30 January 2010



I don’t remember why I didn’t write about the first season at all, but I think now that the show’s over I should put out some thoughts. So here ‘goes.

Dollhouse, if you chose to ignore it, is about a secret-ish organization that wipes people’s minds and imprints them with custom personalities for rich people’s fantasies. Sounds pretty great right? Yeah, nothing could ever go wrong there. Actually yeah, a lot of stuff can and definitely go wrong, which is what makes the show at all worth watching. I guess that’s normal isn’t it; entertainment isn’t entertainment without conflict. I don’t know why I’m stating the obvious.

This show definitely had its ups and downs, but since the great Joss Whedon was mostly in control of it, the ups were pretty darn high. I’d say about a third of the 26 episodes were excellent, a third were okay, and the last third, usually the first few episodes of the season, were pretty bland. I put a lot of the blame on Eliza Dushku, probably unfairly. I just don’t like her very much. Every episode that Alan Tudyk made an appearance was absolute gold. I wish he’d had a larger role; but I suppose if that had been the case his appearances would have been less powerful. Oh well.

As a sci-fi show, it was pretty okay, but I think I’m constantly comparing it to Firefly in my head and therefore it gets the short end of the stick. Topher was fun to watch as the nerd of the group, although his techy ramblings are better suited for a less educated/disenchanted audience methinks. The lower budget for this show really had an impact of the believability of the technology.

Really, this show was made for Joss Whedon fans. I don’t think the audience was comprised of much more than that. The usual female empowerment theme that Joss loves so much was there, which I guess might have brought in some more, but in order for that to happen they first need to get past the layers of nerdery and the sexy facade meant to bring more guys into it. I guess it wasn’t that much of a facade though; Joss loves to fill his shows with pretty people, and I commend him for it.

Ultimately, I think it’s a good thing the show is over. I don’t think it was really even meant to go as far as it did. It was just something Joss was doing for Eliza before he finally abandoned television for pastures that couldn’t cancel him. Still, it’s worth watching if you’re a fan.

16 January 2010

The Book of Eli


This is a movie that I thought might be kinda cool. It looked a lot like Mad Max or one of the many other post-apocalyptic movies I’ve seen. I generally like that kind of thing. On a visual level, it is pretty much one of the herd. Beyond that it’s something else.

From the start of the movie I could tell something was wrong. It began pretty slowly and boringly, introducing Denzel Washington’s character with little to no dialog. The dialog part wasn’t the negative point; it was just how boring it was. Also my nerdy self kept analyzing the scenes and noticing things that just didn’t fit in the world they’d created, adding a little bit to my perception of ridiculousness.

Once it got going it was pretty okay. There was some pretty neat violence going on, although it was perhaps a bit too stylized; I really doubt a guy with a machete could parry a chainsaw. I’m going into a bit more detail now that I think I can handle in a review so I’m going to cut to the quick here.

There aren’t many R-rated movies with F-bombs strewn around the script that deal with the main subject in this movie in such a favorable light. However, they did a pretty good job of showing both sides and making it a little less than a cut-and-dry good vs. evil story. Apparently there was a line in the trailers, “Religion is Power,” that illustrates what they got right. So the premise of the movie is pretty okay.

Where it fails is some more basic elements. Mila Kunis’ character is just a little too quick to turn herself into a mini-Eli rather than practice some self-preservation that would seem to be rather paramount in this world. She became pretty annoying pretty quick. Eli himself is just a little to stoic. The baddies are okay, especially Gary Oldman as expected. Tom Waits made an unexpected (to me) appearance that was pretty fun.

I don’t think I’ve really made my point of this movie being not very good. I can’t really do that without going into spoiler territory, and since it just came out I’m not going to do that. Just go see it if you want to and enjoy it if you can.

10 January 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


Terry Gilliam is one of my favorite directors. He was in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but was rarely seen; he did the funky animations. As such, he has an eye for wacky and entrancing visuals, mostly in a very musty sort of dirty universe. The Imaginarium shows he can also pull off a very nice clean look as well, although he keeps the slightly horrifying off-kilter feeling so very present in films like Brazil and 12 Monkeys.

This is a beautiful film; beautiful sets, visuals, and people. The majority of the real world is shown in a dirty setting with fanciful costumes amid slightly seedier parts of what I believe is England. In the Imaginarium, which is actually (mostly) the inside of the Doctor’s mind, the scenes are very reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or perhaps Mirrormask, displaying a variety of mythical and fanciful landscapes.

