Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deadliest Warrior

Why has nobody told me about this show until now? WHY?

It combines three of my favorite things: fighting, awesome weapons, and lots and lots of fake blood. Seriously, this show is the bomb. Sometimes literally.

I am, of course, talking about Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior. The show pits famous warriors (either individuals-- like William the Conqueror--or classes of fighters, such as a Zulu warrior) against each other in a series of tests to see who will come out on top. The results of the various tests are then plugged into a computer simulation program which calculates the deadliest warrior.

The tests that each hypothetical warrior are put through focus on their standard weapons and battle techniques. For example, a recent episode I caught with my Dad and brother pitted a Roman Centurion against an Indian Rajput. Their weapons were categorized by their range capabilities, and various experts took turns whacking at blood-filled mannequins or (also blood-filled) hunks of meat to determine which weapon was most effective. Another episode that pitted the CIA against the KGB combined weapons and strategy, posing a challenge for experts in Cold War weaponry to see who could perform the quickest and most efficient clandestine assassination. Shockingly, the exploding cigar lost. Boo.

So what's the allure of this show? Um, how about the fact that it is completely badass? As someone who was raised on action movies I have a pretty strong bloodthirsty streak, so watching showdowns between history's best and deadliest fighters is pretty awesome. The tests are always fun (if you like seeing mannequins getting hacked limb from limb--and really, who doesn't?) and sometimes the results are surprising. But really this show is entertainment at it's most basic. Violence = fun.

It's just too bad there aren't more female contenders for the Deadliest Warrior. Aside from Joan of Arc I haven't seen the show focus on any women. In that vein, I have come up with a great deathmatch:

Miyamoto Musashi, a Japanese ronin and the most famous swordsman of all time....


Jane Austen, famed nineteenth century English novelist.

The pen is mightier than the sword, right?


Oh, shut up.

Deadliest Warrior airs on Spike TV pretty much all the time, but the new third season episodes air Wednesday nights at 10pm.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chloe'll do in a pinch.

I'm just going to say this off the bat: there's never going to be another Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There's no way to recapture that perfect storm of writing, cast, stories, and teenage drama that made Buffy such an amazing ride. And despite it's less than stellar ratings, Buffy has become a true part of American culture. Which of course means that television networks are going to forever try to duplicate it's formula.

You know what I mean: teenage girl (or guy) realizes she/he has superpowers, is part of some great mythical calling, and must become a leader in an ancient war...while at the same time balancing all the facets of what we call "normal" life. School, jobs, love...sometimes those things are harder than kicking the ass of fantastical creatures.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King currently airing on ABC Family is the latest in these Buffy-esque dramas. From wiki (with a little editing for clarity from yours truly):
Chloe King is a teenager who discovers she is a descendant of an ancient race called the Mai. She has special cat-like powers, including nine lives, superhuman speed, strength, hearing, agility, night vision and the ability to extend her nails like cat claws. The Mai once acted as defenders of humans and guardians for Egyptian pharaohs and are descendants of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet. Chloe has extra abilities even among the Mai, and her gift of nine lives marks her as the "Uniter," a warrior in a prophecy that states that she must save the world and both the Mai and Human races, and stop their war. She begins training with two other teenage Mai, named Jasmine and Alec, and is being pursued by a shadowy human organization known as The Order, who are trying to destroy all the Mai...especially the Uniter. Of course, she also has her trusty best (human) friends Paul and Amy who help keep her grounded in the "real" world.
The show is harmless fun. The whole cast is likable, especially Chloe, which is a good thing because if she was insufferable the rather lackluster plotting could become a problem. But Chloe, her friends, and her Mom (Amy Pietz--who was hilarious as the Mom on Aliens in America a few years ago) are all interesting and not annoying, which is more than you get from most shows about teenagers.

The Mai themselves are also pretty cool. Chloe picks up her new powers really quickly so there's no waiting for the badassery to start. Basically, she immediately starts kicking bad guy butt. And the concept of her nine lives is pretty interesting too--the show can feel free to kill her off a couple times and she'll bounce back, and it definitely gives a sense of weight to the show. You know going in that the heroine in this show will die. Sure, she'll come back, but when the bad guy wraps her in chains and dumps her in a pool of water there's real tension that she could actually drown horribly.

