Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oscars > Slammys

Defamer just revealed that Mickey Rourke won't be challenging Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XXV after all. I am guessing Chris will call Mickey a coward from now until SummerSlam, and will suggest that Hulk Hogan's movie No Holds Barred is the greatest wrestling movie ever.

This won't matter, because I still say Rourke will not win Best Actor because the Oscar voters won't give The Wrestler the time of day. Sure, Rourke does a great job as an aging wrestler trying to get one last piece of glory, and the love of his daughter. However, the movie has too much blood to sit through. The most telling sign, I say, is snubbing Bruce Springsteen for Best Song, only because it didn't earn enough in the Academy's version of Rate-A-Record.

It looks like Sean Penn may win for Milk because it's a safer and more honorable choice. It's more than the quality of an actor's role when trying to get an Academy Award. It's politics, bias, or sentimentality. Penn's performance is worthy of an Oscar, but I hope Oscar voters at least give Rourke more respect for what he did. At least he decided now is not the time for Wrestlemania, and that should get him more support...except from Chris Jericho.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The backlash has started

I found this at the J!nx website.

You'd think they'd have these shirts ready for Christmas, but I am guessing those who like the Twilight books, if not the movie, would be upset if they saw this shirt.
Well, tough luck. I just wonder if anyone would make a similar shirt for Let the Right One In.
While I am on the horn here, I may have to change my prediction on who will get the Oscar for Best Actor. Kate Winslet is still my choice for the Best Actress bid, as she gathers more praise for The Reader. After Sean Penn won the SAG award for Milk, I may have to change my vote to him over Frank Langella. I had thought of Langella for Frost/Nixon because the Academy Awards rarely gives awards to actors more than once. They sometimes give their praise to someone new. With Penn's win Sunday, I think he has the momentum to get another Oscar.
I am also certain, as Sister Aloysius is, that the Oscar voters will snub Mickey Rourke out of the Kodak Theater. It's not because The Wrestler is a bloody film, which would upset squeamish voters. It's also not because the Academy isn't a fan of Bruce Springsteen--but should have been. It's because Rourke may be part of Wrestlemania XXV in a few weeks. Vince McMahon reportedly saw the movie and hated it. One Golden Globe later, Vince decides to put Rourke in a storyline with Chris Jericho. Rourke will be lucky to get a hundred votes after that bit of news.
I don't recall Verne Gagne plugging his appearance in the 1974 version of The Wrestler during AWA All-Star Wrestling. That's because he didn't have to, but this is 2009...and synergy is all, even when it's not supposed to exist. You think Vince would make The Wrestler, and have it made the way Darren Aronofsky did? Of course not. We already know that with No Holds Barred 20 years ago.
So, forget about Mickey Rourke getting the Oscar this year. His comeback will be praised, but anyone who'd be in the same county as uncouth Vince McMahon won't be considered even slightly worthy of an Oscar. At least, that's how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will see it. Too bad. Mickey should have waited until SummerSlam.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Riffmax Experience, and looking at Eli again

In about 350 screens, including Imax theaters, people are getting another chance to see the movie who has made the most money without getting respect from the Oscars. I mean, nearly a billion dollars, and you don't get even a Best Picture nomination?

Well, that's what Oscar thinks about comic book movies, even if they're just as good as Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon or Slumdog Millionaire. Spider-Man 2 learned that the hard way, too.

However, it gives Rifftrax fans a very rare opportunity. For the first time ever, they can sneak their iPod into the theater, and listen to the Rifftrax crew's opinions about the movie they're watching. Not just any theater, but an Imax theater. They didn't get the chance with Eagle Eye, Transformers or any Harry Potter movie. They got the chance for the return of Batman: The Dark Knight. They got the chance to experience...


The best part, of course, is that only the viewer hears the jokes through his iPod. That's why it is best to see the movie on DVD at home with the Rifftrax commentary before going to see it at a local theater, Imax or not. If people see you laughing at the wrong time, the usher or the guy next to you may get upset...or even want to hear the commentary, too. Of course, this may lead to a trend, where people bring their iPods to hear the Rifftrax remarks of whatever bad movie they paid to see.

OK, so how is The Dark Knight in Riffmax?
Well, Christopher Nolan was smart to enhance the movie with Imax sequences. Bigger is better with the car chases or incredible scenes from above. He gets praise for that, but God forbid the Academy would actually say comic book movies are written or directed well. I mean, what's next....Iron Man 2 wins Best Picture or...even....(gasp!) Watchmen????

