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Peep peep!


Series 3 of Peep Show arrived this morning. With a new series apparently now not showing up until some point in 2007, rewatching older episodes of this extremely funny comedy is going to have to tide me over.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I thought Series 3 was a step down from its two predecessors, and that feeling was maintained when watching it again today. It just don’t think it consistently hits the high notes as well as the likes of Series 2, although admittedly, when it’s funny, it’s really funny - the third episode, Shrooming, being a particular highlight. Still, I’d say that, on reflection, it was better than I’d remembered it - 7/10 material rather than 6/10, if you will.

Oh yeah, and I cancelled my order for V for Vendetta on HD DVD from DVD Pacific and re-ordered it from Amazon, who actually have it in stock.

Update, December 19, 2006 06:12 PM: Fixed dead link.

Posted: Monday, November 06, 2006 at 7:39 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV

Man to Man with Dean Learner

This Saturday’s episode was substantially better than the previous two. No, it wasn’t great, and it’s still nowhere near to achieving the status of must-see TV, but at least it wasn’t as cringe-inducingly horrendous as the disastrous second episode. Maybe there’s hope for this show yet.

Update, December 19, 2006 06:14 PM: Fixed dead link.

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2006 at 8:09 PM
Categories: TV

DVDs I bought or received in the month of October

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Corpse Bride (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Enemy of the State: Special Extended Edition (R1 USA, SD DVD)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition (R1 USA, SD DVD)
  • The Machinist (R0 Japan, HD DVD)
  • Waking the Dead: Series 3 (R2 UK, SD DVD)

Wow! For the first time, the number of HD DVDs coming into the house exceeded the number of standard definition DVDs.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 10:30 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Halloween | TV | Waking the Dead

Halloween: the countdown begins


I’ve now finalised the list of reviews that will be going live this Halloween at DVD Times. Unfortunately, I’ve had to cut back a little on my original projected list of titles due to a lack of time and, in some instances, motivation, but you should still be seeing six horror-themed reviews from me (plus a few from other contributors), so you shouldn’t want for lack of reading. The schedule looks like this:

  • October 30th, 6 AM: Plot of Fear (R0 Italy, SD DVD)
  • October 30th, 12 PM: Constantine (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • October 30th, 6 PM: Seven Notes in Black: Collector’s Edition (R2 France, SD DVD)
  • October 31st, 12 AM: Corpse Bride (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • October 31st, 12 PM: The Machinist (R0 Japan, HD DVD)
  • October 31st, 6 PM: Death Laid an Egg (R2 Japan, SD DVD)

Of these, all but Corpse Bride are written and ready to go.

I also intend to watch several horror-themed films over the next few days, including some old favourites, like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Suspiria and Inferno. Time will tell, of course, whether I actually manage to keep to that, but I live in hope. At any rate, the TV schedules look as piss-poor as usual for October 31st, so it looks as if I’m going to have to provide my own playlist, as usual.

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2006 at 2:57 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews | TV

Man to Man with Dean Learner… it’s, well, bollocks

Dean Learner (with cigar) and Garth Marenghi

Above: Dean Learner (with cigar) and Garth Marenghi

You’ve probably already read my various rants about the wonderfulness of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, which I honestly believe is the best funny-type show since Brass Eye. You may also know, then, that the people behind Darkplace have a new series, Man to Man with Dean Learner, which takes the camp producer/publisher/actor from the earlier show and casts him as a sleazy chat show host, with a new (fictitious) guest each week. Given the talent behind Darkplace, you’d be forgiven for expecting another slam dunk. Unfortunately, having watched the first two episodes, I’ve come to the conclusion that, to put it bluntly, it blows.

