Friday, November 30, 2007

David Tennant 4evah?

Finally, the overlong Doctor Who poll has closed, and here are the results:

  • David Tennant: 5 (20%)
  • Peter Serafinowicz: 3 (12%)
  • David Caruso: 3 (12%)
  • Miss Jay from ANTM: 3 (12%)
  • Hunky Clive Owen: 2 (8%)
  • Knut the lovable polar bear: 2 (8%)
  • Ant and Dec: 1 (4%)
  • Jet Li: 1 (4%)
  • Ryan Seacrest: 1 (4%)
  • Adrian Pasdar: 1 (4%)
  • Fearne Cotton: 1 (4%)
  • Professor Richard Dawkins: 1 (4%)
  • Mandy Patinkin: 1 (4%)
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar: 0 (0%)
  • Ban-Ki Moon: 0 (0%)
  • The Nesbitt: 0 (0%)
  • Dame Judi Dench: 0 (0%)
  • Derren Brown: 0 (0%)
  • Ali Larter: 0 (0%)
  • Stephen Fry: 0 (0%)

  • So, it seems the microcosm of the internet that is the small but fragrant readership of this blog is happy with the current Doctor. After a foolish early period hating him in the role and longing for the return of Christopher "Integrity" Ecclestone I have to say that would indeed be a wonderful outcome, but I doubt it's to be. The Beeb seem so eager to keep him on that they've shrunk a season order down to nothing just to accomodate him. If you're immolating your show just to keep someone around, you might as well not bother. It's only a matter of time before someone at the BBC wakes up and notices something is awry and hires someone else.

    As for Serafinowicz, a not too shabby showing, but perhaps his chances were damaged by his sketch show, which had about a 50:50 success rate. Happily, the good sketches were transcendentally good (especially Ringo's Goldfinger, which is still making me laugh weeks later), and most were filled with great little details (getting George Lucas' neck sac right was a particular triumph), but overall, it could have been better. I still think he would be a great Doctor, though. He's energetic, not unattractive, and has a voice like a Satyr. And yes, I did consider rigging the poll so that he won, but my sense of decency won out in the end.

    The Mighty Caruso did well too, but then this blog has in the past been frequented by his fans and haters, so I expected some support, but the big surprise was Miss Jay's strong showing (and yes, I know I'm desperately trying to make three votes seem like a big deal after complaining about the delusional mental state of air guitarists. Please bear with me during this self-indulgent display). She's certainly got the miserablist attitude that the Doctor needs, but the Doctor tends to stick to one outfit, and Miss Jay would be in and out of high heels, leather skirts, and a vermillion feather boa every week. The BBC can't afford a costume budget like that, so I can't see it happening.

    I was wondering what would make people vote for some of the contenders and not others. No Dame Judi Dench? Surely she would be perfect. And no The Nesbitt? I guess that proves no one working at the Sun reads this blog, which is fine by me. But what of the others? I guess it has something to do with slash. Sci fi + internet = slash, after all, which means I can see why Hunky Clive Owen got a couple of votes (because who wouldn't want to see HCO lip-locking with John Barrowman), but not Derren Brown. I mean yes, he's a top-rocking brain-warping imp hero, but not hott by any standards (Sorry Canyon). Of course, the slash theory is sorely tested by the solitary and thoroughly unnerving vote for Fearne Cotton. Surely she's the anti-sexxy, a yoof presenter so vapid she makes Cat Deeley look like Kate Adie. This is before we get into the votes for Knut the lovable polar bear, which I will attribute to his steely magnetism and rock-star charisma, and not the fanbase's wish to see him getting it on with K-9.

    Anyway, many thanks to all who voted. I shall now contact Russell T. Davies, who is, I'm sure, waiting patiently for my call, to tell him to use Hypnotoad on Tennant to make sure he stays on the show. It was once his childhood dream to play the Doctor, and now it seems it will be his eternal damnation. Poor chap.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Puppet Angel PWNs Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock...

    ...All while being worshipped by his loyal fanbase comprising Daffy Duck, Hugo the Hippo, Remy the Rat, Gandalf the Grey, and Theoden, son of Thengel, First Marshall of the Mark, and King of Rohan.

    Yes, we got back from our jaunt and bought another bit of pointless kit for the 360, but how could we not? I wager the 360 feels especially loved lately; after buying it I didn't use it for a few months as I never had time. Call of Duty 3, Dead Rising, and Viva Pinata sit unfinished either in a drawer or in a totally different house. Now the machine is on most of the time.

    Canyon and her "band" Wall of Crazy are currently getting 100% on Cream's Sunshine of Your Love using her favourite guitar-playing avatar Lars Umlaut, and it's yet another song I'd begun to take for granted but which is now re-revealed through the illusion of interaction to be an astonishing work of art. That's another terrific side-effect of playing these games; while they're pretty much nothing more than a really well-designed rhythm attack game with a brilliant interface, they also make you appreciate music in a new way. I say that as someone with no musical training; I'm sure to musicians that doesn't apply, but to the skill-less bag of fingerless ears that is myself, I now have a different response to songs I know too well. Even Flow, School's Out, Anarchy In The UK, Sweet Child O' Mine and Misirlou from the previous game; I love them all over again, and in a new and deeper way.

    That said, I'm still a bigger fan of Guitar Hero II over the new one. The band graphics might be more advanced in this, but the screen was livelier in the second, though they seems to be increasing in intensity as the game progresses. Also, even though the new game has some amazing songs (Holiday in Cambodia! Thank you thank you thank you!!!), the choices are often a little more obvious. It's a no-brainer to add Paranoid by Black Sabbath, or Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss, but then it's ultimate funness to play them, so it seems churlish to complain.

    Guitar Hero II had some real oddities; Laid to Rest, Psychobilly Freakout by the incomparable Reverend Horton Heat, Who Was In My Room Last Night?, Tattooed Love Boys, and many more. The new game seems to have less "finds", but as my knowledge of rock (and certainly more recent stuff) is not perfect, I'm still coming across new favourite songs. After playing When We Were Young and My Name is Jonas, I now want to get into these musical chaps The Killers and Weezer. Oy vey, I am an old fart. And hey, who are Priestess? Their song Lay Down has a very appealing lolloping bass line. My avatar Axel Steel agrees.

