Thursday, December 18, 2014

Survivor Ratings: Natalie

As a big fan of The Amazing Race, few teams have annoyed me as much as Natalie & Nadiya Anderson, a.k.a. "The Twinnies," a.k.a. the twin sister duo who yammered and carried on like fools over two seasons of the show.  (Though they were the first one eliminated in their second appearance, thankfully.)  So it was with no small amount of surprise that I found myself really rooting for Natalie as she made her way through Survivor.  For the segment of the Survivor-watching fan populace that doesn't watch the Race, she seems to be one of the most popular players ever.

Then again, I think of how my brother and I would act if we were ever teamed in a race around the world, and if we lasted even a leg before coming to blows, it'd be a minor miracle.  Audiences would be left thinking, "geez, those two meatheads are in their 30's and they're still sniping and arguing like children."  So while Natalie's Survivor edit surely plays a role, I must admit that I look back on her Amazing Race performances with a bit more sympathy now.
 
How She Won: Technically you could say Natalie won via alliance, yet her original grouping of herself/Missy/Baylor/Jeremy/Julie (plus Jon & Jaclyn) sprung so many leaks along the way that it took some deft gameplay to avoid every problem.  For one, you had Julie quitting right after the merge.  Secondly, her group needed to woo the Jon/Jaclyn swing votes that led to Josh's ouster.  Then Natalie faced her biggest problem, which was that Jon/Jaclyn swung back to the other alliance to vote out Jeremy, her closest ally.  Rather than go vengeful at that point, however, Natalie decided revenge was a dish best served cold and bided her time to ditch Jon, instead using he and Jaclyn to get rid of Wes, Reed and Alec.

Remember, if it hadn't been for Natalie speaking up after Keith's "stick to the plan" goof at Tribal Council, Jon would've been blindsided out with an idol in his pocket and left Natalie/Jaclyn/Missy/Baylor going up evenly against Reed/Alec/Wes/Keith and being at a decided disadvantage in immunity challenges.  Natalie could've taken the easy short-term play of eliminating Jon then, but she took the longer view and it worked to her advantage.

After finally ditching Jon, she then went total ninja and voted out Baylor, who'd been her closest ally in the latter stage of the game.  It was an ice-cold move that was very well thought out --- after seeing how Missy turned on her allegedly tight pairing with Jon, Natalie was right to suspect that Missy might do the same to her.  (This move also undoubtedly won some jury votes given how unpopular Baylor and Missy seemed amongst the jury.)

Through two Blood vs. Water seasons now, I think it's fair to say that it's a real advantage to having your loved one eliminated early, or at least it's a disadvantage to still being in a twosome very deep into the game.  As we saw in S27, Tyson, Gervase and Monica essentially formed an alliance of 'singles' and rode it all the way to the end.  This season, Natalie lost Nadiya after the very first Tribal Council and never got any chance to actually play with her sister, though it likely helped her a ton when it came to the final moments.  Jon/Jaclyn and Missy/Baylor always had to keep one eye out for what their loved one was doing, whereas Natalie could focus entirely on herself and her own plans.

To that same end, I wonder if it isn't also generally a good thing to lose your alliance partner relatively early in the game, a la Natalie and Jeremy.  While Nat was surely annoyed by the play, Missy/Baylor weren't turning on her --- they were just getting rid of a big threat in Jeremy.  Frankly, Natalie herself probably looks to ditch Jeremy at some point down the line anyway.  That said, Missy/Baylor going behind Natalie's back to eliminate Jeremy made them dead to her, and merely game pieces to be used rather than your standard "let's go to the end together, gang" alliance partners.  This generally seemed like a pretty laid-back cast that, judging by most of the jury questions*, were okay with getting voted out and realized it was just a game.  Natalie's business-like approach really appealed to them, as opposed to the games of Jaclyn and Missy that were so centred around their loved ones; the jury just saw them as halves of a whole player, while Natalie was see as her own person.

* = The exception, of course, was Reed's instantly legendary "evil stepmother" speech to Missy, though that was probably more about Reed wanting a big moment for himself on TV than it was about him being truly upset.

