Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stargate Universe: Storyline Assumptions and Known Facts

SGU is the latest show to come out of the Stargate mythos and it looks like change is on the horizon. With the popularity of space travil/sci-fi shows on the rise (at least in terms of networks willingness to make pilots) Virtuality, Caperica, Defying Gravity the Stargate franchise being as it is (huge) should propel SGU to the top of the food chain leaving these other shows near cancellation. But what should we expect from the latest offering from the duo that brought us SG1 and Stargate Atlantis? First off, a new shooting style, in the former shows most of the shots were done in a standard manner with big clunky cameras, whereas SGU is going to be shot with handheld steady cameras, is anyone else thinking Firefly. The premise of this new series as it stands is (and there are a lot of assumptions being made here) a new expedition not unlike the Atlantis one has been launched for an off world site, know as Icarus. Since nothing like an expedition's mission name is without meaning we can assume that a Stargate team has located a facility which utilizes the power of the a sun to power some ancient device. Now assuming (you can tell I love that word) this power source is great enough to power galaxy to galaxy stargate travel (as we have seen one needs a powerful energy source to enact the eighth chevron on the stargate thereby connecting to another galaxy… a fine example of the Tao of geek). In an interview with one of the cast there is mention of a ninth chevron, possibly the key to connecting to a previously unknown network of stargates residing on ancient space ships. After something goes terribly wrong on the Icarus expedition the mission members must for some reason retreat through the stargate (presumably powered by an overloading solar powered energy source).
Theory: during a test of this nine chevron gate address the solar power source undergoes some type of overload forcing the expedition through the already active stargate onto the awaiting and mind you unexplored ancient spaceship. That is the prediction surrounding the circumstances leading up to the evacuation of the Icarus expedition, and we will have to wait until October to see if it comes true. The ancient ship that they find themselves on is falling apart and has an unknown use, it is unlike anything we have seen out of all of the ancient ships, its big and looks more like something out of the Star Trek universe than Stargate. The location of this ship is not clear to its new passengers, but they do know that they are more than one galaxy away from the Milky Way making any hope for return to Earth unlikely. The crew is a mix of military civilians and scientists, and it seems that there will be some Lost like flashbacks filling in the blanks of the main characters back stories. Lost meets BSG meets Star Trek Voyager, (shiver) lets hope the Stargate people can make better use of the Voyager premise than its original executors. As for the rest of the show it is supposed to be darker than other stargates with an anyone can go at any time sort of style not unlike the anyone can be a Cylon thing they did on BSG. If the first Stargate show was about adventure and the second one was about conservation of power (and it was about the protectionism and conservation of energy and technological power) then SGU is about survival… BSG anyone. Look, if there was ever a sci-fi show to emulate they could not have picked a better one, and if SGU can bring a darker tone to the franchise then so be it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

TOP 10 TV Shows You Should Watch Over The Summer Break

Well, the summer break is in full swing and all of the network shows are long over. So, in order to hold you over here is a list of show that you can find on DVD (or off of the internet if you are so technically inclined). Starting with…

10. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is set in…Philadelphia the city of brotherly love, which is where irony only starts with this madly satirical comedy surrounding a group of friends that own and operate an Irish style pub. Each episode begins with a simple premise which also acts as the episodes title, such as The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby or Charlie Goes American. Unlike most comedies this show is willing to take every episode to it’s most outrageous conclusion. By doing that the show can climb to the highest heights of hilarity and the lowest lows of shock comedy.
The shows politically incorrectness is tangible as the cast reminisce about the awful things that they have done or are in fact planning on doing. In a kind of Seinfeld meets South Park mix, this show appeals to the darker/morally numbed sensibilities of TV viewers. If you can allow yourself to follow the insanity in each episode you will literally piss yourself laughing. The character Charlie is a personal favorite of mine, as a glue huffing, dyslexic, wild card who’s personal grooming habits are always in question. Watch this show and be happy.

