Category Archives: Television

1960s Batman on DVD and Blu-ray in November

I can literally say I’ve been waiting for this for YEARS. The 1960s Batman TV series has been caught up in rights issues for the longest time, and has never seen a quality release on home video (at least not DVD). I saw reruns as a kid on TV as well as the 1966 movie, which is on DVD, and started watching the series via torrented files a few years ago, which was pretty much the only way to see them. Those files were taped off Nick and Nite or TVLand, and were obviously VHS quality. The remastered images in this trailer look too good to be true. I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on these on Blu-ray. It’s about time campy Batman made a comeback! POW!

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The Roundup: August 20

My top flips into my Flipboard magazines this week, whether the articles are new or old. Read more of my magazines at my Flipboard profile.

Current Film

You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem? by Luke Epplin at The Atlantic

I find the fact that so many kids movies have a super-obvious and condescending message irritating in the first place, but that so many have the same message with no counterpoint is really getting old. It’s one thing to encourage kids to dream, but another to set unrealistic expectations without helping them learn contentment.

In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.

Why Kick-Ass 2 Creator Mark Millar’s Rape Comments Have So Many People Angry by Kristy Puchko at Cinemablend

Response to the Mark Millar story I included in last week’s roundup.

Secondly, rape and decapitation are not the same. Both are horrible acts of violence, sure. But the latter is not one that causes people to ask, “Well, what was she wearing when she got decapitated?” There’s no victim blaming inherent in decapitation, but more to the point decapitation is not a thing that people fear in their day-to-day life the way that many women fear rape.

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Fringe 3×03: The Plateau

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One of these weeks Fringe is going to have a bad episode. This is not that week, and Fringe is solidly three for three this season, and easily maintains its status as best sci-fi/drama show on TV right now.

That opening sequence, wow. A set-piece and a half right out of the gate, with savant guy starting a vastly improbably chain reaction. Seeing the way that was set up, noting with him all the pieces but not understanding how they fit together yet (as he did), and then watching it all happen was one of the finest TV experiences of the year so far. And the fact that they actually showed it all the way to the end, including the woman getting hit by the bus in full shot with him walking away as it happened? Daring, wonderfully framed, and perfect.

A lot was really well-shot in this episode, which was directed by Brad Anderson – a filmmaker I’ve come to enjoy a good bit in recent years (The Machinist, Session 9, Transsiberian). He’s directed a number of Fringe episodes apparently, among other TV shows, but I never noticed before. Anyway, you could tell someone with a good eye directed this.

We’re in the alternate universe this week, with savant guy basically a super-cool monster of the week that Olivia (still brainwashed into believing she’s Bolivia) investigates as a routine case for alt-universe’s Fringe Division. Apparently her partners don’t know she’s not Bolivia either, though Charlie kind of suspects. It’s an interesting interplay here, as Olivia isn’t just pretending to be Bolivia (as Bolivia is pretending to be Olivia in our world, but is aware of what she’s doing), she really thinks she is Bolivia, and only her sporadic hallucinations of Peter and Walter suggest any different. So when Charlie questions her, trying to trap her into a false memory, she’s not acting…yet the fact that she’s Olivia still shines through here and there. Props again to Anna Torv.

Of course, this being Fringe, even the monster-of-the-week ties in to the overall plot, as he’s part of an experiment spearheaded by Walternate for unclear but obviously sinister reasons. Meanwhile, Walternate’s plan for Olivia gets a little more clear – he wants to test her ability to jump universes so they can learn how to do it themselves. He’s already figuring out the water-submersion thing that played such a big part of Season One. It’s nice to know that our Walter has some tricks up his sleeve that Walternate, despite the more advanced technology in the alternate universe, is still learning.

Overall, I just want to point all TV writers to this show right now and be like LOOK, HERE IS HOW YOU DO IT. Here is how you balance character and plot, here is how you intertwine episodic and season arcs, here is how you play with a world that is both realistic and headily science fictiony, and here is how you make me salivate every week for the next episode to come. This is how it’s done.

Here’s that opening sequence:

Fringe 3×04: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?

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After three weeks of relatively non-descript, basically one-word titles, this time Fringe dares to evoke a Philip K. Dick story with its title – does it measure up? What do you think?