Skillset: Quite an impressive social player, which was again a fairly stunning development to Race watchers.  Natalie also more than held her own in challenges, and was competitive in virtually everything, physical or mental.  I've got to tip my cap to Dale, as in the very first episode, he warned his tribe about Nadiya by saying, essentially, "I've seen the Race and these two are dangerous, let's get rid of her right now."  I can't say that Nadiya would've played as well as her sister had she stuck around, but Dale was right, the Twinnies were a force to be reckoned with.

Could She Do It Again
: Now that I finally updated my ranking of Survivor winners, it's already a relic thanks to another season.  Sigh.  The ranking might be outdated in another way since it's hard to say that Natalie doesn't deserve a very high placement --- I'm hard-pressed to necessarily find a real weak spot in her game.  Good at challenges, good social player, found an idol, very smart strategically…what am I missing here?

As noted earlier, Natalie had to do a fair amount of scrambling despite her fairly solid position in an alliance, making it one of my favourite types of Survivor wins -- one that's equal parts dominant (to show how a player owned their season) and improvised (to show how a player can scramble).  It really shows off a player's strengths to win in such a way, and you could almost say that Natalie's victory is only a slightly lesser version of a Kim Spradlin-esque evisceration of the game.  The only thing keeping Natalie from the really top tier is that her life in the game essentially hinged on nobody voting her out at F4, yet even that was set up by her own decision to keep Keith around over Alec.  If Alec had been around at the end, Missy or Jaclyn are likely more apt to keep him because he's a total goat for FTC.  With likeable challenge-monster Keith still in the game, however, Natalie could realistically point to Keith as a bigger jury threat, leading Jaclyn/Missy to vote for him instead of her.  My guess is that a Natalie/Jaclyn/Keith final three probably leads to a Natalie victory anyway, though Nat should be credited for taking the easier path to a win.

I also guess that Natalie would face long odds at a repeat if she made another appearance on Survivor.  If Dale and company were already wary of the Twinnies before they ever set foot on the beach, future players will be even more worried of Natalie in a return appearance.  Clearly, Natalie's best strategy would be to return but say she's Nadiya --- everyone'll be like "oh, no problem, it's the 'bad' twin," and then be caught off-guard as Nat romps her way to victory again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Commercial/Bad Commercial

GOOD COMMERCIAL
John Lewis, the British department store, apparently has a tradition of making a superb ad every Christmas that everyone in the UK promptly goes mad over.  This year's instalment is the lovely tale of Monty the Penguin, and his quest to win a major golf championship find true love.  Of course, Monty doesn't find it himself, his child owner/friend simply buys a female penguin, and thus the real underlying message is that John Lewis supports the indentured servitude that is the mail-order bride system.  Shameful on you, department store.  Fortunately you won me back with that gorgeous cover of John Lennon's "Real Love."

BAD COMMERCIAL

Toronto is hosting the 2015 Pan-Am Games and the hype has begun in the form of this weirdly aggressive commercial.  As in, the athletes are literally invading Toronto and there's nothing the city can do about it.  "Ready or not," they're on the way and "you can't hide."  So on the bright side, at least the guys from the Delfonics are getting a royalty cheque.  But there are oh so many more downsides…

* a song called "Ready Or Not" about an event in Canada, and neither Amanda or Busy could make a cameo??

* why is the entire city deserted?  Are the athletes coming not to compete, but to ward off the zombie horde that has apparently overtaken the city?

* is the "ready or not" theme really the right tone you want to strike for an event that's had some issues in having venues and transportation arrangements finalized for July?

There's just such a tone of grim inevitability in this ad.  Since cities in general are getting more and more wary of paying big money for the "honour" of hosting these major sporting events, it's almost like the commercial is telling Torontonians that the Games are coming, so just shut up and enjoy them.  And these the Pan-Am Games, a.k.a. the poor man's Olympics!  The Olympics are a big enough joke as it is and would cost Toronto probably four times as much to host, but at least they're something the world somewhat cares about --- has anyone ever given a crap about the Pan-Am Games aside from the host city?

