Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comic-Con Post 3

Thursday used to be the day that there was very little programming and people spend all day buying things, but that is now Wednesday, so we did go around looking for freebies, check out the booths, and hit a panel or two.

If you've never been to Comic-Con, they have many booths, great and small, to promote comic books or geek-centric entertainment (like video games, anime, toys, TV shows, art, computer programs, and cartoons . . . basically anything that doesn't involve interaction with women), and the big companies have signings and swag they hand out to stir up buzz for their projects. And some of this stuff is really quite impressive (and valuable, eBay fans).

For example, last year the Warner Bros. booth gave out some great oversized cloth bags with "Smallville" on them that have served me ever since, as I take packages to the mail in mine, and while they were giving out similar backs this time 'round, I never got one.

The Paramount booth was giving away t-shirts of their upcoming movies (such as TRANSFORMERS 2 and G.I.JOE 1 and STAR TREK . . . well, also 1), but to get one, you had to go to a line by the entrance (which was pretty consistently capped) and stand in it until approximately eight minutes before Hell froze over, then get a voucher that you could take to the booth and trade for a shirt. Once you'd gone through that line, that is.

Right next to that booth was the Summit Entertainment section, those who are bringing Stephenie Meyer's unconscionably popular TWILIGHT to the big screen this December. They had a small booth (half a booth, really), and they were giving out full-sized TWILIGHT posters, but you had to stand in an outside line just like the Paramount one.* I passed on that one, but Merrill stood in it, while I got in the Paramount one. His line moved along at a healthy pace, while mine didn't move at all. People were just sitting down and resting, getting up every ten minutes or so to move up to replace the five people who'd gotten to go get t-shirts. Merrill zoomed through his line and went off to see a panel, while I was permanently stuck in Paramount.

After a while, I asked the guys around me if they cared if I left to go to the bathroom, and they thought it was fine, so I took off. I got a little lost, going left instead of right, and when I came back, a miracle must have happened, because the line had not only moved, but the guys who'd been saving my place were nowhere to be found. The people who were directly behind me were now at the very head of the line, and said they didn't remember me and wouldn't let me back in with them (a woman there actually told me to "Get lost," which is a phrase I haven't heard outside the movies in, oh, my whole life). I sighed and started to go meet Merrill in the panel, but as I was walking away, one guy I didn't know said, "Hey, over here." He let me in behind him, just out of mercy, I suppose, but his condition was, "Just make sure you do the same for someone else." I guess not everybody at Comic-Con sucks as much as, well, I do.

There was a panel for Robert Rodriguez's upcoming RED SONJA movie. It stars Rose McGowan as the titular warrior woman, but there was very little of note at the panel, as the shooting won't begin for months, and the script is still being readied. The most interesting thing said there was that it would be directed by someone else, Douglas Aarniokoski, who has worked with Rodriguez before. But that's not the interesting part. What struck me as unusual is that Aarniokoski is the film's director in name only, as Rodriguez isn't able to technically be the director because the film's being made under the Director's Guild union, and Rodriguez is no longer part of the DGA.

Basically, he said that he and Aarniokoski would shoot as a team, sometimes concurrently, in an attempt to bring Rodriguez's vision to the screen together. I don't really understand it myself, but maybe that's what was going on with POLTERGEIST.

I was sitting too far back to get any decent pictures of this panel, and the zoom function only produces blurry messes like this:
Later in the day, I was supposed to interview Robert Englund for his new movie JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, but I got a call from the publicist to tell me I'd been bumped from the list, and could still interview the director and other actors if I wanted to. Since I knew nobody would ever read the interview if I did it, I passed.

Nevertheless, I took it upon myself to go back and feed the meter instead of having Merrill do it, and when I finally made it to the car, a lovely parking ticket was waiting for me. When it rains . . .

But as the man used to say, "ah well."

For want of something else to do (honestly, I cannot remember why we went there), we headed for the big Hall H to see Disney's RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN panel. Duayne Johnson was there, as well as class + hotness = Carla Gugino, talking about the 2009 remake to ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN.
It wasn't a particularly illuminating panel, and I'm not sure that a remake is wise (guess what, kids, they called it a "reimagining!" Because there's no such thing as a "remake" anymore), but maybe we were just so sick of walking and physically tired that we just had to go somewhere and sit down for an hour.

At the end of that panel, they DID show a trailer to TRON2. The audience just ate it up. I've never been a fan of TRON (in fact, it may need to go on my next list of "Movies I Hate That You Love"), but to see the CGI guy take his helmet off and see that it was a 2008 era Jeff Bridges did make me clap my hands. I thought they were doing a remakeagining, and a sequel is always better.

After that panel, they had one for "Hulk versus Wolverine," which maybe should be capitalised, but I decline to. It's the newest Marvel Animation direct-to-video release, and they brought out the voice cast and then showed us the film. It was unfathomably violent and had really nice animation, but Merrill and I both fell almost instantly asleep. I awoke every time the audience cheered (usually over something Deadpool said, or something particularly brutal), but eventually just flipped a mental switch to even block that out, since I plain didn't care. Sorry, Stan.

After that, Merrill and I just got up and left. We were too tired and hungry and sweaty and uncomfortable to listen to a Q&A about an animated film we couldn't stay awake through. We (eventually) found my car and hit the road.

I guess now would be a good moment to mention that my uncle has a house in Oceanside, and he had said we could stay there for a couple of days, as long as he was going to be there anyway. My mom thought it was a lot to ask (though she has brothers and nephews and nieces come over to her place all the time, often choosing to sleep on the floor so the guest can have the bed, and I'm not sure I ever heard her complain), and suggested we bring sleeping bags and our own towels, so there would be no laundry evidence that we'd been there.

Well, that was fine, and since my uncle and I were once much closer than my own father and I were, I had no doubts that we'd have a place to stay. Until, that is, that I started getting word that my uncle was going through some kind of surly period where he's angry at everyone, worthy or unworthy. Merrill and I thought it might be a good idea to check out motel rates, as a sort of contingency plan.

But I trusted my uncle and still felt like I was his favourite nephew, and would do right by me, so I called him on his cellphone and--when he didn't pick up--left him a message. We were leaving for San Diego and we sure would appreciate it if we could stay at his place, but if he wasn't going to be there or it wasn't alright, would he please give me a call? Best wishes, Rish.

And my uncle never called.

It's one thing to change his mind, but quite another not to return a call. I gotta say, my estimation of the man took a jarring hit to the solar plexus.

And that left us in San Diego with nowhere to sleep. We knew all the motels in town would be booked up or price-jacked, and the best deal we'd found had been in Temecula, roughly forty-five minutes north along the I-15 freeway, so we drove up there, got a room, washed the grime off, and felt considerably better.

To be continued . . .

*Which reminds me, there were exclusive toys you could buy at Comic-Con, as there are every year, but this time around, they made you go to a different floor and stand in line to get a ticket which you could go downstairs with and stand in the line at the Hasbro or Gentle Giant or Mattel booth to buy collectibles with. You'd think those lines would be way shorter than the ones for free stuff, but amazingly, it was the opposite.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comic-Con Post 2

Because Valentine's Day and New Year's hold no pleasure for me, and even Halloween has lost a bit of lustre since moving from Los Angeles.* So, until they come up with BJs For Loser's Day or Geek Week, I have to content myself with really looking forward to the San Diego Comic-Con every July.

Two years ago, Merrill and I worked together at Fox, and we both managed to a) get the time off, b) get the money together, and c) convince his wife to let him come with me. It was quite the experience, with lots of sweat, even more walking around, and smelly crowds. Yet before the trip was done, Merrill was already talking about what we would do differently "next year."

That impressed me.

Last year, however, though he had asked for the time off and the money, his wife absolutely forbade it. I went alone, but hooked up with my pal Matthew from L.A. and it worked out pretty well. But Merrill winced with regret at my stories of Joss Whedon and WALL-E and Robert Downey Jr. and really really fat guys dressed as the Punisher. So, as soon as he was able (January, in fact), he asked for the time off from work to go with me this year. The money came later (and believe me, there was a lot more required this time 'round), and the third thing, well, that was the real feat.

I often don't understand Merrill's wife. She sure seems cool in person (which is more than I can say for many of my friends' wives), is always nice to me on the phone, and has never once given me any indication that she thinks I suck (not that I'd blame her, really, since I do). But I guess that once the doors close and I'm far away, she expresses her displeasure that I hang around, or more accurately, that her husband wants to spend time hanging around me.

