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Yesterday, Darwin and I were watching a Big Name Spy Thriller on DVD.  It had the same plot every other spy thriller uses:

STEP ONE: Spy Protagonist learns of an object he needs to get hold of in order to save the world or himself (called "the McGuffin").
STEP TWO: Spy rushes from exotic location to exotic location in search of the McGuffin while various Bad People try to kill him.  Various vehicle chases through crowded cities ensue. Much time is spent on Magic Computers.
STEP THREE: An Evil Person within the Spy's own organization, who is secretly employing the Bad People, tries to sabotage the Spy's efforts and nearly succeeds.
STEP FOUR: The Spy gets the McGuffin, kills the Bad People, and kills the Evil Person.

We want to look at the Magic Computers.

Goodness me, computers can do anything these days!  Especially in a movie.  According to the movie Darwin and I watched, in fact, a computer and its attached hacker can:

1. delete a thousand files from another computer in a split-second
2. shut off the electricity to a single building in a foreign country with less than a minute's work
3. track down a single person whose face appears on a traffic camera anywhere in the world seconds after his face shows up
4. grab control of a landline telephone and use that phone to take control of an unconnected laptop sitting a foot away from it (I shit you not--the movie actually had a CIA hacker do this)
5. enhance a distant, blurry photo of a woman into a photo clear enough to use on a magazine cover in less than a second
6. hack into one of the most secure mainframes in the world while the owners of said mainframe watch helplessly (why they don't simply unplug their modems goes unexplained)
7. instantly toss video and photo files to huge, Star Trek-style screens on a wall without anyone ever saying, "Hold it . . . hold it . . . dammit, the system is really slow right now . . . a couple more seconds . . . okay, here we go . . . "
8. instantly notice when a particular person even touches a computer anywhere in the world or accesses a particular file saved on a flash drive, but CAN'T TRACK A CELL PHONE!

Not one of these things is remotely possible today.  Number 4 had both Darwin and me in an outrage, it was so stupid.  And this movie (one of the Jason Bourne flicks, if you have to know) isn't in any way unusual.

Hollywood computers and computer operators can find out literally anything, in seconds, in ways that bear no resemblance to reality.  If you need to know it or find it, a computer will do it for you, no matter how outrageous.  All you need is a character who is supposed to be a "brilliant hacker."  ("Brilliant hacker" is code for "magician.")  Hackers and computers are basically witches with crystal balls.

It's become a bad trope.  True hacking or other computer ability takes years and years of practice.  You need to study code, spend weeks writing programs, make friends with other hackers and learn the seamy underside of the Internet.  It's an extremely precise field.  If you make a mistake, you'll get caught right quick, with dire consequences.  The field also changes every day, sometimes every minute, and you have to keep up.

But Hollywood treats computer work like musical talent.  You can sit the right person with the right talent down at a computer, and BAM!  Instant hacker who can get you exactly what you need to know.  It gets so bad that on SUPERGIRL, Winn went from low-level IT guy to having the ability to take down an alien computer system--with a virus he wrote in the nineties!  Because . . . talent, right?  Because there are people who can sit down at a piano and turn out amazing work with almost no experience, so it must be the same with computers, right?

No.  It doesn't work that way.  All the computer talent in the world won't grant you knowledge and precision.  Hollywood is just using a cheap trick.  As a writer, I can understand wanting a quick tool to push the story forward.  The Magic Computer will do that.  The problem is, Hollywood does it so often, and so badly, that it's become a bad, BAD cliche. 

And have you noticed that no one ever touches a mouse?  It's true!  Hollywood is all about fingers chattering on the keyboard.  In reality, of course, everyone--including hackers--spends most of their time with mouse and cursor.  A clicking keyboard is more dynamic on the silver screen, though, so Hollywood runs with it.  Except we've noticed.  (Now that I've pointed it out to you, you won't be able to help but notice it!)

Please, Hollywood--end the Magic Computer.  We know better.
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All my students were buzzing about the Netflix show 13 REASONS WHY.  I'd heard of it, of course.  I knew about the controversy.  And I knew, even without watching, that it in no way portrayed suicide accurately, and I had no desire to watch it. 

