Netflix on Wii – Spring

Yes, it’s true.  As I was deliberating over whether I thought a Roku player would be worth it and if I thought I could afford it, I Googled once more “netflix on Wii” and found this blog.

Following the link to Netflix, I have reserved my disc to be sent when available in the Spring.  Of course, I want it right now, but knowing that it’s coming, and realizing the first 3 seasons of Farscape are available via streaming, I’m pretty much in stream heaven.  (I’d be all the way if all 4 + PW were on, but whatevs.)

It’s only SD, but if you’re such a purist, use your laptop or go buy an XBOX.

So go reserve your disc!  I don’t know if there are limitations, but it doesn’t matter, cuz my copy is coming!  YEAH!

David Don’t Go! Doctor Who Season 4

After being through three season with David Tennant, the thought of him being replaced makes me want to boycott the new doctor, but I remind myself what I would have missed out on had I done the same with the transition between Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant–and that’s a lot.

The Christmas special has just broadcast (it’s not as good as Voyage of the Damned, but still good), and Tennant is to appear in 3 specials in 2009 before signing off.  Season 5 will make its appearance in 2010.

So, in a show, extremely notorious as of lately for changing up its cast just when you’re getting to like them, we have the Doctor and a return to an old cast member Donna Noble (Catherine Tate).  (And I swear the theme song got an upgrade as well–though I prefer the just previous version).

doctor-and-donna-series-4-promoDonna Noble, for those faithfully following Doctor Who, appeared in the episode The Runaway Bride, and helped save the world and the Doctor from the Empress of the Racnoss.  Since then, she hasn’t been able to get the Doctor out of her mind.  I wondered how this change of pace would work, since the last two assistants have been young things enamorate of the Doctor, and it came as a breath of fresh air.  Not only is Catherine Tate’s comedic talent glorious for the series, but the “buddies” relationship pulls new performances out of the two of them and just adds to the excellence the series keeps bringing us.  This transition wasn’t as hard for me as was Rose to Martha, at least not at the beginning of the series.

FAVORITE EPISODES:

Seriously, with Doctor Who its like picking favorite children.  I could list every one of them, and any I haven’t mentioned are still great, these were just particularly fantastic.

07Partners in Crime The Doctor and Donna finally meet up again, and in probably one of the cleverest ways I’ve ever seen on television.  Their whole dialogue through windows was classic, and it was great to see a friend of the Doctor’s we were familiar with return.  I really just enjoyed a sort of “coming home” feeling with this episode.

tennantlibrarySilence in the Library/Forest of the Dead Creepy and cool, this episode takes the Doctor and Donna to a library planet, but only the shadows are present.  The switch between alternate realities while trying to guess what exactly was going on was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  The faces on the statues were a fantastic sci-fi touch and in the end you’re left looking at your own shadow suspiciously.  It’s an episode that proves the unknown is more frightening that the blood and guts scary movies of our day and age.

n04-10-02Midnight Leave it to Russell T. Davies (head writer) to take something annoying and turn it into ultra creepy.  Most of the episode is sans-Donna, which is a shame, but it works.  The Doctor heads on a sort of bus tour of the planet Midnight, when the “bus” has troubles and breaks down.  They hear a creature outside, but it eventually makes its way in and possesses one of the passengers.  The creature copies everything the others, including the Doctor, are saying and at first we, like the Doctor, think its just trying to learn, but then it takes the terrifying twist Davies loves to give us.  Good stuff and great performances!

turn_left_doctor_whoTurn Left Ever seen the movie Sliding Doors?  Basically the concept is what would have happened if you had made a different choice or one event had changed slightly?  How much impact would it really have had on the world?  This is the question asked when Donna visits a mysterious woman who has her turn a different direction, and in the end has tremendous consequences on the Doctor Who universe.  This episode makes you think they’ve had the whole series carefully planned out for how well they integrate all the little changes.

stolen_earth_pic6The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End It always seems to come back to the Daleks, maybe because they’re more threatening in the 2005+ series as opposed to the old series.  (Yeah, um, spoiler alert).  We get to see pretty much the whole new series cast return, Rose included, as they all unite to defeat the Daleks, with surprising aid coming from “I’m just a temp” Donna Noble.  There are a couple really harsh Russell T. Davies moments, one between Rose and the Doctor, and seeing Donna Noble off (which makes you wonder if you shouldn’t be more polite to those people you don’t know).

In reality, this reboot of the series is one of the best things on television now, and far cleverer than 90% of the other shows out there.  Perhaps sci-fi lends to that, especially in this day and age.  I used to be among the crowd that hesitated watching sci-fi shows, mostly for getting lost in the technical babble (Star Trek occasionally leaned that way) and for the social stigma, but once I got over it and dived in I’ve never once been sorry.  This is my big push to those still hesitating to join in, and Doctor Who would be a fine way to start.  I’m more than eager to see these specials, and I’ll definitely give the new Doctor a chance.

It’s the Doctor! Doctor Who: Series 1

I used to love watching Doctor Who as a kid with one of my friends who recorded it (since it usually broadcast later than 10 yr olds could stay up). Usually when I think of Doctor Who I picture Tom Baker, the fourth incarnation of the Doctor.

For those who are hearing of Doctor Who for the first time or know little about him, the Doctor is an alien from another world who travels through both space and time different civilizations and different time periods to witness history (and usually get his assistants out of trouble).