OK, not too likely, but let's hope somebody does succeed on that.
Also, you may want to turn up the volume on your iPod because those Imax speakers are loud as the picture is big.
Overall, the Riffmax experience is like a normal Rifftrax experience, but much bigger. You'll still have to work a little to make sure the Rifftrax commentary links up to the movie. Itt's not as if you can stop the DVD to back up if you hear a good riff again. Otherwise, it's an interesting experiment. If there's another opportunity to Riffmax a movie, go for it. It is too bad they won't show Beowulf in 3-D again. Imagine seeing that and with the Rifftrax remarks.

One more thing...

I was thinking a little more about Let The Right One In, with a Swedish boy falling for the vampire next door. I learned more about how it compares to the book, especially about Eli (pronounced el-ee).
Now, I suggest you see the movie first, but a couple of times in the movie, Eli says "I'm not a girl". Now that could be true if it's "I'm not a girl. I'm a vampire" or another reason which would make it a very different vampire tale. The book reveals the truth about Eli.
Now, once they get the planned U-S remake, which may be called Let Me In, ready to go next year, I think it will be certain the American Eli is a girl, although androgynous to give respect to the book on which the original and remake are both based.

You'll also get into an interesting debate on the final fates of Oskar and Eli, and what it really means. You just have to see Let the Right One In for yourself, and do it before they disguise it as the Twilight story Stephenie Meyer didn't write.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Twilight" is Darker in Sweden

When I learned the Crest Theater was going to show the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In for the last time, I had to go. It's produced dozens of glowing reviews from the usual suspect sites, from Aint It Cool News to io9.

I was there for the first showing, but I think they were delaying the showing to get more people in the main theater. It was competing with two Oscar contenders, Doubt and The Reader (both that I have reviewed). Ironically, they were shown in the smaller theaters, as in megaplex size.
For a while, I thought I would be the only person seeing it, but the "audience" grew to about 15 people. Really, this movie deserves better, and just because it's shown at noon on a Saturday. It's a tender vampire love story that makes Bella and Edward the lame posers they really are. It's all because of the story, and how it's shown.

The movie opens with Oscar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12 year old boy who lives with his mom in a suburb of Stockholm sometime in the early 1980's. He's a lonely kid who is often the target of bullies in school. He also carries a knife, and a scrapbook with some disturbing stories. One night, he sees an old man and a young girl move into the apartment next door. He is Hakan and the young girl is Eli (Lina Leandersson). Later that night, Hakan meets a man and drugs him. He hangs him from a tree, and taps his blood as if he was a maple tree. He's not able to get as much blood as he would like, and Eli is upset by this. Guess why.

Well, try this: when Oskar steps out into the courtyard one night, he threatens a tree, as if it was one of the bullies. As he stabs it, Eli is standing at the jungle gym behind him. She's dressed as if it were a spring evening, but it's winter. She tells Oskar she's moved next door to him, but they can't be friends. Well, Edward tried that with Bella, and it didn't work. It won't work here, either, because they do have a connection. Soon afterwards, we see a man named Jocke who finds someone under a bridge who looks cold and hungry. The truth is, what he has found is bait. The person bites him immediately...and it's Eli.

While the body count is slowly rising, Oskar and Eli get to know each other, sharing a Rubik's Cube and each other's company. He slowly figures out his new girlfriend is a vampire, but that doesn't matter. She may be bloodthirsty, but she gives him an odd form of love...and yet one of more substance that Twilight or its imitators (and I don't mean Buffy, Angel or Spike) can ever have. She never sees him as a Happy Meal with legs, even when it comes close to that.

Still, there is the fact that she can't stay anywhere for long or she will be found out. She tries to say goodbye to Oskar more than once, but she is even more lonely that he is. She even climbs into his bed naked, but they don't do anything. If not for the obvious problem, Oskar and Eli make a cute tweener couple. There is a bit of sensuality in their relationship, but it's chaste. They are both pre-teens, him more than her. For Eli, what's important is survival, and the next meal...and to leave when it's necessary.

Oskar benefits from this relationship by learning how to be stronger, and to stand up to his tormentors. However, he has to make some hard choices to help her. Meanwhile, the public, represented by a close group of friends, are at a loss on what to do about the murders. One of them does survive an attack by Eli, but it ends in tragedy. Another comes close to discovering Eli.

You have to hand it to Kare and Lina on their performances in this movie. They are very believable as two lost kids who find comfort in a cold world.

You'll notice in this movie that it doesn't overuse blood. You see Eli's bloodied mouth after she has fed, but the attacks themselves are not too graphic...but still disturbing enough.

This movie is based on a horror novel written five years ago. I can say that while Eli doesn't say exactly how old she is, the book hints she's around Angel's age. The movie also leaves out a few other things from the book (and yes, I thank Wikipedia for this). There are plans for an English language remake, but they want to use the book as the basis for the script. So, we may get a very different version next year, aside from the new title, Let Me In. Any bets the main characters may be 17, rather than 12?

