Friday, November 28, 2008

COMING SOON: Underworld

To celebrate the release of Twilight, I will watch Dexter and eat a bagel. On an unrelated note, I will review this movie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

REVIEW: Heroes, Season 2

So when is Space: Above and Beyond going to get a Season 2?

Previously on Heroes...
First, we had a guy on a rooftop, and...
Oh, just read the previous review.

So we’ve gotten through Season 1 of Heroes. Improvement seems inevitable, since superhero origin stories tend to be the weakest. It’s only once we get through the motions of the super-people discovering their powers and establishing their major character traits that we can see the more clever uses of those powers and the most character-bending storylines. Furthermore, while Season 1... Dammit, Volume 1 didn’t get the superhero team mechanic going until the final episode, by Volume 2 everyone has come together.

But waaait a minute. At the start of the season, of course, the Flying Petrelli Brothers are somewhere in the stratosphere and Hiro is doing his Army of Darkness thing in Feudal Japan. But what the hell is up with the other people? Aside from a couple of them who have teamed up, everyone else seems to have forgotten all the other super-people’s existence. Sure makes character conflict easier when you’ve already forgotten that you saved the world together a whole four months ago. Way to go, Suresh, the would-be genius whom you might have thought would keep the super-people together and had them do something useful. Professor X called; he says you suck at this job. Granted, considering the motley crew of Emo twenty-somethings and incompetent amateur secret agents that this show calls a cast, I might have tried to cut ties with them too.

"Look out bees! You have met your match!"

And if last year’s show was goofily amusing, if completely full of itself, this season is bad. Baaaaad. If Season 1 was The Chronicles of Riddick, this is The Chronicles of Batman and Robin, with Special Guest Star Wicket the Ewok and His Amazing Shark-Jumping Water Stunt Show. This is when the wheels come flying completely off the already-strained premise. Remember how I mentioned that certain superheroes, namely time-traveling/time-freezing Hiro and do-everything Peter, had become so powerful that it seems unlikely anyone could ever challenge them? Yeah, they didn’t exactly come up with a long-term solution, such as gleefully killing them off or upping the super villain ante to somebody Galactus-level. Instead, they need to resort to every cheap trick possible to nullify Hiro and Peter’s powers: amnesia, power-suppressing drugs, childishly transparent deception by the bad guys, tactical stupidity, and sometimes just plain freaking forgetting that they have those powers to begin with.

Ralphie stared in frozen horror at just what he and his Red Ryder carbine action 200-yard range air rifle had wrought.

And it’s not like the new exhibits at the rogue’s gallery are going to draw many patrons:

Bob (Stephen Tobolowsky): Yes, the main villain is Bob. If most of the other characters weren't already colorless, Bob's whimsical plainness might be considered ironic. He’s the front man for the vague-as-ever quasi-villainous organization “The Company.” Bob is a nebbish accountant type who happens to be The Company’s main diplomat/head of field operations. Jack Bauer he’s not. It’s also not the best strategy on The Company’s part to put him near the people who want to bring them down, since his power to turn anything into gold (seriously) is their main source of income. If you’ve got a guy with that power, you lock him in a room in the basement, give him an endless supply of garage sale crap, surround him with armed guards, and find someone else to do your dirty work.

"...And your lucky numbers are 3, 7, 21, 45, and 63!"

Elle (Kristen Bell): Bob’s lightning-throwing, spoiled brat of a teenage daughter. Veronica Mars fans rejoice. But if many Veronica Mars fans are pleased with her showing here, that show’s not exactly going to get the show to the top of my Netflix queue. Once again, Mr. Bennett steals the show in one of the season’s better scenes, when he ties up Elle and dumps water on her to ensure that her power would backfire on her if she tries to use it to escape.

Adam (David Anders): British Doogie Howser look-alike who was at one point Hiro’s childhood hero, a great Samurai in feudal Japan. When Hiro meets him, Adam turns out to be a bit of a prick, but he does also turn out to have super-powers (cripes, even random 500-year-old guys have super-powers in this show). He’s pretty much immortal, so he spans both the Feudal Japan scenes and the modern conflict, and has Claire’s super-regeneration from wounds as well. Wow, they’ve already run out of powers. Despite being no offensive threat at all, he does trick Peter into thinking he’s a good guy for a while. Which says a lot more about Peter than about Adam.

It's a wacky cross-over Thursday on NBC! At nine, Peter guests stars on The Office and defends the warehouse from agents of the apocalypse! And then, Dwight guest stars on Heroes and slices Hiro's head off!

