Fringe Season Five…so far

Yesterday I caught the latest episode of Fringe, “The Bullet That Saved the Earth,” the fourth episode of the show’s fifth, and last, season.

It occurred to me a while back that while I generally enjoy the show, one of its biggest problems is that the writers behind the series tend to make things up on the fly.  At least this is my suspicion given the way the show started, progressed, and is now winding down.

The show has shifted abruptly since the last season to a bleak future where the mysterious Observers, a race of aliens originally presented as beings who could be in any time of their choosing and are extremely difficult if not impossible to kill but who are now much easier to pick off, have taken over Earth and are grinding humanity down.

But not if our intrepid Fringe division heroes can thwart them.

In this episode, what should have been a gargantuan story point was told in the waning minutes of the episode and, yes, to discuss it I should warn you…


Still here?

You’ve been warned!

In this episode, the now grown daughter of Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham, Henrietta Bishop (Georgina Haig) dies at the hands of the “chief” Observer.  The sequence should have been emotionally engaging and, at the very least, shocking.  However, and this is one of the big problems I’ve been having with the show this season, things are happening at such a breakneck pace that, as a viewer, I haven’t been able to attach myself emotionally with any of these characters.  Even the ones who have been around since the series started.

Not to sound too anaI, but did anyone notice how many minutes passed before our protagonist, Olivia Dunham, uttered a meaningful line of dialogue in this episode?  I mean, she was around, but it seemed like we were in the show’s second segment before she had anything worth saying at all…and it feels like this is the way the season has so far gone.

The show’s producers are so busy trying to show us this new world/reality but have short shifted us on the characters.  When Henrietta dies, we should have been floored by such an audacious and stunning plot development.

Instead, I felt…almost nothing.

You see, I barely knew the character.  She hadn’t been given enough screen time on the show for me to develop any feelings for her.  And her death, something that should have been shocking and emotional, instead felt like a cold, calculated plot device to make me feel something I simply didn’t.  Her character hadn’t earned those type of feelings…at least not yet.

Worse, I suspect her death will only be temporary and lead to the show’s ultimate conclusion/happy ending:  Somehow, Walter Bishop will undo the damage wrought by the Observers and “reset” time.  Thus, that day in the park that Peter, Olivia, and the infant Henrietta will play out once again in the closing minutes of the show’s final episode, only without the Observers’ invasion.

And we’ll see Henrietta grown once again, thinking back to that childhood, perhaps along with the older Peter and Olivia as they bury Walter and think back to the beautiful life they had together.

Just a thought.

Anyway, despite these complaints, I’m one to complain.

I’ll be there to the end, despite it all.

Eye of the Hurricane

My thoughts go out to everyone who experienced hurricane Sandy over the past few days.

Living in South Florida, one gets to see (and fear) the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms all too much.  August, in particular, seems to be the “nail biter” month.  That seems to be the month to watch out.

Though I’ve experienced my share of storm systems (including the devastating Andrew in 1992), one of the more memorable hurricane experiences I faced was back in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina.

Ironically enough, I was in New Orleans on a business trip about two weeks before Katrina devastated the city.  The trip done, I returned to my native South Florida and then watched as the weather reports indicated a tropical wave might become something greater.  Of course, it was August.

While many recall the devastation inflicted on New Orleans, Biloxi, and other areas in Katrina’s path, few recall that South Florida actually felt the first hit from Katrina.  Of course, at that time the storm was “only” a Category 1 Hurricane.

The thing that I most recall about Katrina was experiencing the so-called “Eye” of this particular storm.  I suspect most people are familiar with the term, but for those who aren’t, many well defined hurricanes have what is called an “eye” in their center.  This eye is often a circular tranquil zone where there are no winds or storms.  The eye wall around the eye itself, however, usually has the most severe weather attached to the storm.

Experiencing Katrina’s eye was an eerie experience.  Katrina, if memory serves, struck us during the day.  The weather rapidly grew worse with each passing minute.  Winds blew heavy and the trees around my house were shedding leaves (and branches) by the second.  Things got worse and worse.  The electricity was knocked out and rain splattered against the window like ball bearings.

