda been brutal.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Buck Reviews 24: Day 7, 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM


Another very solid hour as we make our way towards Day 7's finale. Good character moments all around, with a healthy dose of action to boot.




• Good for Larry, not taking any crap from Kanin.
• Tony seems reluctant to help. Still angry over Emerson’s death?
• Hey, looks like Henry’s all right. That’s good news for the Taylor household.
• And we say good-bye to Bob Gunton as Kanin resigns. At least he’s still got that warden gig at Shawshank…
• Connor Trinneer! Star Trek: Enterprise’s Chief Engineer Trip Tucker joins the battle against terrorists. Well, sort of. First he’s going to get the delightful experience of Jack putting a gun to his head.
• “They’re six-year-olds, Greg. They need to eat their carrots.” I don’t know why, but I find that to be a great bad-guy line.
• Jon Voight’s Hodges is slimy, smug, and acts like a spoiled kid who didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas. I like him.
• “You and I both knew he was dead the minute he stepped out there.” Damn, Tony. I know you’ve had a raw deal the last few years, but that’s cold.
• Does anyone else want to smack the smug right off Olivia’s face? And now she gives the go-ahead on these stories?! Karma’s going to give this girl one hell of a payback in the final hours, mark my words.
• Put it together, Larry…you may not like Jack, but you’re not stupid.
• Good for you, Jack. I don’t care what Tony’s argument was, that man didn’t deserve to die. Plus, we got a great tough-guy exchange out of it:
“You’re going to turn a surveillance job into a firefight? It’s gonna be two against ten.”
“Two against nine.” Bad. Ass.
• Sometimes I wonder just how much adrenaline Jack’s heart can take. He temporarily flatlined in Season 2, went through heroin withdrawal in Season 3, endured a year-and-a-half of torture in a Chinese prison…you’d think eventually his heart would just stop.
• Well what did you think that hissing sound was, genius?
• Don’t worry, Jack. I’m sure you’ll be fine. You are signed for additional seasons and a 24 movie, after all.

Thoughts:
1. A really good episode, continuing the tension felt in the very first hours of the day.
2. Renee's been side-lined too long. We need her back out there with Jack in these last hours.
3. I like that while Tony's still fighting for the greater good, he's now more of a gray-area hero compared to Jack's black-and-white worldview. (Or would one argue that Jack is the gray-area hero? I see his "whatever it takes" attitude as being more clear-cut.)
4. I've read some pretty negative things about Larry in other reviews. Am I the only one watching who actually likes him?
5. Will Morris and Chloe be back?
6. How bad is the shitstorm going to be when all of Olivia's dirty dealings come to light?
7. Can't wait 'til next week.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hooper Reviews Heroes: Fugitives - Episode 6

Heroes Season 3
Volume Four: Fugitives


Episode Six: "Shades of Gray"


Note: This will be really short, as I didn't see the whole episode the first time around and have been busy since.


A quick rundown:

*Parkman had a bomb strapped to his chest by the Hunter (Danko); he was drugged and released into a crowded area around Congress. The SWAT team surrounded him, and Nathan quickly arrived (flew) at the scene, calming Parkman down. Matt was able to read a bomb tech's mind and defuse the device. He was taken into custody after being knocked out by Nathan (can't have him reading minds now, can he?).

*Sylar came to the end of his road trip, an old shack in the woods, and finally met his father, Samson Gray (played liver-spotted, in full beard and very grey by John Glover)...who turned out not to be the great white hunter Sylar expected. Dying of cancer, on oxygen, Samson also has the intuitive/absorption power. In fact, he "hunted" for a number of years before giving up on the big game, finding it pointless, and settling in with what powers he can still remember (including a lulling whistle [sedation] and telekinesis).

He stuffs animals now (not slang for anything, you pervs). Sylar chose not to kill him and instead sought answers, such as why did Samson kill his wife (as seen last episode in flashback). Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to his memory, and Samson didn't remember. But he did remember the hunger that drove him to kill for powers, that Sylar deals with, when he saw his son cut his finger and then heal.

Pinning him to the wall with arrows and sedating him, he moved to cut Sylar's head open and gain access to all his abilities, but was stopped. Sylar was playing possum (irony!) and proceeded to choke Samson with his own oxygen tube...before realizing it better to let this old, broken man die alone and in pain. He left, having only made one mistake: he told Samson where he got the healing power...a cheerleader in California

*Tracy got moved back into her heat room in Building 26, received a message from Rebel that hope is coming, and then Nathan said that he's her "only hope." Danko questioned her about Nathan, trying to get her to admit he has a power (she did say, "You're one of us!" at one point). She replied he's lousy in bed, and doesn't know anything about any power.

*Danko continued to press Nathan, but it appeared he pressed to hard. Nathan came back after the Parkman affair with a presidential order removing Danko from the task force. Catching the Senator in a glass (exterior) elevator, Danko shot the glass and pushed Nathan out. Of course, Nathan flew away after exchanging quite a look with our dear Hunter. "Tell me you didn't know about this," Danko whispered to a stunned HRG.

*Claire helped the Puppetmaster (Doyle) evade the agents and supplied him with fake IDs. While she was saving him, he actually resisted the urge to have a female agent shoot herself, instead forcing her to knock herself unconscious against a wall.

*Hiro and Ando got a message from Rebel telling them to save Matt Parkman at a certain address. They showed up, looking for "Matt Parkman" and are mistaken for babysitters...for the infant named "Matt Parkman." Hilarity is sure to ensue.

To be continued next week in "Cold Snap."


Heroes: Fugitives
Episode One: "A Clear and Present Danger"
Episode Two: "Trust and Blood"
Episode Three: "Building 26"
Episode Four: "Cold Wars"
Episode Five: "Exposed"


-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Mixed Signals

A few thoughts regarding the proposed Illinois crosswalk/pedestrian law that would require cars to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk:

To be clear, I have no issue with a law on our books stating that for the crosswalk going with the flow of traffic, the pedestrians should have right-of-way vs. turning cars. That's common sense.

However, entering into law the notion that a driver would be legally responsible to stop (therefore in the wrong, in case of an accident) when a pedestrian uses the crosswalk that runs against the flow of traffic is more than just bad legislation. It's dangerous.

We have walk/don't walk signals at all stop-light controlled intersections. This lets pedestrians know when it is safe to freely cross (walk), when discretion is required (don't walk-flashing) or when it is unsafe and then can't/shouldn't walk (don't walk-solid). When traffic is flowing, say, east-west, the north-south crosswalk signals show a "don't walk" sign, the equivalent of a pedestrian's "red light." They know not to cross, as they would be going against the flow of traffic and, as such, in the wrong for any accident. It all has to do with respecting those with whom you share the road - cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, rickshaw drivers (Chinatown), etc.

If the law, as proposed, is passed, that "don't walk" signal becomes meaningless. Now, pedestrians no longer have any legal obligation (only mortal) to not cross against traffic. Why should they? The law says they are in the right and cars must yield to them. It's hazardous for their lives and the motorists and is bad form when held against the rules of the road and all the safety skills we had drilled into us at Safety Village.