The problem with the show can be summed up quite succinctly: it’s not funny. At all. Which, for a comedy, is pretty much the kiss of death. Whatever the studio audience of cackling loons would have us believe, Dean’s conversations with his various guests, which last week included the esteemed horror scenarist Garth Marenghi and the week featured Formula 5 champion Steve Pising (both played by Matthew Holness, who, it seems, will feature as a different guest each week), are dull and desperate. (To give you some idea of how desperate it is, the majority of the jokes revolve around the fact that the character’s name is pronounced “pissing”. Seriously, this is the sort of garbage you would expect from those crummy “comedies” that get consigned to the hilariously unpopular BBC Four… or is that Three? I can’t remember which one features the comedy rejects.) Look, the character of Dean Learner is inherently funny, but they’ve somehow managed to suck all the comedic value out of him. Perhaps the talk show format isn’t the best environment to showcase him, but even so, I can’t believe how downright tedious this programme is. It has, for me, the same sort of vibe as The Office, where I don’t find the enterprise funny in the slightest, just boring and mildly uncomfortable. I seriously got more laughs out of Bo! in the USA, which runs just before Man to Man - and, if you’ve ever seen Bo! in the USA, you’ll know what a sad indictment that is.

I’d like to think that the show will pick up steam for the remaining four episodes, but I’m not confident. I had thought that perhaps the poor quality of the first episode was just a fluke, the natural side effect of them getting into the swing of things, but the second episode turned out to be even worse. To make matters worse, they’ve squandered their most established character, Garth Marenghi, at the very start, so I suspect it may be all downhill from here. Only a surprise appearance by Todd Rivers could shake things up now, I suspect.

Posted: Saturday, October 28, 2006 at 11:31 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: TV

We used to be friends


Back when I watched the first season of Veronica Mars, my reaction to it was somewhat apathetic. Generally speaking, I found the plotting inconsistent, the characters generic and at times grating, and the whole Southern California high school/beach vibe rather off-putting. This afternoon, however, I brought out the DVDs again and made my way through the first disc, encompassing the first four episodes. I actually found myself enjoying it a lot more this time round. Perhaps it’s because, like so many mystery-oriented stories, it’s fun to go back and spot all the clues while being aware of the outcome, but the plotting strikes me as being considerably more accomplished than I first realised. You can definitely see the seeds being laid for the various mini-mysteries that will be solved over the course of the season, as well as the big ones that aren’t paid off until the final episode.

Suffice to say, I think I may have misjudged this show. Indeed, I’ve ordered the recently-released DVD set of Season 2 from MovieTyme. I haven’t seen any of this season, so it should be interesting.

Posted: Friday, October 27, 2006 at 7:02 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: DVD | Reviews | TV

Peep Show Series 3


I’ve pre-ordered the upcoming R2 UK DVD of the third series of Peep Show from It was originally announced for a late October release, but it appears to have been pushed back to November 6th. This series was a lot more hit-and-miss than the first two, but it still had some absolutely classic moments (the “mushroom party” being the highlight for me).

Unfortunately, there won’t be a fourth series until some point next year. David Mitchell and Robert Webb are currently frittering away their talent on some BBC show that’s been getting less than favourable reviews (I can’t even remember what it’s called), which is too bad, because an Autumn without new Peep Show just doesn’t feel right.

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 at 8:05 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: DVD | TV

Man to Man with Dean Learner in 35 minutes

Channel 4, 11:05 PM. Be there!

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2006 at 10:30 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: TV

Man to Man with Dean Learner - clips

Man to Man with Dean Learner, the new talk show from the creators of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, starts this Friday on Channel 4 at 11:05 pm (meaning that it will no doubt disappear into obscurity just as Darkplace did). To whet our appetites, some clips have been uploaded on to MySpace, the home for pretentious emo kids and attention-seekers everywhere:

It’s hard to say anything conclusive about it based on these short clips, but I have to confess that I really hope it’s better than this. That laugh track really needs to go, for a start.

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 4:28 PM
Categories: TV | Web

Today is Darkplace day!


Just a reminder to everyone that the UK DVD of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Channel 4’s best show in years and one of the funniest spoofs I’ve ever seen, is finally released today in stores for all to buy.