    There are other things I've noticed:

    • Choosing to include The Seeker by The Who over their more famous songs is a nice touch, though the CSI fan in me is a little annoyed.
    • While a lot of the regular songs seem longer than the previous game, there don't seem to be any marathons like The Allman Brothers Band's Jessica, a personal favourite. How great it would have been to follow the Slash boss battle with November Rain instead of Welcome to the Jungle? Having everything around the same length is less interesting than the variation of the other game, but it's not a deal breaker (so far, none of my little complaints are. For God's sake, they've got Kool Thing by Sonic Youth on there! Woooord up!).
    • The co-op career mode is great, but I think we're already on our way to completing it on Easy. I get that it only really works well with a fraction of the songs, but even so, if half an hour gets us to the final level, then it's a real shame.
    • The Star Power phrases are generally much longer, which would probably piss off the first-time player but is good news for addicts as it rewards the higher skillset.
    • I love the predominance of master material over cover versions, but often the song has a bad mix (Paint It Black) or seems too muted (Cherub Rock).
    • Canyon hates Black Magic Woman by Santana, apparently. She's still got 100% on it, though.
    • As psyched as I am that Tenacious D's The Metal is included, part of me weeps that the Godlike face-melter Master Exploder isn't included. There's a custom version out there, but God knows how to get hold of that.
    • While playing the co-op career section (our joint name: Professor XS), Canyon chose Xavier Stone as an avatar and I swapped to Midori, the J-Popster. As I spent most of the mode playing bass, I was thrilled to see that Midori is programmed to dance just like Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads. It was like watching a Japanese remake of Stop Making Sense.
    • Where's the surf guitar??!?!?!
    • For that matter, where's the blues? The Stevie Ray Vaughan song is a fantastic inclusion, but some BB King or Robert Johnson would have gone down a treat, especially seeing as how the story arc of the game involves a deal with the Devil. There's a real gap in the game ready to be filled by other guitar genres. What about some Tito Larriva for a start? Hopefully some future download packs will deal with that.
    • Actually, this version is weighted more towards the more recent songs, but then the previous versions did a lot of the old standards, so it's to be expected. It's just a shame that an opportunity to edumacate those dang youngsters shouldn't be passed up, is all.
    • Easy is not as Easy as Guitar Hero II's Easy, not by a long shot. I heard people complaining about the difficulty of Barracuda, and thought it was the final song, but it's in the second level. I would have scoffed, but when we played it we realised it was way harder than anything in the corresponding spot in the previous game. As a beginner it would have really pissed us off.
    • What is with Heart? In the previous game their Crazy On You drove me to Bruce-Lee-style knuckle-cracking distraction. I had thought they were nothing more than a ballady bland-rock band but by Crom, their arrangements are hellishly complicated and asynchronous.
    • I'm not too sure about the boss battles just yet, but then that might be just because I don't really enjoy listening to Tom Morello's screechy gimmicky feedback nonsense, and never have.

    An aside: we just watched him appraising air guitar as a judge at a contest in the mostly annoying but occasionally sweet documentary Air Guitar Nation, and it's hard to take him seriously now. And yes, I realise how ridiculous it is to compare an air-guitar-appreciating Tom Morello to a digitised boss-battle-having Tom Morello, but that's what the world has offered up to me, and I must make lemonade with it. It reminds me that the reflexively mean-spirited nodules posting on the Holy Moly talkbacks were complaining recently about Guitar Hero fans being useless for not trying to get a guitar of their own and learning to play it so that they can become creative instead of slavishly following notes on a screen. Firstly, at least we're not just playing air guitar in Finland (seriously, I got so angry at the absurdity of that frigging movie, even though it was nothing to get steamed about and the documentary itself was not bad), which is a good thing. Secondly, I can't hate on Holy Moly too much because another poster brings his angry typing guns to bear on those frigging Picture loan adverts that pollute TV like so much elephant poop.

    Thirdly, Guitar Hero players are at least learning skills that might eventually translate into an artistic ability. Salon's Farhad Manjoo wrote an entertaining post recently claiming that it was an accidental teaching aid.

    I've interviewed several guitar teachers about the game, and some speak of it as the most revolutionary thing to hit the world of guitar since Jack White learned his first scale. "Guitar Hero" is introducing millions of young people to the possibility of playing the instrument, and it's also teaching them important skills they'll need to play... I discussed "Guitar Hero" with a half-dozen guitar teachers across the nation; all said they'd never played the game, but many had heard of it from their students. "Personally I've made hundreds or maybe even a couple thousand dollars on it, just because kids see the game and they want to go do the real thing," says Rob Caviness, who teaches at Backbeat Music, a studio he co-founded just outside of Denver. "I think a lot of kids listen to music and they don't know what it is -- the game lets you pick out one particular instrument and it says, 'Hey, this is what you can do with it.'"

    I also agree wholeheartedly with this:

    Red Octane's Ted Lange argues that "Guitar Hero" instills two important guitar-playing fundamentals: sensitivity to rhythm as well as mastery over "independent hand usage -- the fact that you have to do something different with each hand."

    I'm the least ambidextrous person in the world, and I've noticed Guitar Hero has changed that. I'm much better at that confounded rub-the-belly-pat-the-head thing, which is surely the official test for ambidexterity. And yes, I walked past a musical instrument shop the other day and stared longingly at a guitar for the first time in my life. I know it's hard because I've tried it before and sucked at it, and I don't expect to be able to play like Hendrix just because I played along with a game, but I honestly think that now, after months of using training frets, I can make another attempt at the real thing. Whether I do or not is another thing, partially because of the cost of guitars, and partially because I always figured I'd be better at keyboards. Where's Air Keyboard Nation? Or Air Drumming Nation, which would be right up my street?

    In short, please buy the forthcoming debut album by Carusonic: Get Behind Me, Thewlis, featuring a 20-minute jazz version of The Future's So Bright, I've Gotta Wear (Crime-Fighting) Shades, with Ornette Coleman on sax and, in a gamble on my part, non-jazz player Philip Glass on keys. It will either be A Love Supreme for the 21st Century, or Jazz Odyssey all over again.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Pop Culture Will Fight Itself (1)

    Who would win this head-to-head match? He-Man...

    ...or Machete?

    He-Man has one half of a Power Sword and the Power of Greyskull on his side.

    Machete has a lot of machetes. And throwing knives. And a nice coat and vest combo to hold it all.

    He-Man gets around on a large Battle Cat.

    Machete has a motorbike with a minigun on the front.

    He-Man was once played by musclebound engineering graduate and former Punisher Dolph Lundgren. He seems like a nice chap. Though in one movie he played a horrible boxer who killed Apollo Creed, which is egregious.

    Machete is played solely by Danny Trejo, who I have heard through an internet acquaintance is a very very nice man who has helped people escape delinquent childhoods.

    So, who will win this impossible fight? You decide!!!

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Blog Slowdown Commence!

    In a few hours Canyon and I will be travelling to the tropical paradise of Newark to drink mojitos and eat Twinkies, during which time there will be less of us going on about our phones, bad TV shows, and internet favourite Moon Bloodgood. We might pop in occasionally, but I felt it important to stress that this is not the end of the blog, nosirree! We're just going to be busy. Until then, some lazy YouTube reposting. While watching Current TV this afternoon, not only did I find out a lot about coffee beans and hot Google searches (number one search at 4:00 this afternoon; Sarah Matravers!), I also saw this.

    Considering Don't Fear The Reaper will be featured as a song on Rock Band, I think it would be nice of Harmonix to include a cowbell peripheral. And finally, because it can never be seen enough times, the sketch that started it all, with thanks to VodPod.

    See you on the flipside, daddios!

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    This Week in TV (Week 8)

    Let's do this quick style!