In a perfect metropolis, the only big vehicles on the roads would electric street cars, with bike lanes and better sidewalks. But we don't live in this semi-science fiction world. We have cars, and must deal with their presence not with hostility but respect, as we want them to respect us, the pedestrians. Violating the crosswalk signals places us in mortal danger, as it does those cars headed towards us.

A new law on the books would also add undue mental distress to motorists who would face not only the physical and mental damage of hitting a dumb guy who saunters across the road in clear ignorance of the "don't walk" solid signal, but also new legal woes. Moving forward with what is presented, we're treating motorists as health advocates treat smokers - not deserving of equal treatment.

I'd urge you to push for a change to this crosswalk law, to contact your state congressmen and senators and see some positive amendments put in place. If not that, I would implore you to think through the ramifications of this law in all their forms.

More information can be obtained by talking to the
Active Transportation Alliance, a great non-profit promoting "better biking, walking and transit."

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: What I've Been Reading


I think Hooper's going to be starting a similar feature, each time recapping his ten most recent reads. This is sort of a follow-up to my "Year in Books" post; everything I've read since the start of 2009.


The Lost Ones by Christoper Golden -- The conclusion of Golden's Veil Trilogy. Not quite the ending I was expecting, but a very entertaining conclusion all told. This series has been one of the author's more memorable works.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi -- A gripping true-crime story in the grand tradition of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, full of insane twists and police incompetence. Both authors eventually came under suspicion for being involved with the titular killer, with Spezi even going on trial. A great read.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- Last year, I picked up a nice two-volume paperback set containing all of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. I decided to start off with the best-known Holmes story, and was greatly entertained by the mystery Doyle crafted. I can't wait to get into the rest of the collection and see if he can maintain that level of writing.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons -- Decided to read it again before seeing the movie (though maybe I shouldn't have). I still haven't read all of the back-up material though.

Gil's All-Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez -- When the back cover promises a werewolf and vampire (Duke and Earl, respectively) battling an army of zombies and the impending apocalypse...how do you not buy that book? Martinez's novel is a rousing horror/comedy romp. I don't know if there are any more Duke & Earl novels, or if he's planning any more, but I'll definitely start checking out more of his work.

Infected by Scott Sigler -- Hooper raved about this one, so I checked it out from the library. I'll say one thing for it; it moves at a break-neck pace. And while it's entertaining, I found it hard to relate to any of the characters. Still, the set-ups laid out in the closing chapters did get me to check out the sequel, Contagious.

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis -- Anyone who reads Warren Ellis knows about the "stock Warren Ellis protagonist," and this novel's Mike McGill fits right into that mold. Overall, a disappointing effort. But there are pieces of prose in there that make you wish Ellis could break out of his self-inflicted mold and write something truly great, rather than what boils down to guilty pleasure reading. Pick it up used or from the library if you choose to read it.

Currently, I'm reading Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, and it's off to a good start. If anyone's read any of these novels, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Buckshot: Thoughts From the Morning Commute

Whilst Mrs. Buck and I were driving to work this morning, Nickelback's "Photograph" came on the radio. And I noticed, not for the first time, that certain stations omit this verse when they play it:



Remember the old arcade
Blew every dollar that we ever made
The cops hated us hanging out
They said somebody went and burned it down.




Now while I, like most people, find most radio edits silly (I've always said if it's a word I can hear on television in the 8 PM - 9 PM timeslot, it's a word I should be able to hear on the radio), I can't for the life of me figure out why these lines get edited out on certain stations. It's not like there's profanity there. Is it for what's implied? Are they afraid it's going to promote arson? That some impressionable youth will hear the song and suddenly have a desire to set a building ablaze? When you consider that a few of the band's other songs have rather thinly-veiled references to oral sex, a reference to burning down a building seems mundane in today's "violence is okay, but sex is bad" culture.


*Sigh*...I just can't figure it out. What say you, dear readers?


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Buck Reviews 24: Day 7, 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM


Jack fails to prove his innocence and gets into even hotter water. Plus nefarious dealings with the First Daughter, and I make some erroneous snap judgements as I "live-blog" this week's episode. (Can it technically be live-blogging if I watched it online? I did type the review as I watched it.)




• Morris is back, and he’s asking about Chloe. Renee’s back in the FBI office as well. Supporting characters are about to join forces...maybe
• Whose car did Jack steal? Is that the Quinn, the assassin’s car? Larry’s…well, it’s obviously not Quinn’s car.
• Sounds like Hodges is preparing for some sort of coup d’ tat…and he’s basically running Blackwater?
• And Renee’s busted. Any bets on how long until Morris (and possibly Janis) but her and Chloe out of holding?
• I’ve been really enjoying the scenes between Jack and Senator Meyer.
• Allison’s hanging Kanin out to dry, or so it seems. She’s denying it, but she’s not unhappy he’ll soon be in trouble with the press.
• Well, I misjudged the whole Chloe-in-holding situation. It’s more of Morris bargaining for Chloe’s release than an exciting jailbreak. But it is in fitting with the character.
• Despite the manhunt for Jack, this has been kind of a slow episode...yet I really don’t mind. This season, the small moments have been just as solid as the big action-y ones.
• Show of hands, who else saw Meyer’s assassination coming? Shame too, since he and Jack were finally getting a rapport going.
• I call bullshit on Allison’s explanation. I say she leaked the story about Burnett, then went right back and killed it to get in the president’s good graces and stick it to Kanin.
• I was expecting Jack to just jump Quinn from behind after he emptied his gun into the office, but the forklift thing was SO much better.
• That was a pretty good fight scene between Jack and Quinn. One of the better 24 fights in recent memory.
• Larry thinks Jack killed Meyer, but why wouldn't he? I've read reviews that really rag on Larry's by-the-book attitude, but I find it refreshing. It's more fun when not everyone trusts Jack implicitly. Larry actually reminds me a lot of Ryan Chappelle.
• Tony’s back in play now that Jack’s back to fugitive status.

Thoughts:
A solid episode, and the connection of Hodges and his Starkwood group to Juma and Sangala isn’t so overly complex as to be implausible. While we’ve done the traditional villain shift/threat escalation the show does as the season progresses, I like that the overall plot throughline (crazy bastards want to mess with Washington) hasn’t changed all that much. Jack's fight with Quinn was appropriately brutal and dirty. Jack fights much the way I saw Rorschach's fighting style in Watchmen described: He fights like a cornered pitbull.

A shame we lost Sen. Meyer, as I was starting to actually like him. But still, we got Tony, Morris, and Chloe back in play, so it's not all bad. I look forward to seeing how we wrap up these last ten episodes.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Buckshot: The Economic Crisis Hits Metropolis





I hereby cast my vote for Jon Hamm as Lex Luthor in the next Superman film.

EDIT: Looks like sometimes the embedded video loads and sometimes it doesn't. Here's a direct link.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trade-Waiting: Why Make It Hard First?!


