Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Angel Wednesdays

I've complained about this before, but blogger has, once again deleted an entire post (one I'd spent the last two hours typing up). It doesn't tell you that it's not saving your work every time you hit Save, and you only lose everything when you hit Publish.

If this were the first, second, or third time this had happened, I could maybe consider it a problem with me, or the program. But now, I'm seriously starting to consider blaming you. For everything wrong in my life, really.

So, it's with sadness, and more cursing than a sailor with Tourette's Syndrome, that I REWRITE my recaps of the next four episodes. Argggh.First up is "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco," which is the closest thing we'll get to a throwaway episode this seas . . . ever.

It was written and directed by Jeffrey Bell, and it focused quite a bit on one of Wolfram & Hart's employees: a mailboy we'd seen walking around, who always wears a Mexican wrestling mask.

Many years ago, this guy was part of a group of five brothers (all wearing numbered wrestling masks) who did battle with the forces of evil, helping the helpless, and saving dubiously hot women from monstrous foes. But when an Aztec demon killed his four brothers, Numero Cinco retired from the hero business.

I'm reminded of that "Star Trek" episode with Teri Garr, and the guy who had the pet cat that he talked to. It was supposed to be a back-door pilot for a spin-off series, but it never went beyond that, and I almost got the feeling that the Mexican wrestler bit was like that.

There is a big confrontation in the cemetery at the end, when the Aztek demon fights Angel and Numero 5, and the four dead brothers come out of their graves to help kill the demon. Numero 5 dies in the process, but presumably gets to go on to further adventures in the great beyond. The end.

So, next up is "Lineage," written by Drew Goddard. And I'll just start off by saying that a) this was an excellent episode, and b) that I am biased because it was Wesley-centric.

Wesley goes out on a mission with Fred and Angel and almost gets Fred killed by cyborgs. This puts Angel and Wesley at odds, since it was Wesley who asked Fred to be there. Eve, the nasty little liason between Angel and the Senior Partners, thinks Angel is still angry at Wesley for stealing Baby Connor away from him a couple of seasons ago. Wesley no longer has any memory of doing that, but it looks like it'll be a sticking point for years to come. Kind of like those times I ran over tyranist's children.

Wesley is not having a very good day. Fred doesn't appreciate his overprotectiveness of her, probably won't ever have sex with him, and calls him a child in front of his father, who has come to Wolfram & Hart to talk to Wesley about reforming the Watchers Council.

We've never met Wesley's father before, but I'd always got the impression that he was a humourless, stern, strong-willed, conservative old school curmudgeon just like my own father. And I couldn't have been righter. This guy, Roger Wyndam-Pryce, has never been anything but disappointed in his son, and almost immediately, he reminds Wesley of his past failures, and the shame he's brought upon the family name for being kicked out of the Council, and now for working for an evil lawfirm.

There's not much Wesley can do to change his father's mind, even though he tries to show him that he has become an important man and is making a difference in the struggle against evil.

Fred thinks she can find out what made the cyborg tick, and Wesley mistranslates the writings on its chest. A bomb starts counting down, and as everyone is being evacuated from the building, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce calmly reads the inscription, then defuses the bomb.

Wesley tries to bond with his father by asking for his help with the cyborg, and showing him the Records Department. It looks like they're going to actually connect--especially when Mr. W-P comments on Wesley's feelings for Fred--but then Wesley shows his father the magical reference books. His father berates him for how dangerous they'd be in the wrong hands, and how inadequate the security behind them is.

Sure enough, a bunch of cyborgs attack the building and while they fight with Gunn and Angel, Wesley takes the books (and his father) to the ultra-secure vault within W&H. As soon as they're inside, his father knocks him out, and steals what appears to be a stick.

He tries to leave the building, and tells Fred that Wesley needs Angel up on the roof. Angel goes up there, and Mr. W-P zaps Angel with the stick, which is really a wand of some kind. It steals Angel's will or something, but Wesley and Fred come up to the roof and Wesley points a gun at his father, demanding that he give the wand back.

