Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buffy Season Five Followup Post

After my lengthy last post, I still wasn't done, so I went back to before I started blogging our Buffy Wednesdays and wrote an introductory post, and now I'm back here with a little coda.

Okay, I did my research and found out that "The Gift" was always intended to be the episode in which Buffy Summers died. And it was intended to be the last episode of the series.

I don't know if the contract was just for five years, or if he had A Five Year Plan like on "Smallville," but he planned on ending the series with the destruction of Sunnydale (from the portals opening) and Buffy's sacrifice to save the world once again.

But midway through the year, he received an offer from UPN to move the show over there, and decided he still had stories to tell. And I'll bet the money wasn't bad either.

And I forgot to give my favourite episode of the year.

"The Body" had to have been the best episode, with an emotional impact I can't imagine even the final episode will have, but I'm going to say the Spike origin episode, "Fool For Love," gets my pick for favourite. Scariest, as I've said, would have to be that repugnant little quellar demon from "Listening to Fear." Ick.

Maybe I should ask tyranist for his.

The End of Buffy Season Five

27 February 2008

So, it's come to this.

We watched three episodes, bringing to a close this season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Was it better than last year? Yeah, I thought it was.

But first, we got "Spiral," by Steven S. DeKnight, which wasn't better than last year.

So, we pick up where we left off in the last episode (which seemed like an awfully long time to me, which tyranist was happy to point out was my fault. Still, that didn't cover why everyone looked strange and all Glory's minions had changed). Glory stands outside Willow's dorm, delighted to now know that Buffy's sister is the Key. Glory, the Blond Beast, takes a moment to gloat, then Willow casts a blow-her-back spell and Buffy grabs Dawn and runs out of the room.

Buffy and Dawn run as fast as they can through the dorm, drawing only a couple of curious glances from the people sitting around there. Which makes me wonder: the entire wall of Willow's dorm has been torn off, and none of the other students who live there bother to check it out?*

Glory moves at superhuman speed after them and chases them into the street outside. She pauses to gloat again . . . and is run down by a big truck (no idea if students go over to check on her then either), saving Dawn once again. Immediately after, she becomes Ben, as was my guess as to how Buffy and Dawn were going to get out of the last episode's cliffhanger.

Everyone gets together to plan their next move, and Buffy's suggestion is that they bug out and call it even. They are out-matched, and the only thing that's to be done is to flee.

Meanwhile, the merry gang of 17th century idiots known as the Brotherhood of the Sacred Roach (The Knights of Byzantium, actually) have convened a huge (by television standards) army to take down Buffy and Co., so they can kill the key.

Spike pulls up in a big motorhome (which is what they called RVs back in the 20th Century) with all the windows covered. Everyone is hesitant to trust him (I still don't get that, since I missed that theoretical comic book that explains it), but Buffy says she needs him (for his superior strength) and has grown to trust him.

They drive off into the desert. Buffy has sequestered herself into the back and is trying to take the world's problems on herself. Xander gets carsick, Tara is still out of her mind, Willow takes care of her, and Spike and Giles take turns driving. Anya and Dawn have nothing to do, but then the Knights arrive, on horseback, attacking the motorhome.

They shoot arrows and swing swords, and Buffy has to go out on the roof to start throwing them off. One plunges his sword through the vehicle's roof, and Spike slices his hands when he grabs it. The violence in this scene was somewhat impressive, since as far as I could see, the Knights were human, but from the dialogue, ten of them are killed. A good start, in this humble opinion.

Just as it appears they're getting the upper hand, one of the Knights throws a spear through the windshield, impaling Giles in the stomach. He loses control of the motorhome, and it crashes onto its side.

When next we see our heroes, they have made it to a deserted gas station. The Knights continue attacking, and Willow casts a protection spell that acts as a forcefield around the gas station.

The Knights have clerics who go to work trying to take down the shield, while the others work on the bleeding and incapacitated Giles. Buffy calls Ben back in Sunnydale and asks him to come and help Giles, still unaware of who he is. While there is arguing about what to do next, Buffy has Willow make a hole in the shield, and she grabs the leader of the Knights and brings him inside, tying him to a pole.**

The Knights' leader is called The General, a pompous older man, who has a ton of information that we've needed for some time. He tells Buffy that Glory grew too powerful in her hellish dimension, and the other gods banished her to this one, forcing her to inhabit the body of a human. She is entirely vulnerable in this human form, but through the years, Glory grew more and more powerful, able to stay The Blond Beast for longer periods of time. If she gets The Key, she will bleed Dawn to open a portal back to her hellworld. Unfortunately, it will open portals to all the other dimensions too, effectively destroying this one.

Because there are supposed to be rules to war, and because the Knights consider themselves to be good guys, they allow Ben to enter the gas station and work on Giles. He is able to stabilise him in roughly three seconds, but hey, he's part god, so I'll let that go. The General doesn't recognise Ben, but tries to explain to him why Dawn needs to be killed. It's doubtful Ben would've taken him up on the offer, but we'll never know now, because in a flash of morphing, Glory returns to Ben's body.

She sneers at the General and kills him with, I believe, a hubcap. Buffy and Co. are no match for her and she grabs Dawn and makes for the exit, passing through the forcefield as though it were made of computer-generated pixels. She kills every single one of the Knights (her one good deed this season), and disappears into the night.

Luckily, Ben's car is still there, so there's a way to get back to Sunnydale, but as the gang moves to pursue Dawn, Buffy doesn't. The Slayer has frozen on the ground, a look of blank horror on her face. The end.

You know, I didn't think this episode worked all that well. Tyranist seemed to have no problems with it, but it not only didn't feel like a "Buffy" episode, it didn't feel like a complete hour of any show. Even the moment when Giles was dying, and he told Buffy how proud he was of her, sort of fell flat (as though they only had an afternoon to shoot that scene and all the others in that location). That's too bad, 'cause Giles and Buffy's relationship is my (and tyranist's) favourite on the show, and I really should've been bawling.

We did finally find out two super-important things: 1) What Glory wants the Key for, and 2) How to defeat her. But I had to ask tyr "Who was in the room with the General when he explained that second part?"

The answer, only Buffy. Which brings us to the next episode, "The Weight of the World," which is a good one, but more than a little padded out. It was written by Doug Petrie, and yes, if Buffy was the only one who heard the General's revelations, we're in trouble, because Buffy appears to have checked out early, leaving no forwarding address.

Willow tries to talk to her and Spike tries to smack some sense into her, but Buffy only stares, as though in a trance, or catatonia. Willow takes charge (which I don't think we've ever seen her do before), and gives everybody their part in the pursuit of Dawn. Then she wonders where Ben disappeared to. Spike is surprised to find that no one there remembers that Ben turned into Glory, and even as he explains it, due to her magicks, they forget that Ben and Glory are the same person.

Back in Sunnydale, Glory gloats over her captive Key, but starts to feel guilty due to her now-overwhelming connection with Ben. Even Dawn realises that they are the same person, and this frightens Glory. Around them, the minions and the crazy people are gathering, building some large contraption or tower in preparation for the opening of the Blond Beast's portal.

Giles is taken to the hospital and treated. Anya is watching over poor crazy Tara. Spike takes Xander to see Doc, the scary man familiar with all sorts of dark magic, played by Joel Grey. He claims to have nothing that can help them defeat Glory, all the while trying to hide a wooden box on his table. It turns out that he is on Glory's side, and tries to burn the box (he also has a very long tongue). Xander stabs Doc with a sword, and Spike gets the box out of the fireplace. As they leave, Doc doesn't stay dead.

Willow takes Buffy home and performs a spell that puts her into Buffy's mind. We see a strange sequence of events, starting with the day Mr. and Mrs. Summers brought Dawn home from the hospital and ending with Buffy smothering Dawn with a pillow. Then the sequence repeats, starting with little girl Buffy promising her parents that she'll look after new baby sister.

I looked on ye olde IMDB, and sure enough, Dean Butler who played Mr. Summers was the man who played Buffy's dad in the first season episode with all the bad dreams. Continuity kicks ass, regardless of what Joe Quesada thinks.

Buffy's other memories include pausing at the bookshelf in her house and being in the desert when the First Slayer told her that death is her gift.Glory turns back into Ben and he immediately frees Dawn and gets her out of there. They go to the Sunnydale street set and duck into an alley, where Dawn hits Ben over the head. Sadly, this causes him to revert to his Glory persona, and they go back and forth, battling over possession of the body.