This week’s episode didn’t have the bug-out cool factor of last week’s monster; in fact, it was largely centered very close to home as a shapeshifter who had impersonated a senator for a very long time gets severely injured, revealing his true nature and potentially compromising Bolivia’s cover. She and Newton race to try to silence him without causing suspicion, while Walter and Astrid try to figure out how to recover his data storage unit.

Meanwhile, the most interesting things are going on between Peter and Bolivia. It should be OBVIOUS by this point that Bolivia is not Olivia – she’s too confident, she’s too flirtatious, and she’s just…off. And Peter all but reveals that he knows she’s not Olivia, but he doesn’t, instead indulging her advances. But I’m pretty sure he’s playing her as much as she’s playing him. Remember, Peter hasn’t always been on the up and up, and he has a lot of experience reading people. The question is, what is his game, and how is it going to reveal itself over the coming episodes?

I’ve been concerned that either Peter’s obliviousness to Bolivia’s obvious falseness would grow ridiculous or else they would discover and unmask Bolivia too quickly, but the development that Peter perhaps knows and isn’t telling for reasons of his own is fascinating and yes, proves again that these writers know what they’re doing. /broken record

Here’s the cold open of this episode, with so much double-meaning in every line of dialogue I needed a second viewing to catch it all:

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Community 2×03: The Psychology of Letting Go

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Here’s why Community works week after week: it grounds its witty dialogue and deliciously absurd situations in characters that it has taken the time to establish and develop even in its short run so far. When Jeff freaks out about his cholesterol and starts turning everything around him into a depressing, mopey deathwatch, it makes sense because Jeff is a self-centered alpha male who would see everything around him through whatever obsession happens to hold him at the moment. When Britta and Annie start fighting, it makes sense, because the situation brought out latent jealousies and annoyances that both have had of the other for a year, and Shirley’s sidelined but pot-shot-taking figure fit her passive-aggressive nature to a T.

This episode wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny in dialogue as the first two of the year were, but that’s okay – it made up for it in character moments. The comedy here was very true to the characters and made up for in timing and poignancy what it perhaps lacked in immediate jocularity. The writers understand different types of comedy and are willing to use more than their patented zingers and meta-humor to sell an episode.

Community 2×04: Basic Rocket Science

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Anatomy of a joke on Community. The Set-Up: The Dean wants to run a space simulator earlier than rival City College and assigns our study group to clean up the ramshackle Winnebago-turned-sim before the big day. The Referential Level: Study group heads toward the simulator (the first shot of them in the film) in slow-motion, dressed in white jumpsuits, with a low-angle shot followed by a full-front shot that depicts them as heroes in a Michael Bay-esque astronaut film. The Meta Level: Jeff asks “Abed, can we stop walking in slow motion now?” The Character Level: Pierce asks “You guys are walking in slow motion?” Every level of this joke is funny, and stacking them on top of each other, stretching it out as far as possible is brilliant. It gets to the heart of Community – it’s a show that knows a funny situation (spur of the moment show-off space sim in a KFC promo vehicle), knows its pop culture (it gets both those angles and the music SPOT ON), knows its characters (the Dean is a neurotic, ineffective, and pointlessly competitive insecure man; Abed is always making a movie in his head that expands into real life; and Pierce is old and doesn’t realize it), and knows how to exploit and combine all those things. In a twenty-second joke.

After last week’s solid but more character-driven episode, this one is back into full-on hilarity, while still having time to pull out some character moments – the big one here being Annie wanting to transfer schools, but also smaller ones like Jeff’s willingness to out the group as the anus flag creators because he couldn’t stand that the Dean didn’t get the joke. Overall, another knock out of the park for the Community team.

Here’s the astronaut joke:

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Chuck 4×02-4×03

*spoilers for both episodes*

Chuck 4×02: Chuck vs. the Suitcase

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After being somewhat disappointed with the season premiere, I wasn’t too proactive about sitting down to watch the second episode of Chuck, but after some encouragement from friends, I went ahead and did it. And it is a much stronger episode (and strangely, has nothing at all to do with the overall Mom Bartowski Search plotline, as the previous week’s preview suggested it would), and gives me a little more hope for the rest of the season, though I do still have my reservations.