Merrill chilled me to my very bone with stories of his wife's attempts to prevent him from going to Comic-Con, even at the last minute, and while she apparently does it from a position of love and a desire to have her husband always by her side, I couldn't help but despair that she Lexluthors schemes to punish me by keeping Merrill from leaving. The last one was a sort of weight-loss competition with him. If he lost more weight than her, then she couldn't cut all her hair off (again), but if she lost more weight than him, well, then Comic-Con was out.

So, Merrill drank a capful of Epicac every evening before bed, and carried his children to school instead of driving them, and we had a green light.**

Merrill and I, somehow, became better friends when I had moved to Los Angeles and never saw him anymore, and when I moved back and we saw each other all the time, we grew even closer as friends. That was nice, and I do have to marvel at the fact that we're still friends after spending thirty or so hours in a car together this past weekend.

He had to work Wednesday night, so I went and picked him up afterward, we loaded into the car, and headed for California. We drove through the night and into the morning, thinking we'd get there early enough to be able to take a nap before the convention began. Sadly, we hit terrible SoCal traffic on the I-15 nearing San Diego between seven and eight, stopping and starting and losing all our lead time. When we finally got there, we were no longer early, and couldn't really find any free parking. I parked on the street last year, and didn't have any real difficulties, so I went ahead and did that again this year.

I was afraid they would give us a hard time about getting Merrill into the con, because he had missed the deadline and/or been rejected in his application, and I had begged the press relations liason to give him a pass anyway, and he gave in and said I could register Merrill as my guest. But who knew if that would work? What's more, in my zeal to get Merrill in, I had forgotten to bring my own registration confirmation. Luckily, we were both in the system, and my persperation was for nothing.

Or rather, some of my persperation. San Diego is warm, and the convention was crowded, and I have to admit that I was already moist and fragrant from the long drive. As the day went on, I'm sure I added to the funk that drifted through the tightly-packed air in the building.

A year ago on my birthday, my mom and sisters pooled their money to get me a digital camera, and it's really been the best present I could imagine. I use it just about every single day, and carried it around this Comic-Con and the last. But unlike last year, I remembered to bring a whole bunch of spare batteries, so I didn't miss out on foto ops (like I did last year).

The first thing you notice about Comic-Con--besides the crowds--is the amazing array of fantastic costumes that people have put together. I'm not really a costumer myself, except for Halloween, and even then I don't get into it as much as convention attendees do. While I was trying to get Merrill registered, we saw a guy dressed in a homemade Cobra Commander costume (complete with shiny helmet), but I missed my chance to take his picture.

I got my camera out and put it in my pocket to quick-draw whenever I saw something pic-worthy. Such as...
A congregation of Predators in the lobby.
Or a girl dressed in a homemade "Shindig" Kaylee dress.
Or a really effed-up Arkham Asylum Joker get-up.
Or a (n only slightly less effed-up) Clone/Stormtrooper outfit.
Or some amazing He-Man costumes, like this one of Teela and Evil-Lyn.
Or this one of Trap-Jaw, proving that even the lamest character can be cool if done with a little love.

There were hundreds walking around, some poor and some great, often stopping to pose for photos with fans or kids.

Which is probably my cue to mention the really hot Wonder Woman walking around the Warner Bros. booth. And she really filled out the suit.***

Merrill was apparently quite the ladies man in high school, and when I met him in college, he always had at least one hottie sending him love letters or boiling bunnies to get his attention. I, of course, could only draw flies in college (and rather crudely, often making them look like spiders), and was only a tad less of a loser then than I am now. But I'd figured the years have changed all that, and as he's been married and quite fat for some time now, things would have equalled between us. But when Merrill saw the Wonder Woman chick and pushed his camera into my hands, I got a vivid replay of what our college years were like. This woman, a complete stranger, pressed herself up against Merrill for the photo like a really attractive facehugger.

I guess it goes without saying that I've always been jealous of my friend, but to see a veritable SUPERHERO glomming onto him like the Venom symbiote . . . well, that just hurts.

I think I'll end here for today. While I'm ahead.If I can call it that.

Rish "Wonder Woman Never Hugged Me" Outfield

*The last Halloween I spent there was on the set of THE GOOD GERMAN, dressed as a French soldier and being paid extra because I supposedly had military training, but it wasn't really the costume I had in mind.

**This is actually a lie. They decided to change the terms of their wager when they realised they hadn't enough time to lose more than a couple of pounds. But the actual consequences of losing are now much, much more ghoulish.

***To quote the famous physicist Phinneus Fresh Prince PhD: "You should've seen this girl's bodily dimensions." Or maybe he was a marine biologist.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comic-Con Post 1

It's funny. Yesterday, Jeff commented on how I don't do anything but sit around all day, and yet I always complain about being too busy.

There are many things I'd like to say about our trip to Comic-Con this week. Several points I'd like to make, a couple of stories I'd like to relate, a bunch of pictures I wouldn't mind posting. But it's difficult. I really do have a lot of things I SHOULD be doing, and I'm terribly behind on my blogging (the last few "Buffy" and "Angel"s we saw remain unblogged, and there was a matter of superhero films from two weeks back). I glanced at the blog of a friend of mine, the one I described to Matthew as Pedestal Girl, and I was blown away by how many posts, pictures, and adventures were there in such a short time. While I can't even manage to complain about my uncle calling me "Ricky," though I've vowed to use it as a STOTW for months now.

But I will try. I will try to talk about Merrill's love for his children, about the Wonder Woman pressing her lovely self against him, the slightly less thick crowds this year (yet an acre of quicksand, while less than a mile of quicksand, will just as kill you), the humidity, and the hours upon hours of conversation with my friend (both entertaining and banal).May take me a few days, but I will try.

Rish

Monday, July 28, 2008

SDCC 2008

"Sometimes I awaken to this day, fear in my wide eyes, sweat thick on my brow and taint, my arms outstretched to push the terror away, almost sick with fear. 'No!' I hear myself still shouting, 'Keep away, unwashed, overweight masses!'" But I am alone in the room, and the San Diego Comic-Con is over. The crowds are far away and the gasping and jostling has ended. But a niggling voice at the back of my restless mind whispers to me: 'There's always next year.'"

From the journal of Reginald Tobias Outfield III

To Be Continued...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Angel Wednesday (23 July)

Tyranist and I, knowing that he was going off to plant explosive devices and I was going off to Comic-Con, tried to get in an extra night of "Buff-gel" viewing, and though I was really anxious to watch the "Conversations with Dead People" episode of BTVS, we started with "Angel," and that's where we stayed.

First up was "Supersymmetry," written by Elizabeth Craft y Sarah Fain. This was an interesting episode. It focused on Fred getting a paper published in a scientific journal, and then being sought out by her old physics professor, who wants her to give a lecture about it. I believe the professor was called Doctor Sidel, and he has an irritable blond assistant, who was his T.A. years before, when Fred was one of his assistants also. She was always jealous of those with more ability than her (such as Fred), and of their relationship with Dr. Sidel, who seems to look at Fred with the fondness of a father.

We do catch up with Cordelia for a bit, and see her training with Connor to kill vampires. Obviously, he's quite smitten with her, but she seems unaware of this. How someone like Cordelia could be blind to this I don't know, but I'm willing to accept it, since lots of weird stuff happens on this show.

Across town, Wesley seems to be shaking of his new life, including evillawyerwoman Lilah Morgan.* She thinks it's because of Fred, who Wesley still carries a torch for, but I think Wesley has just been unhappy for a long time, and realises what changes need to be made to fix that. He goes to Fred's lecture, but chooses to sit in the back rather than by Angel and Gunn. I wonder what they would've said had he asked to sit next to them.

Well, at the very beginning of her presentation, a portal opens up above her, and a bunch of tentacle-critters reach out, either to kill or drag people in with them. Well, the team springs into action and rescues her, but all are suspicious how this could've happened. Obviously, Doctor Sidel was responsible for sending her to Pylea (as he's had a couple other assistants disappear under mysterious circumstances), and was trying to do it again. He never sent the useless blond one to another dimension because she wasn't smart enough to pose a threat to his position at the college. I guess.

Well, Fred is furious about this discovery, and wants to kill her old professor. Because Angel and company would try to discourage her, she goes to Wesley and asks for his help. He too tries to dissuade her, but he does drive her to Dr. Sidel's lab. Meanwhile, Angel has confronted Sidel in Fred's stead, but a demon appears and attacks him, allowing Dr. Sidel to escape.