Raise your hands if you intend to buy the "Thor: Balder the Brave" Premiere Marvel Hardcover, 176 pages for $25. I...don't see much interest. Collecting Balder the Brave 1-4 and Thor 360-362, seven issues from the mid 80s, Marvel has decided to sap your wallet of its meager cash supply, insisting these issues require fancy treatment. Yes, Walt Simonson, author and co-artist (with Sal Buscema), tells a very epic tale and his style has definitely influenced the current generation of "widecreen" artists, not to mention the recent slate of Matt Fraction-penned Thor tales.

But $3.57 per issue for seven, 20+ yr-old comics that no one's beating down the door to buy in deluxe edition? Is this the best we can get collect? Thinking on Thor, what about Dan Jurgens's run that, more recent and "relevant" to modern audiences, remains only collected piecemeal?

While these old comics are great, and Simonson's Thor run deserves to be fully collected, why not choose omnibus trade paperbacks that are affordable? For $24.99, DC reprinted the whole of Superman's "Our Worlds At War" saga - 20 issues! - and fulfilled the two "A+A" principles of comic book trade collecting: Affordability and Availability. Yet even DC has been failing, with Marvel, on the first principle, probably the most important.

Because publishers love it hard.

***

Release a popular story, and you know it will sell in trade in today's market. A great example is the Sinestro Corps War in the Green Lantern titles over at DC. Several one-shots and months worth of both Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Corps, the "SCW" was admired by fans and non-fans alike for its effective, clear, self-contained storytelling. Three collections (vol. 1, vol. 2 and Tales of the "SCW") hit stores after the conclusion...in hardcover. The prices were $24.99 for vols. 1 & 2 and $29.99 for Tales...; the softcovers (or what we traditionally think of as "trades") are $14.99 for each.

So let's break that down looking at vol. 1. It collected the one-shot that started the story as well as the next four parts. The HC prices out at ~$5 ($4.998) per issue. To be fair, that's how much the GL: Sinestro Corps Special cost, and it was 64 pages. The other issues carried a $2.99 cover price, a $2 mark-up in HC. Of course, materials costs in a hardcover are greater than an SC.

Over in that SC, each issue costs you $3 ($2.998). So it's a $1.96 savings over buying the issues as they were released, while the HC is a $8.04 mark-up over the singles.

Which would you choose?

This is but one illustration of a trend that's gripped the Big Two over the last several years. Before 2000, trades were rare to begin with; only the biggest stories were collected, or those by the better-known creators. Titles were sporadically gathered into trades, often leaving large gaps between storylines (tragically, in the 1990s there was no DC or Marvel title fully collected among their best-sellers - that goes for Superman, Batman, Spider-man, the X-Men, etc. - when such a practice would've probably revolutionized comic collecting). The back issue business boomed (well, then busted, but it boomed for years before that!).

Over the last ten years, publishers have realized the revenue potential of the bookstore market, which means you need collections, square bound if softcover or just HC, to fill shelves. And because we're dealing with capitalist organizations, they want to make a buck. Thus, overpriced hardcover collections are released, followed months later by softcovers.

It used to be that HCs were reserved for the best a company had to offer. Neil Gaiman returns to The Sandman with "Endless Nights," released first as an oversized HC and then later, an oversized SC. It was a big deal, and the HC made that apparent; it even broke into the NYTimes top 20 fiction bestsellers (HC) when it was released. Now, you get every so-so X-Men arc in "premiere" HC shortly after it concludes, with the SC still half a year away. The pizazz of the hardcover collection is diminished.

***

Let us not deride collecing in trade every issue of an ongoing series. There's nothing wrong with creating such a backlist. Personally, I think it's great to be able to check out a year's worth of a series from the library or "trade-waiting" (the practice of not buying singles and only getting trades) and not missing anything. But Marvel and DC are missing the point. People buy these things for convenience/availability, yes, but due to the financial breakdown of the trade allowing for better affordability than singles.

Single-issue ads pay for large chunks of a comic's cost as does the cover price itself; trades then, ideally, are closer to "pure profit," produced after creators are paid their gross fees with just royalties owed now (if any) as well as production costs. Therefore, trades can be priced less than the sum of the single issues they collect. That's the logic that governs softcovers, but HCs are priced higher (in the case of vol. 1 of Sinestro Corps War, ~ 47% higher) to capture more profit. The economic logic is simple - understandable, in today's highly competitive market - but long-term deadly.

Imagine I'm a new comic book reader. I decide to collect X-Men in trades, as there's no comic book store nearby, but I can get the collections easily at my local Borders. I decide this after 1) seeing one of the X-movies on cable and checking out the first Astonishing X-Men trade from the library. Going whole hog, I choose to get all three main X-titles (adjectiveless, Uncanny and
Astonishing), as it will cost less in trade than in singles, so I can afford all three. I follow along online with what's going on in the singles, when stories end and when I can expect trades. Much to my disappointment, however, my financial situation does not allow me to pay 40%+ more for the issues in HC and that is the only way I can get the titles once the arcs have finished. I could
wait for half a year (at least) for the SCs and realize my 10%+ savings, but I am disillusioned that for entry-level titles at the biggest comic publisher in the US, I have to pay a premium to get what is essentially the second go-around of the offering plate. I am punished for buying the collections. I make another decision and choose not to get the HCs. In time, I forget why I wanted to buy these in the first place and just...drop comics. Then, I go on a shooting spree.

While a bit extreme, the above does illustrate the problem of releasing HCs so far in advance of softcovers. There is no incentive to buy HCs if you're watching your wallet and SCs are down the line; but then again, there is much rage when forced to wait close to a year after a story's wrapped up to buy said softcover. Much rage.

***

How does the "HC-first" policy help titles? Are the companies claiming it's better for business and helps grow the customer base? If anything, new customers will abandon bookstores and comic book shops (the former matters less than keeping the latter alive and prosperous), heading for discounts online at Amazon or DCBS. This hurts the industry, long-term, by destabilizing brick-and-mortor retailers like a Comics Galore or Graham Cracker Comics or Asylum Comics.

So it's no only the consumer who is punished by the edict to issue trades in HC first, softcover later, denying them affordability (you can't argue that the quick publication denies availability; in fact, they publish collections - incl. HCs - so quickly now for a lot of titles, that availability of a story is almost better than during the hey-day of the "comic book shop" pre-1994); now the comic book store that kept the industry alive* during the bleak mid- and late-90s loses business to the online retailer because it can't offer the same level of discounts.

What sort of companies deliver their primary (or most visible) delivery system? With the newsstand market long gone and other distribution methods still in growing pains, it becomes more apparent to me to provide beneficial pricing opportunities to comic book stores to keep this "direct market" afloat. Perhaps this can be done by releasing softcovers to them at the same time as HCs, though not to bookstores or online retailers (they can get them six months after the HC is released, or whatever the timeline is). The HC market exists, but not in the size to justify every single story getting it's own select or premiere or deluxe oversized HC treatment.