To that end, there's still a stunningly high number of Torontonians who have no idea what the Pan-Am Games are, or that their city is hosting them in the summer, or what exactly these games will do to life in town.  If Toronto traffic gridlock is a nightmare even under normal circumstances, having the Pan-Am Games involved will take things to Freddy Krueger levels for six weeks.  Perhaps the deserted city of the commercial is meant to symbolize how everyone Toronto will simply get the hell out of town for the entirety of July.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hot! Live! Music! (U2 edition)

In honour of the two U2 concerts I'll be attending this summer, this edition of Hot! Live! Music! is dedicated to the greatest live band of all time. (Okay, this is technically just my opinion, but it's pretty objectively close to being true.)  Let's stroll through past U2 tours…

* "Every Breaking Wave" from the MTV Europe Video Awards
We can't represent anything from the Innocence & Experience Tour since, y'know, it hasn't started yet, though U2 has been just killing it with this stripped-down version of EBW at several different promotional appearances.  This'll be a showstopper come the next tour.


* "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" from the 360 Tour
An underrated dark-horse choice as the most popular U2 song of the last 20 years.  Man, am I glad the band brought this one back out of mothballs. 


* "Original of the Species" from the Vertigo Tour
As Bono said, they hadn't quite figured out how to play this one live, as the album version was so heavy on strings and keyboards.  Still…man, if this was "not quite figured out" then just imagine what a version they were 100% comfortable with would've sounded like.


* "In God's Country" from the Elevation Tour
Somewhat of a forgotten gem from U2's past, and it sounds almost as good in acoustic form as it does with the entire band driving away at it.


* "New Year's Day" from the PopMart Tour
So much energy, so much drive in this song, and Bono's voice literally just soars.  Ok, I'm technically misusing the word 'literally' but screw it.


* "One," by Bono, Edge, Brian Eno and an orchestra
Bit of a cheat here since it isn't really U2, it's only two of the guys teaming with Brian Eno at the Pavarotti & Friends concert.  Still a gorgeous version of the song, even if Eno is completely extraneous.  Hey Brian, no need for the backing vocal, Edge is already on it.


* "Where The Streets Have No Name," Zoo TV 1992
What better place to end things than with the greatest live song of all time.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Other People's Writing

* Chris Rock has been all over the place with terrific, insightful interviews with a number of different media outlets while promoting his 'Top Five' movie.  In fact, it's gotten to the point where you can probably make a list of your top five Chris Rock interviews from the last two weeks.  Tops on everyone's list, however, would almost have to be this outstanding talk with Vulture's Frank Rich covering every topic under the sun.

* A sprawling, all-over-the-place story by Grantland's Brian Phillips about both modern sumo wrestling and a failed coup attempt in Japan in 1970.  The two topics, Phillips readily admits, have nothing to do with each other yet addressing them at the same time seems almost fitting for a story set amidst the epic convergence of the past and present that is Tokyo.

* It's a simple question: Grantland's Jason Concepcion wonders if Kevin McCallister from 'Home Alone' grew up to be Jigsaw from the 'Saw' movies.  It all checks out.

* More or less the history of 20th/21st century pro wrestling in North America, as chronicled by Dan O'Sullivan of Jacobin.  The definitive novel (or really, you'd need a series of novels) about pro wrestling's history has yet to be written, but consider this an appetizer.

* So, I wrote my review of Gone Girl earlier this week and was pretty pleased with it, yet I'm just a speck on the beach compared to Wesley Morris' fantastic reviews.  Morris kills it week after week at Grantland, including this wonderful breakdown of GG.  Describing Rosamund Pike's performance as "a mix of salt, honey and antifreeze" is awesomely poetic stuff.  You know you're reading good writing when you disagree with the basic premise (I clearly liked Gone Girl a lot more than Morris did) yet I agree with every point he makes.

* More movie-writing, as Grantland's Alex Pappademas looks at Interstellar within the tradition of other milestone space exploration films, ranging from 2001 to Solaris to Star Trek to Contact.  There's even a mention of 'Sunshine' in there, perhaps the greatest "movie undone by its final 30 minutes" of all time.  Two-thirds of the way through Sunshine, I legit thought I was watching an iconic masterpiece but things just really went south.

