Charmed, I’m sure

*I would recommend reading the review of the first season before reading this one as this review assumes you are familiar with the characters to some degree.

If you read my review of the first season of Charmed, you know that starting the series ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. Far from being the teen soap the WB was so well known for, the adventures of Prue, Piper, and Phoebe as they worked to exterminate evil in the first year of the gaining of their powers proved to be delightfully unexpected. In that same vein, season two began with a startling revelation for me: Prue was my favorite character.

I think toward the end of season one I just had to admit that she was more than just OK, she was cool.

Prue taking on a demon. One of the many things you just have to love about the oldest Charmed One.

Prue taking on a demon. One of the many things you just have to love about the oldest Charmed One.

She was the kind of older sister I wish I was. She was cool under pressure, successful, and knew what she wanted. Not to mention, she was sassy and I am totally not. She did manage to annoy me in the season two premiere when, because of what happened at the end of season one, she hesitated to use her powers. Which of course almost resulted in the deaths of the Charmed Ones. But then she came around and again became that cool-under-pressure chick I have a girl-crush on and restored my world to balance. Continue reading

I’ve Been Charmed

One of the WB’s biggest hits, Charmed held the record for the network’s highest rated debut until Smallville premiered. Aside from Tarzan and 7th Heaven the WB had what can only be called a stunningly anti-Mac line-up over the years. Between shows like Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, and One Tree Hill it was like diving into a pool of all the gooey, girl-squealing, schmoopiness that would make me want to poke my eyes out with a dull pencil.

Charmed is a series I’ve never watched before, had absolutely no interest in, and had no reason to watch. It’s always seemed to be a very chick-oriented show, which I stay away from like the plague. Give me explosions, brutal fight scenes, and a heavy helping of science fiction and I’m in entertainment heaven. Give me over-dramatized love stories, over-emotional female characters, or even just a mostly female cast and I’ll either contemplate allowing my head to be used for batting practice or want to enact the aforementioned interaction between a dull pencil and my eyes – it’s a toss-up. And yet, despite my impression of this show as just another member of that category, somehow the idea of watching Charmed got stuck in my mind. And since that could only be remedied by watching the show, I took the plunge, albeit not happily. Continue reading

Fat Man in a Little Shirt

You can’t honestly tell me after seeing that picture you weren’t humming the tune “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” to yourself.

It took me until this morning to finally see the season premiere of Burn Notice because my DVR has been having some pretty major issues. It likes to freeze at a certain time, thus missing anything it was supposed to be recording until it’s reset. I know, it’s time to get a new one.

The important thing is that I finally got to see it and it was everything I hoped it would be. Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) returns with a vengeance, causing what is, I’m certain, a large number of women to spontaneously ovulate and wish their lives were just a little more dangerous (it’s all in the smile). Then of course Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) shows up in that little shirt and all bets are off. Fionna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) appearance is just icing on the cake.

I don’t want to talk too much about this episode because I’m not one to give spoilers and I firmly believe that if you haven’t yet watched this series, you should. As a matter of fact, if you haven’t watched the USA Network lately you are missing out on some of the best programming on TV. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve been so captivated by one network. Between Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Monk (which I don’t watch regularly, but only because I want to see it from season one) I can only think the executives at USA are so high they’re not paying attention or they’ve been replaced by space aliens in the first wave of an invasion. Whatever the reason, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing changes anytime soon.

If you need a basic rundown, see my post here. Believe me, this show is well worth your time. And, just to make things easy for you, you can find the first season on DVD here. If you’d rather rent I’m quite certain you can find it on Netflix.

Fringe Benefits

As anybody who’s been reading this blog for any amount of time knows, I love The X-Files. I’m absolutely out of my mind crazy impatient for the new movie to hit theaters this month and I will be there when it premieres at my local theater. There is no way I’m waiting for the second showing. I’ll be there alone if I have to.

I’m still in love with The X-Files but I’m also looking forward to a new show that I can only describe as “The X-Files on crack”. It premieres in September, it’s co-created by J.J. Abrams, and the $10,000,000 pilot episode has been leaked (though I really think it was intentional).

From what I can tell, this show is well on it’s way to being one of my favorites. It’s got just about everything in it that I loved about The X-Files. There’s a mythology, the FBI is involved, and there’s science (yes, I’m a geek and proud of it).

I’m not going to give any spoilers for the pilot, but I’m so going to pimp this show until it premieres (and probably throughout the first season). Keep your eye out for news about it and as we get closer to September I’ll be sure to remind you to set your DVRs and VCRs (if you still have one) to record this show. And obviously if I find out any interesting information I’ll be passing it along to you.

