Friday, May 30, 2008

Battlestar Galactica—Guess What’s Coming To Dinner

Quote of the (previous) week: "I don't really care if you have to spend the night on your knees praying, or just on your knees. I want a name”—President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) to her Chief of Staff Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma) about getting information from Roslin’s political enemy and Foster’s lover Gaius Baltar (James Callis).

Okay, okay we know—we are REALLY fraking late with this review.

The Gods honest truth is that not only has FanBoyWonder been crazy busy but on the night when the episode in question aired, we were called away from the television and missed a critical 10 minutes from the final quarter-hour of the episode.

Having missed the episode’s climax, we couldn’t write up a review without seeing the entire episode but we weren’t worried as we would just catch it on the Sci-Fi website. Except that Sci-Fi took it’s sweet time posting the episode so we only just saw it yesterday.

So better late than never…right? Ok we think it’s crap too…so consider this the recap before the new episode in a few hours. FanBoyWonder promises to get better at turning around these reviews.

The Upshot from Sci-Fi Channel: A new alliance is tested as Galactica agrees to help the Cylon rebels destroy a vital enemy target.

The tension at the start of the episode between Delegate Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) and President Roslin FEEL artificial even as they each raise valid points. For Adama, it’s about the need for openness in government. For Roslin, it’s the need for secrecy and thus security.

But these seeds of tension planted early in the episode will come to harvest later in the hour.

Meanwhile, the captured Cylon basestar is nearly shot down by Galactica when the coordinated faster than light (FTL) jump with the Demetrius goes FUBAR and the basestar drops into the fleet alone and radio silent.

Fortunately Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) one of the Final Five secret Cylons orders “Weapons Hold” when his Cylon Spider-Sense starts tingling and the Demetrius jumps back just in time to call off the dogs.

Soon the rebel Cylon leader Natalie Six (Tricia Helfer) meets with President Roslin and Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), where she tells them of the Cylon civil war, that the Final Five Cylons are hidden in the human fleet, and that the D'Anna models (Lucy Lawless)—the Cylon model whose consciousness was boxed as punishment straying off the Cylon spiritual reservation has seen faces of the Five and can identify them.

D'Anna's consciousness is stored within the Cylon resurrection hub, a central facility that controls all resurrection ships. Natalie proposes that if the Colonials help the rebel Cylons seize control of the hub and liberate the D'Anna model, D'Anna will identify the Final Five, who, in turn, can reveal the route to Earth.

Why? Because, according to Natalie, the Final Five have been to Earth and can lead everyone there. This, of course is news to two of the secret Final Five Cylons in the room, Col. Tigh and Tory Foster.

With the hub destroyed, ALL Cylons will lose the hope of resurrection. Small loss for Natalie's faction as they can’t go home (or resurrect) again—to do so would be to be boxed—so they are willing is willing to become mortal as the price they must pay to meet the remaining five Cylons.

The rebels and the final five will then depart in peace, leaving the humans to complete their journey to Earth and everyone lives happily after ever, according to Natalie’s proposal. Oh yeah, sorry for killing 99.5 percent of your race. Our bad.

Roslin and Adama accept the deal and both sides instantly start figuring out ways to play the angles to get the upper hand over the other. Trust but verify…AND take hostages.

Meanwhile back at the Secret Cylon meeting house/storage closet, Tigh, Specialist Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco) and Tory are shaken as they realize that their secret identities might soon be exposed.

Anders is also preoccupied because Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), whom he shot during the mutiny aboard the Demetrius, must have his leg amputated. The procedure leaves Gaeta pretty fracked up and discovering his singing voice in the Galactica's infirmary.

And hey, why isn’t Anders in the brig???? He shot and crippled a fellow officer. Yeah it was to put down a mutiny but there are to be no repercussions to this???

In other news, the prophet Gaius Baltar has been sharing with his radio audience about Roslin’s visions of the opera house with the Caprica Six Cylon (Helfer again) and Athena and Hera, the Cylon/human child.

Roslin wants to know how Baltar knows, how leaked this top-secret nugget so she leans on Tory, letting her Chief of Staff know that she knows that Tory has been fraking Baltar.

Roslin demands that Tory find out how Baltar learned about the visions. Rattled, Tory persuades Baltar to admit that Caprica Six told him the secret, communicating through his lawyer.

Oh come on….was she really trying to keep it a secret? Tory has been seen down there by EVERYONE!!!

Back on Colonial One, the Quorum of Twelve already feeling marginalized by Roslin’s growing executive authority nearly revolts when Roslin summarily announces the alliance with the Cylons.