The main threat this season is a virus that The Company is developing to neutralize super-powers. Which I’m absolutely certain was an X-Men storyline of some significance, although I never read the comics. But naturally, The Company develops a weaponized strain of this virus that‘s deadly, both to super-people and regular people (y‘know, the 5% of the Earth‘s population that lacks powers), and accidentally causes a holocaust that wipes out nearly the whole world population. How do we know? Because we’re going on the Magic School Bus and visiting the future again! Yep, Heroes is once again playing the “travel to the future to see what happens if we fail” card. The whole virus plot would probably be a bit scarier if we had any sense of its effectiveness or how gruesome its symptoms are, but we really don’t know anything except that it’s airborne and that a lot of people die. Wow, that’s what I own a television for: to hear it mentioned that a lot of people died in some unknown fashion off-screen. When 24 did its killer virus storyline, it actually showed how quickly the thing could spread and how horrific its symptoms were, but here, the virus seems to have been selected by the producers as the season’s main threat because the show didn’t need any expensive special effects to depict it.
Young Trixie and Richard Kiel in love

Oh, and Sylar’s back. And he doesn’t even have powers now, as a result of having the non-deadly strain of the virus. So like Adam, he twirls his curly moustache and convinces a new batch of idiot pseudo-heroes that he’s a Good Samaritan.

And speaking of our pseudo-heroes, here’s the new ones:

Monica (Dana Davis): Girl from New Orleans with big dreams who keeps getting passed up for a promotion at the fast food joint she works at. Maybe they found out that her grandma is NICHELLE NICHOLS, and they were worried that Monica would keep saying into the drive-through intercom, “Unidentified ship, please identify yourself!” And not to minimize the real-life tragedy, but the completely tacked-on flashback Monica has to stock footage of Hurricane Katrina was pretty hilariously awkward. She has the power to mimic any movement she sees other people do, ranging form fancy tomato-slicing to kung fu to fake wrestling moves. Thank God she doesn’t watch The Matrix, or she’d break the space-time continuum. It would be a fairly interesting power, and fairly useful, if other people couldn’t STOP FREAKING TIME and CONTROL FREAKING MINDS. She’s Nikki’s son’s cousin, but other than that, what does she have to do with the virus storyline? Absolutely. Nothing. Whatsoever.

"Are you deaf? I said take me to the airport, four-eyes!" "Your wish is my command, cotton-nose!"

Maya and Alejandro (Dania Ramirez and Shalim Ortiz): Twins from the Dominican Republic. She gets agitated a lot. You wouldn’t like her when she’s agitated. She starts streaming these thick black tears and kills everyone in the vicinity, unwillingly on her part. This is a terrible curse for her, because if she can't get angry without killing everyone near her, she's doomed forever to watch Heroes alone. Her twin brother is immune to this effect and is good at calming her down. Which I guess counts as a power. After Maya accidentally kills Alejandro’s fiancee, their family, and the entire wedding party--something he apparently doesn’t even begin to hold against her--they spend the whole season trying to sneak into the US to seek a cure for her condition from Dr. Suresh. Probably seeking help from Dr. Kevorkian, Dr. Nick Riviera, Dr. Octopus, or Dr. Seuss would be a better bet. This season-long quest through the Americas, which includes Sylar as a co-passenger, naturally gives the producers a chance to include the Minutemen as mouth-breathing Neanderthal villains in one scene. Whoa. I just got a Babel flashback. I think I need to lie down.

West (Nick D‘Agosto): Yes, that’s his first name. He’s a guy at Claire’s new school after her family flees to California. He comes on to her by asking if she’s more of a robot (does what she’s told) or an alien (does things her own way). At which point I decide he really belongs in the villain’s section above, because a million monkeys working for a million years on a million typewriters could not create as idiotic a pick-up line as that. Naturally, every random freaking person in this show has a super-power, so what’s his? Flight. Kind of like Nathan’s? Exactly like Nathan’s. They’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel, and now they’re stripping it for firewood.

Although Season 2 has a lot of storylines, Adam’s is the only one that’s particularly important to that virus I mentioned earlier. Although he was once an anonymous samurai mercenary, Hiro helps him to realize his power of regeneration and become an actual hero, fighting a bunch of generic samurai bad guys. However, the writers were clearly Jerry Zucker fans who wanted to cover for his awful love triangle in First Knight, so they pull off an even worse one by having Adam get all pissed that his would-be girlfriend, Yaeko, is actually attracted to Hiro. So he does something truly heroic--overpower a man who can freeze time and teleport at will. That takes guts. Still, Hiro winds up turning the tables on him, and mistakenly believes Adam to be killed in an explosion. Deciding to leave his beloved Yaeko--he can time travel, so couldn’t he just come back to see her on the weekends?--Hiro returns to the present. However, Adam is immortal, and apparently 400 years isn’t enough for the guy to forgive a relatively minor soap opera betrayal. So in present time, he goes after founding members of The Company, which include Hiro’s father (George Takei; I already mentioned that in the last review, but I like to remind people that George Takei is in this show) and Peter and Nathan’s mother, Angela Petrelli. Adam bumps off Mr. Nakamura, despite the fact that with only the slightest bit of time-altering, Hiro could have stopped Adam then and there, saving his father and actually, for once, doing his fair share to avert the global cataclysm that a villain is planning. But that would do something bad to the space-time continuum, or maybe they just decided that it would be unfair for Hiro to actually use his full effort. So Adam kills Sulu and gets away.