    Highlight of the Week:

    30 Rock again conquered all with satire of the war on terror that was actually funny and integrated into the plot without being heavy-handed even for a second. It also had a hilarious guest appearance by Edie Falco as CC, a Democrat love interest for Jack, which led to much soul-searching for both of them, and a magnificent scene in which Tracy feeds Jack exclamations of love a la Cyrano De Bergerac.

    Which leads me to...

    Lines of the Week:

    "Tell her your privates wanna give her privates a high-five!"

    "Tell her her butt look like an apple and you wanna take a bite!"

    "Tell her she's got tig ol' bitties like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders!"

    "Tell her you want her to donate her body to science and you science! Tell her, Jack!"

    Scene of the Week:

    As wonderful as that scene was, I might have laughed more at the Lifetime movie based on Falco's life, called A Dog Took My Face And Gave Me A Better Face To Change The World: The Celeste Cunningham Story, starring Kristen Wiig as CC.

    It was pretty accurate, but the thing that sold it was Jack's reaction as he watches it, exhorting everyone on screen to get the gun away from the dog and getting more and more exasperated as the tragic accident occurs. The capper is Wiig sliding out of shot and saying, "I'm going to get into politics!" I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I could not love this show more. That's before I realised that CC is going to be a semi-recurring character from now on, which would be brilliant news if it wasn't for that darned strike.

    Stupidest Scene of the Week:

    I've expressed my extreme displeasure with Chuck in the past, but I have to say, last week's episode was the strongest yet, and featured guest appearances by actors I have been very fond of in the past; Rachel Bilson, who was The O.C.'s Summer Roberts (and has still not conquered her enunciation problems), and Kevin Weisman who played lovable technological wizard Marshall in Alias. So I like Chuck now, right?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Even at the height of its powers, I had a miserable time watching it. Truth serums and poison and antidotes? Really? This is the best on offer? I noticed that the episode was written by show producer Anne Cofell Saunders, who has spent years on 24. Now, that show, at its worst, features some hilariously convoluted and bad plotting, and strained dialogue devoid of jokes. At its best, it has riveting and exciting plots featuring excellent timing and suspense, and strained dialogue devoid of jokes. That dialogue never improves. As a result, this episode of Chuck featured much stronger plotting than usual, with something finally being done about Chuck and Sarah's absurd romance, but lumbered on with zero wit and horribly contrived comic sequences featuring the criminally unfunny Buy More staff. When I say criminally, I'm not exaggerating. They should all be hogtied or keelhauled or something. Isn't there a punishment where people are sewn into sleeping bags full of vipers? Can we do that one, please? Especially in the case of Joshua Gomez as multiverse-Gupta Morgan? I nominate him as worst character on TV. Oh God, he makes my teeth ache! Oh God! Oh God!!! ::has nervous breakdown::

    ::recovers from nervous breakdown:: Still, the stupidest moment of the week came when Weisman's evil baddie character poisons Chuck's sister, Ellie, with a deadly enhanced truth serum, which starts making her tell the truth lots and lots, but only a few hours after her exposure. As a bargaining chip, he offers an antidote to Chuck and co. in exchange for a MacGuffin of some sort. He holds up the antidote to prove it exists, and everyone sees it.

    Through various hilarious shenanigans, Chuck saves Ellie but gets him and Sarah and Casey poisoned. Through the magic of contrivance, the truthiness kicks in almost instantly, leading to even more hilarious shenanigans! But they will die soon, which just ruins the humour entirely. You're bumming me out, Cofell Saunders. Chuck is smart enough to figure out where Weisman is hiding, and our heroic avengers rush to his hideout. When there, he offers them the antidote, and they take it. Here is a screencap of this moment.

    Now, unless you're colour-blind, you might be able to spot a slight discrepancy. Here's a hint; check out the colour of the vials. Our heroes are about to drink the liquid, but thank God! Chuck realises the vials contain something other than the antidote, and throws it away! How did he figure this out? Because the previous vial that he not only held in his hand but administered to his dying sister was green and this one os piss-yellow? No! Because villains like to offer heroes bottles of poison instead of antidotes in, and I quote, "comic books". Okay, sorry about this, but it's pet peeve time. In the pilot, Chuck asks Morgan if he wants to play "video games". I don't know any gamer who refers to them as anything other than games, just as I don't know any comic fans who refer to them as "comic books". Graphic novels, yes, occasionally, but never "comic books". Yet more proof that this show is targeted at geeks and nerds but written by people who have no concept of nerd culture. Painful stuff. Oh, and they cast the immensely likeable Weisman as a nasty bad guy, thus wasting his talents.

    I really have no idea why I'm still watching this.

    ETA: Canyon, who was kind enough to get these Chuck screencaps for me, pointed out that Weisman's forehead appears to have become larger, not unlike some kind of large-craniumed psychic villain out of a comic "book". [It's not just larger; it has Frankenstein stitches down the center and bulges out at either side. Something in there is growing, and I'm worried it's not his brain. -- Canyon]

    Edit again, many many months later: Upon rewatching this episode for our Caruso Awards of 2007-2008, I found out that it wasn't actually written by Anne Cofell Saunders, but by Allison Adler. Many apologies to everyone involved for the error. What did Adler previously work on? Family Guy and Commander In Chief. Perfect pedigree for Chuck, then.

    Most Inventive Plot of the Week:

    Pushing Daisies returned with another strong episode, though for most of it I remained hung up on the tweeness, and the over-direction (not Sonnenfeld-bad, but annoying nonetheless), and the peculiar cleavage overload, and my anxiousness whenever Chuck gets near Ned. At the end, however, I realised how much I'd enjoyed the plot, which revolved around a polygamist dog trainer, his four wives, their perfect dog, and an evil breeder with a get-rich-quick cloning scheme.

    It was so off the wall but so creative and coherent that I couldn't help but love it. The fact that the perfect dog is a cross between four breeds, and the dog trainer had four wives, lent a pleasant symmetry to the episode. The first murder plot (featuring a dandelion powered car) was perhaps too quirky, and I was concerned that there would be similar annoying details cluttering straightforward plots in the future episodes, but this was inventive and silly and yet never implausible, in that yes, cloning dogs and killing people with poisoned coffee is outlandish but nothing was as gratuitous as a car powered by dandelions, which was too too precious. It was a joy to watch, and yet again made me kick myself for doubting the show. Even though the flaws remain, it would be a grave mistake to diss some of the cleverest writing on TV.

    Most Pissed-Off Reaction of the Week:

    An overworked Tami Taylor asks Tyra and Lila (whose names will confuse me until the end of time) to help organise Pantherama, the annual rally for the Dillon Pathers, and with notable imagination, they get the team to strip off in front of the whole town. This is how she and her husband react.

    For some reason Lila thinks it hilarious, though we thought she'd have to rush out and do some hardcore praying. Still funny, though.

    Runner-Up Most Pissed-Off Reaction of the Week:

    The documentary crew following House around the hospital edit together his misanthropic quips and turn him into a lovable hero that makes Doug Ross look like Peter Benton. (Sorry, I once loved E.R. Is that a crime?)

