Saturday, July 25, 2009

THE TIME TRAVEL SEASON IS OVER. THE FLASH-FORWARD SEASON IS OVER. WE HAVE SOMETHING DIFFERENT PLANNED. Reading Alan Sepinwall's twitterings about the Lost panel at Comic Con makes me wonder about something. Is Lost the seminal television event of the last five years?
NO, SHE HASN'T BEEN DEAD THE ENTIRE TIME:I don't normally blog about movies that I have not seen and have no intention of seeing, but Gawker's reveal of the big twist ending for Orphan is just too good to pass up, and the proposed alternate title they give it based on the ending is Mansquito-level awesome. I won't spoil here, but the comments are fair game.

Friday, July 24, 2009

ZOMBIE HIP HOP REVIEW IN ACT I, ZOMBIE REVIVAL IN ACT II, ZOMBIE BRIDE IN ACT III: So it was a zombieriffic So You Think You Can Dance 100th episode. We had revivals (I never was that much of a fan of the bench dance, but Wade Robson and the Season II cast were great fun in Ramalama, and I noticed a lot more about Jaimie's work in the hummingbird dance than I did the first twelve times I saw it). We had a montage. We had Homecoming Night for many of the old casts (and Kherington appeared to be wearing a skating costume, so if Fame doesn't work out, there's always Ice Capades). We had heartbreak (Nigel was exceedingly unhappy about one of the eliminations, and I was unhappy about one of the non-eliminations). We had a world-record group hug (all of the choreographers came on stage, presumably to take a bow for the audience, but it looked like they were there to see off the bootees). My only complaints, really, were the opening number (Chorus Line is like acid in my ears) and the part where Katie Holmes's vanity number ground the whole show to a screeching halt.
ONE-SHEET SPOILERAGE: A few notes on the new Chuck poster, at which Fedak gave Alan Sepinwall the first look, maybe as a token of thanks for Sepinwall moderating the Chuck Comic-Con panel tomorrow:
  • They're taking the 80s influence to another level. It takes cues from the semirealistic illustrated posters for Big Trouble in Little China, Goonies, Caveman (kind of), and Meatballs, among other 80s comedies.
  • I never noticed how much Chuck and Sarah look like Greg Brady and an edgier Marcia Brady. Now that I've seen it, I'm going to want to unsee it the first time they start making out.
  • Tony Hale is the only regular from last season missing from the poster, so it looks like the denials of casting cuts were mostly accurate.
  • Speaking of the missing Tony Hale, Big Mike is back in his manager's clothes, and Morgan is back in his Buy More polo.
  • And Chuck is still wearing his Nerd Herd gear and apparently driving the tricked-out Nerd Herd car. I kind of wanted him to be done with the Buy More.
  • But what's that gun he's holding? I have to wait until January to find out?
Sorry if that's excessive geeking out.
I GET PAID TO BE SUSPICIOUS WHEN I'VE GOT NOTHING TO BE SUSPICIOUS ABOUT: Via @baseballcrank, 5 Cats that Look Like Wilford Brimley. Also, and I forget who tweeted it to me -- the greatest Wedding Entrance (this week) from St. Paul, one which only could have been improved upon with the insertion at 2:45 of the Castle-led "group approach to the stage" sequence from the end of Dirty Dancing (2:55, like anyone here doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about).

It's Friday; find us something else that's equally pointless-but-amusing.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'VE EVER SEEN STAR WARS, BUT IT"S LIKE HOTH OUT THERE. --DIBS! Sure Diana Eng didn't get all that far in Project Runway, but that's because Tim Gunn never asked her to make a fashionable HAM antenna to track satellites from a Jiffy Pop tin and seventeen subway tokens.