So, if you want to see the real Oskar and Eli, before they become Twilight-ed, or Twi-lit, welcome Let the Right One In if it's playing in your area.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Oscar first, 2009!!

It is not January 22nd, it is Oscar first, 2009.

It's the movie month that will last 30 days. Fans may be distracted by minor things like the return of Lost, another awards show, and some football game.

They all know that the most important date is the last day of Oscar, which some mortals see as February 22nd. It's the date we know who is the best movie of all.

So, what have we learned?

Well, Miley Cyrus isn't vying for Oscar gold, but neither are Mariah Carey and Bruce Springsteen.
We know Kate Winslet won't be a double nominee, but will have a tough road to finally breaking her losing streak. Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, for starters. Angeline Jolie? Hmmm.... Still, seeing her finally get the little gold man will make great TV.
We know a movie based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story has won big, along with the story of a very lucky poor guy from Mumbai.
We know Oscar doesn't buy comic books, at least not when it comes to the major awards.
We know that it's possible someone could win gold for one heck of a scene with Meryl Streep.
We know the show will honor two comeback stories, but they may not win.
We know it's a showdown between Nixon, Harvey Milk, an ageless wonder, a wrestler and a visitor.
We also know it's not exactly coincidence that some of the Best Picture nominees will get wide releases tomorrow.
And....we know Wall*E will dominate the Best Animated Movie category.

My predictions:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire. Just because Benjamin Button got a ton of money compared to the others doesn't mean it's automatic. Besides, who will vote against a story of a guy who emerges from a latrine...the deepest be a millionaire? Dark Horse: Button, because it's just like Forrest Gump

Best Actor: Frank Langella. He's conquered every medium with his portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. He'll actually have a close race against Sean Penn. I really doubt Mickey Rourke will pull it off because The Wrestler is a tough movie to see, especially where he has his match with Necro Butcher. Oscar voters are a squeamish lot. That being said, Rourke is my dark horse.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, but take this with a grain of salt. I missed the chance to see Rachel Getting Married and Anne Hathaway. I didn't see Frozen River, either. From the ones I did see. It looks like a battle between Street and Winslet, and there will be a big movement to give Kate her due. I was actually surprised they put her up for Best Actress, but her portrayal of Hanna is more complex than the unhappy housewife she was in Revolutionary Road. Dark horse is Hathaway, though.

Best Supporting Actor: why so serious? There's no question who will get this. Heath will be smiling with Peter Finch, somewhere out there.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis. Just see her scene with Streep in Doubt, where Mrs. Muller pleads with Sister Aloysius to let her boy stay in school even if a priest may be, possibly be, molesting him. It will break your heart. Besides, I call the precedent of Beatrice Straight in Network. Dark horse: Penelope Cruz for Vicki Christina Barcelona. She's quite the nutty ex-wife here.

I am also surprised The Reader got so many nominations. The story of a woman who faces war crimes, and the boy who has to face her past, was very good. It really broke my heart how it all played out. I should go back to see it again. I was also surprised Michael Shannon got a Best Supporting Actor nod for Revolutionary Road. Oscar voters must have a lot of guts ignoring the blistering performances by Winsley and Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe they were too uncomfortable to be rewarded because it is one tough movie to see, but worth it. Maybe they also thought they didn't want what they thought was Mad Men, the movie. Oh, and why three songs this year? They didn't want to reward Bruce Springsteen for "The Wrestler"? It looks like Slumdog Millionaire could get this category, mainly for the closing song.

There's also a lot of criticism over the choices for Best Foreign Film. Some have suggested a Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In, should have made the final cut. The story of a lonely boy and the vampire next door, from what I hear, blows Twilight away. I am going to see this movie Saturday. If I had to choose, it looks like The Class against Waltz with Bashir. The latter movie could have also made Best Animated Feature but there wasn't enough releases to justify five nominees.

So, let the speculation, and the protests for the snubbed, begin.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wrestler: Going "Beyond the Mat"

If you're used to seeing Ed Asner as gruff TV news director Lou Grant, you'll see a different side of him in The Wrestler. He's a promoter who is trying to stave off the mob while deciding whether to let a wrestling legend get his chance at the world championship.

Oh, wait, it's not 1974 anymore. It's 2009, and wrestling is much, much different than it was. There's cable TV, Hollywood-style lighting, and people who are larger than life. On the other side, there's Randy "the Ram" Robinson. He used to be a big deal when Wrestlemania and Starrcade were both new. Now, he's older, deaf in one ear, a broken down piece of meat as he'd say. Wrestling is all he knows.

