Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ringer: SMG Does it Again

Last night, while watching the Giants game, my DVR informed me we’d be watching Ringer on CW at 9 PM.  Yeah, I have one of those DVR’s that does not let you watch more than one thing at a time.  It can be vexing, but it is also a good reminder as well.  I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, both series done by Joss Whedon.  In this instance, Sarah Michelle Gellar breaks away from that franchise and is starting a new series.  According to the press releases I’ve heard about, the story has Gellar playing twin sisters and the story isn’t really explained beyond that.

It took about 45 minutes, but I was hooked.  This story has about as many twists as Lost.  Gellar plays both sisters very well, though critics have panned the overall differentiation between the two sisters to be minimal.  The story starts off with the one sister, the troubled sister who is a recovering alcoholic and stripper, while the other sister is well to do.

Some might compare this to a diluted Parent Trap, but the two sisters are different, but the troubled one slips into the role of the sophisticated one in too easy a manner.  Bridget, the troubled one goes out to meet her sister, while slipping her required witness protection.  The sophisticated sister Siobhan, takes her out onto her boat, then when Bridget wakes up, she’s gone, presumed dead.

Instead of going to the authorities, as she is already wanted, Bridget decides to assume her sister’s life.  It is somewhat comical how easily this is done, you would think Siobhan’s friends would know her better, but it proves for great intrigue.  I’d like to say that since they are twins, it is easier to believe, but I don’t have a frame of reference for that.

As Bridget continues her life as her sister, things get considerably more complicated as it turns out that not only will witness protection be looking for her, but Siobhan is in some other trouble, as people are looking for her as well.

The story is well written, the characters are believable, but more than anything, Gellar is amazing.  No matter the weak writing, at times, she brings the project up to a much higher level and I find myself frustrated that both Glee and the Ringer will be on tonight at the same time, as well as the Washington Capitals game.  Not to mention the fact that I’m dying to get my hands on Gears of War 3.  Release Tuesday couldn’t be more inconvenient.

If you haven’t, take a moment and give The Ringer a look, if nothing else, all the Buffy fans out there owe it to Sarah Michelle Gellar to help her fledgling new show off the ground.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Contaminated Cantaloupe from Colorado

Breaking news – September 16, 2011

In unprecedented news, a rouge gang of cantaloupes have been attacking passer-bys.  They have taken the lives of two unsuspecting people already.  The cantaloupes are using a time honoured war methodology, the Trojan Horse.  They lull you into a false sense of security with their sweet taste and general orangeness, and then they attack.

Do not be fooled.  Cantaloupes are not our friends!  They mean business.  If you should encounter any, please exercise extreme caution.  Cantaloupes are known to attack with no warning signs, and can even lie dormant for weeks on end before showing signs of life.

This is a public service announcement.  Please be on the look-out for cantaloupes.  Do not approach under any circumstances.  Please contact local authorities immediately.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Star Wars, The Epic that Was and Wasn’t

Tomorrow for the first time ever, the complete Star Wars series will be released on Blu-ray.  The first time this collection will be seen in high definition, although the movies have been on TV in high definition.  I still remember the first time I saw Star Wars.  I honestly didn’t know what I was watching, but back in the day, you know, when there were not 500 channels on, sometimes you just happened upon things.  I can’t remember the last time that has happened.  With the massive amount of DVD’s and programs on, it isn’t any wonder I haven’t ‘discovered’ any great new, or old, shows.

Star Wars is the coming of age story of a boy who discovers there is something more out there than a normal existence.  In many ways, the plot speaks to all of us, because don’t we all wish there were something more to life than the mundane actions we go through daily.  In the original series, the audience follows the exploits of Luke Skywalker, an unassuming boy who discovers he has powers.  As the story progresses, it involves a variety of characters, places and people, for a lack of a better word.  I often forget that Yoda wasn’t introduced until the second of the original trilogy.  It is from Yoda, the small, green Jedi Master that Luke truly learns the powers that he possesses through ‘the Force.’ Once the trilogy ends, most of the story is wrapped up perfectly.