Lee Adama tells Roslin that they Quorum is ready to give her a no-confidence vote and he urges her to honor the Quorum's concerns by discussing the plan with them. Accepting Lee's advice, Roslin and Natalie jointly address the Quorum. The political pressure appears to ease.

Yet plagued by her visions, Roslin takes Baltar and Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) to the basestar to seek answers from the Cylon hybrid.

At the same time, Athena sees that Hera is acting all Children of the Corn creepy by drawing the image of Caprica Six over and over and over again before walking out the open door.

Frantic in the way that a parent looking for a lost child can be, runs all over the ship looking for Hera with visions of the opera house in her head.

Hera is standing in the hall when Natalie, Tigh and a group of Marines make their way to her. Natalie bends down to greet the child and Athena, thinking that Six is going to steal her child (again) shoots her ass—twice.

Cut to the base ship that JUMPS just as soon as the hybrid is plugged back in at the same time that Natalie is shot—taking the President and half of Galactica’s fighter wing with it.

Okay, answer us this—the marine guards cock their guns whenever a Cylon stands or sits or scratches its but—but they all just stand there while Natalie Six kneels down to talk with a child????????

Looks like there’s a bleep storm coming and it looks like Galactica’s fresh out of umbrellas. So say we all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iron Man—A FanBoyWonder & Kemosabe Fan Film Review--SPOILERS

It takes more than being in different cities, at different times, to keep FanBoy Wonder and our best pal and all-around Kemosabe from doing one of our famous tag-team, Siskel & Ebert-stye film reviews.

So, here, Dear Reader, is our take on the first entry in this summer’s fanboy film derby: “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard.

Here’s the Upshot from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios: Oscar nominee Downey stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the story of a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Stark builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity.When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, Stark dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man. The film also stars Oscar-winner Paltrow and Oscar nominees Howard and Bridges and is directed by Jon Favreau

Check out the official website

Over the course of many days—in between work-life, family-life and other cosmic matters—FanBoyWonder and Kemosabe engaged in an e-mail correspondence sharing our thoughts on the Iron Man film. BEWARE MEGA SPOILERS!!! Read below freely and at your own risk.

FanBoyWonder begins the dialogue:

I saw this film Sunday night of opening weekend while in Boston on business. I snuck away to the multiplex to view it and I walked out of the theatre quite pleased—not only did it NOT SUCK as I had feared given what happened with X-Men 3 or Spider-Man 3 but it struck me as a solid movie—not just super-hero movie—but a solid movie throughout.

I really liked the selection of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark from the start and RDJ lived up to his potential in the role—both for being faithful enough to the character in the comics to be credible but he also knew when to inject something new, something of himself into the role.

In a clever twist, the plot/character summary was written into the story as a mini-film bio during one of the numerous awards that Tony Stark has received all of his life—the viewer sees that this character is one of those genius in the truest sense of the word where his gift of intellect has made the world an open book for him.

His gift can also be a curse as he can see things few other can and he’s bound to be a bit of a screw up. He never in his life has had a real challenge—that is until he’s challenged by circumstances beyond his control.

In the Stark’s case, it was a sect of non-denominal Middle Eastern terrorists who abduct him in Afghanistan (We’re just glad they weren’t Nazis!!!!!) who forced him use his wits to fight for his survival, but not before a friend sacrificed his life to save Stark’s—his “Uncle Ben” moment.

For Downey, it was the demon-hold of substance abuse (plus perhaps the shame of having been a Saturday Night Live cast member during that awful 1985-86 season).

Kemosabe replies:

Howdy, it's John, here. My turn to weigh in.
After cadging the services of our favorite sitter, the Missus and I headed to our local Googloplex to catch Favreau's opus.

I'll fully admit that I come to the table as a DC, not Marvel guy, and thus carry all those institutional biases with me. That also means that I have just a glancing familiarity with the Iron Man mythos (most of what I know comes from a trade paperback copy of "Marvel Origins," or "Sons of Origins" that came out in the late 1970s.).

Despite my institutional bias against Marvel, I've always felt that their films, on the whole, have been more successful than DC's efforts. This, I think, has a lot to do with the fact that they have their own studios and have kept their characters in-house. This gives them a bit more control over content. It's also resulted in stories that have pleased fanboys and newbies alike.

For me, the success of this film lies not in the plot, but in the casting. Plagued as he is by his well-publicized personal demons, Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect choice to reflect the tortured Tony Stark. Downey's skills as an actor are manifold, and he seemed to bring a genuine joy to the role. He also played Stark with the right balance of cockiness and pathos. The moment when he came to terms with his company's legacy is revelatory.

