Friday, December 21, 2007

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men

Ahhhh, no Firefly to write today. I know, I have Trash, The Message, and Heart of Gold (the REAL last episode of Firefly) to finish. To say nothing of Serenity. Next week maybe. I don't even have those episodes on my iPod and I don't have them near as committed to memory.

ANYway, tomorrow is the BIG DAY. Since I was a small child I have been working as Digital Effects Supervisor on the fan-film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Which I talked about HERE.) Well, ok, since summer of 2006. It SEEMS like since I was a small child. Our director insists it isn't a fan film, and who am I to argue? He's Tuvok. And he was in Die Hard 4.

We premier tomorrow with Act 1 of 3. Go look! We've got the big names, Walter Koenig (when's HE going to be on Heroes?), Nichelle Nichols, Alan (CAMERON!) Ruck, and a host of others.

An unflattering shot of both me AND Walter Koenig!

Suffice it to say, for the effects work we've been doing we're a little on the underfunded side. Which is to say, working for THE LOVE of it. (So very very true!) So our team is a bit rag-tag when it comes to tool sets. I like to think of us as a "multi-disciplined organization". We're working in Lightwave, 3ds Max, Particle Illusion, After Effects, and of course Blender. And we've managed to get it all to work together. AND have jobs, loved ones, and lives. It's been a hoot working with these folks. (Still is. We're not quite done yet.)

I've gotten to visit a movie set with "real" Trek actors, argue faith vs. works with Janice Rand, make faithful recreations of famous Trek ships as well as come up with my own new designs, create full FX sequences from start to finish, and work on scenes that had many hands all working together. I'll have stories and pictures up over the next couple of months. But I'd like to take a moment to gush about my fellow OGAM FX wizards.

Peter Christian, Chris Dawson, Tim Russ, ME!

Peter Christian: Husband, father, really big nerd. Our Associate Producer, Art Director, Producer Handler (I SO kid!), man of many hats. A man who makes Star Trek costumes so good he has had to turn business away. The assembler of this lunatic crew. And he occasionally does FX. (I'll rant about some of his Act III stuff when we get there.)

Chris Dawson: Our Yoda. Heck, MY Yoda. He's our full-time professional on the team. His credits include Titanic, Apollo 13, The Guardian, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Armageddon. Never let him forget that last one. Actually has worked with CAMERAS and MODELS. To say that he keeps us honest is an understatement. I know my own work on this film has been a hundred times better because I had Chris looking over my shoulder.

Roland Baron: Model maker and texturing lunatic. One of the great blessings of this project coming to a close is that I'm getting to see some of his other work show up on the message boards again. Responsible for my very favorite-est shot of our hero ship in the whole production.

Wil Jaspers: Creator of our hero ship. Also our great BLOWER UP OF STUFF. He was given the task of learning how to run rings around Particle Illusion for all of the rather ambitious destruction that we had planned. It seems he doubles his ability every day. I'd be interested to see what would have happened if we had been on this film for another year. (Most likely divorce and group suicide pacts, but that's another story.)

Henry Gibbens: Sadly left us before his time. (He's fine, he just had to get back to real life.) The guy who knew how to do all of the stuff that WASN'T in outer space. AND the stuff that was IN outer space. Lightwave fellow. Soundtrack collector (his library way outstrips mine). For the first big chunk of our production, the guy who figured out how to make all of my animation actually transfer to somewhere it could get rendered. We miss you, Henry.

Scott Nakada: Maker of props, drawer of storyboards, lover of Okudagrams. The only person on our team who actually knew what an Omega Particle is.

Scott making things look cool.

Matt Boardman: The new kid. In more ways than one. The only person on our team who wasn't alive for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He IS The Next Generation. I think we blew up every ship he ever animated. Nothing personal.

So assuming we don't have our servers crash tomorrow, go check us out. And if we do, be patient, they'll be back up soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Firefly - Serenity

Well here we are. December Firefly was done five years ago. Wow. No blogs five years ago, or at least not in their everyday commonplace-ness that we've come to expect. (Message boards abound of course. Including the Fox Firefly board which I think continues to this day and where Adam Baldwin vents his conservative spleen frequently to all of the crazy Joss Whedon liberals, bless him.) A little TV on DVD. No YouTube. And Joss Whedon (aka Joe Sweden) was making three shows. Yep, Buffy was even still on the air. (Tara was still alive.) Enterprise was new and I wasn't watching it. We had just found out that Episode I was the best Star Wars prequel movie so far. I think I had just started reading Lileks. And of course I had just met my darling bride.

I have three more episodes and a movie to do after this. But this was it on TV. Ending with the beginning. I think they were advertising two new shows during this two-hour finale/premier: American Idol and 24. Heh.

This was it until the DVDs, and three years later, the movie.

"We've done the impossible and that makes us mighty."