This is The Wrestler, the one that literally brought Mickey Rourke back from the dead. He is just heartbreaking as Randy, a guy who tries to relive past glories because he has so few current ones. When we first meet him, he's sitting a classroom, recovering from his latest bout. He's behind on the rent, but is still plugging away. He's also an occasional customer to Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper who has also seen better days. They're two aging people, wondering what kind of future is ahead of them.

Quite a difference from that other Wrestler movie, isn't it? You might say it's a companion piece to the classic documentary Beyond the Mat, since Randy's story is actually based on Jake "the Snake" Roberts. Now, Rourke is just incredible as Randy. Somewhere in that broken body is a good soul. However, the body also includes some demons who threaten his well-being.

The man behind this drama is Darren Aronofsky. He does a wonderful job showing Randy's journey from ring to ring, and how a man can slowly rise while falling fast. Just notice where Randy wrestles at the beginning, and where he winds up at the end. It may look like he's climbing, but we forget about the inevitable fall.

Sitting at an autograph room, he looks at other aging wrestlers who are in worse shape than he is. Surely that's enough to get him into thinking about another line of work. He does try by working at a local supermarket. He tries to mend fences with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). He hopes to get closer to Cassidy, as they share a beer and a kiss. But she is wary about getting closer because of her job.

It's interesting what while she does her lap dance for a customer, it's just for money, not for the cheers. With Randy, it's all for the roar of the crowd that he wrestles. Aronofsky illustrates this in the scene where Randy enters the deli counter the same way he enters a match. The cheers are in his head until the plastic curtain parts. When he gets a chance for a 20th anniversary rematch against the Ayatollah, who's now a used car dealer, the chance for one last piece of glory is hard to resist. As they say, Randy's spirit is willing, but his flesh is getting weaker.

While Rourke is getting a lot of praise for his work in this movie, I thought his scenes with Wood were more impressive than his ones with Tomei. They have interesting scenes together, both in bars, but Wood was really good. That being said, Tomei is in incredible shape, and is also heartbreaking as Cassidy. She would like to get closer to Randy, maybe to give him another place to be.

This story could be about an aging boxer or a football player (remember Charlton Heston in "Number One"?). Sometimes the aging athlete doesn't come back just in time to make the winning score. He comes back, but the finish isn't always happy.

Oscar Nomination Day is less than three days away, and it's a lock Rourke will make the final cut for Best Actor. Will he win? Well, let me say They'll applaud the comeback, but not the performance because it's not the type of role that gets Oscars. Besides, competing against Nixon (Frank Langella), Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and a guy who ages in reverse (Brad Pitt) might be too tough. If I am wrong, so much the better, We'll get a better idea at the SAGs next week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cinematic Titanic: Frankenstein, Italian Style

A while ago, I did a review of Incognito Cinema Warriors XP's second DVD, "Lady Frankenstein". It was how Frankenstein's daughter takes over his experiments, with sexy results. The movie contained a fair amount of nudity, but that was dealt with by blurring the naughty bits.

The Cinematic Titanic company came up with an alternate way to deal with any naughty bits shown in its latest DVD, "Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks." It created the Breast Blimp, which hovers at the slightest sign of unacceptable nudity. The thinking is that when the people of the future find the CT DVD's, they won't think we 21st century louts were perverts. The CT guys must foresee a day where the FCC rules the world, and censors people on the spot. In such a world, Darren Aronofsky would have lost his hand if he dared to give the finger to anyone on live TV (like what happened at the Golden Globes last week). Using a blimp wouldn't have been enough.

Anyway, it's really a way to keep CT DVD's fun for a majority of the family. No sense getting into grindhouse territory. Anyway, the movie stars Rossano Brazzi, who many people know as the star of the movie version of South Pacific. After that success, he found himself doing cheesy B movies. As David Allen Grier would say, "wrote a song about it, like to hear it, here we go..."

Some blasphemous evening,
You will meet a stranger,
Quite a sexy stranger,
who's your daughter's best friend.

I'm not kidding. Brazzi is Count Frankenstein, who is robbing graves to revive the undead, or in this case a local caveman called Goliath. When his daughter, Maria, comes home from school, she's joined by her fiance and her friend Krista, who shares an interest in the Count and his experiments. The other familiar face in this crowd is Michael Dunn, best known as Dr. Loveless in Wild Wild West. His only friend is another caveman named Ook. What follows is the usual round of tampering in God's domain, with a little sex in it.

As for the Breast Blimp, it's used twice; the first time is when Krista takes a bath, and the second time is when Maria joins Krista in a mineral bath.

