Saturday, April 28, 2007

(Over) Drive

Fox announced this week that Tim Minear's "Drive" has been canceled.

From Daily Variety:

'Drive' runs out of gas
Fox has impounded "Drive," steering the show off the network highway after four episodes. Despite decent reviews, "Drive" quickly stalled, averaging just a 2.3 rating and 6 share among adults 18-49, and 5.6 million viewers overall.
Monday night's "Drive" didn't help matters, coming in fifth place for the hour (1.5/5) and driving "24" to record lows, dropping Fox to fourth for the night. Net is still mulling whether to burn off the last two remaining segs of "Drive" on air, or stream the final segs online.

Well, there you go. I didn't even get to see the episodes beyond the first night. I started watching them after I heard this, then stopped, wondering what the point would be. I quite enjoyed the first two hours, but I guess I was the only one. Fox canceled "Drive" so fast, it makes "Firefly" look like "Law and Order." I really wanted it to succeed, for both Tim and Nathan's sake, but . . . what was I thinking?

At least "Heroes" is still on the air.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (25 April)

26-27 April '07

Buffy Season 3 continues. This week we watched two episodes, which seems like a good way to go. At this rate, this season should last through the summer.

The first was "Faith, Hope & Trick," which has to be a clever title, though I don't understand it.* It begins sometime after the last episode, and Buffy and her (now much more supportive) mother meet with Principal Snyder to get Buffy back into school. She is required to jump through hoops, including seeing the school psychiatrist, and her dreams of Angel continue (gotta shoehorn David Boreanaz into every show, I guess, since you're giving him a paycheck either way).

We're introduced to a couple of new baddies, including Kakistos, a vampire who is so old he has cloven hooves instead of hands. They're in town to kill the slayer (as well as fast food employees and pizza delivery boys), but here's the thing . . . they're after a slayer we've never met before. She's an attractive, slinky thing named Faith, and apparently she hails from the Boston area. She has what used to be called a devil-may-care attitude, but it's hiding some dark secrets (many I hope will be revealed in future episodes), including the fact that her Watcher was a woman, who died before her eyes in an unspeakable manner.

You gotta have Faith. You know, I've never liked Eliza Dushku, finding her abrasive, nasty, and low-class (kind of a softer, more attractive version of every role Michelle Rodriguez plays). But it's strange, I sure liked her in this episode, as caustic as she can be. She seemed fresh and fun, and everyone else likes her too, including Buffy's new potential love interest. Odd that when they introduced Kendra the Vampire Slayer, she was a much more serious and rigid character than Buffy. After they unceremoniously killed her, we meet Faith, who is a much less serious and rigid character than Buffy.

Faith ingratiates herself into the group faster than . . . well, anybody possibly could, even coming over to Buffy's house and participating in the family dinner. Buffy's mom (aka Joyce) is impressed by her, but at least part of that is due to her thought that with another slayer in town, Buffy may be able to cut back on her vampire-hunting activities, maybe to become a normal girl again. She refers to Buffy marching in the Slayer Pride parade, which is yet another comparison of being the Chosen One to homosexuality.

Buffy feels slighted and jealous about the attention Faith garners, but all that changes when they clash with the big bad old vampire. Kakistos is built up to be pretty darn badass, but they kill him in something of a joke, so I guess I was wrong. I look forward to seeing who the Big Bad will be this season.

A couple of subplots include Buffy rebuffing (no pun intended) the advances of Scott, a guy at school who must really like her, 'cause he keeps popping up like a seventeen year old Weeble-wobble. When he gets her a ring just like the one Angel gave her last season, she freaks out rather completely, and goes to the location where Angel died and leaves her ring there. Something strange occurs, and after Buffy is gone, a naked Angel re-enters our world.

This was a good one, though a lot of it was setup. That's fine, though, and except for the fact that Cordelia now has nothing to do, I welcome the addition of the new slayer character. They also provided Buffy with the chance to tell her friends what happened when she confronted Angel last season. Tyranist and I got the impression that Giles was subtly pushing her toward that revelation, and that it was what she needed to move on.

I noticed the score a lot more on this episode. It was bigger and fuller than I remember, and there was a lovely Buffy/Angel theme that I liked and noticed repeated on the next episode.

That next episode was "Beauty and the Beasts," and it centered around the full moon, which causes Oz to become Armenian. Sorry, bad joke, he turns into a werewolf every month, which has to make it hard to date him. Our gang locks him up in the library (which they evidently do all the time), and take turns guarding or reading to him (Willow reads him "The Call of the Wild," which should have been sappier, but just wasn't).

Out on patrol, Buffy runs into Angel. He runs into her, actually, attacking her, seemingly a mindless savage now (though he did manage to find a pair of pants and shoes and put them on). It turns out that he may have spent a great deal of time in Hell/the demon dimension, and it reformatted his hard drive. When a student is mauled to death, some of our heroes suspect Oz, tyranist and Buffy suspect Angel (the bestial version), and I suspect someone else.

Buffy is now dating the new guy, Scott, and yeah, it's cute that all our teen characters have significant others right now (maybe we can hook Giles up with Faith, what do you think?). We are introduced to two new students--also a couple--and because they are given a little personality and backstory, I figured they would be recurring. But I am dumb.

Turns out of the two guest stars, one is the killer (having taken some experimental/magical Mister Hyde formula) and one is his long-suffering, cringing, and often-abused girlfriend. They also introduced a therapist character that Buffy had a session with. He was unorthodox, and (I thought) had a hell of a lot of potential. He was killed a few minutes later, so I guess that don't matter.

In the end, Mister Hyde fights Werewolf Oz, long-suffering girlfriend is killed, and Buffy confronts Bestial Angel. Our bad guy is killed, and Buffy shackles Angel up. She may see a glimmer of humanity in him, but only time will tell how much of the old character we love (by "we," I mean "everybody except me and tyranist") is left.

Marti Noxon wrote this one, and has completely redeemed herself from the mediocre second episode of the season. This show had a lot going on, and was quite good, though I did find it troubling.