I'll never see this opening as the beginning of Firefly. Because we had seen the nine episodes before. This (obviously) was The War. We'd heard about it, just not seen it. I've been told by those that began here that this opening and subsequent transition to "today" was a little jarring. They were thrown into the battle in a war they knew nothing about. This certainly didn't seem to match what they'd heard about. But I like that kind of "in the action" opening. (I don't feel like looking up the latin for it.)

There's of course the moment that Mal kisses his cross before going into battle. The moment goes by in a blip. For those of us "in the know" however this just defined Malcolm Reynolds. I'm not sure how effective or noticeable this was if you saw Serenity first. This is who he was before Firefly. This is what he lost. He lost faith. He lost belief. And he's a might tetchy about them what didn't.

So we have our pre-credits scenes: We see the war, we see it lost, badly. We see six years later Mal and Zoe are still together and they're now with a rag tag crew on a rag tag ship. We meet Jayne, Kaylee, and Wash (and his dinosaurs). We see that our gang lives a little outside the law. We're also introduced to the idea that we have no sound in space. Man, I can't wait for artificial gravity to become so common place that it's easier to get than strawberries. Hee. And we see that Mal is a sad broken man. "We win." This same statement (with Nathan giving the same delivery) will be repeated in the MOVIE Serenity: "This is what I do..."

Here it is. For the last time:

Take my love,
take my land,
take me where I cannot stand.

I don't care,
I'm still free.
You can't take the sky from me.

Take me out
to the black.
Tell 'em I ain't coming back.

Burn the land,
boil the sea.
You can't take the sky from me.

There's no place
I can be
since I found Serenity.

You can't take the sky from me.

Back from credits, we find out that Wash and Zoe are married. We see a little more of the conflict between them that we didn't see again until War
Stories. We meet Inara. "Honest living." (Why this is somehow empowering to women is beyond me, but Joss seems to think so.) It's always fun to watch a pilot and see what got dropped from the show. "Ambassador" got shuffled off in a hurry.

But the crew gelled in a pretty quick hurry. There weren't a lot of radical changes. I guess the argument could be made that Mal got funnier. I think he's pretty funny here. I'm always conflicted about Mal's age. Nathan Fillion IS Malcolm Reynolds. But I always get the idea that Mal is written about ten to twenty years older than he is. Jayne is Jayne. Zoe is Zoe. Simon is so Simon I can't stand it. And Book is shifty from the get go. (And Ron Glass just rocks.)

So we get into the plot. We meet BADGER! Badger was supposed to be played by Joss. Not sure why that didn't work out, but it gave Mark
Shepard an uncomfortableness. Badger is my favorite recurring character. More than Safron. Way more than Niska. (They all rock, of

We're told about Reavers. Reavers are scary.

And then we meet the "passengers". Of course, having seen the rest of the episodes, we know that one of these things is not like the other.
They try real hard (and probably successfully, except he's in the credits) to make Simon the sinister bad guy. And we know what (who) is
in the box because we've seen the credits for nine episodes. Book is all nice and folksy. "Not a grandpa!"

We get our first table scene. We see how important this is out in the black. We see that the family dinner is a big deal even to Jayne. I love when Book says grace, Jayne is the first to bow his head. Of course "Mind if I say grace?" "Only if you say it out loud."

It's terrific that we've seen all of the episodes that come after and it's STILL distressing when Kaylee gets shot. (It always worked with Willow, why not try it again?) The one mis-step this ep makes (I think) is Mal telling Simon that Kaylee is dead just for the heck of it. It's a very Jayne moment. And I don't see Zoe thinking it's nearly as funny as she does.

River is hardly in this episode at all. We experience her more through Simon than anything else. Simon's exposition of what happened is one of my favorite scenes. "It's love. In point of fact." There are some pretty strong bonds among the crew. Wash and Zoe. Mal and Serenity and his Crew. Simon and River leave them all standing.

Dobson would have been a nice surprise if we hadn't seen everything we had. Obviously the idea was that Simon seemed sinister and Dobson was
the aw shucks ok fella. And we get our first (chronological) whiff of Shepard Book: Man of Terrible Mystery when he takes Dobson down. One does wonder if his "confession" to Inara at the end is all an act or no. Guess we'll find out when Joss writes the Book Book.

Then we get to Whitefall. We get to meet Patience. We also get to hear for the first and last time: People suck. To which Mal will ALWAYS reply: Oh no they don't either! And it all ends with a horse chase back to the ship!

The Reavers are nicely weaved through this ep. We get the exposition, we get the chance encounter (with more heartfelt exposition) and then we get the Big Darn Chase. Fox rejected the pilot because they said it was too slow and didn't have enough action. Obviously they do bad drugs. You're doing a pilot, you get to do big movie-like FX sequences. The guys at Zoic are still my heroes. (And now they do Galactica.) I love how The Leaf flies the ship. He's all mister calm as ice-water.