Finally, the two sides call a truce, and Ben agrees to help Glory out. I thought it was a trick until he presents Dawn to Glory's scabby minions, who whisk her away for the sacrifice.

Back in Buffy's mind, Willow watches Buffy go through the sequence again, but prevents her from suffocating Dawn with the pillow.
Buffy explains that there came a moment, when she was putting a book away, that she gave in to despair, and at that moment, she killed her sister.

Willow pleads with Buffy to understand that just because she failed to prevent Glory from taking Dawn, she hasn't killed her sister. And as long as Dawn is still alive, Buffy can still make a difference.

With that, Buffy snaps out of her trance. She and Willow go to the magic shop, where everyone has gathered. Doc's box contained a book that explains how Glory's sacrifice will work: she will shed Dawn's blood, and as long as the blood flows, the portals to other dimensions will open. Once that has begun, the only way to close those portals is to kill Dawn. The end.

This was some good stuff. I left out a bit, including Giles's almost-immediate recovery and the humour of Xander realising, then forgetting, that Ben and Glory are the same. But the episode was quite impressive, if it was only a set up for the last episode.

Next, came the conclusion, the season finale (and, in looking it up, the hundredth episode of BTVS), "The Gift." It was written and directed by a Mister Joss Whedon. I didn't know specifics, but I knew one thing that would happen in this episode. Happily, I didn't know how.

The episode began strangely. Strangely enough that had we not been watching it on DVD, I would've been sure that we were seeing a second season episode. A teenage boy is being stalked by a vampire in a dark alley. Buffy comes out and taunts the vampire, who goes after her, fights her, and is staked. She comments that it's not often anymore that a vampire doesn't recognise her, then goes back inside the Magic Box, where everyone's still trying to figure out how to stop Glory.

Buffy is adamant that they not talk about killing Dawn, and Giles stands up, shouting, "We bloody well ARE talking about it!" which impressed the hell out of me (more so 'cause you know the guy's in pain). Buffy goes all cold on him for suggesting they murder her sister, and his response is "She's not your sister." Good stuff.

Spike stresses how important blood is ("It makes you warm. It makes you hard.")

Amazingly, Anya has an idea: what about that Dagon Sphere from way back at the beginning of the season? It was created to protect people from The Blond Beast, and is just sitting around in the basement. Oh, and the hammer from her troll ex-boyfriend, we could use that too. Anya is good for more than just comic relief!

And Tara, crazy as she is, provides the last piece of the puzzle. After having her sanity drained out, she is drawn (like all the other Sunnydale crazies) to where Glory's ritual is going to be performed, the huge makeshift tower on the outskirts of town.

Xander and Anya go downstairs to find the Dagon Sphere, and have a little World's-About-To-End Sex. Then Xander surprises Anya by presenting her with a ring and asking her to marry him. She doesn't say no, but tells him to ask her again when they make it out of this alive. They find two things down there: the Sphere, and the Buffybot, which Willow apparently repaired.

Buffy takes Spike home with her, but he can't enter because he's been uninvited. She invites him in again, and she tells him he's the only one strong enough to protect Dawn if she falls. Spike says, "I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster . . but you treat me like a man." It kicked almost as much arse as the "bloody well" line earlier. Maybe more so.

So, Glory's minions have finished their contraption, and the time has come when she can perform her ritual (though I never really understood what the wait was all about), and as night falls, they tie Dawn up at the top of their tower.

Down below, Glory is immediately suspicious when Tara arrives, thinking she's a spy from the Buffy camp. While she's distracted with Tara, Willow casts a spell that restores the sanity Glory took from Tara, yanking it out of the Blond Beast in the process. This weakens Glory, and she looks around for someone to slurp the sanity out of.

Buffy is standing there, holding the Dagon Sphere, which causes Glory pain. She tosses it to Glory, then starts pummeling her as she destroys the Sphere.

All Glory's minions stand around the entrance to the tower, preventing anyone from approaching. Spike, Anya, and Giles begin to fight with them.

Glory pulls herself together long enough to punch Buffy's head clean off, which I don't recall ever happening to Buffy before. Oh wait, it wasn't Buffy at all, but the Buffybot, there to further distract Glory so Buffy could start pounding her with the troll's hammer. I gotta say, they really sold the brutality of this fight, whether with acting, stunts, or sound effects, it looked like Glory's snotty face was being caved in by a two hundred pound hammer.

Up top of the tower, Dawn seems scared and confused, and it's unclear how much she sees going on down below. Suddenly, she's not alone: the nice older man with the scary black eyes from the "Monkey's Paw" episode has appeared to help her.

But no, Doc isn't a friend, but someone who wants to assist Glory in her plan. He pulls a knife out to start the ritual.

Spike sees what's happening, and Willow and Tara cast a spell that blows all the minions out of the way. Spike fights with Doc, but is overpowered and knocked off the top of the tower, where he lands, injured but alive, somewhere down below.

Buffy tries to get to her sister, but Glory just won't stay down. Eventually, Buffy lures Glory to a certain spot, where Xander has been waiting to swing a wrecking ball. Thump. With Glory down, Buffy bashes her sixty or seventy more times with the hammer until she reverts to her Ben form. Buffy has the chance to kill him/her now, but instead tells them to get out of Sunnydale forever. She takes off for the tower again.

Giles kneels down beside Ben, who expresses surprise that Buffy could have killed him, but didn't. Giles speaks words of comfort to Ben, telling him she could never take a human life. Because she's a hero. I thought, in that instance, that if Giles was wise--or if I wrote the episode--that he would kill Ben right there and then, and Giles says, "She’s a hero, you see. She’s not like us." And he puts his hand over Ben's mouth and nose. Until he is dead.

Up top, Doc cuts Dawn twice on the stomach, and the blood begins to flow. Buffy arrives just then, and without even the start of a struggle, tosses Doc off the tower to his death (I assume). She unties Dawn, but she's too late: her blood has already started the portals opening.

All over town, portals start popping up. Buildings shake, streets collapse, rocks fall on Anya, demons and an honest-to-Joss DRAGON come flying out. The end is nigh.

Dawn understands that if her blood stops flowing, the portals will close, so she volunteers to jump off the tower. It was quite moving, and had I not had this episode spoiled for me, I would've been SURE that's what would happen. Just between you and me: I cried anyway.

But Buffy remembers things that have happened earlier in the season, such as the sisters sharing the same blood and the First Slayer saying that death is her gift, and that the monks who gave The Key Dawn's form used Buffy to make her, and decides she will close the portal herself. She whispers to Dawn, then does a mighty, noble jump off the tower, closing the portals, then hitting the ground in a lifeless lump.***

The sun starts to rise, and everyone gathers around Buffy's body. They mourn, supporting one another, taking in the sacrifice Buffy made.

The episode ends with a headstone in a green patch of lawn. "Buffy Summers, 1981-2001," it says. "Devoted Sister, Beloved Friend. She Saved The World. A Lot." The end of an excellent episode.

So, there you have it, the end of another season. And the end of Buffy Summers. I asked tyranist if he knew if this was ever intended to be the SERIES finale, since the show was canceled by the WB Network, but he didn't know. All I know is that this was the last episode on that channel, and when season six aired, it was on UPN (while "Angel" stayed on the WB). My impression was always that the show was canceled, and UPN picked it up, eager to have a show with a following, the way "Dif'rent Strokes" did when I was a lad.

Like I said earlier, I knew Buffy's death was coming. I think it was when we first started watching the show that someone mentioned that she dies twice through the course of the series, and later on, it got more and more specific (someone on a podcast mentioned that in the Graduation episode two years back, it made a prophesy that Buffy would die in 730 days). And yeah, I heard talk and even saw the "Angel" episode (though they didn't spell it out in that one, when they easily could have).

Again (and I know I say this a lot, but I'm not sorry), I cannot imagine how audiences in 2001 would have responded to this. William Shatner, in his book "Star Trek Movie Memories" talks about the first test screening of WRATH OF KHAN, and how truly moved that audience was with the death of Spock, having no clues it would happen, and no set-up that he would return. I doubt this was quite like that--and who knows, it was the internet age, maybe there were spoilers****--but I can't imagine someone would guess that Buffy would die at the end. I knew it was going to happen, and it felt like surely Dawn would die, that her arc had been completed in her one year on the show, and as sad as it was, it made sense. But it was Buffy, dying like a hero, for the greater good, and it was powerful, moving, and very well done. Kudos again, Joss.