* Every NBA team's top celebrity fan is broken down by Grantland's Shea Serrano in this colourful series of graphics.  I love the idea of these people actually all sitting in a row, so Danny Trejo is just hating life stuck between Macklemore and Justin Timberlake…what in the world would those three have to talk about?  I have to wonder if Fred Armisen is actually a Trail Blazers fan, but really, any excuse to post this sketch.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Pepsi vs. Arby's

You have to love it when corporations can poke fun at themselves...seriously, you have to.  You are legally obligated based on agreeing to a terms & conditions webpage years ago, and boy, don't you now wish you'd read that thing all the way through?

As someone who has eaten at Arby's exactly one time in his life, I'm still pretty confident that Pepsi is the tastiest thing on the menu.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Movie Review Jamboree


It is the height of laziness to compare Steve Carell's role as John du Pont in "Foxcatcher" to his most famous role as Michael Scott, but here it goes.  Both men live in Pennsylvania.  Both men have complicated relationships with their mothers.*  Both are yearning to be seen as both leaders of men and as 'one of the guys,' yet also are painfully incapable of making friends.  That's about where the comparisons end since, y'know, Michael never shot anyone** and was only borderline pathological, as opposed to all-out crazy.  It's a tremendous performance for Carell, who somewhat uses his reputation as a comedian and a generally-likable actor to keep us on our toes about du Pont.  On paper, he seems creepy as hell, but since it's Carell under all that makeup, maaaaybe there's a chance things will all turn out okay.

* = I'll never understand why 'The Office' never actually introduced Michael's mom in an episode.  They stretched this show out for umpteen years and introduced such inane plots as the whole Robert California era and Angela literally trying to have Dwight assassinated, yet the writers couldn't come up with a way to unlock the potential goldmine of Mrs. Scott as a recurring character?  For shame.

** = though he did hit Meredith with his car

Spoiler alert: they don't.  'Foxcatcher' is one of my favourite kinds of psychological thrillers, where relatively little capital-H Happens plot-wise, yet you never shake the feeling of mounting dread and the sense that the axe is just waiting to fall on someone.  Beyond Carell, Channing Tatum is perfectly cast as the proudly insecure Mark Schultz, and Mark Ruffalo equally so as the much more confident and comfortable-in-his-own-skin older brother Dave Schultz.  Tatum and Ruffalo absolutely look and act like they've been on wrestling mats their entire lives. 

Really good movie here, arguably the best yet from Bennett Miller which is saying something considering his brief but strong resume.  It's also strange that, in another universe, "eccentric billionaire played by Steve Carell decides to fund a wrestling team and takes a somewhat dim young wrestler played by Channing Tatum under his wing" is absolutely the setup for a hilarious comedy. 

*********

"John Wick" is not a particularly good movie, though I'm a sucker for the particular action movie trope it used to great effect.  I love it when the hero is just such a badass that the villains literally say things like "Wait, we messed with WHO?!  Oh…no" and immediately start arming themselves as if they were preparing to face an entire army.  Frankly, it would've been fun to see this spread across the entire movie rather than just the first 25-30 minutes before Wick has some moments of fallibility. 

*********

As a child of the 1990's, I was almost obliged to see "Dumb & Dumber To" but my god, could the commercials have made it harder on me?  Each ad proved to be more laugh-free than the last, and honestly, had it not been for a free film due to me on my Scene card, I might've skipped it.  I should've skipped it.  :(  You'll notice that the various ads and trailers exactly zero funny jokes, though I'm pleased to report that there were at least a few laughs throughout the entire film.  Four, to be exact --- one legitimately funny gag and three mild chuckles.  I laughed more than that during "The Number 23" and Jim Carrey wasn't even intending that to be a comedy.

***********

On the flip side is "Fury," which was a familiar sort of WWII soldier story very solidly told.  You'll get your standard scenes of the rookie soldier being in over his head, the introductions of the mixed-bag tank crew, and yet the cliched "soldiers encounter civilians" scene was a real standout.  It goes for roughly 20 minutes, runs the gamut from comic relief to incredibly tense, and you never have any idea whatsoever where the scene is going.  Good performances all around from Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf (yes really, LaBeouf was actually pretty good here!) and one of my favourite underrated actors, Michael Pena.  This guy will certainly have a slot in my next instalment of Actors Who Should Be More Famous.  Overall, "Fury" could've only been better had the final line between Lerman and Pitt had been "tanks for the memories."