"If we don't get there in three minutes, the world is going to end! But if we do save the world, it's all thanks to our awesome Sprint phone!"

Inexplicably, he knows that Peter’s in Ireland (I won’t bother going into that storyline). Peter’s kind of depressed at the time Adam runs into him, again (again, I’m cutting some stuff here). You see, Peter accidentally warped himself and his new girlfriend into the future, where he learned that the Shanti virus is going to kill off most of the world’s population. Despite having almost limitless power, he somehow failed to bring her back with him. So now he’s got to change the future that he’s left her in, therefore wiping her out of existence. That‘s quite a break-up. But fortunately, Adam comes along to console poor Peter and help him out. He tells Peter that the Company is planning to release the virus, when in fact, Adam himself wants to release it, because he just really, really, really doesn’t like people. And considering that he’s had 400 years to think over that position, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss him.

So a lot of crap happens, and in the end, it’s Peter getting duped by Adam, while Hiro, who understands Adam’s true nature and intention of releasing the weaponized virus to get revenge on the world, tries to stop them from breaking into a vault to get the one vial of the damn stuff. I suppose that a battle between two characters who can move at will through time and space would be quite an incredible thing to witness in the hands of a creative director. But no. Peter doesn’t even need to use his own time-traveling ability, since Hiro fights like an elderly English teacher trying to play Mortal Kombat for the first time, and gets knocked out. Fortunately, Parkman and Nathan arrive in the nick of time. Parkman fills his quota of being flung away at the outset of the fight, but then Nathan talks sense into Peter. Peter destroys the virus, and Hiro buries Adam alive, which is actually kind of unexpectedly vicious and clever.

MEMO: Cisco Marketing Dept.: Prospective clients are concerned about certain security gaps in our software. Specifically, they saw Heroes and were led to believe that we stick the f***ing password out there for everyone to see as you type it.

Nathan schedules a press conference to reveal his super-powers to the world and to expose The Company for… whatever it is. Naturally, he’s shot and killed* before he can do so, by an unknown assassin. Why is this stupid? Well about three episodes earlier, it was revealed that an infusion of Claire’s super-regenerating blood can bring someone back to life, which happened to Mr. Bennett, who had been shot himself (in the face!). So for all the drama at Nathan’s death, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t figure out soon enough that they can bring him back to life easy as pie. Hell, Peter’s own blood could do the trick since he has Claire’s power. If these people want to do good in the world, they should just install mounted cannons, Predator-style, into their shoulders that fire needles filled with their own blood. They’d be the ultimate combat medics, the Priests of the Heroes World of Warcraft team. But no. The show is still deluding itself into the notion that it has some dignity, so crazy cyborg implants are out of the question. And they still want permission to kill people off, so life-restoring blood transfusions of any kind are hereby outlawed until the time comes again when they’re convenient for the writers.

"The feather was fake, Claire! You can fly! Open your ears, Claire, and fly!"

And there’s so much more wrong with the mercifully few twelve episodes (thank you, striking writers) of this season that I don’t have the willpower to talk about in detail:

  • George Takei, yet again. With both him and Nichelle Nichols, this show has the most ex-Star Trek actors with crappy memoirs of any show since… Star Trek.

  • More Nikki good girl/bad girl Gollum crap. She supposedly dies* at the end of the season, which suggests to me that Ali Larter is out of the doghouse and is ready to go back to making movies again.

  • The hilarious notion that Nathan Petrelli managed to steal a congressional election he was supposed get crushed in, get charred, get miraculously cured, get stripped of his office, and fall into alcoholism and--here’s the kicker-- total obscurity in four months. What the hell kind of a job is the press doing? And the Attorney General for that matter?

  • But he wasn’t as busy as Matt Parkman. In that same four-month span, Matt managed to recover from four bullets to the chest, file for divorce and conclude it, move from California to New York, legally adopt a girl he barely knew, and make detective with the NYPD. Holy God. And I thought CTU worked fast.

  • The character of West deserves extra mockery, because the show clearly decided it wasn’t enough to horribly rip off X-Men. It had to get a piece of the Smallville pie too. This guy’s a dead ringer for the guy who plays Superman in that show. What does he add to Heroes? An extra half a rating point in the 12-18 female demographic, that’s what.