***

The best example of a series' collection is that of Dark Horse's Conan (the Cimmerian) by Kurt Busiek, Tim Truman, Cary Nord, et al. When it comes time to release a collection and they are prompt, the release comes in both hardcover and softcover almost simultaneously. The printing of the HCs is even far lower than the SCs, owing to the smaller market, higher price and desire to create an aura of "collectibility." Perfect. If you want to release everything in HC, this is the way to go.

Another good example is how Marvel treats their "Ultimate" line and DC their "youth" books (such as Titans-related, including Teen Titans and Blue Beetle): no hardcover releases at all of one arc. You might get a big HC, as with the "Ultimate" line, that covers three or so trades; what a great idea! And Teen Titans? Those stories are great for younger readers, good hooks, but HC collections would be like putting a electrode on a gerbil's food pellet. The shock to the system (cost; a sense of...fiscal violation) conditions one not to do said action again.

The big hurdle for publishers is to realize that not every arc is worth putting out in such deluxe format. Most of the mainstream titles at the Big Two would see brisker trade sales in paperback (conjecture) if released when the HC normally came out. Save the HCs for omnibus-type collections, like Marvel did with the first two years of Brubaker's Captain America run, or DC currently is doing with Starman (six deluxe HCs covering the whole series plus supplemental material...released long after the trades). Enchance their impact.

Long run, this method will be better for the comic book industry: more titles out in cheaper formats sooner to create and hook readers with a steady supply of material that will make said readers more apt to purchase the higher-cost items in the future.

And by Odin's beard, get some the lead out and collect Dan Jurgens' Thor run!



-Hooper



*An argument can be made that comic book stores, specialty shops that bloomed into existence over the 1980s, grew beyond their means in the 1990s and that the eventual closing of more than half nationwide over the late 1990s (continuing through today) was a market adjustment. The newsstand market gave comic books the mass media status they've enjoyed since the 1930s, though the days of the spinner rack are long behind us.

Read on, faithful few!

Buck Reviews 24: Day 7, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM



In this episode: A hero will rise, a villain will fall, and the world of 24 will never be the same. (Dun dun duuuuuuun!)





• Jack and President Taylor booby-trapped the saferoom before they came out. I think I've said it before, but this woman’s got balls of steel. She’s like Jack’s big sister.
• “Senator, shut up.” Possibly the greatest three words to ever escape Jack Bauer’s lips.
• That’s not how I usually “release” a hostage.
• Vice President’s kind of a wiener, isn’t he?
• Bill! Nooooooo! You damned noble bastard…
• Juma, you got what you deserved. It's just a shame it had to come at such a price. I like that even though Juma was going for his gun, Jack could have taken him alive, but exacted retribution for Bill.
• Yeah, Renee’s totally going to bust Jack out of lock-up.
• Back to Jon Voight’s character, who we already knew was working with Juma. He says he’s still on schedule, and wants to discuss weapons and targets…that can’t be good.
• Man, Larry is pissed that Renee went over his head and talked to Kanin. I like Larry when he’s irritated; he’s more fun.
• And tonight’s “Oh, snap!” moment goes to Larry, suspending Renee indefinitely for disobeying orders. The upside is that Larry’s going to accompany Jack to interrogate Burnett, and I’ve really enjoyed it this season when these two have worked together.
• Ah, I see. Voight’s man tried to kill the old patient to cause a distraction. I just thought he was an asshole.
• Nice moment between Aaron Pierce and Olivia. The hint about Martha Logan…in prison (She did try to kill her estranged husband. Did we ever find out if he died?)? In an institution? Dead?
• Tenacity is an inherited trait in the Taylor family. Olivia may have been harsh on Kanin, but she had a point.
• Nothing like waking up in the hospital and seeing the cheerful visage of Jack Bauer standing above you. It’s like waking up to the Angel of Death.
• Framing Jack for murder? That’s old hat to him. Do you realize how many fake murder raps Jack has beat? All you’re really going to do is piss him off.

Thoughts:

Things moved fairly quickly from ending the White House siege to cementing Jon Voight's Jonas Hodges as our final(?) villain of the day. Perhaps a little too quickly for my taste, but it's fine. At least we got to see Jack show remorse over Bill's sacrifice, and it let Renee see that the man is indeed human at the core.

With regards to Bill...we lost one of my favorite characters tonight, but at least he went out with a bang (no pun intended). Bill made the hard choice, knowing he didn't have what it would take to see this through, but Jack did. And by giving himself for the cause, he gave Jack the chance he needed. I can only assume with Bill gone and Jack sort of wanted for murder, he'll get Tony by his side to finish things.

It looks like we'll have at least one more season following this one (and possibly a feature film?)...but does anyone else feel like there's a sense of finality about things this year? Like Jack will ride off into the sunset as the clock ticks the final seconds of the day? Although I could also see him beginning the next season working for the FBI (or directly for the Taylor administration in some capacity), possibly partnered with Renee.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Den of Mystery Reviews WATCHMEN


"Set in an alternate 1985 where the "doomsday" clock is at four
minutes to midnight, Nixon is in his fifth term and heroes existed...once....
Outlawed in the late 70s, only "masks" working for the government can keep
active, the rest slipping into obscurity, retirement or the shadows that birthed
them.

"Until one of them dies."

That is a wildly simple intro to the world of Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's "graphic novel" magnum opus. Lauded as one of Time's top 100 novels of the last hundred years, it was a game-changer when it was first published. Declared unfilmable by both Alan Moore and legions of fans who doubt the complexity would transfer to screen, Watchmen now comes to theatres after twenty years of legal and studio wrangling.

It has a hard "R" rating, is awfully close to three hours long, has no real "star" power in the cast and features superheroes analogous to other superheroes...and no one's heard of any of them. A tough sell.

We at the Den, Hooper and Buck, caught it separately this past weekend and will try to untangle some of our own thoughts on the film.

Hooper gives it a hard 8/10, citing maintenance of the overall thematic integrity of the original series; flaws exist but still a damn fine film.

Buck claims it fell short of the mark, giving it 6/10, and calling it "too faithful" to the source material. Prior knowledge is almost a requirement.


And now, the review. Beware, ye readers, of SPOILERS.

***


Hooper:
I walked out of the theatre happy (overall) with what I saw. This movie captured much of the original series, focusing the story without fundamentally changing it. The essence of what made the story great and lasting - the deconstruction of these heroes, why they put on the mask, what it means to even consider yourself a "super" hero, how we compromise - is up there on the screen.


Buck:
I found it...lacking. Initially, a 7/10 or "C." You can be TOO faithful when adapting a story. Ultimately, I did not find it satisfying.


Hooper:
1. Do you think it was right to keep the movie set in 1985, as some people say the nuclear/USSR threat is a novelty/unbelievable by today's youth?

2. When you say "too faithful," do you think it would've been better to cut out, say, the Mars stuff and Laruie's parentage (+ mom)? Basically, I wonder how, given what you saw, you'd've addressed an adaptation.