9. Supernatural

Supernatural stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as Sam and Dean Winchester. After their mother was killed by a demon, their father trains them to become hunters of supernatural monsters of every variety. The story is centered on their search for their missing father as they fight evil spirits along the way. Created by the same person responsible for the X-Files, Supernatural shares the same elements that made it great. Brothers investigating supernatural event, from town to town, from motel to motel. The great thing about is that the episodes are oriented at creating a horror feel. They often use concepts from horror movies and turn them into episodes. It’s dark, action packed, and filled with some funny witty dialogue. Something to notice is that it doesn’t use the most recent poplar songs as its sound track. There is nothing but classic rock all the time, and it works. As much as it seems like it reuses ideas from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-Files, it really makes it its own and does great things with it. This is show worth a look.

8. Smallville

Smallville follows the adventures of a young Clark Kent in the early years before dawning the cape as superman. Clark Kent deals with his budding superpowers and a friendship with a young Lex Luthor while dealing with super powered aliens and meteor freaks in his home town of Smallville. Now this has been on for 8 seasons now, and it’s good for a very odd reason, a lot of it’s good, a lot of it’s bad, but even the bad stuff is entertaining. This show is simply a guilty pleasure that you cannot get enough of. Ah, it’s a real Cinderella story this one. Eight seasons, the last three of which were supposed to be series enders, but everybody realized that they couldn’t let this show go. There is a reason behind a show lasting nearly a decade. It looks good, the people are pretty, the special effects and action are entertaining, and the superman mythology is interesting. It’s really become an entity in itself since it’s one of the few shows that have gone through massive changes over the years without hurting it. Smallville has gone through plot and cast changes that would hurt any other show, cutting just about every main character but superman, losing its original formula, but it has surprisingly made it better. Now moving into its ninth season, Smallville is now better than it has ever been before. There aren’t many shows that can last this long and get better along the way.

7. Rescue Me

Angry Irish Firefighters, this could be the title of the underappreciated FX show. The show surrounds the lives the men making up a fire house in New York City. This is not a third watch though where the drama is as canned and flat as the acting. This drama is a well written and engaging program, with the characters really having a life of their own on the screen. The main character in the show is the always angry, alcoholic Tommy Gavin. He is one of the most interesting characters currently on TV battling with his addictions and posttraumatic stress from 9/11, Tommy still fights fires even though he is very possibly mad. You see he see dead people… that’s cheap, none the less it is a main part of the show that Tommy can not only see the people that he has lost but he can carry on full conversations with them. The only catch is that he can only see them when he is on the booze. It may seem out dated to have a show about firefighters dealing with their experiences of 9/11 but Rescue Me manages to keep it fresh and exciting, always funny dialogue in the fire house and constant emotional conflicts in the bottle make this show worth watching for anyone looking for a engaging Television.

6. Sons of Anarchy

The Sons of Anarchy is a dramatic exploration of a motorcycle club based out of a small California town. In this town the Sons of Anarchy (or SAM CROW as they are often referred to as) run guns, porn, stolen goods and pretty well anything of value within the town limits. The town sheriff rests comfortably in the pocket of the club and allows the group to come and go as they please as long they keep their exploits at a subtle level. What you can expect from this show is a Soprano’s meets the Hells Angels type feel. As a cable show it can go that extra mile in terms of violence and content, who wouldn’t want to watch some badass bikers shoot up a rival biker club and then hit a brothel? First and foremost, this show has a very gritty feel to it. Examples range from the castration of a pedophile, to a former club member being forced to have his club tattoo burned off with a blowtorch (a signature grim reaper back tattoo all sons must bare). Every episode has something new to offer, the dynamic between members is much more caviler than what you may have seen in other organized crime type shows, members of the club playfully banter with one another. Special attention is given to the newest recruit to the club lovingly referred to by the sons as ‘one nut’ given his special disability of an obvious nature, courtesy of a recent tour in Iraq. The sons even have an agreement with the IRA as suppliers of AK 47’s which caused many interesting moments throughout the first season, like when the IRA contact was injured in a bar shoot out and injured as in shot in the ass and not being able to go to a hospital because he was currently wanted in the USA for being a terrorist…sort of thing. The show really surrounds the character of Jax a lifer within the club and the son of one of the forming members of the Sons of Anarchy. Jax’s coming to terms with the birth of his crack baby…you heard me crack baby, his wife in the show is a junky, and the return of an old flame only compound his already wavering belief in the so called anarchist mission of the motorcycle club. Looking for guidance Jax turns to a manifesto written by his now long dead father which is all about the ideology that the Sons of Anarchy was founded on, and has long since been abandoned for more violent and self-serving ideals. This show is a grower; it should only get better as time goes on as we learn more about the characters and their circumstances.

