Sunday, November 19, 2006

The New James Bond - Without the Golden Pun

Actually, I thought Daniel Craig was great as James Bond in Casino Royal - I thought the movie was was excellent, too - but I missed two things in the new movie: gadgets and puns.

I'll save the gadgets and Q for another post. Here, I'll just lament the loss of puns. There were so few of them in Casino Royal that you could hear a pun drop. In fact, I heard only one (but I won't tell you what it is, because that would spoil the fun, and give away an important part of the plot).

The puns were always one of my favorite parts of the Bond movies - Sean Connery saying Lotta Lenya got her kicks (she wielded a shoe with a knife), Roger Moore saying he was keeping the old British end up as he made love to the heroine in a boat under the closing credits ... you know, that sort of bling.

Now, it makes good sense that Craig's Bond doesn't say many of those things - he's just starting out, and the whole point of the movie is that he doesn't yet have the polish and sophistication of the later Bond. He's not sure of his drinks or his clothes or even his poker cards. He's more vulnerable to women. He's driving a Ford in the first part of the movie.

So we can forgive him and the movie makers if they left him with barely a verbal barb. Who knows, maybe the world has outgrown that kind of repartee, which was most in vogue when Cole Porter was the top, a good two decades before the first Bond movie, anyway.

But I miss the license to kill which if it didn't make you die of laughter at least left you with a chuckle. Let's hope we haven't had the last laugh on Bond.

Listen to the podcast of this review: The Man Without the Golden Pun

See also Quantum of Solace Felt Like HBO or Showtime - High Praise

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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Thursday, November 16, 2006

TV Roundup: The Field in Mid-November

reposting this here - the original post on twice upon a rhyme on November 9 is getting lots of attention...

also check my latest Light On Light Through podcast on this - also available on iTunes

Time for another assessment of the current tv season. We're in the November sweeps - one of the months which advertisers use to decide how much commercials on tv are worth. The networks - all of tv - are thus more attuned than usual to getting the highest possible ratings - the greatest number of viewers.

I realized, the other night, that my tv viewing can basically be divided into three categories. At one end, I drop whatever else I'm doing, rush home early from dinner, put aside writing a blog post or listening to a podcast, to watch a tv show when it's broadcast live. At the other end, I'm feeling as I look at the tv that I'm wasting my time, and just about anything else would be more enjoyable or productive or of value or interest to me. Then there's everything else in between - which translates into I like a show enough to tape it and watch it later, catch a replay, but not enough to let it direct the schedule of my life.

So, with that in mind, here's how I see the current tv field:

Battlestar Galactica:

Well, as I've mentioned many times, I think it's the best show on television right now. The show took a daring turn last season, introducing a radically new plot thread at the end of the final episode. The thread was wrapped up almost completely in the first part of the current season - another unexpected move. I had lunch the other day with Bob Hughes - entertainment reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We had a great conversation, in which I indicated that The Wire was the best show on television about the real world, because Battlestar Galactica, a better show this year, is science fiction. Battlestar Galactica is about the real world, Hughes replied. And he's completely right. The show is so good that, not only do I put aside everything else to watch it, I'm almost willing to do the same for the many blog posts, message boards, and podcasts percolating about the show.

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Showtime's new show about a serial killer who takes out other serial killers is, so far, the best new tv this season. Michael C. Hall - of Six Feet Under fame - plays the part to chilling, sometimes even humorous, perfection. I've never quite seen anything like this on television. A serial killer with a social conscience... He has trouble relating to people - because he so detached - but is nice to his girlfriend. (Note added November 16: The shows raises the important ethical issue of whether a serial killer of serial killers is ultimately a good or a bad human being - worth seeing for that reason alone.)

Heroes: NBC's surprise hit, which had a nice recent cover on Entertainment Weekly. Sort of X-Men meets Unbreakable, but more charming. Highlights are a great Japanese character with a realistic (as far as I know) portrayal of Japanese culture, a single mother who does web-cast porn, and a literally indestructible cheerleader. But not all the heroes are all that interesting. Still, there is enough that appeals to me that I'll keep watching - if not always on its prime showing on Monday, then its replay on the Sci-Fi Channel on Friday (two hours before Battlestar Galactica). (Note added November 16: I'm enjoying this show more and more - especially because Hiro is a time traveller. Heroes gets more complex with every episode - a very good progression.)

Kidnapped: The merciless dictates of ratings first caused NBC to move the show to Saturday night, and then to a life solely on the web page. At least that's better than what happened to Coronet Blue, the classic fragment of a lost tv series from the 1960s (which I'll likely be writing about on some quiet weekend). Kidnapped has intelligence, style, subtlety, and deserved better than this - though, who knows, maybe life online is not such a bad life these days.