I mentioned when I watched "Innocence" about the subtext of a boyfriend changing in a relationship, turning different, turning bad. In "Beauty and the Beasts," it's handled a little differently. There was no subtext at all here; it was all text. We can sum up the theme of the show as: Men becoming beasts = abusive relationships.

I've heard Joss speak about the strong women he writes in his shows and his response to mentions of the feminism of his views and characters, but this show seems to be going more and more toward Men Bad Women Good than any other episode. Men fall into two categories: callow, dumb and weak, or violent, selfish and villainous.

I do have to say, in defence of my gender, that if the man-bashing were reversed, many would be offended, and the show would be attacked as ridiculously misogynistic. Blood would flow like the mighty Euphrates during flood season.

Buffy is a role model, as is Willow in a way, and Joyce, and Faith(ish). Only Cordelia remains a flake, but I'm sure that will be remedied within the year. On the male side, I guess we have Giles, but pretty much all the males are weaker/shallower and more corruptible/fallible than the females. It's not a criticism per se, it's just something that I've noticed and wanted to mention.

I love the programme, and recognise the show is called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," it's not called "The Men and Women of Sunnydale," or even "The Boys by the Hellmouth." It's a show with a female star and a cast of powerful female characters, unlike "Alias" or "Dark Angel," which were shows with a female star and a mostly male supporting cast. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into this. Maybe men are not bad and women good, maybe just abusive split-personality high school boyfriends are bad and teenage girl superheroes with angst are good.

Rish "Sometimes It's Hard To Be A Woman" Outfield

*I looked it up and now I get it. Not exactly my favourite all-time title, however.

P.S. In semi-related news, I went to a store yesterday that shall remain nameless (let's just say that they're in the city and they sell circuits, among other things), and I thought I'd pick up a "Buffy" set, or check the prices. I noticed that the first season, with ten episodes, costs the same as the seasons with twenty-something episodes. They did have them all, though, as opposed to Best Buy, which just had the third season (it was really cheap, though). There have been two releases of the full season sets, in a large foldout edition, and then a slimmer chapterbook version. I initially thought that the slim version was just a barebones set, but it appears to have the same content, just be better packaged and cheaper.

That's probably going to irritate tyranist, who is not only a collector, but a sort of Satanic librarian. He likes things to match on his shelves, and disliked when "The Simpsons" and "Masters of Horror" changed their packaging. I don't know if he'd go as far as to get rid of his foldout sets in exchange for matching slimline sets, but he might. Oh, and he also likes to pick up drifters and kill them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

April 25th, 2007

"What makes me better than you is that I don't think I'm better than you."
Gerald N. Kappler

Let's see if I can rant for a moment in between trainings at work today.

The drive to work was pleasant today. I pass a college campus on the way and while stopped at a red light, I saw a dude walking on the sidewalk. He was tall, blond, athletic, and handsome. I have to admit that, for a moment or two, I wanted to be that guy. But then I noticed he was walking strangely, perhaps he was crippled. I thought, "Uh oh, this guy has a clubfoot or the beginnings of spina bifida."

Upon closer inspection, I realised that his pants were so baggy they hung a literal foot lower than they should have. The pants' crotch was at his knees, and that was what was impeding his walking. As I drove away, I changed my mind. I do not wish to be stupid people.

But who would I like to be? That's a difficult question. It's easy to say WHAT I'd like to be: A professional screenwriter who also writes short stories. Ideally, I guess I would be a less-talented Richard Matheson. I wonder if that is too much to ask.

I saw HOT FUZZ last night and quite enjoyed it. Simon Pegg is quickly becoming a hero of mine. I hope he sleeps with women so hot it would make Colin Farrell jealously dry heave himself to death.

It's funny. I had three or four subjects I terribly wanted to blog about during the commute this morning. Now that I'm in front of a computer, I could barely rant a paragraph about the baggy pants guy . . . and the rest of the subjects have fled my mind. Perhaps this is how serial killers get started.

One more thing came to me just now. I complained to tyranist about it last night, but a couple of the guys in my training group are really, really excited about THE TRANSFORMERS movie coming out this summer. Stoner-types, in their early to mid twenties, they think it will be better than both SPIDER-MAN 3 and PIRATES 3. But I just can't get my head around that. Is there any way the movie can be good? The way I see it, it has three things working against it:

1. It's based on a cartoon series based on a comic book based on a Japanese toy line back in the Eighties.

2. If you were a huge fan of the old cartoon (or cartoons), won't you be disappointed by the characters not looking anything like they did on that show(s)? It can't have all the robots in it that you loved from the original franchise(s). Except for Peter Cullen, all the Transformer voices will be different. And most importantly, since most of the potential audience for this movie were fans when they were kids, how can a 2007 movie satisfy that? Should it be nostalgic, should it be a modern take? Should they try to thrill you as an adult or appeal to the child within? Or should it be aimed at the next generation of children? Is there any chance that it can work on every level at once?

3. Michael Bay is directing.

I don't hate Michael Bay as much as many do (in fact, my favourite of his movies is the one 95% of Bay-bashers mention most), but find his work to be headache-inducing, shallow, cinematically unwatchable, and almost completely soulless. I'd call him a rich man's Renny Harlin, except that Harlin's films are almost always entertaining, even if they're ridiculous, dumb, and unbelievable.

I went to a Q&A with the screenwriters of TRANSFORMERS and found them to be funny, clever people. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 wasn't bad, but it felt like JJ Abrams wrote the stuff I most enjoyed. But regardless of how good the script to THE ISLAND was, the film was really dissatisfying and trite (and I lay the blame right at Bay's feet).

I guess it's childish of me to want the movie to fail, but I really loved the Transformers twenty-something years ago, and have absolutely zero interest in this new film, the same way I had no interest in seeing THE OMEN or STEPFORD WIVES remakes.

When I went to the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie (in, when was it, 1990?), I thought I was a little too old for it, having enjoyed the comics and cartoon just a couple of years previous. If I watched a classic episode of "Transformers" today, would I really think it was that great? Would I even think it was good? Years of separation do that to a person; somebody you were only mildly attracted to can become a goddess in your mind as the distance increases. Then when you're face-to-face with them again, reality can often be a disappointment.