Check out my review at DVD Times if you’re not already convinced, or, if you are, head over to and pick it up for only £11.99.

Hurry, or Dean Learner will have to go back into skin.

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:04 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: DVD | Reviews | TV

V for Vendetta and Miami Vice specs unveiled


The cover art and full specs for the upcoming HD DVD releases of V for Vendetta (October 31st) and Miami Vice (December 5th) have been unveiled (see here and here respectively).

V for Vendetta:

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1
  • Dolby Digital-Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1
  • English, French and Spanish subtitles
  • In-Movie Experience - Director’s Notebook: Reimagining a Cult Classic for the 21st Century - Director James McTeigue (joined by stars Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving and other creative team members) traces in detail the V saga from graphic novel origin through the movie’s execution.
  • Designing the Near Future
  • Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot
  • England Prevails: V For Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics
  • Freedom! Forever!: Making V For Vendetta
  • Saturday Night Live Digital Short
  • Cat Power Montage
  • Theatrical Trailer

Miami Vice:

HD DVD side (HD30):

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1
  • Dolby Digital-Plus: English 5.1
  • English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles
  • Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Mann
  • Miami Vice Undercover
  • Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location
  • Visualizing Miami Vice
  • Behind the Scenes Featurettes

DVD side (DVD9):

  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English, French & Spanish DD5.1 Surround
  • English DVS DD2.0 Stereo
  • English SDH, French & Spanish subtitles
  • Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Mann
  • Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location
  • Miami Vice Undercover

Additionally, it should be pointed out that the HD DVD side contains the unrated director’s cut of the film, whereas the DVD side features the R-rated theatrical cut.

Looks as if both are going to be fantastic packages. In the case of Miami Vice, I’ve no idea whether or not the extras themeselves will be in high definition on the HD DVD side (similar to the recent Blu-ray release of Click), but either way, having all the extras on the HD side (and indeed, more than there are on the standard definition side) is indeed convenient. This, and the inclusion of a Dolby TrueHD track, shows the major benefit of having been able to get dual-layer HD DVD/dual-layer DVD combo discs working.

I’m looking forward to seeing this film, by the way. I’ve never seen the TV series on which it’s based, and the only Michael Mann films I’ve come into contact with are Manhunter and The Last of the Mohicans, but I’ve heard so much about Miami Vice, both good and bad, that I’m itching to make up my own mind about it.

Update, December 19, 2006 05:47 PM: Fixed dead link.

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2006 at 7:14 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV | Technology

Alias: Season 5


I’ve pre-ordered the R2 UK release of the fifth and final season of Alias (or Alias: The Complete Fifth Series, as it says on the packaging) from I’ve heard mixed reports about the breakneck-paced spy drama’s final hours, but, having only seen the first episode of the season myself, I’m looking forward to seeing the final 17 episodes (the show had to take a break part-way through the season due to Jennifer Garner’s pregnancy, which resulted in a shorter than usual run) and making up my own mind about them. For my money, Season 1 was very good, Season 2 was excellent, Season 3 was not quite as good as what preceeded it but still of a high standard, and Season 4 was overall a disappointment.

Alias: The Complete Series, a deluxe box set featuring all five seasons, a bonus disc and a whole bunch of unique material like an exclusive hardcover book and packaging designed to look like the Rambaldi Box from the show (see details here for the UK release and here for the US version, due out a day later), is due out at the same time. If I hadn’t already collected Seasons 1 through 4, this would be a very tempting prospect, but I think I’ll pass. As much as I’d like a Rambaldi box, I don’t have $200 to spare!

