Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
I loved the original series. It was juvenile and tacky, and it couldn't have been better if Lee Majors had played Adama. The fearsome Cylons were clearly men in costumes (I never understood their little miniskirts), and the men in suits behind the scenes went mano a mano with George Lucas, who sued Glen A. Larson and Universal, claiming that the series ripped off his mighty Star Wars. It was gaudy, under-funded, beleagured crap... but damned if I wasn't there every Sunday night to watch it.
This new edition, though... holy shit. It's the stuff of geek boy dreams. For those of you tuning in late, the basic premise remains. A manmade “race” of cybernetic machines -the Cylons- rebelled decades ago. An uneasy truce existed for years between the humans and the Cylons until in one devastating, coordinated attack, humankind is nearly destroyed. The survivors, about fifty thousand from the billions that lived among the twelve colonies, flee. The only surviving battlestar, a class of vast interstellar warship, is the Galactica. It was about to be decommissioned. Its systems intentionally retro to avoid the cybernetic viruses that could infect the complex network of computers found on the more contemporary battlestars, it was deemed beyond obsolete. Ironically, its technological regression is pivotal in its survival. With the Galactica leading a ragtag fleet of interstellar vessels of all kinds, humankind makes a run for it, the Cylons a perpetual threat. Their destination is the legendary thirteenth colony, Earth. Vague scripture holds the keys to the planet’s possible location. This series, like it's predecessor, is all about faith.
The Galactica is commanded by William Adama (the ever-fomenting Edward James Olmos); the surviving ranking officer, he becomes the ostensive head of what's left of the military. Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, not playing a Native American or a worn-out hooker this time) is the only surviving cabinet officer and so assumes the role of President. They will not always agree on a course of action, but they will find a common ground (if only metaphorically).
The new series creators got a lot of flack for taking some risks, recasting two notably male roles with -gasp!- women: Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park). Capt. Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) remains the ranking combat pilot, so the fans wouldn't get their panties too twisted. The series creators make some other interesting choices, as well. The Galactica Executive Officer, Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), is an alcoholic, fighting demons that include a harpy wife and a profound lack of testoserone. And Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) is not the overt, bathrobe-wearing traitor found in the original series, but a narcissistic egocentric who betrays mankind for sex. Ah, sex ... yes, here’s where we find our most interesting new development.
The Cylons had not been idle during all those decades of isolation. They excelled at bioengineering, creating biological entities that are virtually indistinguishable from humans. And the loveliest and most seductive model, Number 6 (Tricia Helfer), has taken such complete control of Baltar, that he’s become delusional, having encounters with Number 6 that only he can experience. So as he flees with the rest of humankind, he has company: the illusion of Number 6.
What really sets this series apart from both its genesis and almost every other science fiction series produced for television is that this is not a science fiction story inhabited by humans and aliens. Instead, this is high drama with complex characters stressed to their limits, facing annihilation, battling a superior foe, and struggling to survive, all set within a dirty, futuristic background. Science fiction is ever-present, but the humanity and conflicts take precedence. The characters react to stress believably. Political conflict internal to the fleet is no less a threat than the Cylons. And there is the unrelenting risk that undetected Cylons are among the humans. Like the 9/11 terrorists who hid in plain sight, these sleeper Cylons strike without warning and inflict great harm.
And maybe more than any other science fiction series produced for television, there seems to be a genuine effort to portray a realistic environment. Ships need repair and maintenance. Fuel is an issue. People need water and sleep. This is a gritty environment that smacks of authenticity. Check out the cinematography. It's intentionally rough, with many handheld shots that evoke a feeling of documentary. Even the style of the CGI special effects add to the realism. Watch the Vipers maneuver with reaction jets, precisely how they would have to in the vacuum of space, and tell me you're not watching a live newsfeed of the battle as it rages on....
I expected nothing from Battlestar Galactica. What I got was quite simply the best show on TV... and now? Now I'm expecting nothing but the same from this:
SCI FI CHANNEL UNVEILS POWERHOUSE DEVELOPMENT SLATE
Unprecedented Commitment to Original Programming With Top Tier Creative Talent Including Jesse Alexander, Freddie Prinze Jr., Eric McCormack
NEW YORK SCI FI Channel's Mark Stern, EVP, Original Programming, announced today an aggressive slate of original scripted dramas, miniseries, alternative reality and late night series for the Channel. Already established as an industry leader with highly acclaimed and award-winning shows such as 'Battlestar Galactica,' SCI FI Channel's latest slate of high profile projects showcases top industry luminaries and offers imaginative, broad appeal entertainment.
From executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick ('Battlestar Galactica'), writer Remi Aubuchon ('24') and NBC Universal Television Studio, this new series is set over a half a century before the events that play out in 'Battlestar Galactica.' The people of the Twelve Colonies are at peace and living in a society not unlike our own, but where high-technology has changed the lives of virtually everyone for the better. But a startling breakthrough in robotics is about to occur, one that will bring to life the age-old dream of marrying artificial intelligence with a mechanical body to create the first living robot - a Cylon. Following the lives of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas (the family of William Adama, who will one day become the commander of the 'Battlestar Galactica') 'Caprica' weaves corporate intrigue, techno-action and sexual politics into television's first science fiction family saga.
So say we all.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Obi Wan never told you what happened to your uncle....
I know, fake "Spidey in the black suit" pics are a dime a dozen these days... but this still looks pretty friggin' cool. Want more Spider-Man 3 tidbits? Click here. Or here. Then go outside... seriously, you could use some sun.
Monday, April 24, 2006
It seems that Tom Cruise isn't the linguistic expert he claims to be.
Despite telling everybody Suri means "princess" in Hebrew, Hebrew linguists have confirmed that it doesn't.
Suri has only two meanings - one is a person from Syria and the other "go away" when addressed to a female. Hebrew expert Jonathan Went says, "I think it's fair to say they have made a mistake here. There are variations of the way the Hebrew name for princess is spelt but I have never seen it this way." Suri can also be translated into a Hindi boy's name, and it also means "pointy nose" in some Indian dialects and "pickpocket" in Japanese.
The crazy bastard named his daughter "pointy nosed pickpocket." I take back whatever I said about Tom Cruise, because only a genius of maniacal proportions could come up with that. I just wonder how he's gonna top it. He's gonna have to name his next kid "degenerate puppy killer" or something. Oh, like you think he won't.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Saturday, April 22, 2006
He's been called our finest television actor; he's been compared more than once to Cary Grant, but also deemed "dependably folksy." He patented the persona of the reluctant hero as his own early in his career, but also exhibited an understated flair for drama that has only deepened with age. He was a TV star, a movie star, and was never, ever married to Mariette Hartley.
Sure, he was Maverick, and the Man of the People... and of course he was Jim-Fuckin'-Rockford... but in the late-70's? James Garner was my hero.
In The Great Escape, Grand Prix and The Rockford Files, he showed me there are all sorts of heroes... and they don't all wear cool -if ill-advised- capes. Some of 'em are caustic, and cautious, and would do anything to avoid a fight... some of them are Raymond Chandler characters, I guess is what I learned... but I learned that from James -"You can never wear your pants too high"- Garner, not some pasty-faced grade school teacher, tell you what.
See, he really is a man of the people. He's that everyguy we all hope to be (guys, anyway... I can only speak for my gender, and then only when we're not talking about baseball or strip clubs. I just can't figure that crap out): smart, resourceful, and always there when you need him. He may not be able to fly, but if it'll get some thug to drop the gun and let her go? You better believe he'll convince anyone within earshot that not only can he fly, but that it bores him.
I know, I know... you have to separate the artist from the art. But come on... the art didn't fall all that far from the tree here, kids. I mean, just look at him: like many of Hollywood's greatest actors, he tends to play an extension of himself... like, oh... Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, and his mentor, Henry Fonda. Like them, we love him because of his ability to exploit his own personality in creating a part.
Jean Vallely once did an article on him for Esquire. He wrote that other "great" actors can't really touch James Garner. He said that Robert DeNiro, for instance, is probably unsuited to television stardom... honestly, do you want that guy in your living room? "On the other hand," Vallely wrote, "you love having Garner around. He becomes part of the fabric of the family. You really care about him." Where Bobby DeNiro impresses us with his skill, James Garner welcomes us with his humanity.
Someone once asked him how he wanted to be remembered. He cooly replied, "With a smile." Well, like a fistfight every episode, or a short con no one sees coming, I think it's safe to say he can count on that.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
"Alright, without going into too much detail, here's the situation:
I am TFing in my boxers, and sitting on a chair that has slightly spaced out planks. Suffice to say that part of me is now lodged, and any attempt to move just pinches the crap out of me.
Can't move, need advice, soonish.
Oh god it hurts."
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By Jack London, Collier's Special Correspondent
(First published in Collier's, May 5, 1906)
Upon receipt of the first news of the earthquake, Collier's telegraphed to Mr. Jack London-who lives only forty miles from San Francisco-requesting him to go to the scene of the disaster and write the story of what he saw. Mr. London started at once, and he sent the following dramatic description of the tragic events he witnessed in the burning city.