I could go on and on about this (which is why it's referred to as a rant), but I'm not going to. I simply think TRANSFORMERS is going to disappoint because it just doesn't look good. Prove me wrong, guys.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Buffy Season Three Begins

18 April 2007

Well, tyranist and I waited a week to find out what happened between season two and season three. I'm going to do my darndest to make this season last longer than the second did.

The season premiere, "Anne," was a very good episode. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon, and dealt with Buffy living on her own in an unnamed city, working as a waitress named Anne in a diner. Clearly, she has tried to put her past behind her and live a normal life. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of miserable people--mostly elderly vagrants--in this city, a place where many go to flee the difficulties of life. We find out that a semi-religious group led by Carlos Jacott (who was Dobson in the "Firefly" pilot) has been getting the youth off the street, offering them a new life . . . and taking it from them.

There's a new opening titles sequence (Seth Green is now a member of the main cast), though the song remains the same. Angel appears in both episodes, but just in dream sequences.

This was a dark episode, and I'm happy about that. We catch up with the rest of the gang back in Sunnydale and find that they are doing their best to slay vampires without Buffy. But life is difficult and they all feel her absence.

Buffy runs into a girl from last season, who constantly appears either stoned, or much much blonder than Buffy is. Her boyfriend is recruited by Jacott's gang, dies, then she and Buffy go there as well. Jacott and company are demons, their recruits are forced to work as slaves in a purgatorial realm until they are old and decrepit, then they are returned to our reality for the end of their lives. I don't believe we'd seen alternate dimensions before, and there was something of a grander scale to it all.

The episode examines of how Buffy Summers has been forced to grow up fast, and she acted like an adult throughout. She had to, I suppose, being on her own like that. In the end, Buffy thrashes some demon tail, helps the girl (Lily) get a chance for a better life, and goes back to Sunnydale, where her mother greets her with open arms.

The second episode we watched, "Dead Man's Party," picked up right after the first one. Giles and friends are trying to get back into the groove of things after Buffy's hiatus, and there are a lot of angry and hurt feelings under the surface. Mrs. Summers (who tyranist suggests is named Joyce, and will be thus called in my posts from now on) gets a freakishly ugly old mask and puts it up in her bedroom. First it reanimates a dead cat, then it reanimates the dead people in town (and man, there are a lot of them).

Still expelled from Sunnydale High (Principal Snyder won't allow her to return, even though she has since been exonerated for the crimes of last season), Buffy balks at the idea of private school, and her pals decide they should throw her a party. At Buffy's house. And invite tons of strangers. And Buffy's mom's neighbour. Pretty much everybody attacks everybody else verbally, then zombies attack them all physically.

I had tyranist pause the DVD at some point so we could talk about things. You know, it was a selfish thing that Buffy did at the end of last season, though it was totally understandable. What I didn't (and still don't) understand was why she didn't phone or write (to Giles or Willow or Xander or even her mother) to tell them know why she had done so, or at least to let them know she was okay. There's so much stuff that happened at the end of "Becoming Part 2" that only she knew about (such as Bad Angel's fate, the vortex/statue/obelisk thing, Spike and Drusilla, etc.), as well as her mother making her feel unwelcome at home. I have been a teenager and am still selfish, but I'm only willing to accept so much.

Xander seems, at first, totally out of character, but then I recall his two questionable moments at the end of season two, where he took the unpopular "Let's Kill Angel" stance, and where he lied to Buffy's face about what Willow was up to. I mentioned to tyranist that I think the change is due to the fact that Oz is now a main character, and the two have been pretty much written with the same personality. They've given Xander a nastier, angrier side, which I know from seeing myself is unattractive. I do seem, for some reason, to dislike the Oz character, and I can't quite put my finger on the why.

I'll give it some thought.

Buffy's mother--sorry, Joyce--also seemed more overbearing and spiteful (though we did get a glimpse of it previously in the last two episodes, when she practically threw her daughter out of her house, and again when she blamed Giles for Buffy's running away), doing what she could to treat Buffy like a child and a criminal, and also in front of a house filled with teenagers she allowed to drink alcohol in her house. In her defence, she was also a little drunk.

In the end, though there is enough anger and unkind words to fill half a daytime talk show, once Buffy kills the lead zombie (who was ostensibly a friend of her mother's, though I'm sure it won't ever be brought up), everything returns to normal and people are "cool" once again.

Giles threatens Principal Snyder (both litigiously and physically), and Buffy is allowed back in school. Tyranist said to me that he hopes that we get to see a return of "Happy Buffy" next week. I'm not sure if he meant the character or the show.

"Dead Man's Party" wasn't an awful episode, but it sure was flawed. I'd say that every single second season show was better than it was. It's strange because it was written by Marti Noxon, who wrote some of Season Two's best shows, including "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" and "Surprise."

I'm nowhere near giving up on the show just because of one weak episode (and I may be judging it unfairly, though I don't think so). I look forward to seeing the villains they bring in this season, as well as how they bring Angel back and continue to develop the characters. SMG's emotional performance was again very good and I'm now wondering if they're as talented as I keep saying they are, or if I just really like emotion on this show.

I gotta say a little about youth here, just for a minute. I've never been very mature and like Bart Simpson before me, I was an underachiever and proud of it, man. Youth is a time to find out who you are, and to do that, a lot of times it involves finding out who you aren't. We've all done things and gone places and hung around people just to see if they were for us only to find out that it's not where we belonged. Whether it's a geographic location, or sex, or religion, or a certain crowd, or drugs, or a music scene, or parties, or sports, or multi-level marketing, or anything, when you're young, you experiment to find your place. If you're lucky, you find out quickly, and have few consequences. Many people, like my sister who got pregnant, or my uncle who never quite kicked drugs, or fill-in-the-blank who lost their life, have major consequences to the paths they chose, whether intending to jump in with both feet or just dip their toes in.

I am willing to forgive Buffy her mistakes because I understand how they can be made. I didn't like the way it looked like they were all be swept under the rug in the last five minutes of "Dead Man's Party," but I hope that it's not as simple as that, and the after-effects will linger for episodes to come.

