Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Great Comedy Round-Up

Due to not really having no clue how to criticise a comedy show beyond knowing I enjoyed it and laughed (or cried in some cases), I'm not actually going to do full on reviews for comedy shows. Instead I'm going to just kind of list them in order of their finales. (BTW Sit Down, Shut Up, the new show from the guys behind Arrested Development isn't that good and was a bit of a waste of my time).

So on with the list.

Scrubs - My Finale

Scrubs came back in a big way this and ended with the perfect episode. Whilst it is still to be seen whether or not this will be spoiled by the season 9 which will apparently take the show in a direction, at least we got 8 great seasons. If your a Scrubs fan then you know that Season 5 represented a bit of a down turn for the show and whilst we got some great episodes such as 'My Lunch', 'My Way Home' and 'My Musical' it just didn't feel the same. Season helped improve the show a lot and the 2nd episode of the season 'My Last Words' easily ranks in my top ten episodes of the show ever. Part of the reason this season was so good was because they knew it was their last and the fact that brought back some of the dramatic stories which made Scrubs the perfect mixture between comedy and drama in its early seasons. The other great thing about this season were the interns, with the best easily being Denise (Eliza Coupe) who I'd be more than happy to see Season 9 revolve around.

But this is Scrubs and as usual the main cast of the show was fantastic and the finale was just the perfect way to end the show, it might start a bit like any normal episode but by the end it just becomes this massive goodbye fest. Everyone gets their own special goodbyes with the best being Turk, Elliot, Janitor and Cox and of course we get all the closure we need. JD and Cox hug, we (sorta) find out the Janitors name and then we get this just amazingly perfect wrap-up to the series that starts with Cox saying how JD is the best doctor to come through the hospital and finishes with JD and creator Bill Lawrence sharing a quiet goodbye whilst an acoustic version of 'Superman' by Lazlo Bane plays in the background. 100% the perfect way to wrap up one of the best comedies of the 21st Century.

Party Down - Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception
I didn't see myself enjoying this show as much as I did. Party Down is easily my favourite new comedy this year and I would recommend so many people to go and watch it. Whilst I love the cast and writers I didn't think it would be able to fill the Veronica Mars shaped hole in my heart. Whilst it hasn't done so completely it managed to fill a hole I didn't know I had which was for the same kind of awkward comedy as The Office and the foulmouthedness of Superbad. Then there are the guest stars. Whilst it was fun seeing the likes of Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring and Alona Tal interacting with a truly great cast (Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott have great chemistry and Ken Marino is just...amazing) I was actually shocked to see they had both Breckin Meyer and J K Simmons in one episode!! Those are two really big actors in comedy, and it looks like both will be back next season along with Paul Rudd (who created the show).

The shows premise is simple, each week this group of near total idiots goes and caters a new party but so much humour comes from what happens there such as at the high school reunion which ends with a character getting alcohol poisoning whilst trying to impress someone and then throwing up a small lake of vomit, or the party which ends with the birthday leaving her true friends going off with the popular people. Or my personal favourite the sex awards episode. The show can be found quite easily on the net and this episode just stands out as how great this show can be. And yes Kristen Bell was in the last episode and was superb, even playing a bitch she's still amazing, especially the last scene, I just had a small fit of laughter. Party Down is the best comedy to come from America since 30 Rock or possibly How I Met Your Mother, so do yourself a favour and track down all ten episodes of this great show.

How I Met Your Mother - The Leap

Whilst the goat wasn't that great, the finale and this season was still a lot of fun. We edged closer to finding out who the mother is and we got a fun guest spot from Sarah Chalke (who it looks like will be back next in the finale). Plus we got some truly spectacular Barney moments such as him breaking all the televisions, his want of a building that can breath fire or the fact he used Jesus as to why you should wait three days before phoning girls, oh and of course his Christmas carols. Barney Stinson (played stupendously by Neil Patrick Harris) makes this show as amazing as it is and whilst Season 4 wasn't as strong as previous seasons (where was slap number 4!!!) we still got a lot of great moments and it looks like Season 5 is going to be great with hopefully the reveal of the mother, Barney and Robin hooking up, two more slaps and an episode which has been describe as being the perfect How I Met Your episode. This show is still the best comedy in America at the moment and I can't wait for Season 5.

30 Rock - Kidney Now!

30 Rock is easily the most critically acclaimed comedy in America at the moment and whilst I prefer How I Met Your Mother it still deserves every ounce of that respect. The writing is still blisteringly fast and Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are just superb as the leads of the show. This years finale definitely showed that the show hasn't lost any of its edge, continuing on with a string of superb guest castings from Steve Martin, John Hamm and Oprah. Then in the finale we got one of the lead actors from M*A*S*H (it's a really famous show in America) and it lead to superb moments such as getting in a massive string of musical guests to do a charity song about getting a kidney for this man. The song is absolutely superb playing up every single cliche about these charity songs and just hearing Cyndi Lauper proclaiming 'I'm one of the drunk ones!' was hilarious. Then in the perfect way to cap of another great season Liz says "We sure had quite a year" and then in possibly the most perfect meta way possible Alec Baldwin deadpans "What are you talking about? It's May". 30 Rock is just so madcapped and has a great supporting cast that I hope this continues on into a more successful future than what happened to Arrested Development

The Office - Company Picnic
This season started wonderfully for the Office with the episode Weight Loss and whilst we've had some great moments (the opening to the Superbowl episode and the Michael Scott Paper Company Arc) it didn't make the Office feel as great as it did in Seasons 2 and 3. The show is not bad at all but it still feels like a show that has hit 100 episodes and may be running out of stories to tell. Whilst we had some great guests such as Idris Elba and Amy Ryan (both Wire veterans), they only appeared at the beginning and the end of the Season and it as the middle that suffered the most, all that really happened there was the fall out of the Dwight-Andy-Angela love triangle and not much else. Next year does look like its got some good stories such as more from Jim and Pam (pregnancies and weddings) and hopefully more of Dwight and Andy's bromance but unless the show can shake up the formula (like they did briefly this season) it might be time to say that The Office should quit whilst the going is good.