Now that's a woman who can make it work, people.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

AND THE MISSES KEEP ON COMING: As a fan of The Shield, The Wire, and many other adult-drama, hard-boiled, or faux hard-boiled cop shows that trace their lineage more or less directly to Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice, it was inevitable that Dark Blue (TNT, Wednesdays, 10/9C) would get a few hours of my time this summer. I had high hopes that it would turn out to be something worthy, gritty, and complicated, but those hopes are waning. Two episodes in, I hope it’s not too early to offer reflections and solicit input from anyone else who has been watching.

For the most part, on the positive side, Dark Blue looks good. Literally. It is visually compelling, if perhaps over-reliant on stubbly machismo among the male leads. Long shots, tight shots, quick entrances, pointedly lazy pans into obscure shadow are deftly juxtaposed in a dramatically dim and pulpy palette of dingy browns and night time blues and grays. These all serve to heighten an expectation of moody drama, gritty intensity, complicated emotional states, that, on the negative side, the scripting and staging of the show and the one-dimensional relationships between the characters have (so far) failed to deliver.

Diplomatic parentheses aside, I’m more concerned that I’m being too easy on this one than too hard. Stubbly suggests gritty, but it doesn’t get you there. Chemistry between the leading characters is lacking. In many respects the first two episodes have felt like a collection of focus grouped half measures.

For example, one simple strategy for simultaneously heightening tension and establishing the character of a single episode bad guy is to have said bad guy shoot an underling. For disloyalty. For incompetence. For being FBI. Whatever. It’s fast and the message is hard to misunderstand, but it’s not very subtle or interesting. It’s the modern equivalent of holding a mortgage on the farm or tying the eldest daughter to the railroad tracks. Two episodes in, it’s already been used twice too often.

Another trope they’ve obviously got a fully paid royalty-free worldwide license for is A Method For Tying A Variously Tough And/Or Desperate Guy To A Chair And Subjecting Him At Gunpoint To Threats And Interrogation. Lines of dialogue for said threats and interrogation seem to be under third-party license as well, likely from the Internet Underworld Figure Loyalty Test Emulator. In the preview for next week’s installment, sure enough, a desperate looking guy, very possibly an underling, was shown tied to a chair.

Internet Underworld Figure Pre-Deal Banter Emulator and Internet Undercover Cop Perp-Baiting Emulator have also been given a vigorous work-out, to similar effect. It’s bad enough to be a party game: During the (dramatic?) pauses that are inserted to lend gravity to the dialogue, you may repeatedly find yourself able to guess the next line from the antagonist or protagonist in time to speak it aloud with the character in question. “There, was that so hard?” Just for example. (No, it wasn’t.)

A notable exception this week was a single jarringly incongruous scene that might have redeemed the whole episode if it had been played for laughs instead of straight-up. In said scene, a homicidal gun runner (he killed an underling) with a stripper girlfriend begins commiserating with a stubbly under-cover cop (who is tied to a chair) about his paramour’s intimacy issues while the boss is out of the room. There is no point to this scene whatsoever. It is nothing if it is not funny. It is not funny. Instead, we are invited to experience a moment of suspense as the undercover cop strains in his bonds towards the emotionally distracted gun runner’s weapon. We decline the invitation.