    Having his carefully constructed nastiness ruined by a bunch of filmmakers really pisses on his chips. Oh, and remember I said Michael Michele was brought in as a snarky love interest? Turns out I was wrong again. This happens a lot. Get used to it!

    Question of the Week:

    Which was the best love scene? Pushing Daisies' Ned and Chuck?

    FNL's Matt Saracen and Magical Latina Maid Carlotta?

    Ugly Betty's Henry and L'Amanda?

    Or Reaper's Sock and Gladys?

    Clumsiest and Most Delayed Exposition of the Week:

    From the thrilling opening of the latest Heroes:

    Peter Petrelli: You gotta let me go, Nathan.
    Nathan Petrelli: You go, I go!
    Peter: No, I'll be okay. You can fly, I can't.
    Nathan: Whaddaya mean?
    Peter: It's taking everything within me, all my power not to explode! Let me go!
    Nathan: Peter!
    Peter: Raaaaaaargh! ::big 'splodey::

    Yes, it was great that the writers acknowledged the gaping plot hole in the season one finale, albeit it with the subtlety of Niki's fist to the groin, but it would have worked better several months ago. We'll take a couple of lines of exposition at the right moment over "emotional truth" based on contrivance and ignorance of the laws of your own universe, thank you Mr. Kring. Mind you...

    Most Exciting FX Sequence of the Week / Season So Far:

    ...Nathan saving Peter, getting burnt to a crisp, and then saved by Peter made me want to do a circuit of the living room in its honour.

    That's the Heroes I love! Which makes it all the more painful that...

    Worst, Stupidest, Most Contrived and Insulting Death of the Week:

    ...making sure DL doesn't die as a result of Linderman's bullets, but lives on, becoming an actual, honest-to-God inspirational hero, and then dying off camera to a punk with a gun just so that Niki can come to her senses and seek help is just absolute bullshit. Even Ali Larter seems to be pissed about it.

    DL was one of my favourite characters, and having him die in the finale would have been bad enough, but let's be honest here. The writers had four months of backstory to explain, and they didn't have enough for Niki to do, so they brought back DL from the dead just so she had someone to interact with during this episode. How else were they gonna fill the 45 minutes up? Sylar was out of commission, Nathan was in a coma, Peter was in a Company cell hanging out with "Adam Monroe", and Hiro was in Feudal Japan. Problem is, DL was supposed to be dead, so he just gets hurriedly pushed out of the story in the lamest of ways. Imagine if Daredevil was run over by a car driven by Stilt-Man's cousin, or if Animal Man slipped in the shower. This is how stupid DL's death is. I know it's just a show, and I am usually able to not get too worked up about these things, but that was appallingly bad writing and a disservice to the fans. Heroes gives with one hand, and it takes away with the other. I'm not a happy bunny!

    Most Intriguing Character of the Week:

    Yes, we now luff Journeyman. Other than being a little humourless, we love everything about it, and this week featured a superb plot twist, where we find out that Dan Vassar's time-travelling companion Livia is leaping forward from 1948 instead of back from 2007! Turns out their love affair was conducted during a particularly lengthy leap on her part, which begs the question, how much of their moments together were actually spent during her leaps, with her popping out of the present when his back was turned? And if Dan is leaping because of an experiment in the present, how does that affect her 59 years ago? I love that the show is full of little questions and mysteries. It's making the loss of Lost almost bearable. Oh, did I mention that Livia is played by internet favourite Moon Bloodgood? No? Whoops!

    Moon Bloodgood, ladies and gentlemen.

    Most Underwritten Character of the Week:

    Rather than continue with the griping about Andi and her pointlessness, it's perhaps time to start worrying about the other main female character, Josie, played by Valarie Rae Miller. For weeks now she's been not much more than a walking plot device, an ex-girlfriend who just happens to work in the DA's office, allowing the Soulbusters to find out information about the criminal pasts of their foes. Until now, the most interesting thing about her is that I was sure she looked familiar, and I thought I'd gone mad and started thinking she was the black Eve Myles.

    Turns out she she was in Dark Angel, as the token black lesbian (James Cameron's randomly activating liberalism at work, I'll wager), where she just talked about her relationships and gave off waves of dismissive "attitude". Despite her non-lesbianness in Reaper, she's pretty much the same woman. Prior to this week all she has done is spar with Sock, but even then her perpetually annoyed responses fare not too well in the face of Tyler Labine's off-kilter line readings and method quirkiness. Sock desperately needed a comic foil who was more than a match for him, and if it was meant to be her, it wasn't established strongly enough and Miller was left with little to work with. Instead, Gladys the DMV demon has become the unlikely foil, much to our delight.

    That leaves the problem of what to do with Miller. This week she actually got to interact with Missy Peregrym instead of get hassled by Labine, but to my disappointment, in contravention of Bechdel's Law,all they could do was talk about boys. With the growing viewer frustration over the lack of variety or season arcs, the showrunners would do well to spend some time fleshing out these characters (especially Josie), perhaps give them an adventure of their own, one that doesn't involve them talking non-stop about boys.

    It could be the thing that vaults the always entertaining but unadventurous show up to the next level. Oh, and I know I said I wasn't going to go on about Andi, but right now the show is wasting Missy Peregrym even more than Miller. I've got Stick It on right now, and while it's painful to see Jeff Bridges playing a tough gymnastics instructor instead of winning the Oscars he should be getting on a regular basis, it's amazing to see how lively Peregrym is. She's not the best actress, but she's funny and engaging and is willing to take a beating for the film. A montage of her hitting the ground over and over again was painful to see. Why is she not being used to greater effect? Damnit, my love of Reaper is getting sorely tested over its lack of commitment to giving the female characters something interesting to do. Consider this a black mark against the show that must be addressed (I'm sure the showrunners will hop to it right now).

    The "What The Hell Is He Doing On This Show" Moment of the Week:

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, FNL introduced a new character, played by Surfing Jesus!

    I honestly thought that John From Cincinnati's Austin Nichols was a surfer who got given an acting gig because showrunners David Milch and Kem Nunn thought it would be easier to train surfers to act than to do it the other way around, but it seems he's actually an actor first and a water-skiier second. The watersports world's loss is our loss too. Actually, that's unfair. His performance as John was infinitely better than Rebecca DeMornay's and she's meant to be good at that shit. He was fine in FNL with what must have been a frustrating role to play (Julie's new crush), and at least now he doesn't have to keep saying "I don't know Butchie instead" fifteen times an episode. (Seems he's actually from Austin, which explains why he's in FNL, though not why his parents felt it necessary to name him after the town he was raised in. Did they move there because of his name? Or name him that because they wanted to live there? Actually, I don't care really. I'm just killing time.)

    Pratfall of the Week:

    Betty gets haunted by her kindhearted former self this week, and is reminded of the toll her job has taken on her, a cloying plot device wonderfully usurped first by having Dream Betty walk into a door, followed by Real Betty sitting on the wrong part of a chair.

    As usual, the sentimentality of the show is undercut, allowing the subsequent genuinely shocking death of Bradford to hit hard without being dulled by contrived emotion earlier. Bravo showrunners, once more!