Unfortunately for him, he runs right into Fred, who levels her weapon at him and tells him she's going to pay him back for what he's done to her and others. She opens up a portal to a horrible demon dimension, meaning to send him there as punishment. But then Gunn arrives and grabs Sidel, breaks his neck, then throws him into the portal. His reasoning, it would seem, was to take the burden of murder (or otherworldly torment, at least) from his girlfriend, and onto himself. The portal closes, and the two of them leave, uncertainty in their future. The end.

Actually, that's not the end of the episode, really, but I'll get to that later. Throughout, tyranist and I had our theories on this episode, stopping it to talk through as we are wont to do. You see, it was obvious to us, at least from a writer's standpoint, that Professor Sidel wasn't the one responsible for sending Fred to Pylea, but the blond assistant. They pointed the fingers at the professor again and again and never question it, but go out of their way to remind us of this assistant who a) knew Fred, b) expressed jealousy at her and the other "disappeared" assistants, and c) wasn't as talented/beloved as the others were. Hell, there was even a line at the end where Fred explains why Sidel didn't dispose of the blond assistant too, which was a nice way of reminding the audience that the other character is still out there, and exists.

Because, if she didn't do it, then why didn't Dr. Sidel express anything other than confusion at the attacks on him, and more importantly, why have the blond assistant character appear at all??? After all, there was an extra at the Fred's lecture who got a line (which makes him not an extra), and that was so they could set him up as a possible suspect later in the episode, when he had a whole scene with Angel and Gunn.

Anyway, what ended up happening at the end of this episode was, well, so much less effective than what we theorised that I'm still about 80% sure our suspicions were correct, and either someone lazied it up, or the truth will come out somewhere down the line. After all, how much BETTER a rift between Fred and Gunn would it be if we discover that the man he/they killed was innocent?

We'll see.

The next episod--

You know, I'm not sure if I'm done ranting about the last one. I know a little bit about screenwriting, and have written a couple of episode television scripts, and I just don't know how something like "Supersymmetry" can happen. Tyranist and I, in our horror movie viewing days, saw a flick called CUTTING CLASS, where there was a psychopath in a high school and everybody thought it was the weird loner kid that nobody liked. Our hottie lead actress saw him stalking her, and her a-hole Brad Pitt-looking boyfriend chased him off, but the loner kept coming around. Her boyfriend suggests the loner kid is a serial killer, and soon everybody else, including the hottie Jill Schoelen-type, become convinced that the loner is a murderer. So, the movie comes to its triumphant end and the killer is revealed to be . . . wait a minute . . . the weird loner kid? What the hell?

That movie sucked, my friends.

And SCREAM 3 had a similar problem, where the person they insist did it at the end of the film, not only probably DIDN'T do it, but in this case, COULDN'T have done it. Arrrrrgh.

Anyway, I just needed to say that, since I pride myself in figuring out plot twists, and enjoy it even more when I am surprised by (an effective) one.

Okay, back to the countdown. The next episode was called "Spin the Bottle," written and directed by some guy named Whedon. At the end of the last episode, Cordelia had seen some of her pictures with Angel in them and decides to come talk to him at the hotel. She still doesn't have her memory from before, as you know, and asks him if maybe the two of them were in love.

This one picks up where it left off, but now it's Lorne, at some kind of lounge act, telling the tale. Angel doesn't know how to answer that question, and Cordelia is understandably frustrated. Lorne has an idea, though, a spell that will return lost memories, but with a complicated set-up.

It requires six people, apparently, all of whom must be close to the amnesiac. So, Wesley arrives to participate in the spell.

Strangely, Gunn is hostile to him at the very offset. He only gets worse when he discovers that Fred went to Wesley for help in killing her professor, something that is already straining the bonds of their relationship. Gunn accuses Wesley of skulking around the hotel again, sniffing after Fred like a horny dachshund, even though I thought it was Gunn who went to Wesley before when Fred was in danger. Confusing, and more than a little irritating.**

Gunn does ask Wesley what happened to turn him into such a tool, and Wesley responds, "I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me." This was another pause-the-DVD moment, as tyranist expressed disgust at Wesley's narrow-minded recollection of the incident, and I strutted around in self-righteousness, insisting that Wesley was damn right to feel that way, and that tyranist was as much responsible as anybody else was. Probably not my finest hour. Eventually, we came to an understanding, and continued the episode.

They sit in a circle--Cordelia, Angel, Lorne, Fred, Wesley, and Gunn, a magic bottle in front of them, and something starts to happen to them. Everyone is spooked and confused, and Cordelia breaks the bottle. The spell is broken, and suddenly, nobody remembers how they got there. They don't remember one another, either. All they remember is that they are teenagers, ripped away from their former lives: Cordelia is a bitchy Sunnydale High student, Gunn is a kill-happy street punk, Wesley is a prim and proper attendee of the prestigious Watchers Academy, Fred is a marijuana-obsessed Texan teenager, and Angel is Liam, the Irish youth from the 18th Century, forever under his religious father's bootheel.

Lorne has gone away, for purposes of the plot. Ah well.

It is quite amusing to see them the way they were before the series started (though Cordelia we've actually seen that way***), and they try to figure out how they got there and what their situation is. Wesley is very much the way he was when introduced in "Buffy"'s third season, and Gunn is tempted to pummel him.

Before we become convinced we've got a bottle show on our hands, we do see Connor fight a couple vampires in an alley, saving a hooker who wants to reward him . . . by letting him pay to sleep with her. Nice.

They do stumble upon Lorne's unconscious body and, realising he's a demon (at this point, only Wesley and Gunn know of the existence of such things), they tie him to a chair. Wesley tells them of a Watcher tradition of locking a teenager in a building with a vampire as a test of skill and training (which we also saw in the third season of "Buffy"), and suggests that this is what's happening. If they kill the vampire, they will be set free.

So people split into groups, to search the hotel for a vampire to kill. Cordelia & Liam go one way, while Fred, Gunn, and Wesley go the other.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Cordelia is quite attracted to Liam, and comes onto him eight or nine times through the course of the episode.

Liam realises, not long after being alone with Cordelia, that he is a vampire. He turns back to his human self before she notices, but is worried that he is the one the others are supposed to hunt and kill. He also realises that his Irish accent is gone, and while that makes absolutely zero sense to me, it's not something I minded.

And speaking of which, just last year, we had the BTVS episode "Tabula Rasa," where our characters forgot who they were and had a memory loss adventure. The fact that this is more than a little similar should have irritated the poo out of me . . . but it didn't.

To escape, Liam takes off outside (lucky thing it's night, huh?), and is frightened by the demons whizzing by on the street (just as Buffy did in the "Halloween" episode. Heck, she even called them demons), and runs back inside.

When he does, Wesley announces that one of them must be the vampire, and he produces a cross to see who can't hold it. As they give it to Liam, Lorne wakes up and still has his memory. He doesn't realise their situation when they ask him who the vampire is, and when he answers, Gunn and Wesley attack Liam.

He runs off, and Connor jumps out, thinking Angel is attacking Cordelia (which, technically, he may have been). They fight, and sorry, I'd be so grateful to get a "Buffy" or "Angel" without a fight scene. I know it ain't gonna happen, t'would be like a porno with no sex****, but I do get tired of it, and I can't imagine the cast and crew don't.

Lorne talks Fred into releasing him, and they do a spell to restore everybody's memories. When Cordelia gets her memory back, she has a vision about a hulking black demon, and then leaves with Connor. Before she goes, though, she tells Angel that yes, the two of them were in love. The end.

I did like this episode, but I didn't think it was great. It didn't accomplish a lot, plot-wise, and I still don't know why they reverted to teenagers. But hey, things could be worse, Cordelia could be impregnated by Connor or turn evil or die. So there's that.

Rish Clifford Outfield

*I would've liked to see a Welsey-centric episode, where we see how his team dynamic worked and if they respected him, as the Angel Investigations team (with the occasional exception of Fred) did not.

**I remember when Gunn was first introduced, and how difficult it was to like him, especially when he was written as a jive-talkin' 1974 black stereotype. But that time passed, and I actually learned to like Gunn, in the same way that I learned to like Angel. For some reason, in this and the next episode, Boyz in the Hood Gunn returns, and all that good will headed for the nearest exit.

***And technically Angel as well, but that shouldn't count.

****Or a cartoon without animation, if you're easily offended.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DC Comics Top Five

So, DARK KNIGHT has hit theatres and I've seen it . . . twice. I never would have guessed I'd like it as much as I did, and I do have to wonder if its esteem will go up or down in the months to come.