We get the usual pilot-y "this is where the show is going" end. Jayne might turn on Mal if the money is good enough (ha!). Book is in the right place. River and Simon are along for the ride.

I'll have to say that there is almost nothing in this episode that is not skillfully covered (so it works as either intro or recap depending if you've seen this first or last) in later episodes. So I refuse to hear "The show failed because they didn't show the pilot and they showed them out of order!" One, I think the DVDs are out of order (at least as far as Objects in Space is concerned). Two, the reason Fox didn't show the pilot is because they didn't like the show. THAT's why it failed. One of the complaints from the suits was that they wanted something funnier. Like Buffy. So they never really watched THAT show either. I don't think Firefly would ever have been 24, but it might have been Battlestar Galactica. Gorram Fox.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole show ends this episode (and the show).

Mal: "I had a good day."
Simon: "You had the Alliance on you. Criminals and savages. Half the people on your ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself. And you're harboring known fugitives."
Mal: "We're still flying."
Simon: "That's not much."

"It's enough."

Firefly - Objects in Space

Drat! I got a day behind! (Even in my weeks behind schedule.) So Serenity: The Unaired Pilot will be up tonight...

Objects in Space. Chronologically the last Firefly episode. This one is a lot of people's favorite. I think that's because it's Written and Directed By. Written and Directed by Joss Whedon usually means there's gonna be tragedy and death. In other Sweden shows there would usually be an episode or two that was W&DB that would give the story arc a good hairpin turn. Characters would change, things would happen. This has some of those traits. I think this is kind of River's "coming out" story. Some of this is repeated in Serenity, but such are the needs of exposition.

So where does this episode fall in the Thirteen? On the DVDs it's last. They actually shot a scene with Mal and Inara two different ways so that it can be moved. It speaks to whether Inara has told Mal that she's leaving yet. The way it's on the DVD, she's talking about having told Mal. The way it aired (on the DVD as an alternate scene) she's obviously thinking about leaving. I'm firmly in the camp that it goes right here. Right after War Stories. Before the unaired episodes. This is last on the DVD because it's a good closer. It's Joss' ep, and it ends on a hopeful note. It shows that they saw the writing carved on the wall in blood that they shot both versions of that scene. But in the unaired eps the crew has a better idea of what River can do. And Inara's announcement that she's leaving was pretty clearly the mid-season cliff-hanger. So I'm sorry, but I think the DVD is Joss playing a bit of a George.

It's a good episode. It builds in so many different directions that it's sometimes hard to remember all of it. The opening crew bits with Simon and Kaylee, Jayne and Book, Inara and Mal, Wash and Zoe, all of it watched and experienced by River (hey look, Summer's a ballerina). A little more on Shepard Book: Man of Terrible Mystery. Mal showing us where he lives, all the time: "None of it means a damn thing."

Then "No touching guns". "She understands. She doesn't comprehend." Nice sureal Joss directed moments.

Then we have pretty much the same shock and surprise we got in Serenity. And Simon has no idea. (Hey it was a movie from a canceled TV show. You want miracles?) Little bit of Ariel echoes with Jayne. He's still got his "Money was too good" secret. (See? If this had aired AFTER Trash, Simon and River would have already known, right?) "Wacky fun." Good lines all around. "Did the math."

Then Jubal Early. Ahhhhh. What are the odds HE was coming back? Your good guys are only as good as your bad guys. And he was a really good bad guy. How do we scare the audience? Put Willow- er, Kaylee in danger. And boy, is she in danger. "That ain't no Shepard." Hrmmm. (Guess Joss is finally going to write The Book book next year. So I guess it's really over. *sigh*)

And River gets to be the movie River in this episode. Mind reading genius indeed. This is where it was all going, and I'm sorry we never really got to stay long. First time I saw this episode I will admit that I didn't consider it outside of the realm of possibility that this was the episode where River became the ship. I mean, why not? It was Written and Directed By.

The other thing that I LOVE in this episode is River and Mal. They didn't really have much to do with each other for all of these episodes. Mal doesn't understand her. And she knows what Mal is supposed to be. Mal is supposed to be the hero. There's always something charming about the two of them. "Don't make faces." And of course they end the whole series together in Serenity.

And we end the show with River and Kaylee and Serenity flying off into the black. And Jubal.

It's over. But maybe we can find some Serenity.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ladies Night

While I am relieved that a stupid lawsuit actually got dismissed (in NYC no less!), I do wonder how it would have gone if the gender situation had been reversed.