  • So far, Hiro has killed zero villains and caused one good guy to turn evil. He deserves some credit for stabbing Sylar at the end of Season 1 (though he should have outright killed him, considering that he can FREEZE TIME), but deserves equal responsibility for the global disaster that he utterly failed to help stop in this season. I think he needs to seriously reconsider his career. Instead of using his powers to fight evil, maybe he should do something that won’t kill us all, like use his powers to improve the NFL’s instant replay ability.

Now, as much as I mock this show, I will admit that I watched these two seasons from beginning to end. Hey, sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your art.

If you flip a coin, I swear...

Stop with the excuses. Stop with the Emmys. However moderately interesting this show once was, it’s now an incoherent jumble. Its heroes are over-powered. Its villains are under-powered. Comic books that have run for forty years have better continuity. The show’s new characters are annoying. Its old characters are impossible to care about. Its fights are ludicrous. Its dramatic scenes are nothing but clich├ęs. Its plot somehow manages to be simplistic and incomprehensible, all at once. Its music frightens dogs. Its acting fluctuates between acceptable and Swordfish. Aside from Mr. Bennett continuing to be the truly great action hero on a show where he’s just about the only one without a super-power, Volume 2: Generations manages to be the Star Trek: Generations of the Heroes franchise.

"Listen, there is no way that I would ever allow people to think of anything unsavory when they think of the Spitzer name."

But don’t worry. Heroes will be back. And I’ll probably review it, again. At which point, I’ll ask Adam if there’s any room left in that coffin.

*Because Season 3 has already started, I should add to this review, drafted several months ago, that neither of these two characters are actually dead. Well, one of them’s alive, and the other one is dead, but has a twin sister. Really.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

COMING SOON: Heroes, Season 2

To put it in comic book terms, this is the Judge Dredd vs. Predator of TV show seasons.

Monday, November 10, 2008

REVIEW: Heroes, Season 1

"Seven days..."

All these people in the world go about their daily lives just happy to be alive, unaware of the genetic miracle happening all around them. Why do they scurry about? What is their purpose? It is one of life’s great mysteries. And where there is mystery, there is hope. We always hope for someone to share the mystery with, to bond with someone who understands us. And yet, there is a great loneliness…


That’s how nearly every episode of Heroes begins, with the character of Mohinder Suresh delivering a rambling, pseudo-quasi-profound monologue while the “music” of “Shenkar” (formerly known as “Shankar,” seriously) hypnotically assaults your will to live. It’s all supposed to be very inspiring in a New Age sort of way, and is the perfect introduction to one of the most delusional shows on television. What started as a severely flawed, but often amusing and sometimes exciting action-adventure show completely fell apart by the end of the first season, then flailed about like a fish on the poop deck all throughout its second, mercifully cut short by the writer’s strike.
Yes, I will get around to reviewing The Happening eventually.

Debuting two years and three days after the debut of ABC’s smash hit Lost, NBC’s Heroes went for a similar kind of vibe: a diverse cast full of mostly young-ish, mostly attractive people each dealing with their own personal dramas while also coming together for a single epic sci-fi storyline. It’s the ongoing storyline most of all that makes me compare Heroes to Lost, because while these weren’t the first shows by any means to have a truly ongoing storyline, rather than a one episode at a time approach, they were and are two of the most popular TV adventure/dramas that you really have no godly chance of understanding if you don’t watch every single episode. In an era before the internet, DVD boxed sets, frequent reruns, and full episodes at, people could never have kept up with this show.

"Pssst, kid. If you help me get out of my contract, I'll send for you as soon as I get out of this crappy show and back to movies."

Heroes also came at the height of Hollywood’s superhero phase, not that it’s remotely done with. In fact, with its premise that genetic mutation has caused random people all over the world (in other words, a ton of them in the continental US, plus one in Japan) to develop wildly implausible super-powers, Heroes bears more than a passing resemblance to X-Men, the third movie adaptation of which had debuted in theaters a few months before Heroes’ premiere to much box office success and more derision. Heroes is very different from X-Men in that until the first season’s finale, the superheroes never get all together at the same time, although several of them meet and work together a few at a time.
"Roger, I think you should pull over and ask for directions." "Come on, Maude, the map says the art museum's at the corner of Isaac Mendez and Simone Deveaux in Lower Manhattan. It's gotta be around here somewhere!"