Mr. W-P berates Wesley for working with demons and monsters, and tells him he has to eliminate Angel. When that doesn't work, he pulls his own gun and tells Wesley if he doesn't give the wand back, he'll shoot Fred. Wesley shoots his father instead.

But, it turns out, it's not his father. It's also a cyborg. Angel tries to cheer Wesley up by telling him that he actually killed his father once, and Spike tries to cheer Wesley up by telling him that he actually killed his mother once (or twice, technically). After she tried to shag him.

Wesley is not cheered up. Things are made worse when Fred tries to cheer him up, not by describing how she killed her parents, but by stressing why he did it, and that he didn't really do it, and . . . in walks Knox to take Fred home. I don't think that helped much either.

Alone, poor Wesley calls his real parents and asks to speak with his father. Nothing has changed between them, and we hear Mr. Wyndam-Price berating him as we fade to black. The end.

This was an excellent show, and easily the most we've focused on Wesley. My only complaint is the whole father-being-a-cyborg thing. Obviously, the producers thought there was room for more stories about Wesley and his father, not knowing that the end of the series was so near. Had they known they were about to be canceled, I'm sure things would have been different.

But wouldn't they all?*

So, next up was "Des"--you know, I'll come back to that one. I'm going to make sure this one posts alright.


*For example, had I known that all my work was going to disappear, I wouldn't have tried so hard to be clever and insightful and funny. And I sure as hell wouldn't have spell-checked.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top Five R080Ts

Apparently, this is my three hundred and thirty-third post.

We're halfway there, kids.

My pal Big Anklevich and I have had a podcast going for a few months, and we've done fourteen episodes. I've really enjoyed reading fiction stories and being insulted weekly by R080T, Big's android sidekick. If you'd like to participate in insulting me, check us out at The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine.

Sometime I'll have to ask Big what "dunesteef" means.

And speaking of robots, WALL-E came out on DVD this week, and I ran out and bought it (of course). I was discouraged to see that the special edition was ridiculously overpriced, and that Disney "justified" the extra cost by including a third disc with a digital copy on it. That sort of thing is absolute crap, like the mini-fad a few years ago of including the soundtrack album (or worse, portions of the soundtrack album) as a "bonus" disc (which you still have to pay extra for).My pal Merrill is the biggest Pixar fan I know. I think you'd actually have to work for Pixar to love it more than he does. I had told him, a few years ago, that I had thought Fox's ROBOTS computer-animated film was pretty good. Well, Merrill accused me of orally pleasuring a wildebeest when I told him that.

But today, while raking leaves and thinking about WALL-E, I realised that ROBOTS is a steaming, undulating wet turd compared to WALL-E. It sucks to be wrong.

Then I started to think about robots (not the movie, but the . . . beings) and I thought I would ask everyone for their five favourites. Because I messed up so badly on the Fourth Films list (by sending an IMDB link that included video games and fourth installments that haven't even been made), I left it up to everyone for what they considered a robot and what source materials they'd pull from.

My picks are:
1. C-3PO
2. R2-D2
3. Lt. Commander Data
5. The Terminator

Big Shot Lawyer Ian was the first to respond. His list:
1. R2-D2
2. C3-PO
(it was really hard to decide who was number 1 between these two)
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger as T800 (is it the T800?)
4. KITT From Knight Rider (does he count as a robot?)
5. Ash from Alien

Jeff the Chemist not only sent a list, he sent a list of (I kid you not) every robot he culd think of from his childhood and how much he liked or disliked it. I guess I could include that here, but I didn't even recognise a name or two on the list (for example, Seven Zark Seven, and something called "Johnny Sako and the Flying Robot"), and really only wanted his top five. They were:
1) Terminator
2) R2D2
4) Data
5) Bishop

Merrill sent me this list, explaining that he didn't take the time to think it through because he wanted to be the first responder (which he wasn't):
1. Optimus Prime
2. R2D2
3. Wall-E
4. C3PO
5. Johnny Five

I had a conversation with my cousin shortly after asking for his list, and he said, "I listed a robot from the Star Wars movies, but it wasn't Artoo and Threepio." I said, "It was EVE-9D9, wasn't it?" He seemed really surprised that I guessed that (though my second guess would've been IG-88), but I guess that just shows we have more in common than I believed.