The No-Ballad of Sweeney Todd

Got the soundtrack to Sweeney Todd this morning. The good - Johnny Depp sings better than Gerrard Butler. Sounds very David Bowie, actually. And Johanna sounds terrific. The bad - he doesn't sing as well as Len Cariou. And Helena Bonham Carter is NO Angela Lansbury. Obviously we'll see what it looks like on film. On the album everyone sounds like they're singing in small apartments but trying not to disturb the neighbors. Restraint is only good up to a point, Tim.

The inexplicable: It's not just the overture. There is NO Ballad of Sweeney Todd! I say again !!!!! And maybe #&$*! I'm piecing together the rumors I have heard and I think it comes up like this: The movie was going to have a chorus of ghosts. Well, the chorus is who sings the Ballad throughout the play. They didn't have time / budget / something like that to do the ghosts. So you cut the SIGNATURE SONG?!?! Um, doesn't that mean your movie isn't FINISHED? To add insult to injury they ghosts where going to be, among others, Tony Head and Christopher Lee! EDIT: Ok, the word is that since the ballad is always sung by a chorus, that it was too "stagey". Um... Whatev.

So, until I see the film, I will put this down as "Not as bad as I thought it would be." (Oh, and Alan Rickman's not half-bad!)

Firefly - War Stories

Hey, I actually watched this one on air, start to finish! I think it might be the only one that I did.

In the aftermath of Ariel, the crew is living it up good. And "good" out in the black means fresh produce. River and Kaylee get to play on the Serenity set. ("One of you is going to fall and die, and I'm not cleaning it up!") Book is offering his opinions on River's condition and spinning ancient philosophy (or "sadistic crap dressed up with florid prose"). We find out (not surprisingly) that River hasn't been made quite as well as Simon had thought at the end of Ariel. Jayne is being obviously contrite (with the fresh produce).

This is the first episode that has shown any strife in the Wash family. (Well, TUAP does, but that's in two weeks, right?) Wash is really almost as out of his depth on Serenity as Simon. He just handles it better because it's more his choice. He's not nearly as rough and tumble as Jayne, Mal, or even Zoe (warrior woman). He likes flying his spaceship, loving his wife, and playing with his dinosaurs. He's my hero. Annnnd he's a leaf on the wind. Don't forget that.

I'm sure had the show run, somewhere in season two or three we would have seen their courtship. From what we saw in Out of Gas I'm guessing he fell for her fast and when she fell for him she was really annoyed by it. Mal certainly was.

It is nice to see that Joss has no problem with making his stand-in characters obnoxious and wrong. (Xander, anyone? Xander is Joss and Wash is Joss with a spaceship.) Wash and Zoe almost make up for stopping Xander and Anya's wedding. It's good to have a pretty solid married couple on a sci-fi show. And they are neither hopelessly sappy nor fatally flawed. *Sigh* Leaf.

We get our second recurring character: Adlai Niska! I wonder if he would have been the season's big bad? He's just such a lovable scary Russian crime lord.

A little more indication of Shepard Book: Man of Terrible Mystery. And Jayne's opinion that he's not fooling anyone. "Rabbits. Right. For stew."

A torture chamber is a rather interesting place for a quiet little character study. It's great to see Wash and Mal airing out their opinions of each other. Of course, a lot of it is Mal putting on an act. Or at least some of it. This ep has the classic Joss earmark (heh, ear) of going from falling down funny to cover your eyes scary (and maybe back).

It's also got the classic Joss moment where the cliché is turned on it's head. "But sufficient perhaps for one. Ahhhh, you now have--" "HIM. Sorry. You were going to ask me to choose, right?" Heh. What was funny was when I started seeing scenes like this in other movies, and I was surprised when it DIDN'T go the "Joss" way. (Kate & Leopold is the classic example.)

I LOVE the scene when Wash decides that Mal is the hero, and they need to save him. And realizes that Mal is also crazy.

The crew getting the ear is good too. (Only time that Book swears in Chinese, btw.) Then the crew swinging to the rescue is nice. This isn't really a "swinging to the rescue" crew. As we see. I mean, is Simon really the guy you want coming to rescue you? (Actually, I guess yes. Because if he cares he WILL NOT STOP.) Wash's gun is high-larious. And Book, "It is somewhat fuzzier on the subject of knee caps." Ouch.

Ahhhhh, River. Doing the math. (I had a friend who saw Serenity(movie) first. When he went back and saw the show he was greatly disappointed that he didn't get to see River doing THIS stuff.)

Hey look! It's a stupid tacked on Inara plot! I'm told that the original draft tied this into the main plot more. Kind of like Jaynestown. The client comes to the rescue. Dumb plot tie-in.

This was when I was enjoying Firefly like no other show. (Heroes has come close.) Two more episodes to go.

Next week we look at some Objects in Space. Ohhhhh, I got some opinions there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Firefly - Ariel

As cool as Firefly has been up to this point, this is when it gets really good. For some reason the next three episodes feel a little bit more "about" something. Go look at Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In both of those shows mid-season is where the story kicked in. Where they went from "wacky fun" to "harrowing plot". Sadly, Firefly will be canceled in three episodes.

