Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turn Wrong: Arturo vs. Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars!



SPOILERS AHEAD AND IN THE LINKS POSTED HERE

There's a moment in "The Waters Of Mars" where we see The Tenth Doctor doing his ... well, his Thing: working another last-ditch plan that he knows is going to save everyone, and you know it's going to save everyone, and so does the person he's rescuing.

But what makes this episode work is that, even as we see the Doc at his most life-affirming, his most ambitious moment yet, both you and the rescuee - in this case, the formidable Capt. Adelaide Brooke - know that he is absolutely wrong.

As we learn nearly immediately upon Ten's arrival on the Red Planet, the case of Capt. Brooke and her crew represents, like Pompeii did, a "fixed point" in time, which has come to be short-hand for an awful thing that Must Happen. Brooke's death, he confesses, is the impetus for all tomorrow's star treks: "Your death creates history," he tells Adelaide, who must realize she spent her whole life building up to its' end.

Once again, The Doctor isn't there to save anyone, merely to bear witness. And this time, the Doctor - a truly Lonely God, without a Companion to buoy him or his fellow Time Lords to rein him in - cracks. Seemingly on the side of good, initially, as he gets Adelaide and some of her staff out of harm's way, but the slope is already slippery; as she chides him for breaking his own rules, his only response is a raised eyebrow and one word: "Tough."

If all this sounds like it's ignoring the baddie of the week or the rest of Adelaide's crook, well, it kinda is. They're not bad, as "mid-season" episode groups of characters go - the unnamed lifeform that picks off the crew is clever enough to up the ante as need be - but the episode turns on the final 10 minutes, when Ten goes off the rails and realizes it too late. The Cloister Bell is tolling for him. And this time, both he and you know the end is coming.


Top image courtesy of oneGemini Studios

Friday, September 11, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING TACVBA II!

We'd previously talked about Cafe Tacvba here, but on this most somber of mornings, a bit of whimsy couldn't hurt. Enjoy a special 5-song set.











Friday, September 4, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING MALDITA!

What with Mexican Independence Day approaching, I figured the most enjoyable way to get into the spirit of things this month would be to share some rock from the Motherland. Kicking things off is a set from the mighty Maldita Vecindad. Enjoy!














Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is May Parker the next Hannah Montana?

From Disney's perspective, the storylines that set so many fanboy hearts and message boards aflutter don't particularly matter. It's the properties (read: characters) they contain, and what Disney can do with those properties, that count.

Because Disney's real business is the business of Doing Things With Properties. This deal is about what will get made from the raw material those characters represent, through licensing: toys, TV, movies, games, sleepwear and thrill rides.
- Glen Weldon, NPR


Even if the coverage of the Marvel/Disney deal focuses on how Marvel can help Disney market itself better to young men - and, man, is it creepy to read professionals talk about Disney's "Boy Problem" - I can't help but think of that as too narrow a strategy. Because Marvel has too many characters who could also hook Disney's existing female viewership.

Let's not forget, the Distinguished Competition has dominated the TV/DVD animated boys' market for years, arguably from the moment any of us watched the opening of Batman: The Animated Series. From there we got the Justice League series, more straight-to-video Bat-flicks, and recent stories featuring Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, and the adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier. That's a sizable head start, even if Marvel's recent animated fare hasn't been bad.

But, should Marvel and Disney decide to give girls a wider range of heroine than usual, that could shift the balance of power on the DVD racks. Consider Spider-Girl up there: a character with an existing fanbase - one that had saved her book from cancellation several times, and perhaps best of all, a character with a more malleable continuity to work with, since she's an "alternate-future" character. One good animated film or TV series and voila! Mayday backpacks fit in perfectly alongside their plain ol' "Princesses."

As if by coincidence - or was it? OMG CONSPIRACY! - Marvel offered up another prime candidate for multimedia exposure in the X-Men's Pixie, who's slated to get her own mini-series later this year. The X-Franchise, in fact, could yield a treasure-trove of "new" stars: Kitty Pryde, Storm, Illyana Rasputin, and even Wolfsbane come to mind right off the bat. Outside of Xavier's School, you've got Araña; Ms. Marvel, the Runaways and She-Hulk potentially waiting in the wings.

So while we've been assured that "sparks will fly" after the initial meetings between Marvel and Pixar, as a fan, I'm hoping we get more than the umpteenth animated Wolverine or Iron Man - hell, Logan and Tony are already going to be in anime, so we're good. As a fan, and a consumer, I want to see innovation, I want to see diversity, I want to see Pixar finally listen to Linda Holmes. I want this deal to result in more work for male and female voice-actors and animators. I want this deal to kick DC in the ass enough to give me a Blue Beetle animated film. I want this to really, truly change the game beyond the boardroom. And, hell, even if I'm an old fanboy, I want my friends who have daughters and sons to see that the little girls don't have to look up only to the girl with the glass shoe, or the blonde wig - the one with the web-shooters can make just as good of a heroine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thoughts on Disney/Marvel Part I

If nothing else, I'm happy Disney bought Marvel yesterday because it's already yielded enough LULz for the rest of the year, what with people calling out for stuff like WALL-E: Herald Of Galactus, Mulan, Agent of SHIELD, Ducktales Noir and the like.

Like a lot of folks, though, I was initially skeptical of the theory that the merger won't affect Marvel's content - after all, that theory was seemingly based on the Everything Is Always Fine In Comics school of thought.

After reading reactions and updates throughout the day, though, I do agree that there's reason to believe the Mouse House will play nice with the House Of Ideas - and not just because of the Disney/Miramax connection. One clue might in fact come from the Distinguished Competition.

