Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ninja Steampunk 21st Century Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes on the screen in 2009 was not just the cerebral Holmes played by Basil Rathbone from 1939-1946, or the hipper Holmes of Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Percent Solution novel made into a movie in 1976. Downey's Holmes in Guy Ritche's movie had all of this - a brilliant mind and far more than a droll sense of humor - in a ninja, James Bondian warrior who could take out the most physically intimidating bad guys with the best of them.

This Sherlock actually did have an opponent who could have come straight out of Bond - a giant French guy, who reminded me of Jaws, the Bond bad guy with the teeth - as well a proximate master villain (Blackwell) whose extinction in the end by Holmes only cleared the way for the true master (that would be Professor Moriarty), just as Bond's vanquishing of Dr. No only led to Blofeld. Throw into this Lord Blackwell's evil magic - shades of you know who in Harry Potter - and you have an altogether satisfying, excellent adventure.

But Holmes' logic strips away the magic, and shows it be clever use of science, circa the late Victorian age, and this gets to the heart of this movie and its ambiance: a great steampunk movie, one of the best of its kind. Shot with a keen eye for the dawning of electrical power, for the industrial revolution flexing its keening, massive weight, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes takes us back to a world which movies made much closer to Sherlock's original time couldn't show us. In a way, Sherlock Holmes is this steampunk world is like the Avatar Garden of Eden world in space - two convincing, immersive, other-worldly creations.

The movie also provided palpable updates of women menaced by buzz saws that hearken back to silent movies, and the story was pretty good, as well. Sherlock is desired by sexy Irene Adler, who gets to kiss him only after she's drugged him. This continues the essentially asexual Holmes of Basil Rathbone, and obviously is decidedly unBondian. Dr. Watson, powerfully played by Jude Law, is also unlike the bumbling sidekick Watson of the 1940s, and can throw a mean punch of his own (including once at Holmes). This Dr. Watson also reminded me for some reason of Bones McCoy in Star Trek - "I'm a doctor, Jim!" - which is all to the good.

It's no easy feat to bring back of cast of characters from so long ago with so many incarnations. With little more than a voice for Professor Moriarity in this movie, it's clear that the adventures of this new Sherlock Holmes have just begun.






6-min podcast review of Sherlock Holmes






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Media Coverage and Government Response to Terrorism in the Christmas Skies

How did the media do in covering the resurgence of terrorism in the skies on Christmas day?

1. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's assessment on several news shows this morning that "the system worked" - by which she meant that, after the would-be bomber was stopped, everything went well and as expected - was one of the most clueless statements I've heard a government official make. At best, the smooth working of the "system" after the bomber failed was a footnote to the immensely larger, appalling story which is: the system did not work, insofar as its primary purpose, which is stopping people like Abdulmutallab from getting on board a plane with a bomb in the first place. That system failed miserably, and very nearly tragically. What stopped the bomber was not the system but a combination of the good luck of a bomb that didn't work, and the vigilance and heroism of the plane's passengers.

2. I've seen reports that some spokespeople in the government have been rankled by the media's persistent probing of what went wrong, and what our government is doing about it. Rankled? The media are doing their jobs, holding our government's feet to the fire, demanding that it do its job better: which is, to protect us. Even most libertarians agree that if the government has one undeniable responsibility, it is to protect the people from foreign aggressors.

3. One medium that has not been doing its job this weekend, I've got to say, is MSNBC, which presented another round of its "Doc Bloc" or documentary, canned programming rather than covering serious crises in the world. I first noticed this during the Mumbai massacre last year, and had hopped MSNBC might have woken up to its responsibilities as an all-news station (see MSNBC Runs Canned Doc Bloc as Mumbai Burns), but the most relevant programming we saw on MSNBC this weekend was about Tiger Woods, which is to say, not relevant to the near mass-murder and resurgence of terrorism at all. In contrast, CNN provided excellent continuing coverage, and Fox was pretty good on this, too.

Clearly, terrorism has not gone away. We need to our government's and our media's maximum attention to combat it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar in Science Fiction Perspective

My wife and I just came back from Avatar in iMax-3D. I guess I'm partial to any stories about Alpha Centauri - my second novel, Borrowed Tides, is about a one-way trip there, and Pandora in Avatar is a moon thriving with life around a gas giant planet circling Alpha Centauri A - but I think Avatar sets the gold standard for sheer beauty, visual imagery, and excitement in a science fiction or fantasy movie, standards previously held by the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings sagas. The attention to botanic detail, and for that matter all the beings, sentient and nearly so on  Pandora, was a breathtaking sight to behold.

