Rewatching Burn Notice: Identity

Most fun I’ve had in Miami.

Agreed. It was a fun episode – hot chicks abound, Fiona loses the accent (even though it’s a bloody cute one!) and Michael gets one instead. A car gets blown up and the general story moves forward quite a bit even though not as much as it usually does.

Now, there’s not much to be said in terms of character development. It is, in fact, a rather weak episode in that area. Sure, the Michael-Mum relationship gets closer to where it’s supposed to be (but still not there yet) – unfortunately, she’s still just an annoying, whiny bitch. We already know that Michael’s a good guy at heart but seriously – he gets her back all her money and 500$’s too much to ask for?

The “I have some kind of illness” running gag doesn’t work (and I don’t really pay attention – IIRC they lose it somewhere, though). Fiona, OTOH, seems worse than she was in episode one. Totally not COOL, totally not RELAXED. Just like a teenager who’s madly in love with Michael (in the relevant scenes). It’s not what she’s supposed to do. When acting like this, she leaves Michael alone and there’s no partner to back him up.

Sam, finally, gets closer to where he’s supposed to be. The underpants joke is obviously cringeworthy and that’s why it works. He’s far closer to his joyful, overconfident self than he was in the Pilot.

Enough about character development though. Let’s talk about the narrative – and that’s what’s really in the foreground here. Michael’s a really cool guy and this episode drives home that point – in addition to showing that he really, really, really is capable of doing evil things, if necessary. Obviously, that old lady truly needs to check herself into some place that her kids approve of – buying into that whole scam business is just so 20th-century (I’d say even then there was no excuse for it).

Luckily though, it offers the opportunity of showing real cool stuff. I’ll just name a few of the things that really entertained me (and why they weren’t necessarily perfect):

  • Fiona and Sam getting caught – that scene really worked, their infighting didn’t
  • Michael figuring out that Paco didn’t drink – even though his retelling just a moment later kinda ruined the scene as it no longer seemed terribly witty
  • Michael shooting the police car’s tyres – plain fun
  • Michael ripping off blondie – it truly is the most fun we’ve had so far

As you can see from that list, it’s a Michael-centric episode. Not necessarily in terms of character development (which is why he doesn’t figure all that prominently above) but certainly in terms of showing the audience what he’s capable of, driving home the point of his vulnerability and the reach of his abilities. Plus, the beginning of the awesome team that Sam, Fiona and Michael form.

As you can see from the length of this post, it wasn’t a terribly deep episode. And I’m glad we’ll start moving ahead a little faster in future episodes – because just one tidbit of information at the end of each episode just isn’t going to cut it in the long run.

The bottom line: even though the review sounds quite negative, it’s a great episode again. Not as brilliant as the pilot but considering it’s the second episode (which usually appears to be quite a bit weaker) there’s nothing much to complain about. It’s fun watching stuff being blown up, it’s fun watching the good guys beating the bad guys at their own game. In short: I love it when a plan comes together. 😉

4/5

Rewatching Burn Notice: Pilot – Welcome to Miami

There’s nothing like helping a little guy kick some bully’s ass.

Truly, welcome to Miami! It’s been quite some time since I watched this for the first time, so I wasn’t exactly sure about the narrative anymore (I thought the “suspect” might actually be an evil guy for a while – shows you just how good this show is!). As’ll become quite clear over the next few days (8 more until season two starts), I love this show. I’ll cover some basics tonight and the episode at hand (the pilot, aptly called: “Pilot”). It even got an award, according to Wikipedia.

First off, once again, characters. Michael Westen is plain brilliant. He’s hot (at least from a technical POV I think he is – still not gay but he’s what I’d consider hot), he’s terribly witty and he’s plain funny. AND he’s got a good heart. Now, I’m obviously not a terribly big fan of altruism but that’s not what I think he’s doing. He isn’t acting altruistically and I could go into that in more depth (but won’t as this isn’t about Objectivism but rather about a brilliant show). The scenes where he tells us about how the spy business supposedly works – plain brilliant, not because they’re necessarily true (they probably aren’t) but because they make sense, to some degree seem like you could actually learn something AND are told in damn entertaining way.

Fiona – well, she’s hot. All T&A AND brains. It shows and the character is very well written. She’s obviously necessary as a counter-point to Michael’s very confident self – he needs someone like her to keep him down to earth, to make him approachable. Once again, their relationship is very strong and very fun to watch. Very enjoyable and she offers plenty of opportunity. This episode doesn’t yet go all that much into depth as far as her character’s concerned (but then we’re busy setting up Michael!) but that’ll be helped over the next few episodes.