***********

I never read "Gone Girl," but from everything I've read about the book in the wake of the movie (and, specifically, several people's criticisms of the movie), it leaves the reader very unclear as to whether or not Nick is innocent or guilty.  The film could've achieved that same thing had they cut the one little line of Affleck saying "Amy?" when he returns to the house the first time.  That one line lets us know he didn't do it.  If he just walked in, saw the broken glass table, smash cut to the cops arriving, that keeps us up in the air about what's happening.

I think it's that one little scene that really affects how one views the film.  If you never open yourself up to the idea that Nick was a killer, you're automatically on his side the entire time, which makes David Fincher's film less an examination of male/female marriage dynamic and more "So I Married A Knife-Murderer."  This was an important distinction for me and, in my view, a flaw --- without the whodunit aspect, you're left with a movie that is rehashing some very tired satirical points about how the mass media operates.  So if you don't buy into the whodunit and (like me) you tend to roll your eyes at hackneyed "boy, TV really twists things around, man" talking points, then you're left with the cat and mouse dynamic between Amy and Nick.  Fortunately, this is so strong that it's enough to carry the film on it's own, and it'll help make GG worthwhile to watch on repeat viewings even after you know all of the twists.

A note about the ending, however, since while the Amy/Nick stuff was awesome, even that is slightly undone by the conclusion.  It gives in just a little too much to the movie's desire to be a cutting satire.  It's not nearly in the ballpark of Fincher's "The Game," a film that was 95% incredible and then completely undone by a travesty of an ending, yet I can't help but feel that GG could've somehow ended on a stronger note.  Perhaps I should read the book (y'know, at least check out the Wikipedia entry) to compare it with how Gillian Flynn ended things on the page, though since she also wrote the screenplay, you can't argue Fincher went against authorial intent.  

Don't get me wrong, GG is a very good, well-made and unsettling movie.  (I guess 'unsettling' is almost a given since it's a Fincher.)  I cannot say enough about Rosamund Pike's instant classic of a performance, and she is merely the headliner of an overall exceptional cast.  Between this film and 'The Leftovers,' 2014 might be the year of Carrie Coon.  Kim Dickens could, and should, get some Oscar consideration for turning a theoretically pretty standard role into a great supporting turn.  Tyler Perry goes some nice work here, which is a sentence I never thought I'd write.  And then you have Ben Affleck, an actor I've never really warmed to, yet who wisely turns into the skid by playing up his own image in Nick's skin.  Let's be honest, we can all easily picture Affleck wasting a day on the couch playing video games when he's supposed to be working, much to the consternation of Jennifer Garner/J-Lo/Matt Damon/etc.  You can completely buy Affleck as a lout, but well-meaning enough that he certainly doesn't deserve all of the crap that's foisted upon him in this movie (though again, the fact that the movie more or less makes you so clearly take Nick's side is a mistake, in my opinion).  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hot! Live! Music!

* Queen, performance at Live Aid 1985
One of the most heralded live performances by not only Queen, but by ANY band in history.  This is literally as good as a 25-minute medley can get, complete with the brilliant idea of using 'Bohemian Rhapsody' as a through-line that carries throughout the entire performance.  Any chunk of this stands on its own as a clip, though the 'Radio Gaga' segment is particularly classic.  Did anyone ever have more charisma than Freddie Mercury?  The answer is no.


* Puddles Pity Party, "Hallelujah"
The whole Puddles experience was covered in a Grantland article a few months back, and I guess there's no better way to prove that this guy can really sing than by seeing him perform one of the all-time showcase songs.


* Bush and Gwen Stefani, "Glycerine"
So, Stefani and Rossdale are Highlanders or something, right?  How in the world have these two not aged in 20 years?