After all, DC's long been a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and that hasn't appeared to slow down Vertigo or WildStorm. And DC's main imprint has, in recent years, been centered on events like Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis and now Blackest Night, which all drew criticism for their subject matter and violent imagery. And titles like Judd Winick's run on Outsiders and Secret Six are closer to, say, a series on FX than something on Kids' WB. And, hey, the quality control can't be that strict if we're still getting Cry For Justice. (rimshot)

So no, I don't think we're going to see Deadpool forced to shoot only for the kneecap, or The Punisher work for angels again (though even that can't be as bad as the previews I've seen for FrankenCastle.) At least, I don't think so. If X-Force or Deadpool seem to quietly slip away, or if Shatterstar seems to suddenly ditch Rictor for a girl, the questions will come back again.



Top image courtesy of Bleeding Cool

HOUR 42: Two Days Of Richard Hatch!



So, yeah, lots going on. I've got more thoughts on that later. But things have been exciting around the HOUR 42 camp, too, as we did two back-to-back shows Sunday and Monday as @ThePeterPixie and I set out to answer the question: Who the Frak is Richard Hatch?

Last night, we aired our nearly hour-long chat with RH in its' entirety - covering not just his TV career, but his thoughts on a new BSG movie, and his work as a motivational speaker. That's the first thing you can listen to on the player below.

Just behind that is our regular Sunday show, where we played excerpts from the interview, and also discussed:

* The Megan Fox-as-Catwoman rumor, and the Chick we endorsed for the role
* The latest discussion over what constitutes comic-book "gossip"
* It's Nerds v. Jocks - at Marvel!
* My newest dating adventure at SoulGeek

Thanks to everybody who's been listening so far. Enjoy these two shows, and as ever, we've got more in store for you ... as soon as this bloody heat stops.



Friday, August 28, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING GALACTICA!

Apologies for being away for awhile. I've been spending more and more time working on stuff for the show, along with @ThePeterPixie. Here's a recap of the past couple of weeks:

* This past Sunday, we talked about online comics, particularly Longbox, an iTunes-like service that will debut in the fall.
* The week prior, I wasn't available - that's a story I owe you - so I left Peter not one, but two guests: The Nerdy Bird filled in for me as a guest host, and we were visited by a new Twitter friend of mine, Kat Hill, aka the Action Flick Chick.

This Sunday, though, we'll talk to our biggest guest yet: Richard Hatch of BSG fame - both of them. We'll cover topics like:

* His involvement with a new geek-centric dating service, SoulGeek
* His work as a motivational speaker
* His prolific workrate in the '70s - seriously, dude appeared on just about every show for a few years there
* Playing not just the original Apollo, but Tom Zarek
* His connection to the original BSG, which inspired him to make his own trailer for a sequel to it:



Plus we'll be announcing an ... experiment I'll be undertaking on behalf of the show. Hope you can join us Sunday - 7pm PST, 10p EST!

Friday, August 21, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING LIVEMASH!

I stumbled onto The Cool Table while looking up mash-ups online, and became a fan within seconds. For awhile now, I've associated the genre with DJs and clever studio work. But these guys (and gal) do it live. Check out these first two clips:



Not bad, right? "Dreaming of Mr. Brightside," for me, was even better - it's part of a new karaoke project (yes, I have karaoke projects).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

OWIE: The Extended Remix

Ok, so I've been doing a lot of clean-up around the Hall of Justice, and recovering from a week of TECHFAIL. While we're clearing the decks, this post needs some explanation. The accident actually happened four years ago last month; the text that ended up here was taken from my original blog post the night it happened - yes, I blogged after getting in a wreck - and the full story surrounding it has become one of my favorites. So let's start over, with the original text in italics.
**********

It was just after 5 p.m. Tuesday and I was leaving work, turning east onto Rancho Bernardo Rd. just after the light had turned green. I was making my turn when I vaguely remember a shape coming in from the driver's side, toward the rear of the car. Then everything shook.

My next memory is of laying in the driver's seat while a guy -- I think he had a goatee -- asked me how I was and said he was calling 911. I have another vague recollection of talking to medical personnel. And that's about all I remember from the street.


I presume that's all I remember because I either blacked out completely or was sedated by EMTs after being loaded into the ambulance. Either way, while I was taken to the hospital, the emergency call went out to the SLB House, where Brothers J-Mac and Kev-Fu were watching tv as usual. They were all set to head up to the hospital to check on me - only they had literally just ordered a pizza before the hospital called them. So they waited for the pizza guy.

"The guy probably thought we were crazy," Kev-Fu later told me. "When he got to the house, we grabbed the pizza, put it in the refrigerator, and practically threw the money at him before we took off."

Next thing I know, it's past 8 in the evening and I'm in a hospital. My roomies Jim & Kev-Fu are already there, having apparently been alerted by the authorities. (Did I give them the house number? I wonder.) My spirits were pretty high, all things considered. I didn't notice the pain until later. I apparently asked the boys four times how their days went, confirming my concussion. But otherwise, things were okay: we joked around and I tried, vainly, to get one of the cuter nurses to come over and re-examine me. I also asked if we could import a particular female cast member in a nurse's outfit. I'm blaming that on shell-shock.

In the years since, the boys have never failed to remind me that I didn't repeat the same question four times. In fact, one exchange apparently went like this:

Dazed Me: So, what time did you get the call?
J-Mac: 7:30, just like the other seven times you asked.

We apparently ended up going round and round in this discussion for a few minutes while my brain adjusted itself back to consciousness. I do, however, remember the moment it all clicked back into place: a nurse asked me, "What do you take for pain?"

"Captain & Coke," I answered. Kev-Fu immediately looked at her and said, "He's gonna be fine." I imagine the hospital was only too happy to see us leave.