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 5:26 PM
Categories: DVD | TV

The Buffy ratings graph

The Buffy ratings graph

Click to enlarge.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 6:59 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7 (2002-2003)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7

Season 7 reviews:

So what happened? I wish I knew, but one thing’s for sure, Season 7 takes away the grand prize as the worst season of Buffy ever. Actually, I’d be willing to extend that to the whole Buffyverse, since, while Angel was never as good as Buffy at its best, it never plunged to these depths. Season 7 walks away with an average rating of 4.68/10, which is lower even than Season 6’s 4.95. To tell the truth, I’m actually surprised by this, since, while Season 7 is in my mind definitely the weaker of the two overall, it never gets as bad as Hell’s Bells. I said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Season 6 has a trainwreck quality to it where it’s actually interesting to watch, provided you can detach yourself from the events enough to see how ridiculous it all is, whereas Season 7 is, for the most part, just plain tedious. Yes, the characterisation is inconsistent, the adherence to continuity non-existant and the direction often inept, but these issues could probably have been somewhat excused had the whole thing not been so flipping yawn-inducing. I’m serious, I’ve lost track of the number of times during the final few episodes I considered just hitting the fast-forward button and getting it over with.

So, to return to my original question, what went wrong? The most popular theory is that Joss Whedon stopped running the show on a day-to-day basis, and the other writers were lost without him. I think this idea has considerable merit, and the massive difference between Chosen and the 14 or so episodes preceding it certainly substantiates it somewhat, but I don’t think this solution is really getting to the depths of it. Whenever a show or a movie is successful (or not), there is a tendency to attribute this to a single visionary person - the auteur theory, if you like. I think people like the notion that there is a guiding hand behind it all, an all-powerful creative force who makes all the big decisions and knows exactly where everything is going. Why? Because they like to think that someone is in control. Take them out of the mix, and they become the fall guy for the subsequent downfall. As much as I’d like to subscribe to the Joss=God theory that so many of his bumlickers espouse, though, I find it overly simplistic.

My theory is this: the writers didn’t really know what to do after Season 5. They thought the show was finished, only to discover that they had another two years to fill. They didn’t have to stick around - they could easily have found new jobs, I’m sure - but they were kind of enjoying the whole cult status they’d been raised to by a small but extremely vocal fan community. Therefore, thinking that they could do no wrong and excited by the creative carte blanche UPN had given them, they decided to go all-out and take the show in a completely different direction. In Season 5, The Body had been a massive success, as had The Gift, despite it featuring the death of the show’s main character, so the writers thought the fans would lap up a whole season of doom and gloom. Problem is, they were mistaken. People didn’t like seeing their favourite characters degraded and crapped on. (As one person, whose name I’ve forgotten, so eloquently put it, no-one wants to watch Superman flipping burgers at McDonalds.) Undeterred, though, they continued on their merry way, beating the characters and their fans into submission in the naïve belief that more is more and that, if things got really dark, the fans would come around. The only problem is that all they did was succeed in driving more viewers away, and, with the death of Tara, suddenly found themselves faced with something they’d never experienced before: a coordinated hate campaign and mass boycott from a demographic that, at one point, had been comprised of their strongest supporters.

Along comes Season 7, and apathy sets in. The odds are stacked against them. No-one is really running the show, or cares to. They know people didn’t like their grand scheme of doom and darkness from Season 6. They know there are now people who actively hate their guts and have stated that they will boycott any shows with which they are involved. They know that a number of their actors aren’t happy with the direction in which they’ve gone. They don’t know whether or not Sarah Michelle Gellar wants to be involved with another season, and they know they can’t continue without her. However, they can’t reconcile the fans’ demands for more lighthearted Season 1-3 style fun with the fact that they need to go out with a big finish. So, they head off down an awkward path without any real firm grasp of direction. Along the way, the viewing figures dwindle. Amber Benson, who put up with a hell of a lot of crap, including a death she had strong misgivings about and a paycheck dwarfed by that of her co-stars, refuses to appear on the show on their terms, and starts becoming a martyr figure for the demographic that is boycotting the show. And so on and so forth. These are hardly ideal conditions under which to produce a show, so it’s ultimately hardly surprising that the final season sucks as bad as it does. If Season 6 failed because its writers thought they were untouchable, then Season 7 failed even more drastically because they realised, the hard way, that they were only too human. And yet the arrogance continued: one of the most stomach-churning things I ever read was a post by Jane Espenson in a thread where people were arguing about Tara’s death, where she bluntly told hurt fans that, because she held an English Literature degree, she was right and they were wrong.