If they don't, however, I'm willing to forgive that too, 'cause after all, she did save the world.

Rish Outfield

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just "Drive," She Said

16 April 2007

Re: Sponsibility. I was only two minutes late for work today, and I'm already typing away at my blog. I plan on skipping out on work later this week too to go to California. I know this goes without saying, but I'm not exactly the model employee. This is a really lax work environment. Our supervisor isn't coming in until noon, apparently, so we're just expected to do our menial, mindless) jobs. They have some policy where, if you're on time for an entire month, you get a hefty bonus. I have probably been on time an average of one day a month.

On Friday, because it was Friday the 13th, they were going to do something called "Halloween In April," where we were supposed to come to work dressed in some kind of costume. The night before, I did remember the occasion, but couldn't be arsed to go through my boxes and find something Halloweenie. The next morning, when I came to work, I found that not a SINGLE person in the entire building dressed up for the occasion. So, I woulda been the only one, kinda like my birthday party in 2004. Laziness saved me that time.

Well, today may be my last day, so I guess I shouldn't have said anything. Whoops.

In other non-news, "Drive" premiered last night, and hey, I actually watched it.

Okay, I had a friend TiVo it, and we watched it an hour or so after it aired. But that's still close. I found out that I actually like commercials now. The two hour "Drive" premiere had about ten movie ads and I wanted to see those. People talk about commercials a lot, and I never see them.

Whoa, I've just about become one of those strange kids with the ironed red shortpants that proudly boasts, "We don't have a teevee in our house."

"Drive" was a really entertaining show. I'll make no bones about it: I watched it due to Nathan Fillion, and, to a lesser extent, Executive Producer Tim Minear, both late of "Firefly." In fact, there were a couple familiar faces from that show (for example, Jubal Early showed up in the very first scene). Co-creator and writer Tim Minear is not a stranger to Fox television, having worked on "The X-Files" before "Angel" and "Firefly," and then "Wonderfalls" and "The Inside," which were both canceled before their TV Guide entries' ink was dry.

The show deals with a secret cross-country road race with several participants competing for $32 million. Nathan Fillion plays our lead character, who is led to believe that his kidnapped wife will be waiting for him at the finish line. In a fiendishly brilliant move, his character misses the orientation where all of the race's rules are laid out, so he's as lost and clueless as we are during the race. There are several other characters participating, who were introduced in that first hour, and most of them have a story to tell. The pilot introduced a big ensemble cast, only a quarter of them likable. After a while, though, as we got to know some of the participants, we saw a bit of (oh so deliberate) decency and personality among them, which helps.

It was fun and filled with car action, amusing interactions, interesting rules to the game, and annoying zooms in and out of cars (as well as from space down onto obviously CG locales). It's a very serialised programme, though, which will make it hard to attract new viewers. It's not all that satisfying in one hour increments (this I'm saying having never watched a one hour increment), but Fox seems to know this, by showing three episodes in two days, hoping people will become hooked on it.*

As usual, there are lots of attractive people in the cast, but it's nice to see a couple of normal-looking folks, like Doctor Curt Connors from the SPIDER-MAN movies and that one real ugly dude, who looks like his part will be recurring. Melanie Lynskey also appears as a harried new mother. She is always good, no matter how small the part. I like her, and you should too.

I have no idea what the ratings were, and I only care in that, if I continue to watch the show and it gets canceled, I'll be unhappy.

What I won't be, though, is surprised.

Rish "Stuck In Neutral" Outfield

*I only wish they had cared half as much about "Firefly," but I digress.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Season Two, I Barely Knew Thee

12 April 2007

The Last Buffy Wednesday?

Probably not, but it's possible.

Of course, it's possible I will impregnate Kelly Brook, but just as likely.

So, last night, I went over to tyranist's house and we enjoyed the last two episodes of BTVS Season Two: "Becoming" 1 and 2. These episodes feed right into one another, and probably should be watched as a two hour movie, since they're not at all satisfying on their own.

So, a lot happens in these episodes. First of all, we get to see Angel's origin: when he is turned into a vampire, how he messes with Drusilla's head, and how he is cursed by the gypsies to get his soul back. We also see what happened to bring him to Sunnydale as the dark and mysterious stranger that showed up in the pilot. All of this was really well done, but I still have a problem with David Boreanaz's performance, and even more so, Julie Benz's performance as the vampire who sired him. But that may well be just me. Obviously, Boreanaz is beloved, or they wouldn't have spun a series off with him that (according to pesky insiders) got better ratings that "Buffy" did.

We end the season with the resolution of many plotlines: What's to be done with Bad Angel the chief one among them. In these two, they find a statue within an obelisk that houses a sword that holds in a vortex that will pull humanity into Hell.
At one point, Xander pokes his head into the conversation and says, "I've got a suggestion: Let's kill Angel." It's interesting because it's a valid point, but delivered with a combination of bitterness, fatigue, and calculation. Of course he's looks like an asshole for making the suggestion, and I had to wonder why it wasn't Giles or Cordelia the line was given to, but there's logic in his statement. Tyr and I talked about it (which is the reason for Buffy Wednesday), and it's worth talking about here too. If Buffy had the chance to kill Bad Angel, but doesn't do it because of who he used to be, and he kills three innocent people (he probably killed more, but they showed three I can name in previous episodes) . . . well, isn't some of that blood on her hands?

It's part of what makes the show--or any good show--interesting, a topic of conversation where not everything is black and white. Discuss amongst yourselves.

These two episodes pay off the Spike storyline, and I'm surprised how much I like that character. I look forward to whenever he shows up again. While they've made him into a likable character with depth, I find I still despise Drusilla. I wonder if they can change my mind on that front.

They kill off Kendra the Vampire Slayer at the end of the first half, and that's too bad, because I was curious where she came from, what her Watcher was like, and if she has sex with pasty white internet bloggers. I'm not satisfied with the way Kendra died, but I'm sure we'll see other Slayers in the seasons to come.

They also pay off the lost yellow disk Miss Calendar made to restore Good Angel from Bad (but not before a nice tease where we think it's not going to be found), and Willow delves into serious magic for the second time (though not the last, I'm told).