The drive home was pretty uneventful; Kev, who's sustained three concussions of his own, assured me this first one was easy. We arrived to find our Brother LBJ and cast leader Amy watching Cannibal: The Musical. I came in with both my shirt and undershirt torn, having been cut open by the authorities, exposing the long, slim mark from my seat belt on my left shoulder. They looked at me and probably thought, naturally, "WTF?"

"Mild concussion. Got in a car wreck," I said (or at least think I did.) "Not necessarily in that order."

After that, I relaxed on Amy's lap while pitching into callbacks for the movie, ate some chieken soup and drank Gatorade. I tried to get to bed a couple of hours ago, but I'm too tired to rest, if that makes any sense. I haven't had any nightmares yet about this, so maybe they won't come. Tomorrow, Kevin assured me, would be the most painful day: "It'll be like a really big hangover," he said.


And that's where the original entry ends. To write it, I clambered upstairs to my computer like Gollum to the Ring, just to get it all down on the screen. My roommates didn't get my glasses back from the hospital, so I used an old outdated prescription pair. A week later, I had to drive Kev-Fu's old junkster car to recover my stuff from the hospital lost-and-found; apparently I'd badgered the poor EMTs into packing everything from my car. And, yeah, I drove to get the items. The day after the accident, I decided I had to get back on the road ASAP to get over any fears of driving. But I'd be lying if I told you I don't still flinch sometimes at 4-way stops or stop lights.

The worst part, though, is this: I didn't even hear about the pizza until a year later. They never even saved me a piece.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shrimpin' Ain't Easy: Arturo vs. District 9!

The much ballyhooed District 9 succeeds at one thing – it leaves you with questions. The problem is, not all of them are of the good kind.

The film's conceit – sticking a million-plus misplaced extraterrestrials in the middle of Johannesburg – is promising. But from there, the story is built on a series of cheats, the biggest one being the rather loud absence of the word that, like it or not, comes to mind once you set the story in South Africa: Apartheid.

SPOILERS AHEAD

It's implied that the District is a stand-in for the Soweto of our own reality. But, again, that's a cheat: we're robbed of a potentially more potent commentary because of that substitution. Getting viewers to say, “Wow, humans are capable of great inhumanity” isn't as ground-breaking as co-writer and director Neill Blomkamp might want to think. And to think that any government would be handling a First Contact situation (as opposed to the internment of its' own citizens) without the U.S., United Nations or any other coalition tugging at its' sleeve isn't sci-fi – it's flat-out ridiculous.

The story kicks off 28 years after the visitors' arrival on Earth, but it's not really about them – our protagonist, and literal tour guide is well-meaning office schmuck Wilkus Van Der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a Christopher Guest character in way, way, way over his head. Wilkus is placed in charge of serving eviction notices to the District's residents and selling them on the new FEMA government housing they're getting shipped to.

While investigating a squatter's shack, Wilkus is sprayed with some of “the fluid,” a crucial biological material. Not only does it power the aliens' rather impressive weaponry, but it's the key to the escape plan of one Christopher Johnson, as a singularly clever Prawn is dubbed. Christopher has been plotting for 20 years to get the hell off this planet, and needs the juice to power his getaway craft and revive his people's mothership, still hovering over Johannesburg.

It's worth noting that Copley co-produced the inspiration for District 9, Alive In Joburg, a short film where the aliens get a fairer shake from Blomkamp; one of them gets to talk directly to the unseen documentarians and express a motivation (they just want to get off this planet) and a problem (our atmosphere is toxic to their physiology). There was a similar scene in the trailer for District, but it's not in the theatrical cut, which makes Christopher's positioning as the Noble Other/Savage really troubling.

Why is Christopher so much smarter than his fellow refugees? How could he be the only one trying to find a way out, or to know/care enough to clothe himself in a “human” manner? And, if humans and Prawn are able to understand each other by the time the “footage” is released, why did the documentarians – because that's how the first half of this film is framed – exclude interviews with any of the aliens in favor of black South Africans telling us how threatened they feel, and white South Africans denigrating the species as a whole?

We get no insight into any of this, because the movie retreats, very jarringly, into the realm of summer schlock after Wilkus' infection. As he becomes a test subject, a fugitive, and a less-than-altruistic ally to Christopher, their characters run headlong into caricatures: a wheelchair-bound, voodoo-influenced Nigerian gangster exploiting the Prawns for cash and weapons while eating their body parts on the advice of a “priestess”; and a xenophobic mercenary charged with turning Wilkus in to his slimy CEO father-in-law.

Copley isn't bad at all – his Wilkus is a terrific anti-hero. But could Christopher and his son, both CGI characters who summon up more “humanity” than the real-life Shia LaBouf, really have been less palatable figures for the audience and creative team to rally behind? Because the story we get, with awesome-looking alien tech and a white hero standing up for the Oppressed, doesn't end up going anywhere Torchwood didn't just saunter through with more brains and less blood; at least Russell T. Davies would've given Christopher's race a name. By the time the film reaches its (open-ended) conclusion, you're left hoping the visitors would return for vengeance – so that you could root for them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING ... KATTAN?

Last night, two Facebook friends asked me the same question: how did Chris Kattan get his own miniseries?

I'm working on a review of the answer right now - it's called Bollywood Hero, and it aired on the IFC network a few days back. I don't have any clip of CK actually doing the Bollywood thing, but here's the trailer for those of you who missed it:



Aside from Kattan, though, most of the film's cast are Bollywood veterans, including Neha Dhupia, seen below with Sunny Deol:



On a personal note, I'm actually surprised, in the wake of Slumdog Millionaire, that we're not even hearing about more Bollywood crossovers into the States. But it should also be noted that, even before Slumdog, we had Bride & Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai, although in this number, the spotlight also shines on somebody you Losties might recognize:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Open Thread: The Best Of The Doctor

As reported by Tennant News this morning:

Doctor Who Greatest Moments is a new series taking viewers on a journey through time and space to relive all the action from the legendary sci-fi show, featuring exclusive interviews with key actors offering unique insights on the classic moments.
In the first hour long episode, the likes of David Tennant, John Barrowman, David Morrissey and the League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss guide us through the Time Lord himself's greatest moments.

