Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Some Heroes are..." redux

Subject: Cinema
I was on a bit of a "hero" theme this week, sort of by accident or coincidence, I guess.

I didn't quite finish up Ken Burns' opus yet, though it's been recording on the DVR. I had a few more items on the DVR I wanted to give a go instead, seeing as I figured they'd make for, well, a "hero" theme. Heh.

First up was the premiere of a new TV show this season. Go figure, it's Yet Another Remake Of A Cheesy 70's Show. It's got some production (and acting) crossover with "Battlestar Galact-oh-yeah". It's probably the least likely thing I should have found myself curious about this season, and that's saying a lot because there's a lot of crap out there.

Yes, I'm talking about the new "Bionic Woman".

Now that your eyes have stopped rolling to the back of your head and you're continuing to read, hear me out! *grin* It's not that bad. Like Galact-oh-yeah, it's supposed to be a "darker" (though not really that dark) re-imagining of the Jamie Summers "du-du-du-du-duuu"-athon spun off from the non-inflation-adjusted "Six Million Dollar Man". This time, though, she's been been suddenly thrust into a weird technological underworld (with some mild "Blade Runner" atmosphere homage) where she suddenly has cyborg super-powers and an obligation to "save the world".

Though she's going to have an opponent. Who's also probably going to be a bit of a mentor. Galact-oh-yeah's re-imagined Starbuck is playing the "first" bionic woman, who has become an evil, insane fugitive. And she's doing a rather marvelous job of that, I think. Quite a lot of fun, and an instant transfer of "oh-yeah" over to this one.

Of course, there's a layer of schmaltz, what with her superstar-surgeon boyfriend who bionicized her in the first place, her familial responsibilities for her younger sister, etc, etc. But if they can keep up a tone of conflict and bad-assitude (and a little nice-assitude doesn't hurt *ahem*), then this might be some fun popcorn to fill the time until the real return of Galact-oh-yeah in January.

Anyway, enough about that, on to the movies...

"Superman Returns" -- That one just kind of came and went at the theatres, huh? And I can kind of see why. There's nothing particularly bad about it; in fact, it was fun, well performed, and well visualized. A good escapist fantasy world with enough detail and design to help suspend disbelief. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was particularly fun, as he applies a great presence to what is otherwise a goofy role. It's got a smidgen less camp than the Christopher Reeve movie predecessors, though, and that's for it's benefit as well.

But it didn't really achieve much else beyond that. There's an assumption that you know the story and the major players because it jumps right in to a "story in progress", with is perfectly fine considering it's "Superman" after all. There was nothing particularly inspiring about the storyline -- just another kind of serial sort of plot, and despite the attempt at really making a personal "shocking" revelation, it never really connected on a personal "why should I give a shit" level. Not to say that they weren't enjoyable to watch. But it's pretty much just another bit of popcorn entertainment. Maybe the first of a recurring series, maybe not. I won't be holding my breath until the next one, but I'll probably watch it when it shows up.

Finally, "Hollywoodland" -- a 1950's period piece with some post-noirish overtones surrounding the investigation into the apparent suicide of George Reeves, the star of the old TV version of "Superman". Ben Affleck plays Reeves, and does a fine job putting a backstage face on an earnest (albiet cynical) B-actor trying to break through, but who got stuck (and ultimately typecast) in role that, while extremely popular with "children and shut-ins" (as one line put it), was a bit of a silly day-job that didn't quite take him where he wanted to go.

The events surrounding his death were a little bit sordid, as he was involved with the wife of the head of MGM Studios, and there was always a sort of dark underworld surrounding the efforts to maintain an "image" for the studio system and those involved with it. And the fact that it's a story that isn't particularly well known, and might even be a surprise to some, is probably the one thing that keeps any level of viewer interest.

Atmospherically, it's well done and captures great "period" details. Perfomances overall were fine and not particularly noticeable in either direction. But it's the slow reveal of the "behind-the-scenes" parts of the story that held my curiosity. Kind of like that one a few years ago about Bob Crane of "Hogan's Heroes", though nowhere near as wierd and creepy.

The attempts to tie together a broader story about heroes and fathers and dashed childhood dreams and whatnot were kind of transparent and not ultimately the sort of thing I connected with. I guess I must have been more interested in the gossipy aspects than the drama, which is a bit of a surprise, but then again, maybe it's all it really had.

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