Buck:
What I meant by "too faithful" is that the movie actually made me upset that I'd dragged Mrs. Buck to see it. Knowing she's unfamiliar with the material, I tried to watch the film from her point of view, and grew increasingly frustrated. The film almost had an attitude of "Everyone's read this, right? Okay, well, what we're going to do is film it exactly as it appeared on the page. We're going to go into painstaking detail to re-create Alan and Dave's creation. Except for the ending." As an adaptation goes, this wasn't constructed for people who are unfamiliar with the source.

That being said, I do want to see it again to see if my opinion changes. Who knows? Maybe the 7-hour (or however bloody long it is) director's cut will be a revelation that makes me love it. But as it stands, I was disappointed overall.

Pros: Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian, Jackie Earle Haley's Rorscach, and while at first I was a bit thrown, I grew to really enjoy the detached way Billy Crudup portrayed Manhattan.

Cons: Matthew Goode's Ozymandias, the completely maudlin denouement in Antarctica, some of the "ramping up" of the violence (not that I'm a prude, more that I simply considered it unnecessary).


Hooper:
Morgan and Haley made me buy their characters as real. The most important "sells" in the move were those two characters. Do we see the "dark grey" morality of Comedian as a result of his worldview and its crushing weight or is he a jackass with a flamethrower? Is Rorschach a paranoid nutjob version of Batman, dolling out violence like candy, or is he the only real hero in the movie? Very strong performances that will help set their careers in high gear for a long time.

So we shared a dissatisfaction with the ending (for me, the "squid" change wasn't bad, but the scenes after it were) and the hyper-violence (which, while the comic was violent, caricatured a caricature).

One could argue, so far as adaptations go, that even Lord of the Rings was written for the fans, not the average movie-goer. Did we really need all that Last Alliance nonsense and any related lore? "A ring created by a malevolent sorcerer-king that corrupts everyone" - there, I saved you ten minutes at least from the first film. And references to other rings; those are just Easter eggs. Why not have Galadriel just a powerful sorceress-queen (elf) at odds with the evil guy? And all that walking and the talking trees and that other wizard (in white like the good guys' wizard guide? C'mon. I can't keep this straight). You could strip that novel down to one, 4-hr movie. Still epic, but not boring in the least.

Likewise, I think you could either cut out or add in to Watchmen, but so long as it's a superhero movie that hates superheroes and their petty fisticuffs, regular movie-goers will feel put out and lost. That, to me, is what I came away with from the few times I tried to think of myself as a layman on the subject matter. I understand entirely why you feel upset at bringing Susan; it's why I didn't press Mandy to go. This isn't a non-fan movie. Not all movies have to be made with EVERYONE in mind as the audience. Watchmen cannot be all things for all movie-goers; it has to choose, and as Matthew Goode said, it's essentially a 3-hr arthouse film. It takes comic book/superhero stereotypes to task, forcing us to think about what we enjoy about them. And maybe what we shouldn't.

In fact, Snyder was talking about Watchmen and 300, saying they are essentially big-budget cult films that'll recoup their investments and then some, but are not meant for the general viewing public.

Would you then downgrade your initial 7/10 to something that reflects "disappointed overall?" That seems generous for a movie you didn't like.


Buck:
I've downgraded initial viewing to 6/10. Like I said, maybe a solo repeat viewing will change my mind. CHUD reported today that Snyder wants to put his cut in theaters this summer, and I might pony up for a repeat trip to the theater to try it out. Someone at CHUD (I think it was Devin) actually said that it's a movie that will get better with repeat viewings, calling it a sort of new Blade Runner (misunderstood film that gets better the further it's removed from its initial release).

I didn't really press Mrs. Buck to go; it's more that she knew I wanted to see it and doesn' t like me to go to movies by myself (she thinks I look like a creepy loser when I do that). The main problem she had was that she wanted the skinny on who all these people were. She wanted to know how they ended up as costumed adventurers, etc. Sadly, with the exception of what was left out of Rorschach's story, there really wasn't any more origin material in the original comic. So it's not really a fault of the filmmakers, but it was her chief complaint.

I have a feeling I'll like it the more I watch it. I've actually caught myself re-visiting scenes I liked in my head. So it could be that my current distaste is a result of trying to view it as an outsider rather than a fan.

To go back to your questions:

1) I don't know what "threat" you'd have if you didn't set it during the Cold War. That being said, there should not have been that much Nixon. The man is seen as too much of a pop culture punchline/fodder for impressions, and while I had no problem with the actor's performance, there were giggles in the theater each time he came on-screen.

2) Yes, you could have left out Sally Jupiter altogether. Possibly the Mars material as well, though I'm not sure where you would have put Jon during his alone-time.

Lastly, a 20-something couple sat next to us...with their 3 1/2 - 4 year-old daughter and 8-9 year old son. And the mom and dad fell asleep during the movie. That's some damned good parenting there, folks. Does anyone even look at a movie's rating anymore? You know that the son probably saw commercials with people in costumes and figured it was just like Spider-Man or X-Men and the parents didn't even bother to find out what the movie was about. It's possible that my anger towards them and fear for how the children were processing what they were seeing helped to color my impression of the film.


Hooper:
Except for when jerks make noise in a movie, I don't pay attention to anyone else in the theatre. They can applaud at the end, or be shocked or laugh when appropriate. That's fine. Sort of a "live studio audience" for the movie. But I'd've seen that crew, commented to myself that the parents should be beaten (maybe even in Rorschach's voice!), and ignored them.

I think the "new Blade Runner" analogy is perfect, especially since there are multiple cuts extant: theatrical, director's sans Black Freighter, director's w/ Black Freighter. Who knows, there might be a scene of Manhattan returning to Ozy at the end on the cutting room floor or the "you tried to rape her!"/"Only once..." exchange, the death of Hollis Mason, etc. I don't know how much was cut.

Some say the threat should've been terrorists/radical Islam, that it should have been made now, with Bush in office as Nixon was; make it "topical" like V for Vendetta...because that helped that movie immensely (...ahem). It surprises me that people our age don't remember the USSR or at least the idea that their parents lived under the threat of nuclear war for much of their young lives. We're not that removed from two decades ago, are we?


Buck:
I wouldn't think so.

I do know that Hollis' death was filmed and cut. Don't know about any of the other material you mentioned.

Your opinion on performances? You've mentioned Haley and Morgan already, and they did turn in great work. What did you think of the rest? I thought Ackerman was all right, if nothing spectacular. And Wilson did a fine job, although I felt the "What do you expect? The Comedian is dead." line was delivered all wrong.

So what's your take on the cast?


Hooper:
As we've said, Morgan and Haley did stellar work, easily worth at least a few small critics' choice supporting nods (if not wins).

Malin Ackerman was flat and just "ok" as Silk Specter II. Another reviewer said he thought Karen Allen was the sort to have played here, were this the 1980s and she still young and fiery. But Ackerman...didn't really add anything. I think they needed an older actress in the part, not a young gal playing slightly older. But she is the weakest character in the original story.