I've been writing this for a long, long time. Time I might've been using to do other stuff, but it has helped me to appreciate how well-crafted and -written the show is. Truly, I was telling Merrill just the other day that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is officially as good as "Firefly."

A pretty heady proclamation, but I stand by it.

Rish Outfield

*This reminds me of something that happened when I was in college. I was in my room, working on something, when my computer exploded. Yeah, it blew up, like an aerosol can chucked in a fire. I dealt with the shock of it all and aired out the room before the smoke detector could go off, and when I finished with that, I went into the living room. My roommates were sitting on the couch, watching TV, and one of them commented on that loud bang that came from my room. When I explained what it was, the other one said, "Oh. We kinda thought maybe you'd killed yourself in there."

Yeah, there are a couple of things wrong with that statement, but the one I bring this up for is, they both heard a gunshot/explosion from my room, yet neither of them got up to check on me?

And these were some of my closer roommates, tyranist can attest to that.

**Tyranist brought it to my attention that I got this part wrong. He wrote, I think you are misremembering this. I believe the leader snuck in through the back door before the shield was up, they knocked him out, chased out the others and then Willow got the shield going. Or, at least, that's how I remember it. Whoops. If I were the kind of bloke who said things like "My bad," this would be the time.

***In talking about this episode with tyranist afterward, I mentioned that Buffy died in the same way that Sirius Black "died" in the Harry Potter book. But he clarified that Buffy's body did indeed hit the ground, so she died like Dumbledore did in the next book. I only hope that the filmmakers adapting HALF-BLOOD PRINCE do as good a job with that moment as the "Buffy" crew did.

****I understand that it was big news in the UK long before it aired, and that even the bloody WB Network in America spoiled it in their promos. I just don't understand the purpose of that sort of thing. I've read Joss in interviews and heard him speak in person, and he goes to all this effort to surprise the audience, only to have the network, or press, or publicity department blow it for him. Gotta be frustrating.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

27 February 2008

So, I went to the store yesterday, looking for action figures--er, guns and anabolic steroids, grrr--and I saw a display of boxer shorts with Marvel Comics characters on them. I paused and checked them out for a moment, noting the X-men and Spider-man boxers (what, no Man-Thing??), and then started to walk away.

But then I noticed there was a word balloon on the Spider-man one. I went back to the display and looked closer. Right over the crotch, Spidey is saying, "My Spider Sense is tingling!"

I guess I don't have to tell you that I bought a pair.

Rish "I'm out of web fluid!" Outfield

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Brief Oscar Post

25 February 2008

I was greatly looking forward to the Academy Awards this year. But hey, I look forward to it every year.

Tyranist and I have seen the show together a few times and today was no exception. He was sick, but instead of wallowing in his misery and/or own filth, he invited me over in the morning and we spent the day together, watching Horror movies and eating our weight in potato chips (or crisps, as he now insists they be called).

But then, his cable went out. There was a raging snowstorm outside, that lasted about as long as me in bed, but somehow disabled his satellite link-up. Faced with the threat of missing what they called in L.A. as The Gay Man's Super Bowl, I nearly panicked, but he put on "Veronica Mars" until he got the channel back.

I was much more impressed by John Stewart as host this year than the last time, and felt he was up there, in presence and humour, as any previous Oscar host. Plus, he's apparently one of the Green Lanterns, so the guy is really versatile.

My favourite moment of the night was when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won Best Song for "Falling Slowly" from ONCE. The song is absolutely incredible and so moving, it would melt my heart if the Nineties hadn't driven it from me. And when their names were announced, Hansard got to delivery his acceptance speech, but the music started up just as Irglova got to the mic. Resigned to her fate, she walked away, JUST as Bill Conti stopped the orchestra to let her deliver her speech. There was a second of silence, then the orchestra came up again and they went on with the show.

But after the next break, John Stewart had Marketa Irglova come out and deliver her speech, letting her go on as long as she needed. It was, in this miserable bastage's opinion, one of the classiest and sweetest things I've seen done on the Academy Awards. I don't know whose idea it was to go that way, but I wish I still lived in L.A. so I could buy them a drink.

Ah well. Maybe next life.

Rish "Take this sinking boat and point it home; we've still got time" Outfield

Friday, February 22, 2008

The End of Angel Season Two Continued

Tyranist, undaunted by work, sleep, or bowel movements, kept watching "Angel," into the night.

Next, we got "Through the Looking Glass," written and directed by Mister Tim Minear. It picked up right there, with Angel, Wesley, and Gunn standing in front of Princess Cordelia. She tells the guards to leave and explains that her visions made her the one prophesied to save the world. Or something. Angel doesn't really pay attention, as he's staring at himself in the mirror, checking out his hair (which he somehow didn't expect to look like he used six and a half bottles of premium gel on). So, he can be in the sun and reflect in this world, what happens when he gets happy?

Princess Cordelia stays their executions and our guys manage to sneak out of the castle through a secret entrance (the sewer). Lorne takes Angel to meet his family. We meet Numfar the dancing demon, who made me and tyranist laugh more than anything ever has on this show. We also meet Lorne's mother, who is a big burly man with a long beard and little respect for her son.

But Cousin Landok has told everyone about Angel's bravery two episodes before fighting the demon, and they welcome him into the clan. The villagers all gather round him to hear him tell stories of the first season of his show. He also gets the honour of killing the cow for their village feast. The cow ends up being Fred, the girl who tried to help Cordelia last episode.

Angel insults the demon villagers when he refuses to chop off Fred's head, and Lorne starts singing a song to disable all his people, who roll on the ground in agony the way I did in 1999 when was forced to listen to Lou Vega's album. Lorne and Angel escape.

Wesley is back at the castle, looking through their holy books. He discovers that Cordelia is going to have to ritually "com-shuk" with a Grusalug. With a name like Grusalug, it has to be good for you.* He also discovers that the three books have a Wolf, a Ram, and a Hart on the cover, which is pretty cute, even for this show.

Princess Cordelia is told that the Grusalug is on its way, and that she will have to com-shuk with him, and yes, that does involve the bathing suit area. Now her situation seems a little less ideal than before. And little does she know that the priests are scheming, evil dudes, planning to kill her and take Pylea's power for their own.

In other words, not at all like the priests we've got here on earth.

Gunn and Wesley try to smuggle Cordelia out through the sewer tunnel, but the priests catch her. Back in her throne room, she meets the Grusalug . . . a long haired underwear model with muscles the size of hubcaps. He has long been ostracised for his ugliness, and has become the most fearsome warrior in the land as a sort of compensation, and seems to be a decent guy. Plus, he just LOVES kids, snuggling, taking romantic walks, and going to church!

Fred the crazy cow takes Angel to her home, which is a cave she's been hiding in for years. She has covered the walls with nonsensical(?) numbers and symbols, and seems to have lost her mind rather completely. But she puts a pair of glasses on, and damn if she's not the most attractive woman on the show.

But then, I like glasses, for some reason.

Angel realises that this was the woman from the library who got sucked into a portal five years before, and tells her he's from L.A. and everyone got cellphones in the time she's been gone. When he tells her that George Lucas finally got to making those STAR WARS Prequels and that the first one was disappointing, she doesn't believe him, and starts to doubt that he even exists.

Guards are scouring the countryside, looking for the escaped prisoners (and the cows that roam free and cause trouble). When one discovers Angel and Fred, Angel tells her not to be afraid when he changes to fight him. But she should be afraid, because Angel transforms, not into a vampire, but into the demon he was inside, with scales and fangs and claws and a monstrous, mindless disposition. He kills the guard and ends up attacking Wesley and Gunn when they happen by. Wesley recognises Angel's tattoo, but the demonangel can't be reasoned with. Fred distracts Demonangel by dipping her hand in blood, and he is drawn by the smell.

She goes back to her cave, and Demonangel follows her. When he sees his monstrous reflection in a puddle (at least I hope it's just a puddle), his bloodlust stops, and he reverts to an unconscious human form.

Wesley and Gunn get captured by the wandering band of free cows, who think they are in league with the evil princess and the priests. They think that they should cut off their heads and send them to Princess Cordelia as a message (we find that this is as common as sending e-mail here in Pylea).

Fred nurses Angel's wounds and tries to comfort his wounded soul as well. I like her. He's ashamed at what he became, and was mortified to actually see the demon he constantly carries inside. He wonders if he can ever face his friends again.