And then, all of a sudden, everything was calm.

We knew the storm wasn’t done.  We knew we were experiencing its eye.  I recall going outside the house and feeling not even the slightest breeze.

I went back inside, knowing that this wouldn’t last.  Sure enough, the winds suddenly picked up and the storm’s fury was right back.  Maybe an hour or so later the winds started dying down and the bulk of the storm was passed.

It would go on, of course, across South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico where it would strengthen into a devastating Category 5 Hurricane before eventually hitting land near New Orleans.

As inconvenienced as I was by Katrina and, later in that same year the more devastating (to us) Hurricane Wilma, it was obvious we were lucky compared to those in the Mississippi area.

Now with Sandy, I can’t help but feel for those who faced that beast.  Any hurricane, regardless of category, is something one must take very, very seriously.


Torchwood: Miracle Day (2011) a (mildly) belated review

Let’s start with this:  I’m a BIG fan of Torchwood.  In fact, for a while there I thought this spin off of the new Doctor Who was actually better than the already pretty damn good series it emerged from.

Torchwood retained the oddball energy present in the modern Doctor Who episodes but added a wild adult kinkiness to the mix.  In our protagonist, the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Borrowman), you had a very liberated bi-sexual being who was willing (most willing) to sleep with anything with a pulse.  Jack Harkness presides over the Torchwood organization, a super secret group whose function it was to find and deal with the extraordinary.  His motley crew of agents in the first few seasons of the show would change, though principle among his group was Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), a woman who was, essentially, the viewer’s proxy.

Though there were a couple of clunkers here and there, the first two seasons of the show were -again in my opinion- delightful.  The show was episodic yet there were stories within the stories that continued throughout the seasons.  Then, for the third season, the makers of the show did something different.  Instead of presenting several episodes, they offered a five part, one main story mini-series entitled Children of Earth.  The general reaction to the series was very positive, but unlike Doctor Who, it appeared that getting further Torchwood episodes off the ground was a more difficult prospect.

However, in 2011 the U.S. cable channel Starz decided to fund a new Torchwood series.  Like Children of Earth, this would be one single story presented in a mini-series format.  Unlike Children of Earth, this one would be presented in not five episodes, but in ten.  The series was titled Miracle Day and, after waiting far longer than I intended (being such a big fan of the series, after all), I finally got a chance to see it.

Going into the series, however, I was worried.  The fact of the matter is that those who saw the series when it originally aired on Starz were, to put it bluntly, not all that impressed.  In fact, for the most part the reviews appeared mostly negative and, a year after the show aired, I find it fascinating how little anyone -even Torchwood fans- is talking about this series.  But, as I said before, being a fan of the series meant I’d give this one a try.  Even if Miracle Day wasn’t as good as some of the other Torchwood seasons, there had to be some enjoyment to be found within it.




Miracle Day, if nothing else, is an ambitious work.  It attempts to present some very big story ideas/concepts in the context of a science fictional setting, from media manipulation to the potential evils/abuses of big pharmaceutical companies to an exploration of how modern society could devolve into one not unlike 1930’s Nazi Germany.  And while I certainly can appreciate the ambition the writers had in creating this work, the fact of the matter is that once its all done, you can’t help but feel that this is a misfire.

To begin with, the two characters we most want to see in Torchwood are the two principles, Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper.  Unfortunately, for large portions of the series we’re forced to follow the other (new) characters presented, and I’ll be brutally blunt here:  They were a chore to watch.

The two most important of these new characters are CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) and CIA computer specialist Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins).  They’re meant to fill up the Torchwood group and provide us with American heroes to follow, but Rex Matheson is presented for the most part as an arrogant jerk while Esther Drummond is more often than portrayed as an exasperated/melancholy/confused/scared person who always a few steps behind everyone else.  The other two main characters we’re following are wild cards:  Child molester/murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) who “miraculously” survives his scheduled execution and Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), a P.R. rep who wants to make Danes a (in)famous celebrity.