My Name is Earl - Dodge's Dad
My Name is Earl was once a superb comedy, but now it's seriously 'meh'. Whilst the show did perk up briefly towards the end with Darnell's cover being blown, the show is just not as good as it once was. Even the occasional high point such as the Seth Green episode doesn't make up for a season of episodes like the diabolically bad 'Pinky'. The show has just lost so much of what made season 1 so great. Even trying to reuse things that made them great such as the Cops episode (this year dubbed 'Inside Probe') just didn't work. Then there was the finale which whilst fun just made me miss the old show. Even a returning guest star and finally revealing the parental issues on the show was spoiled by the fact the show got cancelled and they had the balls to finish with a "To Be Continued". Maybe if the show does come back, they'll be hit by the same bolt of lightning as Scrubs.

Parks and Recreations - Rock Show
This show is seriously 'meh' at the moment. I'm still contemplating whether or not to continue next season. However the strength of the cast (seriously Chris Pratt is great) and the fact it's from the guys that made the Office, make me want to stick around. Even though the show isn't popping quite right yet, neither did the Office in Season 1 or even 30 Rock at the very beginning. So what I'm left is a decent show that gets a few laughs (the big ones being Chris Pratt and a joke made Aziz Ansari (Scrubs) about Easter Eggs in the second episode). However a few laughs and potential don't make great shows. If they can maximize on their potential then the show could be really great. But at the moment you could quite easily miss this one (at least until Season 2 potentially blows me out of the water with funniness.)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Of Lost Season 5

That's right it's Lost Season 5 review bitches!!! However I will say now expect this to be hampered by a mixture of revision fatique, illness, excitement, fan wank and overdose of Gossip Girl. It's an odd but potent mixture. Meaning that whilst Lost once again had a great season I won't be able to go into the intricacies of what made the season great.

However first things first, Lost Season 5 is easily the worst season of the show since Season 2, however a bad season of Lost is still better than 90% of television. Then there's the fact that this season wasn't bad, it was good and occasionally great but apart from the normal excellence of Lost finales, failed to reach the stratospheric heights that Lost can normally reach. Last season we got The Constant, The Shape of Things to Come and There's No Place Like Home. But this year nothing except for Dead is Dead and The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, and whilst both were great they just lacked something that Lost normally finds so easy to achieve. This puts it in league with Season 2 in more ways that one.

Okay here's where the show parallels season 2. Both start amazingly well, Season 2 with the best scene the show has ever shot and Season 5 with all the time travel mayhem. However then we settle into a groove with the hatch/Dharma initiative. The show picks up with some interesting Ben moments and one character in particular makes the best of every scene he gets (Season 2 = Eko, Season 5 = Locke). Then the finale is just incredible (Season 2/5 finales may just be my favourite finales of the show). But the rest around this leaves a lot to be wanted. Whilst Season 5 is never bad (in fact I would say it's the most consistent season in terms of quality) it never takes a leap and says "We're going to give you something awesome now" despite at least 3 or 4 episodes promising that. The episodes that are great definitely rank in the best episodes of the show, but compared to the shows best they definitely don't seem as incredible.

Overall Season 5 feels a bit more of a transition season. Whilst it definitely doesn't suffer from the stalling plan that Darlton had to implement in Season 2 and early Season 3, it still smells of "Next Year is going to be epic". In fact nowhere is this clearer than the finale. The fact that the episode that is setting up where the show is going to go in Season 6 is the best of the season just screams of how great Season 6 is going to be. Whilst the stories didn't stall this year like they did in previous years, this season just smells of set up and a few answers.

This seasons big gambit was time travel which was pulled off astonishingly well (although an annoying section of fans don't seem to understand the "What Happened, Happened" concept). Most shows can't do a good time travel but Lost Season 5 pulled off on of the best. Sadly it only lasted 5 episodes and was marred by a rushed off island story. I say rushed but really we've spent a year and a half off island and there was still more afterwards but still the fact that it ends as soon as it did (albeit with a cool twist) was a bit of a shock and slightly annoying in that they just didn't answer so much of the story saving it for flashbacks (one big mystery still being unanswered).

Then there was the other significant portion which was the Dharma which whilst having some great moments felt a bit void and more set up for next Season. This season wasn't bad but felt like the last breather we're going to get before Season 6. Thing is fans don't want breathers, we want the maintained character development and mythology the show has done over 5 years rather than this feeling of "One or the other". In fact the only episodes that got it truly right were "Jughead", "Life and Death Jeremy Bentham", "Dead is Dead" and "The Variable" and these all focused on the shows best characters. Yet still didn't compare to episodes like "The Constant" or "Walkabout".

I feel like I'm being harsh, Season 5 is nowhere near being bad. It's bloody amazing television. Thing is when you have a show like Lost, the problems are just even more pronounced. Lost isn't problem free. The show has had many character problems and some story telling problems (mostly involving a character named Libby). Lost Season 5 is easily the most consistent season of Lost, thing is this consistency came at the cost of flat out balls to the walls amazing episodes. "The Incident" was quite possibly the best finale the show has done but feels like it feeds too much into Season 6. Season 5 suffers from the same things that pre-finale episodes suffer from. The fact that everything big is going to come in the next part of the story. Whilst we love the set-up and get some great teases and twists (seriously that Finale!) it leaves us hungry for the inevitably awesome climax to the story.

The show still ticks all the right boxes. The acting is as always top notch, Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson can do no wrong, the writing is still on a top level thanks to Damon and Carlton and the direction is of a film quality thanks to Jack Bender. Then there is the finale. Lost does finales like no other show. By the end of the show Lost will have offered us 7 episodes which could have received cinema releases. Whilst some are annoyed by the cliffhanger end, it doesn't take away from the fact that "The Incident" may just be the best season finale of Lost (although Season 3 will always be a highpoint). The fact that we finally got introduced to one of the longest lingering mythology points of Lost and one of the best reveals in Lost history (again featuring one of the duo of best Lost characters), the reveal echoed scenes from the last seasons finale and just shows how much attention Lost pays to thematic links.

