Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Review of "Caprica" (pilot episode)

Here's a review I wrote of the pilot episode to Caprica many years ago.  I first published it at the now-defunct Loaded Couch Potatoes, and resurrect it now for the sake of . . . uh . . . 'cause I want to.

With the much-lauded Battlestar Galactica having reached its end on television screens a few weeks ago, producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick now unveil the pilot to its prequel series, Caprica.  Hitting DVD a full year before the series is scheduled to begin, can it possibly live up to the high expectations fans have for it?

We almost didn’t get a chance to find out.  The concept for the prequel was announced several years ago, but Sci-Fi Channel dragged its feet for months with no firm commitment toward actually making the pilot.  In the end, the WGA strike — and the resultant fears of severe product shortage it engendered — led the channel to give the project a greenlight.  Even then, it was months before they decided to commit to taking the pilot to series.  Now, though, the series is filming, and the pilot is completed and sitting on store shelves; does the end product justify all that behind-the-scenes drama?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Review of "Sense8"

I recently finished watching Netflix's first season of the Wachowskis / J. Michael Straczynski collaboration Sense8, and thought it would be worth writing a quick review.
The Wachowskis co-created the series alongside Straczynski, and I've got history with all of them.  Like many people, I first encountered the Wachowskis via The Matrix, a sci-fi/action flick that had an enormous impact on pop culture when it was released in 1999.  To say that their record since then has been spotty would be an understatement.  In point of fact, that span of nearly two full decades has seen mostly disappointments from the siblings.
Let's have a look:
  • 2003, The Animatrix -- the Wachowskis produced and co-wrote this animated spinoff that led up to the Matrix sequels
  • 2003, The Matrix Reloaded -- the first sequel was a big hit, but many people were left bemused by it
  • 2003, The Matrix Revolutions -- the final part of the trilogy was substantially less successful than the first or second, and seemingly represented a popular judgment having been placed on Reloaded
  • 2005, V For Vendetta -- the Wachowskis wrote and produced this adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel, which attracted some controversy and a cult following, but was not a notable success
  • 2008, Speed Racer -- returning to directing, the siblings brought the anime series to life on the big screen, and got miserable reviews and lethargic box-office for their troubles
  • 2012, Cloud Atlas -- after a four year break, the duo returned with this ambitious large-cast sci-fi epic, which got decent reviews but was not a box-office hit
  • 2015, Jupiter Ascending -- another sci-fi epic, this one of a more space-opera bent; it was an enormous box-office flop and received savage reviews
I like every single one of those, except Jupiter Ascending, which I stupidly failed to see when it was in theatres.  I allowed myself to be swayed by the reviews, and inexplicably forgot the fact that I loved Speed Racer.  I like both of the sequels to The Matrix just fine, although I do recognize that they are inferior to the first film.  Cloud Atlas has problems, but it is insanely ambitious.  As for V For Vendetta, I feel as if it is about as good an adaptation of that graphic novel as there is likely ever to be; in fact, part of me prefers it to the comic, which is a near-blasphemous statement coming from a devoted Alan Moore fan.  And yet, I stand by it.
So, all in all, would I say I am a fan of the Wachowskis?  You bet I would.
As for J. Michael Straczynski, he created Babylon 5, which is one of my favorite sci-fi shows.  I would argue that it has not aged well at all, but that does not negate the fact that it was a highly influential series, one which helped to steer television as a medium toward a serialized format.  It also does not negate the fact that during the years in which I was really into B5, I was as into that show as I've ever been into ANY show.
So, all in all, would I say that a sci-fi series on Netflix from Straczynski would be a thing I got excited about?  You bet I would.
And yet, for no reason I can explain, I did not jump on Sense8 as soon as Netflix released it.  I waited a week or two, mostly to see what reviews were like.  And most of the reviews I saw were unkind.
Eventually, though, I decided I'd watch an episode or two and see for myself.
And overall, I'd say I loved it.  For some reason, this surprises me.  WHY?!?  I'm well-established as a fan of the Wachowskis in general and of Straczynski in at least one iteration.  So there is no reason on Earth why Sense8 should be anything other than precisely my cup of tea.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The X-Files, season 2 episode 20: "Humbug"

A while back, I began -- but, sadly, did not finish -- a project for another blog wherein I revisited and rated the entirety of The X-Files.  I still plan to finish that one of these days, but in order to help myself feel better about the time I've put in already, I decided to post a lengthy extract here: namely, a lengthy plot summary and analysis of the episode "Humbug."
Rather than edit it for context, I now merely present it to you (mostly) as it would have appeared there.
And at last, we come to the first of the episodes written by Darin Morgan. The only reason I didn't give this episode a 5X rating is because I do genuinely feel as if it is a hair less good than "Beyond the Sea," "One Breath," and a few other episodes which will be coming up later in the run.  Asked to justify why, I guess I'd say that the themes and idea Morgan introduces work better separately than they do as a whole.  But I'm not really sure I believe that. Whatever.  This is a great episode.  I could write a very lengthy post all about it. "Hey," I hear you asking, "waitaminit!  Where's the summary?" Well, in this particular case, I couldn't bear to use the shitty one at Wikipedia, so here comes one of my own creation, complete with extensive screencaps.  To be honest, I wish I could do this for each and every episode, but there just isn't time for that level of scrutiny.  I feel like I can make an exception for "Humbug," though, and I'll probably end up doing the same for Darin Morgan's other episodes. So, here goes: On a moonlit night in Gibsonton, Florida, two young boys are at play in a backyard swimming pool.  They are, ominously, being watched, by an unseen figure; we glimpse only its hand, which is monstrously deformed, and an eye, which sits within a similarly monstrous face. 
In shadow, it moves closer and closer to the pool and the boys.  It slips unseen into the water, and we see it approach the children from beneath the surface.  Suddenly, the boys scream, and a hideous monster bursts from the water.