The longer-term character issues they’re setting up for the season are being handled with similar delicacy. One cop loves his wife. Another keeps weapons, drugs, and bales of hundred-dollar bills in a hidden compartment in his bedroom. A third is a recovering drug addict. The marquee lead, Dylan McDermott, wears sunglasses indoors and mumbles. It might be enough, if it were better executed, but at this rate Dark Blue has maybe another ninety minutes to captivate me. If it doesn’t have me tied to my chair by then, I’m gone.
GET YOUR GEEK ON: I know I'd far rather be at Comic-Con than working on this brief tonight, and we lack an Official ALOTT5MA Comic-Con correspondent, but Daniel Fienberg of HitFix is giving good TwitterCoverage, thus far including coverage of the Twlight and Burn Notice panels (the latter, unsurprisingly, featured extensive Bruce Campbell), as well as a panel on women in sci-fi with Zoe Saldanna, Sigourney Weaver, and Eliza Dushku (sadly, no pictures of that one, at least yet). If any ThingThrowers are in San Diego and have tidbits to report, feel free to send us a note.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A PERFECT GAME: Congratulations to Mark Buehrle of the White Sox for mowing down a talented Rays lineup for only the 18th perfect game in MLB history. But he owes DeWayne Wise some Isotoners for getting a great jump, getting the route exactly right (seriously, there is no wiggle at all to the line he took), and going into a dead sprint and perfectly-timed jump to hunt down and strangle what looks like it otherwise would have been a Gabe Kapler home run while crashing into the wall. That's an absolutely perfect defensive play (by a guy who can't hit a lick but who is probably one of only a handful of outfielders in the majors who could make that play) to save a perfect game. I've watched it maybe 10 times now and it's still awesome. I don't know if chicks still dig the long ball, but there may not be anything I love more in baseball right now than outfield defense.
POP QUIZ: True or false: A grown man needs a blazer.
THE NIGHTY-NIGHT LADY: I've tried to keep the hype regarding Jen's new book, Best Friends Forever, to a minimum here, but I can't not share the news we learned last night that in two Sundays, BFF will debut at number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. [Insert Dean Scream.] I know how happy she's been to see so many of you on this recent tour, and I'm just thrilled, and proud, and more than a little bit blown away by everything that's happened over the past decade. Seriously, it was ten years ago this summer that Jen dragged me along as an emergency substitute diner for a restaurant review that the Inquirer was doing -- months before we actually started dating -- and she made no mention at the time that she was even working on a book ....
YEAH, WE GET IT. THE DOCTOR LOOKS LIKE ALEXANDER GODUNOV: Please, God, make the ads for Funny People stop already. I feel like I've seen the entire movie.

That said, I saw the Princess and the Frog trailer before HP6 on Wednesday. And it might not suck.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DR. NIGEL LYTHGOE, BFF: Lots of dancing tonight on the show that's all about the dancing, but first let's talk about the people who have no business dancing: Ellen DeGeneres and Cat Deeley. As best I can tell, Ellen's people called Nigel's people and said um, hi, Ellen really loves your show and while she doesn't know anything about dancing, she's really funny and famous too and she'll sit at your judges' table and be funny and famous for you if you'll just let her please come to a taping pretty please please. And then there's Cat, who is of course both fabulous and self-styled (an increasingly rare thing in the biz, I gather), but who can't dance a lick. To Cat's credit, however, when she does her little turn on the catwalk at the beginning of the show these days, she comes across as quite coordinated and even somewhat graceful, particularly compared to her early days on the show at the beginning of season two when she was quite galumphy.

Turning to the dancing, here's what I liked (in chronological order). Travis Wall's constant presence on SYTYCD -- first he danced, then he foster-brothered Danny Tidwell, and now he's hanging with the big boys in Choreo Row. Janette's crazy legs doing Sonya's jazz while Evan hung in there admirably. Kayla's solo, which was much more thoughtfully assembled than usual. Janette's totally non-Latin contemporary solo, which established her as a real frontrunner to the extent that she hadn't already been one. Kayla and Jason's Broadway number, which reiterated the degree to which Caitlin had hoovered the lifeblood out of Jason for all those weeks. The second half of Brandon and Jeanine's battlefield dance. Evan's solo. Melissa and Ade dance the cancer, although I couldn't help wishing that it were Katee and Joshua dancing it instead. And Kayla and Jason heralding the return of a Shane Sparks we haven't seen in ages -- maybe since season 3's Lauren/Pasha I Am the Machine Fuego.