Of course, the riffing is the thing, and it's fairly consistent here.

Ook is played by Boris Lugosi...Frank: What, they couldn't get Bela Karloff?

Krista is told "your milk bath is ready."..Trace: ...and boy are my nipples sore.

The Count kisses Krista...Trace: This is a taste I hadn't had in my mouth since Mitzi Gaynor.

Josh comments on the Breast Blimp: Maybe next time they can bring in something less distracting than the Breast Blimp, like the Rockettes!

Goliath makes Eegah look like Jude Law, but Mary Jo says he looks more like a "young Bette Midler". She also describes the movie perfectly...It's like someone put Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Little People, Big World into a Cuisinart.

After a successful year, the CT crew will take their act on the road starting in February. The first stop is San Francisco a month from now, and naturally I plan to be there. I haven't decided if I'll wear the same jumpsuit I had from Super-Con last year, but the Gizmonic hardhat will definitely make an appearance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Their life is a sinking ship...again

It was a little more than eleven years ago that two young movie stars, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, were the "it couple" of Hollywood thanks to a massive and gigantic movie called Titanic. They portrayed Jack and Rose in a classic love story that would defy the world...but not a sinking ocean liner. It would still make a zillion dollar and win a ton of Oscars.

For some reason, the studios never got the chance to pair them off for another movie again. Looking back, it may have been just as well. These two actors have been reunited in a dark look at suburban life in the '50's, Revolutionary Road. It hasn't dominated movie screens as their last movie, but it's still a sharp look at how "happily ever after" isn't.

It may also be one of two reasons why Winslet's bad luck at the Oscars will finally end. Her portrayal of April Wheeler, a housewife who was hoping to be more than just a housewife, is just wonderful. You can just see the pain inside her, as she tries to revive even the hope of a life she had hoped she'd have with her husband, Frank.
DiCaprio is also great as Frank, and it looks like he may be overlooked by the Oscars in favor of Frank Langella, Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke. Still, there's no overlooking his portrayal as a man who may wish he had a more exciting life, but that doesn't mean he'd go all the way to make the wish come true.

I know some people have been "disappointed" with the movie, and calling it "Mad Men, the movie." Well, this isn't set in 1960, where the world is about to change. It's in 1955, when you were expected to say your suburban life is Heaven on Earth. When we first meet Frank and April in 1948, they are taken to each other, and have wonderful dreams of an exciting life. She'd be a successful actress and he'd do something creative. Cut to 1955, it hasn't worked out that way. They have two kids and the usual two-bedroom home. It's enough for most couples, but not them. April then decides they should chuck it all and move to Paris, and Frank likes this idea. He doesn't seem to be too special at his job, so why not a fresh start? Who knows, maybe he'll wind up being King of the World.

However, their plans hit two icebergs, which other people would think are actually blessings. It's safe to say this changes everything, especially the Wheelers' expectations for the future. You kind of wonder if Jack and Rose could handle the same situation if they lived in the mid '50's.

Some have also compared this movie to American Beauty, which. like Road, is directed by Sam Mendes. The only difference is that Frank and April at least try to stay together, but their desires won't allow that. Compare that to the life of the neighbors Milly and Shep, played by Kathryn Hahn and David Harbour. When they hear of the Wheelers' Paris dreams, Milly actually weeps. They quickly try to convince themselves their life is still the best, but there is that envy. Also in the mix is Michael Shannon as John, the son of a realtor who has been in a mental institution but has more insight on the Wheelers' lives than anyone.

It's a tough movie to see, but it is worth your while because of Winslet and DiCaprio's performances. It sure beats Bride Wars, even though most movies would. But, in case you want a hard-fought fairy tale, Slumdog Millionaire is for you.

All that's left for me is The Wrestler, which will finally reach Sacramento this weekend, but at only one theater. You'd think after Rourke's big win at the Golden Globes, more theaters would show it. Well, I'm sure the release will get wider after the nominations are announced next week. After seeing the trailer several times, though, I just can't wait anymore.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This way to the month early

There is no me. I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed--Peter Sellers

I'm not nobody--Echo...or is it?

It's been more than a month since Time magazine became the first media site to look at the pilot for Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's return to TV. Since then, a few more sites have given their verdicts, including and Salon. More familiar sites will also have their chances over the next few weeks.

Fox sent a DVD copy of the pilot to TV and radio stations, along with a special doll to symbolize what an Active is: a clean slate who can be made into anyone, over and over again. At least that's the theory. My radio station got a copy, and I decided to take a look.

