Saturday, April 21, 2007

Robin Hood—The Assassin

AKA "Tattoo? What Tattoo?"

Flashback--the Crusades. The king is under attack. Robin tangles with a Saracen, whom he wounds, slicing across a tattoo on the man's arm.

In Sherwood Forest, the Present (not our present--1192), Gisborne is having a celebration at Locksley for the king's birthday. Robin decides to crash the party.

Guy announces his engagement to Marian. He's particularly hot with his leather-clad self. Robin and his pals burst in and take everybody's jewelry, including the ring Guy just gave Marian. Guy and Robin tussle, and Robin slices open Guy's sleeve, revealing the tattoo from the flashback, along with a scar matching the flashback wound. Pissed about the ring, Guy goes after Robin. Their ensuing confrontation explains our flashback--Guy was a hired assassin sent to kill King Richard. In a patriotic dudgeon, or maybe just jealous about Marian, Robin nearly slits Guy's throat, but the merry men intervene.

Djaq is apprehended. She escapes the castle jail using some chemicals she has with her. She doesn't make it far, though. The sheriff is intrigued by her "magic" and wants Djaq her be his alchemist. The old alchemist is still there--he's a skull. No Bob inside, though. Just an inkwell. Djaq stalls. The sheriff gives her two hours to mix the stuff up.

Robin ties Guy up and hangs him bound and gagged from a tree. Hm. Didn't know Robin was into that kind of thing. Robin's pretty focused on Guy's status as a traitor and killing him for his slight against the king of England. The others, however, are more focused on rescuing Djaq, which Robin refuses to do. Finally the others tie Robin up so they can head for Nottingham. Robin doesn't think any of his crew would understand the politics behind what Guy has done, because they're all too "simple." I'm having very little sympathy for Robin here. Yes, Guy is technically a traitor to the crown, but Djaq is arguably the most vulnerable of the Merry Men because of her secret girl-ness. Robin's stubborn refusal to rescue her because of his beef with Guy ingratiates him to me about as much as his comment about the Merry Men being "simple" ingratiated him to Much. Which is to say not at all.

Robin plans torture to get Guy to talk, in spite of Much's protests. In the end, though, Robin lets Guy go. Guy has a point about his beef with the king--Richard basically abandoned his country to run off to the Crusades, and the results weren't that great. Otherwise we wouldn't have a Robin Hood story in the first place. Anyway, Robin and Guy go at it hand to hand and knock the crap out of each other. Guy continues to mock Robin about his loss of Locksley Hall and Marian. Much returns with Marian just as Robin knocks Guy cold. Marian confronts Robin. I'm not convinced that Robin's high dudgeon isn't so much political as it is personal. Nobody else seems to be, either.

With Robin all wrapped up in his own agenda, Allan, Will and Little John sneak into the castle. When the sheriff returns for Djaq, she demonstrates, creating a smokescreen that allows her to escape from the lab. Will, Allan and Little John run into trouble with the guards. Djaq joins the fray and they escape through a privy. So... guys come in to rescue girl, don't hae a plan, end up in the sewage system. Sound familiar? Anyway, the boys escape but Djaq stays behind and the sheriff grabs her again. The boys conclude that they're not so good at infiltrating the castle, and they need Robin.

The boys come back to get Robin. When Robin still refuses, Will blurts out that he thinks he loves Djaq. This takes everyone by surprise. Maybe even Will. Marian suggests trading Guy for Djaq, but Robin says no. Little John clubs him unconscious.

Back at the castle, Djaq's torture is about to get underway when Marian barges in, telling the sheriff about the proposed trade. The sheriff doesn't seem all that keen on the idea of getting Guy back, but finally agrees on the trade. They're all to meet in the mine. On the way, he finally notices Djaq is a girl. Robin confronts the sheriff about Guy. The sheriff burns off Guy's tattoo with the acid, eliminating Robin's "proof." Robin, et al, do some derring-do and escape from the trap the sheriff has set in the mine.

This episode was an interesting turnaround, at least for me. My feelings toward Robin went from finding him annoying to really disliking him, while my feelings for Guy went from finding him despicable to sympathizing with him. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out through the last few episodes of the season.

On the Lot: Interview with Patricia Byther-Hardy

If you've been watching Fox at all, you've probably seen trailers for a new reality show, On the Lot, premiering May 22. It's a competition for filmmakers, produced by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg. Participants are vying for a $1 million development deal at DreamWorks.

As it turns out, a friend of mine is participating in the competition, with a fun comedic piece called "Just Another Day," chronicling her trials and tribulations as a Los Angeles courier. I've known Patti for a long time, and was excited to find out she was involved in this show. So I had to snag her for an interview.

So read on, get to know a little about Patti and her film, and when you're done jump over to the On the Lot website and take a look at her film. It's a fun five minutes, and when you're done you can rate the movie and comment, if you like.

Thanks much to Patti for her time, and best of luck in the competition!

View "Just Another Day" here.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to On the Lot.