And of course there's romance. Mai can't get together with humans--even a kiss from a Mai is fatal to a human. So it makes Chloe's burgeoning romance with nice-guy Brian (whose father is connected to the Order) interesting. And hottie Mai Alec is pretty interested in Chloe as well. What's a girl to do? Thankfully, Chloe is not the kind to sit around whining and complaining about her love triangle woes--so far. It's also nice not to have to rehash the whole "I never wanted super powers all I want is a normal life!" plot. For the most part, Chloe is very accepting of her lot, takes to her new powers with relish, and despite the danger that accompanies her new role as the Uniter (both to herself and her family), seems to enjoy being a superhero.

For those looking for some mindless summer fun, I would definitely recommend The Nine Lives of Chloe King. Cool fights scenes, an interesting premise, and likable characters more than make up for the unclear (so far) back story and vague menace of the Big Bad. You can find the episodes that have already aired online or on On Demand, and check out the show Tuesday nights at 9:00 on AMC Family.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spies Like Us (And We Like Spies)

Burn Notice is a summer series currently in its fifth season. I've so far watched through a good chunk of the third season. The premise is basic (and outlined for you at the start of every episode). Michael Westen used to be a spy for the US Government. However, someone, somehow, made it look like he'd done some very bad things. Spies don't get fired or retired. They get burned. He is dumped in Miami with no money, no credit history, no connections, and no way to leave (this last bit they never really explain well; apparently, the nebulous "they" are willing to let him live, but will kill him if he leaves). He has to get by on little more than the skills and training he received as a spy.
And his sunglasses. Seriously, they deserve billing.

The show's main weakness is the fact that it is incredibly formulaic. Almost without exception, the show starts with Michael coming up with a step in his grand plan towards the goal of this particular season. This plan will be referenced a few times throughout the episode. At the end of the episode, he takes the step forward in his plan. Meantime, he will someone stumble across a "Client". This is typically a normal, law-abiding citizen who has somehow attracted the displeasure of some crime syndicate or other. It will usually seem to be very minor at the start, and rapidly develop into a much larger problem than it first appeared. At the end, Michael saves the day.

Personally, I really like the formula, which is why I keep watching. But I cannot in good conscience recommend this show to anyone, because if that one method of doing things isn't something you'll want to watch over and over again, you will rapidly get bored. There are many cosmetic changes. Each season's over-arching plot is usually somewhat riveting. Sometimes he connects with the Client himself, and sometimes it's a favor he does for one of his teammates, either the paper-manipulating former Navy Seal Sam, or the Picasso-with-explosives Irish terrorist girlfriend Fiona, or his chain-smoking passive-aggressive hypochondriac mother. Bad guys will recur, sometimes an asset on one job will come back later and be a client. It tends to the fairy-tale ending side of things, but it gets fairly dark.
This woman spawns spies. And emphysema.

The selling point, to me, is the tricky mechanical stuff they do. Anyone besides the few main characters will get a super when they are introduced each episode, and they're good at making these funny. They will split the screen to show Michael trying to pick the lock and escape unnoticed while the bad guy walks down the corridor towards him. They have some of the most effective use of voice-over I've ever seen.

In short, it's worth watching a few episodes. You might find yourself hooked, and watch it for a while. Just don't expect it to ever change.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Lights will always be on for me.

Tomorrow night, Friday Night Lights airs its last episode. EVER. And today the creators/actors/crew of the show got a nice thank you: an Emmy nomination for best drama series. Sure, that nomination has been 5 years in the making (and don't even get me started on all the years Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were snubbed), but hey, better late than never right?

When I read the nominations over at this morning, and saw FNL's nomination, I literally gasped, yelled "Oh my god! I am so happy!" and did a little dance in my seat. At my desk. AT WORK. And I didn't care who saw or heard me, because dammit, this show is awesome.

I'm not going to rehash everything I have said about the show in the past (the realistic depiction of small town (and everywhere) life, relationships between family and friends, the excitement of the football--ok maybe I will rehash it) and the show has been the topic of 11 blog posts in the past. That seems like a lot, but I am always trying my darndest to get people to watch it. The fact that it's lasted this long is really a miracle and represents the only instance in recent memory I can think of where a network kept a show around because it was good. The ratings were never that great, and the splitting of the cost with DirecTV was definitely a help, but say what you want with NBC--they did right by us with this one.

