Archives for the month of: December, 2012

alias season 2 finale hong kongRaul – I have seen Sydney in Hong Kong and you were right. I knew it when I saw it.

Sydney’s been out of it for 2 years?

What and where has she been?
I’m guessing this is why they’ve been setting up that hokey regression therapy so much. How was her mother involved – because she must have been. What about Sloane? Why couldn’t the CIA and her dad and Vaughn find her? Because obviously, we have to find out in Season 3. Right?

Vaughn is married?!?

This is a great season closer. It seems this is a great opportunity to shake things up, introduce new characters, get rid of old ones in a sensible but expedient manner. Abrams better not cock it up in Season 3. I am heavily invested. I do not want to feel I’ve wasted my time.



So I have some more work to account for. Also, I have some penance to do for not trying very hard in the face of difficulty.

  • The Butterfly (Le Papillon): Overly sentimental French film from about ten years ago. Some choice moments between a repressed elderly man and a lower-class child he embarks on an unlikely road trip with. Best exchanges were when one or the other was saying inappropriate things for their age and the other character was left to fumble for a response.
  • Mad Men: I’m pacing myself through s3. They seem to have begun a new way to close each episode: they finish up with something dreamlike or a conversation that would sum up a theme in a roundabout way – and then cut to a truncated scene with trivial dialogue before rolling closing credits. What is up with that? Just keeping us on our toes?
  • An X-Men cartoon: I apparently tried to watch this before, forgot about it, and tried to watch it again. Most cartoons are for kids. This was not an exception.
  • The Stand: I recalled this Stephen King mini-series far more fondly than I re-experienced it. It feels cheap and badly dated for the nineties. I enjoyed Laura San Giacomo as the conflicted damned soul and Rob Lowe as the selfless deaf mute. That last one had to have been a stretch.  I wanted more of society collapsing and less silliness concluding with the literal Hand of God saving the day.
  • Face/Off: I have already discussed my failure in completing this assignment. Abandoned at about the 15:00 mark.
  •  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: I quit after three minutes. This was in the middle of my impatience phase. I promise to go back. I saw this in its original run at the theater, though I believe I was bored then as well.
  • Ghost Fever: Sherman Hemsley passed and I attempted to pay my private respects by watching this eighties show about him as a cop chasing ghosts. I fled after ten minutes.
  • Creepshow 2: More Stephen King disappointment. I love the original Creepshow and feared this one for good reason. It’s cheap, poorly written, and juvenile, perhaps purposefully, save for all the gore and tits. Still, the gore and tits were most effective in the second installment about potsmoking youths looking for a good time in an off-season lake and finding a very bad time. I cop to liking that installment. I had to resort to housework for the other two parts to push myself through.
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth: Well, I have never been a big fan of Nicolas Roeg, and this was really a slog for me to finish, but I’m glad I finally checked it off my list. Kudos for the director for managing to get cock shots from David Bowie, Bernie Casey, and Rip Torn! But even I need more than that, and the rest was mostly repetitive and overly indulgent. Maybe the biggest disappointment of the month.
  • A Town Called Panic: More unfinished business. Too frenzied for me. Sorry, Mr. Lousy.
  • Slacker: Dismissed after fifteen minutes! I really love Tom Linklater, but not here! I had always heard this was fantastic and a harbinger of greater things to come. I found it extremely uneven and even more unfunny. It smelled like British comedy to me. We know how I feel about that.
  • Planet of the Vampires: I watched this one from a commenter’s suggestion. It was indeed better than Queen of Blood, but I maintain the latter is more suggestive of Alien. Also, the ending had a wonderful twist that Raúl had not seen coming! Go Mario Bava!
  • The Group: I watched this twice! Once alone and once with company. It’s slow and all over the place, but fuck is it good. Sidney Lumet knows how to work with actors even when he is making a mediocre adaptation of a Mary McCarthy novel. Attention: Jessica Walter is here, as is a gorgeous Candace Bergen and some lesser known actresses who give great performances. Also, Larry Hagman is on hand as a cad. My first viewing foretold his passing. The second was a sort of tribute. He and Candace Bergen’s closing scene is loaded and years ahead of its time.
  • Guys and Balls: I watched this as a gay feel-good movie as counter-effect to Making the Boys, about the making of the play/movie, The Boys in the Band. Almost everyone in it died from AIDS in the eighties and I felt despondent, strangely guilty, and in need of a ray of sunshine. This German film about a gay soccer team fit the bill. It was highly formulaic and irritatingly optimistic. In short, it wasn’t very good but I needed the comfort. Mr. Lousy knows how that goes.
Francie gets evil.