    Grin of the Week:

    Not just Ray Wise, but Ray Wise while getting repeatedly smacked in the head with a baseball bat!

    Runner-Up Grin of the Week:

    Buddy Garity trying to charm Tami Taylor with yet another of his harebrained schemes.

    Brad Leland is the king of oily charm and thwarted optimism, and is always a joy to watch, but Buddy's decision to look after the homeless Santiago meant we could see him question his own wisdom and face up to potentially troublesome responsibility. He was even more awesome than usual, but as I've said before, this is the best acted drama on TV, and it's something we take for granted by now.

    Saturday, November 17, 2007


    Thanks to the loving wonderfulness of AdmiralNeck and his early Christmas present, the iPhone is finally MINE ALL MINE. Yes, I know I said I wanted the iPod Touch, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted all the features the iPhone had. I'd like to think I probably wouldn't have gotten it even if we were living in America when it came out there in June -- it's even more expensive there than it is here (though I tend to think in dollars = pounds, so it's actually more expensive here if you do a straight pounds-to-dollars conversion) -- and I would have liked to wait for the 2nd gen version when they'd made improvements from the first one. But after four months of gorging on articles about all its features and all the reviews and watching videos of it and being absolutely amazed by it...I just couldn't wait any longer. Goodbye socialist tendencies; hello warm lovely squish-of-stepping-on-exploited-workers capitalism (but Apple caters to half-assed socialists like me, so really it's a perfect combination).

    People have done a lot of carping about the iPhone. It doesn't have 3G, the camera is only 2 megapixels, the keyboard takes some getting used to, it doesn't have iChat -- the killjoys of the world seem delighted to pick apart every flaw, as if the iPhone has some duty to be the Platonic ideal of beauty. It may not be that, but people, I can tell you right now that, for a few minutes every day, it does fill the gaping hole where our collective happiness should be.

    The thing is, the carpers are missing the point entirely (and Stephen Fry agrees with me; better proof of my rightness you could not find). This phone is like nothing I've ever used before. It is an experience so far removed from slow, clunky, pixelated crapphones I've used that it makes even the other smartphones on the market look like third-grade craft projects (sorry, Tytn II -- iPhone poops on your layout). Hell, it makes our laptop look like a slow, useless beast (even more so than it did already). Watching videos on it is pure joy -- the screen's not huge, obviously, but the picture is crystal-clear and if you're connected to wi-fi, as we are at home, the videos download very quickly, with no juddering or skipping at the difficult bits. Beat that, useless Dell!

    This phone is a revelation. The moment you pick it up you can't help but be delighted by it -- by its incredible high-resolution touchscreen, the gorgeous design of its features, the incredibly intuitive way you move through the applications, pinching and stroking and poking your way to iPhone love. The little touches are what make the phone -- if you grab at the edge of a page, it bounces a bit before settling at the edge of the screen again, and if you're flicking through your songs, the screen naturally slows and then stops a bit after your finger breaks contact, and a photo crumples into a little trash bin when you delete it, and if you put your finger on some text you're writing, a magnifying glass comes up so you can place your cursor exactly on the letter you want. It's amazing how those tiny creative touches absolutely bring the phone to life, make it feel real and warm and delightful and make using it a joyful experience. Most reviews don't mention that, but for me, at least, those little touches are what make the phone -- put it in a completely different level from any other touchscreen I've ever used. Oh, and using the internet on it is just amazing -- the pages are as sharp and clear as they are on any flat-screen monitor, and they are the real internet, not a crappy stripped-down mobile-phone version, and the small size isn't a problem when you can zoom in and swish about the page with a flick of your finger. It's fun. You immediately feel affection for the thing, and for Apple for creating it -- you can't help but be delighted by something so intuitive and beautiful, a creation that really is a work of art in its own right. The design of it is inextricable from its function, and that's how it should be.

    Of course I have carps like anyone else -- you should be able to use the keyboard horizontally when texting or emailing, and annoyingly, texts are configured as one long conversation (which means that I'll only ever have one conversation from AdmiralNeck that goes on for months and months, and if I want to delete it I have to delete the entire conversation, not just individual texts, and so get rid of every text I have from him). The camera could be better, and there's no copy and paste or Word-esque application, and the fact that the phone isn't 3G-capable is a real drawback. I can't deny that there are flaws, though I think a lot of them will be fixed either in software updates or in the 2nd gen phone (which I'm sure will come out much sooner than the end of my 18-month contract). And Apple are just as evil as any other large company out there, and are even more insidious because they've made people love them so fervently and pitched themselves as the underdog alternative to behemoth Microsoft even though they are just as much of a behemoth and when they do horrible things, people either don't notice or don't care because they think Apple can't do any wrong. Salon's Farhad Manjoo has written about Apple fairly and extensively and noted several of their if-not-evil-then-at-least-very-questionable policies, and their partnership with AT&T in America, which is at least a collusion with evil (that's a long article but very worth reading, as well as very chilling).

    But none of this takes away from my love of the iPhone -- it has unquestionably changed the face of cell phones, and though there may be phone with more features out there, there are none that do it with the same style, that make you fall in love with them the same way. It's the same as the iPod -- other mp3 players may have more memory or better features, but it's still missing the point to go on and on about how they're better than the iPod. One use of that scroll wheel and you'll know why so many people love it, and why all the little carps and wiser buying decisions don't matter. Apple understands that consumerism is based on emotions, on the feeling that the machines you use every day give you, that you have, as Stephen Fry says, relationships with these objects, and a well-designed one gives you a constant, subtle postive-feedback-loop of pleasure that a sensible buying decision cannot. And until other companies start to understand that, Apple will rule the day.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Beowulf vs. The Luddites

    A couple of days ago The Guardian blog opened a debate about whether or not CGI should be banned from movies, and the Luddite hordes spoke in their masses, furiously railing against the death of quality cinema and laying the blame at the feet of ILM and WETA and all the other scumbags that have stopped our generation from producing nothing but Godfathers and Harold and Maudes and Five Easy Pieceses. Why stop there? Anyone who has seen Manhattan knows that black and white is more beautiful than colour, so why not get rid of that too. And with that goddamn Peter, Bjorn and John song so common on soundtracks nowadays, we would be better off getting rid of sound too. I've often thought that cinema died the day they got rid of the organ player in the corner of the theater.

    The film that inspired the anti-CGI debate is Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf, the performance-captured retelling of the poem. Granted, the blogger, Ben Child, thinks Beowulf is not that bad an example of CGI (and to be fair there were lots of commenters who thought the blog to be a silly reductive one), but still, railing against bad CGI and blaming it for the parlous state of cinema is absurd. There's good CGI and bad CGI, just like there's good filmmakers and bad. For every Stephen Sommers you get a Peter Jackson. Note also that a lot of bad moviemakers who rely heavily on CGI are young and not quite up to speed on how to tell a well-paced story, while reliable oldsters like Spielberg or Zemeckis are still cranking out good movies and revelling in the new options handed to them by this glorious magical toolbox. It's a crappy argument, and ignores the real problems: profit over innovation; lack of inspiration; creative thought being overwhelmed by bombardment of repetitive story structures, formats and themes. Even worse is blaming overuse of CGI for bad cinema. Is CGI a person? Is he very forcefully making directors use him? No? Then please keep it down, you’re disturbing us while we try to watch Children of Men for the tenth time.

