Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Own Worst Enemy (2008)

A short-lived series starring Christian Slater as a man who's living a double life. The hook is that his two lives are very separate, and only one of them is even aware that the other exists. Well, until something goes wrong! Ho ho... hum.

Thereafter Mr Slater's life becomes a painfully contrived juggling act of dedicated family man with trite wife and two kids on one comfortable side, while super-spy for a shady covert US government agency sits dangerously on the other - a role that sees him jet-setting unrealistically all over the damn world for clandestine assassination and retrieval missions, etc.

To be fair, it's not the worst scenario that TV has asked us to swallow in the past decade (I'm thankful that it at least had no superheroes or zombies), but nor is it a particularity appealing one. I only bought it because it qualified me for free P+P on an item that I did want, making my purchase cheaper than P+P would've been.

The writers seem to know that it lacks spark, so spend the first four or five episodes trying to outdo the previous one by applying ever more twists and turns atop a framework that's falling apart quicker than I can face-palm myself, thereby burying anything remotely relatable for the common man to get a hold of.

There's nothing wrong with wild escapism, I enjoy it myself, but just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so too would a shitty mess smell as pungent regardless of the genre in which it finds itself. My Own Worst Enemy is not the aromatic rose in that scenario.

I'd lost interest by episode three. I didn't care about anyone. I was tired of his wife (M├Ądchen Amick) adding nothing interesting to the plot; bored with the spy antics; annoyed by the awful camerawork and editing; dismayed that I'd picked up yet another US show that didn't understand the concept of less is more. I gave it the full benefit of the doubt by going to the show's end, but it did nothing to change the feeling that I'd not spent my time productively.

9 Episodes, approx 40 minutes each.

2 living adjustments out of 5

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Killers: Live From the Royal Albert Hall (2009)

I wasn’t particularly taken with Day & Age, as presented on disc. Here, however, there’s a sincere shimmering vibrancy to the songs. Trust me, I went back to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It wasn’t. There’s something dampened and sterile to their mixes on the album itself. Oh, and the one song that was too strong to be held back by the production there? It bleeds out of the screen, here. Further, none of these gentlemen are particularly ostentatious on stage, and none of the theatrics are overtly showy, meaning it really is all about the strength and veritas of the songs themselves.

That isn’t to say that you should put this on and clean the house, or go on an adventure across every other tab you have open. No, there’s plenty of worthwhile visuals and behaviors on display. Ronnie joyously works his ass off and it melts my heart to see Brandon doing something as touching and humble as wiping the sweat off of Dave’s face for him. /swoon

While the vast majority of Day & Age is performed, the singles from Hot Fuss and some of the real…killers from Sam’s Town also appear, to my sheer delight. The back-stage special demonstrates the camaraderie that exists amongst the entirety of their production crew. It’s similar to how Conan O'Brien interacts with his, if the snarky-ness was turned down about five notches. There’s a handful of additional performances from other venues, as well, and I’d say they’re worth checking out. The half-acoustic rendition of Smile Like You Mean It, at the very least.

Hey, Billie Joe, take fucking notes. THIS is how you do 'hey-ho's. In one instance, briefly, and with narrative significance. I expect to see an immediate improvement.

This is available on bluray, but it doesn’t come with the CD of most of the tracks that accompanies the DVD. If you’re a fan of the band, there's no real debate. If you were disappointed with Day & Age, give this a shot and see if you’re similarly won over.

Approx. 2 hours, not counting the extras.