The people, for me, were the best part. Possibly the fact that will bring the most people in to see this film is that it was Heath Ledger’s final performance. It’s a good one; not quite as good as his role in The Dark Knight, but it could have been if he had been around for the whole making of the film. He died half-way through. His scenes are all outside of the Imaginarium, and his character is replaced by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell inside. This of course was not originally the plan, but it was made to work, possibly improving the film as a whole. We also have Lily Cole’s elfinly beautiful face to look at, which might have been my favorite part of the movie. Tom Waits plays the devil and does a smashing job of it. Mini-Me’s in it too.

The story is not the most original in the book. Like Avatar the film relies primarily on its visuals to make itself worth your while, but it’s definitely less derivative than Cameron’s blockbuster. What I really liked about it was its refusal to explain everything for the audience. I left a little confused, but that’s okay! I think it’s better for a movie to leave some questions for further viewing.

A fitting send-off for an actor who ended too soon.

09 January 2010

Concert Review: Evangelia Amerika at JAXX 2010-01-08

I’m not the biggest Behemoth fan in the world or anything, but when I saw them listed on Jaxx’s website along with depressive black-metallers Shining, I marked down the date. Unfortunately Shining couldn’t make it to the states due to some kind of problem with their work visas, which totally sucks. I still went though, since Behemoth is pretty dang awesome, and the other headliner, SepticFlesh, also seemed quite enjoyable; so I got in line at the gathering of the black shirts and had my ear drums flattened.

Union Street

As usual the show opened with a few local acts. The first one was a very young punk band who admitted straight off the bat that they were nothing like any of the other bands. They spoke the truth. They kinda sucked. They played a few covers and probably some originals, but I don’t really know punk. The front-man-child came into the crowd at one point and incited a small mosh which forced me away from where I wanted to be in the crowd. I didn’t make it to the front of the line this time so I was somewhere in the middle, not front-row. This would plague me throughout the night.

Blood Mountain

So finally the kiddy-punkers, after playing the Power Rangers theme song for their exit, left the stage and were replaced by another young group that was a bit more fun. The guitarist looked like Michael Cera and the bassist/vocalist looked like a guy I work with. It might even have been him; I don’t know him well at all. The drummer’s kit was about two feet tall it seemed; I couldn’t see it over the people in front of me. They broke out with a Mastodon cover from Leviathan, which I thought was very cool but didn’t seem to catch with the crowd very well. Most other their other songs were Mastodon covers as well, with two originals. The bass guy introduced them as The Worst Day Ever and The Best Day Ever, with the first one having a second title of Whispering Eye, which got a lot of laughs. He was quite funny throughout their set actually. A very fun performance.



I wasn’t sure if these guys were local or not when they got onto the stage; they sounded very professional. I guess they’ve been around a while. They played a solid slightly-blackened death metal, unfortunately without very much distinguishing them from the hordes of similar bands out there. The frontman looked a bit like Barney from Napalm Death, but they didn’t sound anything like that.

Lightning Swords of Death


The replacements for Shining hail from California instead of Sweden, but also play a sort of black metal, though not really of a comparable style. The guitar sound was really gnarly in a good way, and the vocalist (far left in the photo), while he looked like some sort of skinhead biker, let out a pretty awesome scream. Their name is pretty stupid though. Also I would have preferred Shining.



Apparently this is one of those bands that took a long hiatus and then got back together to be more awesome. I’ve only heard their latest effort, Communion, so I don’t really know how the eras compare. From what I gather, like Lykathea Aflame and Nile, they play music with Egyptian/Sumerian themes, which is pretty cool. As far as style goes they’re basically progressive death metal I think. They were very well received by the audience and rocked pretty darn hard, but at this point of the show I was very close to the stage-left speaker; I could physically feel my right ear-drum vibrate. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring ear plugs. Most of the music just sounded like a constant explosion. At one point the frontman told the crowd to divide into two halves, and then run into the center; this is called the wall of death. It really sucks for the guys in the middle, and I was pretty close. I didn’t suffer too much though.



There aren’t a whole lot of live bands out there nowadays that still use corpse-paint. Behemoth are one of the few that really use it well. Unfortunately for most of the set I could barely see them, even though I was only a few feet from the stage. Being short sucks. As for the music, until the encore I was still two feet away from the massive speaker to the right of me. I could barely make out any notes. Still I recognized a few songs and the crowd was extremely into all of it; some of the guys near the front looked like they were in the presence of gods. About 3/4ths of the way through the set the band left the stage and came back with fake blood leaking from their mouths; brutal. Who knew Poland could produce a band this ridiculous. I moved toward the back before the encore so I could get to the merch table easily afterwards, and I think I should have gone for the back at the start of the show. There’s a raised section with tables and a railing in the back of the venue, and the sound was way better there. Also no moshing. I know what I’m doing next time.

So now my neck hurts a little and I can hear almost nothing in my right ear. Hopefully it won’t last too long.

EDIT: Here’s a taste of what the Behemoth performance was like, originally posted at the DC Heavy Metal blog.