The overarching story of the first season--pardon me, the first volume, dubbed “Genesis” with the bold and horrible implication that we have 65 more volumes to go--begins with Dr. Mohinder Suresh, an Indian geneticist, giving a lecture to his students. This is where my first attempt to watch Heroes ended. Suresh gives one of those hilariously implausible lectures where he rambles on about evolution at its most superficial, though totally incorrect level, which was somehow preceded by 53 classroom minutes of even shallower rambling, since the bell rings just after he makes his point. Anyway, he journeys to America to find out why his father, also a geneticist, was murdered. We eventually find out (if we were dense enough to not figure out already) that his father was genetically mapping all the freaky mutations that are happening across the world’s populations. He was killed by the first super-person he found, one with the ability to absorb other people’s super-powers by eating their braaaaiiins. After killing Papa Suresh, the main series villain, who’s adopted the name Sylar, takes the professor’s research and goes around getting more and more powerful as he gains telekinesis, freezing, super-memory (?), etc. He's kind of a biological, evil Mega Man.

Also in on the fun is a mysterious organization known by the predictably and implausibly vague moniker “The Company.” We’re never really sure whether The Company is a government agency, a private organization, a terrorist group, or something else, but it goes back many years and both captures and employs super-people into its service. These guys are bad, but they’re not psychotic the way that Sylar is, so they fight with him as often as they do with the good guys. Their entire organization also appears to consist of about four people, so I don’t really get the sense of massive threat and conspiracy I think I’m supposed to feel. A super-tough, but non-super human named Noah Bennet is one of their top agents, and the mysterious billionaire Mr. Linderman is vaguely connected to them in some way that I don’t really give a damn about. Generally speaking, the only thing that binds all of the individual characters in the series is that they all cross swords with Sylar, Bennet, Linderman, or one of The Company’s other members/opponents.

"Thought you could escape me, did you?"

As the show progresses (and if this review seems to lack coherence, then I‘m glad I‘m getting that across), some of the super-people are able to see the future in one way or another, and they prophesy that New York is going to be wiped out by a nuclear explosion, and the country is going to become a police state that persecutes its super-people in reaction--yeah, this has nothing to do with X-Men. The main thread of the season is figuring out how the plots of Sylar, The Company, and the good guys themselves lead to the annihilation of NYC, so that they can save the future. To discuss everything that happens over the course of the season would not exactly make for concise and interesting reading, so I’ll summarize the whole season in one sentence: A bunch of people figure out they have superpowers, learn to use their powers to marginal effect, resolve soap opera-ish personal problems, and have a 12-second fight with the bad guy in the last episode.

All right, I'll make this joke one more time: 23:59:58, 23:59:59...

Now, you might have noticed that I’ve avoided using the term “hero” to describe these people, even though that’s what the show clearly wants me to do. It would definitely be a shorter word to use than “super-person.” Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think the title of hero results more from accomplishment than freaky genetic birthright. And boy, these people don’t accomplish much. Most of them are a bigger danger to themselves than to any villain they‘re supposed to be heroic for opposing, and they employ their powers with the kind of tactical prowess not seen since the age of vaudeville comedy routines.

Mickey Blue Eyes

And they’re bland, too. None of them has a costume, an alias, a cool hideout, or any of that. In a sense, that’s fine; this show is trying to strip the goofy comic book elements out of the superhero genre… while simultaneously having a subplot about a guy who eats people’s brains so that he can become indestructible. But could you have worked on the superpowers a bit? I remember the X-Men powers mostly being pretty nuanced, odd, and varied, with a great mix of abilities and eccentricities. Some of them had multiple powers, some of them were deformed, some of them had a mix of strengths and weaknesses. There was the blue guy with the tail. The guy who looked like a pterodactyl. The guy who had to wear sunglasses all the time or else he’d blast everything into oblivion. The big metal guy with the little head and the frowny face. Everyone looked interesting, and most of their powers had some interesting limitations or fringe benefits. Here, you’ve got the one with super strength, the one who reads minds, the one who flies, the shape shifter, and so on, and most of them look like American Idol winners.

"Maude, I don't understand this new Palestinian art exhibit." "Oh, Roger, you're so fussy about trying new things!"

To be more specific:

Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere): Texas cheerleader and adopted daughter of Noah Bennet. Completely indestructible, which is an ability later retconned to mean that she’s indestructible as long as no one lops off her head or eats her brain; it’s Highlander rules, basically. All the prophecies that figure so largely in this series say, “Save the cheerleader, save the world,” which basically means that if Sylar steals Claire’s power, there will be no stopping him. Fair enough--in Season 2, there‘ll be another indestructible guy, but it doesn‘t seem like Sylar gives a flip about him. Her great personal drama involves the simultaneous horrors of being stalked by a vicious super-powered serial killer and being unpopular with the other cheerleaders.

The bus driver jammed on the brakes, but too late.

Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar): Congressional candidate representing New York City, affiliated with no political party in particular. Given that he has to cheat to win a New York City election, that some of the people propping up his political campaign are evil, and that this is a Hollywood production with some obnoxiously up-front political messages, I’d say he’s a Republican. He can fly, Superman-style, with no obvious means of propulsion. He’s very loath to use this power, since he’s more concerned about coming back in a tough election, but he’s such a dour, dead fish of a human being that it’s a miracle even a war hero/former DA from a fabulously wealthy political family (the trifecta!) could get close to being elected with his demeanor. Dude, you don’t need to smile for the camera if you wear a superhero mask. You’d probably feel pretty comfortable in there. Plus, he’s unknowingly Claire’s mother, having conceived her during an affair… with a girl who turns out to be another super-person. Sure are a lot of them hanging around.

Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia): Nathan’s little brother, a male nurse with no particular political ambitions. Initially, we think that he too has flight, but it turns out that he can permanently copy the power of any super-person he comes near, so before long he’s trotting around with mind reading, flight, invincibility, invisibility, lightning bolts, time travel… It all seems a bit excessive, but fortunately they’ll give him amnesia early in the second season to give us a break from his godliness. He’s set up as the main nemesis of Sylar, since one’s good, one’s evil, and yet they’re both walking arsenals. I’m not buying it. This dude’s so powerful that in the post-apocalyptic future the good guys visit, Peter’s still alive and well after being hit point blank (I mean really point-blank) by a nuclear blast that annihilates NYC. Although oddly, he does have a scar, despite regenerating perfectly from everything else. What does that mean? Being vaguely cool looking is more important to the producers than even the most basic continuity, that’s what.
"Look at the bright side, honey: at least the wallpaper matches the mattress."

Niki Sanders (Ali Larter): LA (internet) stripper with a heart of gold who deals with a convict husband, a child (also super powered), a house that I’m not remotely convinced she could afford, and a Gollum-like alternate personality that takes over to do very bad things for long stretches. She also has super strength, which actually seems to have been an afterthought, since her evil side spends far more time acting bitchy and/or slutty than doing any damage. In evil mode, she’s some kind of mercenary for Linderman; in good mode, she’s trying to escape her criminal ties to him. If you enjoy the first 30 scenes where she has an imaginary battle of wills with her alternate personality, you’ll probably enjoy the next 100.

Hey, I'm the one who writes the captions around here!

D.L. Hawkins (Leonard Roberts): Niki’s husband, who can walk through walls, Shadowcat-style. Token black guy, and he’s beaten up enough to earn that moniker. Also an ex-con with a heart of gold who’s being framed for a crime he actually didn’t commit. Hang on, I’m tearing up. Oh wait, that’s actually vomit. He’s actually a very likable character, so much so that 1) it’s hard to believe this guy was ever actually a criminal, except as the standard “master thief who just wants to feed his family,” 2) he makes his mad-as-a-hatter wife all the more unlikable.

Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey): Niki and D.L.’s son. He can touch a computer and immediately pull any piece of information from it or tell it what to do. He uses this power to HEROES IS THE GREATEST SHOW EVER. I’M SO GLAD THAT IT GOT AN EMMY. WATCH HEROES, RIGHT AFTER 'CHUCK'--IT'S A COMEDY WHERE A NORMAL GUY BECOMES A SECRET AGENT, HOW CLEVER IS THAT??? ONLY ON NBC, YOUR HOME FOR MUST-SEE TV.
"Damn you, Olestra!"

Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg): Cop who can read minds, and he eventually learns how to control them too. And there’s really not much more to say about him, other than that every big fight starts with him getting the crap kicked out of him, and that his “psychic attack” body language challenges the otherwise-great Dark City’s finale for sheer goofiness.

Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera): Comic book artist who can paint important scenes in the future, just so long as he’s high. I’m bored with this guy already.

"Now listen here, Mr. Fancy Pants Curator, I paid my $25 admission, and I want access to the Indian pottery exhibit!" "Roger, stop making a scene! You're embarrassing me!"

Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka): Tokyo cubicle rat with a job eerily similar to my own. An excitable comic book fan who gets all wrapped up in his own “heroic journey” when he discovers he can travel through space and time at will. He must also be a big Lord of the Rings fan since he strings along his own personal Samwise, fellow cubicle rat and BFF Ando. He decides for whatever reason that a guy who can freeze time on his enemies needs to learn how to fight with a Samurai sword. Dude, I don’t think fighting with honor is the wisest choice right now. You could fight with a Sears refrigerator and win, just so long as you make competent use of your ability. Which ain’t gonna happen. He has the opportunity several times to hack his opponents’ heads off when time’s frozen, but just as often decides that making use of his magical power is dishonorable, and opts for the “appear 20 feet in front of the guy who shoots lightning bolts, and sprint at him with your sword over your head” maneuver.