Finally, for the ones I like, Sam. He’s funny, he’s all Miami. He adds that certain something that turns a good show into a great show. Again, not really that visible just yet but the stuff that’s necessary to unfold what’s a brilliant season is already set up here. Sure, he seems like a whiny bitch in that last scene where he’s caught by Michael betraying him – not being his self-depreciating, funny self – but it’s a forgivable offence.

Michael’s mum – well, she truly did start weak. It got better towards the end of the season (IIRC) but right now she’s just annoying. Very shallow character and doesn’t yet fully live up to her purpose (being annoying) because, well, she is annoying but “being annoying” isn’t enough. There needs to be more for a character to be any good.

Finally, on to the narrative. It’s nice to see that a good story actually gets told next to the brilliant setting up of characters. Sure, it’s not overly deep or anything but the A-plot is a nice one. Not too dangerous, nothing to big – just a cute boy and his poor father and Michael saves the day. Not really anything that’s on his level but hey, what’re you gonna do on your first day on the job?

Behind all that, though, is the setting up of the real “mythology”, the background. Who’s fucking with Michael, who’s burned him and, above all, why’d they do it? Michael already offers plenty of reasons: they could want to hire him, for example. This one keeps developping throughout the episodes without hurting the storytelling going on. You can easily watch the show only every other episode or so and still get what’s going on. But, obviously, you miss out on a lot. The FBI agents are entertaining (for now) but the big, bad guy in the shadow is much more interesting. It’ll be fun to watch that unravel (again) throughout the next few days.

Finally, let me just say a few things about the setting: the choice is damn brilliant. People said this was kinda like Miami Vice and had a bit of a “The A-Team”-vibe going on. Now, I only ever saw the new Miami Vice movie (and, oddly enough, really liked it) but “The A-Team” OTOH I really loved. Sure, this is a one-man-A-Team but it’s similar in certain areas. Build stuff and beat the big guy. I guess it’s similar to Miami Vice in some ways, too. The setting, the coolness – I don’t really know, those are just things that come to mind.

The hot girls in the background obviously help but they aren’t the main reason. The show can only work in a place like Miami – where the sun is pretty much always shining, life’s going a bit more slowly and everything can be taken a little more lightly.

The bottom line: I think this show will become a classic insofar as it hasn’t already become one. It’s entertaining, it’s exciting and the characters are just plain fun to watch (and the actors are pretty damn good, too!). I’m really looking forward to rewatching the rest of season one over the next few days. Just eight more days!

5/5

Leaked Pilots: Stargate Atlantis Season Five

One more tonight. Starting tomorrow, I’ll try to review one or two episodes of Burn Notice season one a day to be done in time for the season two premiere on July 10 (I think).

Right, on to Stargate Atlantis. Didn’t really pay any attention to Atlantis during season three and then caught up near the end – really like some of the episodes. Same goes for season 4. Only started watching after about the first 16 episodes had aired. Really liked what I saw, most of the time. Todd, obviously, is the great addition that the show needed. Carter worked out okay, Ronon was rather so-so (I thought Ford offered more potential as the viewers’ link to a world that we don’t understand – but they didn’t use him that way and I guess they had a reason (turkey sandwich jokes do get old after a while), Keller, again, okay. The Genii – let’s be honest – aren’t the best addition ever either and the Wraith had plenty of weaknesses. Michael – in my opinion – didn’t work out and the Replicators, well, they just weren’t that great either (even though the new ones might be fascinating).

So, finally, they found what they needed. Their Ba’al, their Apophis, their Anubis – you name it. Todd works. Todd isn’t one-dimensional, Todd isn’t just a good guy either. Todd’s exciting, Todd makes you look forward to the next episode that he’s gonna be in. Oh, and that wasn’t all – Larrin’s a great addition as well. Sure, that’s mostly my love for cute faces and T&A talking but Sheppard really can use a female counterpart that makes him work a little harder (and the sexual tension obviously doesn’t hurt). So, I was rather disappointed to see Michael come back for the season finale.