Watch Doctor Who's Greatest Moments: The Doctor on Thursday 20th August at 20:00pm on BBC Three.


So that got me to wondering: what are your favorite moments from the series? Whovians old and new are invited to chime in.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tonight, HOUR 42 goes Hollywood!

Tonight, @ThePeterPixie and I welcome our first guest with his own listing on IMDB - Ray Griggs, writer and director of the new independent superhero film, Super Capers! We'll talk to him about his experience so far as a relatively new filmmaker, and try to get a few good Adam West stories out of him.

Peter and I will also trade notes on G.I. Joe - what, you thought I'd let him get away without seeing it? Also:

* Just two weeks after San Diego, Chicago hosts its own comic-book convention - we'll bring you the highlights.
* We'll talk about some of the rather ... interesting creative choices that were published this week. Bottle of grappa, anyone?
* Plus YOUR comments and questions at 646-716-4799

In the meantime, if you want to catch up on last week's show, which featured even more guest-stars, just click on the handy-dandy player below - then come on back and join us at 7pm PST (10p EST) tonight for HOUR 42!

Friday, August 7, 2009

More 'Oh No' than 'Yo Joe': Arturo vs. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

The most surprising thing about G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra? It could've been worse.

But make no mistake: if this film doesn't make a Lusitania out of what could've been a fun franchise,the first three elements to go from any sequels should be writers Stephen Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett, with director Stephen Sommers not far behind.

At least the marketing team is in on the joke: using Kid Rock in the ad campaign is a warning that G.I. Joe is years behind its' time – it really belongs alongside Street Fighter and The Crow: City of Angels in a Rifftrax '90s Film Festival; why else would the first words we see on the screen be “In The Not-Too-Distant Future”?

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Like another bloated '80s revamp (to be named later) laced with bad CGI and no-dimensional heroes, Rise is crippled most by the attempt to “humanize” its' core characters. In this case, it's done through a romantic subplot between Duke and The Baroness. It doesn't help that, as an action hero, Channing Tatum makes John Cena look like The Rock. But the real disservice is done to the Baroness, who in Sienna Miller's hands goes from a magnificent '80s she-bastard to Girl Gone Mild-ly Bad - with a heart of gold, of course.

Other than the spayed Baroness, the villains in this film fare better than I'd expected. The flashback sequences used as backstory for the men who become Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Destro (Christopher Eccleston) actually work, and both Eccleston and Gordon-Levitt manage to wring something out of their cartoonish inspirations. Gordon-Levitt, in fact, stole the film – petty larceny, I know, but a feat I'd expected out of Eccleston. JGL's voice-acting was the film's most pleasant surprise; it holds up admirably alongside Chris Latta's original work.

Unfortunately for the film, the Joes' characters – especially Dennis Quaid as General Hawk – fare as badly as the Cobras' do well. The Army recruiters setting up shop at my local theatre would be much better off showing characters like Ripcord, Scarlett and Breaker in either the film's source material or Warren Ellis' more recent G.I. Joe: Resolute series, where they were naturally cool, rather than the generic grunts we see here.

The only hero to escape the creative team's clutches is Snake-Eyes, proving Ray Park's intelligence as an actor – bad writers can't hijack your character if they can't write dialogue, so Park is left free to do what he does best: the “Ninja Thing,” playing off Byung-hun Lee's Storm Shadow, re-imagined here as a metrosexual assassin. But, as with CC and Destro, at least Stormy isn't a buffoon. And, hey, he also makes with the beefcake, to balance out the "hot quotient" with Miller and Rachel Nichols, I guess.

In the end, though, G.I. Joe will be remembered most as a spiritual cousin to – you guessed it – Transformers 2: a co-tenant at the low point of American summer cinema, separated only by its' lacking Michael Bay's sense of xenophobia. I envy the marketing flacks who have to find positive pull-quotes for this film, but they can have this:
The Rise Of Cobra is better than Revenge Of The Fallen ...
... but not by much. Yo, Stay Home.

FRIDAY MORNING HUGHES

In honor of John Hughes, some songs from his oevure. First off, a classic:



Now, as noted in the Oingo Boingo edition of FMJ, "Weird Science" gets played half to death every October, so I won't belabor it here. Because of that, though, you might be surprised to learn that Killing Joke was also on the film's soundtrack.





Speaking of Boingo, as this next song is from Sixteen Candles, I'm attaching the requisite Anthony Michael Hall shot before we move on to the next song.



Lastly, though I grew up to recognize and enjoy most of his work, the Hughes film that connected with me the most while I was actually a teenager was the very underrated Some Kind Of Wonderful. Geeky guy? Hot girl dressed in black? I was sold. I think, at the time, I was most impressed that Eric Stoltz's character, Keith, was written to win the day on the strength of his wits and, ultimately, his emerging moral code. And then came the final scene ...



Good Enough To Pay For?

How much would you pay to hear me sing?

That's the question I'm being cajoled into asking all of you. Would, say, $12 be reasonable?

See, somehow I've qualified for the R&B finals in the local qualifier for the Karaoke Entertainer of the Year contest, to be held a week from Sunday. I guess one of the other qualifiers caught gout or something.

I will tell you, from here at home, where I'm relaxed and (semi-)rational: I don't expect to win, and will be rooting for my friend my friend Meredith wholeheartedly.

I tell you this here. In the middle of a competitive situation, like any Leo, I will tell you that not even Young MC himself could do his song better than I could anymore. He may get old-school fans going, but can he say he's roused an entire convention full of journalists who'd never met him before? I don't think so.