    Perhaps I feel so belligerent because I was lucky enough to see Beowulf in the best format possible; IMAX Digital 3D, which is as far from the old skool, curtains-on-the-wall-and-intermission-to-change-reels, kind of cinema that you can get. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by a movie that already has a magnificent visual sweep when it's presented in a format that would even give something as subdued as an Eric Rohmer film the power to burst your eyeballs. Even taking into account the leg-up 3D gives it, Zemeckis throws some amazing stuff at the viewer: Grendel's first appearance in the Mead Hall; Beowulf's triumphant battle against him; the final scenes with a fantastic dragon.

    If you know me, you know I love dragons, and this is an incredible dragon. One of my favourite things about Zemeckis is his talent for staging visceral and thrilling setpieces, and Beowulf's fight with the dragon is up there with the heartstopping finale of Back To The Future, or Ellie's trip to Vega in Contact. When it was over I had to will my muscles to relax, it was that exciting.

    The performance-capture technology has one great benefit; capturing performances. I think I can see a naming-chronology developing there. Ray Winstone is very entertaining as Beowulf, despite the terrible decision to let him talk with his actual accent, leading to the odd, “Gor blimey, arr fancy you, darlin'!” near miss. John Malkovich is even better as a Grima-Wormtongue-esque weasel advisor who mans up part of the way through the tale. I’m not sure whether I liked Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar; even taking into account the slightly distorting effect of the CGI avatar he animates, he seemed a bit sluggish. Angelina Jolie has gotten a lot of press for being digitally en-nakedised yet nipple-free, and she manages to look both more and less human than she usually does (though where did her neck go?), and Crispin Glover, as Grendel, peels the pixels off the digi-walls with his stomping, shrieking, Middle-English-spouting anger.

    One of the things I liked most about the movie is that his attack on the Mead Hall is the result of his anger over the noise they make. I mean yeah, when our neighbours make a ton of noise I get angry too, but I don’t burst through their door, conjure up a bunch of blue flame, and then snap a bunch of guys in two while eating their heads. It’s not just because I don’t happen to be a superhumanly strong 10ft tall monster with a weirdly pulsating eardrum thing, either. It just causes more problems than it solves, is all.

    Around this point I would save special praise for my man Brendan Gleeson, possibly the most reliable character actor in the world (and yes, he is so so great in this), but it's my duty as a licensed, highly paid blogger to single out Robin Wright Penn, as Hrothgar’s wife Wealthow. There is a terrible sadness about her that breaks through the digital mask, to be replaced later in the film with barely suppressed bitterness and resolve. Shamefully, I’ve not really seen her in enough films to have given her any credit before now, but she’s so good in this I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled in future.

    As for the CGI, I'd be lying if I said it was perfect. Arm movements still look clumsy from time to time, which is a surprise considering Zemeckis used motion capture with the actual actors and not animation. Making up for that, the close-ups are incredible, capturing the performances in all their expressiveness. Sadly, that level of detail is lacking in the minor characters; one recurring character (a lady with an epic embonpoint who seems to only be there as a cleavage-based distraction) looks very shaky. Sometimes those characters look too blank or, on the opposite end of the scale, too detailed. Dominic Keating plays John Malkovich’s deformed servant, but in one scene you can see someone else in a crowd scene with the same features. Perhaps it was meant to be the same character, but I doubt it. Even worse, Alison Lohman plays Ursula, Beowulf’s young concubine, but her digital face is so similar to Robin Wright Penn’s that I thought she was meant to be his daughter. As a result I spent the ten minutes following her introduction in a state of shock and confusion as Beowulf macked on her and made comments about “swiving” her. This means The Knockinge of Ye Olde Worlde Boots. Even after the early scenes of debauchery and lechery involving the menfolk, I figured this was taking it a bit far.

    Still, these were minor concerns. The direction is confident and surprising, the action is memorable, the script (by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary) is pacy and eventful while making sure to spend time on inserting plenty of thought-fodder subtext. Taking into account the staying-power of the original poem, Avary and Gaiman spend a lot of time establishing Beowulf as a teller of tall tales, even though he also happens to be a brutal warrior who probably doesn’t need to embellish his exploits. By the end of the movie, the theme of legacy, storytelling, and mythology creep in over and over again, with the concept of the victor shaping history being undermined by the final, wonderfully ambiguous shot. Add to that a subplot about the growth of Christianity and some hilariously unsubtle sexual metaphors (both visual and verbal), and my brain was kept mostly happy while my eyes were fried in their sockets by the 3D loveliness.

    The most important thing, though, is that it is as much a film as it is a technological showcase. It does all of the things a film should do. That it is told with new(ish) gadgetry means nothing, unless you really want to rail against it because damn it, cinema peaked with Buster Keaton’s The General! To get that pissed, though, you have to be annoyed with the technological method of telling the story and not the execution of it, and if you do that, then that’s fine, but be warned. This is a far more solid starting point for the performance-capture revolution than The Polar Express or Monster House, and there are going to be a lot more movies made like this in the future, and even more troubling for the Luddites, the technology is only going to get better and better. No more flaily arms! Time to stop fretting about it and get used to it, if you ask me.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Sci-Fi Is Your Friend

    I can't remember which terrible sci-fi movie I watched recently that made me almost give up on the genre. It might have been Kurt Wimmer's heavily compromised and noisy Ultraviolet, a film I want to moan about in greater detail some other time (and the internet goes crazy with anticipation, yes yes). For all the things I liked about it, there were a million other things that left me feeling very unsatisfied. As it finished, my TV automatically switched back to the Sky+ box, as it does, and Sky Sci-Fi/Horror was showing Saul Bass' Phase IV, one of my all-time favourites. It's a 70s sci-fi drama about intelligent ants and the scientists who study them. If you've not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it. In time, I will go on about that more as well.

    Still, this "bugged" me, ha ha, if you will. The 70s may not have been the perfect era of cinema that many think it was, but I will freely and sadly admit it did have virtues almost totally lost to us today. Is the age of truly thought-provoking sci-fi cinema lost to us now? Over the past few years, as my favourite movie The Matrix, or Ghost in the Shell, or Star Wars, get cloned again and again to lesser and lesser effect, I do wonder. I'm writing this in a hurry, so I'm not thinking too straight, and please don't think I'm dissing any of those movies, the first two of which are absolutely wonderful and the latter was once upon a time, but the only recent film I can think of that delivered a similar rush of ideas as Phase IV or 2001 or The Man Who Fell To Earth is Shane Carruth's Primer, and to be honest I only say that because I don't even understand the damnable thing. Maybe we can include A Scanner Darkly in there. I'd also like to include Starship Troopers, though the ideas crammed into that slice of action heaven are mostly political and not speculative. Oh, and any haters out there who still think Starship Troopers is a bad movie liked only by deluded nitwits, look at this screen capture from the most recent 30 Rock.

