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Great movies and TV shows

I just read a top ten list of movies and realized I hadn't done reviews in a while. Two of the TV shows I reviewed last time have been canceled in the meantime: Blood Ties and Moonlight. While Moonlight got criticized by me for its derivative and pretentious nature, it was derivative of the right shows, and got an order for four more episodes after the strike, so I'd thought it might stay and at least give us a base level of vampire TV shows for the time being.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is still in Limbo: After the shortened writer-strike-interrupted first season, they got a full second season order, but they're still in danger of cancellation. The show airs in Germany every Monday now (well, the first season at least), so I recommend everyone who hasn't seen it yet to check it out. The show does lovely work with its characters, giving you a believable mother trying to protect her son and yet do good by him by also preparing him for the horrors she knows will be coming, while managing to maintain a level of action that shouldn't disappoint Terminator fans. I also just love their storytelling structure, it just feels right to tell stories the way they do, even though they don't really have a consistent formula, they even dropped the first season's opening and closing monologues that often were this close to pretentiousness, but managed to scrape by. Please folks, watch it, like it, I want them to get a couple more seasons.

Primeval is the bright star here. While I mourn the loss of the first season's silent-but-whirlwind love story, we got a fun continuation with a few twists on the usual "hunt down dino of the week" plot, a few new characters, and a neat conspiracy plot. And of course a character death, but hey, can't have everything. Anyway, they got renewed for a third season, and they even threw in a few more episodes.

But now on to the beef of this article: A show I can't praise enough is the new Battlestar Galactica. No, it's not the fun Star-Wars-Styled space trek show the original BSG used to be, but it's a great show about the best and the worst in humanity. It is a dark, and violent show, but it occasionally manages to show you this little bit of strength and optimism that makes you keep watching. You want these characters to get through alive. And of course there are the Cylons, with the whole question about their humanity, the mysterious six remaining cylons and much, much more.

Sanctuary is the name of another enjoyable TV show about scientists tracking down monsters to either save them or save us from them. Intriguingly, it started out as a series of short web movies done by a bunch of people who met on the Stargate sets. So, you got Amanda Tapping and Christopher Heyerdahl in leading parts, guest spots from your odd gateroom tech (the webisodes also had David Hewlett), and virtual sets that are this close to looking convincing, save for the odd tracking glitch. Then, before you know it, it gets turned into a half-season order for an official TV station. It's a wonderful show, kind of a cross between X-Men and Special Unit 2, just not as silly as the latter, and with the former's gloomy look. The virtual sets are still there, but this time the tracking glitches are gone, and the remaining difference between how real sets would look and how these virtual ones do can be chalked up to a unique style. Great show. I hope it returns for another season.

Although it's failed (again) in Germany, Doctor Who is still being produced and broadcast in Great Britain, the US and Australia, and it's pretty good. The Season 4 finale is a bit on the weak side, but it's definitely good. It has a great two-parter by Steven Moffat in the middle, the man who will take over Dr. Who for Season 5 (following a few movies still done by Russel T. Davies). And Moffat is who brings us another great TV series that's been airing on Arte in Germany recently: Jekyll. Jekyll is sort of a continuation of Robert Louis Stevenson's story Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a slight superhero twist, and a glorious new interpretation of who Hyde really is (played fantastically by James Nesbitt, yet still upstaged by Gina Bellmann playing his wife). I'm still not sure I've quite understood the very final few minutes of the show, but it still left me elated, shocked and satisfied, which works for me. It's a short show of a mere six episodes, so should be watchable even for the busiest of busy.

I tried watching True Blood. I swear, I really did. It's a vampire show, I love the premise, but ... I'm sorry, I just can't connect. If anyone can recommend an episode that might convince me this is a great show, please do so. I so want a new vampire show, and this one seems to be doing quite well.

Fringe is another neat TV show that has me interested. I can't stand the terrible, terrible, chunky 3D floating captions they do: integrated into the scene, reflections in puddles and all, really quite ingeniously done technically, but they're these ugly, huge, bold, white Helvetica letters floating in front of the picture. Apart from that, a nice show. A bit paranoid, kinda like Galactica, but not quite as dark. I especially like the pilot, because, you see, there are certain actors, or types of actors, who are always cast as series regulars, while other actors are generally cast as guest characters. Here, the one who looks like a regular dies, while the one you think will die lives. Nice. Though maybe he doesn't quite die, it's not quite clear in this show. Still, a nice, slightly depressed show in the tradition of the X-Files or Psi Factor (just without the silly "It's true!" angle and more of the interesting characters).