Yeah, that’s just the motley bunch I as a viewer want to spend time with.  Especially the child molester/murderer.

The plot of Miracle Day is as follows:  One day, everyone on Earth stops dying.  The population of our planet, therefore, rises exponentially.  Worse, those who were/are about to die or suffer some kind of accident(s) (life threatening or not) continue living…in pain or crippled or what have you.  Thus, the “Miracle” of Miracle Day is ironic.  Resources (food, water, medicine) are in threat of being quickly used up.  And, added to all that, the immortal Captain Jack Harkness realizes that while everyone else has become immortal he has become…mortal.

The mystery is thus set up:  How is Jack’s status related to this sudden immortality on Earth?  And, further, how can we get back to the status quo?  And should we?

As I said before, the series was most certainly ambitious in its scope, imagining this new society of immortals and presenting all the potential problems inherent in a world of immortal beings.  But, as I said before, too much time is spent with the “new” characters that, frankly, I found little reason to root for or care about.  There were times, in fact, that Captain Jack and Gwen seemed to be guest stars in their own series.  And as the show progressed, it also felt like ten episodes were simply way, waaaaay too many to spend on this story.

Once we got to the resolution, most of my initial euphoria of seeing a new Torchwood series was gone, and rather than enjoying a rip-roaring conclusion I just wanted the series to end.  The final twist involving the character of Rex Matheson made me cringe.  Did I want to see more Torchwood episodes featuring that character?


Given the muted reaction by the masses to Miracle Day and the fact that I’ve heard nothing about more Torchwood series coming in the future, I suspect this might well have been the series’ last hurrah.

If so, its a shame.  I can’t say every minute of the entire ten hours of Miracle Day were terrible.  The mini-series certainly had its moments here and there (I really, REALLY liked the way Captain Jack appeared before Gwen Cooper toward the end of episode one).  But, ultimately, Miracle Day was a series that could –should– have been much more.

So, unless you’re already a big fan of Torchwood and, like me, have to see Miracle Day to complete your Torchwood viewing, you’d be better off catching any of the first three series and ignoring this one.

29 Movie Headscratchers Solved…

Love this list, which appears on Time magazine’s website:

There are an awful lot (29!) of films mentioned, and some of the “headscratchers” may be more a function of lapses in logic with the screenplay.

For example, there is no way to understand or explain why the alien invaders from the movie Signs decided to target our planet when it has the one item (water) that can effectively destroy them.  The sad thing is that, for the most part, I enjoyed the film, but that lapse in writing logic really sunk the movie.

The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, presented an ending that was also very ambiguous, at least in parts.  As the article states, one realizes that there is story structure clearly evident before and after protagonist Dave Bowman’s “psychedelic” trip.  The monoliths that take the Earth explorers out to Jupiter, and subsequently had Bowman enter a monolith floating out there and transform into a “cosmic” star child, indicated this was the next step in evolution.  The scene also neatly replicated the first part of the movie, where we witnessed the evolution of apes to humans via touching the monolith and gaining an understanding of using tools.  The question, of course, is then: What about the elegant room Bowman was in?  His aging?  His meal?  Dropping the glass of wine?  If you look closely at the scenes, Bowman is aging.  He appears first as the astronaut he is in his full spacesuit.  He subsequently (I believe, anyway), is allowed to live out what is left of his life in comfortable surroundings.  Perhaps it is a gift of the alien race.  Once he ages to the point of death, it is then that he is reborn as the star child.

At least that’s the way I saw it!

If you make it far enough into the list, at 29 they mention another headscratcher that, like the Signs example, I feel is a major writing flaw.  The movie is the 2009 reboot of Star Trek and the issue cited is the convenient way the young Kirk meets the old (now alternate reality) Spock on Delta Vega following the destruction of Vulcan.  When that scene played out in the theater I was watching it, I couldn’t believe it and for the reasons cited in the article.  Far fectched doesn’t begin to do justice to the astronomical coincidence involved in Kirk and the elder Spock meeting in that barren planet.  Yet the scene plays out straightforwardly and no one in the film questions Kirk’s incredible luck.