In another new development, Buffy's mother finds out what she does in her spare time. Also interesting is her reaction. First there's the "Have you tried NOT being a vampire slayer" line that probably would have inspired conversation, had we not already seen X-MEN 2 (which didn't exist at the time).* Then, after seeing a vampire crumble to dust before her eyes, she forbids Buffy to go out and save the world, even telling her that if she does, she's no longer welcome in their home. I haven't been a teenager since around the time Bush was president (is that at all comical?), but I remember the power struggles with my parents, and the feeling that their decisions were sometimes so arbitrary and unfair that I wanted to Hulk out. I think every teenager goes through it, and every once in a while, when I'm around my dad, I feel echoes of it even now. But seeing it from the perspective of an adult, I was surprised that I didn't side in the slightest with Buffy's mother (sorry, I forget her name). She was so clearly wrong, and Buffy is so inarguably selfless in fulfilling her Chosen One-ial obligations (especially in this episode), that you just want to "sit Mrs. Summers down," as a roommate of mine used to say ("sit her down" was Ray-speak for telling someone female that they're in the wrong, a sort of Nineties version of "putting a woman in her place"). Hmmm.

Giles is tortured (though subtly instead of graphically, not like Malcolm Reynolds is tortured in Firefly's "War Stories"), and he manages to bring some English wit to the exchange, before Drusilla mindtricks him into seeing her as Jenny Calender, and she sweet-talks the answers out of him. We don't think poorly of him for doing this, and there's another thing Joss does well: his characters can show weakness without coming across as weak. I could rant on that subject too (and cite a rainbow of movie offenders), but not today.

I understand why they killed Miss Calender, but I sure am sad to see her character go.

Principal Snyder, who I don't think I've mentioned before, is another character I like. Played by "Deep Space Nine"'s Armin Shimmerman, he's just so cartoonishly nasty that I feel there has to be something else going on with him (a bit like Severus Snape, I suppose). Tyranist's theory was that he knows Buffy is the Slayer, and my theory was that he knew Sunnydale was a weird-arse place, but not what Buffy was up to. Well, that question was not resolved when he expels Buffy from school with venomous relish (exactly the reason I don't like krautdogs). Buffy's response is, "I'll bet you never dated in high school," when anyone else would have torn him in half like a wet Us Weekly.

There's a lot of fighting in this episode. Xander gets his arm broken, Willow gets hospitalised, and Cordelia runs away. I've heard Joss say that the fight scenes are his least favourite part to write, and I can't blame him. They rarely thrill me--though the fights in SERENITY kicked ass (quite literally)--and I am much more impressed by a clever line or emotional moment than a well-choreographed stunt.

So, in the end, Buffy confronts Bad Angel, and at the same time, Willow attempts to perform the ritual that will return Angel's soul to him. It succeeds, but not before Angel has begun opening the vortex that doom us all. Angel comes out of his funk with no memory of what Bad Angel had been up to, and Buffy has about one minute to make a choice. She kisses Angel, tells him she loves him, and then has him close his eyes. It's a nice moment, because Angel appears very childlike in this scene, and Buffy, all five-foot-nothing of her, seems much older than he is. She thrusts her sword into his chest and he disappears, closing the vortex and saving us all.

But all is not well. Besides killing the man she loves, Buffy has no home, no school, and no car to return to (though the car was never really an issue before). We see her, alone as Gilbert O'Sullivan, getting on a bus departing Sunnydale, headed to places unknown. For the first time, Buffy is alone.

Don't know how alone any of you fine folks have been (though if you're reading this, chances are you know a little bit about solitude), but it's often a pretty cold place to be. Even in Southern California.

And that's it.

Part of me wants to dive right into season three, to devour it like a Romero zombie in a phonebooth with Rosie O'Donnell. But at the same time, I want to hold off. To give it a couple of weeks (or months), or maybe even quit now, when the show is as good as it could possibly be. Before Joss splits his attention with "Angel" and "Firefly" and before the writers start getting lazy and the actors start to phone it in.

Looking back on the Horror elements of the show, I'd say, of all the spooks of Season Two, it was Ted (from "Ted") that was the scariest. I didn't blog that one up, but basically, John Ritter played Buffy's mother's perfect new boyfriend, who everyone absolutely adores . . . except for Buffy. He's old fashioned, and controlling, and a completely psychotic amoral android. In the scenes when he's giving Buffy a life-lesson or making an emotionless threat, it was truly chilling to watch him. I think part of this is because of the body of work John Ritter was so known for (that of a wacky, light comedic pratfaller), and it shows he had a great deal of talent we may never have seen.**

If I had to nail one episode down as the best of the season . . . well, I probably couldn't do it. But if I had to name one from before I started blogging and one from after, I guess I'd say "Halloween" from before and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" from after. It may be that "Innocence" was actually a better episode (it was, after all, the one that made me feel the need to blog about the show), but it was the second half of a two-parter, and may not qualify.

But folks, I can't stress how unbelievable it is that every episode in Season Two was great. That simply doesn't happen in television. Sure, every episode of "Firefly" was great, but that wasn't a real season. And every episode of the first season of (Ron Moore's) "Battlestar Galactica" and "The Simpsons" were great, but those aren't real seasons either (just mini-seasons or BBC-length seasons, or "series" as they're called in the UK). How Joss pulled it off I don't know, and if you know, I'd really like to find out.

When I was in school, I came up with the idea for a TV show I wanted to do someday, and started writing down my ideas. I envisioned it as just one season, with all the episodes written (or at least plotted out) before the first one was ever shot or cast. The arcs of the characters, how they meet, fall in love (or hate), and live or die would all be planned out and kept in mind when we went into production. When I talked to people in the industry about the show, or even my friends about it, they all wondered why I would hobble myself like that.
"What if it's successful?" they asked.
"Then hooray, we've accomplished our mission."
"But come on, what if people want more?"
"They can buy the DVD," I said, feeling more smug than usual.

