May 18, 2009


Can someone explain to me what's so great about WolframIAlpha? I've heard a news story about it, and now Ezra's talking about it at his new digs. I feel like a dumb, old man over here, but I don't get it. THESE KIDS, AND THEIR "MUSIC"!

Dollhouse Renewed

As Drew pointed out in the comments to the last post, Fox has opted to renew Dollhouse for a 13 episode second season, despite chronically weak ratings. Here's an article that has some interesting theories on the renewal. Most interesting to me was the idea that Dollhouse didn't do that great on TV, but did great on Hulu, which is also owned by Fox and where the bar for success is much lower. So Fox has a nascent web TV business (Hulu), and they want it to succeed by getting tech savvy viewers hooked on seeing their niche shows there. What better place than Hulu for a Whedon show to flourish, where Dr. Horrible made such a splash? It also helps that unlike The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fox owns the actual show Dollhouse as well. So this is all corporatey goodness over at Fox, and with the added restriction of a lower budget, Dollhouse looks like a safer bet for renewal. Oh, and here's an interview with Joss.

Don't, however, take any of this as an excuse to not buy the Dollhouse Season 1 DVDs when they come out over the summer. This show needs (and deserves!) all the help it can get.

May 10, 2009

Dollhouse: Episode 12

So, I missed a post or two, but here we are, the (possible) end of the series. Honestly, I'd be fine with this as the end of the series as long as Joss Whedon did another 12 episode series next year, and another the year after that, and so on. More than anyone else that I can think of, I think Joss Whedon is uniquely in a position to bring the UK format of television series to the US. He's got a smallish but totally devoted fan base and creates shows with enough watchability to pull in a few non-devotees here and there. His shows aren't going to be the center of a broadcast network's Thursday night lineup, but they'd make decent fill ins for the summer or after the fall lineup has been culled of the dead weight. He also knows how to sqeeze impressive results from a constrained budget. This is probably wishful thinking, because a stupid reality show will always be a cheaper fill in than a scripted show. Still, it'd be nice.

What would also be nice is if Fox would give Dollhouse another chance. They hobbled it from the beginning by dropping it behind the flagging Terminator show on Friday nights, when nobody watches TV. They made it a mid-season replacement, which probably get renewed even less frequently than a new show in the fall, which have pretty short average lives to begin with.

This episode, like most of the series, made interesting use of the premise and got great performances out of every member of the cast. It was also perfect in striking the balance between "end of the season episode" and "last episode ever," unlike Firefly, which was brilliant right up until it just stopped.

At the end of the day though, there's just not much I can say about the episode. If you've been following the series, you'll almost certainly like it. If you haven't been following the series YOU'VE BEEN KILLING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, YOU BASTARD! Ok, breathe...Anyway this leave enough open doors to pick right back up in the fall, but closes enough to not leave the fans screaming at their TVs (or computers if you've been watching on Hulu). Everyone and everything related to this show is underrated, and I can only hope that Fox gives the show a chance to catch on with a broader audience so that may be remedied.

May 08, 2009

Review: Star Trek

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered September 28, 1987. From then until the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise on May 13, 2005, the Star Trek franchise was continuously on the air. An entire generation grew up with new sets of characters and a history that evolved through the series. The new Star Trek film from J.J. Abrams tosses out all that history and brings us back to the original series crew.

I guess we should settle this now: there is really no right way to do this. Like with comic book movies, hewing too close to the extensive cannon of the franchise will impress fans, but will likely drive away anyone without a PhD. in the subject matter. Ignoring the franchise's history will make the film more accessible, but there's a strong chance that you alienate your base. J.J. Abrams leans more to the latter than the former, but I think he did as good a job of balancing the competing goals as was possible.

The cast is just about perfect, and they all tread the very fine line between invoking the famous traits of their characters without pantomiming Shatner, Nimoy, or the other original cast members. The only down side I see to the cast is that by the time the Trek movies of the past were released, pretty much all of the actors were typecast as their Trek character. This allowed them to do several movies with a pretty fixed cast because nobody was getting other work. For some reason I doubt that Chris Pine is going to want to spend the next 10-20 years playing Kirk, but I also doubt that Paramount is going to stop making Trek movies if this one is successful but Pine wants out. I hope that they've signed everyone to at least a three picture deal, but I've got a sinking feeling that we'll start to see new faces subbed in eventually.

The special effects were really fantastic. The newer Trek series had increased their special effects so greatly that the original Enterprise, particularly the television version, looked pretty lame by comparison. This movie restores a sense of awe to the original ship that's been gone for a long time.

It's not the most contemplative science fiction story of all time, but Trek movies have mostly been about exciting space battles, so that's not the worst criticism of all time.

All in all, this is a great (re)start to the franchise, and I'm sure we'll see more films in the next few years.

May 05, 2009


Short review: It's not great, but it's worth watching at some point. There are some things that are annoying, but they cast the movie well. The script is a bit bland and overly packed with fights, but it does do a good job laying out a backstory for Wolverine and tying him to several characters from the previous films. They also waste a lot of time and special effects money introducing a slew of mutants that really don't serve any function in the movie other than "Oh snap, it's Emma Frost!"

Overall, I'd give it a C, or a 70% or whatever. Not great, not terrible, worth watching.

What I *don't* understand is that I've seen several people online give essentially the same review that I just did, but say, "It's not great, but it's not Daredevil or Superman Returns bad." I still don't get what was so terrible about those movies. I don't think either was great, but though I though Superman Returns was better than Daredevil, I've seen much worse than either. Here are the main points that I remember people making against them:

Daredevil: They changed Daredevil and Bullseye's costumes. They made Kingpin black. The park scene with Electra was bad.

Superman Returns: They reused the airplane scene from the earlier Superman movies. They made Superman a deadbeat dad.

None of those were very convincing to me at the time, and I don't find them terribly convincing now. So, can anyone explain why those movies are considered at or near the bottom of the superhero barrel?