My "official" name is Patricia Byther-Hardy, but I'm just Patti to most everyone. I am a middle-aged mom and grandmom, and my current "day job" is escorting oversize loads. I've always loved film, and when I lost my then-job in the spring of 1997, I decided I needed to find a new career that wasn't in an office or go mad! (Ah, Mid-Life Crises, aren't they swell?) I returned to school at my local community college, intending to become a pre-school teacher, but instead found the Broadcasting Arts Department and jumped in, taking recommended stage and camera acting and directing classes along the way. I soon decided to keep going for my BA and transferred to San Francisco State where I was accepted to the Film Department, and in my senior year, one of 15 chosen (out of about 200) for the producer/director's track, which is a year-long program wherein we get to make a 10 minute film (SF is a fairly poor school, and has just so much, very old equipment to go around). I graduated in 2002, returned to L.A. a few months later (I'm originally from here), but could never get anything going--it's tough in Hollywood when you aren't a USC or UCLA grad, and being from SF State, I had no contacts, plus SF State is more about indie work, rather than the typical Hollywood studio structure. I edited one documentary film, but even that went nowhere. I finally had to get some income coming in, so I went to work as a courier (thankfully, I no longer do that!) and the rest is history, sort of.

A friend told me about On the Lot and the notion of "auditioning" a film for Steven Spielberg was just too good to pass up! None of my student work was suitable, so I decided to create something new--something I have not actually done since leaving school. It felt good! Oh and I suppose I should mention, because it isn't obvious or anything, I'm a big James Marsters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan! Heh. (Actually, I meant to take the picture and VampireFish down, but forgot!)

How long did it take you to make your short film?

Filming and editing "Just Another Day" actually took about 2 months--but only because I found out about the contest in late October, and it was well into the holidays by the time I had everything set. It would likely have taken about 2 weeks if I had had nothing else going on.

Have you made other films? If so, how did the making of "Just Another Day" compare to previous productions?

I've only made student films, so I had the college and their equipment and the student body to cull people, places and equipment from, none of which I had for this one! However, making a film is pretty much a set process, just longer and more complicated, the longer and more complicated the script is. So in many ways, it was no different than anything else I've done, just with less support structure behind me. Really, it was just more things to have to think about logistically, but otherwise, pretty routine. On the other side of the coin, I hadn't done a video film in a long time (SF State insists on teaching film over video--mostly 16 MM filmmaking--VERY expensive! but worthwhile). and while I love the look of film more, it was heavenly to have the "film" cost so little and be able to use up as much as I wanted on endless takes (read on).

Any particular challenges?

Always! As I mentioned, I did this over the holidays (complete with out-of-town guests) so I was unable to get anyone to commit to the film, and I wound up having to act as well as direct--so NOT my intent! I also wound up having to film parts in L.A. and the rest in San Francisco--where my production partners live--as well as edit there, a 400+ mile trip each time, each way. And since I had to pay for this film--I budgeted myself about $1000 (and the airport alone cost $100 to use!)--I also had to continue my RL job, where I'm on-call 24/7, without a fixed schedule! So, I had to be very flexible to make all these things gel, as did my partners (thank you Julie Cramer and Peter DeCristofaro!). Directing and acting is a HUGE challenge. I can't see what I look like and going back to replay was too much trouble, so I had to rely on my partners to get what I needed and hope it came out like I envisioned. For the most part it worked, but I would NOT want to do that again!

One of the sillier challenges--I have the worst, most uncontrollable hair on earth! How was I going to make it work over the month of weekends we were filming? The whole "baseball fan" thing was an overlay I added (not in the script) because I bought a baseball cap to resolve (read: cover!) the "issue" and it grew from there!

Anyway, yes, there were many challenges, as in all films, but you just work your way through them.

Any challenges particular to the requirements of On the Lot?

Oh man, were there ever! The parameters of On the Lot are that the film be no longer than 5 minutes and had to have a definite plot (beginning, middle, end), with an introduction at least 30 seconds, but no more than 45 seconds. Do you know how HARD it is to tell a story in 5 minutes? Or maybe that's just me. In case it hasn't become obvious by now, I tend to be a bit loquacious. Heh. The first day we went into editing, the film came up to 8:30 and I wasn't even halfway through the story! And as we went along we discovered a few bits that needed clearing up, so we added more footage! Although I had intended to put the driving scenes in fast-motion, we had to speed it up first to 1200X (the highest the system goes) then that one to 500X! Plus the going up and down stairs had to be sped up, something I hadn't intended originally, but felt worked--the mundane constants in a courier's life! Finally, after several days, we got down to 5:30 and had a really tight, but still too long, film. We had to go in and take a frame or two here, and 5 or 6 frames there--just shaving what amounts to fractions of a second all over the film (30 frames per second, so some cuts were maybe 1/15th of a second) over and over. When we hit 4:57 we just stopped and yelled "We're done!" LOL!

I found the intro to be a real challenge, as well; I wanted to do it as one take (no edits)...and I kept messing up, especially my name, of all things (since I virtually only use it for official things, I guess)! It was really difficult to spit out everything I needed to say in 45 seconds cleanly--I took up 20+ minutes of tape!

Have all the things in "Just Another Day" actually happened to you?