Ryan's list:
1. Brainiac (Superman: The Animated Series)
2. Data
3. T-1000
4. T-X
5. EV-9D9
(the droid in charge of all droids at Jabba's)

He also said that if anyone listed Twiki from "Buck Rogers," he would hunt them down and beat them to a bloody pulp with a rusty crowbar. I'm not a fan of Twiki myself, but he's better than the Terminatrix from T3, man.

Tyranist sent the following infuriating list:
1. Cybermen
2. T-800
3. K-9
4. Bender
5. Maximillian

Beta Ray Charles sent me a list that he assured me was only robots, and no cyborgs or androids like the rest of us plebeians would cite. It was (oh, and it's in reverse order):
5. H.E.R.B.I.E.
4. The Iron Giant
3. Optimus Prime
1. R2-D2

Rhett who works for the government was last answer. But his list was:
1. Darth Vader (I know, but you remember the line: "He is more machine now than man...twisted and evil."
2. Optimus Prime (Any time that they make the character of a robot so cool that you want to be like him is saying something.)
3. The Terminator
4. The T-1000 Terminator
5. Data

If I'm not incorrect, that makes the following our winners:
1. R2-D2
2. The Terminator
3. (tie) Optimus Prime/WALL-E/C-3PO

Sadly, no one mentioned the Buffybot.

It's amazing how varied and unusual everybody's lists were. Maybe I should've narrowed the parameters a little. But maybe not, maybe it's more interesting this way.

If it's interesting at all.

Rish "More Machine Than Man" Outfield

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

I was reminded of this potential STOTW while talking with my pal Jeff tonight.

The other night, I went to see Kevin Smith's new movie with my brother. He and I have never really been friends, but I figured he was the only person in the area I knew who would go to a movie called ZACH & MIRI MAKE A PORNO with me.

Well, at some point during the film, my brother got up to go to the bathroom, and about two minutes later, a couple a row or two in front of us also got up. But they weren't going to the bathroom. They were disgusted with the film and made no secret of it.

Fortunately for the story, my brother happened to be coming into the theatre as they were stomping out of it, and he heard them complaining about how dirty and inappropriate the movie was, and they were on their way to storm the ticket counter to demand their money back.

I need not explain why this sort of thing infuriated me. It was not a Disney Channel film they had been attending. It was no sneak preview. There was no room for surprise in a film like this.

I wanted to grab one of them and scream right in their face, Ellen Ripley-style, "You paid to see this movie! You asked the ticket taker for a pass to see a movie with 'porno' in the title, and you claim innocence now, you ignorant brown-eye?! Well, you're not gonna sleaze your way out of this one. I'm gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this, Burke, RIGHT TO THE WALL!!!"

I didn't, of course. But, dude.

Rish Outfield

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton R.I.P. (and Top 5)

5 November 2008

My friend Merrill sent me an email, letting me know author Michael Crichton had died. Soon after, it was on the news and on the internet that cancer had claimed him at age 66.He was a shockingly tall man, who used to come into the video store where I worked fairly often, enough that I came to recognise him by sight and chatted with him on several occasions. He used to HATE it when I, or another employee, would talk to him about JURASSIC PARK. He could be surprisingly grouchy about the novel/film that made him most famous.

But at the same time, he loved to talk with us about ANDROMEDA STRAIN, COMA, TWISTER, and even CONGO. I remember asking him about the TV show "e.r." (which was my favourite programme at the time) and how he explained that it started as a screenplay he wrote years before, and somehow ended up as a pilot . . . to a show that's still on all these years later.

Anyway, I figured I'd ask people about their Five Favourite Michael Crichton movies. In looking over his filmography, I didn't find a lot of choices (at least that I'd seen). No wonder I always wanted to talk to him about velociraptors.