The River story comes back to the forefront here (another reason to have Safe later on). Again, some have said that the reason Jayne gets slashed is because he's wearing a Blue Sun shirt. Ok, sure.

It's a good old fashioned heist show. It's the best that Firefly ever did. Train job was ok, but not much about the heist. Trash wasn't as polished as it should have been. This one hit the sweet spot. Plus all the little character bits you could ask for. "Clear." "Could you not do that while we're--- EVER?!?" Wash at hte dump throwing away the life-saving catalyzer (guess it WAS a nothing part). The crew learning all the medical lingo - "If I'd wanted schooling I'd have gone to school!"

The character who really gets to shine here is Simon. When River slashes at Jayne he is so deferential to Mal, both because he's so surprised at River, but also because he'll do anything to keep her safe. Locked in her quarters, but not back in Alliance hands? Fine.

Then we get to see him determined and resourceful coming up with the plan to get into St. Lucy's, and then we get to see what Simon was like back in the World. Brilliant, and probably rather intimidating doctor. "Gifted" is the word.

Again - good River writing. "You're going to suspend cerebral and cardio-pulmonary activity in order to induce a proto-comatose state." "That's right." "I don't wanna do it." Brilliant and creepy but childish and ordinary.

The Blue Hand guys show up. Of all of my disappointments in Serenity (and there are a couple) the fact that these guys never showed up was a BIG one. Scarrrry. And going through airport security would never be the same. One does wonder in the land of the HUGE conspiracy, what attracts more attention - a few grunts that might talk about how they picked up a couple of kids or an entire unit of Alliance's finest? Kind of the Capricorn One school of silly government plots. (What worries me most is the people that think this sort of stuff goes on "all the time".)

Then there's Jayne. Most shows have a character what can't be trusted, you can usually trust them. Nobody's going to really do anything, this is episodic television. We also get to see Jayne's loyalty (for whatever reason) to Mal. He's still a goon and a thug, but he's got his own way of moralizing things. And the payoff with Mal at the end is perfect. (It's also the second Firefly I ever saw, BTW.)

Book and Inara are conveniently out of the way. So, it's like Serenity! Might have been interesting to see what Book would have had to say about the proceedings. Shepard Book, Man of Terrible Mystery would have figured out what was going on from the moment Jayne left the ship. AND had something to say about the Hands of Blue. Good thing he was meditating on his rock garden.

Like I said, this is where it got really good. Right before it ended. *SIGH*

Next up, let's tell some War Stories.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tallguy's Firefly - Safe

By this time next week, we'll be done. Again.

And the Tams were Safe. Welcome to the Tallguy Firefly recap. Airdate November 8th, 2002. Incidentally, Objects in Space, the last chronological episode aired December 13th, 2002, five years ago yesterday. So I've really kind of blown this. But it'll be a busy week.

We open with a flashback. We're getting deep into the River / Simon story here. I think this episode works fine right where it is. None of this would have touched me if the only thing I had seen of River was in the previous four episodes. She's not in Serenity or Train Job much. She's just strange in Bushwhacked. Since she's used so sparingly, we need all the River we can get before we get here.

We see that the Tams were happy. And their parents were loving but indifferent. I guess it's tough to cram "idyllic gifted childhood" into a minute and a half. I might have liked to have seen more with Mr. and Mrs. Tam in later seasons.

There's a lot of "built up to" in this episode. You get the notion that Mal and the crew have been dealing with River's shenanigans for a while now. Not just four episodes. And Simon is finally starting to see the life that he's living in comparison with the life he traded. Enough that he can be a little mean to Kaylee. (And they have this fight a lot, remember?)

Also another piece in the puzzle of Shepard Book, Man of Terrible Mystery. I'm not sure they had really made up their minds on this one. Either that or they weren't as good at switching back and forth as they should have been. Some things unsettle the good preacher that shouldn't have if he was really Man of Terrible Mystery. OR we just really don't know what his story was, and it all would have made sense later. I
mean, this isn't Ron Moore we're dealing with here.

My biggest argument for Safe being where it is is that when River breaks into dance with the locals (cause Summer's all trained ballet dancer, right?) it just breaks your heart. Because you've seen how broken and how damaged she is. Like Simon will say later "She just wants to be a kid." If I didn't know River at this point, I wouldn't have seen that. (There's a similar scene for Mal in Serenity. I'll talk about that next Thursday.)

I tend to dismiss this episode as one of my less favorite. (It's got a teeny bit of religious bigotry, but it is after all television.) Then I watch it and it's got many of my favorite bits. Lots of this beats in this episode made it into the movie. Mal saying who is and who isn't part of his crew, and what that means. It also taught me sanguine means bloody. Educational Firefly!