5. Firefly

Joss Whedon’s Firefly is an action-adventure western/sc-fi. It chronicles the lives of the crew of Serenity (the firefly class ship). It is set 500 years in the future, when humanity leaves earth and colonizes various planets. Shortly after a civil war between the Alliance and the brown coats, the unified government and the Independents, the crew of the ship Serenity, lead by Captain Malcolm Reynolds, attempts to maintain a life on Serenity by taking any job that pays enough.
Firefly is sort of the passion project of Joss Whedon that he made after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and before Dollhouse. It was canceled before its time, which ultimately made Whedon die inside and ruined him for Dollhouse. It’s an interesting concept: cowboys in space. All the elements that Whedon excels at are seen here, a descent story, character driven, and especially witty dialogue, and this is something that seems to be missing in today’s television.
Whedon seems to have somewhat taken the story for Firefly from Clint Eastwood’s western The Outlaw Josey Whales. I have no idea people cannot see the connection; just put Eastwood in space and it’s the same thing. This isn’t a bad thing because it had an interesting concept. It featured Eastwood as a confederate soldier on the run from the Union army immediately after the fall of the Confederacy. The twist is that the confederate soldier is the good guy and the Union is bad. Why? Because Josey Whales isn’t fighting for slavery; he’s fighting for his own freedom. In it Eastwood’s character goes on the run from the Union and encounters people, outcasts who have been wronged by the Union society, who join him and create a home for themselves on a farm in a ghost town. Whedon uses the same idea in Firefly by making Malcolm Reynolds a soldier who lost in the fight for independence against the Alliance and makes a home for himself along with his crew in the sci-fi version of a ghost town, a ship in space.If you know Whedon, it’s all about the dialogue. Firefly is serious when it needs to be and witty the rest of the time. What Whedon shows in Firefly is that the action shouldn’t be the only entertaining part of a show, you need good dialogue to keep it entertaining the entire time, and this show has that. Last but not least is the early performance by Summer Glau as River. Before she played creepy/crazy fem-bot on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, she was doing it better on Firefly. It is also where you will find the origination of the camera zoom-in. Before Battlestar Galactica used the zoom-in to distinguish their space battles, Firefly did it first and probably inspired its use in Galactica.

4. Kitchen Confidential

Chefs, funny actors, and an amoral sensibility make up this show that ranks at number 4. Kitchen Confidential is a single camera comedy which follows a down and out, alcoholic, and drug using chef (Jack Bourdain) who loses his career but is given a second chance as the new head chef at a restaurant where he must deal with his equally misfit staff, along with the antagonistic owner’s daughter who hopes to see him fail.
It had a short run, but Kitchen Confidential will stay in your memory as the surprisingly funny dark comedy that shocks the funny into you. The notable performance is of the egotistical and competitive head chef played by Bradley Cooper. It’s also the last place you can see the guy who played Xander on Buffy the vampire slayer being funny. Now, I did say it’s dark, but how dark? Let’s put it this way: does killing a few fluffy rabbits sound dark? Does attempting to kill a man by feeding him extremely decadent food that will explode his heart sound dark? Yes it does, but it’s also damn funny. So if you like to watch a dark comedy about chefs, check this one out.