In the end, I can only repeat what I’ve already said: Buffy should have ended with Season 5. The story was told. There was no point in flogging a dead horse. And yet they continued to do it anyway. As a result, they turned what could have been one of the few shows to generally go out on an all-time high into something that plodded on for another two years before dying with a whimper, which is a really sad legacy.

Update, December 19, 2006 05:52 PM: Fixed a bunch of dead links.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 6:44 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 22: Chosen


Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

Eventually, all good things must come to an end - or, as the final two seasons of Buffy prove, all bad things too. The series finale is a commendable attempt to go out with a bang, but given everything that’s come before it, it all seems a bit hollow. Compared with masterful season finales like Restless, or even the show’s true (in my opinion) series finale, The Gift, Chosen is nothing special. The only thing that distinguishes it from any other showdown is the scale of the battle and the amount of destruction left in its wake - so it’s basically quantity over quality.

Still, this feels more like an episode of Buffy than the chain of 14 or so mediocre-to-crap episodes that have preceded it. The characters actually seem to be, well, in character, and the actors look a little more engaged than they have been for some time (I guess they all just couldn’t wait to get it over with). Unfortunately, those hoping for some serious character moments between Buffy, Willow, Giles and Xander will be supremely disappointed. All we get is a false-sounding and painfully staged little conversation full of blithe quips and laughing in the face of danger that tries but fails to recapture the mood of the early seasons. Plus, the inside of the Hellmouth is kind of disappointing - it’s basically just a big cave.

And it doesn’t help that Buffy’s genius scheme to finish off the First once and for all is anything but. Giles says it’s “bloody brilliant” - but it’s not, it’s just as stupid as every other plan she’s had this season. Wander into the jaws of doom and hope she can beat the bad guys? She also tells the Potentials “So here’s where you make a choice” - only she isn’t giving them a choice. She’s turning every Potential in the world into a full-blooded Slayer, whether they want it or not. The title of the episode is Chosen, after all, as in “chosen by Buffy”, not “choose for yourself”. For a show that’s meant to be about girly power and free will, that’s a hell of a lot of girls forced to do something they probably don’t want. And precisely why does she suddenly decide that Willow can use the Scythe to do this anyway? This really is a season where you’re expected to just shut up and accept everything you’re told.

Other niggles. How come the Ubervamps, one of which took Buffy two whole episodes to defeat, can now be sliced down in droves by everyone, including Dawn? How come Sunnydale, which has been shown to have docks and a beach, is now in the middle of the desert? And is the First even actually defeated? Sure, the Hellmouth collapses into itself, disposing of all the evil festering inside it, but, if there’s another one in Cleveland, and LA is such a disaster zone, then one must presume that they’re two-a-penny. Also, Anya’s death was pointless and crummy. I get that Joss Whedon was pissed at Emma Caulfield for saying she would quit even if the show got renewed, but there was no call for that “blink and you’ll miss it” exit, or for the complete lack of compassion anyone feels for her demise. For Christ’s sake, Xander and Andrew (why is he still alive?) are the only people who even notice she’s not there, and Xander barely seems concerned at all. And that shot of the little girl in the baseball court becoming “empowered” is probably the single most cringe-inducing moment in the entire series.