As the sub-title says, "A (mostly) true story." In varying degrees and ways, yes, pretty much all of them--except delivering to the airport--that was always a pick up (and just try parking, going into a terminal, and getting out of parking at LAX in under 9 minutes, so you don't have to pay parking! I managed it only once in 1 ½ years!). Couriers make minimum wage (or a percent of the package price paid by the customer, depending on the company) and $0.25 a mile (this was 2 years ago, but I doubt it's gone up much). Virtually no one thinks to tip them--I got 3 tips in all that time, though one was $20--whoo hoo, made my whole week! And there is also a time limit to every package--most are 2-hour turnaround (from first call-in by the customer, to delivery!).

Rudeness, yes. Bathrooms not available to couriers, oh, yes. The 5 security guards at one building--including two in the 100-foot driveway and Mr. You-Can't-be-Seen-in-the-Lobby-Guy, oh yeah. The magazine, though...

See, there was a boutique in Culver City, and invariably I would have to pick up their package late in the day--often a couple of times a week and ALWAYS at the height of rush hour--and take it to a house in South Pasadena--about 35 miles--WAY at the top of this long hill--around and around and around! (I actually went back there and came down that same hill as the first part of the drive in my film!) I never snooped in my packages, but one day they were late getting it ready and I just had to verify that, yes, that was one (count them-1) current issue of People (or some such commonly found) Magazine, stapled into a shopping bag that I was killing myself--and my personal life--to deliver! GRRRR ARGGH. Finally, one day, one of the residents told me why--they managed the website for the boutique and they had to get the marked pages into the site before the magazine hit the stands so people could log on and buy what Angelina and Jen were wearing this week! Sheesh!

Oh and yes, I got MANY parking tickets! It's almost impossible not to. If it wasn't the delay in the building causing the meter to run out, it was the 5 conflicting parking signs, only 3 of which I had time to read!

If you could make your dream film, what would it be?

MacBeth starring James Marsters--absolutely! I also have a couple films of my own I would like to do, one a Sci Fi film from a short story I wrote many years ago (or it would be a great TV show, too!) :) and the other, a film about my mother's life in German-occupied Holland. Another idea I've toyed with is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Has participating in "On the Lot" opened any doors for you as of yet?

Sadly, no. But I have no intention of quitting. I hadn't realized how much I miss the process of creating films, and I got all fired up at a recent Science Fiction convention to create more films for alternate outlets like the Internet and direct-to-DVD. And hey, I'm looking for scripts!

I've also been working on collecting footage for several planned documentaries as I travel around the country, and hope to edit soon. Besides, I'm an eternal optimist, and I have not given up hope! You never know who might look at "Just Another Day" up there on the website and say, "Hey, that's just what I'm looking for!"

Friday, April 20, 2007


Some mixed feelings this week. I didn't think this episode was as strong as the last couple have been.

Charlie and Hurley debate the results of a smackdown between Superman and the Flash while they trudge through the woods with Jin and Desmond. Charlie is shot through the throat with an arrow when he triggers a trap. Of course, this is one of Desmond's forward flashy things, and none of it has happened. Yet.

Desmond is in a monastery. He takes his shirt off. Is it wrong to say he's hot when he's changing into his monk garb? Brother Desmond is peacefully putting labels on wine bottles when a stranger comes into the winery and slugs him in the face. That's not very monastery-appropriate. This guy turns out to be the brother of a woman Desmond left at the altar. A not-Penelope sort of woman, whom he left because he felt he was called to the monastery. The experience he relates here is a bit odd--I wonder if it was an early manifestation of the flash-forward phenomenon.

Later, Desmond gets toasted on expensive monastery wine. And gets thrown out of the monastery so he can go find out what he's really meant to do. He heads into the town with a shipment of wine. Turns out the person buying the wine is Penelope's father--and this is how they meet.

This backstory bit bothered me. It didn't seem to dovetail as well with the main story as they usually do, plus Desmond as a monk didn't seem to me to fit his character. The only thing that seemed to tie in was the name of the wine, Mariah, and its relationship to Desmond's statement later that maybe he's being tested. And that was a bit of an anvil and didn't work all that well for me. The interweaving between Desmond meeting Penelope and his rescuing the dangling body in the jungle was very nicely done, though, and set us up for the twist when the dangling body's face was revealed.

And Desmond took his shirt off, so it's all good.

Beach Story:
Sawyer walks in on Kate in her underwear. I mean Kate is wearing underwear and Sawyer walks in, not that Sawyer is wearing Kate's underwear when he walks in on her. She tells Sawyer that Jack saw them doing the deed on the cameras. He uses this as an excuse to come on to her. He asks if she wants a mix tape. He should chat with Dean Winchester about that. I bet Dean makes good mix tapes.

Later, Kate has oatmeal with Jack. They're eating oatmeal at night. I do that, but I still think it's kind of weird. Then Jack goes to have oatmeal with Juliet, and Kate is not happy about this. She goes to see Sawyer. Oh, wait. She goes to do Sawyer. Kind of an extreme reaction to oatmeal, if you ask me. In the morning, Sawyer challenges Jack to ping pong.