My list:

Tyranist was first to respond. His list was:
1. The 13th Warrior
2. Westworld
3. Andromeda Strain
(1971--remakes are for idiots)
4. Jurassic Park
5. Rising Sun

Ryan then sent this list, having not seen enough to cite five:
1 Jurassic Park
2 The Lost World
3 Twister
4 Sphere

Chemist Jeff sent this list (as well as an essay about Crichton's books versus his movies):
1 - Runaway - Dunno why, but always enjoy watching this movie. And Kirstey Alley was still cute. No clue he wrote it.
2 - Jurassic Park - Just a well done movie based on a really good book
3 - Twister - No clue this was his, but a fun movie. Always wanted to hear him yell "game over!" or "Weirzbowski!!!"
4 - Andromeda Strain - 1971 - I've seen it and enjoyed it, just don't remember all that much, other than the basics...
5 - Jurassic Park 2 -Lost World- though I didn't enjoy it that much, but it's the best of the rest (that I've seen)

Beta Ray Charles helped me out with (nothing that he'd never read a single Crichton novel):
1. Jurassic Park
2. The 13th Warrior
3. Twister
4. Jurassic Park 2
5. Congo

He also wrote "Amy loves Pepsi" after citing CONGO, which I don't really get, but am disturbed by nonetheless.

Unca Rhett sent me a list (and somewhat on time too) with these three:
1. Twister
2. Jurassic Park
3. Jurassic Park: The Lost World

I suppose that makes our winners:

Strangely, nobody listed TIMELINE. I've got an autographed poster of that somewhere. And didn't that have Paul Walker in it?

Rish Outfield

*More than one person complained that the novel was called "Eaters of the Dead," and the film should've been called that. I for one would've been greatly disappointed had I paid to see a movie called EATERS OF THE DEAD and got the Antonio Banderas movie instead.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Babysitter of the Year: Part III

So, I've had the male child in my care a few more times lately. He is, without a doubt, the greatest boy to ever live. He probably makes the Baby Jesus look like a former child actor. I took him out to the park and pushed him on the swing, I took him to the local burger joint and the proprietors gave me free food, I took him with me to Wal-mart and taught him to shoplift. My last several babysitting ventures have been without incident.

But this week, I thought I'd hold him while I watched something on the computer, so I sat him on my bed, went to the computer, meaning to call up something innocuous like "South Park" or "Evil Dead," and when I turned around, the baby was crawling off the edge of the bed.

In slow motion he toppled over and I managed to take a step in his direction before he landed on his little blond head.

Well, of course he wailed and of course I scooped him up and of course I felt guilty, and when my sister came over to pick him up, I had to admit that I had nearly maimed her only son.

To my surprise, she said, "Oh, I did the same thing when he was around three months old. It's no big deal."


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Angel Wednesdays

So, tyranist and I have watched a bunch of "Angel" episodes lately.

When I was blogging about my Buffy Wednesdays, I'd often beg him for a week off so I could catch up. But I'm probably more than a month behind on "Angel" now, and I really don't mind if we watch the show twice a week.

I guess I'll try to be brief and say a few words about three or four episodes. First up was "Unleashed," by Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft.

So, Angel and Company are running Wolfram & Hart, and don't know if their co-workers can be trusted. They go to the park to talk about their feelings unobserved. But a blonde goes running by, pursued by a werewolf, and before Angel can slay the monster, she is mauled. Angel kills the werewolf with a silver fountain pen*, but the victim gets away.

He and the others try to track down the woman the next day before she becomes a werewolf herself. The girl's name is Nina, and . . . how do I put this . . . she's dubiously attractive. But hey, she's also about to become a werewolf. She starts craving raw meat and thinks about eating her family.

They bring in a monster expert, Doctor Royce, who's played by the doctor on "Enterprise," John Billingsley, and he tells them why the werewolf in the opening scene looked so much cooler than the one Oz used to turn into. Gunn is able to track the girl down using traffic cameras, and Angel rushes over to her house.

There is a subplot of Spike asking Fred to see what she can do about recorporealising him. He keeps disappearing and reappearing later, but it seems to be taking longer to come back now. He really turns on the charm, and Fred appears to be charmed. I know she's the regular female cast member, but with Wesley, Gunn, Knox, and now Spike after her, I'm starting to wonder what kind of perfume she wears.