As many fans know, Joss Whedon remade the pilot episode to give the show a better launch. That's why there's no scenes from the original pilot that have been seen by fans at Comic-Con and the internet. The new pilot, "Ghost", establishes the Dollhouse, and the main Active, Echo, played by Eliza Dushku. We see she had a past once, only because we hear her "real" name. After that, we see the girl in a motorcycle race with another guy which turns out to be part of his birthday party. She's a girl who likes to take risks and parties well into the night. Suddenly, she calmly walks out of the date and into a van. We see that her "engagement" is over, and that it's time to get a "treatment". What it really means that it's time for her to be no one.

The girl sits on a weird-looking chair, and waits to be treated. The tech, called Topher (Fran Kranz), says it will pinch. Then, we see this girl's life literally dissolve. Now, she is Echo, a girl who is alive but has no self or memories of what she did. She wakes up, and asks Topher, "Did I fall asleep?" "For a little while," he answers.

Topher discusses the engagement with Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix), her handler, and acts pretty proud of himself. Boyd is just worried about whether their little operation is ever found. Topher's not worried. In fact, he envies Echo. "She's living the dream", he says. "Whose dream?", Boyd asks. "Who's next?", Topher replies.

We find out who's next: a businessman whose 12-year-old daughter has been kidnapped from his house. He's a past customer, and needs an Active to help him pay the ransom. So, Echo is programmed as a no-nonsense negotiator who will oversee the exchange. Of course, things go wrong, and the Dollhouse crew has to scramble to get Echo out, and just leave the kidnapped girl. The top priority of the Dollhouse is to stay a secret, with the "engagement" being secondary. When Boyd is worried the kidnapped child may be sacrificed, he risks a lot to convince his boss, Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams), to finish the job. Boyd seems to be the conscience of the show, the man who tries to show the Dollhouse has a positive purpose, even if the means are almost unspeakable.

Meanwhile, we meet FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett), who has sacrificed everything to find the Dollhouse. He insists the Dollhouse exists, even if he can't prove it. Yet this is his assignment, because someone said it should be. However, his work is threatening to ruin an important investigation on human-trafficking, involving Russians. Ballard tracks down a sleazy Russian guy named Lubov, (Enver Gjokaj) and tells him to find out who's connected to the Dollhouse. You can tell Ballard has been given an impossible task, but he's very detrmined to complete it.

The pilot, written and directed by Whedon, is good, but Dushku isn't very convincing as a hostage negotiator. While she can spout off theories as quickly as a bullet train, she looks too young. Glasses, a hairdo, and a schoolmarm attitude aren't enough. I give the show credit by admitting this, and giving an explanation on how her role still works. Whedon also gets major points for symbolizing Ballard's dilemma and determination by juxtaposing his meeting with FBI supervisors with clips of him kick-boxing.

The pilot also introduces Sierra (Dichen Lachman), a new Active, but in an unsettling way. In fact, Echo meets her in a surprising way that will later affect her in the engagement. We also meet Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker), who takes care of Echo. She seems suspicious of Topher for some reason, while he sometimes sneaks a peek at Claire, too. Did they have a history that didn't end well? Also, how come there's a scar on her face? It's faint, but the pain is still there.

If you look closely, there is an influence of Firefly/Serenity in the pilot. When Echo is "neutral", she's almost like River Tam in her more calm moments. When Echo sees Sierra get her "treatment", it's a little too similar to the "treatments" the Alliance gave River.

Also, people who saw pieces of the pilot may think Lubov looks familiar. I think Gjokaj was supposed to play Victor, another Active. Then again, maybe he is...and Lubov. Hmmmmm......

Although the show may start seemingly as a procedural, we'll soon find out that it isn't. Echo will play many roles..and she'll start to remember some of them. We get a hint of that in "Ghost", as I said before, when her accidental meeting of Sierra will affect her. I am hoping that the other Actives have the same experience. Hopefully, we'll get back stories of the keepers of the Dollhouse, too. How did Topher learn how to rewire people like computers, and why does he think it's so cool? Could it be a dark Revenge of the Nerd? Who got Adelle to run this Dollhouse, and who's paying for all this? Why was Ballard assigned to the Dollhouse? Did he jump at the chance, or was he pushed?

Dollhouse will be on Fridays at 9 PM after Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles starting February 13th. It's a tough spot, since it's been years since Fox has had a hit on that night. The executives say they will give both shows time to build an audience. Dollhouse has a very interesting premise that takes time to understand. Once a viewer does, it's worth it. Joss may be a bit rusty about making TV after making a movie, some comic books, and an internet musical. Still, this Dollhouse is a good way to spend a Friday night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Joss Whedon's Secret Award....Revealed!!