I’ll start with random observations:

  • McKay actually has quite the triceps. Considering how he’s supposed to be a semi-fat guy, that’s remarkable. Congrats, Mr Hewlett.
  • Either there’s a terrible, terrible, terrible logic mistake or I missed something: how the hell did the jumper leave the ship without the shields being lowered? That would obviously have ruined the whole “they won’t see this coming” approach but from what I can tell a) the shields need to be lowered for a jumper to leave the ship, b) the jumper left before the fighters did and c) the shield wasn’t lowered when it did. What am I missing?
  • Teyla totally sucks. She’s pussified. She doesn’t do any good anymore. The whole love anlge and her getting a baby didn’t really EVER work out but this episode made it abundantly clear: this isn’t going to work. No more tough Teyla.
  • Picardo’s character – yeah, I’m not gonna like it. It’s occasionally good for an episode but I don’t want to be annoyed every single episode. It’s funny once or twice but then it just pisses me off. Get back to proper business already. Sure, we could theoretically do that – but that wouldn’t work with the way the character’s been set up right up until now.

Now, the random observations have already said most of what I wanted to get out. It’s, overall, a rather weak start into the season. Not terribly weak and accetapbly enjoyable. I understand the necessities of the TV business (actually, I don’t but I understand why Carter had to leave) and there are some exciting things going on as well. Vega could be a great addition (obviously the T&A already won me over – for now!) and the rest of that all-female team that Joe Mallozzi is occasionally talking about on his blog could be great as well.  Michael still doesn’t really work – and in addition to all that, he appeared rather weak in this episode (what with having his ship blown up and looking like a whining bitch) and I guess I’m rather sad that he isn’t dead (didn’t really see how he survived (puddlejumper?) and I consider this to be Stargate’s one worst flaw: the total lack of any kind of clear decision (“they’re not really gone, as soon as we run out of ideas we wanna be able to bring them back!), no finality whatsoever).

I’m looking forward to the rest of the season though. It’ll be good to see Larrin and Todd back, the female team will be a great addition and hey, it’s still Stargate! More excited about Stargate Universe when looking at the situation as a whole but I guess that’s life – and maybe, just maybe, they’ll once again really surprise me and come back with a couple of awesome episodes (probably in the back half of the season? who knows). I have every confidence in the writers that they’ll succeed.

Bottom line: Meh, but an optimistic meh.

3/5

Leaked Pilots: Fringe

Next one. I hope this won’t be the last pilot to be leaked (considering how Atlantis was leaked as well, it certainly isn’t the only one 😉 ) and I don’t think it hurts a show. If it’s any good, it’ll catch my attention (and therefore get my money via DVD sales).

I approached this one with mixed feelings (and didn’t get through it in one go – possibly a bad sign). I really like Abrams – at least I think I do – and think that Alias was great (still haven’t finished watching all five seasons though) and even enjoyed MI:III (only went to the cinema after it became clear that it’d be a commercial failure – not like I’m gonna support Scientology…). Lost, on the other hand, never caught my attention. Sure, gave it a shot once or twice (once, that I can remember – some season one episode and I left after about five minutes). I’m just not that into mystery. Never liked X-Files. More recently, I stopped watching Heroes after three episodes. That one’s quite undeniably a great show but I just don’t care to watch. I don’t like the “horror”-y episodes on shows that I do like (when I started re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise a couple of years ago, I stopped about ten minutes into season two’s “Dawn“. Last episode I ever watched – that’s how much I dislike the genre).

So, keep all that in mind when reading what I’m gonna say. Once again, let’s start with characters – and I’ll go right into the negative b

efore saying a few positive things. First one: Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick). I’ll be honest and give away a bit of cultural background: he reminds me of Bruce Darnell. Very first thing he does and I never got rid of that feeling throughout the entire pilot. Why is that a bad thing? Because, ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Darnell is a flaming homosexual (no idea whether he’s actually gay but it doesn’t matter) and a (former?) co-host of “Germany’s Next Top Model”. More to the point: very much NOT a tough, secretive guy. Lance Reddick just isn’t convincing enough to make me forget about that – at times, I actually feel he reinforces that image.

Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham – I can’t remember why she wasn’t open to love, can’t remember what made her change and she isn’t that pretty (even though she’s prettier than I thought at first). See, this is a terribly sexist thing to say but I like my heroines to be all cute face and T&A. Having a great personality written for you sure as hell doesn’t hurt but the rest is a MUST (unless you’re Glenn Close or something). She seems too weak as a personality to be the lead.