Avatar's story has a lot in common with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, too. Good people or beings, in tune with nature, beset by a cruel, military force bent on taming, and if not, destroying the gentler souls. Indeed, many of the best battle scenes in Avatar come right out of Star Wars, and the single star fighters taking on huger cruisers, and Lord of the Rings, with Frodo and allies fighting the bruisers and monsters hurled against them by the evil lords, and the good beings all rallying in the end. There are echoes of Harry Potter as well as Lord of the Rings, too, with heroes flying great winged creatures, and of Terminator, with killing machines which also recall what the Empire used to attack the Ewoks in Star Wars.

In Star Wars, humans are pretty much equally distributed between heroes and villains, and the same is true of magical beings in Lord of the Rings. In Avatar, the humans are mostly bad, and the in-tune alien Navi on Pandora are all good.

This has led some critics to characterize the movie as an attack on humanity, and, because the ugliest Marines in the movie all have American accents, as an attack on America and American values. If this is so, it would be an attack on America in the 19th century, when Americans of European descent subjugated and wiped out most of the Native Americans on behalf of our selfish commercial interests. In that sense, Avatar was in many ways more like a Western, a cowboy and Indian movie, than a science fiction story - though the two genres are closely related. But seeing as how America in the 20th and 21st centuries has for the most part only gone to war when first attacked, or in attempt to preempt an attack, rightly or wrongly foreseen, the bad guys in Avatar bear little resemblance to us, and certainly not much to our current, professed ideals.

The most original part of the story concerned humans taking alien form, itself a science fiction chestnut in many a story, novel, and Star Trek episode. In fact, the story told in Avatar seemed more like an extended Star Trek episode than any of the individual Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies. The human dynamics were also reminiscent of Star Trek, with Jake (the human hero) disobeying orders much like Kirk, and also falling in love with an alien.

But the women in Avatar were stronger than the women in Star Trek, and the heroine reminded me of Padme in Star Wars, especially when she literally lent a hand to killing the vicious Marine colonel. Speaking of Marines, that aspect of Avatar was reminiscent of Starship Troopers, though in that movie our Marines were all good guys, fighting marauding tank-sized and bigger bugs that attacked humanity.

So, all in all, James Cameron's Avatar was a splendidly rendered, multi-derivative science fiction movie - well worth seeing, in iMax-3D if you can, if your eyes and soul delight in visual magic, and/or if you just like science fiction. And, hey, Lost fans - you'll love seeing Ana Lucia in action again.


6-min podcast review of Avatar

*Note added January 17, 2009:  Delighted that Avatar just won the Golden Globe!

**Note added January 18, 2009:  See The Planets of Alpha Centauri: The Hunt for Pandora for a good summary of current attempts to find real worlds there. 
 


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Closer Closes on a Fine Note for The Season

You gotta hand it to TNT - I do - they put on most of The Closer this past summer, but had the savvy to save the past three episodes for the television-dreary month of December. TNT probably did this in part to attract attention to its new series - Men of a Certain Age, which I haven't yet seen - but whatever the cable network's reasons, I think it was a good idea.

Last night's closer for season 5 - episode 5.15 - was a fine send-off, featuring a return of the notorious Captain Sharon Raydor, played by Mary McConnell, formerly President of humanity on Battlestar Galactica, and something of an arch-rival to Brenda Leigh. Throw into this volatile mix Chief Pope - who gets furious at Brenda based on a misunderstanding - and you get a good workout for all the characters.

My favorite scene was Pope screaming at Brenda, with the crew hearing it all in the room next door. Turns out he was angry because she hadn't told him about Fritz's job offer in Washington, which Pope thought might take Brenda away. But it turns out, further, that Brenda hasn't told Pope because she didn't know about the offer herself, which leads to some good, ultimately maybe happily after ever for Brenda Leigh, Fritz, and the kitten.

As for the case, it's a good test of Brenda Leigh's logic, as she sees through the trappings and boxes in the killer. This was a good season for The Closer, highlighted by Brenda Leigh's niece Charlie, played by Kyra Sedgwick's daughter Sosie Bacon, and Provenza's affair.

The snow's outside the window now. I'll look forward to the next season of The Closer when it's long since melted and the sun's up hot and high.

