Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lost Episode Review

Catch-22 aired April 18th, 2007

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DON'T REALIZE BY NOW THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THESE PIECES, THEN YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE NEW TO THE SITE, IN WHICH CASE, WELCOME MY NEW FRIEND


I think deep down, each of us knew this was coming. We each knew that the episode following the one where it was revealed that Juliet was playing the survivors and pretending to be abandoned by The Others was going to be a bit of a disappointment. I mean, obviously last week’s episode couldn’t have matched what came before it unless they had revealed a major Lost secret. But they didn’t. And that left us with one of those Lost episodes where basically there isn’t a whole lot that’s different at the end of the hour when compared with the beginning of the hour. We do have a new visitor to the island, a helicopter pilot who we think might have been sent by Desmond’s girlfriend, Penny, but otherwise, nothing is new.

Now maybe I’m underselling this a bit, because there certainly is something interesting about the development of the helicopter pilot, because it brings up a couple of questions. First, how did Penny know where to find Desmond? Even if she was able to track the explosion at the end of season two, from what we know, finding the island is still rather difficult. This lends credibility to my theory that the boat race that caused Desmond to end up on the island was staged as a way of sending people to work on Penny’s father’s island project. She knew exactly how to get to the island because she had inside information. Once she knew where to look, she knew how to find Desmond.

The other big question that pops up with the arrival of the helicopter pilot is why did the helicopter crash in the first place? We know that Oceanic Flight 815 crashed because Desmond forgot to press the button in time, but that likely wasn’t what happened here, since the hatch has been destroyed. Maybe the helicopter crashed by pure coincidence, but that doesn’t seem like a reasonable answer considering that we know nothing happens on this island by chance; everything happens for a reason. All we know is, lots of people have crashed on this island, the survivors of the plane crash, Rousseau and her shipmates, the guy whom Hurley met in the mental hospital that gave him the cursed numbers, Mr. Eko’s drug smuggling friends and his brother, that slave ship, the Black Rock where they found the dynamite, and now this helicopter. So there is clearly something more than just the failure to press the button causing these things to happen.

I’m not really going to waste much time talking about the Kate-Sawyer-Jack-Juliet love square, only to say to that basically they should all do it together. That’s really the only solution.

Lastly I want to talk about Charlie. At this point it seems basically a given that Charlie is going to bite the big one by the end of the season. That’s definitely what they want you to think at least. But I’m not 100% sure of this anymore after they brought in the biblical story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son in last week’s episode. Like Desmond said, maybe God (or the island) is testing his faith by giving him visions of Charlie’s deadly future and that Charlie won’t actually die if Desmond doesn’t save him, but they can’t find out because Desmond can’t stop himself from trying to save Charlie. My guess is this, in the season finale Desmond will have a vision of Charlie’s death but he won’t be in a position where he’ll be able to save Charlie. For some reason he’ll be too far away or he’ll be indisposed for some reason and he won’t be able to get to Charlie in time to save him and then we’ll find out whether Desmond’s visions of Charlie’s death are really true or not. We know that Desmond isn’t willing to sacrifice Charlie, even for his own gain, so things will have to be preventing Desmond from saving Charlie to test this.

Next Week on Lost: And by next week, I mean tonight. Well tonight Juliet is going to have a nice heart-to-heart talk with Sun about pregnancy. I’m guessing it will be a lot like an after school special about teenage pregnancy, only they’ll add in the fact that giving birth on the island has been rather precarious in the past. It seems they’ll also be revealing the fate of Sun, but I’m not quite sure what that means. I do know this. (Cue that awesome, Requiem for a Tower song) Only four episodes remain and you can’t miss a single one.