If, like me, you kinda lost interest in Smallville for a while, I recommend you get back in now. Season 7 and what I've seen of Season 8 are shaping up to be great. I liked Lana in the beginning, but unlike Liz Parker in Roswell, she just didn't manage to hold my interest in this hopeless romance. Season 7 took emphasis off her and instead went deeper into the superheroics, which gave the show an interesting new direction. You get Supergirl, the justice league with green arrow, and some Lois Lane circling around but never really meeting Clark. And it's exactly this last part that gets explored more in Season 8, and just when you think it's time, Lana comes back. But what a Lana. Of course, having been teased Lois just one episode ago, I was annoyed to now have Lana come back, but I wish we'd had this Lana the recent years. Still hoping for more Lois though. She was kinda introduced as annoying and headstrong as her counterpart in "Lois & Clark, the new Adventures of Superman" (Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain, you remember?), but they never took her into the realm of annoying too far, and instead slowly made her really likeable without taking away her stubbornness and her ... well, her annoying aspect. I sure hope we get to see the other end of that story in Season 8. We also get more supervillains/monsters and more Chloe in Season 8. Me likey.

Oh yeah, I'm also watching Bones. It's on TV here every week, so didn't even have to buy it. They drift off into fanfic a bit too often for my tastes, but it's a fun show, with likeable and quite quirky characters (not quirky in an Ally McBeal way, more as slightly exaggerated).

Now, on to movies: the new, 2008 reboot of The Incredible Hulk in the Louis Leterrier version with Edward Norton (solid as always), Liv Tyler (shockingly good considering I have an irrational dislike for her) and the incredibly impressive Tim Roth. Some reviews bashed this movie, I think it is a great adaptation. It may have a tad more action than I like, but it serves the story well, and there's still enough plot and character development left over. And lots of nods to the fans, like appearances by Sam Sterns (and a hint at his future), Leonard Samson (though I mistook him for Glenn Talbot first), Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno... But you won't even notice that, because you have Edward Norton as Banner, a Hulk that isn't 10 feet tall, and Tim Roth. Tim Roth. Oh, Tim Roth is great in this film. If they made a spinoff show with Tim Roth as the character he is before he becomes the Abomination... I'd watch it. He's kinda the secret hero of the start of the film. And how's that, if you even like the enemy. Oh, did I mention they got William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross? Hurt is usually the father figure. Duke Leto in Dune, Inspector Bumstead in Dark City. He's the guy you like after one sentence. You respect him, you pity him. And here? Here he's the bad father. It shouldn't work, but oh it does. Yes, the Hulk is mostly mute, not at all like the comics (except for that short run where Banner and the Hulk are split back when Mantlo/Byrne were trading places with Alpha Flight), but purists: They got the heart of the Hulk. This is what Ang Lee's Hulk should have been. Did Lee's Hulk have more feeling? Yes. Was it a piece of art and this one more solid craft? Yes. Lee's Hulk was a better movie, in the absolute, but it didn't reflect the Hulk very well. Leterrier? He nailed the Hulk. He did the better Hulk movie.

Now an older movie that I recently had a craving for, just to have it not around: The Bicentennial Man. I hate Robin Williams as an actor: He always tries to do funny movies. And I just can't stand his kind of funny. On the other hand, two of my favorite movies feature him. While in The Dead Poet Society Williams at least isn't cast in a funny role (there's a few funny lines, but it's a serious movie about children growing up, school, love, life, literature and idealism), this movie considers itself funny. As such, I wince during the first third or half of the movie, and many of the "funny" moments. It's Robin Williams playing a funny golden robot. But in the end, it is again a movie about growing up, about coming into your own, and also about humanity, and death. And of course it has the lovely Embeth Davidtz, who simply sells the reluctant love affair with Williams. All that, and based on one of Isaac Asimov's classic stories. Lovely movie.

Last but not least, some bashing. As a disclaimer, I should probably mention that I'm not a George Lucas fan. I don't care about the whole "Greedo shot first" thing (though I do admit it makes the character edgier and less cuddly, a better rebel and more interesting because dangerous partner if he shoots first), but the updates of the old movies are terrible. All those noisy extra CGI characters and space ships overflow every pan across the scenery, and the conversation scene with Jabba just looks so fake and CGI-ish (and in a different way than the old model stuff looked fake, so suspension of disbelief needs to be re-engaged). And the three prequel films are so crudely written (the love story is terribly wooden), directed and scored ("Now! Cue romantic music! But make it LOUD!!!"), and instead of adding to the story of the following three parts actually take away from them ... it's sad. Top notch technology, though. Gotta give him that.

So what do we get to pad Lucas' licensing wallet some more? An animated TV show about the Clone Wars regularly on every station. I don't like the TV show. I don't know why every scifi news site feels they have to report on every episode... The animation style is interesting enough (if a bit anorexic, in a Giacometti kind of way), but Darth Grievous is ridiculous, Dooku's plots and motivations arbitrary like Vince McMahon's decisions on WWE Wrestling, and the relationship between Obi Wan and Anakin consists of a million retreads of the movie. There's some element in this show that I badly want to like, but the whole show is just suffocating in so much drivel that I've learned to avoid it.

Okay, enough for today.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
dwarfland writes:
i don't think you'll be able to appreciate True Blood based on watching any single episode in the middle. Just like with Dexter, you'll just need to hang in there for the first two or three episodes, and you'll be hooked.
Alan Kleymeyer writes:
I second the recommendation for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I often take it in online using their HD player and it looks terrific. FOX network was one of the first and best in offering past episodes (not just the latest) online in HD.
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