See also The Roots of Testimony on The Closer and Finding Killers vs. Hearts on The Closer and Brenda Leigh's Niece and Libby from Lost on The Closer and Tom Skerritt on The Closer and Det. Richard Tracy on The Closer and Pres. Laura Roslin vs. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Roots of Testimony on The Closer

A delightful next to last episode (5.14) of Season 5 of The Closer tonight - the season resumed last week, after a pause since August - featuring Beau Bridges guest starring as Provenza's old partner, George, now Georgette.

Yes, unknown to Provenza, George had always felt like a woman, and after he left the LAPD, he underwent the necessary operation. To matters even more interesting, George had always liked women not men, and Georgette feels the same way, so Provenza has to accept that his former partner is now a lesbian.

Well, Provenza will survive - he always does - but what's at stake in the legal arena tonight is George's testimony in a cold case that's come back to the front burner. George had charmed the killer - a woman, whom he sweet talked - into confessing back then. Will the jury believe him->her now, when Georgette reiterates that testimony, on the stand as a woman not a man?

By the way, did you know that the words "testify" and "testimony" derive from the word "testicles" - as in, well, swearing on one's testicles? Brenda Leigh perhaps has this in mind, when she delivers the best line of the night, thinking the jury will have no problem with Georgette on the stand: "We need her testimony not her testicles," Brenda Leigh observes of Georgette.

Elegantly said, but can a jury be relied upon not to doubt Georgette's testimony, when she first provided it seven years earlier as George? Provenza's solution is to have Georgette masquerade as George, but she's unwilling to perjure herself on the stand.

Georgette does come through in a way that does not violate the law, and provides a perfect conclusion to a story only The Closer and its mix of humor and savvy could put on. You gotta give the show credit for having the balls to go with a story like this (sorry, I couldn't resist).






6-min podcast review of The Closer

See also Finding Killers vs. Hearts on The Closer and Brenda Leigh's Niece and Libby from Lost on The Closer and Tom Skerritt on The Closer and Det. Richard Tracy on The Closer and Pres. Laura Roslin vs. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dexter 4.12: Revenges and Recapitulations

Well, Showtime told us the Season 4 finale of Dexter tonight would be stunning, and it was that, and more.

The Trinity killer, who is actually the Quadro killer (because he always kills a fourth, a ten-year old boy, who is kidnapped and presumed just missing), does not get away, as some people thought he might. Rita and the kids almost get away. Rita's two kids do. But Rita and the baby go back home, one last time. I heard once, from someone, that it's bad luck to go back home, once your journey has begun, and that was the case tonight for Rita.

Dexter thinks he has outwitted the Trinity killer, when Dexter springs out of the car that Trinity was using to make good his escape. Dexter will soon make that escape bad, but he doesn't know the half of it. Neither do we.

Trinity's oddly at peace when Dexter kills him. That's because he also has already taken his revenge. He's also managed to, at long last, break his compulsive cycle. A few weeks ago, in television time, he was frustrated by Dexter in his - Trinity's - attempt to kill a 10-year old boy. But he wasn't frustrated by Dexter tonight, as Trinity jumps on killing ahead in his cycle, and slits the artery of a woman in a bathtub. Rita. (I should note that I guess there is a remotely slight chance that the next door neighbor, Elliot, killed Rita - but why would he adopt Trinity's slit throat in the bathtub style?)

So Trinity is oddly, secretly, at peace when Dexter dispatches him. He's free at last. And Dexter is energized, satisfied, as he always is after he kills. He feels more than ever now that he can devote himself to his family, and leave his dark passenger behind.

But now the foundation of his family is gone - murdered by the man Dexter has been unable to kill until it was too late for Rita. Indeed, Dexter had saved Trinity's life, when Trinity was hanging over the ledge of a building.

And Rita and Dexter's baby is sitting in Rita's blood - a horrible scene, and we're especially aware of its significance, as Debra discovers everything, that he was "born in blood" (as Dexter puts it), brother of Rudy/Brian, everything, except that Dexter is a serial killer.

Will Dexter continue with Harry's code? Rita's murder leaves him motivated by revenge even more than Debra's shooting, and look where that got him. I found Rita an annoying character, and in that sense I'm glad she's off the show. But she won't be out of Dexter's life. And whatever Dexter does, Debra will be razor close to discovering it, now that she knows most of the truth of Dexter's life.

This was the best season of Dexter. My only regret is that the next season doesn't start tomorrow.