If you haven't seen it before, wow, are you behind. But on the other hand, you get to sit down with 5 amazing seasons of one of the best dramas on television (NOT exaggerating on that one) and enjoy it. And for that I am a little jealous. You get to experience it all for the first time, without worrying about cancellation, schedule changes, and all the usual television bullshit.

So here is what I recommend. Some Friday evening in late September and early October, when a light breeze carries a hint of fall and the excitement of high school football and dreams, curl up on your couch and give Friday Night Lights a chance. I promise you won't be disappointed.

And remember: clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

ETA: Check out this awesome article sent to me from Alexis and Jamie at work. An Oral History of Friday Night Lights, courtesy of Grantland. It has a couple plot spoilers, so beware!

Monday, July 11, 2011 which Caroline and Maggie Cats discuss The Killing

I may be a little late to the party, but I tend to get there eventually. After languishing on my DVR for several months, I finally got around to watching the first season of AMC's murder mystery The Killing. There was some, shall we say, controversy surrounding the season finale, and that was what finally got me off my butt to watch the show. Caroline had some strong feelings following the finale, so she and I kicked it old school style (like we used to back in the day) with some gchat blogging.

Fair warning: we discuss some minor spoilers of the first season and the structure of the finale. If you're likely to watch the show (although the moral of the story is basically: don't) you might want to steer clear of this one.

caroline: what i thought about The Killing's first season finale: FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE. Seriously, i was so mad i nearly threw the remote at the TV.

me: what was it that pissed you off? the lack of definitive resolution to Rosie's murder? I had heard grumblings from people about the finale, so I was prepared to not find out who the actual killer was when I watched it.

caroline: well, i have had some time to think about what exactly it was that made me so HULK SMASH and i think that primarily (as everyone else on the entire internet also said) it was that the promise of the pilot and the first couple of episodes was just so thoroughly destroyed by the time we got to the season finale, that i just wanted to know who killed her OMG. The characters that initially seemed so promisingly complex just turned into a bunch of flimsy collections of characteristics without an actual cohesive center, if that makes any sense

me: that was something else I was going to ask you; to me, the show let down on the promise of the premiere in terms of quality, and by the end it was kind of a mess.

caroline: oh, it was a complete disaster.

me: the problem is, it seemed like a planned disaster. It wasn't like LOST, where it felt like it was aimlessly wandering. I got the feeling that the writers thought they were geniuses with all the red herrings but from a viewer standpoint they made it look like the detectives didn't know were they doing for the sake of their story.

caroline: i mean, somebody called Holden and Linder the Keystone Kops, and i could not agree more; talk about slipshod detecting -- it was like the Scooby Gang!

me: I think when they introduced the terrorism subplot they began to lose me.
I was not as pissed about the finale; I thought it was a wasted opportunity, but I think I was prepared to not have resolution on the central murder. And I have to say, when they cut to black I was disappointed because I did want to see what happened next.

caroline: see, i was only watching by that point for some resolution -- to see if, by some miracle, they could tie it all up in the final episode. The thing that made me the most angry, i think, is that they sent the one character i cared about into a total 180 without earning it at all

me: You mean the implication like Holder was a dirty cop?

caroline: the one thing the writers got right was the evolution/redemption of his character...the one thing! And then to just yank the rug out from under that story arc in the last 15 seconds of the show was cheap.

me: I think by watching it all back to back I was better served by that...I found it surprising but not shocking. If that makes sense. I can believe that there is still more going on with him.
I think my central problem with the show is what Tom and Lorenzo refer to as the over-abundance of "misery porn"

caroline: OMG, right?

me: the early episodes with the Larsons were just too much. There is only so much grief a person can take seeing.

caroline: like, some of that is interesting, and definitely a departure from what you normally get with crime procedurals. But when week after week it's just Mitch drowning herself (...heh) in her grief in Rosie's room ... we get it.

me: agreed. Also, the "will Linden leave town" thing was lame. Spoiler alert: SHE'S NOT GOING. She's the main character!

caroline: DUDE. that got old, like, five minutes into the pilot.
(although it did give me a few minutes to wonder if Callum Keith Rennie is secretly the killer. did you see Harper's Island?)

me: heh, I did! That show was more entertaining than The Killing. Make of that what you will

caroline: you are not wrong, lady.

me: so here's the big question: will you come back for Season 2?

caroline: absolutely not. Well: i will read TWOP to see who killed her. But seriously: SO MAD.