Complaints aside, though, I can’t deny that I got a sense of excitement during the final battle. It’s all basically smoke and mirrors (i.e. a whole lot of explosions and stunts, but no real substance), but it’s considerably less boring than, say, Touched, and less offensive than Grave last year. Yes, Willow’s still hooked up with her rebound girl so Joss Whedon can show that he doesn’t hate lesbians after all (personally, I’ll bet she ditches her immediately after the final fade to black), but her whiz-bang display of white power (eep, that sounded a lot more racist than I was intending) does suggest that she’s managed to overcome the darkness inside her. Spike saves the world and goes out in a fantastic display of fireworks and burning flesh - I have a feeling Giles will have some humble pie to eat for trying to have him killed! (Only, of course, Spike shows up on Angel next season, making his death as meaningless as pretty much every other one on the show.) And I’ve decided that I like Vi - she’s the least annoying Potential.

I’ll give them credit: they went out with a bang. No, it doesn’t make up for the horrors inflicted upon us over the past two years, but all things considered, it could have been a hundred times worse.

Overall rating: 7/10.

Next time: this is no next time! Hooray! I’m free!

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 5:45 PM
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 21: End of Days


Written by Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie; Directed by Marita Grabiak

In this episode, Buffy finds a magic scythe that will help her defeat the undefeatable Caleb. (And Willow actually utters the line “So it’s true, scythe matters”. This, I suppose, is what passes for comedy in a show that was at one point quite funny.) Also, the First suddenly decides it wants to become corporeal (why???) and merges itself with Caleb to create a super-Caleb… whom Buffy still seems to find easier to defeat than the normal one. And Angel shows up with yet another surprise magical artefact that has never been mentioned before but will apparently aid Buffy in the final fight. Convenient.

Overall rating: 3/10.

Next time: Chosen. Thank god, finally!

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 4:26 PM
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 20: Touched


Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner; Directed by David Solomon

Oh, look, see how chaotic and disastrous everything is without Buffy around to be a leader? Great. Then why did you spend the last few episodes making her look like such a crap leader? It’s pretty obvious no-one knew what was going on at this stage, and the writers were each off doing their own thing without paying any attention to continuity.

Again, not much happening. Chaos, chaos, chaos in the Summers residence. The First appears to Faith in the guise of the Mayor and it looks like it might get interesting, but then nothing comes of it, apart from her suddenly deciding to shag Wood. Actually, everyone’s getting it on in this episode: Wood and Faith, Willow and Kennedy (in the most awkward sex scene of the century), Xander and Anya (in yet another round of post-break-up sex)… except Buffy, who spends the night in the house of some guy she tossed out, sharing a cuddle with Spike on the anniversary of his attempted rape of her.

Overall rating: 3/10.

Next time: End of Days.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 4:02 PM
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 19: Empty Places


Written by Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed by James. A Contner

The lameness of this episode is pretty much summed up in the scene in which the entire gang stand up against Buffy and throw her out of her own house. Fine, okay, I can just about swing that, although I have a hard time believing that the original crew would go so far as to turf her out, even if her actions last week did result in the loss of Xander’s eye. What I have a really hard time buying, though, is that they would then choose Faith as their leader. Faith, who not long ago was trying to kill them all. Perhaps I could accept the Potentials siding with the cool new Slayer who smokes and lets them indulge in underage drinking, but certainly not Willow, or Giles, or even Xander at this stage. Sorry, this is just bull.

Sorry I don’t have anything more to say about this. I’m simply getting so fed up that actually writing about what I’ve just watched is becoming a chore. Nothing much happens anyway. Skip to the final scene and you wouldn’t be missing anything important.

Overall rating: 2/10.

Next time: Touched.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 3:28 PM
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 18: Dirty Girls


Written by Drew Goddard; Directed by Michael Gershman

Last week, Giles tried to have Spike killed. This week, they’re sharing a house and, barring one brief mention of it, seem to have forgotten about it all. Oh well.

