Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Six of One

The Upshot From Sci-Fi Channel: Conflicts divide both humans and Cylons as issues of faith and loyalty boil to the surface.

Conflicts flare among the Cylons as they confront the taboo mystery of the Final Five, Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) is pushed too far when her former friends and comrades refuse to believe that she has been to Earth—you know…the usual SNAFU—Situation Normal All Fracked Up.

What does Starbuck do about it? Well she confronts the President of the Colonies (Mary McDonnell) at gunpoint in Admiral Adama’s (Edward James Olmos’) quarters.

For her part, President Roslin keeps her cool considering she was just waking up from her cancer treatment to find a gun at her head by someone she thinks may or may not be a Cylon. Roslin is cool as cucumber while it’s Starbuck who is seemingly off the rails.

She says she wants to hate Roslin—the woman for whom she betrayed Adama and went back to Cylon-occupied Capirca to get the Arrow of Apollo…the map to Earth—all on the strength of Roslin’s vision.

So why can’t Roslin believe that Starbuck saw Earth?

Then Starbuck does something crazy, which is par the course, but in her classic unexpected way—she hands Roslin her pistol. If Roslin thinks Starbuck is a Cylon, if Roslin thinks Starbuck is her enemy, she should shoot her enemy.

Roslin is visibly repelled by the gun—but unlike when her life (and everyone else’s) was in danger when Cylon Centurions boarded Galactica (Season 2’s Valley of Darkness), Roslin takes the gun, shoots at Starbuck…..and misses at short range What due to nagging doubt or nauseous cancer drugs?

Starbuck is quickly subdued and taken to the brig, declaring all the while that they will have to kill her to stop her. Her desperation is palpable and they all believe that she believes she knows the way to Earth but they also believe she’s off her fraking rocker.

Meanwhile, aboard the Cylon Basestar, the humanoid Cylons—“Skinjobs”—are having their own interpersonal conflicts.

The scene opens with a number of events superimposed at once to convey that surreal Cylon experience but we see in the foreground the Cylon we know as Cavil—played with both menace and mirth by the great Dean Stockwell)—who we now know is the Cylon model Number One.

Cavil is seated watching a topless Boomer (Grace Park), Cylon Number Eight for those of you keeping count, engaged in some sort of topless yoga. Then the scene fades to the Cylon Baseship hybrid speaking a mile a minute about anything and everything.

Cylons Leoben (Number Two—Callum Keith Rennie), another Sharon/Number Eight, and a Number Six named Natalie (Tricia Helfer) concluded from the Hybrid that the Final Five Cylons are with the Colonial fleet—which would explain why the Cylon Raiders opted to cease their attack on the fleet last episode.

The three go to Cavil and despite the taboo speak of the Final Five. Cavil declares them heretics and says the Raiders will be “fixed” so they will cease and desist this annoying habit of independent thought.

In short order, a rift forms between Cylon “skinjob” models One, Four and Five—Cavil, Doral (Matthew Bennett) and Simon (Rick Worthy) and models Two/Leoben, Six/Natalie and (most of) the Eights/Sharons. It’s a tie until one of the Eights, Boomer, breaks ranks with her numbers to side with Cavil—an unprecedented move.

So Cavil proceeds to surgically dumb down the Raiders while Natalie removes the inhibitors from the Centurions—the muscle of the Cylon—permitting them higher cognitive functions and free will. Faster than you can say “One True God” Centurion bullets are flying and Cavil’s group is headed to resurrection city.

Don’t you just hate it when families fight?

A word about Tricia Helferwith Caprica Six, Imaginary Six and now Natalieshe is playing three separate characters with little fanfare and less recognition. Early on FanBoyWonder had a revelation that—“Hey the hot chick can act.”

But more than just read her lines competently, it seems to us that Helfer has got some serious acting chops and is proving with each performance that she is a LOT more than pretty face and hot body. We hope that in her post-BSG career she is afforded the chance to play something other than the sex pot. But we digress.

Speaking of One True God, pariah turned prophet Gaius Baltar (James Callis) declares he is getting tired of holding back that “essential truth” about what he considers the fallacy of the Colonial Gods. Of course he decides this while making with the love with Tory Foster (Rakha Shama), one of the secret Final Five Cylons.

Desperate for information about the identity of the final fifth Cylon as well worried about their own potential exposure, Tory’s fellow final Cylons—Col Tigh (Michael Hogan), Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco)—pitchfork Tory into making nice with Baltar to find out what he knows.

Tigh tells her that Tory doesn’t “have to get on your back for him” for which she mockingly thanks him. Ah, Saul Tigh—Cylon or not, he’s still a magnificently ruthless bastard. Yet in the end, Tory ends up being a sleeper Cylon agent, if you take our meaning.

Yet during his conversation with Tory, Baltar and the viewer receive the Holy Frak moment of the episode. While conversing with Tory, Gaius is once again called out by a voice that only he can hear.

We’ve seen this moment a thousand times before—Imaginary Six (again Tricia Helfer) appears as the voice of God’s wisdom to either guide or cajole Baltar. Yet, it’s not Six we see but Imaginary Baltar (also Callis). Holy Frak!

What does this mean? Is this another of “God’s” heralds or is Gaius so bent that he now needs to see visions of himself. Both could be true.

The episode’s most powerful scene was, of course, between Roslin and Adama in his quarters as they debate what to do about Starbuck and more to the point what her return is doing to Adama.