Sawyer begins to put the pieces together. Sawyer gives Kate a mix tape. It's the best of Phil Collins, and he lifted it from Bernard. He asks Kate if she jumped him because of Jack and Juliet. He seems to be not all that unhappy about this. After all, he got laid, so he's happy. But he didn't take his shirt off. He should take lessons from Desmond.

Front Story:
Desmond works to recreate the series of events he saw leading to Charlie's death. Apparently this also led to him hooking back up with Penelope. Desmond tries to trace back the series of events he saw that led to Charlie's death, but which also led to his reunion with Penny. He goes to gather Charlie for the trek, and Charlie realizes Desmond has had a vision. They all set out. Someone is coming to the island, Desmond says. On the beach that night, Charlie plays his guitar while Jin tels scary stories in Korean. They hear a helicopter, which doesn't sound at all well, and crashes into the ocean, but not before someone bails out of it.

In the morning, they head into the jungle. Charlie finds a hula doll and Desmond finds a backpack in a tree. The backpack has a satellite phone in it, but it's dead. There's also a copy of Catch-22, in another language. Inside is the picture of Desmond and Penelope. Charlie works out what's going on--that Desmond thinks Penelope was in the helicopter. Charlie says they're perfectly happy to help get Penny back, and why would they want to change anything? This is, of course, fraught with dramatic irony. As they continue, the Flash/Superman conversation gets underway. When Charlie springs the trap, Desmond pushes him out of the way of the arrow. The group splits, Charlie and Desmond going one way, Hurley and Jin the other.

Charlie confronts Desmond, accusing him of being willing to sacrifice Charlie for Penelope. Obviously, Desmond wasn't, Charlie, or you'd be writhing on the ground hacking up blood. But Charlie doesn't know that. Desmond says maybe he's not supposed to keep rescuing Charlie, that maybe it's a test, thus creating that flimsy callback to the flashback bit. Jin finds the parachute and a person hanging from a tree. Desmond climbs up to bring her down. She's still alive. But it's not Penny. Not-Penny says Desmond's name and promptly expires. So if Desmond hadn't saved Charlie, would Penny have been in the tree? Given what show we're watching, possibly... However, Desmond's reunion with Penny wasn't shown explicitly, so maybe Desmond was taking disparate chunks of his vision and sticking them together incorrectly.

Overall, fairly entertaining but it didn't do much for me. Desmond's "gift" didn't seem to fit into the show very well when it was introduced, and it still doesn't. Unless there's some sort of logical explanation further down the road, it's going to continue to feel like an awkward digression to me.

Lost at iTunes:

Lost - Lost, Season 3src="">

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Supernatural—Hollywood Babylon

There's no point trying to recap this episode, because everything that made it great just falls flat in recap format. Ben Edlund was in fine form, providing a script that skewered his own industry every bit as thoroughly as he did with "Smile Time" (Angel), and all the while maintaining a relevant story and some great character moments for the Hotties Winchester. The episode wasn't so much sprinkled as flooded with inside jokes, some of which would probably go over the heads of all but the most devoted Supernatural fans, but many that were readily accessible to most viewers, making the humor rewarding for anybody who might tune in.

The basic story--Sam and Dean visit a reportedly haunted movie set and tackle ghosts who are murdering folks involved with the production. The twist--the ghosts are being controlled by the movie's original scriptwriter, whose screenplay is being progressively massacred by the suits, who know nothing about storytelling. (And every screenwriter in Hollywood says, "Amen.")

The inside jokes fly fast and furious, from Sam's being frightened off the bus by the specter of The Gilmore Girls (Jared Padalecki was a Gilmore boy for several seasons) to comments that the weather in LA is "practically Canadian" (they film, of course, in Vancouver). I know at least some of the notes mentioned by Brad (Gary Cole) were based on actual notes provided to Supernatural's creators (the comment about the show being too dark is one of them). The movie's director is McG--one of Supernatural's executive producers. In the middle of the episode, we're treated to a fake trailer for the movie-in-the-show, HellHazers II, The Reckoning, from the director of Charlie's Angels (McG, of course). (This film is not yet rated.) Erik Kripke's not-so-stellar horror movie, Boogeyman, is skewered right along with the network suits, so the satire is equal opportunity. And non-stop. And hysterical.

Joining its predecessors, "Hell House" and "Tall Tales," "Hollywood Babylon" provides a brilliantly comedic break from the intensity of last week's "Heart," leading into what promises to be an angst-fest as the season wraps up. I'm glad this show's creators have the inclination and the courage to take these forays into pure comedy from time to time--another aspect of this show that begs comparison with The X-Files. It works every bit as well for this show as it did for that one.

Supernatural on iTunes:

Supernatural - Supernatural, Season 2

New at iTunes

Now available at iTunes:

Stargate and Drive.

Stargate SG-1

Stargate Atlantis
Stargate Atlantis


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jericho—Casus Belli

This week, things begin to heat up between New Burn and Jericho, leading into the final arc of the season. After tonight, only three episodes left!

A group of trucks returns from New Bern with the windmills, a few months earlier than the original agreement. Eric, however, is not with them. Jake confronts Russell about his brother's whereabouts. Russell says Jake should be worried, though he told Mary Eric stayed behind because he was still upset about April's death. Jake heads out to New Bern, recruiting Hawkins to go with him. Hawkins is reluctant to go, but of course finally agrees. Who can resist Jake's big brown eyes?