"See, morbid and creepifiying, I got no problem with..."

"Black market beagles"

And of course: "BIG DAMN HEROES, Sir!" "Ain't. We. Just!"

It's still got cows. And it ends at the table. All in all a great episode, really. It sums up a lot of the "western in space" feel that Joss and Tim wanted. And Fox didn't. So MOVE it.

Next up, back to the sanctified "intended" order with Ariel.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Meet the Robinson's

We saw Disney's Meet the Robinsons last week. What an INCREDIBLY STUPID movie. I loved it all to pieces. It's not quite the Emperor's New Groove, but it's in that vein. Only with time machines, dinosaurs, and space ships. It's basically a bunch of writers and animators just like me who got to play with Disney's money.

I remember seeing an interview with Steven Spielberg on why 1941 was his first flop. He said that looking back on it, he realized that the only people who would enjoy this movie were the people with exactly the same sense of humor as him, Bob Gale, and Robert Zemeckis. Well this is kind of the same situation. And in both cases, I'm that guy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Worst Pies in London!

The opening titles to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street are on line. Warning: These ARE disturbing. Not as much left to the imagination on screen as on stage.

What cracks me up is that there is STILL no SINGING in these titles. In the trailers there are a few snippets of Depp kind of singing "there's a hole in the world like a great black pit". But they're not really going out of their way to say MUSICAL.

One of my favorite movie quotes from the Harrison Ford remake of Sabrina was thus:

Mack: The most difficult tickets to get will be for a Broadway musical.
Linus Larrabee: So?
Mack: That means that the performers will periodically dance about and burst into song.

Anyway, brace yourselves. (If the Zombie song disturbed you, don't click here.) Here it is.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mighty fine!

I've got nine days. Whoops! Eight! Then it's all over. Well, until the DVDs come out. Little extra stuff there. And of course the BDM. But that's YEARS away at this point.

Welcome back to Tallguy's Firefly recaps. The idea was to review each episode of Firefly on the fifth anniversary of it's airing. Then I got tied up finishing a Star Trek fan film (airs Saturday, December 22nd at 5:01pm - 17:01 - get it?). So here we go rushing through. But like I've said, it's kind of how I watched them five years ago.

Shindig. If you only watched these on DVD, this is sort of a step backwards. There's not TOO much difference in going from Bushwhacked to Shindig, or going from Bushwhacked to Our Mrs. Reynolds. I think the move was really to put Safe a ways back. But more on that next time.

The hologram pool balls are ridiculous and go against the whole "most basic of technologies" vibe of the frontier. But it's SPACE, right? Ah well. Mal being a petty thief just cause it'll bug someone is fun.

Hey look, it's an Inara plot where she is actually is part of the plot!

And now we come back from the credits with my favorite Firefly shot ever. Looking out the bridge window landing on Persephone. And the Leaf almost crashing - again.

BADGER! I was so upset Badger wasn't in Serenity. Especially when they replaced him with twin Badgers. In case you wondered why it seems we've seen Badger before, it's because we haven't. Well, in the order they aired them in anyway. (And it was nice seeing him on BSG.) I could easily see something that built up to a big multi-episode plot with Badger and / or Saffron. Very Angel. But, we're getting canceled in four episodes, remember?

The A plot isn't bad. It's a genuine Mal & Inara plot. Mal gets to be all vulnerable ("I don't like people that killed me") and Inara gets to be torn between two worlds. Kaylee is extremely Kaylee ("How do we know, unless we question it?") There's a sword fight. The guy from L.A. Law is good. There's a Rhett Butler look-alike.

See, this is where Joss cheated. Big time. He talks a big game, about how the Alliance is actually good and benevolent, only not if you're the poor sods what got thumped by them in the war. So really it's just a difference of opinion. Like Vietnam, he says. *cough* Also how he wrote Firefly after reading a book on those shattered souls that lost the American Civil War. But then he goes and gives the Alliance slavery and indentured servitude, rather than just big government indifference. (In Joss and Tim's defense, they did a pretty good job of it in Train Job and Bushwhacked, but not so good the rest of the time.) Then there's the whole River thing. So, the Alliance really isn't muddled at all. They're the bad guys. (And it doesn't reflect well on Inara that she doesn't really seem to care one way or the other. She's pro-Alliance, actually, remember?)

Lot of nice stuff back on the ship while the plot bubbles. The card game is fun. Zoe and Wash being all lovey. River going crazy some more. Some have pointed out that River is tearing Blue Sun labels off the cans, because she hates the Blue Sun Corp, because that's who did this to her. Ok, sure. Coke and Microsoft run everything. Got it. Obviously they never had time to go anywhere with this. River and Badger is cool, especially when you learn that Mark Shepard taught Summer Glau the accent. And Jayne gets to have his Jayne coin land dumb side up kind of a lot. "That's exactly the kind of di-version we could have used."