(More) Performances of Note: A Dustland Fairytale; Sam's Town

4½ Long-Since Abandoned Geo Metros out of 5

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hammer House of Horror: Volume 2 of 4 (1980)

The Mark of Satan
Working in a hospital mortuary would be a difficult enough job ordinarily, but for new guy Edwyn Rord (Peter McEnry) having to deal with a philosophical pathologist and the hidden but encroaching forces of evil that are conspiring to destroy him makes it even more problematic. It's not just at work. Edwyn's home life isn't as secure as he'd like it to be. Dir. Don Leaver manages to accentuate the unease that the infatuated worker feels, transferring it to the viewer at the correct times and in the correct doses.  — 3 counts of evil out of 5 —

Witching Time
An overworked and stressed out film score composer (Jon Finch) has problems with women. Not only does he suspect his wife (Prunella Gee) of sleeping with another guy, but a fiery-haired mystery woman who claims to be from the 17th Century unexpectedly shows up and makes his life even more eventful.
Things turn more sinister in the second half, but overall it's not as good as the previous episode. The highlight is undoubtedly the scornful redhead, Lucinda (Patricia Quinn), who you'll maybe know better as Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). — 2½ cackles out of 5 —

Visitor from the Grave
A woman with a history of mental illness experiences a traumatic event when an uninvited visitor calls at her pleasant English cottage home.
It's another psychological story, mostly, with the 'horror' this time manifested as a morbid fear of slipping back into an unstable mindset and an equally debilitating fear of one's wrongful deeds being found out. It was my least favourite of the three, and is somewhat predictable, but the acting, particularly from Kathryn Leigh Scott, is enough to keep it from being boring. — 2½ chill pills out of 5 —

3 episodes, approx 51 minutes each.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Shinkenger VS Kamen Rider Decade:
Kenzan Samurai Sentai & Gedou Rider, Mairu! (2009)

In a crossover, ground-floor exposition has to be present even if the events therein take place significantly far into one, both, or all of the participants' timelines. Characterization should still be present and consistent with each individual as they currently exist, however, and Kobayashi does a magnificent job of this, here, via actions, when there is not time for explicit dialogue. This is in contrast to the Gavan episodes in Go-Busters, where Kuroki's actions are entirely too convenient, and consequently, out of character.

Tsukasa (Decade) is an ass. But, Kobayashi manages to make it seem like he actually has something going on below the surface. I feel that she deliberately put the emphasis on Natsumi and Eijiro, as opposed to some of the Shinkengers, because that was where she perceived the deficit to be. I wholeheartedly agree and wonder what Decade would have been like if she had been able to write all of it, as opposed to simply four episodes. Accordingly, Den-O suits appear in the first part of this endeavor. She was clearly proud of her past work, as well she should be. Those other two episodes? They were the ones set in the world of Den-O, so Toei at least showed a modicum of good judgement in regards to Decade.

Verily, Decade has to exist in my world, even if I am opposed to how Toei's anniversary efforts tend to disregard the canons of their original works. Without Decade, I would not have:
If you're watching Decade, you have to watch these, as they are episodes of Decade. If you're watching Shinkenger, DO NOT skip these. The order of viewing is:

Act 20 --> Decade 24 --> Act 21 --> Decade 25

4 Only Because Onodera is Not REMOTELY Odagiri Joe out of 5

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 7 (1993-94)

Longtime fans of TNG will get the most from what the seventh and last season has to offer. There's a lot of looking back, while also moving forward. A number of significant events from previous years are referenced or recalled, right back even to the Farpoint mission, the very first episode of Season 1 (1987-88).

Family plays an important role; mothers and sons mostly, but also fathers, brothers and the extended family you create for yourself from the people who become closer than just friends, the people who earn respect a thousand times over just by being who they are at heart, free from any kind of ingratiating agenda.

And while strange new worlds are indeed explored, new life and new civilisations thoroughly sought out, there's also a dangerous limitation to be considered, one that has consequences for more than just the crew of the Federation's flagship. It's something that doesn't get forgotten by the next episode, which does sometimes happen in episodic shows, and I'll be looking out for it as I progress through TNG's successor, the Deep Space Nine series, which takes place in the same time period.

Lieutenant commander Data's desire to be more human continues to underpin the psychology of the character, and it's something that's used as a basis for some of the best episodes in what I consider to be a very strong season.

Of course, the VERY best episode is the two-part finale, All Good Things... It's a powerful and bittersweet farewell that's both a testament to how affecting the show was to millions of people the world over and a kind of thank you to those same people. Afterwards our time with the ship's crew comes to an end, but we know deep down that our own journey of discovery never really does.