But then I found out a high school friend of mine, Brian d'Arcy James, was in it as the father of the suicide victim.  Brian mostly does stage work on Broadway (he's currently playing King George in HAMILTON), so I rarely get to see his work.  Most recently I saw him in the movie SPOTLIGHT, and it's always fun to see him perform.  So I decided to give 13 REASONS a look.

I lasted about five episodes.

I suppose I should warn about spoilers in the following, though the show has been out for months, and I don't see it as my job to protect anyone from plot spoilers after that long.  But I'll be nice. SPOILERS.

The show was absolutely awful.  Part of it, I'm sure, is that it does cater completely and unabashedly to the teenaged crowd, and there's really nothing in it for adults.  That's okay--I can enjoy a teen show on its own merits.  But . . .

The premise:  A teenage girl commits suicide (and the show was bad enough that I can't remember anyone's names, so I'm reduced to giving them epithets), and a few days after her death, a set of cassette tapes appears on the doorstep of the main character.  The tapes are an audio diary from Suicide Girl explaining, in detail, how thirteen different people drove her to kill herself, and, she says on the first tape, if you don't listen to all of them all the way through, something awful will happen.  "You're being watched," she says (feeding into the adolescent feeling of being the center of the world and that everyone is always watching you).

Okay, we all know suicide doesn't work this way.  Netflix was even pressured into putting a little disclaimer at the beginning of the first episode to this effect.  But a disclaimer doesn't stop me from thinking, "This would never happen" and "That would never work" and "This isn't remotely possible," which yanks me constantly out of the story and reminds me that I'm watching a fake for fake fakey-fake TV show.  I can't even pretend it might possibly somehow be a little bit real, which wrecks the viewing experience.

Suicide girl, you see, goes through some world-wrecking bullying at school which culminates in graphic sexual assault (I didn't get that far, but I read about it) that is so bad it drves her to kill herself, but she somehow manages to hold it all together long enough to formulate and execute an extensive, Machiavellian postmortem revenge  plan with dozens of moving parts that hold together without input from her.  She narrates the tapes in a chipper, snarky tone with no sign of being upset or unhappy. 

Seriously.  I have an easier time believing in an magical island full of warrior women created by Zeus, or a skinny kid from Brooklyn being transformed by a mysterious drug into a super-hero than this.  If Suicide Girl is so smart and savvy and together while putting this plan off, why doesn't she ask for help?  Or get her revenge while she's alive to see it?  Hell, why not just run away and leave the tapes behind as 13 Reasons Why I Ran Away?  None of it makes any kind of sense.  Easier to believe in giant apes living on an uncharted island than this.

The characters are also unlikable and uninteresting.  Every one of them.  There's Football Boy (the eventual rapist) who heads up a coterie of friends who hang out in his rich parents' pool house (which is bigger than most people's houses) and is for some reason worshiped by the entire student body (in reality, most students at a high school can't name the quarterback, nor would they care).  He drinks, does drugs, and beats up smaller students.  We also have Suicide Girl's Bitchy Best Friend, who gets into a fight with her over a boy (of course) and slaps her in the cafeteria.  We have Camera Kid who peeps into windows and takes pictures of Suicide Girl while she's dressing.  We have Asian Lesbian-in-the-Closet Girl who is being raised by two dads but is somehow too closeted to admit she is herself lesbian.  (WTF?  So being adopted and raised by two men turns you both gay and closeted.  I was ready to punch the fucking screen at that one.  Or just knock the writers' teeth so far down their collective throats that they could chew their own shit as it came out their asses.)  We have Miscellaneous Teens who spread half-naked photos of Suicide Girl around with their phones and make fun of her about it.  I wouldn't have wanted any of them in my classroom, let alone in my life--or on my iPad.