Princess Cordelia, however, is enjoying life again. She finds the Grusalug to be a good Wisconsin man, without the silly accent, and flaunts her newfound power by pardoning Lorne for his "crimes." She gets it into her head that she can do a lot of good in her position, so she begins to write up proclamations, like that all cows are free in the South.

The chief priest (name o' Silas) is displeased, and tells her to get the com-shuking over with. To put her in her place, he sends her a gift . . . Lorne's head on a platter. The end.

Wow, I was really enjoying this foray into Pylea. Tyranist pointed out to me that Numfar the dancing one was played by Joss Whedon. I wish I had known that, though I doubt it could have made me laugh any harder.
The last episode in this arc (and of the season) was called "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb," and it was written and directed by David Greenwalt.

Princess Cordelia is surprised when Lorne's severed head begins to talk to her. His species, it seems, can survive decapitated until their body is destroyed.

Silas the evil high priest plans to cut all Cordelia's friends' heads off, and sends his soldiers after Wesley and Gunn and Angel. He also has a device that can make all the human cows' heads explode, and plans to use it if he gets any more trouble.

Elsewhere, Wesley and Gunn are prisoners of the freed rebel cows and guess what they're going to do to them? Oh yeah, cut off their heads. But before that can happen, the soldiers arrive and attack. Gunn and Wesley help out, and in doing so, convince the rebels that not only should they not be killed, but should lead them. Wesley comes up with a plan for storming the castle.

Fred and Angel get to know each other in her cave hideout. From her mutterings, Angel realises that she has inadvertently been opening portals back to earth, but is a little too far gone to know it. When one of the castle's soldiers discovers them, Angel fights him, but holds back, afraid of turning into the creature again. Fred ends up saving him, knocking out the soldier. She tends to Angel's wounds, while the tied-up soldier boasts about killing Lorne and the plan to kill Princess Cordelia. Angel and Fred take off to try and save, well, everyone.

Cordelia, meanwhile, dresses is a servant's rags and sneaks down to where the bodies are kept.** Lorne's body is there, in pieces, yet Lorne's head is still alive. We discover that the Groosalugg, in honour of Cordelia, took her friend's body and replaced it with another one. Lorne's actual body is safe with his family.

Groo also reveals that after the mating ritual, he will take Cordelia's visions onto himself (something tyranist reminded me yesterday, 'cause I had just plain forgotten). But she tries to explain to him that, as painful as the visions are, they make her special, and enable her to help people.

Angel and Fred meet up with Wesley's band of rebels, and Wesley explains that Angel will have to kill the bad guys' champion, the Groosalugg. Angel doesn't want to do this, since he's teetering on the brink of inner darkness, and one you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will.

Nevertheless, the time to attack the castle comes, and there is much fighting. The evil priest Silas tells the Groosalugg that Angel has come to defile and murder Princess Cordelia, so he goes out to face him. They do battle, and Angel tries to keep his human side in control.

Meanwhile, Silas goes to use his weapon to blow the heads off of all the cows, and Cordelia decapitates him. I'm not exaggerating with the beheadings here. She then runs out and tells the Groosalugg not to kill Angel, because she loves him. Groo stops fighting, and pretty much, only the good guys are left standing.

Even Lorne gets his head and body reunited, and makes peace with his family, even though he knows his place is away from Pylea . . . and they know it too.

Cordelia decides to go back to our world, where she can continue to make a difference in people's lives (and breathe in that delicious L.A. air). Before she goes, she appoints Groosalugg to rule in her stead.

Fred has that way about her of opening portals to earth, and she does it again, transporting Angel, Lorne, Wesley, Gunn, Cordelia, and herself back to Caritas in Angel's car, which crashes through the bar. But no big deal, all's well that ends well.

Angel and gang get back to the Angel Investigations building, and as the episode hadn't ended yet, we knew they would find something bad there. Tyranist and I both thought it would be the Wolfram & Hart lawyers, or worse, but it turns out to be Willow Rosenberg. How she got in there is not explained, but she's there to break the bad news to Angel. What the bad news is is not explained, because who on earth would be watching this episode that hadn't seen the "Buffy" season ender first? Whoops.

The end of "Angel" season two.

Now, I've got to hand it to tyranist that, when he saw Willow was there, he fumbled for the remote control, trying to shield me from the revelation that was coming . . . or maybe he was just upset that, by watching them out of order, this moment was the price we had to pay. Hmm.

Regardless, this four-part marathon was a great departure for the series, and was a very enjoyable way to spend an evening.*** It was like watching an "Angel" movie (though what we saw would've been a director's cut, with all the slow bits left it), and more than encourages me to keep on watching the series.

This post has been a long time in coming, but now that it's done, I hope you don't mind. I hope you don't mind what I put down it words.

The Rishalugg Outfield

*In looking it up, I found that the word is spelled "Groosalugg," which is, in fairness, a much better spelling than mine. I might go through and fix it, but then, I might not. I'm lazy that way.

**I believe they call it "the mutilation chamber," which is what they also called Mr. Brethwait's shop class in my high school.

***Or a month, if you saw it as it originally aired. How would that have been?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

INDY IV trailer

So, I took my niece to see THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES on Monday. It was good to see her, as we haven't interacted much lately due to problems with her mother. I was surprised to find the 4:00 and 4:15 shows were sold out, and we scooped up tickets for the five o'clock show. Unfortunately, I got us there late and we wound up sitting on the front row (a place I delighted in sitting when I was a child and now detest almost as much as that middle-aged lady next to me sending text messages like a thirteen year old).

I had told her that there was a trailer I wanted her to see, and hoped that she would be excited by it. I showed her RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK not long ago and she really enjoyed it (which seems odd, since it's kind of a boys' movie), and now she's the same age as I was when I first saw RAIDERS. So, when the INDY IV trailer started up, I nudged her and told her this was the one (she had thought it might be HORTON HEARS A WHO before I dashed her hopes on the theatre floor). About halfway through, she leaned over and said, "Is he supposed to be old in this one, then?"

I realised that she saw INDIANA JONES I just a year ago, and had no way of knowing that it was a twenty-five year old movie. I laughed and told her "Yes," and asked if she wanted to go see it. She did, but not as much as HORTON HEARS A WHO.

Ah well. At least she didn't show any interest in SPEED RACER. There's still hope for her, I reckon.


Oh, I had meant to talk about the INDY trailer. There's not much I can say except, "Dammit, now they've made me want to see the movie." The movie I hoped they'd never make. The trailer is just so cool, though (CGI notwithstanding), and does feel crafted not to attract pre-teens to the theatre, but old codgers who remember when cinema-going meant something. And I appreciate that.

And at least they didn't stick in a song by Drowning Pool.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bottom Five Superhero Flicks

So, the Hayden Christensen/Samuel L. Jackson teleporting Jedi movie came out this weekend, and made something like thirty-three million dollars. It got pretty horrid reviews, but apart from that, JUMPER really looked like an awful movie to me, so I didn't go see it. Maybe you did.

But it made me think of bad superhero movies, and want to make a list of them. So the Top Five list this week is a Bottom Five.

If I'm allowed to editorialise for a moment, I am sure that, had I seen them, MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND and STEEL* would've made this list, but I felt you had to have seen the movie to list them on this one. After all, I willingly sat through CATWOMAN (I'll bet I even stayed through the credits), so that made me qualified to review it. And you know what? It was a really bad movie.

My Bottom Five Superhero Flicks would be:
1. SPAWN (1997)
2. BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
3. CATWOMAN (2004)
4. MYSTERY MEN (1999)
(I was going to list BLADE TRINITY, but then I remembered Jon Cryer in S4. Somewhere, Ned Beatty is rolling in his grave)

This time, Merrill was the first one to respond. His list:
1. Spawn
2. Batman & Robin
3. Daredevil
4. Supergirl
5. Superman 4

Tyranist was next, writing:
Listing only movies I've seen and you'll have to deal with the fact that I even like some of these and own them.
1. Batman & Robin
2. Superman III
3. Elektra
4. Superman II
5. Hulk

Ryan said:
1. Batman and Robin
2. Superman IV
3. Superman III
4. Batman Returns.
Max Shrek was great, but I hated Penguin, and the travesty that they made of Selina.

I tried to tell Ryan that he had somehow mistakenly listed the best of the Batman movies on his Bottom Five list, but he would not hear it.