Some things that didn't move me: Slooooooow waltzing. (Excellent commentary by the jidges, though, as to what made the dancing not so good.) Jason's solo, which was fine, but lettucey compared to last week's Muddy Waters riff. Ade and Melissa's cha cha, which deserved no more than a single "cha" for its tentativeness. Ade's solo, because while he wows with the things he can do, he's developing a bit of a weird Brandonesque goofiness to the demeanor. Pint-sized Tony Manero and even-pintier-sized Stephanie, because like Dr. Nigel said, it's hard to get votes with a rumba. Melissa's solo, because while it's moving in the right direction, she's still not dynamic on a stage by herself (which is the polar opposite of, say, Evan, who's really only dynamic on a stage by himself). Jeanine's solo, because I want to buy her an ab-roller every time she wears a few garlands of toilet paper wrapped around her midriff in lieu of a costume. Brandon's solo, because while he dances divinely, there's always this whiff of puppydog emanating from everythng he does and it bugs.

Tomorrow on that show on which there is dancing, we watch Katie Holmes dance in a jacket and hat and apparently not a whole lot more. Jaimie continues to thank her lucky stars that she got to be Hok's partner for hummingbird week. And Wade joins the company for a rewind of ramalama. If you've got other plans, change 'em.
IT'S MY [ ] IN A BOX: I did not care for tonight's Top Chef Masters challenge, as much as I found the result pleasing. I just don't see the point of taking great chefs (well, three great chefs and Roy Yamaguchi) and constraining their choice of ingredients in such an odd way. Look: challenges are about restraining or pushing the chefs in some way -- but the goal should be to put them in a position to flourish. I didn't feel like tonight's challenge did that sufficiently -- especially by boxing them in on the proteins -- though I have to admire any fried chicken recipe that starts with frying bacon just to use the grease for the chicken, then tossing the bacon itself.
FIRST PRIZE IS A TONY AWARD, SECOND PRIZE IS A SET OF STEAK KNIVES, THIRD PRIZE IS YOU CLOSE OPENING NIGHT: Aside from his screenplay for The Verdict, it's somewhat surprising that David Mamet hasn't written a whole lot about lawyers. Allegedly, his new play, Race, uses a pair of feuding lawyers as a backdrop for a discussion of racial politics. That makes me quite a bit more interested.
I LOOK TO YOU... TO KISS MY ASS: A new album from Whitney Houston. Obviously, the woman has some pipes, but is there room for a comeback here, or is she destined for a life of celebrity reality shows?
BLACK OPS, SCI-FI TECHNOLOGY, AND TISSUE REGENERATION: On the advice of Matt, Alan, Daniel, and Mo, I've watched the first two episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth, and I'm ready to declare that the TV event of the summer is ... still Better Off Ted. There's nothing particularly wrong with Torchwood -- I liked how it cut right to the chase with the first scene, instead of clearing its throat with a half-hour of exposition; I like some of the gags, like the bad guys' exasperation with Captain Jack's immortality; and I like the way that you never really know how long a BBC show is going to run, so the cadence messes with you. Still, 40% of the way done, I haven't had that pulse-quickening moment that I feel like I need from my miniseries. Plus, it doesn't look that great. Part of this, I think, is that the exteriors are shot in the flat grey light of Wales instead of the saturated glare of LA, but a bigger part is that we don't get an HD feed of BBC America where I live, and it's virtually impossible for me to watch standard-def TV without some kind of upconvert now. Does anybody else have this problem?

Meanwhile, Ted was in a groove last night. You know that segment of Tosh.0 where he tries to do as many jokes as he can in 20 seconds? That's almost what Ted feels like now. It's mixing in one-liners, escalating absurdities, callbacks, sight gags, and traditional three-beat jokes, all while telling funny stories that both have a heart and savage people who are ostentatious about having a heart. It's both ambitious and dangerous -- as demonstrated by the fact that since Ted premiered, tens of millions of people have died.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

YOU STAY CLASSY, RUPERT MURDOCH: This is all over other parts of the Interwebs, but given that it hits several of our traditional areas of interest--sportscasting, journalistic ethics, and internal machinations at ESPN--what's the best way to condemn the "peephole pervert" and "creepy cameraman" who took nude video of ESPN reporterbabe Erin Andrews? Why, of course, New York Post--republish stills from the video with the naughtiest bits blacked out to illustrate your story, while preserving Maxim-caliber nudity. I mean, when even TMZ won't publish stills or the video "because it is a clear invasion of privacy," maybe you're on the wrong side of this one.