I may well buy "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" season two on DVD. It's a shame that technology makes everything so obsolete so quickly, because that's something I would like to have for the rest of my life (all three more months of it, ha ha) and bring out every couple of years to watch with my nieces and nephews, while cuddling my semi-lifelike Companion Robot 3700.

The internet, besides the porn thing, seems to have been invented so geeks could complain about things. On every message board on every site on every server, somebody is typing about how much something sucked, from SUPERMAN RETURNS to President Bush, "Lost" to the latest issue of "New Avengers," from Celine Dion to the the latest "Harry Potter" book, from posting rules and regulations to Prequels. I have done it too.*** It's a lot easier and more fun to complain about something than to praise it. And it's a hell of a lot harder to create something than to tear something else down. Why else do you think I have six hundred horror film reviews on the internet, yet have created . . . well, not so many.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" season two really rocked. Hey, I recognise that this is a love-fest here, and that may be irritating to many. But if an episode sucked, I'd tell you. And I didn't come into this thing as a fan of "Buffy." I didn't like the first few episodes of season one enough to watch the second disc, and the one episode I saw in first-run back in '97 wasn't enough to ever make me watch another.

Sure wish it had, though. I was missing out.

Rish Outfield

*Another interesting connection: Joss Whedon wrote at least one draft of the original X-MEN movie for Fox. According to Joss, none of his script, save a single line, ended up in the finished film.

**Which reminds me: I went to Disney's California Adventure Park back in August 2003. ABC was having a presentation promoting their upcoming fall shows, and I attended, hoping to see Jennifer Garner. John Ritter was there promoting his "Eight Simple Rules" TV show. It was only a few days later that he died.

**And will do it again soon. Someday I'd like to rant about the one (and only) time I went into Sit & Sleep, the mattress store, shopping for a bed, then slept on laid-out newspapers the rest of the month.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Negative Feedback

I started selling toys on eBay last year, and I found out an interesting thing: negative feedback is approximately 50 times more important than positive feedback. A buyer or seller can get twenty, thirty, forty or more positives from people who enjoyed their transactions to the point that they wrote things like "I will start a church around this person" or "I would let him get atop my daughter," but you get one negative feedback, and that all doesn't matter.

Nobody cares to look at your positives. They only want to watch out for your negatives. I worked with a guy who said he wouldn't buy an item from someone with less than 99.8% positive, regardless of how many thousands of positives the guy has earned. And I've dealt with people who, dissatisfied with our transaction, send blackmail emails threatening a negative feedback unless I refund their money or appease them in some other way.

I got a couple of hate letters yesterday regarding the website I run with my friend tyranist. I don't know what to say about this. Maybe it's better to just let it go and move on, since you don't write somebody to tell them they're stupid without hoping to provoke some kind of reaction.

You know, my website could be better, yes. It could look a hell of a lot more professional, and have links and art and ads and such, but that's not what we're about. We're just two guys who love Horror, and we try to watch a couple of films a month and review them. In our spare time.

But the letters bothered me anyway. And maybe that's something I should work on. Maybe I need a ton of emails telling me that I suck and have no business running a website, maintaining a blog, or continuing to take up space and oxygen on the planet. That might give me a thicker skin, and the calcium I need to develop more of a backbone. Then again, I'm a depressed unhappy soul as it is.

Okay, never mind. Send only positive feedback, please!

Damn. I have other things I'd like to write about, such as INDIANA JONES IV, and my experiences at grindhouses, and the recent rush of Horror films, but this topic just keeps coming up.

Take the biggest non-news story in the news this last week: radio host Don Imus referring to the Rutgers University Womens Basketball Team as "nappy-headed hos." An ancient, irrelevant, East Coast shock jock says something attempting to be funny (or derogative, or critical, take your pick how to interpret the statement), and the world comes to a screeching halt. People are up in arms. Racism! Hatemongering! Misogyny! A new Civil War is upon us!

So, it's everywhere, on every news station, on every infotainment program, on every radio show. The complaints, the threats, the boycotts, the namecalling. The man was taken to task, then forced to apologise, then suspended for two weeks, then his television show was taken off the air, and then (they just announced it) he was fired. Ain't America great?*

So I was talking to tyranist about this last night. He and I have different political views, for some reason, and different opinions on a lot of topics, even though we usually think along the same lines. Once we get talking, though, the words start to flow like, I don't know, like a bad chimichanga.

I grew up in a society where people absolutely LOVE to get offended. It's bigger than bowling, chess, soccer, and Candyland COMBINED. Nothing gets the blood pumping in the people of my birthplace more than the opportunity to show offense at something, then through that offense, show how great and honourable one of God's chosen they are. By pointing a finger at something that offended your sensibilities, your bluster can point a finger at how great and pious you are. I've seen it again and again, from when I was a little boy and certain movies, songs, TV shows, and books were Evil to the 21st Century and Janet Jackson's breast, "South Park" making fun of fill-in-the-blank, and Wal-Mart putting up a sign that says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Somebody should get in trouble, somebody should be fired, somebody should pay me money.

It's called righteous indignation, boys and girls, and it's been around since Moses's time. But wow, it's everywhere now. There's a lot to get offended about, since there's more media available than ever before. 95% of what airs on VH1 today makes me want to defenestrate myself, let alone MTV.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Hip Hop music should be banned. All of the CDs should be destroyed, the rappers and producers who create it should be jailed, and everyone who listens to it should be put behind bars, because only criminals and lowlifes listen to it.

Okay, maybe that was too easy. Maybe I should have said video games, or pornography, or copies of the Koran, or better yet, Horror movies (since that's a subject near and dear to this little heart of mine). But the point I'm (badly) making is that nobody has the right to say stuff like that. Who am I to condemn ANYTHING or label it evil, because your Evil is, frankly, my Good. You have as much right to listen to Rap music as I do to listen to John Denver.

But if somebody feels that way (or writes it in their blog), they should have the freedom to do so, even if it pisses me, or you, or Jesse Jackson off when they say it. The three of us should have enough level-headedness to simply shrug it off, and recognise that there are crazy people out there, more every day. A free society means you can love Tom Green movies, keep your Star Wars guys in their original packaging, and grandma porn. I hope it's okay that I create cartoons about The Young Hitler Chronicles ("It's not mein fault!") and Passion of the Christ 2: Jesus's Revenge ("They crossed the wrong man!").