If you haven't seen Lost yet I don't know what to say. There are 8 months till Lost Season 6, plenty of time to catch up with the DVD sets, rent or buy I don't care but if you haven't seen now is the perfect time to catch up so you can be with us for what I'm sure will be one of the best seasons of television ever to conclude one of the best series of all time. But for now Season 5 gets a 9/10

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Of Fringe Season 1

Fringe is the new show from Lost co-creator J.J Abrams. Whilst he hasn't had any involvement in Lost since very early in Season 3, his fingerprints are all over the show. Problem is I can only think of J.J Abrams being a great director. The Lost pilot looks gorgeous and in my eyes in probably the best directed piece he has done in his career (yes better than MI:3 and Star Trek). Thing is Lost is sustained by Damon and Carlton not J.J, so even if there's a new show with him attached, you have to go in knowing it probably isn't going to be as good.

To start with Fringe definitely wasn't anywhere near as good as Lost. Whilst there are definitely some cool moments in those first few episodes it takes until about episode ten for the show to hit it's stride. After the show is fairly consistent with very few stumbles.

Problem is, Fringe has yet to elevate above a stage above merely enjoyable. I'm not actually invested in anyone and I could safely miss the show for weeks before I bother to catch up. It definitely isn't as riveting as Lost where I have actually watched the three times already and will be watching the finale in about an hour.

Luckily the show does have a lot going for it. The cast is pretty damn cool, Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble all put on great performances. John Noble is by far the best performance on the show and is also my favourite character in the form of Walter Bishop. After spending decades in a mental asylum he comes out and he's definitely a little bit insane, remembering things wrong and with a constant craving for food. Luckily John Noble doesn't make the character grating in the slightest and it's always a joy to see him on screen.

Unluckily due to the series being semi-serialised/procedural none of the other main characters actually get any development. They play essentially the same role in every episode and it would be nice to some actual evolution in those characters. However the main three characters do receive enough development and all the actors are very cool so I guess we can't complain when by appealing to a mass audience we do get more of this show which looks like it is going to get a whole lot better next season.

Now I'm not saying Fringe is bad, it really isn't. In fact some of the Fringe science is very nicely done. Thing is the procedural element occasionally gets in the way and the show is really at it's best when it's dealing with some of its more serialised elements such as ZFT which thankfully makes up a large portion of the season. In fact this show has a real uncanny ability to tie in episodes that were seemingly standalone episodes and would never be brought up again. This is where the true strength of the show lies. The way that the show just ties in so many plot elements from proceeding episodes makes the eventual pay off even more satisfying. Only problem is I felt they waited a bit too long to do it and the second half of the season is definitely a lot stronger than the first.

The show definitely has some stand out moments, "The Arrival" is the first episode where the first signs of greatness appear. Episode 10 "Safe" is the payoff for the first nine episode and just is superb pay off sadly I just couldn't get invested in the show. Then the finale "There's More Than One Of Everything" was great and probably the best episode of the season. I'm not going to spoil any particular plot lines or Fringe sciences from the show, but in a very similar manner to Dollhouse I would say that the show suffers a little bit from under-serialisation from shows that really need it. Fringe definitely found the best mix of the two but it still started off just a tad too slow.

I will definitely be watching next season because the show really started to come along in the last half of the season. In fact the finale of Fringe was great with some great twists and one scene which is sure to be debated over the summer by fans. Problem is I'm not ready to call myself a fan yet. I'm still an avid viewer but I don't know I hope the show keeps up the high quality it build up over the last half of the season next year.

Overall the show has a large supply of incredibly cool moments (the cold opens always being very intriguing). But in my opinion the first half of the season was a bit slow and lacked the punch of previous Abrams shows. Whilst the pay off at the end was more than worth, I just wish it hadn't taken nine episodes of a show I really wanted to love. I still think it's good, great even but I'm definitely not as smitten as I wanted to be. Although that finale was great and if the show continues along like this I'm going to look back on this and think what a complete idiot I am. 7.5/10

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Of Dollhouse Season 1

Joss Whedon's first new television show since 2004 ended it's first season last Friday and whilst there is still one episode left for me to see (which I won't be able to see unless I buy the American DVD set or wait the 12 weeks for Sci-Fi to air the episode, btw Dollhouse starts Tuesday at 9), it isn't actually part of the main series. The episode entitled "Epitah One" is split apart from the rest of the series, and whilst I'm dying to see it, isn't important to the show and I can do this review without it.

Dollhouse is schizophrenic. Not only in terms of the actual characters but also in terms of actual quality. It's strange. This show is definitely a slight stumble for Joss Whedon. The show definitely feels a lot stronger when its dealing with a continuous arc and the stand alone episodes just feel a bit thin and un-Whedonlike. Joss Whedon is easily one of the ten best writers in the world, no contest, and yet this show just doesn't seem to take off. Occasional there are flashes of the brilliance that we all know he's capable of but then we get an episode where Echo becomes a backup dancer (WTF was that shit?)

Before I go full on critic mode, let's explain the premise. The show is essentially about a company which offers you're dream woman/man for whatever job you want. Want to have a homosexual encounter behind you're families back? Order a doll and programme him/her however you like. Need to steal something from a bank? Get a doll with safe cracking skills. Or maybe you just want a friend, so get a doll who knows exactly what you want. Thing is all of these dolls who being made to do this are real people. They've all literally sold themselves into slavery. They all have their personalities and memories wiped and are then reprogrammed to become an entirely new person (apart from in looks). It's interesting concept and one that Joss could have taken to so many interesting places and yet hasn't, at least not yet.