But, even at my cockiest, I think I'd balk at fulfilling one of the organizers' requests: to hawk tickets to my friends at $12 a pop. The "incentive" they're providing is, the people who sell the most tickets will get better spots in the singing order during the contest. Something about this just strikes me as bush-league.

And part of me - the part of me that will be pacing the floor before we go on, watching the stage for any and everything I can use as a prop, and running through freestyles during the day - wants to see if I can win the damned thing while singing from the worst position.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The End Is The Beginning: Arturo vs. Dollhouse: Epitaph One!

For the most ballyhooed episode that hasn't been part of Dollhouse's brief run, J. Whedon cued up his favorite song: One Girl To Save The World.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Disconnected from virtually the entire season that preceded it, "Epitaph One" is based around a simple premise: everything's gone to hell, and the Dollhouse is the reason. At least, the body-swapping tech it's been using is: as we learn in imprinted flashbacks, what began as a plaything to give people "what they need," as deWitt continues to believe has morphed into a mass commodity. And even Adelle and Topher are horrified by the implications.

As we learn from the team of refugees who stumble into the 'House, what ends up developing is a war between "Actuals" and body-hoppers. "Kids with matches," one character sums up. "Burned the whole house down." (Browncoats will appreciate the implication of "the signal" in this reality, in a cruelly ironic sense.)

We get glimpses of the rest of the L.A. Actives and regulars throughout the episode, as well as an extended visit from Whiskey, in both her Dr. Saunders persona and her "natural" state, which gives us a chance to see Amy Acker look her most otherworldly since playing Illyria a few years back. If what happens from there is to be taken as canon, then Whiskey gets the best character arc of the whole episode, with a small heartbreak as culmination.

And, of course, there's Caroline/Echo. She's referred to as both during the course of the episode, as we learn that her relationship with Agent Helo evolves after Ballard joins the 'House staff. And, again, if what happens here is what's meant to happen in Season 2 and beyond, then Echo might hold the key to salvaging what's left of the world she now inhabits - though perhaps not in the fashion you'd expect.

Reportedly, "Epitaph One" was an effort by Whedon to not only give Fox a 13th episode for overseas distribution, but show them he could make a taut, capable thriller with a smaller budget - and, in this case, the effort was successful. The group of refugees, led by Felicia Day, were developed just enough for viewers to care about them, which made us experience their discoveries alongside them. And the glimpses into the nightmare scenario that ultimately undoes the 'House, and the world around it, are jolting enough to make regular viewers care about the journey even more, now that we know the show's coming back - even if it's still in a Friday night time slot.

ART VS. LIFE: And you are ...?

So there I was ...

I had just bolted from the Heroes panel at Comic-Con and had an hour or so to kill before going to the Pop Candy get-together at the posh Hilton Bayfront. You can tell it's posh because the bar charges an average of $12 per drink - and the staff of leggy European emigres kept looking at me like I was homeless, even though I was wearing ... well, you can see what I was wearing above. Maybe I can't blame them too much for that.

As I was walking around the bar to avoid forcible ejection, I saw Adam from Mythbusters talking to a rather distinguished-looking older gentleman. Nothing says dedication to class like wearing a coat and tie in the Hilton lobby, which is, essentially, a gilded greenhouse. And the gent looked strangely familiar. Buoyed by what I guess was heat exhaustion - I'd waited for close to an hour to even get into the panel. And this was considered a light wait throughout the weekend - I decided to be direct: I walked right up to the mystery guest and said, "I know you." Because I'm an idiot. Could've been worse; in the seconds where I built up my courage, I considered asking the guy if he was Steven Spielberg.

Today, I wouldn't have blamed the guy for walking away, leaving me with a couple of choice epithets. Not to mention poor Adam; when was the last guy, you think, that he got stiffed? Instead, Mr. X was affable. "Just come back when you've figured it out," he replied, smiling. Undaunted, I took three steps back and looked at a young couple that had come up behind me. They weren't any help - all they knew was, Adam from Mythbusters was right in front of them, and they wanted a picture.

Without them to rely on, I turned to technology, punching up the Web on my phone ... when suddenly I heard an echo from within my brain, some lonely voice of recognition, like Jacob Marley after meeting his cousin Bob: JOHHHHNNNN ... LANNNNNNDISSS ... I typed the name into Google Images as if it were an incantation.

And oh crap, it really was John Landis. Mr. Blues Brothers. Mr. Coming To America. The man behind Thriller, for goodness' sakes. I considered marching back up to him and presenting him with his own image, but a rare dose of common sense won the day. Seeing that Mr. Landis and Adam were talking with an unidentified woman, I positioned myself between them and handed her the camera, asking if she would take my picture "with these two distinguished gentlemen." Heat exhaustion, I tell you. I apologized to Mr. Landis for being an idiot fanboy, but he got the last word in, again.

"Hi, my name is Jamie," he said with a laugh, shaking my hand.
**********

P.S: I ended up staying only briefly for the PC meet, but that was enough time to get this shot with the column's host, the lovely Whitney Masterson. If you wouldn't mind, though, please holler at her on Twitter and back my idea for next year's Con: 2010 Pop Candyoke!

The Pop Culture Jump-Off: Notes From The 2009 Comic-Con


You can trace the story of this year's Comic-Con with a line. Not a straight line, necessarily, but one that seemed to wind all over the building at various points all day all four days. If you were at Con, it's almost a given you were in the line, or a line, maybe for hours, maybe even overnight. The phenomenon of the Line marked 2009 as a turning point in the Con's 40-year history, for a variety of reasons.