Anyway, the list is there for you to read, should you be interested.

Newsweek to end print publication…

A new era, inevitably, has dawned.  Newsweek will officially stop publication of its printed edition at the end of this year, presumably to focus on its online content:

There was a time I used to get the newspapers delivered to my door every day.  There was a time I would eagerly head over to the bookstore to look over the latest magazines and books.

No longer.

When I heard the mega-bookstore Borders was in danger of being shut down, I was very saddened.  I spent so much time in my local Borders store looking over the latest books as well as magazines and DVDs.  However, by the time the store eventually shut its doors, things had changed considerably and realized I was no longer visiting the place anywhere near as often as I did before.


The internet.  The fact of the matter is that you can find many fascinating magazine quality articles online, including those of Newsweek itself, online.  There’s CNN, NBC, Salon, Slate, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, etc. etc. readily available and updated on a daily, sometimes hourly basis on your computer.

Likewise, any (and seemingly just about all!) books I want are readily available either for download or for ordering a physical copy via and other book sellers.  At the time of Borders’ closing, I was buying cheap copies of used books I wanted through Amazon and receiving the orders relatively quickly…in a matter of, at most, a week.  Very convenient and, unlike Borders, I knew the books were available and didn’t have to drive to the store to check if they had them.

Still, there is a certain sadness with seeing a publication with such a long history (Newsweek first appeared in 1933) leaving the printed edition market that it originated in.

The other day, a relative of mine had a garage sale and my wife decided it was time I unloaded about half of my CD collection.  I’ve been buying CDs since the mid-1980’s but have long since stopped using them.  I have my entire music library on my computer and any new music purchases are done online so getting rid of the CDs wasn’t something I found hard to do.

When people showed up to the garage sale and saw the CDs, they dived into them and bought just about all (I guess my musical taste was popular to those clients!).  One of them, however, made a note of how “outdated” the CD technology was.

One day, I suppose the idea of seeing things on paper, other than titles and legal documents, might also become outdated.

Looper (2012) a (for the most part on -ouch!- time) review

When early word got out about the then upcoming film Looper, like many others I was intrigued.  I’ve always been fascinated with the whole time travel genre, even though so much has been written about it since author H. G. Wells essentially created it with his 1895 novel The Time Machine.

What was most fascinating about the early reports on the film was that the film would feature Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis playing the same person, old and young versions of a hitman whose job in our near future is to kill people sent back in time and dispose of their bodies.

The wrinkle to the story is that these hitmen, known as “Loopers”, eventually wind up killing their thirty year later future selves.  This winds up being their “last” job and is paid for in bricks of gold.  The Looper then has thirty years to live out their life as they please, owing no one anything, only with the knowledge that after those thirty years are up, they will be sent back in time and killed by themselves.

Got that?

Personally, I find it an intriguing concept but one that, on the outset, is somewhat flawed…though ironically enough that central flaw plays a big role in the film’s ultimate resolution.  Without getting into too many details (or spoilers), what young Joe realizes at the end of the film applies not just to him, but to everyone who has been sent back.

Anyway, the film was released in, frankly, a very dead time for movies, which made me curious.  Early word was that the film was very good, yet the release date is usually a movie dead zone, a time when the studios release films they don’t think/expect to be quite worthy of summer or major holiday blockbuster release.  Still, the film has done well, though after three weeks it does appear to be on the verge of dropping out of the top ten list.

Which is kind of a shame, for Looper is a very solid piece of entertainment.

Granted, there are elements of other films here, most notably the essential structure of The Terminator (or, if one wants to really get into it, a pair of Harlan Ellison stories, particularly Demon With a Glass Hand and Soldier, both of which appeared on the original Outer Limits tv show).