Big-shot lawyer man Ian gave me:
1. Batman & Robin
2. Batman Forever
3. Catwoman
4. Superman IV
5. Steel

Johnny Prison Guard was quite literal in his bottom five, sending:
30029. Supergirl
30028. The Hulk
30027. Superman IV
30026. Batman Forever
30025. Daredevil

I held off, thinking my buddy Beta Ray Charles would weigh in. You know, he loves superheroes more than I love the smell of that stuff that accumulates between my fourth and little toes. Maybe answering was just too painful for him.

So, I guess the "winners" this week were:
1. BATMAN & ROBIN (no big surprise)

Rish "Learn it well, for it is the chilling sound of your doom" Outfield

*Ooh, and SON OF THE MASK. I'll bet that's among the worst films ever made, let alone superhero films.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

If I Was A Betting Man

16 February 2007

Let's face it: I'm not one of life's winners. Heck, my name's not even first called-out when it's time for the losers to take the field. And I'm aware of this fact.

Right now, I'm in the city of sin, visiting my Uncle George, who has a) a great deal of money, and b) a great interest of late in sports gambling. I mentioned (in this blog) the Super Bowl wager I got in on, and I think I mentioned the one time I came here and watched my uncles try and out-piss each other when it came to betting on football.

But today, we went to the sports bar to get my mom's and my brother's winnings from that last bet, and my Uncle George started in on this boxing match, and how "his guy" had some inside information about how it was bound to go, and did I want to get in on it with him? Well, before I answer that question, let me mention two things, one little and the other not so little thing: 1) George's first gambling rule is and has always been "Don't bet more than you can afford to lose." and 2) I'm not in the best of money situations right now. In fact, let's suppose that you're a real person reading this blog post, and let's suppose that you (Mr. or Ms. Imaginary Person) have a job. Well, in the time you've read these three paragraphs, you have made more than I will make all week.

Yeah, so I'm not exactly in the primo position to flop my billfold onto a blackjack table. And as much as I love my Uncle George, and as persuasive as he can be, I was aware of my financial situation and told him I thought I'd pass on this one. George didn't take "No" for a first answer, though, and he told me about his guy and what his guy said about the two fighters and what his guy's track record has been of late and how much cash George has made through these bets lately and how many people he's passed this advice to who came back to him with hugs and happy tears. "So," he said again, "What do you think?"

I have to admit I was tempted. After all, he was betting, and my mom was willing to let her Super Bowl winnings ride, and the bet didn't even seem all that doubtful--it didn't even matter who won the fight, as long as the match went at least ten rounds. But I shook my head and said, "Nahh, I think I'll pass on this one."

So, George seemed to let it go, with a 'no big deal' expression. After all, I'm not his kid, and he has plenty o' fish to fry.

But tonight, when the boxing match came to a close, I wasn't in the room (I was off foolishly trying to make a couple of bucks on my own), and when I came in, I asked George who had won the fight? "Who cares?" he said, "The only thing that matters is that WE won." He laughed, and I nodded, and then he said, "Bet you wish you had bet now, huh?" And yeah, I did, a little. Free money is nice, and I did CONSIDER the wager (and reconsider again later when we had the chance to bet again). But George wasn't finished. "You know, I didn't just fall off this turnip truck," he said. "I've been doing this for a long time. And I wouldn't suggest you bet something unless I was pretty sure the odds were in your favor." "Yeah," I said, a bit deflated, but willing to concede gracefully. "My guy calls around, and checks the stats," George said, "And he's not just doing this in his spare time; this is what he does for a living. So yeah, you could've lost your fifty bucks or whatever, but I win eighty to eighty-five percent of the time, 'cause my guy doesn't call me unless he's pretty darn sure." I nodded, unable to say anything at this point. It just occurred to me that maybe Uncle George wanted an apology. I didn't know that then, and I don't know that now. I simply don't know what he wanted. Except maybe a little respect and/or trust on my part.

But I'm not his son, I'm just his nephew. And probably--heck, certainly--not his favourite nephew. I still don't get why he would care what some loser kid without a positive attribute to his name would think about him or his gambling tips. But I simply don't understand people, that much was sure before all this.

And George said, "Do you wanna watch a movie? Have you seen TWO FOR THE MONEY?" I hadn't. I vaguely remembered it being a movie where Chris O'Donnell robbed a bank and was forced to pleasure Zelda Rubinstein for weeks on end in order to keep his secret, but I was wrong. It was a movie about Matthew McConaughey coming to work for Al Pacino picking sports wins for gambling bigshots. "You watch this movie," George said, "And you'll understand what my guy does."

So I did. And seeing McConaughey's gift for picking winners during the first half and watching the money roll in certainly made me feel like a jag-off. I don't know if that was the intended purpose of showing me the movie*, but it was particularly successful if it was.

But the movie didn't end. McConaughey starts to get full of himself and starts to discover that Pacino has a dark side (gee, really? The first tipoff should've been that they cast Al Pafreakingcino to play this part; next he's going to meet Pacino's bookie, played by Vern Troyer, and be surprised to discover that he's short), and suddenly, his gift starts turning sour. Instead of picking winners ninety percent of the time, he slips to sixty, then forty, then twenty percent. And everything goes to hell.

By the time the movie ends, you start to realise that not only is Pacino is a very sick man, but sports gambling is a truly evil thing. And when the Lifehouse song began to play over the credits, I had come to two (pretty impressive) realisations:
1) TWO FOR THE MONEY is an intensely bad movie; and
2) I not only am glad I didn't bet on that boxing match tonight, but I WOULDN'T bet on it even knowing the blessed outcome, not even with money made of a flammable material that would burn itself up if I didn't bet on it.

And hey, maybe that does make me a jag-off. Point taken.

Rish "Three For the Show" Outfield

*Doubtful, since George already owns the DVD and also, I have never used the word "jag-off" before today. Honest injun.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stupid Thing Addendum

It was only a couple of short days after my post about the Cosmo cover when I was at my cousin's house and I heard her talking to her mom (about their new dog).

Sadly, she used the word "va-jay-jay."

You can't make this up, folks.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Angel Wednesday (13 February)

Somehow, we've reached . . . The End of "Angel" Season Two.

Tyranist and I fully intended to do a quick one-two punch of one "Angel" and one "Buffy" this week. For some reason (he may have to remind me), I was punishing tyranist for something he had done or said,* and told him there would be no Buffy on Buffy Wednesday. Instead, we would be watching "Veronica Mars" and/or "Sarah Conner." He told me there was no further point in watching "SC Chronicles," as it had been canceled by Fox. I shouldn't find that surprising, really, but with the great ratings it got when it premiered (not to mention that the last two episodes were better than the first two episodes), I wouldn't think they would axe it so fast.

I convinced him to let us watch it, and afterward, I was the captain for some reason. I got up to put in the last "Veronica Mars" disc in, but changed my mind at the last second and put in "Angel."

This episode was called "Belonging," written by Shawn Ryan.

Cordelia is happy because she got a part on a national television commercial, and Angel seems to be losing his mind. Wesley calls his father to wish him a happy birthday, and though we only hear half the conversation, he may have dialed my father's number by mistake. Apparently, Wesley's dad is very disapproving and critical, and it bums him out.

So, Cordelia goes to shoot her commercial, and they deck her out in a tiny bikini and verbally abuse her. Angel shows up to cheer her on, and ends up clashing with the director, who (big surprise) is a giant knob. Cordelia is mortified by this (and the Powers That Be must've stepped in to keep her from getting fired) and makes Angel leave so she can continue to be belittled and yelled at by the director.

A couple of Gunn's homeys show up at Angel Investigations, and tell him about a vampire hideout they discovered. He tells them to wait for him to finish a demon-hunting job with Wesley, but they ain't havin' none of dat. When Gunn finally joins them, he discovers one of his buddies didn't make it, and blames himself.

Lorne comes to Angel Investigations, telling them about a demon that burst through a portal on his stage at the karaoke bar.

Cordelia is bummed out because she was treated like a slab of meat. She also has a vision about a hot chick with glasses in a library getting sucked into a similar portal. The demon likes to eat people, so it must be stopped.

They go to the library, and are told that the woman in Cordelia's vision was a physics student named Fred, who disappeared five years before. In the area where she disappeared, they find a magical book. When Cordelia reads from it, another portal opens up, spitting a bearded version of Lorne's race into our world.