1.The New Demographic

Besides the Twi-hards, who spawned their own controversy – more on that in a bit – this year was a coming-out party for the latest anime/manga generation. A/M cosplayers seemed to outnumber their “traditional” superhero/villain counterparts around the floor; you couldn't walk more than a few feet without seeing another pair of furry ears, or a group of young people offering free hugs, or busting out some moves to entertain themselves and the crowd:




In fact, from the floor this year's Con looked like it featured the most diverse group of attendees in years. POC creators like Gene Yang, Dwayne McDuffie and Leinil Francis Yu were among those showcased in spotlight panels. And two pro-diversity panels received a strong attendance, from both POC and white fans, despite some at-times questionable panel placement: as we noted before the con, they were booked to start at 6:30 p.m., nowhere near “prime time” hours. There were also more POC-related properties and creators on the floor, a few of which we'll be spotlighting later. The question going forward is, how much attention will this market get from the comics/pop-culture profiteers?

2.The Uninvited Guests
“… The 10,000 Twilight fans at the con really were a problem for the show, but a lot of the reasons that got floated came from a sexist, xenophobic, bullsh-t fanboy place. I actually feel bad even writing this, but truly, legitimately, 6,000 people at the show just for Twilight means 6,000 people that weren’t spending money at the show means 6,000 people that might’ve wanted to go that had an interest in dropping a few bucks at the various vendors? Shut out.”
- Christopher Bucher, co-founder, Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Love 'em or otherwise, the Twilight fans were the topic of discussion throughout the convention, even moreso than the film series they're so devoted to. Some blamed them for the fact that tickets to the event sold out two months ahead of time. The line for Thursday's New Moon panel reportedly started Wednesday, before the convention even opened, and grew to Star Wars-like proportions. Tents even popped up in lines for showing of the series' eponymous opening film at a nearby theatre. Twi-hards, though, encountered a rarity at a geek gathering: a backlash.

Smart-asses bearing TWILIGHT RUINED COMIC-CON signs, while not abundant, were definitely on the premises, even after Thursday. The negative response was, no doubt, at least partially based in gender; here you had a flock of young women not just stepping into a traditionally male-based arena, but stepping into it without the “proper” fandom. Female fans of Joss Whedon and his BBD collection (Buffy/Browncoats/Dollhouse), for instance, tend to get a free pass. And it should be noted that people of both genders also reportedly camped out overnight for Saturday's Lost panel, without catching much flack. But on another level, the complaining about the Twi-hards wasn't so much about the nature of their devotion as it was about what it represented.

3.(Lost In) The Hollywood Shuffle

ITEM! PRACTICALLY NOTHING EVER HAPPENS OR IS REVEALED AT SAN DIEGO THAT F-CKING MATTERS. THE ENTIRE F-CKING THING IS LIKE A MOVIE TRAILER THAT LASTS FOR A F-CKING WEEK!
- mightygodking.com

Most of the biggest panels – and by that I mean the ones that were booked in the SD Convention Center's biggest rooms and drew the biggest lines – shared one disconcerting characteristic: none of them was related to comic books. Iron Man 2, remember, is an ongoing comic adaptation, not an original comic work. The same can be said for the much-applauded panel for Mark Millar's Kick-Ass. But, even if Twilight is being adapted in a manga format, its' panel was part of the ongoing encroachment of Hollywood into what used to be a comic-book convention. There were panels for, among other things, Lost, District 9, True Blood, James Cameron's Avatar, Burn Notice, Chuck, 9, the instantly odious Glee, Stargate Universe, and even web series The Guild – and none of these is based off of a comic book. And these are only a few examples on the tv/movie side. Even Kevin Smith showed up for his own panel, for no other reason than he's Kevin Smith and people will still line up to hear him ramble about nothing in particular.

That crowding for attention has spread from the ballrooms to the showroom. At least one end of the floor was dominated by video-game displays, and there were also booths dedicated to shilling material for films like The Collector and Sorority Row. The allure of the Hollywood dollar could also have bad implications for the Con's core constituency.

4.The Shifting Tide

With a reported waiting list of 300 media/consumer products companies lined up for booth space here at San Diego Comic-Con International, the convention feels absolutely no restraint as regards raising booth rent. What does exist is a totally uneven playing field, where mom-n-pop comics retailers, publishers, and creators are now being asked to pay the same cost per square-foot as the international corporate giants. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that we comics exhibitors are rapidly being priced out of our own house. I heard from several comics retailers who have been here at the convention for decades that they are either cutting back for 2010, or completely pulling out of the show.
- Chuck Rozanski, Mile High Comics

More and more each year, Comic-Con has billed itself as a “pop culture” extravaganza. It's not implausible to suggest this year marked the point of no return in that evolution. With Hollywood continuing to not only pay to play on geeky turf but re-sell geeky ideas and content to the multiplex masses, I heard more than a few local fans complain, privately, that the heart of the city's biggest non-athletic attraction was being torn out.

That loss might be more than metaphorical soon. It was reported during the Con that organizers are already threatening to move the event unless additions are built to the Convention Center, which is hemmed in on all sides by hotels, downtown San Diego, and the San Diego Bay. It's also no secret that officials from Los Angeles and Las Vegas have pitched their respective cities as preferable alternatives once SDCC's contract ends three years from now.

But what convention will we – and by “we” I mean comic-book fans - even be going to by then? If the Con continues to march toward becoming a mass-media trade show, will we even have a reason to go? If a more diverse demographic continues to attend, will the exhibitors pay notice? Will sitting in the Line for hours for the chance watching maybe two or three minutes of clips – the Avatar panel, featuring 25 minutes of footage, has to be considered an exception to the rule – be worth it in three years' time? Will camping out in the Line overnight, or holding your spot with the help of friends and family, now become an accepted practice? And if the Con does end up moving, who would go with it?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ART HISTORY: Owie

May as well jot this all down while I can.