- BEN

P.S. The Summer Blockbuster Contest will happen this year and likely will be up this week. So stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lost Episode Reviews

Expose, Left Behind, and One of Us aired March 28th, April 4th, and April 11th, 2007, respectively

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DON'T REALIZE BY NOW THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THESE PIECES, THEN YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE NEW TO THE SITE, IN WHICH CASE, WELCOME MY NEW FRIEND

That’s it. This is the last time I’m doing this. Not watching episodes for a few weeks and then cramming them all together at once, that is. Sure its way more enjoyable of a viewing experience, but there are too many potential pitfalls in doing this. I had key elements of each of the last three episodes spoiled for me before I ended up watching them and there really isn’t anything more frustrating than that. And its not like I put myself in danger of having spoilers revealed to me by reading blogs or going on to ABC.com or something. The death of Nikki and Paulo was spoiled for me while I read Chuck Klosterman’s NCAA Men’s Final Four blog on ESPN.com, which I would have thought would be a safe place to go. And the other event I had spoiled from an advertisement during one of the hundreds of ESPN shows I watch during my work week. So basically I suppose I should chalk all this up to the dreaded synergy that flows through our humongous corporate structures. But I won’t have that problem anymore. I’m going to watch Lost as soon as I possibly can after it airs (I work from 6pm-3am every Wednesday, and while I could watch it at work, I don’t want anyone to distract me while I watch it and work, sadly, isn’t a place free of distractions). Especially now that were heading into the final stretch for season three, which is shaping up to be incredible. So to take us up to that final five, let’s recap the last three. And by “let’s” I mean me.

The Nikki and Paulo episode was clearly a response to the outcry by the fans that those two sucked ass. And while I couldn’t have really cared less about them, I found their departure to be a very weak episode. It was clear that they didn’t really spend as much time writing this episode as they do for most episodes simply because they were just trying to cram in all of the things they wanted to do with those two in one show and get it done in time to kill them off before the end of the season. I did however enjoy all of the guest spots in the episode. First we got Billy Dee Williams, which made me do my Eddie Murphy impersonation from The Nutty Professor with a slight variation from Hercules to Billy Dee. It was funny to me and I think that my cats might have enjoyed it, although I have no confirmation of that and I doubt I ever will. Then we had the return of the dead with Shannon, Boone, Arzt, and Ethan, all of which were fun.

But what I really disliked about this episode was how they kept trying to stick Nikki and Paulo into scenes from earlier in the show to make it seem as if they had been there all the time. That was incredibly lame. That and having them discover every major discovery of the show before everyone else in these flashbacks (the plane, the middle hatch, etc.). Oh yeah and I also didn’t really understand why they would kill off that old guy (who was clearly the Australian Aaron Spelling) for $8 million in diamonds, as if he wasn’t worth a hell of a lot more than that. Just stupid all around. Every gold-digging woman (or man) in America scoffed at that episode, and so do I. But let’s put that behind us, just like the producers clearly would want us to do.

The April 4th episode had me worried from the opening moments because it was evident that we were about to embark on a Kate episode. And if you’ve been reading my Lost reviews for a while now, you should know that the Kate episodes have always been my least favorite, mostly because Kate is one of my least favorite characters on the show. I have to say though, this episode ended up being pretty good and in fact, I even kind of enjoyed the Kate flashbacks for a change. Sure they added up to a whole lot of nothing, as the flashbacks have tended to do this season, but I was okay with it. I do wish though we had spent some more time in this episode with Locke and figuring out why he was going with The Others. I suppose they’ll cover that soon, but really, I need to know now. Okay, fine, I’ll wait.

Now if I had written this review before last week’s episode I would have spent some time here talking about the fact that Juliet was left by her fellow Others and the fact that Juliet claimed she and The Others didn’t know what the hell the fog monster is, but all of that became moot thanks to the last two minutes of last week’s episode, which by the way, made last week’s episodes one of the all-time best.

I was totally under the opinion that Juliet wasn’t a true Other, and it didn’t take the flashbacks in last week’s episode to convince me of that. Sure I admit I was apprehensive about her because Sayid didn’t trust her, and basically I have found that whatever Sayid says and thinks tends to be right (which is why he should be in charge and not old think with his heart Jack), but I didn’t think she was going to have played them all so nasty like she did. When that scene with Juliet and Ben came on it seriously blew my mind. It got me so incredibly pumped for the last few episodes of this season. That moment right there was proof of why Lost is simply the best show on TV.