And we have Doormat Boy, the viewpoint character.  He receives the tapes and starts listening, but can't bring himself to listen to more than five seconds at a time before anxiety takes over and he has to stop.  Here's where things become even more unbelievable.  Doormat Boy, we learn, is something like the ninth or tenth person to get the tapes.  The tapes have been passed around from teen to teen, and everyone keeps asking Doormat Boy if he's listened to "his" tape yet (the tape that talks about his role in Suicide Girl's death).  When he says he hasn't, the asker always shouts, "What are you waiting for?  You have to listen!!"  But Doormat Boy can't do it.  And why?  Because if he did, the show would be over.  The show needs him to listen to one tape per episode.  So, against human nature and every bit of reason in the universe, Doormat Boy listens to one bit at a time.

Doormat Boy always does what the person next to him says.  Suicide Girl orders him to be her friend, and so he does.  Football Boy's friends pressure him into drinking, so he chugs a beer.  And, of course, Suicide Girl orders him to listen to the tapes on the first cassette, and he does.  I heard that later he starts standing up for himself, but I wasn't willing to wait for it.

Suicide Girl herself is a nasty little bitch.  She's mean and snarky to her friends.  She walks all over Doormat Boy.  She calls him names (the fact that she calls him by a series of demeaning nicknames instead of his actual name turns into a running joke).  Whenever she asks him for advice and he gives it, she says something cruel to him in return, and when he finally gets up the gumption to protest about it, she simpers at him and walks away.  She starts arguments with her friends and parents over inconsequential matters just to have drama in the episode.  Bitchy, nasty, unlikable.  If I was supposed to feel sorry she was dead, by Episode 5 I wasn't.

I also couldn't swallow the idea that no one tells anyone else about the tapes.  Ten-odd teens have gotten hold of these tapes, and they've told their friends about them, but NOT ONE PARENT has learned of them?  No.  Just no.  Someone would talk about it to an adult.  Or an adult would find the tapes by accident and give a listen.  Or they'd stumble onto their teenager listening and demand to know what's going on.  ("Why are you listening to a tape?")  There's no way something like this would remain a secret when this many people know about it.  I've seen it in action.  Just last week at school, a kid kept spraying stink bomb aerosol in classes as a prank.  It was supposed to stay a huge secret who was doing it.  But within twenty minutes, someone ratted him out.  Someone ALWAYS talks.  Always.  The tapes would be public knowledge in a matter of hours.

And why DOES everyone do what Suicide Girl says on the tapes?  Sorry, hon, but you're dead.  You don't get to reach out of your grave and tell other people what to do.  If I got a bunch of cassettes from a dead person that said, "Go to Spot A in town and listen," I MIGHT continue listening, but I definitely wouldn't go to Spot A to do it.  My overall instinct would be to return the tapes to Suicide Girl's parents, untouched, or maybe to erase them and throw them out.  I certainly wouldn't obey orders from beyond the grave, if for no other reason than a feeling of "Fuck you."  Yet on this show, every single person follows orders.  Another point of disbelief.  No one erases the tapes or throws them away or says, "Fuck this!"?  Sure.

And Brian's role as Suicide Girl's father?  Well, he was barely given enough screen time for me to form an opinion.  He's an adult in a teen drama, so he'd shown up in maybe four scenes by the time I stopped watching.  I'm glad he got the chance to be on what's inexplicably a hit show, though.

When I got halfway through Episode 5, I realized I was watching the show out of a sense of duty more than any enjoyment, and that I actively disliked bringing it up on Netflix.  There was nothing redeeming in the show, nothing fun or interesting to watch, nothing that made me look forward to more.  The show actively pissed me off, in fact.  I decided to remove the show from my queue, and you know what?  I felt a strange sense of relief. 

No more banal adventures of Doormat Boy and Suicide Girl.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Google Home has a new ad that (supposedly) features a same-sex married couple with children.  Let's have a look, shall we?

I'm glad they're showing this, I suppose, but I'm seeing the cowardly cop-out.  Let's take a media literacy look, shall we?

Firstly, all throughout they use odd camera angles, foreground objects, and blur to confuse and hide. The camera hides us behind water glasses, pans across blurry people, and looks upward from weird angles. This hides what's going on, in case you're offended by it.