Remember way back in September, when ABC had a poll of what was the most dramatic and funniest moments on TV in 60 years, and the winners would be recognized at the Emmys? Well, the results came in, and they were never revealed on the air. They were too busy convincing themselves that six reality show hosts being the perfect group to host the Emmys was a good idea. The winner for most dramatic moment, as many of us know, was Buffy sacrificing her life to save Dawn at the end of season five. The producers decided not to tell the viewers, maybe because they figured no one would know who Buffy was. feh.

Well, the People's Choice Awards recreated that piece of bait and switch Wednesday night. They pulled out all the stops to announce the winners, from Batman: The Dark Knight for five awards to any CBS show that won its category. In an attempt to prove that it's cutting-edge, they had two web categories: internet sensation and most popular user-generated video. They could range from home video to Paris Hilton actually talking more intelligently than Chris Matthews...with some help. In this case, the winners were a clip from Ellen DeGeneres's talk show where she dances with Barack Obama, and...
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog!! At last, Joss Whedon and his siblings have created something loved by the people! By an honest-to-goodness mainstream! Certified by a scientific poll!

Then...a cruel twist right out of the Evil League of Evil TV Network: the awards show never mentions the results of the two web awards--at all. Maybe they forgot in all the excitement of giving Dark Knight five awards at once. Still, if you have two web awards, you should mention them, even if it's before a commercial. Otherwise, why have them?

I was worried they'd never give the results but they added the results a couple of minutes after the show ended. Again, they must have forgot.

After all, this is internet programming. Such webisodes will never take over real television, so why make them as important? That must have been the attitude of the PCA organizers. They'll recognize that video podcasts, web comedies or homemade videos exist, but they wouldn't go as far as give them an award and national airtime for a salute.

So, somewhere, Dr. Horrible enjoys his victory, but has a difficult time proving that it exists...or matters.

At least, not yet

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mike Nelson's Movie Year In Review

It can be condensed into two movies: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Batman: The Dark Knight. One dashed everyone's hopes, and the other got everyone's money.

No matter...both were targeted by Rifftrax, the movie goers' avenging angel. You can tell the former crew of the Satellite of Love, Sci-Fi Channel edition, took on these movies because they wanted to remind people to never believe the hype. It doesn't matter if a movie lives up to the hype, just don't believe it. That especially goes for TDK, which earned close to a billion dollars but not the respect of the Oscar members, except for Heath Ledger's performance. That was one of those performances that should get respect, no matter what the rest of the movie was like.

Anyway, Rifftrax took on TDK by being skeptical about whether it was the greatest movie ever because it was a comic-book movie that delivered, and then some. Lord know what Mike will do to Watchmen if it makes one false move. We already know The Spirit will be a bloodbath when Mike gets a hand of that film. Anyway, I saw TDK with the Rifftrax treatment last night. I will feature only a few riffs to give you an idea of what to expect..

The Joker shows his face for the first time: Joan Rivers?

Batman's voice: Is there a piece of almond stuck in his throat?

Harvey Dent's classic line, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain": (tweet) Foreshadowing penalty!

Bruce kisses Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal): I wish I know how to quit you...r brother.

There are three others too good to repeat here, but they involve the director, what Batman does from above, and Frank Miller. I do have this response to the Joker's classic line, "This town deserves a better brand of criminal, and I'm gonna give it to them": I'm bringing in Barry Bonds.

Finally, as Harvey Dent threatens Commissioner Gordon's family, he explains why he doesn't believe in the law by saying "The only morality in a cruel world in chance": That's why Bingo is the Lord's game.

As for Indy and the Skulls, this probably made Mike so mad, he decided to attack Star Wars: A New Hope just out of principle...and because Robot Chicken and Seth MacFarlane have done it. Anyway, the commentary was plenty of "Harrison Ford is old" jokes and Shia Labeouf barely being manly at all. Maybe they wish Nathan Fillion was Mutt Williams in this movie, and that would have been cool. If only Nathan was an annoying younger brother in a Disney Channel sitcom. That seems to be where tomorrow's stars come from.

So, some highlights...

Indy's first action sequence (sung to the tune of the movie's theme)

Here we go now, really slow
Nearly limping, cuz he's old, old, old, old old old old....

Cate Blanchett as Dr. Spalko: Emo Phillips! (or maybe Jar Jar Binks)

Indy trying to guide Mutt, his sidekick: Short Round took instructions better than you!

Marion shows up, argues with Indy and Mutt: And this once-proud franchise de-evolves into the Jerry Springer Show.

Shia in general : Shia Labeouf, action hero. It's like William Hung, Metropolitan Opera legend.

Finally, Kevin's rant to George Lucas: Now I set my bar of expectations low, he always manages to slip under it.