The main flaws with the show are the schizophrenic action and bad acting/characters. The writing for the show fluctuates so much it's hard to keep track. Overall there are only about four great episodes of the show and I would say just watch those (plus the finale) but the problem is because of some plot elements in the first episodes (which otherwise are stand alone and completely forgettable) are quite key later on. So it comes as a choice. Dollhouse is definitely decent, in fact I would say episode 11 is down right awesome, but you need patience to actually get to the good stuff. Hopefully from less input by Fox next season we'll get less stand-alone episodes and more room for Joss to flex his story muscles.

Then there's the casting. Eliza Dushku CANNOT support this show on her own. She just doesn't have the range, at all. From Buffy we knew she could play the bad girl well, really well in fact. But here when you need her to play a new character every episode the roles just don't seem sufficiently different. There isn't really any vocal changes or movement changes. Essentially she just plays Faith from Buffy twelve times with a twist. Luckily Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj who play two other dolls are great. In fact they out act Eliza at every turn. There is one episode where Eliza and Dichen play the same character and it's almost comical to watch Dichen complete own Eliza's performance. Enver Gjokaj was a great find for the season with some great moments (particularly episode 11) and shows how much great casting there is on Whedon shows.

Whilst the rest of the cast is pretty good and getting some cool moments, its definitely hard to become attached to them. With half the main cast having they're brains wiped every episode and the rest being controlled by an evil corporation, it's hard to find an in. At the moment the show is only getting "oh that's cool" from me. I do enjoy characters such as Topher(no I don't find him annoying), and Amy Acker is just as enjoyable as she has been in other television shows (shame she won't be back next season), but the characters are lacking something that made Firefly sparkle. That show had the fabled perfect cast. All nine actors were superb and had genuine chemistry, here it feels like whilst everyone (except maybe Dusku) is perfectly suited to the role, the characters have to come to fruition as quickly as other Whedon shows.

Not to say Dollhouse is bad, it isn't. In fact episodes 6, 8, 9 and 11 stand out as being great episodes of television in general. 7 and 12 are alright but definitely lack something. 7 due to trying to force comedy moments between characters I just couldn't latch onto, I laughed but it felt a bit forced, and 12 because it just didn't feel right, some plotting decisions just seemed really stupid and took a lot of my excitement away from the previous episode. The rest of the episodes are just stand-alone episodes and could be avoided but definitely avoid episode 3, that episode is just pig swill.

Episode 11 is easily the strongest episode of the show so far and it's unsurprising really as Alan Tudyk (Firefly) puts in an amazing performance in this episode and proves how well cast Firefly was and how great a repertoire of actors Joss has been able to build up over the years. The fact that this is Joss' first new show since Firefly and just makes me miss it more. In 14 episodes Joss created one of the best universes to make stories in and then the show got canceled. The characters were superb, great writing and cool story. Thing is Dollhouse could be so many of those things but already in 12 episodes it is falling a long way short of the obscenely high bar that Joss Whedon has erected over the years.

Then there's the fact that the show doesn't feel like a Whedon product. Whilst we do get the occasional piece of Whedon dialogue ("People were fighting on me") its few and far between and therefore lacks the punch of Buffy or Firefly which were able to turn on a dime from comedy to drama in a second making it feel so much more powerful. Whilst some Whedon touches are there such as the moment a character is happy they must pay, there just needs to be more. We need more Joss Whedon not a watered down version playing to network executives. The show currently gets 3 million viewers a week, you're not going to lose anymore so next season just go all out Joss Whedon just like you did on Buffy. Luckily the show has a decent collection of Whedon alums to make it feel more Whedon-y but it looks like next season the only one left will by Eliza Dusku, who as I said, isn't the strongest lead the show could ask for, unlike the scarily charismatic Nathan Fillion from Firefly.

The show has definite room for improvement. If they can tighten up the characters (in particular Ballard who made a completely out of character decision in the finale) and make the show a bit more serialised then it could definitely work out. Oh and Dusku needs to do a lot less, still have her as the main character but make it a lot more of an ensemble piece, I always find myself more invested in any story not involving her than the ones that do. The show could have dealt with so many interesting concepts such as the existence of souls or even dealt with slavery and things of that ilk, but so far it just doesn't seem it wants to. Joss is clearly an intelligent man, but so far he's not raising the intelligent questions with the show.

Overall the show is decent with occasional flashes of brilliance (such as a "death" scene in episode 9 or the superb episode 11) but I want to see where they go in Season 2. I can tell Joss is going to address the problems people had with the first and hopefully make the show as superb as his other works. I would definitely say watch the show, but prepared for it not hit its stride (or stumbling saunter) until episode 6. 7/10

PS If you're looking for a great show by Joss Whedon or just something cool then please go and watch Firefly, the boxset is stupidly cheap on and it's easily one of the best shows of the past decade. Plus I really need Serenity 2!!!

Of Pushing Daisies Season 2

Before we launch into the review here's what I hope to be doing over the next two weeks in terms of blogness. For starters today reviews of Dollhouse (renewed for a second season today) and Fringe. Also today the start of my comedy round-up which is because comedy shows don't really need a full massive critique of what's going on (still contemplating numerical scores though, comment away). Sunday will be Lost Season 5 review which will be posted straight after tomorrows finale (which yes I have seen). That pretty much wraps it up for this television season apart from Breaking Bad which still has three weeks left. So over summer expect me to post reviews of shows I was too stupid to watch on first run, summer blockbusters and hopefully some very basic E3 coverage (since I won't actually be going...)

Now review.

Pushing Daisies ended about two weeks ago and now that I'm officially all mourned out I've come to bury what was one of the finest shows on television. Whilst we will get a 13 issue maxi-series comic book of Pushing Daisies soon, the show is dead. We may some day get a movie version but honestly this is almost certainly the last time we will Ned, Chuck, Emerson, Olive, The Aunts and Digby on screen together ever again.