Tarzan in the Big City

When I was in middle school I started reading the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My dad had the whole set (all 24 of them) and I read them all. I was totally obsessed and to this day I lament the disappearance of most of those books. Because of the Tarzan series I read more books by Edgar Rice Burroughs so I know who Frank Frazetta is and I’m not lost when the name John Carter of Mars comes up. Edgar Rice Burroughs may be my own personal most-read author.

I’ll admit, his writing is a bit cheesy, mostly in the dialogue area. Of course, I’ve never read anything else written between the 1910s and 1940s – that I know of – so it could just be the era it was written in. But the fact of the matter is that Burroughs could write a good pulpy adventure story and I loved every minute I spent reading the Tarzan series, not to mention his numerous other works.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m bringing up books written by a man who’s been dead since 1950. Well, it’s because I finally watched the WB’s Tarzan – all eight episodes – and I feel compelled to review.

If you know nothing about Tarzan, you’re about to get a quick schooling (and shame on you for not knowing the real story of Tarzan, not the Disney-fied version). Lord and Lady Greystoke (AKA John and Alice Clayton) were on their way to the west coast of Africa were John was to investigate the treatment of black British subjects by another European power; they never made it. They were instead marooned in the middle of nowhere on the coast of Africa. Within nine months John, Jr. was born. A year later John, Sr. and his wife were both dead and the baby was being cared for by a great ape that had lost her own offspring in an accident.

The baby grew up as an ape and was called Tarzan. During that time he taught himself to read and write English from books his parents had brought with them and were still in the hut his father had built (though obviously he didn’t know anything about his real parents). About 20 years later he was introduced to the American Jane Porter and her father Archimedes, as well as several supporting characters that don’t really matter in a brief history of the real story of Tarzan. BTW, you saw that right, Jane is actually an American in the original story. Anyway, many mishaps and adventures befall the group, Tarzan saves Jane, Tarzan falls in love with Jane, eventually Tarzan and Jane get married and have a son named Jack, which is, in itself, a whole other story.

Being as it is that I know the original Tarzan story I’m probably harder to please than most people when it comes to film and TV adaptations involving one of my favorite characters. Even before I read the books I liked the idea of Tarzan (yes, at one point I wanted to be Jane so I could swing through the trees with Tarzan). So forgive me if I concentrate too much on odd details as this review goes on.

I’ve long felt that there hasn’t been a really good Tarzan adaptation to film or TV – at least not recently. Greystoke annoyed me (and I’ll tell you why when I get around to reviewing that film) and almost every other adaptation has been utterly forgettable. I’m not kidding, I know I’ve seen a few and I remember nothing about any of them. It’s a travesty, really, and one I’d like to see remedied. Enter WB’s Tarzan.

Continue reading

When You’ve Been Burned, Call on the Man with the Killer Chin

Everybody knows spies are interesting. How else would you explain the thousand – and counting – 007 movies, Mission: Impossible, and the Bourne trilogy? We are obsessed with spies, the things they do, and how they live. What we’ve never really seen before is what happens when a spy is cut loose, or given what is known as a “burn notice”.

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a spy with a major problem: Somebody has put a burn notice out on him and in doing so has effectively wiped him out. His accounts are frozen, if he leaves Miami he’s dead, and the people he used to work with and for refuse to talk to him. He has essentially become persona non grata and he wants to know who arranged it and why.

As interesting as the premise is, I started watching this show for one reason: Bruce Campbell [edited to add link]. The B-movie king himself. At this point I feel it prudent to ask who is really going to admit that they don’t like Bruce Campbell because, really, the man is a legend. If you have not seen any of the Evil Dead movies- even if it was just a late-night showing of Army of Darkness on TNT – I seriously have to question your dedication to entertainment. We’re talking Bruce Campbell here. But enough about my unhealthy obsession with the greatness that is “The Chin” and your craziness for not having that same unhealthy obsession.

It turns out there are plenty of reasons to watch this show that don’t involve Bruce. For one, there’s Jeffrey Donovan, a man I’ve never seen before but who I’m really starting to like just because of this role. Michael Westen has become a fixer, but he’s not a humorless musclebound meat-head with an overwhelming desire to see if he’s got the bigger gun. He plays it smart, often building crazy contraptions out of different electronics (usually involving cell phones). I never thought I’d say this – and I realize it may just be blasphemy to even think it – but this guy could probably give MacGuyver a run for his money. What he works with is higher-tech than MacGuyver. Still, when a man can take pieces of a cell phone and merge them with the motion sensor from an outdoor floodlight and create a remote alarm you just have to be impressed. That’s not just tech-savvy, that’s artistry in motion.

Aside from being the MacGuyver of our time, he’s also got “the smile”. I can’t really describe it to you, you’ll just have to watch. And trust me, if you do, you’ll know it when you see it. It’s charming and, given the context it’s given in, completely disarming for the viewer. You get the sense that he’s seen these types of situations so many times all he can do is smile. And, to shamelessly steal a line from Rachel Lucas, if you are a woman you just might spontaneously ovulate when you see it.