* Blue Rodeo, "Hasn't Hit Me Yet"
It is very difficult to find a live version of this song that isn't overwhelmed by either screaming fans or the audience simply singing the entire thing themselves.  This is actually one of the lesser instances of audience takeovers, if you can believe it.  Canadians love this song; you could probably talk at least 20% of the population into making it our new national anthem.  Fun story about this song, my friends Matt and Jen recently got married and had a guy playing acoustic guitar as they were walking up and down the aisle.  The musician was looking for a good song to play as the two were leaving the altar, and played some of this tune as a suggestion.  It was a lovely rendition and we were all in agreement for a few minutes…before realizing "wait, this is a breakup song."  So instead, on the actual wedding day, the choice was a more traditional song, namely Cameo's "Word Up."


* U2, "California"
This is both a great performance and a teaser for next month's Hot Live Music, which is going to be just an explosion of U2 stuff (fair warning).

Friday, November 28, 2014

Leaving Gotham

So 'Gotham' recently had its midseason finale, giving me a solid jumping-off point to stop watching.  Last year I wrote about five ways in which a "young James Gordon" show could or couldn't work, and to some extent, all five were incorporated into the actual show…which is the problem.  'Gotham' is trying to be all things to all people and it's resulting in a watered-down show.  Let's break things down according to my five thoughts on how they could've done this program...

1. Jim Gordon stars in Your Basic Police Procedural
"It could very well be that "Gotham" becomes a more comic geek-friendly version of Mentalist, with the GCPD solving a new case every week and maybe one larger arc (a la the hunt for Mentalist's "Red John" serial killer) taking place over the entire series."

About half of the episodes have indeed featured Gordon and Bullock solving stand-alone cases, and the other half have been centred around the larger arc of Gotham's mob war and the Wayne murders.  The problem is that the second arc is just so overwhelmingly big that it overshadows regular business.  Gotham is so cartoonishly corrupt* that it's hard to go from episodes where Gordon is being strong-armed (by his own partner!) into allegedly killing the Penguin or arresting the mayor and bursting into a mob boss' mansion to episodes where Gordon is just back on the job investigating some random crime.  Gotham is presented as such a cesspool that it makes Gordon look, frankly, like an idiot for staying in town.  Ben McKenzie's one-note performance isn't helping matters. 

* = Literally half of Captain Essen's dialogue is some variation of "it's Gotham, Gordon!" or "that's how things are in Gotham!" to explain why something outlandishly shady has happened.  If you took a shot anytime Essen or any of the other characters had a line like this, you'd have alcohol poisoning on almost a weekly basis. 

2. Jim Gordon stars in Bigville (aka a fan-servicey Smallville-type show)
Hmm, that police forensic examiner loves speaking in riddles!  I wonder if he's really the Riddler?  Or wow, that little girl named Ivy, maybe she'll grow up to be Poison Ivy?!  And I dunno if you realized this, but Cat more than likely grows up to be Catwoman! ZOMG! 

If "notice a shoehorned reference to a Batman villain" was also part of your drinking game, forget alcohol poisoning, you'd be dead.  In the first 10 episodes alone, we've seen Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Bane, Black Mask, Zsasz, Hush and Dollmaker either directly shown or at least referenced.  If you count Falcone and Maroni are 'Batman villains' (which I guess they are, though not of the colourful villain variety), then that makes it twelve.  The most recent episode ended with Gordon being assigned security detail at Arkham Asylum, so dollars to doughnuts that we'll see Hugo Strange and Jonathan 'Scarecrow' Crane pop up sooner or later.  This show isn't subtle about anything, least of all how it's cramming in as many familiar characters as possible, timeline or logic be damned.  I'm astounded we haven't seen the Joker yet, that seems to be the only person the show is hesitant about referencing.

3. Jim Gordon stars in James Gordon: Year One
Of course, having some Batman references are necessary, since as I wrote last year, "I don't want the series to be overwhelmed by Batman-related stuff, but obviously the series needs SOME reference to the source material, otherwise what'd be the point?  Setting the series too far before Batman's emergence would negate too much of the mythology, and also cut out some of the intrigue in Gordon's actual personal life."  The problem is simply overload.