So was Pushing Daisies' second season as strong as it first, which easily ranked it as one of the best new shows of 2007 (along with Mad Men)? Quite definitely. If anything Season Two is stronger than Season One. Whilst both seasons are unfairly cut annoyingly short (nine episodes season one, thirteen episodes in season two) meaning that the show only has one full season but normal standards. But hell every episode is just packed full of sorts of amazing and ingenious things that I don't overly mind, I just wish I had everything wrapped up in a bow with so many little story threads left hanging (as well as that scene at the end of the last episode which was supposed to set up the second half of the season). However I'm thankful for what we got, especially considering the ratings (although Dollhouse did get picked up despite only averaging 3 million viewers...)

Pushing Daisies is a gorgeous. As soon as there is a double season boxset on Blu-Ray I know exactly what I'm buying. The sets and costume are just superb and colourful. There isn't a show on the air that looks like Pushing Daises and I'm fairly sure there never will be another one. Whilst Bryan Fuller may make other shows I don't think he'll be able to match what he did on Pushing Daisies. But still the fact that show is able to jump around so many different colourful locations and make them feel so fresh in each episode is a real triumph.

Then there's the dialogue. No other show has dialogue as great as Pushing Daises. Just the speed and the level of wit which is supplied in each episode. And no one can say "Oh Hell No!" as well as Chi McBride does on this show. But that's not just it. The show convey such great skill and superb acting with just how fast the dialogue is rattled off. If anything it's very similar to a Joss Whedon programme where the quips just keep on coming and with such a high hit level it really is great fun to watch the verbal sparring matches, particularly almost any scene set around a table in the pie hole.

Season Two manages to trump Season One is that it uses far more over arching stories. Whilst Season One is almost entirely self contained with one or two episodes with crossovers (Paul Reubens was clearly supposed to have a bigger part as was Molly Shannon, so hopefully both of those will be cleared up in the comics). This season used a lot more of them with Emerson's search for his daughter, Chuck's dad, Ned's dad and Dwight Dixon. Whilst only one of the stories got any closure at all, whilst the story arcs were going on they were great fun and showed that Pushing Daisies could be more than just a murder of the week show. Whilst I do wish we had closure on the stories, I can't really fault the show for not finishing when it's not their fault and they continually offered great television.

Season Two expanded on everything that made the show great. The writers are clearly comfortable with the characters, the actors clearly know exactly what they're doing and the show came on leaps and bounds this season. Whilst we may never get closure on everything, I sure as hell will be reading the comic books and continue the story that was started in this superb show. Do yourself a definite favour and buy the DVDs and just wallow in the brilliance that was Pushing Daisies. Whilst the last episode did have a little bit tacked on at the end, it definitely gave some degree of closure, not a lot but some. I'd love to see where they were going to go with Chuck telling the Aunts that she was still alive, we did get 13 pretty much perfectly crafted episodes which is something most shows can only dream of. Pushing Daisies RIP, 9.5/10

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Of Heroes Volume Four

Well Heroes Volume 4 finished two weeks ago (sorry about late review) and I'm here to offer my less than professional opinion on it. I also aim to make this kind of short due to having already offered my opinion on Heroes a bit too much recently (in real life and on this blog).

I'm also not just going to list all the bad points and good points as that was me just being lazy and trying to inject some humour into the blog (and failing). So without further ado what did I think of Volume Four?

Well it made Heroes better. Heroes has officially moved from "sucking" to being "decent". It still has a long way to go until it's "great" again but it's definitely on the right track if it ever wants to get back that far. So once again we're looking at sub season 1 quality. It's definitely better than Volume 4 which does mean it's a HUGE step up in quality. However a step up in quality from that isn't that impressive because almost anything would have been.

So why was it improved? Well for starters we got a more focused the beginning. My impressed look at the first episode of this Volume was quickly squashed in the proceeding episodes until we were back in the suck levels of Volume 3, what could have made a really interesting story quickly became yet another rehash of old plot points. Someone else is now coming to track down our beloved Heroes. Oh and Noah is once again revealed to be working for the villains in a plan which once more doesn't work out. Sadly the characters seem to lack all semblance of evolution in this show. They all suffer from an intense lack of development. Apart from Nathan who seems to suffer from intense and stupid over development.

A quick point I'd like to make is Hiro, someone who was once funny but has now just become grating. Hiro was the glue that kept Heroes together in Season 1 but now he's just terminally annoying. Stuff like how he constantly wants to follow the true path of the hero or how he gets pissed off with Ando who is just trying to help him as a good friend should (in fact he betrays his best friend towards the end of the season). So please producers of Heroes more of Hiro's bleeding orifices next year, K?

Probably my biggest quibble with the show other than just general stale story telling and bad character choices is that the show just isn't evolving. The biggest thing is where are the reports of super powered people doing things in the real world? The Heroes world is far too insular. The main characters don't die and anyone they do meet will be dealt with by the end of the season/episode. The show needs to expand more. They travel all around the world but still no one knows there are superheroes. The government had to be told and without the Company out there anymore how come there aren't any hints that there is stuff going off in the real world? Look at the bank robbery from Volume 3? Did they just brainwash everyone to forget that a bunch of superfolk did that much damage? We really need to expand past the same old group conflicts if the show wants to get better. Hell copy X-Men and do that superpowered people are seen as freaks and deal with real issues. Whilst it might get criticised for copying, it would make a cool story and it's not like they haven't done it before.

So Heroes Volume Four was plagued with points that made Volume Three suck. Then something amazing happened. Bryan Fuller came back and the show made a complete 180. Gone were the weird character choices and stupid story choices. He managed to bring back a sense of humanity and continuity to they story. You stopped hating the characters which was amazing. It was his idea to have Sylar's dad be a flawed super villain rather than all powerful badass like Mr. Petrelli was. He killed off Daphne in a really well done and even brought back old plot points such as the socks thing from Season 1 or the fact that Matt Parkman has a wife and child.