5-min podcast review of Dexter


See also
Dexter Season 4: Sneak Preview Review ... The Family Man on Dexter 4.5 ... Dexter on the Couch in 4.6 ... Dexter 4.7: 'He Can't Kill Bambi' ... Dexter 4.8: Great Mistakes ... 4.9: Trinity's Surprising Daughter ... 4.10: More than Trinity ... 4.11: The "Soulless, Anti-Family Schmuck"

See also reviews of Season 3: Season's Happy Endings? ... Double Surprise ... Psychotic Law vs. Sociopath Science ... The Bright, Elusive Butterfly of Dexter ... The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

Reviews of Season 2: Dexter's Back: A Preview and Dexter Meets Heroes and 6. Dexter and De-Lila-h and 7. Best Line About Dexter - from Lila and 8. How Will Dexter Get Out of This? and The Plot Gets Tighter and Sharper and Dex, Doakes, and Harry and Deb's Belief Saves Dex and All's ... Well

See also about Season 1: First Place to Dexter







The Plot to Save Socrates



"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates .... FREE!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fringe 2.10: Walter's Brain, Harry Potter, and Flowers for Algernon

Fringe 2.10 went Harry Potter's "pensieve" one big, science fictional step better this week, with a story about crucial pieces of Walter's memory being literally sliced out of his brain, and placed for safekeeping in the brains of others.

One part of this excellent story featured the impact of the implanted slivers of brain on the recipients: they went crazy. This impelled the people who did the extracts and the implants - our "friends" from the alternate reality that was once our Peter's home, and is now William Bell's - to remove the slivers from the hosts, and put them back in Walter's brain.

Like any fine piece of science fiction, this story followed through with logical results. The hosts became cured as soon as the piece of Walter's brain was removed. And Walter became complete, sane, when the missing pieces were hooked up again (not reinserted - there wasn't time) to his brain.

And, like Charlie in Daniel Keyes' masterpiece Flowers for Algernon, Walter of course becomes a little crazy once more - the Walter we have come to know and love - when the connections to the missing pieces of his brain are removed. A tour de force sensitive performance by John Noble - a little crazy, clear and sane, a little crazy again - brought this all home.

Interestingly, this is the second time in this Fall 2009 television season that I've noticed a powerful connection to Flowers for Algernoon - see my House 6.8 and the Reverse of Flowers for Algernon. It's a real pleasure to see good television resonate with such a science fictional and deeply moving classic.

The people from Bell's world wanted Walter's knowledge of how he built a doorway to their world. They're getting ever closer to building the portal that could leave our world in ruins - we should at least be ok until the series resumes in 2010.







5-min podcast review of Fringe

See also Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season ... Fringe 2.2 and The Mole People ... Fringe 2.3 and the Human Body as Bomb ... Fringe 2.4 Unfolds and Takes Wing ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers ... Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey


See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best




Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bad Santa, Heartwarming Bones 5.10

Actually, the Santa only seemed to be bad at the beginning of Bones 5.10 - we later find that he was set up by bad people, he's really just an exterminator (of pests, not people) - but Bones 5.10 was indeed a heartwarming, winning winter solstice episode, with everyone at the table, including Emily Deschanel's real life sister Zooey, who plays Tempe's second cousin.

The holiday highlights include -

1. Bones undresses Booth, to locate shrapnel from the exploded Santa, but hey, whatever it takes.

2. Michelle wants to spend Christmas in Hawaii, but Cam eventually says no, so the two can spend Christmas together. It's good to see them close.

3. Great line from Bones, in response to the exploded Santa's mother saying her son wouldn't hurt a fly. "He's an exterminator," Bones replies, "by definition he hurts flies."

4. Zooey's character Margaret, who quotes Ben Franklin the way Bones cites science, has some pretty good lines too. The best, about Booth and Bones: "He that would fish, must venture his bait."

5. Jack and Angela have a good momentary scene. I still think, to borrow an expression from The Supremes, that someday they'll be together.

6. Bones has more compassion than ever - she doesn't want the exploded exterminator/Santa's mother to have to go to his funeral alone on Christmas day, because that would be "heartbreaking" for her. Booth reminds her and us that Bones would usually say that the heart is a muscle, and therefore can't really break - but it is a pleasure to see how far she's come along.

7. Ryan O'Neal's back as Bones' father. I wouldn't mind another episode with him in more close-to-criminal form.

About the only thing missing from this episode was the whole ensemble of graduate student lab assistants - most of all Zack Addy, who could have put in an appearance as the lab assistant of Christmas past. Well, maybe for the Easter episode...