And it all ends with cows.

Next time: Our crew gets home Safe!

Big Opening

Too fast! It's all too fast!

Over on they had a poll asking if you saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on opening night. (I didn't, but we saw it within the week. Liked it then. Like it more now.) Over 60% said they didn't see it because they hadn't been BORN yet. Arrrgh.

I saw this and Disney's The Black Hole within a week or two of each other. Both of them had something I'd never seen before, and never saw again with a new release motion picture: An Overture. Just a few minutes of music played over a background. (ST:TMP's was a black screen in the theater. The Director's Edition added a moving star field.)

Films I have since seen that have Overtures: Lawrence of Arabia. Gone With the Wind. My Fair Lady? Sound of Music? Wizard of Oz? Have to go check those. (edit - No. But 2001, King Kong, and Mary Poppins did.) Looks like the only two movies after ST:TMP and The Black Hole to have overtures were Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

An overture signaled an EVENT. Something was about to HAPPEN. Heck, these days we don't even have a main title, unless it's trying to be all retro (like Superman Returns).

I realize that the whole purpose of an overture is somewhat at odds with the world we live in. It's intent is to settle you in to the theater. Get you into the movie mood. Well, people don't DO that anymore. They never GET into the movie mood. They're worried about cel phones and blackberries and going back out for candy or maybe over to the next theater for another movie.

Another concession that I will make is that I miss overtures because I enjoy the kind of music that most overtures used to contain. Maurice Jarre, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry. A rap star overture just wouldn't do it for me.

Another "old school" movie tradition I miss is Intermission. Used to be when you went to go see the latest three and a half hour epic, you'd get a potty break. I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia at the Cine Capri. Two hours of dazzling desert-scapes. I've never seen the concessions stand so full. Then ten years later I saw Titanic (with NO intermission). Afterwards I've never seen the restrooms so crowded.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Firefly - Out of Gas

Ahhh, time's running short. It's almost over. Gotta get a move on.

Out of Gas. My very favorite-ist episode. There are some that come close, to be sure. Real close. It's really "These are my favorite and these are not." And even those are really good.

I remember reading reviews of this ep (Television Without Pity comes to mind) that thought the flashbacks were from The Unaired Pilot. That this was somehow addressing the "AIRED IN THE WRONG ORDER" problem. Well, no. This would have been told exactly the same way, aired order or no. And what a way it's told.

I love "out of order" storytelling. Probably my favorite use of this was Steven Soderberg's The Limey. I admit, it catches my interest. I enjoy the cleverness of it. (Having said that, BSG is never allowed to use a "48 hours ago" card ever again.)

I love how this tells about the "core" crew of Serenity. (Notice there's nothing about Book or the Tam's? That's because that was all in TUP.) We never got the full scoop on Inara, but this is a start. Wash joining is another "playing against expectations" moment from Tim and Joss. So is the "genius" mechanic. I'd have liked to have eventually seen more of how those Zoe and Wash came together. But then they canceled the show. And we had the whole Leaf business. Kaylee's is as cute as we'd figure. Jayne's intro explains a whole lot, doesn't it?

But this is really about Mal's love affair with his girl. How Serenity is the fix to all his hurts. The freedom that he lost. This ship is
his new faith. (A little sad, but Mal's a sad character.) Mal and Zoe first walking into the cargo hold is one of my favorites in the whole show.

It's also got a dinner table scene. Always did love them too. There was something different about this aspect of the show. It said a lot about the "family" aspect as well as just adding a reality of life out in the black.

Not a lot of Zoe, since she had to go be in a terrible Matrix movie. But some really good Wash stuff. Wash is almost as much a fish out of water with this crew as Simon is. And as much at odds with Mal, much of the time. By contrast, Kaylee is a little too whiny when Serenity breaks down.

River continues to be built. Again, I'm amazed at how slowly they developed this character. Just little notes here and there. More on that in another two episodes. The best River writing would ground her weirdness in some sort of normalcy. "I didn't get you anything." The best best River writing would ground her weirdness in being Simon's bratty kid sister.

Book seems to be firmly in "humble preacher, way out of his depth" mode. Certainly not the criminal mastermind we glimpse in many other eps.

Quentin Tarantino has much to answer for for introducing the "adrenalin to the heart cures everything" gag.

This ep runs into the same problem that shows up a lot in the series: Space is big. And empty. So it's hard to get lost in. Or snuck up on. And if you "run out of gas" you do tend to keep moving. Go watch Apollo 13, Tim. Never did figure out why the bad guy ship (who's bridge I have stood on, BTW) didn't just hang around and wait for Mal to die. Or why the shuttles didn't see them coming or going. Space. Big. Remember? But it's yet ANOTHER example of someone telling Mal "People just suck" and Mal saying "Oh no they don't."