As of now, my list looks something like this:*
1. SUPERMAN (1978)
2. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
3. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
4. ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
5. BATMAN (1989)

Tyranist got back to me first this time round, and his (rather surprising) list was:
1. Stardust
2. Batman Returns
3. V for Vendetta
4. Constantine
5. Road to Perdition
Lawyerboy Ian was the next to respond, though he suggested that if he saw DARK KNIGHT again, it might change his rankings. It ended up like this anyway:
Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
Superman II (the Richard Donner version)
Batman (1989)
Road to Perdition
(love this movie, but don't feel exactly great lumping it in here)

Cousin Ryan hit me with:
1 The Dark Knight
2 Batman Begins
3 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
4 Superman / Superman Returns
5 '89 Batman


Beta Ray Charles gave me the following (without a Chris Nolan Batman in sight):
5. Batman
4. Superman II
3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
2. Batman Returns
1. Superman
Next was Jeff the Chemist, who sent me a list in no particular order (except number five). To be fair, I'll just list them alphabetically:
1. (tie) Batman (1989)
2. Dark Knight
3. Superman (1978)
4. V for Vendetta
5. Batman Begins


And lastly, Merrill sent me the following:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Batman Begins
3. Superman II
4. Superman
5. Batman Returns
Rhett wasn't able to get out to see DARK KNIGHT for a while, making him the last respondent. His list was:
1. Batman
2. Batman Begins
3. The Dark Knight
4. Batman Returns
5. Superman


And that makes our winners something like:
1. THE DARK KNIGHT
2. (tie) BATMAN BEGINS
2. SUPERMAN
4. BATMAN RETURNS
5. BATMAN ('89)


Hmm. Starting this, a few weeks back, I wouldn't have guessed it would come out this way. I wonder what I should ask next week.

Rish "The Dork Knight" Outfield

*I say "something like" because there are a lot of films (like STARDUST and V FOR VENDETTA) that could be on my list, but just plain aren't, for some reason. Next week, that could change.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (continued)

Picking up where I left off last time, we'd finished the first DVD of both "Angel" and "Buffy" now, and it was a toss-up which disc we'd start next. We ultimately chose "Buffy," and next up was "Selfless," written by Drew Goddard. Goddard went on to write CLOVERFIELD and the J.J. Abrams shows "Alias" and "Lost," but this was his first episode of "Buffy."

"I boned a troll, I wreaked some wrath,
But on the whole I've had no path;
I like to bowl, I'm good with math,
But who am I?"


So, Willow is getting settled back in at Buffy's house (and back in college as well), and Xander and Buffy are talking about Anya. He's pretty sure things are improving with her now.

Cut to: Anya at a frathouse on campus, surrounded by dead bodies, their hearts ripped out of their bodies. Hmmm.

We flash back to Vikingland, in the year 800, where Anya lives with Olaf, her big bearded husband. Anya was known as "Aud" then, and she spoke Swedish. She loves her husband, loves having rabbits around, and is nervous about a wench down at the tavern he's been seeing a lot of.

We get our requisite Spike scene, down in the school basement. Buffy is talking to him, being more gentle than usual, telling him he has to get out of there, since the place is making him crazier. She forgives him for the sins of his past, and he appears to be doing a bit better sanity-wise. And then, the REAL Buffy comes down, much harder and colder than the one he was just talking to (was this just a hallucination, or is this another manifestation of that nasty Evil that was taunting him in the first episode?).

Willow is on the college campus, when she sees Anya, walking out of the frathouse, looking a little dazed. Anya says hello and not much else, but Willow sees blood on her hands (quite literally in this case) and decides to check out the frathouse after she's gone.

She finds all the dead boys, and a weeping, fairly hysterical dark-haired girl hiding in one of the closets. She's murmuring that she wants to take it back, and Willow finds out from her that one of the fratboys humiliated her in front of the others, and she wished he could know how it felt to have his heart ripped out. And then a big CGI spider appeared and did it. The same big CGI spider that's creeping up on her right now.

Willow uses her magic to knock it out the window, momentarily turning dark and angry at the girl. She returns to normal, but I guess we can see that Dark Willow will always be with her.

We flash back to Vikingland, where Aud/Anya has transformed her husband into a troll. The villagers run in terror and he causes all sorts of destruction, while she watches with contentment. D'Hoffran appears to her, and praises her fine handywork. He offers her the chance to do that sort of thing again and again, and
she accepts.

We see Halfrek the Vengeance Demon visiting Anya, praising her most recent vengeance as exactly the kind of monster she used to be. Anya seems uncomfortable about it all, but clearly (and tyranist commented on this as well), Halfrek is the kind of influence on Anya that Amy the Witch was on Willow.

Speaking of Willow, she has told Buffy what she saw, and Buffy and Xander go looking for the big CGI spider in the woods. Buffy finds it and kills it, and when they get home, Willow tells them who was responsible for all those deaths. Xander is angry that Willow wouldn't have told him first, and that's pretty valid, but now that Buffy knows what Anya has done, she only sees one course of action.

We flash back to the Russian Revolution. Anya and Halfrek are in a mansion filled with dead bodies while St. Petersburg burns outside, enjoying some tea. I guess they're showing better times.

'Cause in the here and now, Xander tries to convince Buffy not to kill Anya. He argues that when one of their friends goes bad (ie Willow), they help them, not kill them. Buffy reminds Xander that she killed Angel when he turned evil, and she loved him like, well, like she never loved anybody. I guess that's hard to argue with, but Xander does try. Buffy and Xander go to the frat house, where I guess they knew Anya would show up (I don't quite remember how that worked, but the episode was good enough I do not at all care).

Willow digs up the talisman she got from D'Hoffrin when she was wishing vengeance on Oz (boy, does that seem like a long time ago, and I've only been watching for a year), and he appears, thinking she wants to be a demon now. After all, he killed Warren in much the same way a vengeance demon would.

Anya is as cold and unrepentant as a FOX executive, though she does get off a couple really good lines, such as asking Buffy if she ever had any friends she didn't try to kill. She throws Xander across the room, and after she does the same to Buffy, the Slayer thrusts a sword through Anya's chest, nailing her body against the far wall. Fade out.

We flash back to 2001, during the "Once More, With Feeling" singing epidemic. Anya and Xander are happy and in love, and he dozes, muttering, "I just want a happy ending," a fairly major hint that he wished for the whole song-and-dance episode. Contemplating her role in the world, she sings, "I'm the Mrs.," dancing around him while he sleeps.

I had always assumed this was a deleted tune from that episode, but it makes a little more sense now. I'd always liked the song, but figured it was deleted because it was kind of redundant, or replaced by "I'll Never Tell." I'd heard the song nearly as much as the tracks from "Once More, With Feeling," but while I'd always enjoyed the lightness and humour of the song before, in context, I sure wasn't laughing. This was it, the end of Anya's life, and bastard that I am, I had been clamouring for it just a blog-post ago. And we were sort of celebrating that life, in an interesting way, but I was feeling pretty darn bad about it all.

When the song is done, we cut back to Anya, skewered by Buffy's sword. But to my great surprise, Anya arises, pulls the sword out, and tells Buffy it takes a lot more than that to destroy a vengeance demon.

And you know, as spoileriffic as the internet is, I had no idea what happened to Anya before the end of "Buffy." I totally believed that she was dead there. Joss has killed people far less dignity-ly before this.

So, they start to fight again, but then D'Hoffryn shows up and stops the fight. Immediately, Anya tells him she wants to undo what she did, to take back the fratboy killing. He is blown away by her request, and I guess I was too, since she appeared a bit unrepentant before, but I guess she's complicated.

D'Hoffryn tells her the price to undo her magic is the life of a vengeance demon, and she accepts. So, he conjures up Halfrek and kills her. His theory is that killing her friend will hurt her more than just killing her, and he strikes Anya of her vengeance powers, but does bring back the fratboys to life. D'Hoffryn disappears, but before he goes, he reminds them, "From beneath you, it devours."

Anya leaves the frathouse, appearing confused and lost, and Xander goes after her. I wondered if it was possible their relationship could be salvaged, but he when he asks if she'll be alright, she replies that she doesn't know, but that she'll find out her place in the world on her own. And Anya walks away. The end.

So, this episode was wildly uneven. I really liked it, and I also really didn't. But hey, that was Season Six in a nutshell. I figured we had said goodbye to Anya on the show, and wasn't sure if she'd be better off skewered, or a villain, or a recurring guest, or what. The only thing I was sure of was that I was glad to see Halfrek die. But that's just me.

The second episode was "Him," written by Drew Z. Greenberg. I wondered if it might not be a companion piece to the "Angel" episode "She," but it wa'n't.

Amazingly, Emma Caulfield was in the opening titles, though I figured someone had just been too lazy to edit her out. But no, Anya was in this episode, and, though it's like admitting I'm wrong, it was a better show for it.