It was just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, and I was leaving work, turning east onto Rancho Bernardo Rd just after the light had turned green. I was making my turn when I vaguely remember a shape coming in from the driver's side, toward the rear of the car. Then everything shook.

My next memory is of laying in the driver's seat while a guy -- I think he had a goatee -- asked me how I was and said he was calling 911. I have another vague recollection of talking to medical personnel. And that's about all I remmeber from the street.

Next thing I know, it's past 8 in the evening and I'm in a hospital. My roomies Jim & HouseKevin are already there, having apparently been alerted by the authorities. (Did I give them the house number? I wonder.) My spirits were pretty high, all things considered. I didn't notice the pain until later. I apparently asked the boys four times how their days went, confirming my concussion. But otherwise, things were okay: we joked around and I tried, vainly, to get one of the cuter nurses to come over and re-examine me. I also asked if we could import a particular female cast member in a nurse's outfit. I'm blaming that on shell-shock.

The drive home was pretty uneventful; Kev, who's sustained three concussions of his own, assured me this first one was easy. We arrived to find our Brother LBJ and cast leader Amy watching Cannibal: The Musical. I came in with both my shirt and undershirt torn, having been cut open by the authorities, exposing the long, slim mark from my seat belt on my left shoulder. They looked at me and probably thought, naturally, "WTF?"

"Mild concussion. Got in a car wreck," I said (or at least think I did.) "Not necessarily in that order."

After that, I relaxed on Amy's lap while pitching into callbacks for the movie, ate some chieken soup and drank Gatorade. I tried to get to bed a couple of hours ago, but I'm too tired to rest, if that makes any sense. I haven't had any nightmares yet about this, so maybe they won't come. Tomorrow, Kevin assured me, would be the most painful day: "It'll be like a really big hangover," he said.

But before all that, I wanted to write down what I remember, if I need to refer back to it later.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Critic Becomes The Critiqued: Arturo vs. Doctor Who: A Room With A Deja View!

In this case, the Who - as in who's writing it - is half the selling point for this book, as noted comics muckraker Rich Johnston steps onto the frontline, as it were, in his first published piece with a licensed character - "the licensed character I spend my childhood wanting to be," he notes on his site, and "my adolescence wanting to write and my adult years wanting them to bring back."

No spoilers here, but Johnston's love for The Doctor - here, The Tenth Doctor - shines through. The story seems to take place not long after the events of Journey's End, and backs up some of the feelings we've seen Ten express in the recent television specials. Luckily for him, though, something pops up to get his mind off the doldrums and into a new mystery.

The thick of the story itself relies on a fun narrative trick, as The Doc encounters a sort-of interplanetary Benjamin Button - their conversation forces the reader to do a little extra work, but the payoff is worth it. Much like the last couple of televised specials, in fact, the book leaves you with a little smile at the end - nothing earth-shattering, mind you, but a nice one-off dose of fun. Still, if Johnston gets another crack at the character, I wouldn't mind seeing what else he can do with him.

@ThePeterPixie and I will be talking about the book more in depth on the show, and I'll be posting a chat with Johnston himself from SDCC during the weekend.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dropping Names and Walking Dead!

Last night on Hour 42, @ThePeterPixie and I covered a variety of topics, including:

* The Blackest Night - how big could it get? Is it really too violent for today's audience?
* There's yet another comics convention coming to Southern California - but is Wizard Entertainment really out to undermine C2E2?
* Learn the secret of the FUNK LANTERN!
* And I did a little name-dropping of the people I'm looking to talk to at San Diego Comic Con, like Justin Hartley and Scarlett Johansson - and the one thing I'd love to hear SJ say.
* Starting Thursday I'll be posting from Con not only here, but at The R, and at Flickr.
* Also, Saturday morning at 11:40, I'll be calling in to L.A. Gen X Radio and giving them 5 good minutes - that's what she said - of Con coverage. If you go to their page, you can catch me crashing their party with BeTheBoy and The SlackMistress, as we talked about Michael Bay's (fake) Twitter.

Meantime, if you want to catch up on last night's show, just click the fancy-dan player below ... and get set for the audio-visual assault this weekend!

Fashion Police: Gallifrey

Filming started this morning on next year's season of Doctor Who, sez the BBC, with the pic above to prove it. The Doc Martens there are a nice touch, but the overall gear gives off a certain kind of vibe ...



Also, it looks like the new Companion, Amy, is indeed keeping the 'Round The Way look.

(thanks to @PopCandy for the link)

Update: The Sun has posted a slideshow, complete with a look at a guest-star, and The Daily Mail has more pics of The Doctor and Amy, along with some exterior TARDIS shots. (Props to Gallifrey News Base.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's the big Comic-Con prep show!

Less than 96 hours 'til SD Comic-Con and @ThePeterPixie and I have one more show before the madness starts. This week:

* Got questions for people in the biz? I'm taking suggestions!
* Reports on a new convention coming to So. Cal next year
* My one request of Scarlett Johansson
* And your comments and questions at 646-716-4799

See you all at 7p PST (10p EST)

Friday, July 17, 2009

FRIDAY MORNING DISCO!



This past Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, which most of us probably remember as a radio prank gone mildly amusing. Turns out that, while the stunt itself might have been played for laughs, there was something uglier fueling it. Check it out at The R today. And in honor of all this, let's play a little disco, hmmm?






Tuesday, July 14, 2009

CON NOTEBOOK 1: Putting It Together

I had the time of my life at Comic-Con last year. How? Simple - I ignored most of it. I won't get that luxury this year.

See, this year I'm going on behalf of The R, meaning there's some panels I'm bound to go to, and some people I definitely want to interview. Besides that, I'll be hustling to make contacts for myself and the show. And on top of that, there's the best part of the Con for me - wandering around the floor and taking pictures of/with the fine and funny folks I run into along the way.