Edited: To address valid point that perhaps we ought not link directly to what we condemn.
NOW THAT'S A WELL-BURIED LEDE: I wasn't going to link to the Sports Guy's column about his dad's retirement, because I find Simmons's Marley & Me-scenes-from-the-life-of-a-sports-writer excursions from his sports-and-culture wheelhouse dull at best and more often cloying. But I feel like I have to link to it, because the last paragraph says Simmons is retiring from his ESPN The Magazine column.

First thought: He's been writing that column for seven years? Time flies. Second thought: Where's he going with this? Less and less frequent Page 2 columns, long sabbaticals from writing, more emphasis on regular podcasts -- it almost looks like someone who's positioning himself for a radio or (despite all his protestations in the past) TV spot. That's where the money is, right? Third thought: it's pretty strange for a guy who continues to say that his lifelong dream was to write a sports column in a regular paper to just abruptly announce that he's lost interest in his print column because he hates deadlines and word limits.
NOW ONLY TWO MORE MOVIES LEFT BEFORE THE END OF DANIEL RADCLIFFE'S CAREER: We've had a request for an open thread to discuss The Half-Blood Prince - The Movie, so here's an open thread to discuss The Half-Blood Prince - The Movie. Spoiler alert: the other half is Crip. I haven't seen the movie, but I have seen the world's most awesome and heartwarming interview of Daniel Radcliffe. It's not all that common to find an interview in a foreign language that you don't speak where you ignore the subtitles completely because you find the video completely satisfyingly awesome without them, and then you go back to re-watch and find that in fact the subtitles are extra-awesome.
FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS TWEET AND DRIVE: Let's assume that everything in the NYT series "Driven To Distraction" is correct and that "motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content," let alone the effects on drivers who text-and-drive, tweet-and-drive or surf-and-drive.

Assuming that's all true, beyond the legal response there will need to be a cultural response -- some form of social norm shaping similar to the anti-drunk driving or anti-smoking efforts of recent decades to turn once-socially acceptable behaviors into a public menace. So I call upon you to pitch in for this effort in one of two ways: (a) devise a slogan that will capture the hearts and minds of America's youth on the dangers of this behavior, or (b) give me the plot and cast for the Lifetime Original Movie on same, noting that it better be half as good as Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life. America needs your help today.
ONE GIANT LEAP: Two things to celebrate today's 40th anniversary of newspaper coverage of the Apollo Moon Landing:

Monday, July 20, 2009

NO. 16 -- IS HURLEY ACTUALLY CURSED? Doc Jensen delivers the results of his reader survey listing the 15 Questions Lost Fans Most Want To See Answered.
HEAVY ON THE BLOOD, EASY ON SURPRISINGLY NOT SKIMPING ON THE TRUE: Don't expect me to blog more frequently about True Blood than once a season, apparently (I gave up last year but picked it up again this year because lordy what a wasteland TV is this summer). Still, last night's episode, and in particular the flashback to Eric's origins, got me thinking. Alexander Skarsgård is a tall man -- 6'4" in IMDB measurements, which makes him something like an even six feet in the real world. But Sheriff Eric is supposed to be a thousand-year-old vampire, and I thought humans generally had been growing during Eric's lifetime. So shouldn't really old vampires mostly be short, as opposed to the tall, menacing creatures we usually see on TV?