Before I wrap this up I want to throw out a theory that I developed after last week’s episode. In that particular episode we learn that Juliet was brought to the island because the women there were incapable of giving birth, which was basically destroying their civilization, kind of like in the movie Children of Men, except less depressing because no one likes The Others. So my theory is that the Dharma people and then later The Others came to this island because it has healing properties, something we learned when Locke was able to walk and when Rose had her cancer cured. And for a time, these properties worked for The Others because as Ben stated in last week’s episode, no one had cancer on that island until Ben himself got it right before the plane crash. And also we know that there was a time when The Others could give birth on the island because Ben claims to have spent his entire life there. So it seems to me that The Others have somehow become corrupt and now the island won’t help them anymore and that’s why they need the crash survivors. Those people are being healed and they can give birth and it’s all because the island respects them. So all of the things The Others have done to them and will do to them in the future after Juliet’s crafty plan finishes is a result of The Others trying to regain the island’s help. That’s why they need Locke and that’s why they have that list of the people who are worthy. But now I wonder if maybe there is someone on the island who controls the powers of the island and comes up with the lists of who is worthy and who isn’t. My guesses right now on who that person is are (in order of probability): 1. John Calvin, 2. Joseph Smith, 3. Jim Jones, 4. David Koresh, and. 5. Brandon Tartikoff, the now deceased former head of programming at NBC who tortures Mario Lopez in the online TV show, 28 Days Slater (which by the way is fucking amazing). (I’d just like to point out my amazing religious history knowledge on display in that last sentence, with the exception of Brandon Tartikoff of course.)

Next Week on Lost: I am so incredibly psyched for this week’s episode and the episodes coming up after it. And its not just because they included that awesome song in the ad for these episodes (by the way, if you’ve been obsessed with that song as I have since I first heard it in the trailer for the new Danny Boyle movie, Sunshine, I’m glad to inform you that the name of the song is Requiem For A Tower and it can be purchased on iTunes!!). These last few episodes look to be spectacular and look like they could make me love this show even more than I already do, if that’s even possible. The ad for this week doesn’t seem to reveal anything too specific, but I don’t care, I’m still ready to rock.

- BEN

Friday, April 13, 2007

300 vs. Shooter

I just realized as I typed that title that you might be expecting now that this piece will be about who I would think would win in a fight, the 300 men of the Spartan army or Marky Mark Walhberg’s titular hero, Shooter. That isn’t what this is going to be at all though. Sorry. In fact, even I’m a little disappointed now. Well I hope you’ll keep reading anyways.

What I really wanted to do was do a different kind of review of these two male oriented films, comparing why one of them works and is enjoyable and why the other one is horribly bad and enjoyable for reasons that were completely unintended by the film’s creators.

Obviously if you follow films at all, you’ll know that 300 and Shooter are different kinds of movies, even though they are both geared towards male audiences. 300 is much more stylized with its green-screen heavy CG effects whereas Shooter is more interested in the type of special effects that involve large explosions. Also 300 is an historically-themed film (I say that, because while it is based on a real event, the film doesn’t really stick to the facts to say the least), while Shooter is set in the present. But their goal is definitely the same; get males into the seats. 300 has been immensely successful in this task, having pulled in almost $200 million already, where Shooter has only achieved a rather paltry $36.7 million (as of the April 6th box office reports). So why is one movie much more successful than the other one?

Well there are a few reasons that one could point to. One is that 300 is based on a graphic novel by acclaimed artist, Frank Miller, which gives it a built in fan base not only from the people who read that particular work, but also from those who saw the film Miller co-directed with Robert Rodriguez in 2005, Sin City, which was also based on one of his graphic novels. Of course though Shooter has an actual star in it, in the form of one Marky Mark Wahlberg, while 300 had only one actor I’d ever heard of before in it, and that was only because he was on Lost. So I’d say these two things pretty much cancel each other out.