Bryan Fuller sort of brought the Volume to a really satisfactory close. Whilst he couldn't right every problem (such as budget, it's almost a recurring joke now that Heroes just won't show their fight scenes), he still improved the show immensely. Plus they actually killed Nathan off. Something they've half done in every season finale. Whilst he will be back next year it does look like he'll be gone eventually considering Zachary Quinto will definitely be back also (maybe Star Trek 2 will be filming later this year and he can do something in his absence).

Overall whilst the show still isn't awesome, it's a definite step in the right direction. Hopefully Bryan Fuller will be on the show full time next year and keep the story under control. Also I hope you don't bring Sylar back three episodes into next year, build it up gradually so that whole twist bit this year turns out to be a complete waste of time. Oh and they killed off Kristin Bell. 6.5/10

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Of Star Trek

Yup another trip to the cinema this week, this time to see Star Trek, something I've been anticipating a LOT more than Wolverine. So was it worth the hype? Well I wasn't really hyping it, it was more sort of a "oooh look at the names in this movie, I'll go see" sort of thing. However yes what enthusiasm I did put forward to seeing this movie was definitely worth it. Now I have to give a slight disclaimer, I have never seen anything Star Trek related before. Nothing. No movies, no episodes and no video games. But I do have a knowledge of it. I know of Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, Red Shirts, The Borg, that battle music, KHAAAAAAN!!! and of course that legendary battle between which captain is better Picard or Kirk.

So, I'm sort of the perfect audience for this movie. I got a lot of the jokes aimed at trekkies, a lot of the references so I was able to see a lot of them in context which was fun. However just because I got the references doesn't mean I thought the movie was good. Luckily I did think the movie was good, in fact it was great. Best movie I've seen since The Wrestler. Whilst The Wrestler is still by far the best movie I've seen this year and I don't seen this changing any time soon. But Star Trek is easily the best Summer movie I've seen this year, but with Transformers, Terminator, Harry Potter and Angels and Demons coming that might change.

But I digress. The movie is great and I'm sort of the audience they want to attract. I don't think Star Trek is too geeky at all. Yes their are people that enjoy it but then there are also people who memorise every member of their favourite football team, how many caps each player has and decorate their room in the style in the form of a football pitch and yet they aren't seen as geeky. But that is an entirely different point. So Star Trek is perceived as geeky but this movie is going to go a long way to change those opinions.

J.J. Abrams knows how to make mainstream movies. Mission Impossible 3 is easily the best Mission Impossible and Lost (whilst he has minimal involvement) is one of my favourite television shows of all time. So he manages to create a really mainstream movie whilst still appeasing the hardcore fans. In fact I'm going to say one thing now which may give me a lot of heat. Star Trek is the movie that Star Wars 1-3 NEEDED to be. They bring back that enjoyment of watching Star Wars 4-6 whilst still maintaining it's own unique Star Trekness. Star Treks may just one of the best space based sci-fi things this century, just after Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.

Now the story. The story makes sense...somewhat, it involves time travel so makes as much sense as any time travel movie can. The movie isn't just a prequel, it's a complete reboot. The reason being Spock and Nero going back in time creates an alternate universe where the events of the original series or any of the other Star Trek's ever happened. Meaning J.J. and team have free reign to do whatever they want over the franchise that has already been formed with the confirmation of Star Trek 2 already. So we can look forward to re-imaginings of classic Trek storylines. So the story is fun, my friend says "it lacks epic" but really it's a lot like Iron-Man. It's a fantastic set up story for a sequel which is obviously going to be far better, especially now that all of the characters have already been set up.

The characters are all exactly the same with the obvious standouts being Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Kirk. Both of them are fantastic in this and really bring a kind of modern edge. Whilst Leonard Nimoy being in the movie does detract from Quinto's performance, Quinto was fantastic and showed off some great skill with the character, something he hasn't shown on Heroes since Season 1. Chris Pine whilst definitely not being William Shatner (I really should start drink game about how often I say/hear his name) is great as this sort of new generation Kirk, even if someone pointed that "Kirk is more of a risk taker than thrill seeker" you have to remember this Kirk's father died so he's going to be a little different (hence why Spock and Kirk aren't friends in this movie till the end).

Now I can talk about my favourite bit of the movie. Simon Pegg. Damn. He was fantastic. Hilarious in EVERY SINGLE scene he was in, even if it was just a movement of his eyes. Simon Pegg is easily one of the funniest men in the world at the moment and it seems that the Trek guys know just how to get the best out of him (outside of Nick Frost and Edgar Wright). So whilst we might have a while to wait for his next truly great comedy movie, we can be safe in the knowledge he will always have a place in Trek lore. Only problem is he doesn't appear in the movie till about halfway through and gets most of his best stuff in the next 20/30 minutes then kind of disappears for the rest of the movie. However for the moments he gets he is glittering shining point in an already great movie.

Overall Trek is well worth going to see. It's a heck of a lot of fun and I heartily recommend it. The special effects are fantastic (as is to be expected from ILM) and the cast is pretty much perfect for who they're playing. The movie might not be "epic" but it still works on a much more intimate level in that it is an introduction to the characters. The story is solid but is again a bit of an introduction to which we'll get a lot more expansion in Trek 2. The movie is accessible to non-Trek fans but it definitely pays to have at least a passing knowledge of the world (particularly popular lines from Star Trek: The Original Series). Oh and if a sci-fi action movie to what looks set to become a great franchise in the same way as Iron-Man, isn't what you want to go see, just go see it for Simon Pegg. We all love Simon Pegg and he is hilarious in this movie (if he was on screen I was laughing in seconds). 8/10

Oh and badass trailer combining two great things (one greater than the other):

Monday, 4 May 2009

Of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Warning Thar Be Spoilers Below