It starts with Spike coming to live in Xander's apartment. It's similar to the Season Four stuff in Xander's basement, except Spike is now still a bit crazy. I guess being in the basement of the high school was just making him crazier and Buffy took pity on him. Dawn doesn't understand why Buffy would help Spike, and it's possible a lot of audience members were asking that too.

Dawn sees this handsome dude in a letterman jacket at school (his name is RJ) and falls instantly in love. We can tell because a) the theme from A SUMMER PLACE plays when she looks at him, and b) she gets really clumsy.

Amazingly, there's Anya, being attacked by a demon, and Buffy helping her out. Even more amazingly, Buffy tells Anya that she's still one of her friends, so she should still hang out and fight evil and stuff.

Dawn, meanwhile, is doing what she can to get close to R.J. the Jock, and I found her attempts a) absolutely adorable and b) pretty darn fearless. I suppose fighting monsters all her "life" kinda puts handsome teenagers in their proper perspective. She digs up Buffy's Season 1 cheerleader outfit and tries out for the squad (messing it up pretty badly), and tries to make conversation with him (which is also somewhat messy).

Well, it turns out that R.J.'s a football player, and there's another jock jockeying (see what I did there?) for quarterback. Lucky for R.J., Dawn pushes the other jock down a flight of stairs, and he's out of the running for QB.

Of course Dawn gets called to Principal Wood's office, but she tells him that the other jock simply fell down the stairs, and he seems to buy it. R.J. is grateful, and asks Dawn out. They go to the Bronze, where Buffy and pals are also hanging out. They see R.J. the Jock dancing with some scantily-clad chick, and both Xander and Willow check her out. To everyone's horror, it turns out to be Dawn.

Buffy tells her she's dressed inappropriately, and Dawn throws a fit about being able to do whatever she wants. In a huff, Dawn stomps out of the Bronze and into the alley where, I don't know, forty percent of the town's vampire attacks seem to occur. But instead of a vampire, it's another high school girl who attacks her, angry that she was out with R.J.. Buffy breaks up the fight and decides to check out this R.J. dude herself.

And check him out she does, falling instantly into lust with him. At school, Principal Wood is unhappy with his lack of academic achievement, and Buffy takes her opportunity to talk to R.J. in a counsellor/student sort of way . . . but it suddenly becomes a "Miss Summers, you're trying to seduce me" moment. They go into an empty classroom to get it on.

Unfortunately, a lovestruck Dawn also goes looking for R.J., and sees them making out. She runs into Xander, who also sees the couple dry-humping. He interrupts it, and they quickly separate like a pair of courteous boxers.

Well, Xander tells Willow about it, blaming a love spell. They bring Anya in, and have some kind of intervention with Buffy. And Dawn. And the sisters each insist they love R.J. and he loves them too. Willow gets on the ole computer and finds out that R.J. had a brother who went to school with them, and Xander and Spike go to his place to, I don't know, move the plot along.

The brother used to pick on Xander, but is now a pudgy, lonely guy about a third as pathetic as Rish Outfield. He was popular in high school, and gave his letterman jacket to R.J. when he came of age. Obviously, that is the source of the love spell.

Meanwhile, R.J. comes over to Buffy's house to talk to her, but Anya and Willow won't let him in. Instead, they dismiss him and then decide that they are in love with him, more in love with him than anyone else is.

Next followed the most entertaining part of the whole episode, where each girl decides to prove her love for R.J. while the screen splits into four Brian DePalmaesque quadrants. Buffy decides to kill Principal Wood for giving R.J. a hard time. Anya decides to rob a bank to impress R.J., 'cause money is cool. Willow decides to use magic to turn R.J. into a girl so they can, like, be together (and it sort of makes me wonder, just how bad was sex with Oz?*). And Dawn? Well, she doesn't really have any of the talents the others have, so she decides to prove her love for R.J. . . . by killing herself.

And people still continue to dislike Dawn?

So, Xander and Spike come home while Willow is performing her sex change spell, and then go off to stop Buffy from killing the principal (it was quite hilarious, as she had dug out the rocket launcher from "Innocence"), then Willow uses magic to track down Dawn, who is lying on the railroad tracks. Buffy does a big rescue, then tells Dawn she can have R.J., because no boy is worth dying for.

Xander and Spike find R.J. and steal his coat, then they burn it at Buffy's house. Everyone feels embarrassed over what they almost did. Especially Anya, who actually did rob a bank, but didn't tell anybody about it. The end.

Dude, this was such a good episode. It was funny and light and well done in the way that the old ones were, before Angel turned all icky. It's nice that they can throw one like this our way, in the middle of the pathos and the stuff that devours from below us.

It took me the lifespan of a cockroach to write this summary, and I shudder to think how long my "Angel" recap will take.

Until then, I remain,

Rish Outfield, Esquire

*Or conversely, how good was sex with Tara?

Happy Bat-week!

I was boxing up a drug shipment this afternoon, and I was using the newspaper for packing. I was using the Announcements page, and I stopped when I saw the picture. There was an old couple with broad--too broad?--grins on their faces, and yeah, I couldn't help but think of Smilex Gas.

I spent five minutes writing on it, after having spent twenty-three minutes trying to take a picture of the newspaper photo, and stuck it up here.

They can't all be winners, folks.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bottom Five DC Comics Films

Because DARK KNIGHT is about to open, I thought I'd ask, this week, for people's Bottom Five (or Three, if you prefer) DC Comics Films. To help people out, I went to wikipedia, and listed everything I thought qualified (for example, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM counts, but GOTHAM KNIGHT does not. Also, the 1951 SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN, from which the TV series was spun off, counts, but the GEN13 TV movie, from which no series spun off does not). I was really surprised to see that movies like THE FOUNTAIN and STARDUST were originally comics, and that A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, ROAD TO PERDITION, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN were all based on comics published by DC.

If I had to pick five bottom feeders, they would be:
1. CATWOMAN
2. BATMAN & ROBIN
3. SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE
4. BATMAN FOREVER
and 5. BATMAN (1966)
I think, had I seen STEEL and SUPERGIRL, my answers might change.

Tyranist was first to answer, though he only had these three for me (having not seen many of the rest):
1. Batman and Robin
2. Superman III
3. The Fountain

Cousin Ryan, who is a huge DC fan (I'm not kidding, he's loyal to a fault), gave me this list:
Schumacher Batman & Robin
Superman VI
Superman III
Batman Forever


Jeff the Chemist sent me his list (which included a six, seven, and eight):
Catwoman
Batman & Robin
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Batman Forever
Supergirl

Merrill's list went like this:
1. Batman and Robin
2. Superman IV
3. Supergirl
4. Superman III
5. Catwoman


Then Merrill reminded me that I had done a list like this just a couple months back, when JUMPER was released. I am heartily sorry for my sins, folks.

Rhett sent me this short:
1. Catwoman
2. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
3. Batman & Robin


Prison Guard Johnny, true to form, sent his list like this:

27. Batman Returns
28. Superman IV the Quest for Peace
29. Batman and Robin
30. Catwoman
31. Supergirl


I may never forgive him for putting BATMAN RETURNS on the wrong list.

Beta Ray Charles finishes things out with:
5. Superman III
4. Supergirl
(granted, I saw it as a kid, but still...)
3. Batman and Robin
2. Catwoman
1. Steel
(yes, I saw Steel)

So, it appears that this week's big "winners" were:
1. BATMAN & ROBIN
2. CATWOMAN
3. SUPERMAN 4
4. SUPERGIRL
5. SUPERMAN III

Hmmm. Better luck next week.

Rish Outfield

The Wind Cried . . . Dunesteef?

So, my friend, calling himself Big Ankelvich, talked long and hard about creating a podcast. He wanted to do an audio fiction magazine, where people send us stories and we read them. He asked if I was interested, and I told him frankly that I'd always wanted to be a radio DJ or what they call in L.A. "a radio personality," and somehow, we combined our ideas into a podcast we've been recording every Sunday night.

When I asked him what we'd call it (deliciously ribald titles springing to mind), he proclaimed that it would be called "The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine!" Dunesteef, you ask, What's Dunesteef?

B.A. then related a story to me that I can't do justice to, so I'll just repeat it in his own words.

My wife Kari and I went to a Chinese restaurant about six months after we'd gotten married, and her younger sister Kami decided to come along. It was a little bit odd, because I had these two hot young things making eyes at me throughout the meal, and while Kari stroked my hand, Kami was rubbing her foot against my leg under the table.