At New Bern, Mayor Constantino says his town was hit hard by Ravenwood, and many of the people blame Jericho. He was worried about the safety of the men from Jericho and sent them home. He takes Jake and Hawkins to the factory and tells them Eric and Heather both went home to Jericho after the others left.

But Ted slips Jake a note with the address to his trailer. Perkins is staking out Ted's trailer. Jake and Hawkins drag Perkins into the trailer and set about finding out the truth. Heather and Eric are both missing. Perkins is less than forthcoming, so Hawkins fixes to torture him. Hawkins is damn scary with the knifes and pointy things. Finally, Perkins says Eric and Heather sabotaged the factory, then ran away.

At the factory, Jake and Hawkins find a full inventory of Jericho's supplies on a chalkboard, as well as a detailed map of the town with different areas assigned to different people from New Bern. Turns out the folks of New Bern are making munitions in their factory, preparing for war. That's not very friendly. Jake tries to stop them and is apprehended by Constantino. He's taken to the jail. Surprise, surprise, there's his brother, also imprisoned, and a bit the worse for wear. Also really shaggy. He hasn't shaved in a long, long time. Sadly, Eric tells Jake that Heather is dead.

With Jake and Eric in custody, Constantino riles up the people of New Bern, telling them Jericho has no intention of living up to their side of the bargain regarding the windmills, and that Jericho wants to see New Bern destroyed. The Green brothers are dragged out in front of the crowd and accused of being sent to wreak havoc on New Bern.

Mayor Gray has a confrontation with Skylar over the salt, which she claims is 51% hers, but Gray won't acknowledge her claim as legitimate. Russell stops by to talk to them about helping them distribute the salt, but he wants half Skylar's share of the mine, which Mayor Gray insists isn't rightfully hers in the first place. In return, Russell will distribute and sell and also deal with Gray. Skylar files papers to declare her parents dead so she can claim the mine, but Gray refuses to acknowledge them.

Mary stops by the Greens' to give them the news about Eric's non-return. Johnston goes to help Mary with her still and they do some bonding. Gail doesn't seem too happy about this. She and Johnston have a bit of a tiff.

Stanley returns home to Mimi and Bonnie. Stanley's not happy about Bonnie's boyfriend staying in the house. Mimi tells him they should let it be, or risk running Bonnie out of the house and somewhere not safe. After some resistance from Stanley, Bonnie and Stanley finally bond a bit and settle their differences.

Sam is drawing scary, violent pictures. Jimmy brings this to Darcy's attention, thinking Sam might be dealing with some kind of trauma. Hm. Maybe this has something to do with his being held at gunpoint in his own house?

The windmills are put to work, and electricity is restored to Jericho. Russell talks to Gray about the salt. He's made a deal with Skylar in spite of Gray's opposition to her original plans. Russell tries to explain to Gray the situation with New Bern, in vague terms (that is, he doesn't come out and say, everybody at New Bern wants to kill everybody in Jericho to death), but Gray buckles down and sends men to guard the mine. That's not going to end well.

The conflict between Jericho and New Bern promises to bring the first season to a tumultuous close. While I enjoy this show for the most part, I still find myself a bit frustrated by the tendency to rely too often on stereotype, both in plot and characterizations. This week I liked the bits with the Greens--Johnston's acceptance of Mary in this situation plays a bit against his character, but makes sense. I also liked Stanley's final decision to accept Sean--again not entirely expected of him but it makes sense under the circumstances. Mayor Gray, on the other hand, is getting a bit tiresome. With all that salt around, can't he afford to buy a clue?

Jericho on iTunes:
Jericho - Jericho, Season 1

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Dresden Files—Second City

A mysterious hooded figure stabs a random guy with what looks like a hot poker. Or possibly a wand. Random Guy dies a horrible spitty, pukey death. Okay, that was weird. And also gross.

Murphy and Harry are at a bar having a drink and a chat. Murphy tells him her reputation is suffering from her work with him. He says maybe he'll do less work for her, and she asks if they're breaking up. Murphy is called to the scene of the death of Random Pukey Guy. Somehow the guy drowned two miles away from the lake. He turns out to be a member of the Russian mob. His name is "Sticky." That sounds Russian to me. Mr. Sticky has a strange brand on his shoulder. Also, he drowned in sea water. That's not very Lake Michigany.

Oh, and Murphy's estranged dad is in town.

Investigation focuses on surveillance tapes of a hooded man carrying a possible branding iron, while Bob examines pictures of the actual brand. Harry's very concerned about how Murphy's co-workers are reacting to his involvement with her. Then Mr. Murphy drops by to give Harry the "Stay away from my daughter," speech. It sounds like there's a connection between Dad Murphy and Mr. Sticky--Mr. Sticky was involved in the death of Mr. Murphy's partner back in the day. (Okay, his name is Reyes but I like Mr. Sticky better.) Murphy isn't nuts about her dad's interference and tells him to back off. She and Harry continue their investigation. They follow a magical trail to the killer's hideout. Harry kisses Murphy to get her to slap him to jolt the ant vomit he's using to make the magical trail visible. He's so romantic. *swoon*

They encounter Mysterious Hooded Guy. Murphy shoots him, but to no apparent effect. Murphy is pulled off the case because of irregularities in how she found her way to the bad guy. Kirmani, assigned to the case in Murphy's place, finds a nitro pill on the scene. Which points toward Murphy's dad.