Patrick Wilson, Nite Owl II, did a serviceable job, but didn't feel washed out; rather, creepy instead. Sometimes I felt like I was watching a mouth-breather basement dweller D&D fan socialize for the first time in years. This isn't the brilliant, has-been inventor. That being said, he delivered most of the lines accurately, but not always convincingly. Like with Ackerman, I would have preferred an older actor.

Ozymandias/Adrien Veidt is a tricky character to imagine. Should Matthew Goode have played him happier, more of the scholar-athlete/eccentric billionaire (Bruce Wayne outed, but happy about it because he found out his parents were really Nazis who deserved to die) or as the detached genius who tires of these greasy people with petty problems and no vision of true greatness, of the betterment of all humanity, of the Big Picture? I think it's obvious which one he chose. The former is the comic version, and what I wanted to see on screen, yet I found myself appreciating the latter take. It might be more "real" for the character to have no bubbly outer face, no mask. Hm. I'm torn. I think...okay, here we go. Give Ozy back his triumph at the end, the tears, the smile, the convo w/ Manhattan; have the hired shooter kill only the secretary and then get pulped; make it Rorschach who informs him of the mask killer and not Dan D: that would make Goodman's performance 100% palatable. The meat of his part on screen was sometimes reliant on scenes changed w/o good reason.

Crudup as Manhattan - the voice, the flashbacks, the look - it all made sense.


Buck:
Good points on Ozymandias. I kept asking myself, "Why Lee Iacocca gotta get whacked?"


Hooper:
Even unadjusted, it's amazing to see how big Watchmen's opening was in relation to other comic book movies, especially when you look at X-Men, Superman Returns and Batman Begins. Big names that didn't get this many raw dollars (though, adjusted, did sell more tickets) in their opening weekends - and they were PG-13 and well-known properties!

A guy at work came up to me, asked me how my weekend was. I said good, and that I saw Watchmen. Great, I hear it had a big weekend! he said. So...you think $55M+ is a good opening? I asked. Sure! Especially for unknown superheroes in March.


Buck:
I did say yesterday that $55M is a good March opening, especially for a genre picture.

While replaying the "a Comedian died in New York" line at the end was most likely put in there to make it crystal clear to the stupid viewer that that was Rorschach's journal in the basket, I did like hearing it again.


Hooper:
I think it underscored that Rorschach, for all his dark mania, was really the hero.



Hooper's Take: 8/10

Buck's Take: 6/10


The Den of Mystery gives Watchmen...7/10.

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Buckshot: Watchmen Links-travaganza




For better or worse, the day many comic fans thought would never happen has arrived: There is a Watchmen film in theaters. I'll be seeing it tomorrow, and despite some unfavorable reviews, I'm looking forward to it.

Following hot on the heels of yesterday's magnificent Saturday Morning Watchmen comes a bunch of great Watchmen-related links I've stumbled upon in the last few weeks. So click through for parodies, tributes, and other goodness.


iFanboy offers a simply great T-shirt.

The film's marketing department has set up a New Frontiersman page at Flickr. It's full of all sorts of little "easter-egg" bits you probably won't see in the film.

Super Punch did their own link roundup.

Simpsons-ized Watchmen. This is currently my desktop wallpaper.

Dorian’s *ahem* viewer’s guide.

PvP’s salute.

YouTube sensation itsjustsomerandomguy’s Rorschach vs. Wolverine video.

Kevin Church pulls his Just Imagine...Stan Lee’s Watchmen! out of the mothballs for the occasion, and it's very, very wrong.

Church also rises to the occasion in his set-in-a-comic-shop webcomic series The Rack.

Comic Critics present their take on a Watchmen video game.

Chris Sims over at The ISB reveals the shocking new ending to the film!

And finally, Fairfield Weekly takes a look at how the Watchmen characters began life as characters from Charlton Comics.

Hope you enjoyed the links. I'm sure I'll have something to post tomorrow regarding my thoughts on the film, and maybe Hooper and I can do another tag-team style review once he's seen it.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Buckshot: Saturday Morning Watchmen


I'd resolved to post something new each day this week (The start of a trend, perhaps? We'll see.), yet couldn't decide what I should share with the interwebs. Then I found this. It is...beautiful.

This is a YouTube mirror. Click the link above for a better-resolution version.



Tomorrow will probably be a rundown of all the amusing Watchmen-related items I've come across, just in time for the film's opening.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Buckshot: Buffy Revisited


Let me take you back…

It was the spring of 1997, and I was idly channel surfing when a show caught my eye. Though I’d come into the show late, I ended up watching the rest of it, and actively tuned in to the next episode. The show quickly became my favorite program, and I was a loyal viewer until its eventual end in 2003.

That show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.



Joss Whedon’s supernatural take on high school and the undead has often been imitated but never duplicated, and it remains my all-time favorite television show. Recently, I was fortunate enough to complete my collection of the series’ run on DVD. A few months ago, I popped in the first disc of Season 1 for something to watch on a Sunday afternoon.



Mrs. Buck knew it was a favorite of mine, and had seen an episode here and there, but was for all intents and purposes a Buffy virgin. She was a bit hesitant, but quickly saw what made the show so enjoyable. Long story short, in the space of roughly two months (possibly three; we’re a little fuzzy on just when we started), we watched the entire series from beginning to end. And after digesting the entire run, I felt a retrospective was in order. If you think I’m going to be one of those folks who attempts to psychoanalyze the show and what Buffy meant to a generation, don’t worry. These are just reflections and observations; what I took away from revisiting a show that helped shape my interests.



Season 1

For the record, the episode I stumbled across that got me hooked was the sixth episode, “The Pack.” And it’s probably a good thing I started a few episodes in, as the pilot may not have kept me coming back week after week. Not that the show’s bad, just that it’s a genre show that has trouble finding its legs in the first season. But even though the 12-episode initial season tells a complete story with a pretty final ending (they didn’t yet know they’d get picked up for another year), it does lay solid groundwork for the future.


Highlights: Anthony Head as the long-suffering Giles, Mark Metcalf’s gloriously over-the-top portrayal of The Master, the story potential of a vampire with a soul. B+.

Season 2
The cast was more comfortable in their characters’ shoes in the second year, and about halfway through the season the production values notably increase (though it’s still fun to watch a fight scene and go “That’s Gellar…now it’s her double…Gellar…double…" They got better at the editing as the show went on). It’s also around the halfway point, specifically the two-parter of “Surprise” and “Innocence,” that things really kick into high gear. Angel losing his soul showed that the rules could change in a heartbeat in Buffy’s world, and the show was all the better for it.



Highlights: David Boreanaz as the villainous Angelus, the introduction of James Marsters as Spike (who would go on to become one of my all-time favorite characters on any television show), the ensemble really starting to click. A-.