Since I referenced Gordon's personal life, the Barbara Keen character is another issue.  She has no role on the show other than to be a damsel in distress for Gordon to worry about, and the next hint of chemistry between McKenzie and Erin Richards will be their first.  I guess I should be thankful that they haven't had kids yet, since the way this show operates, we'd have a scene of a toddler Barbara Gordon wearing a cape and using her blankie to swing down into her crib.

4. Jim Gordon stars in Gotham Central
Words can't express how much I would've rather seen Gotham Central adapted to a TV show rather than 'Gotham.'  Instead, we get a show where the entire force literally leaves the precinct rather than help Gordon confront Zsasz, yet Gordon just shows up for work the next day.  Unbelievable.

5. Jim Gordon stars in (Just Before) Batman Begins
If FOX was so anxious to have so much Batman-related material in the show, then this honestly might've been the better option.  Set the show a few years before Batman's official emergence, so you can have all of the villains in their early stages yet not so early that it makes Gordon look incompetent.  The way 'Gotham' is structured now, after all, ensures that Gordon will never stop Falcone, Maroni, Penguin, etc. because they're all still active 15+ years later when Bruce finally becomes Batman.  I half-believe that the Fish Mooney character exists because, as as an original creation of the show, she's actually someone Gordon can defeat without throwing comics continuity into the air.  (Even now, continuity doesn't really fit since none of Montoya, Bullock, Riddler, Zsasz, etc. were all supposed to be 20 years older than Bruce Wayne.)

Many of the show's flaws could've been excused had the acting been better.  As mentioned, McKenzie is throwing up a D-minus performance here, giving Gordon nothing but righteous anger or silent frustration 95% of the time.  Half the cast is so over-the-top they seem like they'd be better fits as Adam West's enemies on the old Batman TV series, and others have such small roles that you wonder why they're even in the main cast.  Sean Pertwee's Alfred is the only performance I'd really call good, with David Mazouz's Bruce Wayne and maybe Robin Lord-Taylor's Penguin in the above-average category.  Lord-Taylor is having loads of fun chewing the scenery playing Oswald as kind of a cross between DeVito's Penguin and Mark Hamill's Joker, though his Penguin is straight-up crazy, killing people willy-nilly.  The comic book Penguin is eccentric but perfectly sane, making him a unique challenge amongst Batman's enemies.  There's one interesting theory I've seen online which states that Lord-Taylor's character is actually somehow the Joker, and the 'real' Oswald Cobblepot will emerge later in the series after Lord-Taylor takes a dip in an acid bath at some point.

Maybe I'll get back into the mix if I hear that the show has drastically improved, though realistically, I probably won't.  Jason Lynch recently wrote an interesting article for Adweek noting that most viewers generally don't give shows a second chance since there's simply too much else out there (both new shows and old) for them to watch instead, so if a show doesn't took an audience right off the bat, they could be toast.  "Gotham" has gotten pretty strong ratings so perhaps I can't really fault them for throwing everything at the wall early, though personally, I prefer a show like "Agents of SHIELD" that took a pretty slow build through its first half-season and has really kicked into high gear ever since.

Oh well.  I guess that's how things are in Gotham. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Joke With Two Punchlines!

Did you hear the one about the fellow with no arms who worked as the bell-ringer at a cathedral?  He performed his job by simply getting a running start and knocking his head into the bell, creating a lovely sound.  He worked at the cathedral for years until one sad day when he backed up, ran at the bell and missed it completely, causing him to lose his balance and fall off the tower to his death.  The only witness was the shopkeeper next door, and when the police came to investigate, they asked the shopkeeper if he knew the dead man.

The shopkeeper said, "I don't know his name, but his face rings a bell."

So anyway, the deceased just happened to have a twin brother, who was also missing both arms.  He was also a professional bell-ringer, using the same technique as his brother, and the cathedral hired him as the replacement.  The first two days went well but unfortunately, on the third day, he too missed the bell on a poorly-timed run and fell to his death.  The same shopkeeper was interviewed by the same policeman who investigated the earlier death, and the cop expressed amazement that this victim looked exactly like the previous victim and also died in the exact same manner.

The shopkeeper said, "Yeah, he's a dead ringer."

(credit to my uncle Glenn)