The Enterprise D and its crew will hold a special place in my heart forever; it's a feeling that all the gold-pressed latinum in the universe couldn't buy back

26 episodes, approx 44 minutes each.

5 unknown possibilities of existence out of 5

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 6 (1992-93)

Something I noted in a previous TNG post rings true again here: that a common theme serves as the basis for a number of different episodes throughout the entire season. This time it's transformation. There's the emotional growth kind, of course, but there's also social, temporal changes (such as ageing), and even a number of actual species transformations! The future is a crazy place~.

It begins by concluding the Season 5 cliffhanger, Times Arrow. Thereafter things progress steadily if not spectacularly. Overall, it's not the most memorable season for fans of TNG, but there are some notable episodes that need to be watched. I don't feel that any of them are actually the best the season has to offer, but they each have lasting consequences. Some examples are:

Ep. 20: The Chase, an episode that explores a question that a great many observant Trek fans have been asking themselves since the TOS days.

Eps. 16+17: Birthright Parts I+II has two separate stories linked by a common theme, the conclusions of which will both be referenced again later; in addition to that a part of the story takes place on a station that many Trek fans will recognise.

Without going into detail, there's a single episode wherein an old face makes a welcome return to the world. And, interestingly, a couple of the guest actors in later episodes would go on to play different but more prominent roles in later Trek adventures; James Cromwell (First Contact) and Tim Russ (Tuvok; VOY).

Elsewhere Capt. Picard gets to prove he has true grit by single-handedly saving the day; Riker's mindset is severely tested, as is Data's sense of right and wrong; Worf lets his hair down; Councillor Troi gets to have some genuine fun for a change; Doctor Crusher has some bridge action; and Geordi typically finds himself in a creepy, stalker-esque kind of romance.

If you take note of the credits you'll maybe notice that three of the regular cast pulled a double shift once or twice by being both in front of the camera as actor and behind it as director, LeVar Burton (his first time), Patrick Stewart (third time), and Jonathan Frakes (fourth time).

And then, for the final time with TNG, there's an end of season cliffhanger that's not resolved until the first episode of Season 7.

26 episodes, approx 44 minutes each.

4 inconvenient laws of physics out of 5

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Complete Series (1998–2000)

It doesn't take place before or after the existing films. It's its own thing in terms of both tone and continuity. And the men are all new, with the exception being Chris Larabee (Michael Biehn), clearly a small screen version of Chris Adams, the leader of the Seven as first portrayed by Yul Brynner in the films; although the TV version of Chris is rightfully his own man, too, not just a carbon copy of the movie Chris.

With it being an ongoing series it made sense to localise the group, to give them a single town from which to operate, with the added benefit that it would provide a place that we as viewers can also form an attachment to. Although not always operating within the parameters of established law, the Seven nevertheless become the town's unofficial protectors. The unique skills that each man has is put to good use for its betterment; e.g. one is a healer, one an ex-preacher, etc.

Most of the time they get on well with each other, but because they have such different temperaments and goals in life there are occasional internal conflicts. It's a credit to the writers that the men all remain likeable even when they're clearly doing something morally wrong (mostly that means Ezra Standish). In truth, there wasn't a single one of them that earned permanent derision, perhaps because collectively they represent feelings or failings that most of us will have experienced or struggled with at some point in our life - they're relatable.

A number of recurring secondary characters play an important role, often as a voice of conscience or a lure of the heart, deepening and/or complicating the determination to defend and preserve the town. Yes, that sometimes means romance, but it's not always as straightforward as that statement might imply.

Season Two introduces Robert Vaughn as a Judge; Vaughn was one of the actors in the first Magnificent Seven (1960) film, but he played a different character.

Ironically, every once in a while the only reason the townspeople were placed in danger was because the bad guy(s) had gone there in order to confront or kill the Seven! But that's just life, right? Even good deeds have consequences.

22 episodes, approx 60 mins each (the Pilot is 90 mins).

4 holes in the clouds out of 5