Almost thirty years later, George Lucas, the creator of the original trilogy decided to create the prequels to the original series.  Between the two releases, after some research, a friend informed me what the plot was to be for the original, and alluded to Anakin being the chosen one and the prophecy would be misread.  Anakin was chosen to bring balance to the force, and if you note the tone in the prequels, the balance is skewed to the side of light.  Anakin does balance it, so that the dark side takes hold, and then with the birth of Luke and Leia, only then is the force truly balanced between light and dark.

The novels that follow the story after the movies are interesting, and some actually ‘follow’ the tone that Lucas dictates, but none capture the spirit of the films better than the series written by Timothy Zahn.  I happened upon one of his books and ended up buying one of his trilogies.  Zahn captures the allure of Star Wars without distilling any of the core beliefs that make it great.

When Star Wars was released, the story was not terribly original, but the special effects, for that time, were the first of their kind.  Doing a space movie of that magnitude could have gone the way of Star Trek, which some would consider deliciously campy, I find abhorrently boring.  Star Wars had the perfect palette of characters, something for everyone to latch onto, and an easy plot that never over-assumed itself.  Where Star Wars began to show some signs of a lack of lustre was with the prequels.

I will stop here and say one thing, I enjoyed the prequels over the sequels by leaps and bounds.  The original series was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the polish in the special effects and acting in the prequels makes them stand out.  The original cast was great, but save for Harrison Ford, none had the screen presence that you get from Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen or Natalie Portman, all of whom have gone on to other commercial success, though Christensen having the least of the three.

What makes the prequels more accessible is something the original series couldn’t do: the prequels were built on a strong foundation.  The polarisation from one extreme to the other for each character provided more substance for the viewer.  Although Darth Vader, in the original, was a perfect villain, the variety of Darth Maul, General Grievous, Senator Palpantine and Count Dooku made for a more diverse character spread.

Lucas was lucky in producing the prequels when he did.  Computer generated effects were becoming much more established and stories of science fiction nature were more prevalent.  Where the original had to draw viewers in with no frame of reference, the prequels had a rich science fiction history, both related and not, that made it accessible.

But above all of this, as I said before, acting made the greatest impact.  The writing was unchanged from one series to the next.  I often find myself frustrated when fans say the originals were written better.  No, they were written exactly the same, the change was you had far better actors delivering lack-lustre lines.  I mean, who can forget the painful scene in Attack of the Clones where Anakin admits his feelings to Padme?  It is awful.  But it isn’t awful because Christensen and Portman deliver the lines badly, no, it is because they are bring the scene up to as high a level as they can, and it doesn’t belong there.

Tomorrow I plan on grabbing the prequel as soon as I can.  But I will not be purchasing the entire series.  I don’t need the originals in high definition, quite frankly, I don’t care.  I want to re-watch Revenge of the Sith until I burn a hole in the disc.  I’ll leave the slurping of the original series for the rest of the fans, give me quality over quantity in this instance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who Doesn’t Like to Get a Little Scared?

Superstitions are funny things.  Today is Tuesday the 13th.  In most areas of the world, this has little to no significance.  But in some Spanish-speaking areas, this is the equivalent to Friday the 13th.  Not to be confused with the movie, but the actual day that is considered ‘bad luck.’

Most reasonable people would immediately disregard this.  I even consider Friday the 13th being more fun than feared, but being afraid of something as ethereal as a day of the week has always fascinated me.  I don’t profess to say that I am not afraid of myriad things, just this morning there was a dog in the office and I used someone else as a human shield, but I digress.  I started thinking about this topic as soon as my calendar flipped, officially as I follow strict calendar rules, to Tuesday the 13th.

In the history of the superstition around the number thirteen, it has more to do with twelve.  The number twelve is considered complete, twelve months in a year, 12 hours in the hourly cycle, 12 Cinnabons in a dozen, you get the idea.  Adding another entry, be it an hour or a day, creates an aberration.  In conjunction with that, some consider Friday to be an unlucky day, though I think this belief started long before people worked or went to school for the hours we do now, as Friday is truly the bell tolling for the end of the mundane work-week.