Gabriel Gray, AKA Sylar (Zachary Quinto): Lead villain. Watchmaker with an inferiority complex who decides he should be so much more, and gets his wish when he discovers he can eat brains to steal super-powers. He’s the only one with a superhero pseudonym, but instead of going with Captain Ultra or something, he takes a conveniently evil-sounding name from a (fictitious) watch company. Has no moral compunction about killing these people to get his powers, but almost gets out of the super-villainy game entirely when he discovers he’s destined to wipe out NYC in the future. Whaaaa? That’s some skittish morality, my friend. In a better TV show, this guy would be the hero, since it’s basically him up against a massive government agency, a invincible guy with super-powers far more useful than his own, and a bunch of other random idiots with super-powers.
R. Lee Ermey begins his first day of his post-military life, training Hooters waitresses

The best character of the show doesn’t even have any super-powers. Noah Bennet is one of the few really great things to come out of this show, a quick-thinking and believably tough half-villain/half-hero who gets the majority of the compelling moral dilemmas. He’s an agent for the company tasked with imprisoning and/or recruiting super-people, a daunting task considering that the super-person population is so prevalent that both Niki and D.L., and Nathan and Claire’s birth mother (a pyrokineticist) managed to hook up and have children without even realizing they both had super-powers! Unfortunately, he has to make up for the shortcomings of the rest of these idiots. While the show’s actually entertaining enough to be worth watching casually--I only saw it because the whole first season was available on Netflix’s online viewing service, and I was between semesters at grad school--I can’t figure out why people take it seriously. It has better production values than something like Andromeda or Mutant X, but really has the same level of cheesiness. But it’s a new age yuppie cheesiness that alternately thinks it’s making some great statement about the human condition and thinks it would be funny to have a Japanese guy see Nathan Petrelli landing in the desert and yell “Frying Man!” And frankly, when one of your major guest stars for the season is George Takei, you’ve forsaken the right to be taken seriously. Warp speed ahead!

When Heroes is at its best, it’s having its super-people team up and use their powers creatively in conjunction with one another to solve unusual problems. That’s always the best part of X-Men or Fantastic Four, but it only rarely happens here. Instead, we get to see Hiro stop short of hacking Sylar’s head off while time is frozen, then whine to Ando about how he needs more Samurai training to be able to confront him. God almighty.

"Hory mory! The tanning bed brew up!"

After an anticlimactic showdown with Sylar where all the super-people at least finally pop up at the same place all together, the show boldly proclaims that Volume 2, Exodus… excuse me, Generations, will follow with Hiro having been warped back to feudal Japan in an absurd coincidence, and the fate of Peter and Nathan uncertain after having flown into the upper atmosphere to keep the nuclear blast safely away from the city. Unfortunately, the show was right, and there was more to come. And while Genesis was a laughable, but generally amusing and sometimes fairly clever X-Men rip-off, Generations explored those pits of the television underworld at which All in the Family and Grey’s Anatomy currently, or soon will toil for all eternity…

Saturday, November 8, 2008

COMING SON: Heroes, Season 1

I've watched a lot of hours of a really crappy TV show for the sake of this review, so you'd better read it and click on my sponsors.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reactions to tonight's election from all the candidates

BARACK OBAMA: Boy, it's been an amazing journey. This has been an election of firsts, most notably the first black president. But this will be a presidency of firsts for me. First time I've supported tax cuts (if by tax cuts, you mean that poor people will pay negative taxes). First time I've taken foreign policy seriously (I'm not sure who that creepy guy on the cover of the Person of the Year issue of Time was, but I hope I don't have to meet him). First time I've had to make any executive decision whatsoever (aside from picking Joe Biden to the #2 job in the nation, but everybody shatters a couple of kneecaps the first time they try to ride a bike). And of course, first time the American people have elected a sociali... er, whoops, I didn't mean to say that. Hope! Change! Rebuilding!

JOHN McCAIN: Oh, I’m not worried. Al Gore has assured me that I get at least three or four recounts before things start getting serious. Granted, all the trial lawyers are on the other side, but we’ll figure something out. I’m sure the LA Times will release the Rashid Khalidi video any day now. Hey, they’re just waiting for it to get developed at Wal-Drug. Modern technology sure is something, isn’t it?

SARAH PALIN: Oh, you betcha we’re disappointed! So very disappointed! Golly, but this is just the start for John McCain! I hope to run with him again in 2012, and it’ll only cost your university or non-profit organization $50,000 per hour (initial bid) to hear me talk about it for 40 minutes (overtime pay on speeches over 40 minutes; no refunds for time spent on babbling yokel incoherence or prolonged deer-in-the-headlights looks). And if John McCain decides that in 2012, at age dirt + 4, he’s a little too old to run, I’ll have to run absentee for him. And I’m sure I’ll have a swell old time joking around with Tina Fey in four years if that slut’s miserable career isn’t in the crapper by then! See ya in four!