Francie gets evil.

I have 5 episodes left of Season 2 of Alias. It’s still pretty entertaining. I’ve stopped grumbling about Sydney’s impulsiveness and gullibility. I don’t question anymore why Sydney, Vaughn and Jack Bristow are able to continually able to run their rogue missions with seemingly no consequences. Why have I stopped? Because the show continues to surprise and deliver the escapist spy thriller goods. It seems like there are fewer disguises but it’s still plenty fun. I wonder if there were more women watching because when Jennifer Garner is in disguise she has less disguise than normal like the episode with Sydney looking crazy hot in not one but two lingerie getups. It seems geared to thank the boyfriends/husbands for watching.

SD6 is blown to smithereens
I must admit I thought they would drag out the destruction of SD6 over several seasons and was pleasantly surprised when they sped up the take down. It cleans up the storytelling. Having Sydney constantly getting her counter-mission was becoming tiresome.

Sydney and Vaughn get it on
I also thought they’d draw out the Sam and Diane, will they or won’t they plot with Sydney and Vaughn. So glad they didn’t. I adore Michael Vartan. He’s just charming and their chemistry is great. His bro talk about girls with Greg Grunberg’s Weiss adds some nice levity.

Evil Francie and other character twists
Just when I was also tiring of boring, dopey Francie they kill her and replace her with an evil doppelganger! Love it! I’d much rather see Francie sleep-no-tizin’ Bradley Cooper’s gentle Will than listen to her talk about her dumb restaurant. By the way – her success and becoming profitable 6 months after opening may be the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen on the show. I’d believe in a Renaissance Italian could predict cell phones before I believed an inexperienced cook could turn a profit that quickly.

I also like Will as an analyst in the CIA, the resurrection of Emily Sloane and the inevitable reveal of Irena Derevko as a baddie. I like very much that Dixon does not jump on board the CIA train right away. It’s a little realism in a pretty unrealistic show.

They got rid of the second opener!
They’ve gotten rid of the first opener and replaced it with a straight recap. It makes more sense and serves the show better.

Guest star power
Gotta give it up – they’ve got some terrific guest stars
Faye Dunaway – the ruthless SD internal investigator who turns out to be a double agent
Christian Slater – as the wholly likable code cracker abducted by Sloane and Derevko
Rutger Hauer – as the temporary and frightening Sloane replacement
Ethan Hawke – as the face/off double agent – I kind of hate Ethan Hawke but he was fine here
Richard Lewis – playing it straight as the CIA internal affairs guy investigating Vaughn

Looking forward to the Season 2 finale. I’m guessing it’s a doozy.


A not-as-brief-as-I’d-like rundown of my Netflix streaming. Note: Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime almost merit their own summaries.