Anyway, in this episode, we learn that Buffy makes crappy choices as a leader. Which is all well and good, but for the fact that, for the last seven years, she’s actually been a pretty good leader. Her having to be a tactician and take other people’s lives into her hands is nothing new, but the writers, for some reason, now decide to make out that it is. This week, she leads the whole gang into what is obviously a trap and ends up getting some Potentials killed and Xander’s eye ripped out. Once again, Buffy suddenly becomes a useless general because the plot requires the rest of the gang to decide she isn’t up to the task and kick her out. Although quite why the writers felt the need to do this is anyone’s guess, because a couple of episodes later she’s back in the fold and none of the arguments are ever addressed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. With five episodes to go, the writers suddenly decide to introduce a new villain, a mad southern priest called Caleb. I’m guessing they suddenly realised that a main villain who couldn’t actually touch anything wasn’t all that great, so they bring in yet another bad buy with superhuman strength who can toss Buffy around like a ragdoll. Great, except pretty much every supervillain ever introduced has been able to do this, so it’s sort of old hat. Caleb also exists to give another of Joss Whedon’s Firefly actors, Nathan Fillion, a job. In interviews and commentaries, Whedon goes on and on about what an amazing actor he is, but I’m not seeing it. Sure, he’s competent, but he’s nothing special.

Overall rating: 4/10.

Next time: Empty Places.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 3:00 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

Angel: Season 4, Episodes 13, 14 and 15: Salvage/Release/Orpheus


Written by David Fury; Directed by Jefferson Kibbee

Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain; Directed by James A. Contner

Written by Mere Smith; Directed by Terrence O’Hara

Based on these three episodes of Angel, I’m convinced that the goings-on during the season of 2002-2003 were considerably better in Los Angeles than in Sunnydale. Okay, so you get some bad ideas, like the dodgy and mildly-incestuous relationship between Cordelia and Connor (not literally, because they’re not blood relatives, but she always struck me as something of the mother figure in the unofficial Angel Investigations family), not to mention the crummy Jasmine storyline that was thrown in late in the game only so Joss Whedon could give another of his Firefly actors a job after that show was cancelled. Still, it’s a hell of a lot more potent and focused than Buffy’s seventh season. It’s considerably better shot (by many of the same directors who were doing such an indifferent job on Buffy), the actors seem to be more engaged, and there’s genuine character development instead of people just saying and doing whatever will service the plot. Plus, who couldn’t like the new, super-cool Wesley, with his designer stubble, sawn-off shotgun and no-nonsense attitude? This is one character who’s certainly come an extremely long way since he was first introduced to the Buffyverse.

I also notice that a genuine effort is made to build on the theme of redemption that was a big issue for Faith back in Season 1 of Angel. She’s only on the show for three episodes this season, but she gets considerably more character development than she does in Buffy’s five, where she does little more than get it on with Wood and say “yo” a lot. Additionally, in her brief guest stint in the third episode, Willow seems more alive than she does at any point on Buffy this year. It’s bizarre, but Mere Smith, who had never written the character before, manages to portray Willow’s “voice” with considerably more skill than those who had been writing her for years. Granted, the Willow that appears on Angel has a lot more in common with Buffy Seasons 1-3 Willow than the less quirky one that emerged later on, but I’m willing to forgive that given that, for the first time in ages, Alyson Hannigan actually seems to be enjoying playing the character. Her scenes with Wesley (Hannigan is married to Alexis Denisof in real life) are also nice, in an in-joke sort of way. I should also point out that it’s kind of embarrassing how much more chemistry she has with Amy Acker (Fred) than Iyari Limon (Kennedy), despite the fact that they only get a couple of scenes together. If they had to pair Willow up with anyone during the final season of Buffy (short of bringing Tara back), it should have been her.

What’s not forgiveable, though, is the ease with which Willow performs the re-ensoulment spell. Given that, on Buffy, it’s been stressed that she has a hard time performing even the most basic enchantments without threatening to slide back into Dark Willow mode, it’s a major oversight that she seems able to pull off one of the most complicated spells in existence here without batting an eyelid.

Overall rating: 8/10 for Salvage, and 7/10 for Release and Orpheus.

Next time: back to Buffy for Dirty Girls.

Posted: Sunday, October 08, 2006 at 7:15 PM
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | DVD | Reviews | TV

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