JOE BIDEN: Let me tell you something: Barack Obama will fight this decision. I’ve known him for 55 years, and if there’s one thing I can say about Barack America, it’s that he has good posture. Now maybe it’s the hair plugs talking, but I never understood Star Trek. I know John McCain is old and confused, but does he really expect the American people to believe that Joe the Plumber runs around collecting magic mushrooms, rescuing princesses from evil turtle kings, and stomping Klingons? Maybe one or two of those, but not all three. And as soon as I find out which two are true, I will let you know, as will Barnish Origami. But what about my agenda as president now that Queen Palin has selected me? First of all, I will declare the city of Scranwick-Wilmingtowns Barre the capitol of our great nation, because I’m tired of paying $700 a day to ride the Amtrak. Ninth of all, I’ll open trade relations with Simon, Joe the Plumber’s invisible unicorn friend. We can’t afford to continue this cowboy diplomacy that has gotten us into this war against the unicorns, leprechauns, Armenians, and harpies. Every day, one of them steals another of my socks, and I’m tired of amputating my own feet to compensate. Second of all, why are all the colors named the way they are? And finally, a massive, horrifying war will start if we elect Burt Oregon president, one in which those Americans who survive nuclear incineration will wander the streets, eating the flesh of newborn babies to stifle the pain and satiate the unearthly hunger for innocent blood. That’s why you need to get to your polling place and poll for him as president on November 12th. Because if he’s president, the whole balance of power will shift: George W. Bush will have only ½ presidential power, and John McCain will have 4/9 presidential power (down from the 15/17 he would have if elected president), and Bill Richardson would have 3/8. Now, once he’s elected, Balderdash Agamemnon will still have to prove himself by passing the Three Great Tests. The first is the New York City cab driver’s licensing exam, which will be easy given that he is a Muslim. The second is the Trial of Eternal Champions in which he will need to bench press the ghost of William F. Buckley while James Baldwin dangles loogies in his face. The third is that my teeth are making this humming sound, almost like they’re trying to warn me of traitors within my midst who need to have their hypothalamuses cut out so that the Thetans can escape. And that’s why we need Barama Obacka’s health care plan. Because it’s a constitutional right for each American to have two hypothalamuses. And when I was in line trying to return my defective VCR to the Dairy Queen, I realized something. John McCain refuses to discuss the single most important issue that is on the minds of middle-class voters: reincarnation. Now, if we can convince the members of our armed services to cut off their own heads and be reincarnated as silverback gorillas, we can finally beat the Germans once and for all, because they’d never suspect that the silverbacks are actually US commandos on a mission. In fact, I keep my own bomb shelter stocked with foodstuffs, water, and samurai swords (because guns are wrong and should be banned) in case the Belgians think of the same idea first. For all of George W. Bush’s talk about the so-called “Axes of Evil,“ he’s ignored the threat that comes from reincarnated animal armies throughout the world: Syrian foxes, Chinese koala bears, South African hummingbirds, French redwoods. Now, I understand that John McCain took a lot of heat for picking a woman, Rudy Giuliani, as his running mate. But the truth is that Barbara Audubon also picked a woman: he picked Knut the Polar Bear as his running mate, and I picked Denmark as mine. Splunge! Now, tell me honestly, America: did you see The Dark Knight? I thought that the scariest character was Gwyneth Paltrow. Coincidentally, Gwyneth Paltrow was my favorite movie until David Duchovny came out and won Best Picture. Now, Bareass Octagon’s favorite movie is Shakespeare in Love, which makes sense because he’s a gay Muslim baby-eater, which is part of his appeal, more so than his cleanness. But let me get something straight: I did not have sex with William Ayers. A little making out and a little dirty talk, but it wasn’t sex, and the baby looks nothing like me anyway. And everybody knows that babies don’t come from sex, but from something far more shocking: George Bush. We can’t afford four more years of babies, and that’s all he’s brought this country. We’ve seen four years of Stephen Harper bringing about kittens, four years of Nicholas Sarkozy bringing about napkins, four years of Barbie Oshgoshbghosh bringing about run-on sentences, and four years of Angela Merkel bringing about Powers Boothe. And I tried the Powers Boothe, but it didn’t work anything like it looked on TV, and it left my abs and pelvis hurting like you-know-what. So tell me, Chuck Norris and Christine Brinkley: when will this war stop? I’m not talking about the War on Terror or the War on Unicorns or the War on Chuck Schumer’s Ferret. I’m talking about why you should elect Baskin Orobbins to be my lawfully wedded husband and wife. Remember to vote this Thursday! Get out or vote! One or the other!

BARACK OBAMA: Don’t worry, everybody. This election was close (-ish), but I have four years to correct my one mistake. Hey Joe! How about some unwrapped Halloween candy?

JOE BIDEN: Good golly, does that mean Santa’s here?