  • Deep Impact: This has not made much of an impact. I’ve been on this one for two weeks and still have almost an hour to go. I just don’t care about anyone in the movie and the apocalypse preparations are more tiresome than timely.
  • Theremin: Holy fuck this documentary was a surprise. I had no idea how the theremin originated, nor what kind of fantastical life its creator led. There is a Cold War/Soviet Union twist to this story that baffles the mind. Plus, Theremin himself maintains his enigmatic self straight through to the end.
  • The Walking Dead: I am closing in on the halfway mark of the second season. I have to be in the  mood for dread, which is really all I get from the series, so I haven’t plowed through it like I have with other cable shows that I’m a late arrival to. This is a good thing.
  • The Sarah Silverman Program: I’m still in s1. I’ve watched scattered episodes before, so some are being re-experienced, though I don’t think viewing them in the context of the whole series makes any difference. It’s funny but a little too mean for me. I appreciate the songs.
  • Louie: I enjoy it, but not nearly as much as I’m supposed to. Louie feels a little too mean as well, though his meanness sometimes gets directed toward a showcase of Louis C.K.’s own self-assessed patheticness.
  • Wilfred: What’s with all the mean-spirited comedies that I’m watching one after the other? This one is probably on the chopping block. I tire quickly of mean best friends and people who put up with them, even if the best friend is an Australian comedian in a dog outfit.
  • The Brother from Another Planet: This one I’m enjoying far more than I did The Man Who Fell to Earth (slog!), though I have to watch both slow-moving films in installments. I’m about midway through this John Sayles film.
  • Black Widow: I saw this in the eighties and didn’t remember much. Why?!? It’s really a terrific film about female drive, envy, friendship, and multi-layered betrayal. Theresa Russell never really impressed me, but I like her here a lot, sort of a mash-up of Kathleen Turner with a shade of Shirley MacLaine. She jumps from sophisticated socialite to Southern new money to Malibu Barbie™ with each new conquest/prey, with an undercurrent of single-minded ambition. How can ruthlessness and regret stand so closely? And Debra Winger – this is one of her best roles. The character and the actress are perfect complements to the Black Widow, Theresa Russell. Bob Rafelson managed to make a fantastic film noir in the middle of the eighties! This isn’t as good as his Body Heat from 1981, but what is? This came as a rare pleasant surprise in my revisiting old movies. I would absolutely put the scene of Theresa Russell swimming nude in a pool and extending her hand out like the poisonous reach of a jellyfish into my top ten femme fatale moments. And I have a lot of femme fatale moments!
  • The End: Burt Reynolds stars and directs. I also saw this one decades ago, though maybe not in its entirety. A few things stood out in my adult viewing. One, Burt Reynolds really is a good comic actor, and he really knows how to share with other actors on the screen. Two, the pacing is way off, with some comedic scenes stretching twice as long as they should. Three, some of the unfunny segments are also shockingly racist, particularly one with a Mexican “beaner.” While not wincing, I did enjoy all the co-stars. I am making a mental note of discussing this further.
  • Moog: This doc on the Moog synthesizer is boring the fucking daylights out of me, and I’m not even to the thirty-minute mark, meaning that this is in contention for a spot on Raúl Cries Uncle, as in I may not force myself to finish it. The clever, winking opening credits gave me such hope for a contemporary look at a beloved artifact, but Robert Moog himself cannot hold the screen for more than ten seconds before he turns into one of the more unpleasant drones that his creation has the capability of making . He’s like my industrial ed teacher whose lack of presentation actually gave birth to a lack of interest in how things work. Moog and my industrial ed teacher were good at making things, but not inspiring the casual listener. Note: Moog is actually more engaging discussing Theremin!
  • Reel Injun: I am about a third into this documentary about representation of American Indians in American cinema, and am becoming more engrossed as I go. I can’t tell if this is arranged chronologically or by theme. I’m hoping for TV to get some time alongside films.
  • Equilibrium: I stopped after about three minutes with a brainless shoot-em-up opening that made me think I’d fallen upon a lost eighties action movie, not the smarter sci-fi Michael Fassbender film that I’d banked on. It’s in the endangered pile.
  • Nikita: I’m halfway through a rocky s2, but the midpoint seems to have picked up by changing the game and introducing some new though predictable alliances. Eps 12 and 13 have nearly made up for the bad season (shoot-em-up scenes ad nauseam that may have cut short my patience for Equilibrium) thus far, though I’m still pining for last season. I have hope. Mr. Lousy, you should give this one a go once you’ve run your course with Alias.
  • Archer: Now this is a spy show that knows what it’s doing! Thank you again, Mr. Lousy, for steering me here!

Alias – First Opening Sequence
Here’s the backstory.
alias first opener

See how fun the costumes are?

alias frist opener 2

Where do you think you’re going?
We have more opening credits to do!

alias opening credit

I’m about in the middle of Season 2 of Alias. I have a lot of questions but one thing keeps bugging me – why are there two opening sequences for the show? And why does the second come in 8-10 minutes into the show? Am I the only one who is annoyed by this?

The first opener covers necessary – if redundant for fans – information about the complicated backstory. Sydney and Jack Bristow are double agents for the CIA, Sloane is the head bad guy and Vaughn is a CIA cutie. The voice over explains while showing Sydney in her myriad disguises, kicking ass, and acquaints us with the other leads. I get it.