So, should you get these valuable commentaries about these and other movies?
Hell yes! They are even meaner towards other franchises, like the X-Men, Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. Quality won't protect these movies, not even Iron Man, which I also must see. Just click this Rifftrax link for more information. Remember, it's just like MST3K, only it's the home game and the movies are newer, if not adequate. I just wonder why they won't pummel The Island, even if was Parts: The Clonus Horror with a budget.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Reader: I've Got a Secret

Aside from seeing Sacramento clean-up after the New Year's Eve party the night before. I decided to take in a movie. The Crest was offering movies at $5.50 before five p-m for New Year's..and it's the main screen, too.

It's the story of a German woman who has been many things in her life. It's about about a boy who has as affair with her, and it winds up defining both their lives.
There's also a secret, which would have changed a lot.
Now, Buffy Summers (OK, so I am a name dropper), don't ask me if I can vague it up for you. I'm not kidding about that secret. It's the reason why this man is called The Reader.

Yes, it's one of two likely chances Kate Winslet will get for Oscar gold. The other, of course, is Revolutionary Road, which I may see along with lots of other people who still remember Titanic. She's paired with Leonardo DiCaprio, that is. Anywho, The Reader starts with Ralph Fiennes as a lawyer in 1995 Germany. He looks through a window to see a streetcar roll by. A 15 year old boy looks back. That boy is him, and we're sent to 1958. Michael Berg is walking in the rain, vomiting, when a woman helps him get back home. This is the first time Peter meets Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), a train ticket-taker, and a woman he will never forget.

When Michael returns to thank Hanna for her generosity, she isn't sure what to think of him. He does notice now pretty she is, and so does she. It's not long before they start a sexual affair, and this movie shows a lot of skin from both. Later, she asks him to read to her before they make love. It's an odd request, but not when you're a teen. Now, Winslet portrays Hanna as a little sad, but still quite beautiful. While Winlset is 33, her character is a little older. You get the sense she has a lot of regret in her life, mainly when we see her weep inside of a church while a choir is signing. Is it the music that moves her, or something else?

When Hanna is offered a promotion, she decides to leave town and Michael, with no explanation. Eight years later, they are reunited--sort of. He's a law student attending a war crimes trial...and Hanna is one of the defendants. She was a guard at Auschwitz, much to Peter's shock. As he hears about Hanna's real past, he looks like he's ready to vomit again. When the trial gets to one specific incident where hundreds of Jews died in a fire, the evidence suggests that Hanna was responsible because she was in charge. At this point, Michael suddenly realizes Hanna's secret.
Suddenly, it's more than just forgiving those who were part of the Nazi machine. It's about something else, the secret Hanna can't admit. The question is...will he help her?

His decision will affect the rest of his life, and Hanna's, in ways that will surprise you. David Kross, who plays the younger Michael, does a good job as a lanky teen who learns some tough lessons about adulthood. Feinnes shows a lot of strain on his face, but not much else, as the elder Michael. The story itself is pretty interesting. It's based on a novel. Still, all the attention this movie will get is for Winslet's portrayal of Hanna. In a way, this movie reminded me of The Lives of Others, about a Stazi officer who spies on a subversive artist, and how he tries to make peace with what he has done. In the case of The Reader, it's the story of two people who try to make peace with what they have done...or should have done.

One more thing, my website has a new look, with a new solar system. Please take a look!

Shedding the old New Year

It's now the day after New Year's, but still a holiday for some.
When I was walking to downtown Sacramento yesterday, I noticed some of the scattered leftovers from the New Year's Eve celebration the night before. I saw some crushed noisemakers, and a new New Year's hats that couldn't fit me. I went to a calendar store to pick up a couple for eBay bait. They're from Buffy and Lost, two classic shows.

I also went to Macy's to see if any New Year's bargains were to be had. As I looked around, there wasn't a trace of Xmas left, except for one table. It has a pile of holiday chocolates, all half-price but still a bit over-priced. Of course, that's because this was Godiva chocolates, not Hershey's. Still, there would be better bargains at Long's Drugs and Starbucks.

I also got a reminder that American business doesn't let grass grow too long under its feet. At Macy's, right next to the pile of Christmas chocolates, there was a table of Valentine's chocolates. I'm sure when Rite-Aid is open today, they'll be lots of Valentine's Day cards available, too.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Now, Sacramento rings in the new year!

Some of the images I took at the big ball drop at 10th and K. Let's say it was MUCH more popular than people expected. You know, maybe they should move it to the Capitol building, if they can get a New Year's Ball installed there somewhere. Otherwise, it was a great time had by all.

Now, if you prefer videos, check out these clips from the Sacramento Bee, KXTV and KCRA.