And the last scene. It's love. In point of fact.

Next up, a mighty fine Shindig. (And BADGER!)

The Comfortable Chair is looking comfortable

As in "Indiana Jones and the Comfortable Chair".

But... Ok, this just looks cool.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The last time we left...

It's my brother's birthday, so I have to write something. And I'll usually rant a bit about, and always remember this.

But 30 years after that (and 36 years ago today) we did this:

More here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Firefly - Jaynestown

October 18th. So I'm really only a little more than a month behind.
But time is running out for our intrepid crew, so I'll have to hurry. And now I have new BSG to review. Arrrgh. (Grrr.)

This is Firefly gold, isn't it? I mean, JAYNE! The man they call JAYNE! Written by Ben "I'm going to write the funniest episode of Angel EVER" Edlund. Oh yeah, he also created The Tick. And co-wrote Titan A.E. with Joe Sweden (I haven't written in a long time so I'll explain again that this is my high-larious-to-me name for Joss Whedon).

This is a great episode for everybody. Even Inara who has a dumb tacked on Inara plot (that rather lamely intersects with the main plot) has some good moments. "Jayne?!? You're talking about Jayne Cobb?!?" I always kind of got the idea that Morena B. was learning on the job. I think that if they had figured out what to do with her character she would have been a standout.

It's a Jayne episode (it's THE Jayne episode) but it also gives Simon a LOT to play off of. Both of them get to react to the advances and setbacks of each other. "The box-dropping-man-ape-gone-wrong-thing!" And of course Simon messing up with Kaylee was so funny that they did it three times in fifteen episodes. So Kaylee has some good stuff too. "It's. Going. WELL."

Mal gets to be all Mal a lot in this episode. Never at the center but always ready to do what needs be done in the margins. I always thought that Jayne's deference to Mal was interesting. The close of the episode is surprisingly touching for an otherwise laugh-filled ep.

Book. And River. River and Book. River and Book and The Book. And the Hair. With Zoe for good measure. See? Why couldn't Inara get subplots as good as these? "His brains are in terrible danger!" Even when I see that clip in my "The Bug" video it makes me laugh.

Book's speech on the Bible just shows that Joss is trying hard. He knows there are people who believe this stuff, he just doesn't know why. I will give him five stars for a good faith effort on faith. I think this was closer to the mark than Book's ideas on faith in Serenity. (If a man what believes in Jesus doesn't care what you believe as long as you believe, I guess he don't believe too hard, does he?) Again, I'd have been disappointed if the "honest homespun preacher" persona ever turned out to be a total fabrication for whatever diabolical means Book turned out to have. I'd have liked to have seen Mal and Book actually develop the mentor relationship we saw in the movie.

One of the great things about this show was how gradually they built River's character. So folk were better at writing her than others. I'll say Ben was the best. (Joe probably wasn't bad.)

For the "they showed them out of ORDER!!" crowd, the only two relationships that are progressing here are Book / River and Kaylee / Simon. And since they did pretty much this same exact fight three times over the show (including one very late and un-aired), this doesn't seem problematical. River didn't have much to do in Shindig, and I'll have a lot to say about the aired order of Safe when we get there.

Unfortunately the writers can't add. Fess is twenty-six as is pointed out several times. Stitch says that he and Jayne pulled their caper four years ago. Fess talks about Jayne's exploits "when he was growing up". Now I know Fess has some maturity issues foisted on him by his father, but I can't see him calling twenty-two "when he was growing up". Heck, the War for Unification was already over and done by then. I think Mal even had Serenity.

And here are the WORDS!

The Ballad of Jayne

Jayne, the man they call Jayne

He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne

Our Jayne saw the mudders' backs breakin'
He saw the mudders' lament
And he saw the magistrate takin'
Every dollar and leavin' five cents
So he said "you can't do that to my people"
He said "you can't crush them under your heel"
So Jayne strapped on his hat
And in 5 seconds flat
Stole everythin' Boss Higgins had to steal

He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne

Now here is what separates heroes
From common folk like you and I
The man they call Jayne
He turned 'round his plane
And let that money hit sky
He dropped it onto our houses
He dropped it into our yards
The man they called Jayne
He stole away our pain
And headed out for the stars

He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne.

Next ep - we run Out of Gas.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

But Lee Majors is Still Alive

Childhood hero passes away. I'm sure what everyone is thinking is something like "We didn't expect him to live this long." I'm sure Mom and Dad have some pictures of us with Knievel stuff. Pics of us jumping our bikes off of ramps over anything we could find? Well, we didn't let the folks see that stuff.

Best Sheldon EVER

Ok, not ever. But it's up there. Anything that makes fun of Tom freaking Bombadil is good in my book. There is a reason that he has NEVER been in ANY form of adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Radio. Movies. Comics. Lot of time on NOTHING.