His ex-girlfriend (who is really his girlfriend sans the ex) is former IRA operative Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar). She’s skinny, pretty, and easy to mistake for a girl that needs protection, though nothing could be further from the truth on that last one. She’s feisty, well-trained, and considers violence to be foreplay. She’s no wilting flower. I’d hazard a guess at saying she’s every intelligence agency’s worst nightmare: she’s pretty and knows how to use it either disarm or get information out of just about any man. I am in awe of her awesomeness.

Then there’s “The Chin” himself as Sam Axe, former intelligence operative and Navy SEAL. He seems to have only one goal in life: to live off of whatever wealthy woman he happens to be dating at the moment. He’s one of exactly two people who once worked with Michael who is willing to actually still talk to him without guns or pointy things pointed in his direction. But part of that has to do with the fact that the FBI is squeezing him for information. This of course works out for Michael because he now has his own double-agent sending the FBI chasing after their tails.

This all really points to one thing: this show is awesome. It combines everything you could ever want in a series, whether you are a man or a woman: spies, double agents, FBI agents, Bruce Campbell, Gabrielle Anwar, Jeffrey Donovan’s smile, and a higher-tech MacGuyver-like quality that has me bouncing off the walls waiting for July 10th. Consider:

  • The Dark Knight
    Release date: July 18

  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe
    Release date: July 25

  • Burn Notice
    Season premiere date: July 10

  • Psych
    Season premiere date: July 18

Plus there will still be new episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and In Plain Sight airing. July just may be the most perfect month in entertainment this year. Now if only they were releasing a video game that I really want. Bah, who cares. A new X-Files movie and a new Batman movie in the same month? I’m positively wetting myself in anticipation. Then you add on these very awesome shows (all on the USA Network, which has become my most-watched network, BTW) and I could jump off my apartment building roof and my joy would cushion the fall.

Now, the first season of Burn Notice is on DVD and I command you to rent, buy, borrow, whatever you have to do to watch it because it’s awesome and “The Chin” is calling you.

If a Title Could be a Sound You’d be Hearing a High-Pitched Squeal Right Now

Sunday night was a night I’ve been waiting for for a very long time because it marked the return of my favorite incarnation of the Law & Order universe: Law & Order: Criminal Intent (L&O:CI). Yes, I think Vincent D’Onofrio is a sexy man and I’ll come clean with the revelation that I totally have a girl crush on Kathryn Erbe. But neither of those are the reason L&O:CI is my favorite of the franchise; I also think Christopher Meloni is a sexy man and girl crush on Mariska Hargitay, both on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. So what’s the big deal with Criminal Intent?

It’s all about Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and, to a lesser extent, his partnership with Detective Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) for me. I’ve said before that the relationship between Mulder and Scully on The X-Files must have influenced my love of Criminal Intent and I think if you’ve ever watched both series you know the partnerships bear more than just a passing resemblance (minus the fact Goren and Eames aren’t romantically involved).

Side by side comparison of the characters bring this into sharp focus. First, the male characters:

Robert Goren:

  • Quirky
  • Considered to be brilliant but eccentric
  • Has an unorthodox investigative style
  • Has no qualms with bending the rules when he feels it’s warranted
  • Very intuitive

Fox Mulder

  • Also quirky
  • Also considered to be brilliant but eccentric
  • Also has an unorthodox investigative style
  • Also has no qualms with bending the rules when he feels it’s warranted
  • Also very intuitive

Yes, the lists are exactly the same but that’s because the characters are so similar. Personality-wise they could almost be twins. One major difference: Goren comes off as a little more insular, though I think a lot of that comes from the fact that he isn’t relegated to a basement office which means we see more of how he handles social situations.

Now we’ll look at the female characters:

Alex Eames

  • Independent
  • Initially wary of her partner
  • Fiercely loyal once she gets to know him
  • At first finds Goren’s style disturbing but quickly learns it’s just part of his process

Dana Scully

  • Also Independent
  • Also initially wary of her partner
  • Also fiercely loyal once she gets to know him
  • Also finds Mulder’s style off-putting but soon accepts it as his process

Same thing goes here as for the men. The obvious difference is that Scully is more scientifically analytical while Eames looks at things like a cop.

Criminal Intent started out focusing more on the point of view of the criminal than either of the other two Law & Order‘s that are still on the air. We knew very little back story as far as the main characters went and, for about the first four years of the show we don’t really learn a whole lot. We know Goren’s mother is schizophrenic, but we don’t really get a sense of what that means to him. We know Eames’ husband was a cop killed in the line of duty but we don’t see how that has affected her both personally and professionally.