It’s back to a more case-of-the-week format, this time with Sarah and Chuck going after an Eastern European spy who has some sort of chip that guides smart bullets, some pretty cool looking tech if I do say so myself. Chuck is awkward dorky cool again and flashing to do kung fu and pick safe locks, Sarah’s going mano-et-mano on a Milan fashion week catwalk, you know, the sort of thing we expect from Chuck. I’m just hoping we don’t get a full return to status quo; as I said after the premiere, I’m not cool with that. And in a way, that’s what this episode was, but it also suggested some ways it can kind of have it both ways.

For example. The BuyMore is rebuilt (return to status quo). But it’s a CIA base now (significant change). Morgan and Casey are back working undercover there (return to status quo). But as of the end of episode two, Morgan is the manager, specifically tasked to keep the BuyMore from looking too CIA-level efficient and thus suspicious (significant change). Jeff and Lester are back (return to status quo). But as the head of Morgan’s unsuspecting make-the-Buy-More-a-shambles-again initiative (significant change? Okay, maybe that’s stretching it…). I’m still not a fan of the secret-keeping about Chuck being back in the CIA, but we’ll see where it goes. And I’m still always worried about them deciding to break up Chuck and Sarah, which had me flailing at the non-suitcase-unpacking throughline of this episode, but ultimately, they proved my fears wrong and that plot tied the ep together quite well. I’m going to try to quit worrying about that for now and just trust that the writers won’t burn me on this.

Chuck 4×03 – Chuck vs. the Cubic Z

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Okay, whatever goodwill Chuck had from me from the last episode mostly dissipated after this one. (I wrote the section above before having watched this one.) Here our cadre of spies are tasked with guarding two prisoners. Sounds simple, right? Well, until one of the prisoners gets Sarah rattled about her commitment issues and Chuck botches interrogating her about his mother and the other prisoner escapes and goes on a rampage.

The fact that the writers can’t make it through an episode without some huge (real or perceived) crisis in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship is frustrating me to no end – last week’s made me hope that it was more related to the difficulties of being a spy and having a relationship (which could go interesting places), but this week was almost all Sarah’s own hang-ups as exacerbated by the prisoner spy chick who knew Sarah way back when she was Jenny and thinks her life experience maps directly onto Sarah’s. This is basically just the same old will-they0won’t they wishy-washiness that they’ve been doing for at least two years. I AM TIRED OF IT. I was tired of it a year ago, but I was hoping that if they finally got together the writers would focus on something else for a while, but apparently they can’t. Because there are NO OTHER interesting stories to be had here. What about Chuck and Ellie? What about Chuck and Ellie and their mom (we’ll be getting back to that, I know)? What about Casey and his daughter? What about Morgan and Casey’s daughter? What about Morgan and the BuyMore?

Oh, right, we did get some Morgan and the BuyMore story. Which was so dull I barely remembered it. Some big game launch, shipment didn’t come, Big Mike had to step in and same the day with an eye-rolling pep talk, yada yada yada. Didn’t care.

But despite all of this ranting, I didn’t totally hate watching most of the episode. There are some decent fight scenes, and some good interaction between Sarah and prisoner Heather. But the final sequence had me seething, so let’s just talk about that for a second. Chuck and Sarah are talking through the stuff Heather brought up and were making progress, and I was going, okay, maybe we can just put this behind us AGAIN and move on in the next episode onto something more interesting than Sarah’s commitment issues. But no, because intercut with this conversation for like FIVE MINUTES are shots of the engagement ring that Big Mike lost earlier in the episode sliding down the ductwork, inevitably heading toward Chuck and Sarah down in castle. And yep, just as Chuck and Sarah are getting cutesy going through a litany of things she’s ready for vs. things she’s not, the ring falls and Chuck picks it up, kneeling in a perfect proposal pose. FOR REAL GUYS? FOR REAL? This scene was horrible on so many levels – it forces yet another episode of will-they-won’t-they about the biggest will-they-won’t-they ever, it forces the question of marriage way too soon into the series/season/relationship, it reinforces once again the writers can’t think of anything else to do other than poke at Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, and besides all that, it’s done in the most painfully obvious, hamfistedly edited, and utterly ridiculous way that I almost shut my TV off and quit watching the show (I mean the entire series) before the ring ever fell all the way down.

And yeah. I’m still *this close* to quitting the show all together, because that scene was pretty much the last straw that destroyed any lingering hopes that the writers have any clue what they’re doing. I’ll stick around maybe based on the probability of Summer Glau guest starring later on in the season, but unless something drastically changes, I’m done after that.