Is the second opener really necessary? This is the bit with the pulsing music and flashing letters in the Alias logo. It’s not visually that interesting. The only necessity I can see is that it’s a credit sequence with the actors names. Necessary to be sure but really? It’s so disruptive after they’ve started the story. It feels off to me. Can’t they have the names over the opening scenes like everyone else or hey – be really clever and incorporate it into the first opening?

It just seems like a waste of time. Another example of JJ Abrams self-indulgent excess.



We’ve all watched it. Discuss. I will start.

Mr. L – Joel Schumacher is the crappiest crap director that ever crapped out a movie. Trespass is the best evdience of this as fact.

Face:Off posterSo I’m finally sitting down, post-work, post-workout, content to settle into a show with no  expectations other than a final unraveling of the day, yet before the 30-minute mark, I’m ready to throw in the towel. Not just ready – I do give up, without much of a fight, which is uncharacteristic of me. I usually only storm out of movies at the movies. (Steve Martin and Queen Latifah’s Bringin’ Down the House and whatever Scary Movie parody that I got talked into factor as two features that I cinematically abandoned.)

At home upon finding something intolerable, I usually grit my teeth and bore my way through to the end like the trouper I envision myself, often because I can brush out a dog or cut my toenails or focus on something, anything productive while I suffer. No more. I can’t sit through John Woo’s 1997 Face/Off  – even while I’m assiduously seeding a pomegranate.

And I’m attaching blame for this personal failure – following a lousy show to its end credits – to the always available streaming series Mad Men. When I am feeling dissatisfied with any viewing, a supercilious voice in the back of my head, not quite my subconscious but close to it, crows:

“This is absolute crap. You know you would rather be watching Mad Men. Yeah, you’re trying to pace yourself and not burn through it like Breaking Bad or Battlestar Galactica, but c’mon, you’re only in season three, and don’t you want to watch something made by a team who knew what they were doing and gave a shit?”

Sit through more exposions and slow-motion gunfights or check in with Sal and Joan? This is no contest.

Sit through more exposions and slow-motion gunfights or check in with Sal and Joan? This is no contest. The cups that they are drinking from hold more interest for me than the myriad of extras getting winged in a John Woo’s bombastic battles.

I don’t switch directly to Mad Men because I do exhibit some degree of self-control, and the series works better for me on a weekly rotation anyway. Sometimes, heaven help me, I just shut off the screen.

This is precisely what happened with my aborted attempt at Face/Off. Oh, how many times in the 90s did I glance at this at Nationwide Video and dismiss it immediately? Score one for instinct.

Still, I do find myself in the mood for an action film now and again, and even more often do I have an inexplicable craving for a Nicolas Cage performance, knowing full well what I’m in for. Face/Off should have been my ticket.

Oh, but how it was not. While John Woo is sometimes described as setting an operatic tone as a director, I find him simply bombastic, as if I’m being screamed at – literally by the actors he has no control over, and figuratively by his overblown presentation. OK, Nicolas Cage is going nutso; that is what I signed on for. But do I have to see it in slow motion?

Anyway, I may just as well leave with the scene that left me begging for mercy. I stopped somewhere during the endless gun battle inside the airport hangar.

Yes, even Margaret Cho found a place in that gun-crazy melee. Does she have a take on participating in Face/Off? Because CCH Pounder sure did!

I feel empty and impotent in my inability to pronounce definitive condemnations. I can’t even say that I hated Face/Off because I didn’t really watch it. I really couldn’t. I’m a purist and a completist, and Mad Men is ruining my relationships with terrible shows.


Oh so many moons ago I said I was going to watch King of the Hill from start to finish. For the record I’m on episode 7. The thing is it’s not that I didn’t enjoy KotH, the thing is I was blown away by how good it was from the beginning. I feel like I have to really appreciate it and watch every episode for feat of missing something. And if you think I’m kidding even the slightest you obviously don’t know about my Simpsons filing system.


Alias first aired Sunday, September 30, 2001. Think about that date. Sydney talking about her patriotism, questioning who is a real patriot, and her strained relationship with her father are all pretty interesting in this context. I also think people just wanted to see a super talented American spy succeeding week after week. I am mildly interested and pretty well entertained by everyone’s search for this dopey Rambaldi stuff but it pales in comparison to my enthrallment with Peggy Hill’s boiler room/office, Hank’s narrah urethra and Bobby doing anything. I can have it on but I don’t have to savor every second of it. I can still have a life.