3. Battlestar Galactica

A remake of a terrible 70’s science fiction show Battlestar Galactica has changed the game for all future science fiction. Set in a futuristic universe where the enemy of the human race is a race of self-aware robots called Cylons which were in fact created by humans. The show which began with a movie length mini-series about how the Cylons returned to their place of origin and annihilated the human race, destroying all but a few survivors. With all of the worlds which the humans inhabit in this story destroyed and rendered uninhabitable. The remaining survivors led by a President dying from cancer and a Battlestar Captain acting as the only line of defense from the incessant attacks of the Cylon fleet.
As a show the quality of the acting and stories which made up this instant classic is unmatched in the realm of science fiction. This show became for many viewers a touch tone for current social commentary such as the use of torture, religious extremists, and the survival of a Democracy during a time of paranoia and fear. The visual effects in this series are movie quality but they just act as a backdrop for the drama of the show. At its hart this show is less of a sci-fi and more of a drama set in a fictional world. If you have not watched Battlestar Galactica then you have missed out on a thought provoking and insightful program which just so happens to be really entertaining. Some people have spent many an hour trying to decipher the hidden meaning in each episode of the show and the idea that anyone can be a Cylon in human form only adds to the paranoia of an already suspicious viewer. This show is worth the watch. The only problem with this show is that one cannot be a casual viewer since each episode relies so heavily upon the previous one, each episode building upon the others. And because of this if you want to start watching the show, you have to start at the beginning.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In a nut shell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about a young woman who in supernaturally endowed with strength and speed in order to fight the forces of darkness. With her trusty sidekicks aka the Scoobies Buffy battles her way through a plethora of demons, monsters, x boyfriends, and of course vampires. Set in the small fictional town of Sunnydale CA. home of the hell mouth; a portal to the netherworld which is conveniently located beneath Buffy and the gangs base of operations, the high school library. This is where the final member of the Scoobies can be found for the most part during the first three seasons of the show, Buffy’s watcher/father figure Giles.
Now most people have heard about this show and many just leer at the fans of this show like some kind of sideshow act. On the surface of the show it is….well silly. The star of the show and apparent savior of the show is a 90 pound girl who can beat up… I’m sorry…is destined to beat up the evil of the world. Therein is the draw. The show’s visual and thematically oddness is made not believable but watchable, very watchable. Like most within the fantasy genre, the stories that make up the show are extreme and abstract. They provide a coloured window into the more sensitive topics of the real world, such as how things in a relationship change when things get physical.
In terms of simple viewing pleasure Buffy the Vampire Slayer has what you need. The lovability of the characters of the show and the playful and witty dialogue they all engage in at every turn, whether it be during a fight to the death or at the cafeteria lunch table. If you are looking for a mythology to get caught up in and have the ability to suspend your sense of reality and enjoy a fantastic show, then rent the first couple of seasons of the show. The fourth season is the best in my opinion, but that’s just me.

1. Freaks and Geeks

Mainly a high school show set in the 80’s focusing on the lives of the out cast of schools social strata, the title characters…the freaks & geeks. Not exactly the freshest sounding idea for a TV show, high school, teenaged angst, boy meets girl, whatever sounds like 90210 in but in bizarreo world. Not so much, the stories that actually make up the foundation for this show have a cynical feel and real feel that cause you to be involved in the characters and stories that make up the series. Why is this show number one on this list? First off, I am listing these shows in terms of surprise at their quality and ability to entertain and for me Freaks and Greeks was a great surprise. Having heard of the show before but never giving it much attention it was only last year that I actually rented the one and only season. Partially due to the success of Jud Apatow the guy who made 40 Year Old Virgin, Knock up, etc; comedies that are actually funny. Not funny ha ha more like funny “I just pissed myself” kind of funny, which seems to be becoming more and more rare. The reason this show was so good has much to do with the cast, relative un-knows in the late 90’s James Franco, Seth Rogan, Linda Cardellini, just to name a few.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Epitaph One: The Unaired Series Finale of Dollhouse, Summary… Spoilers!

Joss Whedon must have been really skating on thin ice with his latest series Dollhouse to have actually made a series finally. And that is exactly why this unaired episode from last season was never put out. There is no reason to have a finale to a show that is not over, it would give away all kinds of tasty plot that would have been in the subsequent seasons. All the better, now we can see just what is on the horizon for the little show that could. In the episode entitled Epitaph One, a name making reference to oh so overness of the show, starts off in Los Angela’s date 2019. A world more reminiscent of James Cameron’s bleak Terminator future, but instead of killer robots, we have instead… killer actives… correction many killer actives. As the plot unfolds we come to understand that a similar technique used to program the actives of the Dollhouse is now being used as a weapon. Kind of like how the people in the Matrix could turn into Agents, ordinary people are taken over by simply taking a phone call. After that, bam! you’re a crazed solder/killing machine ready to kill anyone who is not imprinted. Imprinting unlike how it was used in the show as a means of creating a kind of ideal operative for any occasion, has now been turned into a weapon. This point will definitely, be coming up in the second season as a key story point and source of moral dilemma for the cast. Throughout the episode we flash between the present and ten years in the future. The story regarding the dolls of the dollhouse tells more about the initial downfall of the world, and has tender moments between dolls who have had their own persona’s reintegrated. Also, we see that Topher went mad because the innovations that he made to the doll making process eventually led to the destruction of the world, and his former boss has become, in part, his nurse maid.
The storyline surrounds a few people who have yet to be stripped of their own personas looking for a safe haven, only to stubble upon a seemingly uninhabited subterranean health spa, at least that is what they initially think it is. Funny point is seems that in a very new future Road Warrior attire is all the rage and new speak Whedon Style, has become the popular form of slang speech. These survivors find the imprinting chair, a lonely Whisky (the person not the drink) and eventually leave in the direction of a safe haven lead by… Caroline (the persona that the Echo doll belongs to).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Impressions of Warehouse 13