See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Dexter 4.11: The "Soulless, Anti-Family Schmuck"

"You'll come across as a soulless, anti-family schmuck" - not a shot against Dexter Morgan, or any major character on the show, but what Laguerta says to Captain Matthews, as she stands up for her marriage to Batista in Dexter 4.11, and tells Matthews to stop threatening her and Batista about their romantic relationship. One of the best lines in the show, and I mention it because it shows how sharp even the throwaway lines have been on this series, especially this year.

Actually, Trinity, last week unveiled as more accurately called the Quadro killer (at least by me), turns out to be even more of a "soulless, anti-family, schmuck" than we thought. He tells his daughter Christine, after knowing that she killed Lundy to protect him, that was she was "always a stupid girl" and he was sorry she was ever born. This leads her to take her life, after confessing to Debra.

But Dexter Morgan has more soul than ever, even it's split among at least five parts, as Harry enumerates - "blood tech, husband, father, serial killer, and now Kyle Butler" - as Dexter stands before a four-paneled mirror, and the camera moves slowly over Dexter's refections, and then to Dexter, in a scene that Hitchcock and Fellini would have been proud of.

This show is so good, so well made and acted, so powerful in plot, brilliant in dialogue, that it's almost painful to watch, as befits a show about a serial killer who in all other ways is a mensch.

And the Season 4 finale is next week!






5-min podcast review of Dexter



See also
Dexter Season 4: Sneak Preview Review ... The Family Man on Dexter 4.5 ... Dexter on the Couch in 4.6 ... Dexter 4.7: 'He Can't Kill Bambi' ... Dexter 4.8: Great Mistakes ... 4.9: Trinity's Surprising Daughter ... 4.10: More than Trinity

See also reviews of Season 3: Season's Happy Endings? ... Double Surprise ... Psychotic Law vs. Sociopath Science ... The Bright, Elusive Butterfly of Dexter ... The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

Reviews of Season 2: Dexter's Back: A Preview and Dexter Meets Heroes and 6. Dexter and De-Lila-h and 7. Best Line About Dexter - from Lila and 8. How Will Dexter Get Out of This? and The Plot Gets Tighter and Sharper and Dex, Doakes, and Harry and Deb's Belief Saves Dex and All's ... Well

See also about Season 1: First Place to Dexter







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bones 5.9 meets Avatar and Videogamers

There was almost as much Avatar as Bones in episode 5.9, but that was ok, in fact pretty enjoyable, because we got to see a good story with Sweets, Jack, and Colin on the line in front of the Avatar theater, or, to be more precise, a good story with Sweets and a girl straight out the summer of love on the movie line.

First, what was Avatar - to open on December 18 in movie theaters, for real - doing so prominently on Bones? Well, Avatar is a Fox movie, and Bones is on Fox, so this was product placement par excellence. I have no problem with that - it worked well in the story. And it was good seeing Sweets - and then Colin - with the neo-hippie, and Jack give all of that some of his best knowing smirks, as well as some good older brother advice about women and life to Sweets.

Meanwhile, Booth and Bones had a pretty good case involving video gamers, in particular a murder that takes place over what I think (but I'm no expert) is a fictitious video game, Punky Pong. I have been involved in some learned debates, though, over whether playing video games engenders violence - I say they do not, see my CNBC debate with crusader against video games Jack Thompson, below (it's received more than 90,000 views on YouTube) - so I was happy to see that the violence in Bones was not the result of video games, but an over-protective father.

Booth and Bones get a little good time together at the end of the story, with Booth arguing the emotional, and Bones the logical, the ying and yang of their relationship which never grows old. They play a game of Punky Pong. In a sense their as yet incomplete relationship is as fictitious as the video game - or will remain as fictitious, until it's realized - but characters on television series are themselves avatars, subject to a logic all its own.


I'm actually on the left, and Jack Thompson on the right, in the above






6-min podcast review of Bones


See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" ... Bad Santa, Heartwarming Bones 5.10






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey

I prefer when Fringe moves its central double universe story along, but tonight's episode 2.9 offered an excellent standalone story anyway, with excellent, emotionally powerful development of Walter in the bargain.