I remember wanting to watch Alias because of my aforementioned affection for spy stories and bad ass females and had heard good things. But I didn’t and then I soon went to pastry school. School started so early I had to leave at 5:45am. I worked right out of school on a dinner shift at a hotel and my veiwing habits went haywire for a few years. I missed many shows that debuted that year – American Idol, Firefly, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, Monk. Remember this was pre-DVR so taping something was kind of a pain I did however manage to watch – Late World with Zach.

I can’t remember when or why I added Alias to my Netflix instant queue except that I like Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper and I always kind of wanted to watch it. I like spy stories and empowered female leads who kick butt. I’d also read things here and there so SPOILER ALERT – I knew Sidney Bristow’s mom was alive, a baddie and played by Lena Olin. I’d also heard through the grapevine that the series took a dip into the absurd with the final season focusing on some philosopher’s stone or the like. So not so much into that in a spy story context but my sister told me the first couple of seasons were really fun. DORIS W – that’s all I know! So into the queue.

I started watching the week of Thanksgiving and just made it through the first season. I’m not in the right mood to do any heavy duty analysis here but here are some thoughts. Raul and dare I dream – Doris W – may want to comment.

– Bradley Cooper is soooo gentle! The caddish dick from Wedding Crashers and The Hangover is nowhere to be seen.
– Jennifer Garner runs A LOT. No wonder she’s so fit. She’s in most of the scenes and at some point is at a dead sprint most of the episodes.
– Francie is kind of a dope and a little self-involved. But I buy that she would be a good roommate for Sydney because of those traits.
– Despite learning that she was duped for the last seven years by SD-6, Sydney continues to be duped by her mom, by various reports that her dad is a bad guy, her ex-boyfriend. As my sister said, for a spy she sure gets fooled a lot.
– the guy who plays Sark was also on the Vampire Diaries as a bad guy vampire hunter and is now on Once Upon a Time as Dr. Frankenstein. I know Raul and Doris W don’t give a shit about these shows but it’s kind of fun seeing him so young.
– all the fake organizations are kind of annoying – SD-6, The Alliance, K Directorate, The Triad – god I get it but still – eh.
– I am impressed by how many global locations LA and the Valley can stand in for. I’m assuming they never left Los Angeles or Orange County.
– Why are the Alias fight scenes so much better than on Buffy? Does it really come down to budget?
– This show is very well cast.
– Season 1 finale revealing The Man is Laura Bristow/Irina Derevko is an awesome season closer and terrific reveal.

I’ve just started watching Season 2. Lena Olin is fantastic. I struggled through Lost so I know J.J. Abrams never met an overwrought mythology he didn’t like. The Rambaldi stuff is already pretty prominent and I knew beforehand it was going there but I was surprised they introduced it so early.

While I am enjoying the show, it is also not so engaging and complex that I can’t burn through several episodes at a time while attending to other matters – email, Words with Friends, making dinner. For now, it suits my viewing needs just fine.

November 2012 movies

Getting back on track again with my movie watching. Colder weather and a holiday usually do the trick. My family are movie people – over Thanksgiving we saw a movie a day – Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Death at a Funeral. I’m trying to get through my Netflix queue. There are a lot of classics on there and a ton of documentaries. I’m trying to balance it out so I can get through my queue – a classic, a doc, something fun. My only rule is if I get a DVD and I’m not feeling it or I know I’m not going to watch it in a week I send it back and but back on my queue. I’ve got enough going on – I don’t need Netflix guilt too.

Ok here we go –

108 – From Here to Eternity – Crushing on Lancaster
109 – Casino Royale – Bond Craig refresher
110 – Quantum of Solace – despite Craig, dull
111 – Skyfall – Beautifully shot Bond
112 – Cool Hand Luke – Anti-hero’s hero
113 – The Debt – lies gonna getcha
114 – Helvetica – love specific docs
115 – Argo – Affleck can direct
116 – Silver Linings Playbook – Russell consistently great
117 – Source Code – kinda dumb, confusing
118 – Death at a Funeral (original British version) – beats American version
119 – The Rock – Cage, Connery – FUN!