Nina turns into a werewolf, but our guys shoot her with a tranquiliser and stick her in a cell at Wolfram & Hart. Angel tells her about her condition and tries to comfort her. He tells her that he's a vampire, but he chooses not to kill, and she can do the same. I honestly don't know if he would have cared if she looked like Barbara Walters, but I guess we'll never know.

During the day, Fred takes Nina to her house to get some stuff. Her family isn't very understanding of where she went at night, but soon they are attacked by a bunch of dudes, who take Nina back to a mansion and hose her down.

Angel is sure someone at Wolfram & Hart betrayed them, and Lorne makes people sing for him. Everybody passes the test, though. Later, Spike's ghost appears in front of Fred, and she follows him into Dr. Royce's office, where she finds some kind of drug that enabled him to pass Lorne's singing test.

Angel beats Royce up, and finds out Royce sold Nina to a bunch of rich dudes who like ultra-gourmet meals. They head to the mansion, where all the people there are salivating at the thought of eating a werewolf.

Well, Angel and company arrive and unties the girl, but she transforms and attacks the first person the script has her see, who is Doctor Royce. They shoot her with tranquilisers and get her out of there, then tell the hungry guests that they can wait a month to eat Royce, since he'll become a werewolf too.

The gang leaves, and Angel takes Nina home, telling her that although she becomes a monster three nights a month, she doesn't have to be evil. Actually, they talk a lot, and I guess there's supposed to be some kind of sexual tension there, and she's reassured by his words and tells him she'll see him in a month.

Fred thanks Spike for leading her to the answers, and he claims to not know what she's talking about. He's worried because, when he disappears, he goes to a very bad place, and thinks that one of these times, he won't come back at all. The end.

During the end credits, I asked tyranist if a) we'd ever see curiously hot werewolf girl again, and b) if they'd resolve the whole Spike Ghost thing in the next episode. He said, "Yes" and "No" to the questions.

It wasn't as though I disliked that episode (though I did), it's just that it didn't feel like an "Angel" show, and it certainly felt divorced from the continuing plotlines of the show's last three episodes.

And yeah, why did she have to be that attractive?

A rather dubiously attractive werewolf.

Tyranist thought the concept of eating a werewolf was dumb because she'd revert to human form as soon as they killed her. I disagreed, considering the whole episode dumb.

Next up was "Hell Bound," written and directed by Steven S. DeKnight. I liked it a bit more than the last one.

Basically, we get to see where Spike goes when he phases out of our world. And that place looks very much like Hell.

Tyranist commented throughout that this was easily the scariest "Angel" episode yet. I'd still give "Shiny Happy People" the nod, but hey, it scares me that I used to actually like a song called that.

Spike is feeling pretty sorry for himself, since as a ghost he can't really move or touch anything, and Fred hasn't figured out a way to give him his body back yet.

He keeps encountering some really disturbing stuff in what looks like a basement: mostly people who are mutilated or undead

Eve, that nasty little liaison to the Senior Partners, tells Angel that Fred is spending too much money on Spike, and Angel tries to convince Fred to abandon her little Spike project. In a neat moment, Fred explains to Angel that Spike is a hero--a champion just like him--who deserves whatever help she can provide so he can assist them in the fight against evil. Angel, however, thinks that the moment Spike gets his body back, he'll go running back to Buffy.

It would seem there's still issues there.

Spike begins seeing dead people all the time that no one else can see, and soon the corpses tell him that the Reaper is on its way. Spike and Angel talk, and Angel tells Spike that their kind doesn't get to escape from Hell, they only get a reprieve before their check has to be paid up. But Fred has explained to Spike about the Shanshu prophesy (that's first season stuff for you, kids), and Spike thinks it could be referring to him, since he also is a vampire who played a major role in the Apocalypse.

Or "an" apocalypse, as these shows are wont to show us.

Before Spike gets sucked down to Hell again, he and Angel share a moment of almost friendship, when Angel admits that during their time together a hundred years back, he kind of liked Spike's poetry. That was cool.