Chinese smuggling of drugs on ships with human carriers is a frequent source of crime in our TV police and FBI shows. Fringe 2.9 gave it a new twist: Chinese smuggling of alien-like creatures, that begin as worms, that provide strong boosts to people with weak or damaged immune systems. The human carriers are no less victimized than if they were carrying drugs. But the medicinal payoff offers a nice ethical ambiguity, and the possibility of symbiotic organisms giving immune benefits is a good science fictional gambit, rooted, as is the case with all good science fiction, in actual science. After all, the bacteria we consume in yogurt help with our digestion, and there are likely other symbionts in our bodies that help our lives. (One of my novels, The Consciousness Plague, is about organisms that help us think, so I'm especially partial to symbiont stories.)

Meanwhile, Walter wants to start living more independently, like an adult - an individual who can go to and fro as he pleases, without Peter's or Astrid's watchful eyes. It's a touching and effective story, and John Noble's fine acting makes it one-hundred percent believable. Jasika Nicole puts in her best performance so far as Astrid, too. But can Walter, so seriously damaged, ever become self-sufficient and totally adult? The answer, so far, is yes and no. But the ending of this episode shows Walter is making genuine progress - he implants a tracking device in his neck, and gives Peter the finder. In that way, Peter can always find Walter in the future (that is, in future episodes of Fringe).

Speaking of which, next week's Fringe looks to be a good one, with more on the two universes...






7-min podcast review of Fringe


See also Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season ... Fringe 2.2 and The Mole People ... Fringe 2.3 and the Human Body as Bomb ... Fringe 2.4 Unfolds and Takes Wing ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers


See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best




Thursday, December 3, 2009

Olivia Benford at Harvard in FlashForward 1.10

FlashFoward 1.10 - the finale episode in the first part of the season, with the series to resume in March 2010 - was as fine as the series premiere back in September, which is to say, packed full of action, surprise, paradox, emotion, and scientifically implausible but maybe not impossible possibilities - or science fiction on television at its best.

1. Olivia and Lloyd talk about Harvard and alternate universes. Lloyd was a student there, Olivia almost was, but got entwined with Mark instead. Lloyd met his wife in a building next door - which is where Olivia would have stayed had she gone to Harvard. The implication: perhaps love conquers all, including alternate realities or universes. What Olivia and Lloyd may be just beginning to feel about each other here, now, in "our" universe, may be an expression of a transcendent love which prevailed a little earlier in the Olivia-at-Harvard world. The kidnapping of Lloyd in the last scene (which I did see coming - something about the manner of the ambulance guys - but it was powerful nonetheless) leaves Olivia with Dylan, which is a big step closer to Lloyd, wherever his kidnappers may be taking him.

2. Mark and Demetri defy Stan and go to Hong Kong to find the woman who told Demetri of his death. I think of her as Behrooz's mother, after Shohreh Aghdashloo's memorable performance in 24, but her name in FlashForward is Nhadra Udaya, and she tells Mark and Demetri the astonishing, unbelievable: Demetri's assassin is Mark, who will shoot Demetri three times with Mark's gun (Nhadra knows its serial number). Mark vows not to let this happen, and I believe him, but .... what significance do vows to prevent the future from happening have in this, our, flashforward universe? Mark says to Nhadra, "this isn't over". She replies, "it never is". But the only evidence we have that the future can be changed is Gough's suicide - not very reassuring. (Good, by the way, to see Michael Eealy of Sleeper Cell in the Hong Kong business as a CIA agent.)

3. But back to the recalcitrant future: Perhaps the biggest payoff in fatality tonight was Zoey's realization that she was not at Demetri's and her wedding in her flashforward, she was at his funeral. Lots of fans had been suggesting this as an explanation. I'm still wondering why she didn't feel herself being profoundly sad in her flashforward - not an emotion she would likely be feeling at her wedding - but ok, at least this resolves the conflict between her vision and Demetri's lack of vision. And with the testimony of Behrooz's mother in Hong Kong, this is tightening the vise of future death around Demetri ever more convincingly ...

4. Still, there are grounds for hope. Demetri is now in possession of Mark's gun - after Stan removes Mark from service - which means that gun is at least one person removed from firing at Demetri. And Simon is revealing himself as maybe not the worst character in the world, and indeed someone who can actually help the good guys get to the bottom of this. For example, he's the inventor of the strange device we saw in that 1991 photo of facilities in Africa - except Simon says he didn't invent the device until 1992. Explanations wrapped in paradox, or maybe just time travel ...

5. Simon also throws of little light on D. Gibbons, one of the mysterious men wide awake during the blackout. And we see him near the end with Nahdra (Behrooz's mother), which to some degree throws everything she's told Mark and Demetri into doubt ... So, maybe that's good, too...