Lost: Came back after a disappointing second season with a pretty good first third of a third season. But, I don't know, the show could have been better this season, too. The flashbacks had almost no new information. The action in the original camp was boring. Mixed into this were some excellent threads about the Others, about Kate, Sawyer, and Jack ... but the show still feels to me like it's in a little bit of trouble. We're still without answers to most of the crucial puzzles of the first season - such as why characters who presumably met for the first time on the doomed plane had intersecting lives years before the plane... (see my twice upon a rhyme blog post on this from about six months ago)

The Nine: It's on right after Lost, but the possibility of even one new message or e-mail is enough to pull me away from this show. The main problem, for me, is the show has not really progressed very far since the bank robbery which got the ball rolling. I suspect it will soon have fewer than nine viewers...

Six Degrees: Another show that started off pretty good, but doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Like Heroes, it has an uneven mix of very appealing and somewhat boring, obvious characters. But it lacks the sparkle of Heroes, and its New York City ambience is not as good as the streets in Kidnapped.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Bring back 77 Sunset Strip from the late 1950s! Studio 60 had a few good moments, but the Aaron Sorkin banter weighs heavy. I don't dislike this show as much as do some critics, but NBC skipped a couple of weeks for this show, and I barely knew it was missing.

The Wire: Well, you all know how much I enjoy this show. And though this season is not the best for The Wire, without Stringer Bell, it is still outstanding, superb, television. And that opening song - "Down in the Hole". Every season I'm a little annoyed when they put up a new version in the opening credits. And every season, after 3 orr 4 episodes, I'm liking the new version the best.... (Note to blogspot readers: See my "The Wire Without Stringer," a post from a few weeks ago on my twice upon a rhyme blog. And the listen to the Light On Light Through podcast of "The Wire Without Stringer," for a 60-second preview of Idris Elba's new song, "Johnny Was". Idris played Stringer Bell.)

So, there you have it ... I'll have another round-up in the next few months - by which time, Jack Bauer will back on the screen...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Enjoyable Trouble with Time Travel

I've been thinking more about time trave than usual - I always think about it at least a little - because I've been enjoying Heroes on NBC, and the main reason is one of the most appealing characters, Hiro, can bend space and time. In other words, he can teleport and time travel.

Now teleportation, though extraordinary, is really just an extension of what we already do, all the time - move across distances, or space. As in walking across the street or taking a plane. Time travel, on the other hand, is something we never do. That is, we live forward in time, but never go backward, and never go forward any faster, certainly not instantly.

Which is what makes time travel such an immensely enjoyable vehicle for fiction. You can travel a day or a year into the future and see what you're doing then, and what's happening in the world. You can travel to the past and have a drink or a cup of tea with your great-great grandmother. (You can go back in the past and try to save Socrates...)

Except ... you'd need to make sure that if you did meet your great-great-grandmother, it wasn't before she met your great-great-grandfather. Because what if your meeting somehow distracted the two from ever meeting... Where you would be then?

Paradoxes like this are what make time-travel stories so much fun - and I think they're also what makes time travel impossible. Sure, you could come up with scientific possibilities, such as the creation of an alternative universe every time you travel into the past, which would allow you to change past A (your great-great-grandparents met and had children) into past B (they did not, because of your trip to the past), which would allow you (a product of A) to travel to the past and avoid the paradox of doing away with circumstances that allowed you to travel to the past (because the A that created you would still exist - all that would happen is a new B would be created) ... but, whew, creation of such alternative universes every time you travel seems even more farfetched than time travel!

And travel to the future has its own devastating problems. If I travelled even just a day into the future, and saw what you were wearing, would that mean you had no choice about what clothes you put on tomorrow? I don't know about you, but I'm rather sure that I have free will - at least, about what kind of shirt I wear. (Whether I exercise that will well or not is, of course, another story.)

So, in the end, I'm afraid that we'll never be able to travel in time, except in our minds and our fiction...

On the other hand, I just could be an agent from the future, doing my best to disguise my tracks...

Useful links:

Deja Well Worth Vu blog post review of 2006 Deja Vu movie

see elsewhere on Infinite Regress for reviews of Heroes and Lost episodes...

Time Travel in Fact and Fiction free 20-minute podcast

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

my other blog & podcast

Brief initial post to welcome you to this blog - which I expect will be mostly about television and movies. I love responding to comments, so by all means jump in.

You also might find my other blog of interest - twice upon a rhyme - more or less weekly commentary on new techs, popular culture, tv, movies, Wikipedia, outer space, politics, the works, that I've been writing since March 2006. Come over any time and jump into those discussions.

And, if you enjoy podcasts, give my Light On Light Through a try - also free on iTunes - pretty much the same as my two blogs, but with a little music, phone-ins, and the occasional sound effect...

You can also subscribe at