Lorne recognises the demon as his cousin, Landok, who remembers him as "Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan," which he has shortened to "Lorne" in this world. I realised then that I'd been calling him Lorne all this time because that's what they call him at conventions (dude, Andy Hallett's at every single one), but I shouldn't have known that. Whoops, spoilers. And eventually, Spike becomes a cast member of this show too.

Lorne came from his world to ours and loves it here, as his is a warlike clan with no concept of music. Landok, naturally, volunteers to help hunt down the demon (a Drokken demon, if the internet is to be trusted) with his new friends.

They track the Drokken demon, which is feral and quick, and in saving a woman fron it, Landok gets bitten. Wesley summons up his courage to fight it, and Angel ends up throwing a sword at it, puncturing it in the neck, killing the Drokken demon.

A Drokken's bite is fatal to Lorne's race, so the only way to save Landok is to open up another portal and send him home.

Gunn, meanwhile, gives his dead buddy a Viking funeral, staring at it while X-wing fighters shoot fireworks overhead.

The whole gang minus him go to Caritas with the magic book Cordelia found. Landok reads from the book and the portal opens, taking him back to his world. The portal closes and everyone sighs in relief. Except Cordelia, who isn't there.

Cordelia is in the woods, confused. She looks up and sees two suns shining in the sky. The end.

I quite enjoyed this episode, though it was clear they were setting things up for a continuation, so we naturally popped in the next episode, called "Over the Rainbow," written by Mere Smith. I noticed, with a bit of dread, that the other two episodes left in the season seemed to have similar titles, so I was more than a little convinced we'd still end on a cliffhanger.

This episode begins where the last one left off. Cordelia realises she is in another world, especially when a hellhound-type demon comes snarling after her. She runs.

We also find out (if we didn't already) that Lorne's world is called Pylea, so I'll refer to it as that from now on. He explains how he came through a portal to our world and turned the abandoned building we arrived in into a karaoke bar. Angel tries to open the portal again with the magic book, but it doesn't work. Apparently, there are certain hot spots where portals are prevalent, and this one has gone cold. No idea why they don't try the library.

At Angel Investigations, a couple of stuffed shirts come into the hotel, announcing themselves as Wolfram & Hart lawyers. The evil lawfirm wants to buy the hotel when Angel's lease expires in six months, and suck even more than ordinary lawyers.

Elsewhere, Lorne talks to a friend at a psychic hotline to find out where there's another hot spot. She tells him that she'll help him
out if he goes back to Pylea too and takes care of his unfinished business.Cordelia is rescued by an old man of Lorne's race, and is called a cow. Apparently, human beings are slaves in Pylea, and Cordelia is treated no differently, taken to market and sold to a crone to clean the stables. She is fitted with a shock collar that jolts her when her masters are displeased with her attitude.

While Cordelia is cleaning up dung and such, a woman whispers to her from the barn, trying to give her advice. When Cordelia's owner comes in, the other woman, a runaway "cow," is captured.

Angel calls somebody and leaves a message telling them where he's going and what to take care of if he doesn't return. Tyranist and I should've paused it to discuss who he was talking to ('cause really, there were a couple of options), but both of us figured it was Buffy.

Cordelia has a vision at the most inopportune time, drawing the attention of all the demon villagers around her. She sees another of those Drokken critters attacking somebody, and when she tells them about it, they call her "cursed," which, in my estimation, is slightly better than "cow." They take her before the magistrate, who is not unfamiliar with her prophetic kind.

So, apparently, there is a hot spot at the entrance to Paramount Studios, and Angel, Wesley, and Lorne go there in Angel's convertible. Gunn shows up, having been the one Angel left the message with, and decides to join them. Wesley reads from the magic book and a portal opens up. Paramount is in a pretty crappy neighbourhood, so I was worried that Angel was just gonna leave his car there, but they just drive the car right on through. Unfortunately, the book stays behind.

The sun is shining in Pylea, but Angel is not burned by it. In fact, it feels real nice. They hide the car in the woods and realise they don't have the book anymore. Lorne warns them that humans are cows, but he is not treated much better, as he abandoned his home and is known as a coward. All four of them get captured and taken to a dungeon. Angel hears guards talking about the one with the second sight, and knows that Cordelia is nearby. In fact, as all four are taken to be executed, they are presented to the princess of the land . . . Cordelia, decked out in jewels and sitting on a throne. The end.

Tyranist and I should have called it a night, since he had to get up the next morning to go to work and I had to get up . . . well, I probably had something going within the next two or three months that would require a good night's sleep. But we wanted to know what happened (nice work, Whedon and Co.), and watched on.

To Be Continued . . .

*It may be that he started to put on "Naruto" or "Signing Time" or some other unchristly programme, and I said, "Okay, that's it, no Buffy for you tonight. And if you don't turn that off, there will be no Angel either."

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I just realised I didn't say anything about the writers' strike coming to an end this week.

Dammit. I guess I wouldn't make a good . . . what are those guys who are paid to think up words and put them on paper?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

13 February 2008

Jeff and I met for our weekly luncheon over at Der Wienerschnitzel (or, as he calls it, "The Wiener") today, and afterward, we headed to the store to look for toys (this is also a weekly tradition). In the checkout line, Jeff saw Cosmopolitan magazine there and said a strange word: "va-jay-jay."

"What?" I asked. "Is that the name of the girl on the cover?"

"No." Jeff read the headline aloud. "‘Your Va-jay-jay.' It says it right there."

I thought he was joking, essentially dropping the lowest common denominator a couple extra leagues for a laugh. But I looked at the magazine. And sure enough:
"YOUR VA-JAY-JAY," it said, "Fascinating New Facts About Your Lovely Lady Parts." Somehow neither of us actually opened the magazine to read the article (or even touched it), but we did stare at that headline for the time we had to spare. Jeff thought it might be the yearly sex issue, but I think it would be more accurate to call it the monthly sex issue. The other articles were about how long and often your man pleasures himself, all sorts of neat bedroom tricks everyone knows about but you, why guys cheat, and things Rianna likes to put in her mouth. Yet I can't get over it, so I've got to say it again. "Va-jay-jay."

Okay, I guess I know why they used that word (as opposed to a more recognisable one), but
a) it's kind of gross, and
b) it's really stupid.

Please don't let this catch on. Please, Buffy, I don't ask for a lot.

Rish Outfield

Oh, and here's a bonus addition to the Stupid Thing of the Week. After we left the store and got in Jeff's car, he drove me to Taco Bell. "Dude, how hungry are you?" he asked. I didn't understand the question, since we'd gone to lunch only a half an hour before. But, for reasons I just can't fathom, we went inside and he ordered the ten soft taco special. I'd like to think that it's Va-jay-jay's fault.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bright and sunny movie post

Tyranist and I had to go far, far away to find a theatre showing NO COUNTRY FOR OLD men. It was playing in one location, a big, sprawling metroplex theatre, with all the amenities which we had gone to one time before (when we saw 30 DAYS OF NIGHT). Both visits, I sat down to see a pre-filmed promo where a smarmy local radio personality (I assume) was sticking a microphone into moviegoers' faces, asking them, "Do you think movies are getting better or worse?"

For the next three minutes, we get carefully-edits soundbites of smiling teens and twenty-somethings talking about how great movies are now, with better special effects, better action, better stories, and better acting. Granted, there are a couple of hausfraus that decry movies as getting worse, "'Cause of all the icky icky nudity," but they are just there so you don't realise that it has been cut so as not to disparage the medium you have all just paid to see. It's really an awful promo, despite the great sound and seating and ticket prices and old men commenting on the film and variety of movie choices at that theatre.

But in doing my laundry today, that promo jumped into my brain again, like the inner jaw of a Geiger alien, and I just shook my head. Dude, movies are not getting better. 2007 had to have been the bleakest year for quality movies I can remember (maybe 1987 was worse, but it's hard to recall). I praised it going in as being an awesome horror movie year, with so much stuff coming out theatrically, but in preparing for our (now overdue) Year In Review on the Horror Film Compendium, I have no idea what to cite as the best movie of the year, let alone listing my five favourites.

Okay, maybe a lot of Oscar bait came out at the end of '07 that was really good, but except for the above example, I didn't go out and see any of them.

I've been watching some older films lately, and often I'll notice a bad line of dialogue or bad edit or plotpoint or horrible processed driving scene, but I just let it go ("Give it a pass," as I often misuse the phrase), because films back then didn't know better, or simply weren't able to avoid gaffes like that.