Blending these things together creates a superstition; an idea based on no actual fact, yet treated as fact just the same for many.  In perhaps another light, you could argue that superstition and religion are born from the same ideas.  But my focus today is on the former, so don’t let me ramble off in yet another unpredictable direction. 

I’m curious, what superstitions do any of you adhere to?  I know I have my own made up superstitions, such as the queue for various items (games, DVDs, books) and also my calendar rules.  I try not to allow myself to get the level of Monk who, if you’re familiar with the show, has a list a mile long of phobias and somehow manages to function, and solve crimes, despite this.

I wonder if some would consider superstitions a gateway to more debilitating phobias.  In some cases, from what I’ve read, I’d argue yes.  But for the most part, I think Friday, or Tuesday, the thirteenth is just another day of the week where we can all attribute something unusual to a day of the week.  Hope you are all out enjoying any strange coincidences and attributing it to the day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And the Sports Season Begins Anew

Over the Spring I discussed the NFL and NBA lockouts as well as talking about the NHL.  This past weekend, the NCAA football season began, and my Michigan Wolverines were rained out, but took the first game.  Not unusual given the ease of the early schedule for most universities.  I don’t anticipate the Big Ten, the conference the Wolverines belong to, to perform well or go to any great bowl games, but it was nice to have that sense of normalcy.

For most sports fans here in America, minus baseball fans, Labour Day weekend is the bell tolling for the end of the sports fast.  No longer do I have to subject myself to the only televised sport around, baseball.  No longer do I have to feign interest in who has hit the most home runs or which conference did better in the All Star game to determine who will host the World Series.  No longer do I have to sit through tedious golf highlights watching myself age for every second Tiger Woods gets mentioned.  His reign of terror is over, let us all rejoice!

Don’t get me wrong, I am a season ticket holder for the Washington Nationals, (and I renewed for next year, so if you’re in the area and need tickets, they are in the lower level and I have 4 seats), and I do watch their games when they are on.  But truth be told, that is more of an investment than anything else.  I also have season tickets to the Washington Capitals and Georgetown Hoyas, but the former are solely because I love the Caps, while the latter was just a really, really good deal.  I do enjoy baseball, but nothing will ever replace football for me.

I look back to when I was a kid, and as most children, you want to spend time with your parents.  My mom and I never, and still don’t, see eye-to-eye, on pretty much anything.  But my father and I have always had similar interests.  It is he that I credit for my current addiction to the NFL.

When the lockout was announced, some of you may recall my stalwart indignation at this fallacy on both sides.  How could the owners be so greedy?  How could the players be so greedy?  Why were the fans going to be the ones holding their heads in sorrow once the season didn’t start?  Of course, as many of you said then, I was crazy and there would be a season.  As a hockey fan, part of me was rooting for the lockout just to see hockey get centre stage, but in all honesty, hockey is a niche and quite frankly, most sports fans don’t deserve to be a part of such an amazing experience.

I look back now and realise, I don’t think I would have done well this fall without football.  My uncle was kind enough to get my tickets to opening weekend, so I’ll be dragging a cousin to the Giants/Redskins game this Sunday, though let me be clear, despite liking the Nationals and Capitals; I am a New York Giants fan through-and-through. 

I was born and grew up there in New York, and learned about father-daughter bonding through football.  My fondest childhood memories are often centred around the sport.  I remember watching Phil Simms lead the Giants over the Denver Broncos.  I remember Scott Norwood’s wide right kick that granted us the Super Bowl twenty-five Lombardi trophy.  I remember Leon Lett fumbling the football on the one-yard line.  More recently, I remember having been laid off from a job and watching my ‘David’-like Giants beat the ‘Goliath’-like Patriots.  I remember my parents going to great lengths to take me to games.  I remember not missing a Giants/Redskins game in the span of six years before they moved it to the end of the season and Dad refused to sit in the freezing cold to watch our team clock the hapless Redskins.

While I realise how silly it seems, a Sunday in the Fall without football just seems wrong.  And while the players, owners and others will quibble over who gets the biggest piece of a nine billion dollar pie, I’ll remember what it means to be a kid again, to be worry free and to watch a game that continues to evolve and capture the attention of a nation.