I listen to talk radio every single day. What keeps me listening is a combination of soul-crushing loneliness and an endless variety of interesting things being said by interesting people. And to be interesting, people will invariably step on somebody's feelings, or political/religious/relationship/familial/societal opinon. I can't count the times I've heard somebody get on the radio and argue or complain or bitch at the DJs/personalities, telling them they're seriously outraged and will never listen again. And yet, they sat on hold for Buddha knows how long, then take up even more of their time appearing on the radio show to complain, in essence, contributing entertainment to the regular listeners out there who aren't going to agree with what they're saying, otherwise . . .

. . . otherwise they'd turn it off.

And that's really all I want to say on this subject. This country is a melting pot. There are different views, different cultures, different takes on every topic under the sun. Everything that you find funny (or noteworthy or thought-provoking or shocking or moving) is going to be offensive to somebody in some section of the world somewhere, and everything that I like someone else is not going to like. That doesn't make either one of us right. If you've got a modicum of social consciousness, you know that not everything is for you, and that the world is never going to be perfect, and that you have to learn to turn a blind eye from time to time, turn off the station every once in a while, or simply walk away.

Wow, I've really gotten off on a tangent here. I intended to just say one or two little things about how the Imus thing shouldn't be any more newsworthy than "a woman I know heard something she didn't like, so she turned it off," and it spiraled onto another road.

People have said some really great things to me in the past, but I tend to remember the three or four really bad things that were said a lot more often. I don't know why, as human beings, we focus so much more on the negative than the positive. It could be in our genetic makeup, that we strive to better ourselves and are programmed to always look at our surroundings and see what doesn't work, what could be better, what makes us angry. Maybe if we focused on the positive, we'd be content with life as it is, and just sit and take it all in.

And that would really piss me off.

Rish "Tomorrow I Will Talk About Buffy" Outfield

*But don't get me wrong, America is still great. Even if we've got real problems with free speech right now, and many overloud minority members of our nation shrieking about how you shouldn't be permitted to raise your voice. There's irony there, but I can never correctly identify when something is or isn't ironic.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April 11th, 2007

A good friend of mine started doing a podcast the other day. He works with high-end equipment and was able to record it there at his job. I was really impressed by his podcast, partly because he actually finished something he started on, and partly because he sounded comfortable and professional.

Not everybody has a good podcast voice or personality. It's like when you turn on the radio and there's a new DJ on your station. Sometimes they sound like nine year olds working a tape recorder, and sometimes they sound real good, like Wolfman Jack and Rick Dees created a lovechild.

I was going to write a little bit about the combination of pride and jealousy that I feel when a friend of mine succeeds. I don't know if I will now, but it probably says a lot about me that I often feel disappointment when a buddy achieves something worthwhile or of value. It's not that I want them to fail, it's just that I want to succeed, or share in their success, or feel a part of it all. Surely that's not a character flaw that's solely mine, is it?

Hey, maybe I'm a scumbag, I don't know. After all, I've never put forth the effort to create a podcast. I don't know how I would post it, and I doubt anybody would want to listen to it (since sod-all read my blog anymore), so I've not spent the sweat and headaches to produce one. I've thought about podcasting, considered it, and ultimately forgot about it (or at least put it on the Shelf of Eternal Procrastination). Hmmm, maybe that does make me a scumbag.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

April 5th and 6th, 2007

Last night, tyranist and I watched CHILDREN OF MEN, Alfonso Cuaron's futuristic vision of a world without children and/or hope.

I really enjoyed the moment at the beginning where the world's youngest person, an eighteen year old "wanker," is killed, and the entire world feels his loss in an intense and deeply personal way. Virtually everyone in London was in mourning. Tyranist mentioned that it was like Princess Diana dying, a national tragedy on that scale. We both shed a tear as we reflected that Anna Nichol Smith's recent death was the closest thing America has to losing a beloved member of the royal family. Future historians may have to change their calendars based on that heartbreaking 2007 date, and I'm sure the ripples will be felt by our grandchildren.*

But I think I'm digressing here. You see, Wednesdays at tyranist's house are Buffy Days, just like all days at my house are Wallow In Misery Days. We watched two episodes again, "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Go Fish." While neither were perfect episodes, they were both quite solid, and well worth watching.

In the first episode (and I love that it's named after a song; something that I do all too much), strangeness is afoot at Sunnydale High. I'm thinking an atypical week there would be when nobody dies and our characters just go to class. This time, a murder/suicide from back in the Fifties begins to replay itself with people at the school becoming . . . well, possessed, I suppose, by the two dead participants. I didn't really understand how it worked (and they made the ghost a lot scarier than seemed necessary), but it was an interesting episode, especially because Giles has his theory as to what is happening, and it differs from what the kids think, and he turns out to be wrong.

On the bad guy front, Tyranist and I noted all sorts of machinations to make us sympathise with the character of Spike (who, as I mentioned before, seems less and less like a demonic bloodsucker and more and more like a certain semidemonic Rish Outfield). Also, the way Bad Angel felt violated by the possession was really cool.

Most series have a mid-season or toward-the-end-of-the-season slump where the producers (TV-speak for writers) just run out of steam, and you get your weakest episodes. I guess that is happening here, but these two still measure up with the best episodes in Season One. Weird. I see Joss Whedon from time to time (now only at comic conventions, but it used to be that he'd come into the video store where I worked--yes, I was fired from that place too--and we'd chat), and I'd like to ask him how exactly that happened.

The second episode we watched was called "Go Fish" and it told of the Sunnydale swim team, practically celebrities at the school for actually being on a winning streak. Unfortunately, due to some kind of cutting edge steroids they're taking, they are turning into big scaly fish monsters.

This was a very Xander-centric episode. He gets into a Speedo or a towel a time or three and glimpses a bit of being on the inside when he's, ever so briefly, a sports jock at school. He also reveals that the Creature From the Blue Lagoon was Brooke Shields.