Today's movies, though, haven't the same excuse. And I tend not to forgive bad line readings (or bad lines) or mediocre special effects (which pretty much include all computer-generated effects that look like computer-generated effects). Tyranist and I always talk about the opening weekend mentality the studios have, and the kind of shite it produces (though tyranist doesn't seem to get so furious about it as I do, which is definitely a character flaw . . . though you can decide whose it is), and I don't see any sign of that changing.

And for someone who goes to the movies as often as I do, it saddens me to realise that I've gotten a HELL of a lot more pleasure out of watching "Veronica Mars" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with my friend than, well, anything that comes to mind in the last six months. It's been within my lifetime that television has gone from being the lazy-eyed stepchild of filmed entertainment, to being on the same level as the movies. And some would say, much better. My friend Merrill, who used to vocally loathe television (possibly because he's spent the last seven years working for it) has even begun to go the other way.

I don't know if I could see that promo again and not dig out one of my eyes with my car keys (hopefully the old guy next to me could comment, "That sumbitch just digged out his eye next to me. That bastard's crazy."). No, Virginia, movies aren't getting better, not that I can see.

Oh, and what's with all the icky icky nudity?

Rish "Mr. Brightside" Outfield

Monday, February 11, 2008

"That's Some Bad Hat, Harry"

11 February 2008

My cousin Ryan was over the other night, and I wanted to make him watch STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN. It is among a handful of movies that doesn't get a little less impressive every time I watch it, but actually gets better with each subsequent viewing. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is also on that list.

As is JAWS, my all-time favourite horror film.* I pick up on some subtlety or nuance, a line delivery or a camera angle I'd never appreciated before, and its all the better for it. I remember a couple of years back, when I was home from L.A. for Christmas, JAWS started playing on TV at eleven p.m., and even though I own the movie on videocassette and DVD, I sat there and watched it. My mother did too, even though she had to have preferred sleeping. It was on TNT, I believe, and they jammed it to bursting with commercials, so that it ended at 1:30, but we stuck through it, 'cause it's just that good.**

I read today that Roy Scheider, who played Chief Brody, just died, apparently from cancer. He was seventy-five.
That's a good age, really, but it's still sad to lose someone--anyone involved in such a lasting, iconic project. As far as I recall, the only person involved in JAWS that I ever met was Carl Gottlieb, who wrote the screenplay (he signed my copy, which was later stolen). But I feel a connection with those who have entertained me since childhood, who made an indelible mark on my psyche during my formative years . . . and I think that's what they're supposed to do.

So long, Chief Brody. It's only an island if you look at it from the water.

Rish Outfield

*You don't consider it Horror? Please don't make me use the f-word on this solemn occasion.

**One day soon Universal will remake it, and I will have yet another reason to feel sorry for myself.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (7 February)

Because of last week's heavy load of "Angel" and "Buffy," I was actually willing to let this week go without one. We watched a couple of episodes of "Veronica Mars," something called "Top Gear" that tyranist is quite fond of, and a "Sarah Connor Chronicles" (which turned out to be the best episode yet, right when I was kind of thinking I'd stop watching it).

But I'm not driving, so we saw one episode of each.

The first was an "Angel" called "Dead End," written by show runner David Greenwalt. It focused a lot on prettyboylawyer Lindsay McDonald* and his struggles at the lawfirm and being one-handed (apparently, he used to play the guitar just like ringing a bell). There's a meeting coming up to determine whether he or evillawyerchick Lilah Miller will be promoted or "let go."

In something of a hint at the outcome, their new boss tells Lindsay to go to a clinic (which, unless I got my L.A. geography wrong, is the same building attached to Sony Studios they claim is the Wolfram & Hart building). At the clinic, surgeons have procured Lindsay a new right hand, which they attach, and have a demon-type come in and make seamless.

Lilah Miller isn't happy about Lindsay's special treatment from the firm, since it doesn't bode well for her. And also not boding well . . . the fact that Lindsay's hand writes "KILL" about eighty times on his notepad. If you've ever seen a bad horror movie, you recognise that the hand is evil.

Cordelia, meanwhile, gets a really lengthy vision about a suburban father who pats his kids on the head and then jabs a kitchen knife through his own eye. It was really quite disturbing; even more so than the jarring flashcuts they used to do every single episode of this show. Cordelia becomes a lot more upset about this vision than we've seen her before, and its aftereffects linger throughout the episode.

Angel's team tries to find out about the self-stabbing man, but come up with nothing. They go to Caritas, the karaoke bar, to ask Lorne for help, and are surprised to find Lindsay McDonald playing the guitar and singing there. Everyone but Angel gets boners, and Lorne tells him he and Lindsay will need to work together to find the answers he seeks.

Eventually, they do work together. It turns out that the hand and the eye the dude in Cordie's vision poked out came from the same source: a Wolfram & Hart organ farm under a travel agency, where a bunch of unfortunate former W&H employees are kept in stasis, sans arms, eyes, kidneys, legs, and schlongs. Lindsay and Angel get the most intact "donors" out before blowing the place up.

The next day, at the big evaluation meeting, Lindsay tells his bosses that Lilah deserves the promotion, as she is so driven and underhanded. Oh, and Lindsay can't be trusted, because he's got an evil hand (I know that I had the chance for a bad pun, what with using "underhanded" in my last sentence, but I'm too depressed to try). He quits the firm, grabs Lilah's ass--evil hand--and heads for the hills. Before he leaves town, he talks to Angel, putting his bad feelings behind him. Angel, showing his three hundred years of maturity, sticks a sign on the back of Lindsay's truck, daring cops to pull him over. The end.

Now, I don't honestly know if this is Lindsay's last episode or not, but they sure made it look that way. It's too bad, as I've learned to like the guy quite a bit, and he's one of those grey area characters like Faith and Principal Snyder who are neither good nor evil. I like that.

Then we watched on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." We're still one show off from how we should be watching it, but try telling a genius he's pronouncing "mature" wrong.

This one was called "Tough Love" and it was written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner, who always makes me say, "Who?" every time her name shows up. This is the third episode she's written, though, so I am just forgetful. I promise not to say "Who" the next time I see her name.

The episode begins with Buffy dropping out of her college classes so she can take care of Dawn. She's talking to a teacher we've never seen before (at first I thought it was that shankroid who was so mean to her earlier in the season, but he was humane and decent, so I was wrong), and she seems sad to be dropping his poetry class. Would've been nice if we'd known Buffy had a liking for poetry, or had any classes she didn't hate, but ah well.

Buffy then goes to Dawn's school, where she meets with the principal about Dawn's excessive absences. The principal asks Dawn to leave the room, so she can talk to Buffy about something. Whatever it is, it weighs heavy on the Slayer as she and her sister leave. Buffy asks Giles for advice and tries hard to make Dawn study, to make her obey her, to make her toe the line, but Dawn isn't too cooperative.**

Meanwhile, Glory the Blond Beast is bathing and lounging around her minions, quizzing them about the Key. She knows it's someone close to Buffy, but has to be someone new in her life, but who? She sends her minions out to find out the answer. I've often asked tyranist (and my invisible playmates) what the deal is between Glory and Ben, and how it's possible Ben can hold down a twelve-hour shift hospital job when he's Glory (I'm guessing) half the time. Well, a bit of this is answered when Ben is fired from his hospital job for not showing up for two weeks. He seems genuinely surprised he hasn't been there in that long, so I guess he's not aware of when he's not peeing standing up.

Is anyone?

Willow and Tara, in their shared dorm, have a conversation about Buffy and Dawn. Willow feels out of the loop, inexperienced, and irrelevant because she's never lost a mother like Buffy and Tara have. Tara tries to reassure her by expressing awe at how good at magic Willow has become. I believe the phrase she uses is, "it frightens me how powerful you're getting," but Willow takes that totally the wrong way. When Tara tries to clarify, Willow takes it that Tara doubts her love for her, or worse, her dedication to sapphic love (and Sparkle Motion). Willow stomps out of the room.

Back at the Summers' house, Dawn complains about Buffy's treatment of her and Buffy reveals what the principal said: if Dawn doesn't shape up and fly right, they'll take her away from her sister and put her in foster care.