The same holds true for Gwyneth Paltrow, whose "Pepper Potts" could easily have been a throwaway character. Instead, we were treated to a (more or less) fully realized woman who shared a rare kind of intimacy with her boss -- equal parts friend, confidante, and, possibly, lover at some point down the road. The scenes between Paltrow and Downey crackled with humor and tension.

Sadly, I can't say the same thing about Jeff Bridges, who brought a generic cartooniness to his portrayal of the villain Jebediah Stanes. One could easily imagine any other elder statesman actor (Tommy Lee Jones, anyone?) inhabiting this role. I don't know if this was a limitation imposed by the script or by the constraints of the comic-book villain construct, but Bridges transition from just mildly sleazy to outright evil never played convincingly for me.

Finally, a word about effects. My primary complaint about most action movies is that they're cut so fast that it's nearly impossible for the eye to follow what's going on. Secondarily, most CGI feels blatantly artificial. "Iron Man," mostly avoided the former and totally avoided the latter.
Throughout the movie, the Iron Man suit felt convincingly like something Stark could have cooked up in his lab, while the action scenes maintained that delicate balance between exciting and manic.

Overall, a satisfying movie and a great way to spend $15 with my radiant bride. Even better, the movie serves as the set-up point to a series of "Avengers"-related films down the road.

Back to You, Fanboy ...

Kemosabe….you ignorant slut!!! :)

I disagree with you about Jeff Bridges but I’ll get to that in a bit.

When you drill down to the core, Iron Man the movie, was your standard super-hero origin story—brilliantly executed—but by-the-numbers nonetheless. However, it wasn’t the story that made for a great picture but the talent—both in front of and behind the camera in the form of director Jon Favreau’s vision—that made this picture great.

Favreau’s mantra could be summed up as such—Keep it real.

Robert Downey Jr. added realism, gravitas and humor to the Tony Stark character just by showing up. Yeah…he made it look easy but the guy is an Oscar-caliber actor—he SHOULD make it look easy.

With the establishing the character done, Favreau spends the second act—which turns out to be the bulk of the movie—selling the audience the concept of Iron Man. It was not only fun but it was VITAL in terms of believability for the audience to see Stark’s painstaking trial and error when constructing his armor.

Unlike being bitten by a radioactive spider or landing from the Planet Krypton, Iron Man’s whole premise relies on self-made, contemporary (if exaggerated) technology. The audience HAD TO believe that Stark’s technology COULD exist…that an IRON Man can fly. He did, and we bought it.

Yet once Stark has invented his Iron Man armor—both the primitive Mark I escape suit and the final red and gold version, filmmakers are clever enough not to make Stark the INVINCIBLE Iron Man.

The armor is an equalizer for Stark but we see that he’s NOT Superman—where the technology hit its limits, the guile of the man took over.

Two key examples: During Stark’s break out scene, while fighting an army of captors, Iron Man Mark I was kicking some terrorist ass but he took a couple of critical hits and near-hits—showing that Stark was in real danger of being overwhelmed before he made like a missile and went ballistic….until he fell to Earth and barely survived the crash landing.

Example number two: In his Mark III suit, Iron Man takes out the terrorist stronghold, exacting some payback for his captivity, but has the worst time trying to shake the U.S. Air Force fighter jets scrambled as they assume he’s a hostile bogey and shoot him up. That Iron Man couldn’t just easily out-run or out maneuver the fighters was a nice, believable touch.

Top shelf special effects really did the job here. We were so into it we didn’t LOOK for the special effects.

Terrence Howard as U.S.A.F. Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes wasn’t given too much to do this time around but they practically flashed in neon lights that War Machine—Rhodey’s own armored alter-ego—will be appearing in the next film.

We didn’t care much for Pepper Potts. Gwyneth Paltrow did pretty well with what she had been given but the character just wasn’t that much to write home about—all comic book movies feel the need to write in a “Lois Lane.”

Our choice for a character that Paltrow could have easily played is Bethany Cabe—Stark’s bodyguard and love interest (also a redhead) from the David Michelinie-Bob Layton era. In the comics, she’s a ballsy beautiful broad who could have been both the eye-candy and the butt-kicker in the film.

At least Pepper didn’t channel her Vicky Vale and do nothing but scream.

Finally Jeff Bridges—I agree that Obadiah Stane was cartoony but Bridges’ actually made the movie version much more interesting than his comic book counterpart. Stane was created by Denny O’Neill during his brief time at Marvel writing Iron Man.

I’m on record as stating that O’Neill is a paint-by-numbers kind of writer so Stane was your ordinary, average megalomaniac antagonist (just one step above Lex Luthor from the Super Friends cartoon). Bridges on the other hand breathed life and personality into the character.