Then I found out that, no, humans 1000 years ago were only a couple of inches shorter than humans now. It was only between the early middle ages and the eighteenth century that people got shorter. That both explains why Eric is not outlandishly tall for a man of his age and why Bill, who looks every bit of his 173 years, is about right (Stephen Moyer's IMDB height of 5'10" translates to about 5'8" in the real world, I think).
NOBODY KNOWS THE LONELINESS OF THE RALLY MONKEY: The new Harris Poll (.pdf link) asking self-identifying baseball fans to name their favorite team is out. No surprises in the top 7, which includes the dominant team from each of the three largest cities in the country (Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers), the team with the largest geographic area of influence (Braves), the last World Series winner (Phillies), and two teams with historically strong fan bases and baseball traditions (Red Sox, Cards). No, the biggest surprise is tied for second-to-last. The Angels own part of one of the two most populous markets in America, they have a history of recent success (including recent championships), they are perennial contenders, they spend money to get better, they are well-enough run (though with an increasingly dated philosophy), and they treat their fans well. I realize that that ranking has more to do with the soft spot people in LA have for the Dodgers than anything else, but I still find it hard to believe that there are more self-identifying Mariners, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Reds, Padres, Pirates, and Marlins fans than there are Angels fans.
IF YOU CAN HEAR WHAT I'M DEALING THEN THAT'S COOL AT LEAST: My favorite Beastie Boy, MCA (nee Adam Yauch), has "very treatable" cancer in his salivary gland. Here's to modern medicine and a quick recovery.
TRYING TO FIND THE COMEDY IN A FATWA: So, would you watch a Padma Lakshmi sitcom?
CAPE COD COMMERCIAL HOOK FISHERMAN'S ASSOCIATION: We never did get up a post about last week's Top Chef Masters, but there wasn't that much to say. No superstar chefs or ooh-I've-got-to-learn-this preparations (okay, maybe the Pissed-Off Prawns), and a finish that was tight but not terribly dramatic.

No, I want to talk about judge Jay Rayner, the irascible Tribesman from London, because I'm just about finished reading his The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of a Perfect Dinner and it is surely worthy of your summer reading time. From Vegas to Dubai to Tokyo, Paris and beyond, Rayner travels the world on an unlimited budget (and with a lot of freebies thrown in) to chase down its titular quest at three-star Michelin restaurants, one-on-one sushi sessions, a five-restaurant, one-night trek across Manhattan (Per Se, Le Bernadin, Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, Bouley, and WD-50) and elsewhere. He's an entertaining, opinionated writer -- deeply opposed to what he sees as the cult of authenticity among many foodies, and with much to say about why we -- or, at least, he -- will spend so much on high-end dining:
The fact is I have no problem with the notion of spending large amounts of money on hugely expensive restaurant experiences. I make no apologies for this, even though our puritanical culture so often demands it. £200 ($400) a head for lunch? Yes, please. £50 ($100) for a starter? Seems fair enough to me. £75 ($150) for a main course? Bring it on. In France I would not need to explain myself. There, spending serious volumes of cash on dinner is a national spectator sport.

Elsewhere, behavior like this puts you in the same grim league as politicians and muggers. It’s regarded as an obscenity; an experiment in excess as filthy and reprehensible as snorting cocaine off the flattened bellies of supermodels or slaughtering white Bengal tigers to provide the fur trim for your panda-skin gloves.

There is one reason for this and one reason only: We need food to survive. Therefore it is a necessity, and to crash the plastic until it smolders on a necessity—one that some people don’t have enough of— is regarded as wrong. That is to completely misunderstand the point of restaurants and high- end gastronomy.... [N]obody goes to restaurants for nutritional reasons. Nobody eats hot smoked foie gras with caramelized onion purée to stave off rickets. They go for experiences, and what price a really top experience?...

What does that money buy you? Nothing but memories, and the right to say you were there. Serious gastronomy is no different. ... For the price of a dinner we get to experience life as a wealthy person, only without having to sell our souls as investment bankers, rape and pillage developing nations or exploit downtrodden. It doesn't matter how long it took you to save up (and how low down the wine list you have to shop). If you can pay the bill, you become one of them.
If you are or aspire to be one of them, you'll enjoy Rayner's book.
WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON AND DO THE OTHER THINGS NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE EASY, BUT BECAUSE THEY ARE HARD: Plenty of ink has been spilled in the last few days about the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. I cannot add much to it. Instead, I thought I'd point you to a few of my favorite historic, alternate historic, and 1970s near-future movies about the space race.