John Scott (this one’s the last wholey negative, promise!) – well, you just fucking know he’s gonna be a bad guy as soon as she says “he’d do the same thing for me”, yadda, yadda – instead of a truly interesting, truly different dynamic at the core of the show (a, you know, functioning couple!), we get the same old, same old stuff. This isn’t all bad though as we’ll see later on. On the whole, this character’s just total bullshit – I guess he serves some purpose to set up the larger mythology (which, btw, sucks as well) but you could certainly have done that better.

Which leads us to the better characters. The man and the woman who appear to be friends/partners of Dunham’s – yeah, they’re okay. The male one even got one or two interesting lines.

Dr. Walter Bishop – I’m just gonna say one thing: I’m damn glad they stopped having him be fucking mental. That gets annoying, real fast. And not in a funny way. Good to give him a nice shave, proper hair and decent communicating skills. Don’t even dare to go back to the old one!

Finally, the one truly interesting character. Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). Sure, having him be a gambler in debt is fucking bullshit (it’s so imaginative even Knight Rider did it!) but that’s not the point. He’s likable, he’s interesting, he’s driven. His background might actually be interesting, the whole romance angle between him and Dunham’s worth noting too (that’s why having Scott dead is good after all). Plenty of potential and Jackson does a good job.

Now, the story. You obviously can’t expect too much (even though it’s a two-hour pilot!) from a show introducing this many characters but it does fall rather flat. The plane-plot is rather boring filler material, the story about setting up the laboratory is okay. Overall, decent but not phenomenal. More problematic: The background mythology. Some guy stole stuff from Dr Bishop and probably made sure he went to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Evil corporation, secret stuff going on no one knows about, yadda, yadda, yadda. Been there, done that.

Bottom line: a lot more positive than you might expect from what you’ve just read. If you’re into this kind of story, it’s probably a solid 4/5, if you aren’t (just like me!) it isn’t. I hope Abrams doesn’t fuck up Trek and I’ll probably watch another episode of this to see if it improves and moves in a direction more to my liking (it probably won’t) – a not-too-daring prediction though: if this show’s gonna be featured for a longer period of time, dq will have to do the writing. 😉

3/5

Rereading favourites: Robert Ludlum’s ‘The Icarus Agenda’

Off we go with the first post.

Seeing how I’m now past 20, I felt it was about time I started rereading some old favourites. What to expect then? There’ll certainly be Tolkien, there’ll be Ludlum (beginning: here) and there’ll be Clancy. Obviously, I’ll write about Atlas Shrugged (but then I consider that an ongoing process rather than rereading) and there’ll be others (maybe even Harry Potter!). Let’s begin with The Icarus Agenda, though.

About three years ago (summer of ’05) I bought a couple of Ludlum’s novels. I had read the Bourne trilogy the summer before (2004) and liked it, so when it was time to do some reading in English for exam purposes, I decided to go with Ludlum. I’ll talk about some of the others later but The Icarus Agenda was my favourite.

About a week ago, I received my new copy of the book (the old one had fallen apart) and went through it rather quickly (finished Sunday morning at 1:40 a.m.). I still like it, I certainly got more out of it than I did last time and I also saw more of its flaws than I did last time.

Let’s begin with the good stuff. According to Wikipedia, it was written in 1988 (seems plausible) and is the sequel to The Chancellor Manuscript (obviously, considering how Inver Brass plays a major role). The plot is summed up rather quickly: American congressman goes to Oman to singlehandedly solve a hostage crisis, comes back successful, is secretly put into the spotlight of the political arena and hunted by enemies. In the end, he wins, gets the girl and loses some friends.

There, tons of spoilers but that’s not the point (it’ll get much worse, trust me!). I like the main character – Evan Kendrick – a lot. Not entirely sure whether he’s still appropriate today but I’m quite confident that he is. A bit more thoughtfulness towards the Middle East wouldn’t hurt and even though it mostly stays at the surface, the book’s rather refreshing insofar as it isn’t explicitly anti-Arab (it’s rather quite pro-Arab, in fact). I enjoy that. Obviously, there’s probably not too many Ahmats left (a pro-American, young sultan) but on the other hand Bin Laden isn’t so different from the religious nutjobs in the book.