Then, when Man #1 enters, he's blurred out and he walks behind yet another foreground water glass. Then we pop to shot of Google Home sitting on the table, and another blurred person walks in front of it. Man #1 wants to know about his day, and a shaky-cam shudders and shimmies while we get a shoulder touch--just a teensy one. Wouldn't want to show any real affection, would we? Nor would we want to show a gay man touch his children at the breakfast table, for fear of anyone screaming "Molester!"

We pop back to GH on the table, surrounded by more blurry objects, then a shot of the kids surrounded by blurry water glasses, then a shot of Man #2 surrounded by blurry water glasses as he asks about his day.  Blur, blur, blur.

The camera pans sideways to push Man #1 out of the shot so we don't see the guys together for too long--wouldn't want that!  Then a shot of Man #2 framed by blurry children as he offers to "take the kids."

Then we have the big moment!  The camera pans left in order to center the blurry boy in the middle of the screen so his whole head takes up the screen just as Man #1 zips by Man #2 for a good-bye kiss--WHICH WE DON'T SEE because it's blocked by the Giant Blurry Boy Head.

Did Man #1 actually kiss Man #2? We can't tell for sure, and Google is too chicken to say.

Then another shot of kids and blurry water glasses, and we end with a brief, semi-obscured shot of Man #1 and Man #2 as Man #2 rushes off with the children.

The commercial is a clever piece of cowardice that Google pretends is bravery. If they get too much flak, they can claim that the men are brothers or even roommates. If they get support and praise, they can say the men are married.  Cowardice. We expected better, Google.

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Netflix has remade the 80s sitcome ONE DAY AT A TIME.  The difference?  The working-class single mom now heads up a Cuban family.  Grandma lives with them, and she's played by (surprise!) Rita Moreno.  Schneider isn't so much the building super as a slightly batty trust-fund baby who has nothing better to do than to hang out with the family.

It's a fun show, and I'm enjoying it.  It takes a number of issues facing the Hispanic (Cuban) community head-on: preparing for a quinceneras; families split up by deportation; veterans and the VA; veterans and PTSD; discovering a teen child is gay; figuring out how to balance being Cuban with being American.  Lydia, the grandmother, has a particularly poignant story about her role in the Pedro Pan flights from Cuba in 1962.  Like all families, they fight, make up, worry about money, deal with divorce, and hide and reveal secrets.  The main point?  This Cuban-American family is just like yours.

The show is well worth watching.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I finally watched the Supergirl-Flash crossover episode.  It was everything a super-hero teamup show should be--fast, funny, heart-felt.  The villains (Livewire and Silver Banshee) teamed up, too, so we had a two-fer.

The fun of a teamup isn't to watch two heroes combine their powers in a fight.  The fun is to see how the characters will interact.  Kara and Barry are both naturally bright, sunny people who want to help, but in slightly different ways, and the episode showed us the joy in not only putting them together, but also in dropping Barry into the supporting cast.  Usually I hate jealousy subplots, but Kara and Barry making James jealous was funny instead of embarrassing or cringe-worthy, and the way Cat egged Kara on about it like a tart-tongued maiden aunt was worth watching several times.

Many people said the best line in the show came when Cat called Kara and company a racially-diverse cast from a CW show, but for my money the funniest part came when the Flash faces down Livewire and Banshee with Kara and says, "Let's settle this like women."

And when Kara flung herself in front of Livewire's power bolt to save the helicopter, and the people of National City rallied around her, and the firefighter Kara had saved earlier came to her rescue, all to show that her accidental rampage from last episode was forgiven . . . we were happy to see an episode show us what super-heroes are meant to do--inspire us to be heroes ourselves.

The show was clearly meant to be the anti Batman v Superman. "Look!" CBS was shouting.  "This is what super-hero teamups can be! No grimdark here, and it's still highly entertaining."  And . . . well, they were right.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We have to take a moment to comment on how much we disliked--very well, hated--this last episode of Supergirl.  The main reason?  Indigo.

That, and stupid plotting.

(There will be spoilers.)