Roslin and Adama are not a couple (at least currently—we never really did find out what, if anything, happened with them on New Caprica) but they have been through so much together that there are fewer people more intimate in the truest sense of the word.

Like true intimates, they can speak freely and they can—and sometimes do—cut right the quick to say the things to each other that hurts the most.

Below is a transcript of the scene thanks to Battlestar Wiki http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page:

Roslin: You want to talk about miracles? On the very same day that a very pale doctor informed me that I had terminal cancer, most of humanity was annihilated and I survived, and by some mathematical absurdity I became president, and then my cancer disappeared long enough for us to find a way to Earth. You can call it whatever you want. And now, I'm dying.

Adama: Don't talk that way.

Roslin: Bill, you gotta face this. My life is coming to an end soon enough and I'm not going to apologize to you for not trusting her. And I'm not...I'm not gonna trust her with the fate of this fleet. You are so buckled up inside. You can't take any more loss. Your son's leaving, this, me, I know it.

Adama: Noone's going anywhere.

Roslin: (laughs) Oh gods. Here's the truth. This is what's going on. You want to believe Kara. You would rather want to be wrong about her and face your own demise than risk losing her again.

Adama: You can stay in the room, but get out of my head. (stands up and pours himself another drink)

Roslin: You're so afraid to live alone.

Adama: And you're afraid to die that way. You're afraid you're not the dying leader you thought you were. Or that your death may be as meaningless as everyone else's. (leaves)

Roslin: (Notices that her hair begins to fall out due to the dilloxin treatments and breaks down crying)

For Adama, this is really the first time he’s had to deal with true loss. While the Cylons wiped out most of the human race, it didn’t really touch him as personally. Both his son and his surrogate daughter, as well as his best friend Saul Tigh and his ship all survived the attacks and remained with him.

But his best friend has been a shell of himself since New Caprica, his soul mate in Laura Roslin is dying, his rocky relationship with his son is taking new turn as Lee leaves the service and Kara, his daughter in all but blood, was lost to him but now is back—he’s desperate to avoid more loss.

For Laura, it didn’t really hit her until she beheld clump of her own hair—this really is the beginning of the end for her.

The weakest part of the episode in our estimation was the multiple send offs for Apollo—the viper jock party, his farewell to Starbuck, and the assembly and salute on the hanger deck. One scene would have been enough but all three put it over the top.

Awkward scene within an awkward scene was Lee saying good bye to his estranged wife Dualla (Kandyse McClure). This seems to make their separation permanent and we’re not a bit sad by that—it was a shaky marriage from the start and FanBoyWonder has never forgiven Dualla for the way she hosed Billy (Paul Campbell) just before he got killed in Season 2.

Yet we see that the writers want to convey to the viewer that this is a major and permanent change for Lee Adama. Apollo is really retired and it’s Lee Adama, civilian and new member of the Quorum of Twelve.

As an aside. With Lee a part of the political government, could the writers be putting events in motion where Lee Adama assumes the presidency of the colonies? Just a thought.

In the end, with Adama seemingly put on the spot to take the fleet in either Rosiln’s direction or in Starbuck’s, he finds a third way. He gives Kara a ship—a sewage recycling vessel, go figure—and a hand picked crew and is told to go follow her feeling and find Earth.

Looks like things are starting to get a little interesting. So say we all!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier—A FanBoyWonder Review

The Upshot From Warner Home Video: Based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by Michael Goguen and animation legend, Bruce Timm, Justice League: The New Frontier is the epic tale of the founding of the Justice League.

The New Frontier takes viewers on an action-packed adventure, exploring the origins of the Justice League. DC Comics legends Superman (Kyle Maclachlan), Batman (Jeremy Sisto) and Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) are all featured in the film as well as Green Lantern (David Boreanaz), Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer) and The Flash (Neil Patrick Harris)–as they band together to form the legendary super team.

Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman cannot stop it alone. If they fail, the entire planet will be “cleansed” of humanity.

It was only until just recently—just before the release of the DVD—that we read Cooke’s New Frontier thanks to our best pal Kemosabe who lent us the two volume graphic novel trade paperback series so we know just how good the original material is.

We viewed this DVD a while ago but recent circumstances kept our review of the movie on the back burner until now but we’ve been chewing on it for a while now. We couldn’t help but be just a little disappointed—it was a good movie but it falls well short of the greatness of the original New Frontier graphic novel series by Darwyn Cooke.

Why? It wasn’t for lack of quality. Darwyn Cooke’s involvement in the adaptation of his own story made this movie top shelf but tragically incomplete. It was quiet simply impossible to squeeze all but the bare bones New Frontier plot into a 70 minute movie.

To our disappointment the John Henry vs. the KKK plot line was barely mentioned and the great confrontation between Superman and Wonder Woman in Indo-China lost much of its punch without the context that Cooke provides in his printed story.

Cooke’s interpretation of Hal Jordan—both in the graphic novel and in the movie—is among the best we’ve ever seen and it was clearly a highlight of the series—although we wish we saw more of Green Lantern in the movie.

Likewise, we enjoyed his take on The Flash and it was quite nostalgic to see Barry Allen in the red suit again. The movie did a quite impressive job of displaying Flash’s super speed, especially the old vibrating through solid objects trick—we had forgotten how much we had missed that old chestnut.

Justice League: The New Frontier is the second offering by DC Comics and Warner Home Video, preceded by last fall’s Superman: Doomsday. There was definite improvement from the previous film and they do seem to be getting better and we look forward to more.

Next up—Batman: Gotham Knight, coming July 8.
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