me: I think I will check out the premiere...but if it doesn't seem they have learned any lessons it's over.

caroline: fair enough ... but I've read a couple interviews with the creator where she's all, "oh, it's fabulous that everyone hated the ending! It just means they're talking about my show! Proof that my plotting and characterization are impeccable!"

me: Wow. Talk about delusional. It really means people won't watch anymore and you'll get fired! I think the take-away from this its that it's REALLY hard to stretch one murder into an entire season of a tv show without it becoming a meandering over-complicated mess.
Hello, Twin Peaks?

caroline:OMG Twin Peaks. I haven't watched that in a looong time
But. The parallels. They are overwhelming.

me: The Killing has suffered from Twin Peaks syndrome...if you premise an entire show on "
“who killed so and so" people expect you tell them.

caroline: right. Or, at the very least, to give them something else to chew on that distracts them from the part where you don't actually tell them

me: I thought for sure they would reveal the killer in the finale...and then the ripples of Rosie's murder would reveal or lead to another death that would make up season 2. Alas not the case.
Because that seems to be the central conceit of the a killing affects the people involved, no matter how tangental.

caroline: agreed, and that's a very intriguing premise. They just couldn't sustain it

me: so, final thoughts?

caroline: final thoughts. Creative, unusual premise; intensely talented actors. Both of those let down by unfocused, lazy writing and a vast miscalculation of what the viewers wanted and what the story demanded

The Killing: a great show to watch! Assuming you like miserably slow pacing, inconsistent characters, grief porn, and no resolution to WHO ACTUALLY KILLED ROSIE LARSEN.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Awesome Theme Song

... is awesome! This guy named Jason Sturgill recently did an orchestral version of the X-Men theme song. Check it!

I loved this show, mostly because I was convinced my mutant powers would manifest themselves at any given moment. And even though the science is so terrible that it gives me a mild headache, I'm sure X-Men is one of the reasons I work in genetics today. Double true.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


This post contains spoilers for the first season of Game of Thrones. Including a big honking one that gives away the surprise twist. You have been warned so don't come crying to me if you read it and then regret it.

Wow, I have been sitting on this one for a looooooooooooong time. First, I was like, "oh! This has to to do with Game of Thrones! I should wait until Sean Bean's character dies and then post it because it would make for some delightful juxtaposition." And then I was like, "nah, I should wait until the first season is over when I discuss the season overall."

But I didn't do either of those things. Because I am lazy.

But fear not, gentle readers! Because I have finally gotten around to giving you further proof that Sean Bean is BAMF.

He got stabbed in a fight outside a bar, walked back in, patched himself up, and ordered another drink.

Now I have been a fan of Sean Bean since I was about 11 years old. There I was, innocently watching Masterpiece Theater, and he appeared as the villainous Lovelace in the BBC production of Clarissa. Despite his kidnapping, psychologically torturing, raping (!!), and then abandoning the show's heroine, I was hooked. I followed his career ever since, from the Sharpe movies (just IMDB it if you've never heard of it), to Patriot Games, to The Lord of the Rings, to Game of Thrones. He may be a total "Hey, It's That Guy!" to most Americans, but to me Sean Bean is the shit.

When he was cast as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones I was ecstatic for him because it was such a big step forward in his career (never underestimate the power of a HBO series), but I was also sad. Because as a fan of the Song of Ice and Fire books, I knew Ned Stark was DOOMED from the beginning, and would only be on the first season of the show. And I had to force myself to bite my tongue to keep from wailing as people raved about his performance. It would be too short lived! It's not fair! Maybe they'll depart from the books and Ned will live? Or not.

So here's to you Sean Bean! You keep being awesome, hanging out with models, defending their honor, and shaking off a stab wound. And I'll keep internet-stalking you. Deal?


Friday, July 01, 2011

Now where will I get my (mis)information?

So, apparently Glenn Beck's show (Fun Times with Uncle Crybaby Newshour or whatever it was called) aired its final episode yesterday. Hooray, this will free him up to enter the GOP candidate race/media whore circus! Please oh please oh please, Palin/Beck 2012. Freedom Isn't Free (TM).

Aaaaanyway, I would never in a million years suggest you expose yourself to the grotesque stream of conspiracy-laden fallacious logic that erupts, unbidden, from Beck's noisy mouth hole. EXCEPT for this one time. Behold, Requiem for a Rodeo Clown by the good folks at Media Matters.