Another reason for 300’s greater box office take might have to do with its substantially higher promotional budget, or at least what I must assume was a larger promotional budget. 300 was all over the place for at least a month leading up to its release. You could see it on websites and on TV all the time. Shooter however seemed to have less of a presence in those areas. I saw the ads for it, but they weren’t quite as omnipresent as the ads for 300 seemed to be. It didn’t hurt that 300 had amazing trailers while Shooter had a rather lackluster one, but certainly it seemed that the studio execs at Warner Brothers predicted better things for 300 than the studio execs at Paramount did for Shooter. (I just want to mention that I found it rather surprising that they never mentioned that Shooter was directed by Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training Day. It seems to me that one would want to mention that the film you could go and see was directed by the same guy who directed a film lots of people went to see and lots of people enjoyed. In comparison, they always mentioned that Zach Snyder directed 300 and he had only directed one film before, the disappointing remake of Dawn of the Dead (another note within this note: Snyder's Dawn of the Dead has a rating of 7.3 on imdb whereas Training Day has a 7.4. Just thought you might want to know that.).)

My hope deep down though is that the difference in the box office totals of these films can be traced to the simple fact that 300 is a much better film than Shooter. I know that quality of the film doesn’t always matter when counting up the box office receipts (the boring screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s excellent novel, The DaVinci Code made more than $217 million in the US alone), but sometimes that can actually matter, and I think that it certainly could have here. 300 was a rather original tale that was surprising (to those of us who hadn’t read the graphic novel or studied ancient Greek history), sometimes funny, and intensely violent. Shooter, however, was about as derivative as they come. Nothing about that movie surprised me except that it took too long to end it and that I’ve never seen or heard such blatant product placement in my life (apparently evil government agencies use Google Maps rather than their vast satellite array or massive illegal human tracking databases to determine where people live, a product placement that I partially believe was actually paid for by Mapquest as a way of smearing Google Maps. Also government agencies can easily hack the customer databases of FTP, which my friends and I all agreed was definitely a product placement paid for by FTP’s rivals in the flower delivery business, 1-800-Flowers and KaBloom.). And since a lot of the immensely large box office totals of the past are made up of repeat business (I believe that every single girl between the ages of 13-20 saw Titanic fifteen times), it makes sense that 300 would pull in bigger totals because wouldn’t you want to see a movie that’s more fresh and original rather than the film about a man framed for a crime he didn’t commit, a storyline that is easily one of the top Hollywood clich├ęs of all-time?

300 isn’t a great movie really, but it does at least make sense, something that definitely can’t be said of Shooter, which gets tangled in its own tale worse than Alberto Gonzalez did trying to talk his way out of the US Attorney scandal. And I’d like to think that its that reason that helped propel it to such box office success, rather than the fact that it has a lot of bloody violence and some nudity.

Rating: 30068%
Shooter20%

P.S. Alright, since you wasted your time and actually read all of this even though I teased you with the possibility of a piece determining who would win in a fight, the 300 soldiers of the Spartan army or Marky Mark and his assault weapons, I think its only fair to give you what you were hoping for, so here it goes.

This is a tough battle to predict because obviously Marky Mark has the superior weaponry. And he’s also quite stealthy, which I can’t really say about the Spartans, who made no attempt to hide their presence from the enemy. So I think early on the Spartans would suffer a great deal of casualties, simply because they would be completely surprised not only by Marky Mark, but by his weapons of choice which would be to the Spartans what a flying car would be to us; a complete shock. After a bit of regrouping, I think the Spartans might actually be able to hang with Marky Mark for a while, because I’m not giving him the benefit of a partner this time, like he had in most of the movie, so I think he wouldn’t be successful in as many of his attacks this time. In the end I think the sheer size of the Spartan army would overwhelm Marky Mark and his excellent shooting ability would fail him in the close combat in which the Spartan army thrives. I would completely change my opinion here though if Marky Mark created a catchphrase to utter after slaying his enemies like, “you’ve just been SHOT!” or “Shooter got you!” In that case, he’d dominate them in both the comedy scale and on the battlefield.