I ate quickly, and when the fortune cookies came, I didn't even want to open them. But the sisters insisted, giggling at the old "in bed" addition to the end of each of them. I didn't miss that both of them were looking my way as they read each of them aloud. So, I cracked my cookie, pulled out the paper, and then stopped.

There was only one word there, on the front and the back. It was "Dunesteef." I showed them the fortune, wondering if it meant something to the girls, and when I said the word aloud, I heard a crashing sound behind me. I whirled to see a very old Chinese woman bending to pick up the shattered plate she had dropped onto the tiled floor. A moment later, an even older Chinese man came out of the backroom, all antsy and nervous, with a big white denture-filled grin for the three of us.

"You good customers!" he said, helping me up, "I not charge three good customers, you go now."

Kari didn't understand what he was saying and Kami turned red, asking if we'd done something wrong. The Chinese man said, "No, no, you very good customers, you make me happy by not paying for meal. It on me, very good day for everyone." He was literally ushering us out of the restaurant as he said it, patting each of us on the back like we were little burros going up a mountain (or whatever they call burros in Peking).

I was really suspicious about this and I stopped, right before we reached the door. "I don't mind paying for the meal, mister, if you'd just give me a chance to get my--"

"You keep money, good sir," the old man insisted, "You spend it on pretty young wives. Yes?" And with that, he got the door for us and gave us a little bow like the Green Hornet's driver used to do. We went out to the car, chuckling about the experience, but when I remembered it later, I found that the fortune I'd read at the table had disappeared.
*

So, there you go. If you'd like to hear us read stories and attempt to make listenable banter, go here, and suffer through it. That's www.dunesteef.com, in case my spelling sucks.

It's turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated. I think we can make things better, both as storytellers and hosts, but that will require even more work on my part.

If you know me at all, you'd understand how much that scares me.

Rish "Underachiever . . . And Proud Of It, Man" Outfield

*This is a totally, 100% accurate portrayal of his story, except that it wasn't B.A.'s foot she was carressing)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Buf-gel Wednesday

After not getting together last week, and being told we wouldn't be able to next week either, I really wanted a Buffy Wednesday this week. Luckily, we fit it in on Thursday.

We were caught up on both "Buffy" and "Angel" (meaning, we'd watched the same amount of episodes of each, though I see that BTVS this season was airing two weeks before "Angel" started, which puts us technically behind), so we tried to switch off again, like we used to do. The first "Buffy" we watched was called "Help," written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner (and directed by HALLOWEEN II helmer Rick Rosenthal).

Buffy is nervous about her job as a counselor at the high school, and she should be, as a long string of students with problems come to see her. I don't know how many were important, but most significant seems to be a girl named Cassie, who comes in and tells her she's going to die on Friday.

Cassie isn't particularly scared about it, but seems resigned to it, and not really generous with the details. Buffy is concerned, but Cassie leaves, after warning Buffy not to spill anything on her shirt. When Buffy goes to tell Principal Wood about it, he tells her it's just normal teenage behaviour, and then she spills coffee on her shirt.

Buffy thinks Cassie may be able to see the future, and asks Dawn to befriend her and report on her activities. Willow discovers Cassie has a website dedicated to her morbid death poetry (I so wish that had existed when I was in high school) and that her father has a criminal history and is a drunk.

Willow and Xander go to wherever Tara is buried, and Willow pays her respects. They seem a lot closer now, due to what they shared last season, and I'll be damned if I wasn't wishing those two kids could get together, lesbianism be damned. I mentioned to tyranist that they seemed like the kind of couple who would date around and then end up marrying each other once their searching was through. Tyranist mentioned to me that I know less about relationships than a monk by day, serial killer by night . . . which seemed a little bit hurtfulDawn does hang out with Cassie, and finds that her friend Mike is constantly asking her to the big upcoming dance, but she's always telling him no. She suspects that Mike will kill her, but Buffy suspects the father.

Buffy and Xander go to his house and basically accuse him of hurting his daughter. He is a pitiable lout and complains about how he only sees Cassie one weekend a month (and that weekend has just passed), and they leave. Cassie is lurking in the yard and tells Buffy it's not her father that does it. She gives a speech about all the things she'd like to do with her life, but won't be able to. Cassie doesn't plan to do it herself; all she knows is that coins are involved and there's no way to avoid it.

I thought that maybe she was one of those pre-credits girls, who is hunted down and killed by dudes in hoods, but I was wrong. We see a circle of dudes in red cloaks, surrounded by coins, who are burning a photograph of Cassie, and that makes me suspect those guys.

Buffy goes down to the school basement to visit Spike, who delivers his usual thankless crazy person scene. He has no useful information about Cassie, and as I have difficulties with characters who are mentally ill (River Tam was the only character I never liked on "Firefly"), I hope this all ends soon.

Buffy questions Cassie's buddy Mike if he's angry that Cassie won't go to the dance with him, but he's already thinking about getting in Dawn's pants. Which I have to admit is understandable. Buffy also notices when a bunch of coins falls out of some kid's locker, and threatens to pummell the owner of the locker/coins. He's a gimpy-looking kid, who reveals that yes, he's part of a sinister organisation that wants to bring Cassie harm.

Tyranist told me he liked Cassie, and I knew who she was when I saw her name (Azura Skye) in the opening credits, but now I can't figure out what I know her from. My best guess is that she was in the rather awful ONE MISSED CALL remake earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Dawn and Cassie are walking together, and Cassie tells Dawn that while she knows she's only hanging out with her because Buffy told her to, she appreciates the friendship. See, now I'm liking Cassie too. Dawn tells her they are really friends, then this kid that looks like one of the sons on "Home Improvement" distracts Dawn by asking her if she has a date to the dance (when she says no, he laughs about it), and when Dawn looks around, Cassie is gone.

"Home Improvement" kid is the ringleader of our merry band of hooded douchebags, and they take Cassie to their circle of coins in the school library to summon forth a demon that will bring them riches. Cassie is the intended sacrifice for said demon. In the middle of the summoning, one of the hooded dudes takes down his hood and reveals himself to be Buffy. She begins to kick "Home Improvement"'s ass, but then the demon shows up. While Buffy grapples with it, HomeImprovement decides to go ahead and sacrifice Cassie, but he is stopped by Spike, who has shown up to save the girl.

The demon bites HomeImprovement, Buffy kills the demon, and Cassie tells Spike, "Someday, she'll tell you," which seems to only point to one thing. I hope I'm alive to see it.

Buffy and Cassie leave the school, and in the middle of Buffy's speech that one person can make a difference, Cassie drops dead. It turns out that she had a congenital heart defect that her mother was keeping from her, and would've died no matter what. Buffy can't help but blame herself, though, but Dawn is glad she got to make a friend (however briefly), and comments, seemingly prophetically, that there are some people that are beyond help. The end.

This was a nice, sad, stand-alone episode. Tyranist commented that Anya, who I'd complained about in my last post (and who he also agreed ought to go), wasn't even in the episode, and I thought that was pretty interesting.

He also hoped that Cassie's character (ooh, I just got that, she was named Cassandra, right? After the Greek Cassandra, who was just like her?) could be a new regular on the show, but I'm thinking her death may prevent that from happening.

Next, we turned to "Angel," and the episode "Slouching Toward Bethlehem," written by Jeffrey Bell. Its title comes from that awesome Yeats poem "The Second Coming," which I actually had printed out and tacked up at my desk at work, until people read the title and got the wrong idea. Ah well.

It starts with Connor saving a family from some vampires, then sneaking into the Hyperion Hotel, just in time for Cordelia's return and confusion. She doesn't remember anyone, including herself. She seems remarkably skittish. Angel tries to reassure her that they are friends and that she works there, and when Lorne starts to come in, they hurry her out of the room so she doesn't see his demony, changing-every-other-episode face.

Cordelia is surprised to hear her own voice on the answering machine message when the phone rings, but since everyone's voice sounds strange to them when they hear it recorded, I wonder if a real amnesiac would recognise it. Regardless, Angel takes her upstairs to the room they've been keeping her stuff in. True to form, she has about eight hundred photos of herself, including one with Angel and a baby.

Gunn and Fred go out to slay demons, and Cordelia tries to figure out who she was before all this. She wanders through the hotel, narrowly missing a demon Lorne is counseling, narrowly missing seeing Angel with bottles of blood, and seeing Fred and Gunn, covered in demonblood (gee, I hope it was blood) and talking about killing those pesky babies.