Willow goes to talk to Giles about her argument with Tara, feeling worse than ever. He tries to comfort her, but is interrupted by the discovery of one of Glory's minions lurking nearby. He reveals with glee, that Glory knows Tara is The Key and is on her way to get her right now.

Tara and Willow were supposed to go to some silly culture fair, but after their fight, Tara goes alone. She's not enjoying herself, though, and enjoys herself even less when Glory shows up, and crushes her fingers. She tastes Tara's blood, and finds out that she's not the Key either. She demands to know who is, and when Tara refuses to tell her, she sticks her fingers in Tara's head to suck out her sanity.

Willow arrives then, but it's too late. Glory disappears, or slips away, or wasn't ever there to begin with. They take Tara to the hospital, but she's in a near-catatonic state. Tara has to be kept for observation in the psych ward and they won't let Willow stay with her overnight.

Buffy puts Dawn in Spike's care in his underground hangout. Amazingly, he's still horribly injured from last week's torture (but they've already established what a slow healer Spike is). Dawn and Spike have always had an interesting bond. She tells him that what happened to him and what happened to Tara is her fault. She worries that she is bad for all the pain she's caused. He tells her he knows evil and she's not it, and seems to make her feel a lot better.

Willow is furious at what happened to Tara (and probably blames herself, knowing . . . well, human nature), and wants to go after Glory for payback. Buffy tries to dissuade her, reminding her that the Slayer wasn't even a match for her. This seems to calm Willow down, and Buffy leaves it at that.

Later, though, when she tells Spike about it, he finds her really naive for not thinking Willow would go--even knowing it's suicide--to avenge the woman she loves.

Sure enough, Willow has gone to the magic shop, grabbing the forbidden books and objects, and prepares the darkest spells she can get her hands on.

She bursts in on Glory, her eyes completely black and floating in the air (Willow was floating in the air, not just her eyes). Her attempts are pretty good, and she hurts Glory, but each attack seems less effective than the one before, and Glory recovers. Just before Willow is killed, Buffy arrives and fights Glory as hard as she can. Willow is able to make a forcefield around Glory, rooting her in place and providing them an escape.

The next day, Tara is a little more out of her daze, but is still at MEET THE SPARTANS level as far as intellect. In fact, Willow has to spoonfeed her applesauce and the doctors think they might have to restrain her at night. Willow vows to take care of her, even if she never gets better.

Tyranist then pointed out that every other crazy person has looked at Dawn and known the truth about her, but Tara doesn't. I told him that Tara didn't get the full Glory treatment, as she was interrupted by Willow, so she is only MOSTLY crazy. Immediately after, Tara looked at Dawn at talked about the pretty green light. So there's that.

Unfortunately, Glory arrives for a little payback of her own, tearing the wall off the hospital room and wanting to kick Willow's behind. She is delighted, though, to hear what Tara sees when she looks at Dawn, realising that she has finally found her Key. The end.

You know, I wasn't exactly thrilled about this episode either. Like last week's, the cast did things and said things that felt out of character, or at least inorganic, just to service the plot. They also seemed to lose a bit of logic or intelligence if the script called for it. Plus, there was a little bit of Dawson's Creek Syndrome when characters had an argument and one of them misunderstood something, then turned and walked away and the other party didn't go after them to explain.***

But the action was good, and the scenes with Spike and Giles were good as usual. It seems that last season, right before the end, the quality dipped a little bit, and I've been told that that's inevitable when you're nearing the end of the season, but there's still two laps to go. I continue to look forward to each Buffy Wednesday, and I certainly do for next week, when I can find out what happens next. I've got a theory ("It could be bunnies") as to what's going to happen, and it'll be fun to see just how wrong I am.


*Oh crap. I just looked it up and it turns out you spell Lindsay with an "e." Whoops.

**This may be one of the reasons there are so many Dawn haters on the internet. And yeah, a lot of realistic teen behaviour is damned unattractive. For example, I just started watching "Jericho," and the rebellious, self-centered teenage girl on that show makes me want to drop my plasma screen off an overpass. But Dawn seems a little more three-dimensional than that, in addition to having a pretty lovable actress portraying her, I just find it difficult to hate Dawn, even when she's making Buffy unhappy.

***I remember seeing a BBC documentary one time about how, during the early days of soap operas, literary critics called these frustrating interactions "Dawson's Creek Syndrome" without knowing why, only to find out thirty years or so later when that show began to air. It was a fascinating bit of television, believe me.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Top Five Star Wars Bounty Hunters

Tyranist tried to convince me that Greedo wasn't a bounty hunter, but just one of Jabba's goons. I started to argue, but then remembered Han saying, "Next time come and see me yourself, don't send one of your twerps."* Somehow, tyranist convinced me instead of the other way around.

Even so, I consider myself a STAR WARS fan (even if I am a bitter fundamentalist), and I went ahead and asked people for their top five (or three, if they couldn't manage five) bounty hunters.

My cousin Ryan (now easily a bigger SW fan than me) was the first to respond. His list was:
1. Jango Fett
2. Boba Fett
3. Bossk
4. IG-88
5. Greedo
(or maybe Zam Wessel
I forgot one - Durge, from the Clone Wars cartoons - way cooler than Boosk and IG-88. Is it too late to bump Bossk and IG-88 down and put Durge at 3?
I suppose I've got to make a list too. Mine would have to be:
1. Boba Fett
2. Bossk
3. IG-88
4. 4-LOM
5. Zuckuss

Actually, I like Bossk almost enough to list him first, as he got way less exposure than "our new friend Boba" did.

Ian the non-evil Sony lawyer wrote:
Are there five? Wow. Here are the ones that I like:
1. Boba Fett
2. Greedo
3. Jango Fett
(don't really like him much, but that's all I got)

Jeff the sex doctor was the second to respond. He also included a strange symbol (:^P) that I've been unable to decipher.
1. IG88
2. Greedo
3. boba fett

Prison guard John has great respect for bounty hunters, as they bring him new neighbours. His list:
1 Boba Fett
2 Bossk
3 Dengar
4 Jango Fett
5 Greedo

Beta Ray Charles wrote:
5. IG-88
4. Boussh
3. Greedo
2. Bossk
1. Boba Fett

Which I just realised is in backwards order.
And Merrill wrote:
1. Boba Fett
2. IG-88
3. Bossk
4. Boussh (this was actually only a disguise, but I thought it was cool)
5. Greedo

I thought I was all done, then my buddy Dennis, from childhood wrote me back with his list (I was amazed to hear from him, but hey, STAR WARS brought us together, it would seem that thousands of miles can't keep us apart). It was:
Boba Fett
Jango Fett
Fifth is a toss up . . . Bossk.

So, adding them all up, it appears our winners were:
1. Boba Fett
2. IG-88 (amazing)
3. Bossk
4. Greedo
5. Jango Fett
6. Cindel Towani

I think I got responses from everybody this week, but dang, I sort of wish I had more people to ask. When the answers are so different, it's fun to see . . . well, answers that are different.Rish "He's no good to me dead" Outfield

*I'd get the quote exactly right, but I don't watch that version of the film.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

So, the Super Bowl was yesterday, and I tried my best to watch it. Not because I'm a fan of football--god, no--or one of the teams, or was in a big group of people watching it and getting good and drunk. No, I watched it because I had a few bucks riding on the game. My uncle had placed bets for everybody, including his brothers, my brother, and even my mom, so I got in on the action too, even though I have less money right now than . . . well, than whoever's reading this blog, I'd wager (unless the homeless now get internet access, which is possible*).

And speaking of wagers, the game was actually quite compelling, if only because the Patriots were heavily favoured to win, and the Giants kept the game really close. And then, toward the end, even though the Patriots have a perfect winning streak going this season, the Giants made an extra touchdown and won the game. My mother was disappointed about it and I apologised for getting her into the gambling mindset (though it was really her brother who deserves the blame), feeling bummed out that the Giants won, 17 to 14, and we lost.

So, tonight, I scrounged up some cash and went to my uncle, to give him what I owed him, and he said, "Nah, just wait till I collect the winnings, and you can pay me then."

To my embarrassment, I'd forgotten that I (and my mom) had bet not on the Patriots, but on the spread (which was an extra-generous twelve points). So, not only should I not have cared that the Patriots lost, I shouldn't have cared who won (as long as it wasn't by a dozen points).

Only I could be a winner, and still end up a loser.

Rish "And What A Loser" Outfield

*And if you are homeless, what are you doing reading my blog right now? Might I suggest you check out or