The big twist here, and what separates Looper from these works, is that in this case the old and young versions of Joe, the protagonist, are both operating with a different perspective.  Old Joe (Willis) has seen an unpleasant future and, upon being sent back for his execution at his own hands, manages to escape from his younger self.  His goal is to save the future in this past.  The Young Joe (Gordon-Levitt), meanwhile, knows his older self is just one possible future, and that if he gets rid of him like he’s supposed to (and get the mobsters that are now coming after him for this botched assassination of his future self) he can effect change from the present on.

Frankly, I love the fact that one can look at both perspectives and realize both Joes are right in wanting to fix things their way.  And as the film progresses, one of the central questions becomes just what is the right way to go about fixing the future.

But, but…but…




One of the little wrinkles this film presents is that in this future world of Looper assassins, a group of people have developed telekinetic powers.  The powers are nothing terribly big, those able to can lift small objects (usually coins) six or less inches off the palms of their hands.

However, in the future of “Old” Joe, one person, the mysterious “Rainmaker”, has taken over all the mobs and is intent on ridding the world of all Loopers and assuming all power for himself.  No one knows who this “Rainmaker” is, but he is effectively terrorizing the entire power structure of the future world.  When “Old” Joe returns to the past, thus, he is intent on finding and killing this future “Rainmaker”.

Like the Terminator searching for Sarah Connor, “Old” Joe has three possibilities, children born at the same time and at a particular Hospital his future self determined was where the “Rainmaker” was born.  His grim task is to assassinate these three children, one after the other, in the hopes that one of them will turn out to be this “Rainmaker”.

As it would turn out, young Joe gets to the future “Rainmaker” and his mother first.  The young child has telekinetic abilities far beyond those of everyone else, and it is through these abilities that his future self is able to rule the criminal world.  However, in the present, young Joe who comes to realize that this boy can turn out to be good rather than evil, provided his mother is there to raise him as she has been.  Old Joe, on the other hand, is set on killing the boy and, in so doing, risks killing the mother and setting off the very thing he is, ironically enough, trying to avoid:  Making the “Rainmaker” evil.

Thus, young Joe comes to realize that he’s effectively witnessing a time loop that’s bound to go on again and again and again, where the “Old” Joe and the “Young” Joe will inevitably butt heads and the “Old” Joe will inevitably kill the young child’s mother and the young child will escape and become an evil figure.

So, the young Joe realizes there is only one solution:  Suicide.  By killing himself, the “Old” Joe will cease to be and mother and child will live to a (we presume) better world.

The problem?  The time loop, as I said before, applies to everyone sent back in time, not just to this situation.

Person “A” kills his older self “B”.  He then lives thirty years and becomes “B” only to then go back in time and be killed by “A” who then lives thirty years and becomes “B” only to then go back in time and so on and so on and so on.

In the case of old and young Joe, however, another wrinkle is set up:

Person “A” fails to kill his older self “B”.  “B” heads after child but never gets him and the “Rainmaker” grows to become a powerful mob figure.  “A” grows up into person “C” (person “B” might, after all, still be around in this new reality, though a very old man by that point) and is sent back in time where he either merges with “B” (two people appearing in the same space at the same time=splat?!) and “A” wonders just what the hell that was all about.  Then person “A” grows up to be “B”, is sent back in time, escapes (because he knows the evils of the “Rainmaker”), fails to get the boy, “A” grows up and becomes “C” again and splat! once again.

Or…there is no splat and each subsequent “Old” Joe appears before “Young” Joe until there is literally a field of “Old” Joes sitting before “Young” Joe, all intent on killing this one boy.

As I said before, and it bears repeating: The first time loop applies to ALL the Looper killings, not just to “Old/Young” Joe.  They’re all in a time loop, young and old versions, all killing their older self and growing up to be older people who are then sent back in time, are killed, and grow to be older and are killed again and again and again.

Time travel stories can really make your head hurt.