Hey, if you don't like complicated, watch Heroes - though, come to think of it, that's pretty complicated too. All good and great irresistible television is. And tonight's FlashForward was up there with the best. It was written by David S. Goyer (co-creator of the series) and Scott M. Gimple. Can the show keep up this level of story telling in 2010?

I'm betting it will even be better. The compelling story told so far demands it.

8-min podcast review of FlashForward


See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost and 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability and 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures and 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House ... Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5 ... Across the Universe in FlashForward 1.6 ... FlashForward 1.7: The Future Can Be... ... FlashForward 1.8: The Nightie as a Grain of Sand ... FlashForward 1.9: Shelter from the Storm

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Viva Lightman and Las Vegas in Lie to Me 2.9

So now we see that the delightful Dr. Lightman has another flaw from a prior life in the fast lane - he has a weakness for the roulette wheel, and for big stakes, since it's the one game in Las Vegas that can't be figured at all by looking at anyone's face.

That's what Foster tells us, and she keeps a watchful eye on Lightman in this Las Vegas caper, who in turn keeps telling her to back off, she's "smothering". Foster's also at least as concerned about Poppy Wells - played by Abby Brammell of The Unit - who looks better than ever, which is hot indeed, and certainly enough to get Lightman to spend a night with her with all the trimmings. I half expected Mac to storm in (a Unit reference), but the story played it out just fine with its own cast of card-playing characters.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, DC, there's some fine chemistry brewing between Loker and Torres, who remarks to Loker about the dilated pupils of someone Loker is dating, with Torres just an inch or so from Loker's face, and Torres' pupils dilated pretty well as well. Food for thought and more for Loker.







5-min podcast review of Lie to Me

Lie to Me continues to glitter and simmer.


See also my reviews of
Lie to Me and Bill O'Reilly, Saddam Hussein, and Ben Reynolds in Lie to Me 2.6 and Lie to Me 2.7: The Redeeming of Loker and Lie to Me 2.8 in Afghanistan






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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

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Obama in Afghanistan: Tragic History Repeating Itself

In the tradition of George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama has just committed 30,000 American troops to fight an undeclared, unconstitutional war in Afghanistan.

It is amazing and depressing to hear how similar the rhetoric of our current and past Presidents on this issue - the sending of more Americans to fight an undeclared war overseas. They all told us that we need these additional troops to hasten the time when all of our troops can come home, that we need to be in these foreign lands to preserve our own security at home.

But did Johnson and Nixon's actions in Vietnam hasten the return of Americans first sent to fight in Indochina by JFK? It wasn't until after Nixon had been forced to resign that we finally left South Vietnam, as North Vietnam overwhelmed a country that mostly did not want our defense.

There are differences between Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to be sure. Obama was right to point out that no one situated in Vietnam had ever attacked us, and the same is true of Iraq.

But Afghanistan is nonetheless a country that we have no business in occupying, whatever Obama or anyone may term the presence of our growing number of troops. Osama bin Laden's presence there nearly a decade ago justified a brief military action back in 2001 - an action which failed to get him then. But how does that justify a "war" - Obama's term - right now?

Presidents should not be allowed to send troops for any length of time to fight in any foreign country, without a Declaration of War by both houses of Congress (Senate and the House of Representatives), as required by our Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11), the Supreme Law of the Land.

Congress and the media failed to do their jobs with Johnson, Nixon, and both Bushes. I hope Congress and the media finally begin to do their jobs with Barack Obama now.

House 6.9: Wilson

Last night's powerhouse House - 6.9 - could have just as easily been called Wilson, and it was. The story was his more than House's. We saw little of House's team. We met Wilson's assistant. We see Wilson at work, in a crisis in which House is to Wilson as Wilson usually is to House - providing advice and support where he can, albeit in House's inimitable way.

The story was about as life-and-death as it gets. Wilson's cancer patient from a few years ago, in long term remission, has become Wilson's friend. Of course, the friend will soon be afflicted by cancer again. Wilson at first denies this, going with a seemingly more reasonable diagnosis. House sees through this - it's cancer. Wilson tries a desperate treatment - he thinks it's House-like, though House objects - and it cures the new cancer but "trashes" the patient's liver, as House or Wilson puts it.