Khalela is an acceptable character as well. Ignoring that she was raped as a student (seems to be a thing with Ludlum, having his main heroine raped, if I remember another one correctly (probably the next one I’ll reread – The Sigma Protocol)) and that comes across as a rather cheap ploy to make her character seem more complex, she still offers great insights. It’s probably mostly the hopeless romantic in me (usually plays a rather small role next to the cynic) but I find the relationship between her and Kendrick very exciting and extremely, well, pleasant. A strong woman and a strong man – eventually, I guess, it represents what I consider a proper relationship. It’s exothermic – I came up with another example when thinking about it (Tucker Max says there’s three kinds of people: those that take from the table, those that come out about even and those that add to the table – in a relationship you’d want the last kind of person as your partner) but this one’s better. They go out and come back exhausted and being together doesn’t take additional energy but rather gives back to both of them. A non-zero-sum game, a win-win situation. A fortress against an unpleasant world.

Manny, of course, is just plain delightful. Very interesting, very funny. There’s quite a few more interesting characters throughout the book (it’s actually filled with them) – MJ, the Inver Brass crew, Ahmat, Bobbie – the list goes on and even though the book has more than 800 pages (at least my version does), you know there’s much more that could’ve been said about them.

Now, after a lots of praise, let’s get to the parts that I didn’t like too much. Characters: The evil guys don’t get enough depth. Their motivation basically boils down to “money”. That’s about as unexciting and simplistic as you can get – I guess Ludlum used all his powder on the Arab terrorists (who, consequently, come out much more multi-layered). The worst offense in terms of character, though, is two-fold: first, Evan Kendrick’s conversion to willing pawn needs more work, and secondly – more importantly, for me personally, Gerald Bryce is an absolutely shitty character. He plays one of the major, albeit very silent, roles in the book and gets basically zero motivation. Nada. It hurts and it shows. Why would he do what he does? An additional offender in this regard is Milos – why not give us his background? Which country, what happened, how’d he get out? IIRC, there’s some link to The Chancellor Manuscript but I can’t exactly remember it and it wasn’t that deep (his father played the same role, I think). Not enough – the basic problem is lack of convincing motivation.

Finally, let’s get to the ugly stuff. It’s mostly in “Book Three”. Why the hell would there be a new Mahdi? There’s no point and it acts entirely counter to the other development – arms dealers being killed and less arms being delievered. One’s supposed to be hopeful, the other’s supposed to highlight how fucked up the situation still is. If you wanted to get that done, you’d have to do it the exact opposite way around – let the plan against the arms dealer not work out and show some “rational” Arab kill the new Mahdi.

The whole arms dealer part is extremely stupid anyway. It feels kinda like the air raid on Tokyo in Pearl Harbor – the story works fairly well without it (very well, actually) and there’re plenty of possibilities to bring the story to a satisfying end. Have Khalela and Kendrick get married, have a baby, Kendrick being elected Vice President and getting some hopeful deal with Ahmat and an Israeli. Something like that. This just doesn’t work and feels terribly forced. One more thing: the whole scene on the island – yeah, that could’ve used some work.

The bottom line: I still very much enjoyed this book. It makes for an exciting read and especially the first part feels very well thought out and finely executed. Leave the Inver Brass stuff out and it makes for a great book on its own. The second part isn’t quite as strong and rests mainly on the shoulders of the Evan-Khalela relationship (as far as I’m concerned, that is) plus some other good characters (Manny, MJ etc). The third part is just plain ugly (then again it’s only 40+ pages). All in all well worth the time (and you’d better be prepared to spend a couple of hours unable to put the book down once you’ve proceeded halfway through it).

4/5

“Major Changes”

I had half a huge post worked out, about corporate discounts and stage-gate-processes, being able to kill a project and how the parts are sometimes worth more than the whole.

Then I decided: fuck it. If some major corporation can do it, so can we.

So, instead of a spin-off and other major stuff, I’m just gonna change around some categories and stuff.

We’re back in business, baby.

What’s new, then?

A couple of entertainment categories, so far. And a “nonsense” category. That’s where all the stupid youtube vids are supposed to go. 😛

Jordin Sparks ft. Chris Brown – No Air

Post 150 and probably the last one before it’s back to proper posting (a few more days, be patient and you shall be rewarded!).

A couple of notes on the above vid: actually, just one: I am old. 😦

Chris Brown is more than a year younger than I am, Jordin Sparks more than a year and a half (almost 20 months!). These people are already making shitloads of money. 😦

Sure, in the long run I have a fair shot at making more – it’s what education is all about. Pick the right one and you’ll make lots of money. But damn do I need to hurry up (don’t worry – I’m right on schedule;)).