Wooo HD trailers FTW. Alright so I just went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine. A movie I haven't been excited for, at all. However because I have seen EVERY comic based movie of the past decade (give or take perhaps one or two), I went to see it. Luckily I didn't hate. I didn't love it, but it wasn't the mind blowing suck fest that was X-Men: The Last Stand (yes IaSg14 it's awful). So what we got was a passable action movie. It isn't amazing but they're are far worse movies to go see *cough*Hannah Montana*cough*

First up the praise. Sadly they're isn't much to praise, whilst not being awful the movie doesn't have any overly clear redeeming features. For starters Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He was pretty much born to play this role and continues his great performance here. Whilst he has shown some amazing acting skills in other movies *cough*The Fountain*cough* he still is the star of this movie and makes his presence known. Then there were some pretty cool sequences. It seems superhero movies must always have brilliant openings now. Following on from Watchmen's inspired opening we get a visual dazzling opening where we cut through all the wars Wolverine and Sabretooth thought in through the years. Secondly we got a pretty awesome final fight scene. I'll get onto the other fight scenes later but this final scene is particularly awesome and I'm sure it'll end up on youtube sooner or later so make sure you check it out!!

Now the bad points. Well I think we can say the effects are pretty shocking throughout. Whilst they actually showed superpowers *cough*Heroes*cough* stuff such as Wolverine's claws looked like blatant CGI and far worse than the special effects of X-Men: The Last Stand three years ago. However this movie doesn't have the all star cast that movie did. The fight scenes also suffer. The final fight scene feels different to all the others, almost like the entire budget was used on it or it was a different choreographer but the others feel a bit hashed together. In particular the helicopter scene in all the trailers. It just doesn't mesh very well. Unfocused camera work and the special effects really do feel quite sub par at moments. However I think we can chalk some of this up to Gavin Hood the director. Gavin Hood doesn't normally direct these movies being more of a drama director (similar to how Christopher Nolan did Dark Knight and Jon Favreau did Iron Man) and doesn't have a knack for action scenes. Whilst the final fight scene is brilliant the other action set pieces are a bit of a let down.

My main complaint with the movie is too much fan service. A little fan service can go a long way, too much can kill a movie. X-Men: The Last Stand proved this by having so many mutants in there with little to no development for any of them. On the other hand Doctor Who last year with the episode "The Stolen Earth" was a tremendous episode that proved how fun fan service can be. Wolverine falls squarely in the middle. There are a couple of cool moments such as "Oh look it's Gambit/Blob/Deadpool" but that's really all they are. There are so many characters that very few actually get enough screen time (Lost's Dominic Monaghan gets killed off in the first twenty minutes). In fact the movie has some great actors in quite small roles. The previously mentioned Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand (Lost) and Ryan Reynolds all sort of get short handed with this movie. Kevin Durand proved he has severe acting chops last season on Lost (playing the deliciously evil Keamy) but here he plays The Blob in all of three scenes. Same for Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, very good acting in about two or three scenes (his character might be in the last third of the movie but it definitely isn't Ryan Reynolds). It just seems like a complete bitch slap. Get rid of all the little cameos and give us some actual development!! Yes it was cool to see Gambit but not only have you fucked up the timeline but he could have been so much better in X-Men 4. Same for Cyclops, he wasn't necessary to the plot other than a brief Patrick Stewart cameo. He still gets killed in the most pussy way in X-Men: The Last Stand and whilst it does make that final fight a bit cooler it just wasn't needed.

X-Men and X2 worked better because it was a contained cast. Everyone got a bit of development and only a controlled number of new characters joined in the sequel. However two movies in a row we've got copious amounts of brand new character for no reason other than to appease fans. However as we all know fans are fickle bastards and any changes you make to the story is going to piss them off. For example the Deadpool stunt, whilst leading to that awesome fight scene completely changes who the character is and since he is a fan favourite you sort of shot yourself in the foot there.

So please 20th Century Fox please take note, if you want a good action by all means have some fan favourites but don't fill the movie with 20 of them meaning they get minimal screen time and we're left wanting more. I wanted to see Blob and Deadpool do more but sadly you just didn't want to. Please take note. Less of and more Dominic Monaghan. Some of the actors feel like wasted casting in an otherwise decent movie.

Oh and plot. Well if you've read the comic you'll know it's pretty much everything apart from Wolverine's time in Japan (and even that is set up). Yes some stuff is moved around and pasts changed with lots of pointless cameos thrown in (Emma Frost? Cyclops' wife? cameo?) In the end the movie has to come together with a nice ending to show why Wolverine has amnesia. A nice twist is involved here but it does muck up the first movie a little in terms of Sabretooth. However people bitching about Cyclops, he was blindfolded and never saw Logan, not a continuity error.

So overall the movie is enjoyable but just suffers from an overblown cast and cheap special effects. The actors are still great but only Hugh Jackman has time to shine, which is a shame considering the pedigree. If they cut out a lot of the fan service or got rid of a few un-needed characters it could have worked a lot better (there was no need for It is a whole lot better than X-Men: The Last Stand because at least one doesn't go around killing off every character you were attached to from the first two movies for no reasons. A decent but seriously flawed superhero movies saved mostly by Hugh Jackman. 5.5/10

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Of Chuck Season 2

Well, Chuck's second season came to a close last Monday and now I come to review this, it's potentially last season. Whilst the news as to whether we'll get a third season of this great is being held till tomorrow (or potentially next Monday), I'm here to look back on the great joy that has been brought to me, and almost everyone who has watched this season over the past 7 months.

Chuck Season 1 was a hell of a lot of fun. It was geeky and there was action, pretty much everything that makes great television (look at The OC, Seth MAKES that show). So I launched into Season 2 fully expecting the same as Season 1 and I got that. However it wasn't until "Chuck Versus Santa Claus" that we saw what Chuck was actually capable of. There were some terrific episodes in Season 1, however "Chuck Versus Santa Claus" blew everything that had come before it out of the water. The spy mission involved the ENTIRE cast rather than just Chuck, Sarah and Casey. The action was great, we got advancement on the romantic subplot, it was funny and it took a very cool dark turn towards the end which just made the episode. Oh and it proved Chuck is in the same universe as Die Hard, here's hoping for a Bruce Willis cameo in Season 3.