Harry works out that Harrack, a journalist, is the one who got them thrown off the case. Kirmani arrests Mr. Murphy while Harry goes after Harrack and discovers the killer was Munser, another cop. He's taking away the victims' close brushes with death and using them to engineer near misses for himself, so each time he's nearly killed, for instance when Murphy shot him, he has to steal somebody else's near miss to stay alive the next time.

Using pages from a scrapbook Munser was keeping to find people he could pull energy from, Harry and Murphy intercept Munser with Dad Murphy tagging along. Interrupted in his attempt to murder another victim, he takes his second chance from Dad Murphy instead. Harry uses the branding iron to counteract Mr. Murphy's death and prevent Murphy from killing Munser out of grief for her father. Very intriguing concept. I'm not sure it was consistently presented, as far as who gets branded when, but still a neat idea.

Harry destroys the branding iron. Murphy apologizes for slapping Harry and says it won't happen again. Hm. Is that, like, flirting?

Overall this was a very good episode but it didn't really feel like a season finale. I read somewhere that "What About Bob" was scheduled as the season finale, but obviously it wasn't. If it was originally slated to fall into that slot, it might have had a more finale-like feel to it. It's hard to say since it was on a couple of weeks ago.

So I suppose I should sum up this, the first season of The Dresden Files. Overall? I had a great time spending these thirteen not-quite-hours with Harry Dresden and company, and I hope the ratings--particularly strong among us ladies, I hear--will convince SciFi to grant Dresden a deserved second season.

Dresden Files on iTunes:
The Dresden Files - The Dresden Files, Season 1

Drive—Let the Games Begin

Tully's truck is breaking down again. It's like Serenity except smaller. Plus no Wash. The cops stop to help, but promptly arrest Tully. Who's still scruffy, by the way. This is an important plot point, the scruffiness. Okay, not a plot point, but still important. To me. The cops say Tully was involved in a murder/bank robbery in Ashland, Kentucky in 2003. Tully proclaims his innocence.

Corinna tries to track him down but no one at the police station has a record of Tully's being brought in. Plus the truck has disappeared. In the end, the interrogation seems to be some kind of ploy to test Tully's mettle. He's really on some kind of a sound stage. He's gifted with a new car and told to leave Corinna behind. Apparently Mr. Tully does have a dark past...and the car's not new--it's his car from his previous life--complete with knife in the glovebox for purposes of escaping. Corinna's cornered by thugs and Tully rescues her in the new shiny car. Okay, so--did he really drive the getaway car in Kentucky or not? It kind of sounded like he did.

Back in Hastings, Tully's sister is being interrogated by a detective who thinks Tully's running, and obviously suspects him in his wife's disappearance.

The Salazar brothers fuss about Winston's car, and get distracted by a hottie in a red dress who turns out to be a bounty hunter. She apprehends Winston, even though in the first episode he appeared to have been properly released. He also claims he didn't commit the crime he was imprisoned for. One of Salazar Sr.'s thugs, Estovan, meets up with Sean, trying to bring him back. Sean is uncooperative, and tells Estovan that he wants Winston released or he's cutting himself out of the family. Winston is released and returns to the race with Sean. So was Winston released from prison legitimately, or specifically to run the race? Is he technically an escapee at this point?

John still doesn't seem to be doing well, plus he's fussing about Violet's driving. Violet tutors John in lying so he can deal with her mother, who's expecting to see Violet that weekend. Which obviously they can't do if they're in a road race. But the call is actually from his doctor, who's checking to be sure John has enough meds.

We see a bit more of Rob and Ellie, who are currently in the lead. Rob, who's supposed to be in Iraq, sees a news story about a man killed there--he knew the guy. They get into an argument when he wants to make some calls to check in on his unit. Ellie doesn't want him to go back to the Army ever, and thinks winning the race will make that possible.

Ivy and Wendy continue their alliance, but it's sorely strained when Ivy removes the carseat from Wendy's car. Wendy insists she put it back. In fact she seems to be a little psycho about it.

All our major players make it to Rome, GA, to a drive-in. Their next clue is shown on the screen... except we don't get to see it.

If you missed any of the first three episodes, they're available at Fox's Drive site on myspace.


Some news this morning.

Rumor has it Jericho has been picked up for a second season. Please note--rumor. SyFy Portal is reporting this here, again with disclaimers that CBS has still not made an official announcement.

A similar rumor is floating around that Supernatural has earned a season three. While this would not surprise me, and the Magic 8 Ball says, "All signs point to yes," it's still unofficial.

If you'd like to make your voice heard regarding renewal of your favorite shows, drop by USA Today and participate in their SOS survey. It's much more comprehensive than other similar efforts being presented on the net, and also gives voters a chance to talk about why they've voted for their favorite shows, and a chance to be interviewed in a follow-up.