Well, Cordelia jumps to some awful conclusion, and runs away. She is attacked by a couple of the disposable ninjas Wolfram & Hart keeps employed, and fights them off rather handily.* Angel tries to explain, but Cordelia accidentally sets off his vampire face when she brushes his hand with a crucifix. Well, as you can imagine, that doesn't do much to reassure her, nor does the sight of Lorne coming into the lobby. The gang explain the whole situation to her, but she doesn't believe them.

They tell her to sing for Lorne, so he can read her aura, and I suggested to tyranist that she sing "The Greatest Love Of All," since my niece had been over watching BTVS the day before and watched "The Puppet Show" in which Cordy sang that. To my surprise, that WAS the song she sang, and Lorne freaks out immediately as she's singing it. He gets up and runs out of the room, which is the typical reaction to Cordelia's singing, but probably bodes ill of her destiny.

Angel goes to find out what Lorne saw (Lorne doesn't tell him, but uses the words "horrible" and "evil," which could be describing the Apocalypse, her death, or one of tyranist's baby pictures). While Angel is out of the room, Cordelia takes off, out the door.

She runs into the demonguy that Lorne was meeting with, a balding dude whose face opens up like something in a Guillermo del Toro moist dream (okay, it's sort of like the Predator, but it's more repugnant than an MTV reality show). It attacks her and she's saved . . . by Connor. Connor basically says, "Come with me if you want to live," and takes her away from the nasty Angel mansion and its creepy inhabitants.

We get to check in with our ne'er-do-wells across town, Wesley and Lilah, who are pillow-talking. Wesley refers to what they're in as a "RELATIONSHIP," and apparently loses a bet between them and owes her a dollar. She gets a phone call, and he feigns sleep while she goes into the bathroom to answer it. It's her evil cronies over at the evil lawfirm, letting her know about Cordelia and where she's going. Wesley overhears, of course.

Connor takes Cordelia to some kind of abandoned warehouse, where he's been living lately, and she seems to think this is better than the hotel. She gets along with Connor, who seems to be more honest with her, and though it doesn't really work for me, it seems to for her.

Back at Angel Investigations, Angel is trying to figure out where Cordelia might have gone (and who killed Lorne's vaginamonster friend), when Wesley walks in. He tells them where Cordelia is and that Wolfram & Hart want her for whatever she knows about the Powers That Be.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Connor are attacked by these lawfirm military dudes. They fight, and Angel and Company arrives, and they fight too. When only the goodies are left standing, Angel tells Cordelia to come back with her, but she prefers to stay with Connor, "because he tells the truth." I wonder if this is really Cordelia at all, or if it's some alien that took her body, while the real one is still up in Elysium somewhere.

Angel and Company trudge back to the hotel, where they find Lorne, tied to a chair, with some kind of gouge in his forehead. It would seem that Evillawyerwoman Lilah knew Wesley would be listening, so she used him to tip Angel off, so the Wolfram & Hart dudes could get at Lorne and find out what he saw in Cordelia's aura. They used some kind of brain-leeching demon to get the information out of him.

When Wesley finds out, he's furious at Lilah, since she tricked him, and Angel will probably think he was in on it. Guy just can't catch a break. She does tell him that she had her men spare Lorne's life because he was Wesley's friend, and that he should take comfort in that.

So, that's where we leave things, with Cordelia safe in Connor's care, and Angel upset as usual. The end.

You know, great title or not, this wasn't my favourite episode of the season. Tyranist seemed even more frustrated than I did about Cordelia's new alliance, and her interpretation of what all the A.I. folks did. I do like how they took steps to further complicate Wesley's return to the fold, and now I'm starting to wonder if they're just making up excuses to keep him apart from Angel, the way they used to do with Buffy & Angel, then Angel & Cordelia. I will keep watching to see where they go next, though I gotta admit that I'm a lot less invested in the show than I used to be.

Rish Outfield

*I thought this was something left over from her Powers That Be stage, but tyranist told me Cordelia has been able to do this stuff for a long time.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week(?)


Further evidence that I'm the world's worst uncle.


'Nuff said?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Will Smith Top Five

In honor of HANCOCK, I thought I'd ask your Top Five Will Smith movies. Then I forgot. Still, if you don't mind, we'll call it this week's.
As usual, tyranist was the first one to send me a response. It was:
1. Enemy of the State
2. Hancock
3. Independence Day
4. Men in Black
5. Men in Black II


What, no WILD WILD WEST?

I continue to hate I, ROBOT and I don't see that ever changing. I guess mine would be:
1. JERSEY GIRL (you know, I considered defending this choice here, but now I don't think I want to).
2. INDEPENDENCE DAY (this is a movie people have really taken to despising over the last ten years, but I saw it again recently, and though I didn't love it as I once did, there was still a lot of great moments. Enough for me to still put it at the top of my list--though it's at number two just to piss the JERSEY GIRL haters off)
3. MEN IN BLACK
4. I AM LEGEND
5. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS


Cousin Ryan was second to send me a list. His went like this:
Men in Black
Independence Day
Men in Black II
I, Robot
Wild Wild West
Merrill tossed this my way:
1. Independence Day
2. Men In Black
3. I, Robot
4. Hitch
5. Jersey Girl


Chemist Jeff sent me a list of all Will Smith's movies and a star rating for each of them. I asked him if there was a ranking, and he gave me this (which I sort of have to accept):
I am Legend
Men in Black
Enemy of the State
Independence Day
Hancock


Leave it to my old buddy Rhett to surprise the heck out of me with this weird list:
1. Men In Black II
2. Men In Black
3. Independence Day
4. I Am Legend
5. Hancock


Seriously, II before I???
Prison Guard Johnny was last to send a list, which was:
1. Independence Day
2. Hancock
3. Men in Black
4. Hitch
5. The Legend of Bagger Vance


Not a lot of people responded to this one. Since doing this post, I've seen HANCOCK, and maybe you have too, which might have influenced the final list. Without it, though, it looks like:
(TIE)1. MEN IN BLACK
1. INDEPENDENCE DAY
3. HANCOCK
4.(TIE) MEN IN BLACK II
4. I AM LEGEND


Rish "I Gots To Get Me One of These!" Outfield

Friday, July 04, 2008

Angel Wednesday (and Buffy too)

So, tyranist and I did watch an "Angel" and a "Buffy" that I never blogged about. So, maybe I should do so now.

Next was "The House Always Wins" written by David "They Got the Mustard Out" Fury. It takes place sometime later, as Angel is watching Connor fight a vampire, muttering to himself about his technique. At the same time, Cordelia is watching him from her, I don't know, heavenly perspective, muttering about how boring her life is. We haven't seen anything other that her standing amidst whiteness, so I don't know what her life consists of now.

Because Angel has made life difficult for his (few remaining) employees of late, he decides to treat Fred and Gunn to a trip to Vegas, where they can go see Lorne's show.

Lorne is headlining at the Tropicana, in his natural green visage. But as he has a bunch of back-up singers and dancers and waitresses all painted up to look like demons, people just figure it's a less-frightening version of Cirque de Soleil. At the show, he pretends not to see them in the autograph line, and then ignores them completely during his performance, which consists of him crooning and walking through the audience, handing the mic to people and letting them sing along.

It's actually pretty cool, really, and an occult-themed casino would draw me to Vegas like crabs to Paris Hilton.

But Lorne is actually a prisoner in his own dressing room, forced to read the destinies of the people in the audience and telling the casino owner who is going to go on to greatness. Those audience members are then taken to a special room in the casino, where they spin a wheel to win big money. Unfortunately for them, they always lose, and the casino ends up with their great destinies too. We see this happen with a young Asian girl, who then becomes a mindless slot machine jockey.

Angel and company are, of course, suspicious about Lorne's behaviour, so they paint Fred green and stick her in a waitress costume, and . . . well, green is hot. Dressed like that, Fred is able to get into Lorne's dressing room, and Lorne explains the whole situation. Guess I should've waited until now to lay out the scenario, but ah well. He basically can't leave or the people with stolen destinies (or whoever happens to be around) will be killed. Fred screams and pretends something terrible happened, which distracts the guards enough to get Lorne out of there.

Angel runs into the casino owner, who gives him one of the Spin The Wheel, Lose Your Destiny chips. Angel tosses it away, but it magically lands on the gaming table, and he gets zapped as well. Immediately, he shambles, zombie-like, to the nearest slot machine, and begins dropping money in.

Fred, Gunn, and Lorne try to flee the hotel, and they tell Angel to distract people while they slip outside. Instead, he goes back to the slot machine, and Lorne ends up having to save himself by singing that demon high note they do once a season.