Indigo (played by Laura Vanderoort, the actress who was Supergirl on SMALLVILLE) was a villain-of-the-week, a relative of Brainiac. It was she who guided Kara's pod to Earth, for reasons that aren't made entirely clear in the episode.  She hates humans, also for reason that aren't made clear in the episode, and has decided to wipe them out.  Her method of doing so?  A single nuclear missile aimed at a single city.

Okay, then.

The trouble we have with Indigo isn't her concept--we're willing to take on an alien who wants to destroy humanity.  The trouble we have is how the character is handled.

First, we have her costume design.  Look at this thing:

Supergirl, Laura Vandervoort

The skin-tight body suit broke "no sexism" rule on Supergirl.  We've had a number of male villains, and not one of the THEM have strutted about in a bulgle-enhancing singlet.  But this character slinks around in tight blue spandex.  Sexist in the extreme.  But it doesn't stop there.  During the episode, we learn that Indigo has been having an affair with Kara's uncle Non.  Indigo is really an advanced computer program, and Non's sexual relationship with her reduces her to the level of mere sex toy, a glorified blow-up doll.  Can it get worse, you ask?  Why yes, it can.  After Indigo's inevitable defeat (by a man--Kara stands by helplessly and watches while Winn impossibly saves her), we cut to Non's laboratory, where he is laying out Indigo's chopped-up body on a table, cooing to her, "I only broke your heart. ... Are you ready to do it my way?"  It was creepy and disgusting, and not in the way the writers intended it.  If that hadn't been the last scene, I would have shut the episode off at that moment.

Speaking of Indigo's costume, could it be more obvious they're ripping off Mystique from the X-Men movies?  The character in the comics looks nothing like this design, so the show's choices are obvious.  Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Then we have plot holes galore.  The hero characters figure out Indigo wants to launch a nuclear missile through a completely impossible leap of logic that I couldn't follow even after I backed up the DVR and re-watched the scene.  It was absolute nonsense, and it was obvious they'd taped it quickly and hoped the viewers wouldn't notice.  We did.

They make a big deal out of the fact that the missile silo had no Internet access, and the general Indigo is tracking would somehow allow her to gain access to the silo when the guy arrives there.  When the general shows up at the silo, his iPhone (product placement!) rings. He wonders loudly why he's getting a signal.  He answers it, which allows Indigo, who can travel through computer signals, to zip through the phone and appear at the silo.

Except if cell phones don't normally get signals out at the silo, how did the general's phone get one?  If Indigo's control over computers somehow forced a signal, why would she need the general?  She'd only need to force-activate any radio-controlled device at the silo and wouldn't need the general at all.  And why was the general stupid enough to answer his cell phone in a highly-classified, hidden missile silo in the first place?

But now Indigo has taken over the missile silo and starts up the launch sequence.  Suddenly Winn, our resident computer genius, conveniently reveals to the good guys that several years ago he wrote a super virus that could take Indigo out.  (Why an Earth computer virus written years ago by a guy in a basement could hope to touch a Kryptonian super-computer that ran an entire civiliation, I can't imagine.  Good thing the Kryptonians didn't use IOS.)  All Winn has to do is upload the virus to Indigo and she'll be powerless!  Winn starts the upload.

Uh, guys?  Remember how a major plot point of the story is that THE SILO HAS NO INTERNET?  How is Winn uploading the virus?  This is not in the least bit addressed.  Major, major plot canyon. But the virus uploads merrily away, despite the lack, and we're expected to go along with it because Winn is just so handsome. Or something.

The fight scenes were also awful.  It looked like the actors couldn't remember their moves and were on the verge of losing their balance.  Usually the show's fight scenes are pretty good, but tonight they on NyQuil.

Sickening sexism, horrible writing, bad fight scenes--this episode has it all.  The "Spock's Brain" of Supergiril.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I watched THE BIG BANG THEORY for this week.  You know--"The Positive Negative Reaction," the episode when Bernadette tells Howard (and everyone else) that she's pregnant.

Holy crap!  Were the writers drunker than usual?

I don't usually comment on THE BIG BANG THEORY.  I usually enjoy the show, despite its enormous flaws, though I'm starting to think the show is winding down.  This week's episode certainly showed it.