I have to admit that I've been having difficulty relating to Xander now that he's constantly snogging Cordelia. It's just that when he was a lovable loser, he reminded me so much of me (you know, minus the lovability) with better writers, and now . . .

Ohh, listen to me. I'm like one of those comic book readers who suddenly lost their connection to Peter Parker when his life wasn't completely hopeless and horrible and he married a supermodel. But at least he has the living shite beaten out of him in literally every other issue of his comic (just to keep him humble). Thanks, guys.

Sorry. Let me instead talk about the Sunnydale jocks. They all want to hit on Buffy, but none of them want to hit on Xander. What kind of swim team is this?

It seems that in one out of every two episodes, Buffy has dudes hitting on her and/or forcing themselves on her. I am wondering how typical this is for a seventeen year old girl. Do all pretty blondes suffer through this or is it just Buffy Summers? Is it because she's small and helpless-looking? Is it because Joss Whedon is all about women's issues and female super empowerment? Again, it would be nice to have someone to talk to about this.

So, Xander joins the swim team in an attempt to find out what's happening. The swim coach is revealed to be the villain, and he feeds the roly-poly school nurse to the creatures, then drops Buffy in there for their physical . . . amusement. Rough stuff.

In the end, the three fish-people** escape to the Pacific Ocean, free to swim and terrorize and rape another day. The End.

That was our Buffy Wednesday, which leaves just a couple more before Season Two ends, and we're forced to wait an agonizing length of time to find out the answers to our questions: however long it takes to put in the next DVD.

You know, I've never really thought about it, but "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a really dark show. Surprisingly so. Joss told me the film had taken his Coming of Age/Horror film and turned it into a Comedy, and I do have to wonder what 1992 audiences would have made of THIS version of the BUFFY movie. Would it have been more successful? More beloved?*** There is a lot of comic relief in the characters and dialogue every episode (usually provided by Xander or Cordelia), but when I think about it, there's a lot of gruesome, unpleasant, heady stuff in pretty much every episode of the show.

Did parents pitch a fit about this, assuming (as I did) that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was just a silly teeney-bopper adventure show, only to find out that it's more akin to "24" than "Saved By the Bell?"

As usual, questions I'll probably never know the answers to.

Rish "I Only Have Eyes For A Chili Cheeseburger At DerWeinerschnitzel" Outfield

*"Grampapa, do you remember where you were when Saint Anna Nicole died?" "Remember it? My child, I relive it every day."

**There were four, though. One was in the pool while the others were in the sewer, but we never learn what happened to that one. I wonder if it was shipped off to "Dawson's Creek."

***Somebody told me (might've been you) that they actually did a comic book adaptation of Joss's BUFFY script, so we could see what his vision actually was before it got diluted. I may have to check that out.

You only write when you need money (or a celebrity dies)

5 April, 2007

I greet the day with more sad news. Director Bob Clark was killed yesterday by a drunk driver. Clark, while most famous for A CHRISTMAS STORY and PORKY'S, also directed the prototypical American Slasher film, BLACK CHRISTMAS (remade a few months back to no acclaim), as well as one of the two or three best titled horror films ever (CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS). He also directed RHINESTONE and BABY GENIUSES, but let's focus on the positive.*

Here's an excerpt:

'Christmas Story' Director Dies in Fiery Crash (AP)
LOS ANGELES (April 5) - Bob Clark, whose film "A Christmas Story" became a seasonal fixture for its bittersweet cataloguing of holiday dreams and disappointments, was killed with his son in a car crash. He was 67.

Clark and Ariel Hanrath-Clark, 22, were traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Pacific Palisades when they were killed Wednesday, said Lyne Leavy, Clark's personal assistant. Their car was struck head-on by an SUV that a drunken driver steered into the wrong lane, police said.

"It's a tragic day for all of us who knew and loved Bob Clark," said Scott Schwartz, who played the flagpole-licking character Flick in "A Christmas Story" and kept in touch with Clark over the years. "Bob was a fun-lovin', jelly-roll kinda guy who will be sorely missed."

The driver of the other vehicle, Hector Velazquez-Nava, 24, of Los Angeles was arrested and booked for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol and gross vehicular manslaughter. "The initial investigation has concluded that Nava was driving without a license northbound in the southbound lanes while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage," said Lt. Paul Vernon, a police spokesman.


I never met the man, so I have nothing really personal to say. I could talk a bit about A CHRISTMAS STORY for the first time, and how my sister insists on turning it on every single X-mas during the Turner marathon, I suppose. I remember seeing the TV spots when I was a little boy and wanting to see it (who wouldn't want to see a movie where "Santa Claus kicked a kid in the face?"), but having to wait until my buddy Dennis had the movie (either copied from a rental, or taped off HBO). I laughed hardest...what was the part I laughed hardest at?...I guess it was when Ralphie lies that Flick taught him the f-word, and Ralphie's mother calls Flick's mother, and you hear her beating him over the phone.

Or I guess I could talk how I finally saw PORKY'S in college with my roommate John, but was tremendously disappointed after the years of talk and anticipation. PORKY'S was built up to be this gargantuan, hilarious, titilating gift to teenage boys everywhere, but maybe I was just too old to appreciate it. Or it may be that nothing could live up to that kind of expectation. Or it may be that by then my roommate and I had both met Peggy Ann Buckner, who truly was a gargantuan, hilarious, titilating gift to teenage boys everywhere. I don't know.

And I could talk about BLACK X-MAS and how it measures up to the remake. Or talk about how I never saw FROM THE HIP, even though our tiny village had a poster of it up in the general store and I pondered long and hard what "from the hip" means and who Judd Nelson was.

Instead, I'll just say that it's a shame to lose Clark, so I don't have much, drunk drivers suck, it's sad that he never had filmic success since my childhood, and it's beginning to get unsettling how many famous names I grew up with are passing away. Pretty soon I'll be one of those constantly humming grandmotherly types sitting in a stale-smelling room reading obituaries for fun.

Until then, I remain,

Rish "Sunshine" Outfield

*Like when I mention how great CSPWDT's title is, but neglect to mention how awful the film is.