Given how much time was spent in Act II for the set up, it’s Bridges’/Stane’s job just to show up and be the bad guy on cue. But Bridges radiated menace in scenes without saying a word—this guy was ruthless, he knows it and he lets it work for him. He’d step on your neck in a heartbeat if you were his way but in such as way as to be almost charming.

And I have to admit, I loved how he so effortlessly double-crossed the terrorist leader that terrorized the captive Stark. Classic example of a snake getting eaten by a crocodile.

Finally, it was worth hanging until after the credits to see Tony Stark meet S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who informs Stark that he is now “part of a bigger universe” and that he’s there to talk about the “Avenger Initiative.” SWEET!!!!!

With Downey (and Jackson I think) slated to make a cameo in June’s Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton, Marvel Studios seems to have a plan to get an Avengers picture to the screen with the top shelf talent.

But most of all, with this little “Easter Egg” at the end of Iron Man—all the precincts are now in. Without a doubt, Samuel L. Jackson is officially the COOLEST MOTHER F**KER IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!

You get the last word Kemosabe—close us out.


It's John again. And I can only conclude that Everyone's Favorite Fanboy[Wonder] is suffering from some kind of massive head-trauma. Despite his juvenile attempts at barbs, I don't totally disagree with anything he's saying here -- except for his gratuitous use of caps-lock. I'm really going to have to talk to him about that. :)

I'm right there with you on "Iron Man" being a classic origin story. And for me, the second act of the film was one of the high points. It was great seeing Downey/Stark at work creating his suit. And (spoiler ahead), the physical comedy of his ill-fated tests of the propulsion system was terrific -- as were his exchanges with his fire extinguisher-wielding pet robot. And did anyone else besides me notice that his butler/computer system was named Jervis? Nice Avengers-touch, there.

For me, what made this segment believable wasn't necessarily the strength of the writing -- which was fine. And Favreau's directing was well-paced. It was the strength of the acting. Even as he vamped his way through some of those scenes, you still remembered that Downey/Stark was trying to atone for the evils his company had inflicted on the world. And all it took was one look in Downey's haunted dark eyes to remind you of that.

And you're right, like Batman/Bruce Wayne, Stark/Iron Man is a self-made hero, and that's what makes him accessible. There's the possibility that anyone could become him -- just so long as they were properly obsessed, totally loaded and had access to military-grade weaponry.

This has always been the one area in which Marvel excels -- creating flawed, all-too-human heroes (the cliché about the company does have a grain of truth after all), while DC seems to specialize in creating mythic archetypes. But there's a place for both.

In other words, I can relate to Spiderman's travails as a working stiff journalist who has a wife and bills to pay. But Alan Scott's iconic Green Lantern will always inspire me to become something greater than myself.

Chuck is correct when he notes that female leads (especially compelling ones) are often superfluous and/or rare in comic book movies (Case in point, Katie Holmes as the unnecessary Rachel Dawes in "Batman Begins."). But in this case, I think Gwyneth Paltrow brought a terrific combination of humor and sexiness to the table as Pepper Potts. And, if the industry is trying to defuse the image that it's nothing but a sausage factory made up of middle-aged, overweight fanboys, it must include strong and attractive female leads in its filmed adaptations. The model, par excellence, will always be Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, by the way, with Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood a close second.

[FBW Note: IMHO in a fair fight between Margo Kidder’s Lois and Karen Allen’s Marion, Marion would eat Lois’ lunch. Just saying.—FBW]

But sorry, pal, any decent character actor could have portrayed Jebediah Stane. Unlike you, I didn't see menace in Bridges' portrayal. I mostly saw fatuous over-acting, confused with the conveyance of real menace -- it's a fatal flaw of most comic book films.

The Afghani terrorist leader, with his silence, was much more frightening. That's particularly true in the final battle scenes, where Stane takes over Stark's old armor and pumps it up to 11. I'd rather see cold fury than the kind of aggressive "Haven't I Been Turned Into A Total Monster?" shouting that passes for the final confrontation between hero and villain in most super-hero films.

As I observed earlier, I'm not a close follower of the Iron Man mythos, so the fact that they telegraphed Terrance Howard's eventual transformation into War Machine kind of eluded me.

But I'll back you 100 percent on Samuel L. Jackson segment after the credits. Including Jackson in any film always raises its coolness factor by an order of magnitude. But in this case, the fact that they hinted at the Avengers films to come made the wait worthwhile.

And with this out of the way, the palate is now clear for "Dark Knight," in July. See you then.

FBW Editor’s Note: When not playing the part of FanBoyWonder’s Kemosabe or when not playing with two bands -- Milkshake Jones and Fink’s Constant, -- John L. Micek covers Pennsylvania politics for a major Keystone State newspaper—read his political blog, Capitol Ideas, at

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