EamesThe fifth season brought two changes: The addition of a second set of detectives that alternated each week with Goren and Eames (I’ll talk about those two a bit later), and a greater push toward more character driven storylines. In the episode “In the Wee Small Hours” (a two-parter) – one of the best in the series in my opinion – we are treated to a fantastic performance by Kathryn Erbe as a distraught Eames confronted with her one-time request for a new partner, a request she never told Goren about.

By the end of the fifth season it was becoming clear that Goren and Eames were not just partners, but they weren’t romantically involved either. The first episode in season six bore this out when Eames was kidnapped, sending Goren out of his mind and almost over the edge. Similarly, we catch a glimpse of how Eames reacts when Goren becomes increasingly agitated at being pulled away from his ailing mother on a holiday because of a case (#608 “The War at Home).

GorenSeason seven started off with a bang, literally, as Eames’ husband’s old partner is shot while providing protection to a murder witness. This brings up a whole other side of Eames and we finally get a glimpse into how her husband’s death nine years before (1998 ) has affected her. Goren’s life is turned upside down when the nephew he never knew he had contacts him out of desperation from a correctional facility to tell him about a prisoner who died from mistreatment (#709 “Untethered”). Goren pursues the case on his own and, due to the writer’s strike, we are left wondering what will become of him when the Chief of D’s makes his decision when the rest of season seven starts to air.

Which is were we picked up last night. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I was really quite surprised in the direction it took. We also got to see more of how the dynamic between Goren and Eames works when she realizes he hasn’t told her about a very major situation he’s gotten himself into. Also, there is a scene that is very reminiscent of another scene from the season three episode “F.P.S.” As a matter of fact, they are almost identical. I’ll let you watch both episodes and see if you can spot the similarity.

USA Network has been using the descriptor “Characters welcome” for a good while now and with Criminal Intent‘s move to USA I think it’s pretty safe to say the character driven plots with a more intimate look into the lives of the detectives will continue to be the norm. This is something I’m actually looking forward to.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved how the show started, but there are only so many “of-the-week” type episodes that you can watch before you get bored. Character development either seems to stagnate or ends up as a deus ex machina when the case plays to some before-unknown experience of one of the detectives. At this point I want to see where they are as people; where they came from, where they see themselves going, and how that affects who they are.

Now, as far as the addition of the second set of detectives in season five, I was not what you could call happy. I’d say internally my reaction was akin to those X-Files fans who heard David Duchovny would be out of the picture for at least half of season eight of The X-Files; I was angry that I wouldn’t be getting my Goren fix in every episode and was convinced I would hate whoever it was coming in. But I sat down and watched Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) with his first partner Carolyn Barek (Annabella Sciorra) and discovered it was not at all bad.

LoganIf you’ve watched the first few seasons of the original Law & Order you’ll recognize Chris Noth and his character, Detective Logan, who was sent to Staten Island following a very public assault on a politician.

I haven’t gotten to watch much of the first five seasons of the original show, but I did like what I saw of Logan. His style involved a lot of gut instinct with old school detective work, a style that hasn’t changed on Criminal Intent.

BarekI had a hard time reconciling Annabella Sciorra with her character Barek for one reason: She was Gloria Trillo on The Sopranos and she did a really, really good job with that role. By the end of the season I was able to see past that and actually started to enjoy Barek’s place in the Law & Order universe when she was replaced by Detective Megan Wheeler at the beginning of season six, no explanation given.

WheelerThus began my dislike of Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson). Initially she really bothered me, though I couldn’t really tell you why. But yet again, by the end of the season I found myself really growing to like her character. She’s a fantastic counterbalance to Logan’s more fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants personality and has kept him in line (in some cases keeping him from losing his job). She also has the added advantage of giving us a younger take on things, where Logan’s view is marked by the cynicism of his years on the force. Then of course at the end of season six Wheeler heads off to Europe for who-knows-how-long and we see Logan staring after her like a big sad puppydog. Cue Detective Nola Falacci in season seven.

FalacciI never really did “get” Falacci (Alicia Witt), but I’m sure a lot of that was due to the writer’s strike cutting into the season and the fact that I knew Wheeler would be back (Julianne Nicholson was just on maternity leave). I do have to admit it was kind of funny to see the roll reversal that happened when Logan realized he had to step up and keep Falacci in line, a role he had never before played as he was usually the one who needed to be kept in line. As of next week Wheeler makes her return which means I will never get the chance to really decide if I like Falacci or not. At this point the character really only evokes a reaction of “Meh” from me.

I’m really excited to see where USA takes this series. These are characters I care about and a large reason for that is that in the last couple of seasons I’ve gotten to see them really grow as people, a direction in which USA will continue to push. And, let’s be honest here, I definitely won’t object to more of Goren; Vincent D’Onofrio is a sexy man, after all.