Season 3
Senior year at Sunnydale High. Angel returns from the Hell dimension Buffy was forced to send him to, and the kids make some hard choices about what the future holds for them. Toss in Mayor Richard Wilkins III, the best Buffy villain of them all (in my opinion), and rogue Slayer Faith, and you’ve got what may be the most solid season start-to-finish of the entire series.



Highlights: Hopeless romantic Spike in “Lovers Walk” (“I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”), Harry Groener’s delightful turn as the evil Mayor Wilkins (I can’t praise it enough), the final battle on Graduation Day. A.

Season 4
No more Angel! No more Cordelia! Giles doesn’t get to wear his fashionable tweed anymore! And yet…I love it. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite season of Buffy, but Season 4 comes close. For one, there’s a lot of great comedy in this season, as everyone tries to figure out where they fit into each others’ lives following high school (Heck, Willow even went gay!). Spike’s return as a series regular and the intrigue of Riley Finn and the government-sponsored demon-hunting Initiative were nice additions as well (Naysay all you want, Buffy fans, but I actually liked Mr. Finn.) But the real reason Season 4 remains my favorite is the mostly-silent episode “Hush.” It’s funny, it’s scary, and The Gentlemen are some of the greatest supernatural villains ever created in any medium.

Highlights: Spike’s forced co-habitation with Giles, The Initiative and the human/demon/cyborg monstrosity known as Adam, “Hush.” A.



Season 5
Seasons 6 and 7 have their moments, but this was the last truly great season of Buffy. Admittedly, the introduction of Buffy’s sister Dawn was a little weird at first. But as it became obvious she was what would drive the season’s storyline, as chaos god Glory attempted to break down the barriers between dimensions, things really came together nicely. Sadly, this season also included the death of Buffy’s mother. As Joyce Summers, Kristine Sutherland may never have been a series regular, but her absence would be felt for the remainder of the series.

Highlights: “The Body” (the death of Joyce, an episode so well-written and performed that I still have trouble watching it without getting a little verklempt), the beginning of Spike’s evolution from villain to hero, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance in the finale “The Gift.” A.




Season 6
Buffy is resurrected through black magic, only to realize that she was not pulled from a hell dimension (as her friends believed), but quite possibly from Heaven itself. This season is uneven at times, though it does have some high points, particularly the critically-acclaimed musical episode “Once More, With Feeling.” I didn’t care for the turn the Buffy/Spike relationship took at the time, but watching it again it makes sense (even if it's still not all that enjoyable), given the psychological state Buffy found herself in. Oh, and Willow went evil and almost destroyed the world.

Highlights: The afore-mentioned musical episode, Giles’ return in the nick of time, Dark Willow. B.

Season 7
The ethereal First Evil, the very thing that evil itself fears, gathers an army of primordial vampires to lay waste to the world. Not to be outdone, Buffy and Giles raise an army of potential Slayers as the final battle (and episode) approaches. Simply put, Season 7 tries too hard. If Gellar had announced her intentions to leave before the season began, I’m sure it would be a wholly different thing. But the front half of the season is too full of episodes getting everyone in their place and new status quos. As a result, Gellar’s decision coming halfway through the season (thus making the season finale the series finale) makes things rush to a head almost too quickly. One can’t help but think that the story potential here couldn’t fill two seasons rather than 10-12 episodes. Heck, if they could have made Season 7 just six episodes longer, that would have gone a long way towards a more satisfying conclusion.



Sidebar: Another minor complaint here is the new principal of Sunnydale High, Robin Wood. Not that D.B. Woodside is a bad actor, or that Wood's a bad character (introducing someone who turns out to be the son of the Slayer Spike killed in the '70s is inspired), but rather that they sort of try to make him a substitute Giles. As a result, Giles kind of gets the shaft story-wise when he returns with the potentials. An interesting route would have been (provided they could have gotten Tony Head for the entire season) to have Giles obtain the principal position when he found out the school was being reopened, then be forced to leave on his search for potential Slayers, and give Buffy the counselling job she ended up with so someone was keeping an eye on the school while he was gone.End Sidebar

Highlights: The continuing evolution of Spike (Now with Soul©!) and Dawn’s characters, the revelations of the origins of the Slayers and Watchers, the final battle between forty Slayers and an army of vampires atop the Hellmouth. B.

Season 7 was, of course, not exactly the end for the Scooby Gang. In early 2007, Dark Horse Comics launched the ongoing series Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight. I've read the first three collections, and while it hasn't exactly set my world on fire, it is a good continuation of the characters and their world.




So how did the show mature? Well, it gets pretty adult at times. Relationships go to the physical level (sometimes not in a good way), marriages are discussed, etc. The cast really grow into their roles as the series progresses. There’s a great brief scene in the second half of the final season, where we see Buffy, Xander, and Willow sharing silent glances as a house full of potential slayers erupts into a shouting match, and you can see in their eyes their amazement at how far things have come from when the three of them comprised the entire “gang.”

Given that the wife was seeing most of these episodes for the first time, I tried to be more objective this time around. And while I’ll always be glad I have the entire series on DVD, seasons 6 and 7 probably won’t see heavy rotation in my viewing habits. There are simply too many flaws in there despite the true shining moments. That being said, I told Hooper that if you start with the second half of Season 2 (the afore-mentioned two-parter “Surprise” and “Innocence”) and go up to the end of Season 5, you’ve got four and a half years of real quality television, and I stand by that. The show will always be my all-time favorite, despite the imperfections.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hooper Reviews Heroes: Fugitives - Episode 5


Heroes Season 3
Volume Four: Fugitives


Episode Five: "Exposed"



What Happened:

Like last week, we focus on only a few of the heroes and leave the massive ensemble behind. Tight plotting here, folks. Forward movement. Let's get it on!

Claire's secret is discovered as Mrs. Bennett finds Alex in the closet. The explanation Claire uses, that they were having sex, doesn't hold water as Aqualad emphasizes he never touched and barely looked at the 17-yr-old cheerleader. That Claire lied and Alex has powers disappoints Mrs. Bennet, and she says that both Claire and HRG underestimate her strength, especially in times like these. She plots to evade the gov't agents in the van parked across from their house (they know Alex is there, even if Claire is off-limits). First hiding Alex in one of HRG's hidey-holes when the agents do a random search and then causing a diversion, Mrs. Bennett proves she's not just a brainwashing practice dummy. Her diversion (driving with Lyle to the movies) gives Claire and Alex enough time to sneak out the back, dodge the agents and hide in a swimming pool (of course they have to "kiss breathe" to keep Claire alive; they've been flirting pretty hard since Mrs. B "outed" him) until Alex can get to a train. They part fondly, and Claire returns home and starts to bond with her mom...until the Puppeteer shows up. Why? "Rebel" told him "Barbie" can help....

Meanwhile, in NYC, Parkman keeps painting the same image over and over (him wearing a bomb vest), wondering if it's tied to the floor painting he did of a nuclear bomb (or mushroom-cloud producing blast) leveling the "capitol" district of Washington, D.C. Peter tells him Rebel has sent a message over the computer telling them where Daphne is (D.C.) and to flee, as the Hunter has a idea where they are (Isaac Mendez' studio). They copy the address, trust Rebel and escape just before the Hunter's agents (plainclothes) arrive.