From the Earth to the Moon: If you have not taken the time to watch Tom Hanks' 1998 HBO series, do so. Each episode looks at an Apollo mission through a very different perspective and the gems of the series are the ones that look at the support folks that made the whole thing possible. Episode Four (I believe), "Spider" focuses on the Apollo 9 mission - where the lunar module was tested in Earth orbit - but through the engineering team at Grumman who designed and built it. Episode Nine, "Galileo Was Right" focuses on Apollo 15 through the work of the geology team that taught the astronauts what to look for. There are a couple of weak episodes - the Apollo 13 episode (of which I think there was already a feature movie of some kind) doesn't cover much new ground, even while looking at it through the cloud of the media. One regret to the series is that Tom Hanks (who got HBO to put in $68M into the series) didn't have enough of a budget to do an episode focusing on the Russian efforts, something he wanted to do. But the sets and costuming are so good, I can only imagine it would have added another $10M to the budget to get that done.

Apollo 13: I've read most every book on the Apollo 13 mission. As good as this movie was, it doesn't begin to reflect just what a near run thing this mission was. But this movie does about a good a job as can be done. It's nice to have someone like Tom Hanks in Hollywood who cares this much about history (not least two of my favorite subjects, the space race and World War II) and has this much clout. Is there another fellow in the industry who does this sort of thing better?

Marooned: Marooned is a completely predictable movie. The retro rockets fail to get the crew of Ironman 1 out of orbit and the crew are facing certain peril. The Russians and the Americans do their best to save them. Still, with Gene Hackman and Gregory Peck, not a bad little movie. It's almost certainly the best movie ever to be mocked by MST3K.

Countdown: In order to beat the Russians, James Caan is sent to the Moon on a modified Gemini spacecraft to hang out for a year until the Apollo program is ready. There were indeed some proposals to use the Gemini spacecraft (mostly coming from folks at McDonnell in St. Louis) to go to the moon on the hurry and on the cheap. Not a bad movie and kind of a cool alt-history space flick. Also, this was Robert Altman's first theatrical release, something I didn't realize until just now.

Capricorn One: I watched this movie - about a faked Mars landing - the other day and it's just dreadful, but about the only time you are going to see two of the stars of 1990s crime television, Sam Watterson and OJ Simpson, on the same screen.

Comments directing folks to favorite documentaries or other semi-realistic space drama most welcomed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

THAT'S GONNA BE ONE HECK OF A WAKE: Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and generally beloved raconteur, has died as 78. Our friend and McCourt's former student Daniel Radosh has a lovely remembrance.
CAPTAIN JACK WITHOUT BILLY JOEL: In our Emmy roundtable, Kim asked whether the advent of high-quality serialized shows was the death-knell for the miniseries. Tomorrow night marks an interesting test of that hypothesis, with Torchwood: Children of Earth making its debut on DVD. Torchwood has run for two "series" on BBC America, and rather than a traditional 13 episode series, this one is a five-night mini series, which TV Guide (and Mo Ryan) are calling "the television event of the summer."

Torchwood is a Doctor Who spinoff, sort of in the Buffy/Angel vein, with Torchwood (like Angel) being considerably more violent and sexual, chroniciling the exploits of the Cardiff branch of "Torchwood," a secret institution devoted to protecting the world from various supernatural threats--this time, every single child in the world stopping for a minute is apparently a harbinger of even more serious things to come. If just for John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, the swashbuckling pansexual immortal, it's worth checking out, and apparently, after two mixed bags of a series, all cylinders are filing. Check it out on BBC America starting tomorrow night.