Eureka meets X-Files meets that warehouse from Raiders Of The Lost Ark meets ghost busters, that is the feeling you get from the new show Warehouse 13. The sci-fi channel’s newest offering is a montage of shows and movies past, honoring them all. The instant chemistry that the staring duo share is an unmistakable Mulder and Scully clone, or if you want to be more current Pacy and Dunhum (Fringe). The female side of things put both agent Scully and Dunhum to shame, as agent Myka is extremely good looking, better than the other two combined. The people at sci-fi know how to find a looker, if for any reason at all one should watch this show to see this actress. I can’t even tell if she is a good actress or not since I was so inundated with her looks…. but I digress. The basic plot of the pilot episode is two secret agents, one detail oriented, the other more of a goes-with-his-gut-type, after a supernaturally induced presidential assassination attempt, ending in a kind of ghost busters moment where the supernaturally charged object is sucked into a purple goo that deactivates mystical objects. This is a sci-fi show with some promises for fun. If any of us remember the first season of Eureka and the promise it held then you will understand the reluctance one might have in fully backing this latest attempted at a family friendly sci-fi show. Eureka lost a lot of its charm once it became a kind of Speed Stick side show and pretty well forgot all of its lofty introductory ideas from the first season… it became a fluff of fluff shows, not serious enough to be liked by the hard core nerds and not topical enough to be liked by the general public. It was the bastard child of the sci-fi channel; hopefully they will do something with it this season, but back to Warehouse 13. Warehouse 13 is a very promising show with a successful dynamic already chosen i.e. Mulder and Scully, and a premises that is brimming with possibilities, a warehouse full of mysteries of the past, come on that is great, the weapon that killed J.F.K. the first true atom bomb… the one built by Jefferson (kidding). But you can see the possibilities, let’s hope that the executives at the show can see that too and let us as the viewers enjoy the antics that ensue. Check out Warehouse 13.

Monday, July 6, 2009

True Blood: Good Or Bad

Like most people I had never seen the HBO show True Blood. Well that is not true, last year I watched the pre-air for the show right before it came out (for those who don’t know what a pre-air is, it is an unfinished copy of a new shows pilot released by sneaky people on the internet). Well, what I saw did not impress to say the least, it was silly underwritten and you couldn’t hear what vampire Bill was saying when he had his fake fangs in. It completely turned me off of the show. This is part of what made me so surprised this shows unprecedented success, people were loving it…for some reason. So, I bit the bullet and watched the first season on DVD, and it is the still silly and underwritten show that I saw a year ago, the only improvement is that you can hear what the vampires are saying while they have their fangs in.
That is not to say that the show does not have some redeeming characteristics, it has the weird factor down and is full of fairytale type creature born from HBO writers’ imagination. Unapologetic about the sexual aspect of show, there is no shying away from this subject which is often skirted around on other vampire shows/movies. Anna Paquin is miles away from her sweet little girl films like Fly Away Home as she bares it all on more than one occasion in the shows first season. Biting and sex, go hand in hand when it comes to True Bloods “Fangbangers” i.e. people who have sex with vampires. That is another interesting point to the show they have created many new phrases that are destined to infiltrate our day to day conversations… or wait, how do you slip fangbanger into a conversation… I’m sure someone will make the effort and find a way. As for whether or not this show is good or bad, I think we should put it under the interesting category for now at least.