In other news, the new episode of Bones that was supposed to air this Wednesday has been pulled from the schedule because of the horrible shootings yesterday at Virginia Tech. The storyline involved a murder on a college campus, so it was probably the right thing to do. No word yet on when the episode will re-air.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Drive—Premiere Event

Part Two: Partners

27 years ago
A couple appears to be participating in the race. They see a little girl and are amazed and awed that she is alive. Then they're run off the road.

The present

Wendy pursues Ivy, obviously uncertain about her orders to eliminate the other woman. Gracie, from Jericho, plays the waitress in the cafe where Wendy mulls her need to eliminate Ivy. She tells Wendy's she's in a kill or be killed situation. (For an undercover, Supr Sekrit race, an awful lot of people seem to know about it.) Wendy calls Sammy on a phone given to her by the woman taking care of him. (When li'l Sammy is six months old, will Wendy burn to death on the ceiling of his nursery? Oh, please. By now you know that's an obligatory joke.) Supposedly her husband can't trace the call on that phone. I really want to know what's up with Wendy's husband. Obviously he's a Very Bad Man. Wendy shoots a hole in Ivy's tire and then stops to "help." Ivy grabs her gun and turns the tables. Ivy suggests she join Wendy in her car, thinking this will get them around the actual shooting thing, but still reduce the number of contestants by one. Ivy abandons her original two partners.

Corinna comes to fetch Tully, who's scruffy in a hotel room (Dude! Scruffy!). And he has the race coordinator guy Bill tied up in his bathtub. Which isn't quite as hot as when Wesley had Justine in the closet but it's damn close. But I digress. Oh, and he's talking to his wife (Amy Acker) in the mirror. Just hearing Amy Acker say "Ginormous" makes me want to weep. Bill tells Tully Corinna isn't involved in the race. Tully presses her for information about what's on the flash drive. He tries to ditch her and she knocks him senseless. He catches up with the two of them and finds Corinna holding a gun on Bill. Corinna's after revenge--her parents were the ones killed in the flashback, because the race coordinators kidnapped her to motivate them to race (again--with 32 million at stake, why the coercion? Should I shut up about that?). Another tussle ends with Bill holding the gun. Tully uses the flash drive as collateral and gets Corinna away from Bill. Tully makes her his official partner. Then, at the checkpoint--Cape Canaveral this episode--Tully hands the phone over to Corinna, saying he's quitting and giving his position in the race to her unless he gets some proof the race coordinators have his wife. He gets his proof immediately via camera phone. And he's back in.

In Subplot Land:
The older man, John, who's racing with his daughter is dying. He passes out when they reach Cape Canaveral. The Salazars stop to help. Violet, John's daughter, takes over the driving.

Ivy's previous partners don't make it to Cape Canaveral before the shuttle lifts off.

Next stop--Rome, Georgia, almost 500 miles away. And they have to get there by sunset.

Kreuzberg--Bloc Party (played during the shuttle lift-off)
Bloc Party - A Weekend In the City - Kreuzberg

Drive—Premiere Event

Part One: The Starting Line

We start with a brief introduction to our characters. Alex Tully, whose wife has mysteriously disappeared, Wendy Patrakas, who's just given birth and appears to be fleeing from her husband, and Winston Salazar, who's just gotten out of jail. There are a few others, presented more in the background. All three of them get phone calls on mysterious cell phones, giving the opportunity to drive to Key West, Florida, to find the answers they're looking for. Tully thinks the phone call is directly related to his wife's disappearance, and immediately acts on the orders he's given. It's not what he thinks, though, and to make things worse, he's late to the orientation. He goes all badass on the person in charge and gets a quick rundown--an illegal cross-country race, 32 million tax-free dollars at stake.

Things are pretty ruthless. One of the other participants drives Alex's car off the road and comes after him with a gun. At which point another contestant appears in the back of Tully's truck and jumps into his passenger seat. A cute blonde contestant, conveniently enough for Tully. This is Corinna, who's escaping from her insane boyfriend. Except he's not her boyfriend--he's one of the people who runs the race. She stole a flash drive from him that might have all the information they need on it to win the race.

Wendy's husband has reported their car stolen, so she gets pulled over by the cops and ends up in jail. Her husband comes after her--she's obviously afraid of him. But the "husband" is actually one of the race personnel, sent to get her away from the cops. She has a doll with her in a carseat to take the place of her baby who she apparently left behind. She refers to her leaving as "escaping"--have to wonder why she's gotten involved in the race. She comes in last and is given a loaded gun and a picture of one of the other participants, Ivy, as a penalty.

The race participants are sent cryptic text messages over their phones that they then have to interpret for the next leg of the race. Apparently the people who run this race will go to extreme measures to get participants, including coercing people into racing. The implication so far is that they may have kidnapped Tully's wife in order to bring him in as a participant. With a 32 million dollar prize, one has to wonder why it's so hard to get people to "play."

Salazar stops by his dad's house to steal a bunch of his stuff. His dad doesn't seem to like him very much. Neither does his brother, but they both dislike Dad enough to team up.

At the first checkpoint, a lighthouse in Jupiter, FL, we discover the sheer size of the race--there are at least 50 cars at the checkpoint, perhaps more.