At Building 26, the Hunter sets Peter and Parkman as top priority for detainment, but also says they are armed & dangerous. So shoot to kill, if you have to. Nathan disagrees but the Hunter calls his bluff and exerts some ominous authority. HRG vocally agrees with his immediate agent superior, leaving Sen. Nathan Petrelli in the cold.

Now, too, at Building 26, Parkman and Peter worm their way in using double-barrel telepathy (Peter ditches flight for it; "I guess the rooftop escape is out," says Matt) and make it to a control room. Now seen by the Hunter on video monitors as just down the hall, Parkman and Peter mind-control two guards to draw their sidearms and by threat of force keep the Hunter from interfering. They discover Daphne isn't at this facility and Peter downloads a crap-load of data (including video of detainees being loaded onto planes) to use as leverage. Rebel pops a message up on the computer ("You have 30 seconds"), causes a blackout and the two heroes flee...right into HRG, the Hunter and their guards. Parkman holds everyone ("his" guards & the Hunter's group) until Peter has safely escaped.

When the Agents discover Rebel's message still on the computer screen, the good Senator calls on his mother, Angela, and asks if she is tipping them off. She knows a lot, after all. No, she says, why would she jeopardize the protection Nathan affords her? Besides, she can't work a computer. Peter then phones in while they're talking and says he'll deal - Parkman and Daphne for the wildly damaging data. If not, or if he's killed, the data will be leaked. Nathan says yes, and sets a place. The Hunter, upon hearing this, says he's operating on Presidential orders ("we do not negotiate with terrorists") and will either capture or kill Peter. Nathan reminds HRG that Peter can "hear [your] thoughts," implying that he should warn the guy.

At the meeting, HRG does just that, thinking loudly (as Peter calls out for Parkman and Daphne) that it's a trap. The Hunter, no veteran of telepaths, broadcasts his thoughts about sniping Peter and though his target hears, the Hunter does hit him high in the left shoulder, sending him falling off the parking garage roof...and right into Nathan's arms. Landing a good ways away, and meeting up with Angela, Nathan tries one last time to get Peter to turn himself over to Nathan's care. All Peter wants to know is why his big brother is doing this. It's out of control, I'm the only one who can, Nathan answers. Peter sadly mocks that it's because his brother loves him that he wants Peter under his eye, right? Sure, the Sen. says, but Peter knows better, takes a dose of "flight" and zips off. Angela warns Nathan that the game has changed and she has foreseen terrible happenings. And then, she whispers in his ear, leaving Nathan looking like he's been gut-punched.

Across the country, somewhere with mountains, Sylar and Luke Campbell drive on, and our favorite serial killer is getting a wee bit annoyed with Thrill-Kill Campbell. They stop at a boarded up roadside diner, Big Jim's. Sylar's been here before, he knows this place. Exploring inside, he has a flashback and discovers that he has been here before, when he was a young boy. And with his biological father, Samson Gray. But it is the worst memory he could dredge up, as it was then that Samson sold Sylar to his brother Martin. Sylar chases his father into the parking lot where he witnesses Samson arguing with his wife. It gets serious, and Samson waves his hand and blood streaks across the back window. He pushes Sylar's mom out of the car and speeds away. Li'l Sylar then sees what will be his calling card: a ragged slash across his mom's forehead, eerily reminiscent of her boy's amateur neurosurgery.

Coming back to the Now, Luke admits Samson is a world-class jerk and Sylar should give up the hunt. The can go off together, they don't need this- Ah, mistake, Luke. Sylar realizes the boy is doing this for the thrill of it all, the excitement of being "bad," and ditches him with a parting gift: his life. Now it's on to meet Samson Gray...alone.

On the TV, the US sees footage of American soldiers detaining - without Mirandizing or probable cause - dozens of US citizens. What is this secret gov't program? Is it legal? Peter has made good on his promise.

Back in DC, the Hunter fiddles with a drugged up Parkman as they drive in a black van to an undisclosed location. You'll be the face of their fear, says the Hunter. He gives Matt an injection and pushes poor Matt out of the back of the van into a large plaza...near Congress. On his chest? A bomb vest. It's the painting, come unfortunately to life.

To be continued next week in "Shades of Gray."


In Character Development:

No Hiro, Ando, Daphne, Suresh or Tracy. Thank God, for the last one. Two weeks without Tracy.

Peter...eases further into an adult role, taking telepathy for its tactical advantage, realizing you can't plan for the end-game (rooftop escape) if you can't reach the objective. Hurray! It's taken over fifty episodes, but he's thinking his actions through.

Nathan...is quickly losing control. I see sacrifice in his future. His own.

Matt Parkman...starts behaving less like a wounded, cornered animal. When Daphne is returned to him, odds are he'll begin acting like a cop again. In this episode, he controls at least four people at once, and though it's taxing, we see he's got a great will and is more powerful than previously thought.

HRG...is our man on the inside. Agreeing with the Hunter while protecting the sanctity of life (...sort of), he walks a thin line. Not really much here, but we know he's a good soul.

The Hunter...is not a good soul. He's like Linderman or Arthur Petrellie - the ends justify the means. Also, no prisoners and he plays for keeps. Since he is capable, and not some big brute or intimidating "power," his villainy is craftier, colder, sharper. I like him.

Angela...is certainly more involved than ever, and running at least one shadow operations (HRG as double agent).

Claire (w/ Mrs. Bennett and Alex)...thinks like an adult, like her Uncle Peter. By accepting her mother as more than a domestic damsel-in-distress/target-of-opportunity, she realizes that she can rely on other people to help her. A bit sappy, but necessary. This turn should've happened sooner. Alex is out of the picture, but he'll be back and gunning for Claire's pants. Mrs. Bennett shows a little bit of characterization. Fancy that!

Luke Campbell...shall be spoken of no more, until he microwaves himself back into our hearts. Not the abused, downtrodden boy we might've thought, he is a sociopath and a dangerous influence for Sylar. Left to his own accord, he'd see many more dead.

Sylar...finally has some answers. Next week, we see the Gray men come together, I hope.


Thoughts:

*Quick paced, better than many Season 2 episodes; the season begins to turn around.

*Claire is a better character after this episode, as is her mother. I think the writers figured out the petulant victim-child and brain-adled housewife weren't that appealing.

*I'm glad Luke is no longer a Lost Boy and is just lost and alone. He's bad news.


Looking Ahead:

*Samson Gray: about damn time.
*Does Nathan fly another nuclear-armed hero to a spectacular night-sky finish?
*Hiro or Ando...anyone?

Heroes: Fugitives
Episode One: "A Clear and Present Danger"
Episode Two: "Trust and Blood"
Episode Three: "Building 26"
Episode Four: "Cold Wars"

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!