So why does this show rock? Well for many reasons. The first being it has everything good television needs. There's a serialised element as well a nicely implemented procedural part (like Pushing Daisies) which means it isn't necessary to see every episode. The show is also a deft mix of comedy, drama and romance. Not many shows are able to say that. Whilst many shows will showcase elements of all three, Chuck brings all of them to the forefront and perfected their mix in Season 2. Then there's the great cast. Everyone is superb and whilst some characters are pushed back a little compared to the main three, they all get their moments to shine. Zachary Levi is great as Chuck playing the nerd brilliant (although he might be a bit too good looking), Yvonne Strahovski is gorgeous (it's a big plus) and is tremendous as Sarah Walker playing a very thin line between dangerous and cool and yet quite soft. Then we have Adam Baldwin. One of the actors from the Joss Whedon pantheon and he continues with great strength here, whilst Casey might not be as great a character as Jayne in Fireflym the grunts that Adam Baldwin puts out makes him as near as possibly great. Then we have the other main characters, Jeffster is hilarious, Awesome and Ellie have possibly the best chemistry and the show (apart from Yvonne and Zachary) and Morgan is just...well Morgan. The cast is perhaps one of the strongest ensembles on television and works amazingly well together.

However it isn't just the main characters who are great. Chuck has an amazing ability to get a whole score of awesome actors to play guest roles. Michael Clarke Duncan (Green Mile), Melinda Clarke (The OC), John Larroquette, Carl Lumbly (Alias), Morgan Fairchild, Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), Gary Cole (Office Space, Dodgeball, Pineapple Express), Andy Richter, Andrew Vosloo (The Mummy), Dominic Monagahan (Lost), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) and Ken Davitian (Borat). These guys were mostly just in a single episode but that's some tremendously cool casting. Then there were my personal favourites. Tony Hale (Arrested Development) played Emmet who was behind most of the trouble in the Buy More this year, Jordana Brewster (Fast and Furious) as Chuck's ex-girlfriend Jill, Scott Bakula as Chuck's father and Chevy Chase as Ted Roarke the last villain of the season. For a show that gets quite low ratings, it's an astounding cast of actors.

Then we have the last few episodes of the season. Starting with "Chuck Versus the Beef Cake" we got an awesome arc of episodes that built right into the finale. Those last batch of episodes dealt entirely with the history of the Intersect that lives inside Chuck's head and how that ties into the story. It's an immensely satisfying journey and ended with a really cool twist that I hope to see carried on into the next season. The episodes showcased just how strong the writers are, in particular show creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, the story unfolds at just the right pace with lots of action and some great comedy moments building towards a very dramatic finish.

Then there's the music. Chuck having the same music producer as The OC was always going to have great music tastes, and it really does. In fact I would go as far to say that the only show which nears it in terms of taste in music is Scrubs. The show mixes some nice classic tunes with the best of indie rock. With classic artists like Duran Duran, Twisted Sister's, MC Hammer, Toto, Jane's Addction, Iggy Pop, Rush and The Prodigy backing up Bon Iver, The National, Frightened Rabbit, Okkervil River, Bloc Party and Glasvegas it's a terrific mix.

Overall Chuck is just great fun. It's light and enjoyable entertainment for the whole family but it backs a punch when it wants to. Chuck is easily one of the most enjoyable shows on the air at the moment and whilst it might not win awards, it's a critical favourite. Any show that can maintain such a deft mix of genres with a kickass soundtrack, great geek references and near perfect casting is a show that deserves to be kept on the air. Whilst the season doesn't hit stride properly till about episode 15, even the standalone episodes are superb with again my personal favourite being "Chuck Versus Santa Claus being personal favourites but the last four are pretty much perfect as well. If you want to just relax but still be entertained Chuck is for you. Hell it's a show for everybody that everybody should watch. 9/10

Saturday, 2 May 2009

May 2009

Yay it's May!!! Actually May is a bit of a downer. It normally signals the beginning of my slight hay fever, exams are about to start and well it's sort of that limbo month. It doesn't know if it wants to be spring or summer (although in England I think all months kind of fluctuate between all four seasons).

It also means the insanely busy month, also unluckily for me the television season officially more less comes to an end over the next few weeks. Heroes and Chuck both ended on Monday, Pushing Daisies aired it's last episode last night (expect reviews of all three this weekend!!!), Lost has two weeks left as do all four of the NBC American comedies and HIMYM has about 3 episodes left. So all in all if I want to maintain this blog about reviewing television. Although I might not review The Office, 30 Rock, HIMYM, My Name is Earl and Parks and Recreations (another blog post missing, God dammit).

Well it looks like I might be busy this month just throwing reviews out, at least during my spare time, which at the moment is severely limited.

Oh and the poll reads Spider-Man. So now I must thank you all for those voted on it for giving me the toughest job of all. It's going to be a hellish time because I believe that Spider-Man is published twice a month and has over six hundred issues. Oh and about three "core" series. But you've spoken and I will track down Spider-Man this summer, X-Men some point in the future.

I was hoping for more lean towards X-Men considering X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out yesterday. Speaking of which a friend went to see and texted "Wolverine bleh" which has reaffirmed my fears that whilst it may be better than X-Men: The Last Stand it still as good as the first two movies. Ahhh well I'll still go and see as have every single other comic book movie of the best decade ('cept for the Spirit)

Stuff Coming Soon
Chuck Season 2 Review
Heroes Volume 4 Review
Pushing Daisies Season 2 Review
Two First Impressions (Sit Down, Shut Up and Parks and Recreations)

Currently Listening to: Skinny Love - Bon Iver
Currently Watching (TV): 1x12 Briar Rose - Dollhouse
Currently Reading: The Road - Cormac McCarthy