    That's a warrior bug on Liz's windowsill there, and it's been there since the first episode! If Tina Fey likes Starship Troopers, it is automatically a masterpiece. Though she does seem to like Star Wars more than is healthy. ::momentarily doubts own logic::

    Gah! Whatever. The thought occured to me, though, that while mainstream US cinema is wary of creating challenging and thought-provoking cinema of the kind mentioned above, perhaps I can find it elsewhere, either in contemporary non-US cinema or back in the past. Which is why, for a couple of months now, I've been thinking of starting a mini-feature: Sci-Fi Through Space/Time! I have a few ideas for what to talk about, including a strangely large amount of French stuff, all of which proves there is more to that subset of sci-fi than Jane Fonda writhing around in various states of futuristic undress. I'll get onto that soon, hopefully, but until then, here is some sci-fi from South Africa; Alive in Joburg, by the man who almost helmed the Halo movie, Neill Blomkamp.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Things I Learnt Today (Nov 13th)

    1) Paul Verhoeven is directing the sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair and the remake of Topkapi at the same time.

    No, he's not doing a Spielberg and making one while finishing the post on another film; the sequel to Thomas Crown is also the remake of Topkapi. Do you see what I did there? I've not seen Topkapi, and I can't imagine that a sequel to Thomas Crown is necessary even though it's one of those movies that's guaranteed to switch off my motor centres and fix me to the sofa whenever it comes on TV because it is so goddamn perfect. So why am I happy? Because I'm always happy when Paul Verhoeven directs movies. Except for Hollow Man (which at least featured some gutsy moments and fantastic effects), his filmography is full of classics, with special mention to Starship Troopers, a film that no less an authority than England's greatest documentarian Adam Curtis said was "the most prescient, brilliant work of the last 20 years." If you don't believe me, check out the reaction of the mother at 1:20.

    Black Book
    , released earlier this year, was a magnificent film about personal and national morality, loyalty, and courage, told with Verhoeven's customary ballsiness and energy. There were no breasts unexposed, no obvious motifs unused, no Hitchcockian suspense sequence unHitchcocked. I can't imagine The Thomas Kapi Affair will be anywhere near as bold or imaginative or moving as that instant classic, and I'm not sure I want to see more of Fierce Pierce's heaving, glistening buttcheeks (especially now he's older and not quite as Bond-pert as he once was), but Verhoeven's earned my trust a million times over. He could direct Garfield 3: Cat in a Bread Basket and I'd still watch it.

    2. Canyon makes a mean chicken piccata.

    Yum! Good news for me, but bad news for her, because she's going to be cooking that a lot. Sorry, Canyon!

    3. I love cheap things.

    Amazon Marketplace is the worst thing in the world because it is the best thing in the world for offering cheap things, and I love buying cheap things so much that I will go on Amazon Marketplace and buy a million cheap things and pat myself on the back for buying cheap things but the postage and packing will quadruple the price and I won't notice that until I look at my bank balance a month from now and see large blobs of expenditure all over my otherwise pristine balance. This week I have bought:

    * What They Did to Princess Paragon by Robert Rodi.
    * Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another by Philip Ball.
    * Gus Van Sant's Elephant.
    * It's Superman! by Tom De Haven.
    * Repo Man soundtrack.
    * Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
    * The Angry Island by AA Gill.

    Combined price prior to postage and packing: £15.90. It could just be that I'm addicted to having things pushed through my letter box and will buy any old crap that I don't need just to have that sexxy exciting adrenaline rush. I'm sure I'm not alone there.

    4. We made a big mistake not watching Journeyman earlier.

    We were very behind on this show, and have spent most of today catching up, and damn, it's good. Not the best show ever, but way way better than we'd hoped. Part of it is the appealing and complicated quadrangular relationship that is so much more interesting than the kiddie stuff on most other shows. The other thing is the growing realisation that the showrunners are taking the time travelling seriously. The seventh episode was like Back To The Future 2, with all the skipping back and forth and fretting about our heroic journeyman and journeywoman and whether they can cover their tracks. More on this wonderful show at a later date, I'm sure, if it doesn't get cancelled before the writers strike finishes. Oh, we also found out that co-star Moon Bloodgood (Livia the journeywoman) is shooting up the Maxim Top Hottie list. This means very little to us. I will say, that considering how "hotties" are treated on TV shows most of the time ("Stand over there with your boobs out and giggle at the protagonist."), I love that she's sensibly dressed, serious, intelligent, and mysterious. She's a very compelling character.

    That said, from what we've heard, linking a picture of her from the fifth episode and merely just writing her name, Moon Bloodgood, will apparently increase the number of hits to this blog by an order of magnitude, even more so than the phrases, "Jumbleberry Crumble," or "Sonya Walger's boobs". Welcome, Moon Bloodgood fans! Hopefully you'll like it here.

    5. Jamie Foxx is off the chain.

    He's on an old Letterman right now (thank you Diva TV! ITV4 screwed us by taking it off, those scummy scumbags), and seriously, he's off the chain. James Brown impressions, anecdotes about operations; he's unstoppable.

    6. I'm psychic.

    One minute after writing that Jamie Foxx is off the chain, he said to Letterman that The Kingdom, the Peter Berg film he was promoting a month ago, was off the chain. Foxx! Get. Out. Of. My. Mind!

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    This Week In TV: Week 7

    My first attempt at writing this post (on my brand new and gorgeous Tytn II, and no I won't stop going on about it) went massively awry, spinning off into a sustained rant against a couple of new shows, and so I'll save that for another time. Let's keep this short and sweet. It was a good week, with a couple of shows missing and only a couple of real low points (ahem Bionical Woman ahem), so instead of spending hours writing a long post about every episode, let's do this easy digest style, bitches! (Apologies for errors, coding screw-ups and spelling mistakes; I'm in a hurry here.)

    Show of the Week:

    House, continuing this most amazing of seasons with style. Our anti-hero is pressganged into saving a CIA agent suffering from what looks like a case of Topical Radiation Poisoning (topical in that it's ripped from the headlines), Foreman outsmarts all of the new Cottages, Brennan gets kicked out of the team for poisoning this week's other patient with thallium, and a new and sassy love interest is introduced; Dr. Terzi, played by Michael Michele, who had to contend with the grumpy Dr. Benton in E.R., so this should be easy.

    It featured more cutting dialogue, bitchery, and belly laughs than anything else this week except for 30 Rock, which comes a very close second in the Show of the Week stakes. How long can House maintain this run of brilliance?

    Best Line of the Week:

    House (to Dr. Terzi): You know, I happen to have a position available on my penis. Wait a second, I just screwed up that joke.

    Second Best Line of the Week:

    House (to Wilson, who is amazed that House really is at CIA HQ in Langley): You've gotta get down here. They've got a satellite aimed directly into Cuddy's vagina. I told them the chances of invasion are slim to none, but...