This year, though, because of my added obligations, I have to step it up: I'm already sifting through the Con calendar, each day side-by-side, filling in a prospective schedule on a spreadsheet; e-mailing pr reps to try to line up interviews; today I bought a camera; and I ordered business cards printed with the show's new logo. If it all goes right, I'll be able to write, edit and post at least one story a day for The R from the convention, with pics and/or audio. A one-man multimedia geek news crew, much like another journalist of yore:

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Sure-Fire Comic-Con Marvel Moneymaker

Over at Comic By Comic today, @RichL1 - nice twitter name, very Autobotish - posted previews of some of Marvel Comics' 70th Anniversary covers. And instantly I thought, I would pay cash money to be photographed inside one of those frames at Comic-Con.

I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one, either. So there, @Marvel, you can have that one for free!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Pyrrhic Triumph: Arturo vs. Torchwood: Children Of Earth!


I helped plot the whole storyline, and I stand by every single decision. Yes, including *that* one - I had my hand on the death lever along with everyone else, and was fully involved. I think it's a fantastic, brave, challenging drama, and contains some of the best moments on TV all year.
- Torchwood writer James Moran, on his blog.*


Couldn't agree with him more.

SPOILERS AHEAD

This was the year where less really was more. Less episodes, less time, less team members - add it all up and there wasn't any time for Torchwood to get bogged down in melodrama. No more SEKRIT SECKS affairs, no more holding Gwen by the hand.

What we got, instead, was the series' finest hour - finest five hours, in fact, filled with heartbreak, humor and an 11th-hour save that was as brutal as it was brilliant. Safe to say this season blew away anything the series had done before, and not just metaphorically: the team's comfy ol' Hub is now rubble, leaving nothing behind, presumably, but ambient Rift energy. That it went down in the very first episode, when normally it's a scene you see in a season finale, was a big clue that RTD and the creative team weren't going to hold anything back this time 'round. The biggest flaw in this mini-series was the lack of explanation as to why the government wanted the team dusted to begin with, especially after we learn the truth behind Jack's role in the 456's visit to Scotland, but it speeds by so wildly you hardly have time to examine that.

And indeed, they didn't. This was the rare time when the team was truly pushed to the limits. Beyond them, even. And it was the even rarer moment when everybody stepped up accordingly. It was a great relief to see Gwen finally become a full-on hero: leading when she had to, carrying out plans when asked to, but never losing it, as she was so wont to do in the first two seasons. Even Rhys and Andy got to shine. And Lois, who could have been a Mary Sue figure, would instead make a welcome addition to the team.

On the other side, the villains were ... well, they were us. The high-level discussions that take place after the arrival of the 456 were horrifying, but not implausible. They were human, in the most uncomfortable of ways. And all credit due, again, to Peter Capaldi, as Mr. Frobisher, who has great power and responsibility shunted upon him ... and just can't hold it together. As Agent Johnson, Liz May Brice provided a more than capable physical foil for the TW team, and made her "coming around" seem plausible.

And then there's Ianto.

I'm gonna go ahead and guess that Moran's statement references not only Ianto, but the brutal game-saving decision by Jack, and in each case I stand behind Moran's decision. What happened to Ianto was undeniably sad, but he went out strong as a character - rallying after the destruction of the Hub, rescuing Jack from Johnson and never wavering, even as he dealt with the ramifications of being involved with Jack. ("No other men," he confesses to his sister. "Just him.")

In the end, Jack loses as much personally as he wins in the "bigger picture," so much so that he can't even stand to be on the planet anymore - a man who can't die, after all, can never know true peace. And so we're left with him in exile, Gwen pregnant, and the Torchwood that we've known well and truly gone.

At least for now. As the Doctor Who News Page reports, the show was a ratings hit during its' maiden voyage on BBC One, which would seem to justify a fourth season. But how? My money is on a Buffy-like storyline where Gwen is playing Professor X-Preggers with Rhys and coordinating a makeshift team (Agent Johnson, Lois, Mickey Smith and, availability pending, Martha Jones?) until Jack is forced to return and begin his journey toward redemption. It's a challenge I hope Moran, Davies and the show's runners take up soon.

* Props to The Nerdy Bird for the link to Moran's blog

New time slot, new logo!

Yeeeeah, you know it's the new hotness.

Yesterday, @ThePeterPixie and I did the first morning edition of Hour 42, live from a panel at Anime Fest Wichita, with special guests Caitlin Glass and Robert Axelrod. We also unveiled the show's new logo, designed by my friend @kittenfaced and con goers got dibs on hearing my review of Blood: The Last Vampire.

But, as they say, wait, there's more! Tonight we debut at our new time, 7pm PST (10p EST) with another visit from our friend Jill Pantozzi, aka The Nerdy Bird. Jill will be joining us to talk about the new Green Lantern, this week's Torchwood opus, and we ask the question: what's wrong with the Justice League?

To get a taste of the show, just click on the player below, and, hey, if you're at Comic-Con, say hi!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Notes on Torchwood: COE Part 5!

* Brutal. Just brutal. Brilliant, but brutal. This episode - the best RTD finale ever - took us to the unimaginable, and then pulled the trigger.
* In an indirect way, the events here proved the worth of characters like Harriet Jones - and, yeah, that other guy, who gets name-checked. And how not everybody can reach that level, try as they might.
* The big question: Now what?

FRIDAY MORNING ANIME!

In honor of both my going to see the live-action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire today and the start of Anime Fest Wichita, we've got the themes to Robotech and Cowboy Bebop and a Lacuna Coil clip mixed in with shots from the original Blood anime film. Enjoy - and don't forget, special episode of the podcast tomorrow morning at 11:30a (PST)!