After Gunn hears what Lorne's been forced to do, he realises why Angel didn't help them, and they all go back into the casino to rescue him . . . where they are promptly captured. The casino owner was impressed with Angel's destiny, and I guess his business has been to sell people's destinies to others, though I don't know how that works. Do the purchasers end up going on to do what the destiny-less zombies were going to do? Would Angel's purchaser then go on to play a major role in the Apocalypse, or does that just not happen?

Hey, I'm sure David Fury asked these same questions of himself or the dry cleaner back in 2002.

Cordelia, who's still floating around in her album cover dimension decides to save the day by causing Angel's slot machine to hit the jackpot. He is taken to the casino owner at the same time as the others, and he sort of vamps out when Fred and Gunn are to be killed. Mayhem ensues. Lorne takes the opportunity to smash the container peoples' destiny chips are being held in, and it frees all the poor zombie bastards. Except for those who have already been sold, right? Those guys are S.O.L..*

They all go home, refreshed and bonded, and when they get to the hotel lobby, they are surprised to see Willow there, telling them that Buffy has died yet again.

No, actually, it's Cordelia, still in the white outfit from all the heavenly scenes, looking confused. She seems to have forgotten who everyone is. The end.

This episode was a light one, fairly fun, and as a positive, featured pretty much no Connor. As a negative, it featured almost no Wesley. But ah well.

So, I did a bit of reading and learned that David Greenwalt left "Angel" to do a series called "Miracles" on a higher-paying network. I actually watched an episode of "Miracles," which had a "Firefly"-length run on ABC before fading into obscurity, but all I remember is that it was creepy and starred Skeet Ulrich and the "I don't want to lose heart! I want to believe, like Wallace believes!" guy from BRAVEHEART.

Having watched the beginning of this "Angel" season, I gotta say, it looks pretty darn good. I can't say I like Connor in the slightest, but I'm glad they've kept him morally ambiguous. Same with Angel and Wesley, though seeing them together again made me hope that the group dynamic could be back where it once was. It's strange how people get to love the routine of a TV show, and really struggle against the concept of change. I've commented before (though not in these pages) that "Buffy" was never as good once the characters left high school, but in rewatching Season Four, I found that there are plenty of great things about that season, only some of them are different things. You can have shows like "The Simpsons" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that go on year after year without the status quo changing much, but Joss has never felt the need to ape that kind of TV show. He likes people to grow and change and switch allegiances and die, and while I suffer because of it, I understand that it makes his shows better than average television. It's very possible that, if FOX doesn't kill "Dollhouse" right out of the box, we will see that sort of thing happen on the new show, and long for the days when things were the way we loved them being. In fact, I can't imagine Joss NOT doing that on "Dollhouse," as long as it makes it on air longer than a season.

The solitary BTVS episode we watched was called "Same Time, Same Place" and was written by Jane Espenson.

So, Willow is coming back to Sunnydale. For the second time, we see Sunnydale Airport, and Buffy, Xander, and Dawn are waiting for her to disembark. Xander has written a welcome home sign in yellow crayon, and that's pretty damn cool.

But Willow doesn't get off the plane. The gang is bummed and decides she must have changed her mind, or been laid over, or taken a broom home or something, and they leave, dejected.

Over at the high school, a punk kid is spraypainting something on the construction site (I think it was "Principal Snyder, Burn In Hell"), when something creepy and chattery kills him with its long nails.

For the third time, we see Sunnydale Airport, and Willow gets off the plane. Sadly, Buffy, Xander, and Dawn are nowhere to be seen. No welcome wagon is there for Willow, ditto the yellow crayon. She leaves, dejected, and goes home. Which is Buffy's house, if you recall. She goes inside and finds nobody there. She goes upstairs and sees where Tara died, then hears a noise downstairs. No one is around.

Xander and the Summers sisters come home, and the house is empty. Buffy confirms that an offscreen Giles put Willow on the plane, but she is M.I.A.. They hear a sound upstairs, but no one is around.

The next day, Willow goes to what's left of the Magic Box, and sees Anya gathering up broken objects. Why it's taken her three months to do this I can't say, but maybe she's been busy turning mens' foreskins against them and causing them to vomit bleach, I don't know.** Anya reminds Willow that it was her fault her livelihood is gone (again, she was already a demon when Dark Willow showed up, but who's counting?) and makes Willow feel bad. She does tell Willow where Xander and Buffy are working, so Willow heads over to the high school.

On the construction site, she finds the body of the "tagger," which is what they used to call spray painting assholes. It has been skinned completely. Buffy and Xander are also looking at the body, and we're starting to realise that this is happening at the same time, but separated somehow. Buffy wonders if maybe Willow skinned the man, since she's done it once before.

Willow goes into the high school and hits the basement for some reason. There, she finds Spike, and in my favourite scene of the episode, he talks to her and to his imaginary companions in the crazy way that we've come to expect. But we are shown that the imaginary companions are Buffy and Xander, who are also talking to him, but think that he's fruit looping when he talks to Willow. Spike thinks Willow is to blame for her "invisibility" or whatever, and Buffy thinks Spike is saying that Willow made him insane.

Willow goes to Anya's apartment and asks her to help find the demon that skinned the tagger. They do that great Season Four/Five location spell and discover its cave hideout, but Anya tells Willow she'll have to do it alone because Anya's on probation from the Vengeance Demon Alliance of America for her actions last episode, and can no longer teleport. Willow walks to the cave and goes inside.

Dawn, interestingly, has become a pseudo-Willow now, and searches on the computer for a demon that skins its victims. She discovers one called Gnarl that has paralysing claws that immobilise its victims, which it eats the skin of. I read somewhere that that Kojo guy on "Entertainment Tonight" is also one of those.

Buffy goes to Spike to get him to lead her to the location of Gnarl, since he can smell the blood trail (?), and they (Xander and Dawn included) go to the cave. They go inside and Gnarl springs out. He's among the most elaborate demons they've shown us, with a full body prosthetic, claws, eyes, teeth, a spine, etc., and looks like the baby Hillary Clinton would have . . . if empregnated by Gollum.

Gnarl slashes at Dawn, who goes stiff, and Buffy and company get her out of there, closing up the cave's entrance behind them. Little do they know that Willow is inside the cave, also scratched by Gnarl, and lies helpless there. In one of the more disturbing "Buffy" scenes yet, Gnarl chitters and dances, then proceeds to cut a strip of flesh off Willow's stomach and eat it. The demon also reminds her that her friends abandoned her and that she'll be all alone when she dies.

At Buffy's house, Dawn is paralysed, and Buffy calls Anya to take care of her while she goes back to slay Gnarl. Anya mentions seeing Willow, and that she was going to the cave too, so Buffy takes Anya with her when she returns to the cave.

They go inside and Buffy fights the demon, while Anya comforts Willow. She tells her that her friends didn't abandon her at all. I guess Gnarl's weak spot was his eyes, 'cause Buffy gouges them both out and kills him. The paralysis of Willow and Dawn lifts, and Willow becomes visible again. They take Willow back home and lay her in her old bed, which may have been Joyce's bed too, but I don't know.

Fear not, midriff fans, Willow is able, with meditation and magic, to heal the skin that was removed. She also reveals that she inadvertently caused the invisibility when she was afraid to face her friends. Buffy reveals that she did wonder if Willow had skinned that guy, but that Xander never did. Which is cool, but it is defused by a comment that Xander can afford to think the best of people, 'cause he's just a normal old boring guy and not a superhero like the rest of them. Poor guy.

Hey, Batman ain't got no superpowers, and he's the second-best superhero of them all.

But you knew that, didn't you?

Rish

*And you wondered how Vin Diesel and Nelly Furtado were so famous for a while.

**A year ago at this time, tyranist and I were applauding with delight when Emma Caulfield's name showed up in the guest star list. I loved her so much and found her so uniquely delightful. But now, every time I see Anya, I want to yell at the screen, "Why are you still on the show? Go make DARKNESS FALLS and then disappear forever!" I'll admit it's unkind, and I can't really explain it myself. I guess I just dislike the change her character made, as I've disliked several arcs on these two shows lately. Sorry, Anya/Emma.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Devil followup

I told my uncle that I had inadvertently killed my amphibians, and he seemed pretty bummed out about it. I was glad for it, really, as you always want someone to be miserable with, if you're me. Or The Devil, I guess, as my parents raised me to believe.

Anyway, Uncle John made me feel better by telling me about a girl he went to school with, who had her toddler in the back seat of the car, and unintentionally killed him in much the same way.

Yeah. I know I complain about my uncle a lot (or at least I do in person), but his story really did make me feel better about what happened.

Did I mention Satan?

Rish