I'd call this a solid start. The premise is a bit outrageous but the execution is great. Nathan Fillion's Alex Tully is the great mix of wit, befuddlement and badassery that made him so appealing as Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. The exposition isn't too heavy-handed, and the story moves along at a quick pace, the race segments taut and involving, the lulls between peppered with emotional moments as well as humor and intriguing characterization. The overall tone is very Minear--reminiscent of Angel, Firefly and Wonderfalls. Hopefully the more contemporary setting will make this show more accessible to audiences than other of Minear's work, which was excellent but not ratings-heavy.

Note of Possible Interest:
I was lucky enough to have seen the first six minutes of the original pilot when I saw Tim Minear at the Screenwriting Expo in LA last fall. In that version, the drivers received their instructions via large, clunky orange phones rather than the text messaging cellphones in this version. In at least one of the shots of Wendy in her car, the orange phone is still visible on the dashboard, making me wonder if they recycled a bit of footage from the original pilot.

Coming Tonight...

Reviews of the first 2 episodes of Drive. Also review of the season finale of The Dresden Files. Watch this space...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Robin Hood—The Brothers a Dale

AKA "Brothers in Arms." It appears my DVR/satellite listings are showing the original BBC titles, while the show itself has the changed BBC-America titles. Which means "Turk 'Flu" was originally called "The Arrow and the Optic." And thus explains my confusion that week about the mismatched titles.

Our villain of the week is Lucky George, who buys people's things to "help" them pay their taxes. Robin ambushes him--repeatedly--to recover the items he's taken from the villagers and return them to their rightful owners. These ambushes lead the sheriff to believe there is a traitor in the castle, tipping Robin off to when and where Lucky George will be. Of course, he's right--Marian's passing information to Robin. But Gisborne's attempts to suss out the traitor lead him to believe it's his sergeant.

Back at Sherwood, Allan-a-Dale's brother Tom shows up. He's been stealing things from people claiming to be part of Robin's band. One problem with his cover--he doesn't recognize Robin. Allan asks Robin to let Tom join their group, since he does have some mad pickpocketing skillz. Robin agrees, but Tom is unable to conform to Robin's rules, and ends up annoying Robin so much that when he's abducted by the sheriff, Robin initially decides not to bother rescuing him.

In Guy of Gisborne Subplot Land, Guy takes a necklace from a village woman to pay for her marriage ceremony. And in a supremely crappy act of regifting, gives it to Marian. The following sequence of events leads Gisborne to suspect Marian as the castle informant, and in the end Marian finds herself backed into a corner where she must agree to marry Gisborne to keep herself and her family out of danger.

This was an initially light episode that took a darker turn about two-thirds through. Not that this is a bad thing--it fit with the tone the show has been building. Although earlier episodes were more light-hearted adventure, the last several have offered darker plots and more layered storytelling. This episode had some nice twists, and all the disparate storylines dovetailed nicely at the end. I was surprised by the sheriff's decision to move the hanging forward an hour, thus rendering Robin's rescue attempt moot and breaking the usual pattern where Robin is able to storm the castle and rescue everyone. The subsequent bonding between Allan and Djaq was nice, too--I wonder if that's being set up to lead somewhere romancey. And Marian's quandary is, of course, not a good one. She stated she would marry Guy when Richard returned from England--but what is she going to do when the inevitable return actually occurs?

Odd moment of the week:
The sheriff smacks Guy on the ass with an arrow. Guy's lack of response was particularly interesting. What is going on between those two? Does this explain the preponderance of leather wardrobe? Hmmm. Must ponder.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight—The Long Way Home

Issues One and Two by Joss Whedon, art by Andy Owens, Dave Stewart and Richard Starkings. Featured covers by Jo Chen.

While I was bummed that Joss Whedon had decided to end his run on Astonishing X-Men, the news that directly followed this annoucement perked me up heartily. Joss is now writing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic for Dark Horse that picks up where the series left off. An Angel comic from IDW, also continuing where the show left off, will follow in a few months.

To say I enjoyed these first two issues would be an understatement. I've read and enjoyed the comics that have come out since the end of Buffy's television run, but having Whedon behind the pen again feels like coming home. As good as the writers at IDW are, most notably Peter David, they lack the exactness of voice that comes from Whedon. Which is understandable, since Whedon created these characters, after all.

The Season Eight series opens with Buffy holed up in a castle in Scotland with a cadre of Slayers, as well as familiar faces like Xander, Willow and Dawn (who, by the way, has been transformed into a giant). The new population of over 2,000 Slayers is scattered throughout the world, presumably killing evil things.

Speaking of evil things, there's a new one afoot. And by the end of issue two, the Buffster is in the midst of a passel of trouble once again. Just like old times.

Overall, the first arc of this new series has gotten off to a great start. The story is good, the art is solid, and I can't wait to see more. The only thing I find disappointing--deeply disappointing, in fact--is some of the reader letters published in the backs of the issues. The series has just gotten underway, and already "fans" feel the need to write in pushing their own agendas regarding the stories. Fortunately, Joss has proven in the past that he'll follow his own agenda, regardless. And I'm okay with that.