This leaves the patient less than a day of life, unless he gets a transplant, and is the set-up for the real and heart-wrenching story. Wilson with House's assistance comes close to getting a transplant for the patient, but fails. The only option left for Wilson is giving his patient a slice of Wilson's own liver. Not a necessarily dangerous operation, but all operations are dangerous, and doctors are not supposed to do this for their patients.

Wilson's decision, opposed by House, is consistent with his character. It shows Wilson more than ever as an anti-House, someone with a wellspring of compassion that House seems to lack. Yet House's position was not without compassion, either - in this case, for his only friend, Wilson.

Was that therefore selfish of House? In the end, all altruism has selfish motives. Even Wilson's generosity was driven in part by a need to ease his conscience.

Kudos to House for presenting such ethically complex, great television.






5-min podcast review of House

See also House Reborn in Season Six? ... 6.2: The Gang is Back and Fractured ... 6.3: The Saving Hitler Quandary ... 6.4: Diagnosis vs. Karma ... 6.5 Getting Better ... 6.6 House Around the Bases ... Four's a Crowd on House 6.7 ... House 6.8 and the Reverse of Flowers for Algernon






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Heroes 4 Mid Season 2009 Finale

A very good Heroes 4.12, mid-season 2009 finale tonight - with the story to resume in January. I've been watching every episode this Fall, but have only reviewed two of them, because, hey, I'm a fan as well as a reviewer, and sometimes it's fun just to watch a string of episodes with no review.

One of the best episodes was 4.8, in which Hiro goes back in time to the Burnt Toast Diner to save the love of his life, Charlie. Hiro succeeds in getting Sylar to dissolve the clot in Charlie's brain, and she survives - only to get whisked away and hidden somewhere in time by Samuel. This is far better than death, but still unsatisfactory for Hiro, who now is to some degree in service to Samuel, as the only way Hiro can get to Charlie. Her secreting in time does satisfy the rigors of changing the past without invoking the paradox of the change in the past changing the present, so why travel to the past in first place. Charlie in the past provides a logic for her missing from Hiro's life for the past three years - a logic as strong as her being dead.

Episode 4.8 also set the foundation for one of the best new relationships this season - Noah and Lauren. Noah deserves some true love after all's he's been through, but four years ago was just too early, so Lauren ends their relationship before it even starts back with then, by asking the Haitian to erase all the emerging love she was feeling for Noah. But she was back last week, in 4.11, and tonight in 4.12, and I'm guessing this time the two will have a longer tenure together. They're good together.

Renewals of relationships - some successful so far, at least one not - were the keynotes of tonight's 4.12. Peter's presumably final goodbye to Nathan, after Peter uses his mental powers to strip away most of the layers of Sylar, was powerful. As Nathan explains before he takes his apparently final leave on the rooftop, Nathan was already dead, so there was nothing that Peter or anyone could do to permanently keep Nathan's mind and image imposed on Sylar. And so as Nathan slips away, Sylar emerges, and for the time being, which may well now be forever, we'll have Sylar and no Nathan at all.

While all of this has been happening, the center of influence and attraction has gradually been shifting to Samuel and his carnival. As Claire learns in 4.12, it's an appealing place for someone with her abilities and burdens to be - a community in which everyone with super powers can be themselves, with no pretense. But what does Samuel ultimately want? He has Hiro and now Claire somewhat under his thumb. In a close to last scene tonight, he tells Lydia that Claire is just a lure for someone more...

Who could that be? Peter?

We'll no doubt find out when Season 4 resumes and progresses in January 2010, with a story percolating and better set than any in Heroes since Season 1.






6-min podcast review of Heroes

See also Heroes Season 4 Premiere: Metaphysics, University, Carnival ... Heroes Meets The L Word in 4.5

See also reviews of Season 3 Heroes Gets Lost ... Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store ... Hiro's Time Traveling Closure ... Augmented ... Shades of Recalibration ... Baby, Rebel, and Last Fantasy ... All that Shape Changes Remains the Same? ... Season 3 Finale: Hopeful Deceptions

Reviews of Season 2 Heroes: Episode 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 7. Heroes Meets 12 Monkeys ... 9. How Immutable Are Fate and Isaac's Futures? ... 10. Penultimate for the Fall ... Heroes 2 Finale: Heroes Who Didn't Survive

And from Season 1: Heroes in Focus ... Heroes Five Years Gone: Triumph of Time Travel and Comics ... Heroes the Hard Part: Only the Pictures Not the Words ... Heroes Landslide: Winnowing and Convergence ... Heroes Volume One Finale







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