Spike disappears again and when he comes back, no one can see him. He figures that if he concentrates hard enough, he can move a penny up by Demi Moore's face. He uses this ability to write the word "reaper" on Fred's shower door.

This reaper turns out to be some evil dude from England
named Pavayne who was very much a Jack the Ripper-type in the 1800s. On the grounds where the Wolfram & Hart building now stands, Pavayne was killed and his blood was used for deconsecration. But Pavayne has used black magic to avoid going to Hell and haunts the building, sending other souls to Hell in his place.

As a spirit, Spike confronts Pavayne and fights him, claiming he's not ready for eternal torment just yet. Spike realises that he was able to communicate with Fred because he really concentrated, and concentrates on beating the snot out of Pavayne.

Meanwhile, Gunn goes to the white room and gets information from the black panther on how to recorporealise a ghost. He and Fred make a circle and tell Spike to step into it. Pavayne attacks Fred and tells Spike he can either step into the circle or save the girl. Spike chooses neither and pushes Pavayne into the circle, where he comes to life in the lab. The others grab him and, instead of killing him, restrain him. Angel locks him in a tiny vault in Wolfram & Hart, keeping him alive with machinery forever. A fate worse than death, in his case.

Spike ends up still a ghost, but with no more danger of being sent to Hell prematurely. Fred tells him that she'll keep trying to help him, because he's worth it. The end.

Like I said, this one was better than the one before, but it still seemed pretty mean-spirited (that makes two in a row). Fans of the show or the writers could argue that a) I am a whiny little weakling, or b) Angel and company have now spent several weeks working in the den of well-dressed evil, and that evil has rubbed off on all of them a little.

Except Fred, of course.

I believe that's all the "Angel" we watched on one particular Angel Wednesday, but that was at least a month ago, so I should probably continue blogging, since I'm already sitting here.

Next up was "Life of the Party," written by Ben Edlund, and it was a Lorne-centric episode. It began with him on his cellphone, wheeling and dealing with celebrities and snarking it up and calling people "babe" and awful nicknames and using even more pop culture references than usual. Once he's alone, though, we see how much of a toll it's taking on him, planning to throw a huge Halloween party for Wolfram & Hart's staff and clients, and the constant effort to be cheery and on top of things.

He glances in the mirror, and a trapped-looking Ali Larter is staring back at him. No, actually, it's a different Lorne, the Lorne he is on the inside. But Lorne pushes it all deep down and goes back out there, convincing Angel that he needs to personally invite one of the evilest and most influential demon lords (a dude named Sebassis) to the party. Archduke Sebassis has been displeased by Angel and company's takeover of the lawfirm, and Angel gives him a special invitation. Oh, and this guy is just revolting. He is ultra-decadent and white-skinned and keeps servant boys on leashes wearing only a leather speedo.

I know you're thinking this is just like the Vatican, but that's just offensive. These weren't human boys.

So, the party happens, and Lorne runs from guest to guest, trying to get them into the partying mood. Soon, Spike is laughing it up, Fred and Wesley are drunk despite not having imbibed, Angel starts making out with Eve . . . and Gunn begins to pee on things.

It would seem that, in order to get everything done around there, Lorne has been going without sleep, and his subconscious starts to manifest itself, first by psychically causing people to do what he says, and second by creating a giant Lorne Id that tears things apart.

The people affected by Lorne's suggestions snap out of it, and do battle with the huge inner Lorne. The employees, guests, and Sebassis seem to enjoy all this, and finally the gang is able to defeat the giant Lorne by putting the normal-sized Lorne to sleep. Afterward, everyone is a little embarrassed by what went on at the party . . . but that is exactly what office parties are for. The end.

I neither liked this episode nor disliked it. But I can't say I was thrilled with Angel hooking up with Eve. The episode made it look as though they actually had sex, but I choose to ignore that 'cause . . . well, you know, I suppose Angel could have sex with someone he disliked with absolutely no chance of a perfect moment of happiness, couldn't he?

Maybe this episode was better than I thought.

Rish Outfield

*Which shouldn't bother me, because at least one vampire on "Buffy" was killed with a pencil.