Still, if you aren’t like me and don’t get so damn anal (like me) about these things, I nonetheless recommend you go out and see Looper.  While it may not leave you cheering at the end, it is nonetheless a great diversion and an intelligent take on the whole time travel concept.

Prometheus Redux Part 3

Despite some great sequences and some interesting ideas, last summer’s Prometheus, legendary director Ridley Scott’s (somewhat oblique) return to the Alien universe, remains one of the bigger cinematic disappointments I’ve experienced in many a year (read the original review here).

When I walked out of the theater a few months back after seeing the film, I nonetheless wondered if I would purchase the eventual BluRay release, which I figured would have some cut scenes included.  Surely there was some trimmed cinematic seconds/minutes of material out there that would more fully flesh this sometimes very perplexing film.


Yet I was on the fence.  Would/could anything “improve” this deeply flawed (to my eyes) work, or would the cut scenes reinforce my feelings that the film was flawed almost from the very beginning and would never become an improved or better work?

Well, the BluRay/DVD was released yesterday and the sale price proved low enough for me to give the BluRay a try.  I immediately put the disc into my machine and moved to the alternate/deleted scenes segment and…


Sadly, the cut scenes reinforced the later opinion.  The film was always going to be a flawed work, and the sequences that were cut didn’t really add all that much more clarity to the overall product.  I suppose the best of the cut scenes was a sequence that humanized Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers a little.  There was also a longer climactic fight between Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and the engraged/revived Engineer, but in the end it was wise to trim this down.  It was simply too difficult to believe the injured Shaw would offer that much of a fight against such a bigger menace…a menace that a few scenes before disabled the stronger David in a matter of seconds.

Otherwise, all the movie’s original flaws -again, to my eyes-  remain firmly in place.  I still don’t understand why David spiked the drink.  I can’t understand why Weyland “hid” in the ship…it proved a completely pointless storyline.  The male medical machine, similarly, was an alternately silly and too obvious (look here!  A medical machine…I wonder if it will be used later in the film!?) idea in the end.  If such a machine existed, why would it be designed for men alone?

Then there were the various characters.  Why was Charlie Holloway, Elizabeth Shaw’s lover, so disappointed by what they found?  Sure, they didn’t find living engineers, but they found iron-clad evidence of intelligent life!  Why was he so sour about this?

Jeeze, I could go on and on and on here.

I suppose the bottom line remains as it was before.  Despite some interesting concepts, Prometheus remains a deeply flawed work.  I don’t think there will be a future “director’s cut” that will clarify and improve on what we saw in theaters, at least based on the cut scenes included in this release.  I could be wrong, of course, and perhaps there are a few sequences out there that weren’t included in this release.

Somehow, I doubt it.

First Aid Kit – Emmylou

As a lifelong fan of music, it is humorous to have your very own offspring mock your musical tastes as old fashioned.  Once in a while, though, I startle them by sniffing out something they (grudgingly) wind up liking before they or their friends discover it.

First Aid Kit’s Emmylou is one such song, a terrific tune that resonates despite the fact that I’ve never, ever been much of a fan of country music.  Still, the most remarkable about this song (indeed, the album itself) by this sister act is that they hail from that bedrock of country music…Sweden!

Either way, great, great song.

Man Accused of Crashing 2.2 MILLION Dollar Car For Insurance Money…

…and wouldn’t you know it, there’s actual video of the crash:

Weird stuff.  As informative as the clip above was, I didn’t get a terribly good sense of what this the Bugatti Veyron, the $2.2 million dollar car itself, looked like.  This is it:

Needless to say, a pretty nice looking vehicle, though even if I were a multi-multi-millionaire, I’d have a hard time justifying spending that much cash on what amounts to a…car.

As for the video itself, I think things aren’t looking all that good for the car’s owner.  To begin, one has to agree with the report:  It doesn’t look like there was any pelican distracting or causing the driver to veer into the water.  Further…just what the heck was he doing driving a multi-million dollar car so close to the edge of water in the first place?

You’re just asking for trouble.