    Actually, that whole scene was utter genius. It generated more hearty laughs than the entire season of Chuck to date, times 5.

    Nightmarish Image of the Week:

    Liz Lemon vomiting on a demon and then tucking into a cup cake.

    It's haunted me all week, though it's worse with the wet, squidgy sound effect of the barf. Oh Liz Lemon, you made me feel so very ill.

    Weapon of the Week:

    In an otherwise lacklustre episode of The Office, I was happy to see an Oriental sword getting a bit of screentime in the horrid sweaty hands of Dwight. Let's hope he gets a chance to brandish it sometime soon, hopefully in order to get rid of the ever-and-always vile Ryan.

    Question of the Week:

    Who has the widest shoulders? Michelle Ryan from Bionical Woman?

    Or Reaper's Missy Peregrym?

    Brave and the Bold-esque Team Up of the Week:

    In a frustrating (for us) piece of cross-franchise promotion, Bruckheimer Industries chose to give Without A Trace a ratings bump by having series protagonist Jack Malone show up in Vegas investigating a missing child. Great for fans of both shows, a bit distancing for those of us yet to succumb to the charms of Anthony LaPaglia and his sticky-out top lip.

    Actually, that's just mean. I have nothing against LaPaglia, who was fantastic in Ray Laurence's superb Lantana as Leon Zat (and was the best thing about Murder One's second season). We just felt a bit left out as lines directed at his character were obviously loaded with significance that we could not understand. At one point Doc Robbins asks him if he has kids, and his depressed face hinted at some great sadness we were not in a position to appreciate, though Wikipedia did get us up to speed later. That said, it was still a very strong episode, with Malone being a colossal dick, fronting on Hodges and bitching about Gil's office. However, we're going to have to watch the next episode of Without A Trace, because this was a two-parter, and evil murdering rapist scumbag John "Sol Star from Deadwood" Hawkes is still on the loose. What I've seen of Without A Trace didn't impress me much, but as it has a fan base as rabid and as ignored and maligned as the CSI fanbase, I should give it another chance.

    Guest Star of the Week:

    Canyon and I are among that small subsection of humanity that doesn't hate David Schwimmer. In fact, by the end of Friends, he was the only actor who still made us laugh on a regular basis. His appearance on 30 Rock as Greenzo, the demented manifestation of rabid ecological awareness, was inspired.

    "Good job. Leave all the lights on for the invisible people." He's everything I would become if I didn't try so hard to keep my eco-fear under control.

    Musical Moment of the Week:

    Amanda SummersDaughterofFeySummers, nee Tanen, distracting a grumpy wedding crowd with an impromptu version of Milkshake, complete with pipe organ backing and random choral embellishment, in the latest twist-packed installment of Ugly Betty (with only one reference to Wicked this week!).

    Is Becki Newton the best comedic actress on TV? It's a toss up between her and Tina Fey right now.

    Saddest Scene of the Week:

    Friday Night Lights' Jason Street (Scott Porter) is one of the best-written characters on TV, but has been in a rut for several weeks now, with a catastrophic trip to Mexico behind him, and much angst over his future. For a teenager with no movement below his chest, he's doing well, with the love of his entire town, a job coaching, and a loving family, but still he's searching for something. Tough news for Coach, who has to grudgingly accept his resignation, but good news for us, as we get to see more of his journey, and yet more of the best writing and acting on TV right now.

    I'm not ashamed to say that this scene left me with a moon-sized lump in my throat, with both Coach and Street expressing their respect for each other, and fear that they have let each other down. I have yet to get tired of saying how incredible this show is. Apologies if you, the reader, have become tired instead.

    Stunt of the Week:

    Bionical Woman
    returned to conquer TV with its flat dialogue and unimaginative plotting, but did happily feature a great moment with Jamie grabbing some French terrorist by the ankle, swinging him over her head, and slamming him down on to a table.

    The fact that she only has one bionical arm and no bionical spine and thus would have been snapped in two by such a maneuver can be ignored, as can the fact that her Xander-lookalike partner doesn't think it odd that his supposedly 100% organic love interest just hurled a guy through a 180 degree arc without breaking a sweat. It was a great physical stunt performed with style and shot prettily. Thumbs up for that, showrunners! And thumbs down for everything else.

    Most Wasted Former Mutant Enemy Actor of the Week:

    For once, it wasn't Adam Baldwin in Chuck. Reaper had a small role for Mercedes McNab this week, playing an immortal bad girl.

    She was great, but didn't get much screen time or many funny lines. Anyone who's seen her in Buffy and Angel knows how hilarious she can be, so this was immensely frustrating.

    Stupidest Moment of the Week:

    In this week's Bionical Woman our wide-shouldered heroine was on the trail of an ill-defined terrorist in possession of a list of some nebulous import. As this terrorist was played by Cylon scumbag Callum Keith Rennie we hoped for some improvement over the usual shittiness, but instead we got this horribly set up scenario involving plastic surgery. The first time we properly see him is a photo of him with the most outrageous aviator mustache in history. Good disguise, CKR!

    It's still recognisably him, though, which makes later scenes utterly ridiculous. Jamie and her wide shoulders go to a ball in Paris to intercept him, though she doesn't wear an old man mask or spray infrared spray on the back of anyone's head as in Mission: Impossible. The gimmick here is that CKR now looks so different from his Biggles photo due to extensive plastic surgery that only a Jamie-Eye-Cam picture of his iris is good enough to identify him, so she goes around the room scanning all of the guest's eyes, until she comes across CKR, sans mustache. Even though he looks almost exactly the same, the only thing that makes her suspect he is the terrorist is that he won't meet her gaze.

    Firstly, why? He doesn't know she's Bionical, so why is he looking away? Secondly, HE LOOKS LIKE THE PHOTO!!! Those screen caps are not out of context; that's exactly how the big cosmetic change was shown on screen. Just arrest him, dammit! But no, instead Jamie and the Xander clone follow him and allow him to lock them in a closet. Semi-Xander is so pissed he doesn't notice Jamie has super-strength, either when she breaks down a metal door or when she flips a guy up in the air, over her head, and then back down again. If all of these covert operatives are this unobservant, no wonder terrorists can avoid capture with nothing more than alterations to their face fuzz.

    The "You've Arrived, Sir!" Acting Triumph of the Week:

    Glenn Morshower has been stoic and noble and great in several series of 24, mostly just acting as an audience surrogate in the presence of the super-heroic David Palmer. In Friday Night Lights, he broke hearts left, right and centre this week, compromising himself by burning evidence in an effort to keep his son, Landry, out of jail for murder.

    It was all the worse for being such a doomed effort, and while we've been fretting over the future of our beloved Landry for weeks now, it seems we're going to have to add his dad to our list of things to be concerned over. Still, now we've seen what Morshower can do. Let's hope he gets cast in juicier roles than Secret Service Agent #5 in various dull action shows (not counting 24, obviously).

    Grin of the Week:

    Ray Wise!

    Of course Ray Wise. What the hell did you think I was going to say?