The episode starts off with Howard learning he's going to be a father. And what happens?  He freaks out.  Just like every single sit-com (and most non-sit-com) father-to-be does.  The standard, idiotic junk poured out of his mouth--I don't know what to do, everything will be awful, yada, yada, yada.  The episode revolved around him deciding that having a baby was a good thing, despite the fact that Howard has been campaigning to have a baby with Bernadette from the beginning.  So in addition to the stereotyping, Howard's freak-out made no character sense.

Later on, Howard laments to the other guys that they won't have enough money.  Money, money, money.  They're going to need money!  Except the show has long since established that Bernadette makes an enormous lot of money, way more than Howard does.  Additionally, they recently inherited Howard's mother's house--so they don't have a mortgage, the single biggest expense a couple can have.  They own their own house near Pasadena, California?  Holy crap!  These people are rich!  Howard doesn't need to worry about money.  It's just the writers grasping at straws.

And then the gals and guys end up in a bar singing karaoke at each other and at Bernadette's unborn baby.  Many, many minutes of it.  None of it was particularly funny.  Nor was it tear-inducing tender (as Howard's love song to Bernadette was at their anniversary).  It came across as the sawdust filler it was.

It was as if the writers wrote half a half-assed episode and went out to the bar, stranding the actors on stage to do bad improv for the final fifteen minutes.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I have a tough standard for judging TV shows: they have to keep me occupied while I'm on the treadmill.  I don't like running, so a TV show that distracts me from the pain has to be =good=.

THE FLASH and SUPERGIRL keep me occupied nicely.  Good pacing, lots of action, lots of humor.

ARROW . . . has trouble. So much angst!

Seriously.  Way much.  In every episode, the plot screeches to a halt at least twice--and often more--in order to let a set of characters tear their hair out about how rotten their lives are.  Nearly all the characters are so wracked with ten kinds of guilt that it takes a third of the show to discuss it.  I could actually live with it, except IT'S BORING.  While someone wails and whines, I'm reminded that we're only on minute 13, and I have 30 minutes of pain to go.

And why is the angst boring? Because there's so freaking much of it!  Episode after episode, hour after hour, we have guilt trips, unrequited love, weeping, hair-tearing.  Come on, people!  You're bloody SUPER-HEROES!  Get your acts together!

So I find myself putting off ARROW.  Maybe I'll just let it quietly fade away.

But here's the cool thing--ARROW used to be the only live-action super-hero show on TV.  Since it was the only game in town, I had to watch it if I wanted a super-hero fix.  But now we have a number of super-powered heroes on TV.  I actually have a choice!  I can let a show go and not feel like I"m missing something.  I would have killed for this kind of thing when I was a kid.

We are in the awesome age of television.


Nov. 13th, 2015 03:44 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Yes, we like Supergirl.

Why?  Melissa Benoist is the main reason.  Her Supergirl is earnest and trying hard to do a job she knows is probably too big for her, but dammit, she's going to do it anyway.  She also =likes= doing it, and =wants= to do it, a major switch from decades of reluctant "I hate my life" heroes (including Buffy, Batman, Green Arrow, and Smallville's Clark Kent).  This makes her highly empathetic.  We also like the fact that her costume design doesn't have a boob window, Daisy Duke shorts, or crop top.  And we like the fact that she doesn't really know how to fight.  Kara bludgeons her antagonists into submission.  No martial arts moves, no fancy acrobatics--just smash and punch.

And we like the references to the source material.  Will Win Schott turn out to be the Toyman?  Will we see the Fortress of Solitude?  James Olson has been given a makeover that we like (though I have to say I would have liked a big redhead for . . . personal reasons).  Cat Grant's iditoic original past as a gossip columnist has been dumped and she runs a media empire with an iron fist.  Interesting.

So we like Supergirl and will continue watching.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin loves horror movies.  I don't.  However, I drag Darwin to super-hero and action movies, so I put up with the occasional horror movie.

When I learned American Horror Story was featuring Lady Gaga this season, however, I thought it'd be cool.  Darwin could watch horror, and I could watch Lady Gaga, and we'd both win.  Plus--Kathy Bates!  I set the DVR to record the show, and when a few episodes had stacked up, Darwin and I settled in to watch.

Aaaand we didn't like it.  Didn't even get past the first episode.

The fish-eye lens (meant to mimic a hotel peephole, I suppose) got annoying really fast.  And every protagonist-type character acted like an utter idiot.  The two girly tourists in the opener had a hundred chances to escape, but took none of them, and in fact, did nothing but whine and scream.  The police detective showed up to investigate an emergency call with no help, even though we saw him work with an entire team just one scene earlier.  All the victims give in without fighting.  This horror trope I loathe more than any other, and this show has it over and over and over.  No one ever fights back or manages to get away?  Really?

Yeah, I know the storyline is meant to be outrageously Gothic, but style got in the way of story.  Many of the shots were so darkly lit, you couldn't see what was going on, and then when we shifted to the vampire child playroom, with the outdated video games, the change was so jarring, it jolted me out of the story and shouted, "Look! We're on a set!  Isn't the design cool?"

Even Lady Gaga's outrageous sense of style couldn't save it.

Darwin agreed with me.  We shut it off and deleted the recording.

Ah well.  There's always Supergirl.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I watched the premiere of MUPPETS TONIGHT.  And oh!  I was happy with it!

I love the mockumentary format.  It effortlessly flips from the Tonight Show style show the Muppets are running to the drama backstage to talk-to-the-camera snippets and back again.  The format leaves a lot to explore.  They can have mutliple guests, if they want (and they did on the pilot), or they can have just one.  They can have short sketches or long, and they did.  And it was inspired to have the musical guest play during the end credits.  When I watched THE MUPPET SHOW back in the 70s, a musical guest always meant the show came to a screeching halt while the guests played, and I hated that, but this let the musicians play, interact with the Muppets (in this case Animal and Sweetums), and wrap up the show all at once.  Brilliant!

Miss Piggy is the host of the show, with Fozzy as her announcer.  Again, brilliant.  Miss Piggy's snark and temper make her a hilarious interviewer, and I don't know why they haven't done this before.

Kermit, meanwhile, is running his flippers off as the show's producer.  He's no longer the host, and it works.  He has more than enough to do backstage, and we see him trying to juggle a show that involves so many disparate personalities, to great comic effect.

The heart of the show remains Kermit and Piggy and their long backstory.  They've broken up, and the flashback scene where we see it happen is strangely tender and tearful.  It contrasts hilariously -- I keep using this word -- with Kermit's confession to the camera, "I guess I've always been attracted to pigs."

It is fresh, it is funny, and we will continue watching.


May. 3rd, 2015 11:18 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
M*A*S*H* is now out on DVD. I got the first disc from Netflix.

Couldn't even get through the first episode.

The show hasn't aged well.  I found Hawkeye annoying rather than funny or poignant--funny, perhaps, twenty or thirty years ago, but not now.  The show was heavily sexist and even misogynistic. Sure, you expect a certain amount of that from a show set in the 50s and filimed in the 80s, but when they did the montage of Hawkeye stalking a nurse he likes by hiding in her tent, in her duffel bag, in her locker, and even going after her in the shower, and she accepts this with a sigh and a shake of her head rather than a butcher knife, I became disgusted.  Major Houlihan was actually looking like a voice of reason, calling Hawkeye out on his bad behavior, but she's portrayed as a shrill harpy--and also a slut.  In fact, all the women are on the show to smooch it up or sleep with the men.  The stupid-ass laugh track, a staple of sit-coms from the period and accepted back then, grated on my nerves.  And when the main plot of the pilot settled into raffling off a nurse as a fundraiser, I had to stop watching.

I know the show got better as it went on.  I know that once Colonel Potter showed up and they got rid of dull, wimpy Blake, the show picks up and that once Frank Burns goes away and Winchester shows up the show improves further, but there are so many other shows to watch, and I realized this is one I don't really need to revisit.
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
Look, I like superhero movies and TV shows.  I'm willing to go along with a lot of impossible stuff and write it off as comic book "science" or just fun.  But you can only take so much.

You can have an impossible universe, but you still need to follow a FEW rules, and your smart people can't. Be. Idiots.

I've been following THE FLASH, but I'm probably going to drop it soon. Why?  Idiot plots.  An idiot plot is a story that depends on the main characters acting like idiots, and the whole thing falls apart if anyone acts with basic intelligence. Yes, everyone does stupid or foolish things now and then, but to qualify as an idiot plot, the people need to do stuff that doesn't even qualify as the "what was I thinking?" kind of idiocy.

Case in point is the latest FLASH episode "Out of Time."  Lots of spoilers follow, and I'm assuming you've seen the episode.

Early in, Barry Allen and Joe West are sitting in Joe's car when Mark Madron (who they work very hard not to call the Weather Wizard) pulls up behind them in his truck.  Madron conjures up a thundercloud and destroys Joe's car with a bolt of lightning.  Fortunately, Barry is so fast that he notices the lightning bolt when it's halfway to the car and he spirits both him and Joe to safety nan-seconds before the lightning strikes.  Neither of them is hurt.  And yet it doesn't occur to Barry to sprint after the Madron in his nice, slow truck and grab him?  But if Barry catches Madron now, the episode ends, so Barry has to be an idiot.

Later, Madron, still intent on killing Joe, shows up at the police station.  (Here, the villain is being an idiot for doing this in a roomful of cops, but we'll give him a sort-of pass on the assumption that Madron figures his powers make him immune to anything the police might do to stop him.)  Barry shows up just in time to stop Madron from killing Joe, but the police chief is badly injured.  Barry has to rush the chief to the hospital while Madron just strolls away.  Barry is so fast, he zips the chief to the hospital in a couple seconds, but he can't get back to the station in time to catch up to Madron?  Or, better yet, he can't spend half a second to punch Madron out and THEN rush the chief to the hospital?  Half a second won't make a difference.  But of course, Madron has to get away or the episode will be really short.  Idiot plot.

In both cases above, the writers could have easily have had Barry fight Madron, but given Madron the ability to neutralize Barry's speed.  They showed Madron create a force field out of air--a great way to stop a speedster.  WHAM!  Barry runs into it, and Madron gets away.  They've also shown Madron with the ability to create ice.  Madron creates an ice slick which flummoxes Barry just long enough for Madron to exit.  There!  No one has to be an idiot.

But the writers aren't content with just Barry being an idiot.  Joe has to be an idiot, too.  Joe says he's going after Madron alone, and that Barry can't go with him because Joe doesn't want anyone else to be endangered.  And BARRY AGREES WITH THIS.

Let's look at this again.  Joe, an ordinary guy with no powers, is going to square off with a supervillain . . . by himself . . . and he doesn't want his superhero foster son to come along because he's afraid the SUPERHERO will get hurt?  And the superhero agrees to this?  Now they've passed the idiot event horizon.

The conversation should have gone the other way around.  Barry should have told Joe to stay out of it because Joe has no powers.  Joe, not wanting this young punk of a kid to deal with Joe's own problems and overconfident that he can handle this Madron guy anyway, goes after Madron and gets himself kidnapped.  Joe's idiocy is actually believable.

And then we have the big reveal--Barry is on the beach with Iris and he tells her he's the Flash.  He does this by changing from civvies into his costume in a small tornado.  In public.  With lots of other people walking around them.  You can see them in the background, in fact.  What the heck?  Idiot.

The last part I had trouble with is something the show may have gotten themselves out of.  The police chief, who is gay, is so badly injured in the fight with Madron that he'll probably never walk again.  Whether or not he'll be able to continue as chief is up in the air.  And then Cisco figures out the true identity of Professor Wells, so Wells kills Cisco.

So the show has these two minority characters: a gay man and an Hispanic man.  And in one episode, they cripple the first and kill off the second.  No straight white people were injured or killed in the filming of this episode.  Fuck you, guys.

However, they sent Barry back in time a few days at the very end of the episode, which may mean they intend to undo these problem.  We'll see if the fuck you stands.

And none of this excuses the characters--and the writers--acting like idiots.


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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