So why are there currently 10 incarnations of the Doctor? Well, whenever he gets into mortal trouble (or they decide they want a new actor), he simply regenerates into a “new” Doctor. So it’s the same Doctor, just 10 different faces.

Why do I bring this up? Have I been rummaging through old Doctor Who vids or something? Well, actually, I attended Comic-Con this summer and ended up going to the Doctor Who panel (my friend wanted to go to Torchwood which was just afterward). They showed clips of this reboot of the series and I was intrigued to see more. Enter Doctor Who: Series 1. (Yeah, I guess the Brits call it “series” vs. “season.”)

To be honest, my interest was piqued with clips featuring David Tennant (whom I didn’t realize is Barty Crouch, Jr. in HP4), the 10th and current Doctor. So, I was a little put out to discover Christopher Eccleston would be accompanying me at the 9th Doctor. I was tempted to just skip the first season and head straight to second, but they only had season 1 on Netflix Instaview, so sighing a little I ventured in.

If you start it this way you’ll wonder how David Tennant could possibly win you over. Eccleston was a fantastic doctor.

CHARACTERS:

The Doctor(s):
OK, so it’s Eccleston for 99.99% of the first season and Tennant for about 3 seconds. I’ll go more into Tennant after I finish season 2. Eccleston is jovial, mostly unserious, but always there when he’s needed. The chemistry between he and his current assistant is fun and as much as I wondered about it getting creepy–it isn’t. It works for them. (And I really still do miss him as Claude in Heroes. Hopefully he’ll make a comeback soon.) His personality easily wins you over, and like I said, you’ll be wondering how Tennant will ever replace him. (Not to worry, Tennant fans, season 2 will prove him the Doctor).

Rose (Billie Piper):
The Doctor’s assistant, basically. I think she was supposed to be 19. A lower class Brit with attitude joins up with the Doctor after saving his life (and then her brawn basically diminishes after that). She’s not the most phenomenal actress you’ll ever meet, but she makes Rose lovable and fun. She may be the damsel in distress a bit more often than I’d like, but she’s still tough and sticks to her guns, which is probably why she and the Doctor make a good team.

Mickey and Mum:
I don’t know what it is about Mickey, but I love it when he’s around, even if he hates it when the Doctor is there. Mickey is Rose’s “kinda” boyfriend and always feels free to remind the Doctor how much danger he does put Rose through. And then of course Rose’s Mom. She’s forgetful, but for the most part accepting and understanding. She just makes the series fun (especially in season 2)

Villains, etc.:
The Daleks are back! Well… sort of. The thing I love about the new series is it pokes fun at the old series, but in a loving way. So instead of having useless plunger parts, among other things, the Daleks are actually threatening this time around. I loved the plastic men (first episode), and found them to be slightly creepy, imagining if I was in a department store and all of a sudden the dummies started moving and attacking. Creepy. I don’t know, they do a lot of super sci-fi stuff, but it makes it fun and entertaining and it works. As much as Rose is having a fun time traveling with the Doctor, I think we as the audience have just as much fun. It just makes sci-fi fun.

FAVORITE EPISODES:

Dalek (Episode 6): The first time we get a look at the newish Dalek and find out exactly what that plunger is for. I don’t want to spoil much with these mini-descriptions, so I’ll keep it semi-vague and brief. But in this episode you can see Rose’s strong character really come out and its effects on the Doctor.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (Episodes 9-10): It’s a two-parter. We journey back to WWII London and meet up with Captain Jack (of Torchwood). There’s a strange child with a gas mask on reaking havoc as basically “the monster of the week.” I think I just liked this one because of all the clues leading up to the end and how it all works out.

And to be honest, I could call them all favorite episodes–they were great. The first season is only 13 episodes long, so we have to say goodbye to Eccleston sooner rather than later, but it’s an enjoyable ride. If you’ve been wondering about this rebooted series or if you loved the old series and want more, give it a go, you won’t regret it. It makes sci-fi fun and enjoyable.

How do I watch it?

Well, I’d recommend Netflix Instaview. It’s instant access to all 13 episodes and is included with your monthly subscription (if you’re on an $8.99 plan or better. I think the $4.99 has limitations). You could do it disc by disc via Netflix (which I’ve sort of had to do for season 2). Or check your area and see if your local library(ies) has it available for rent. Otherwise you’re looking at a pretty penny of $75 on Amazon.com or separate discs for about $30 each. Yeah, Netflix or library is probably your best bet. But hey, it’s a good reason to join up. I love Netflix! I’ve been a member since 2003 and it keeps getting better and better.

Look for a Doctor Who: Series 2 review once I’ve finished. I’ll tell you how it’s possible to trade Eccleston for Tennant. 🙂

And for the enjoyment of Doctor Who fans (you probably won’t think this is very funny unless you’ve seen at least a few episodes of Doctor Who), Eddie Izzard discusses Doctor Who. WARNING: Strong language likely included, so if you’re at work or around kids, put on your headphones. Get ready to LMAO.

*I tried to embed it, but it’s Megavideo, and well, here’s a link instead.
**I found a youtube link for embedding, but it’s about 2 mins in when he gets to Doctor Who. If you’ve never checked out Eddie Izzard before, he’s super random, but funny.

Death Note 3: Live-Action

If you’re a Death Note fan, whether anime, manga, or live-action movies, you might be interested to know (if you didn’t) that a spin-off movie was released in Japan in February of this year. I’ll try to keep spoilers out of it for those who have never seen Death Note before or haven’t finished it. This movie takes place after Death Note 1&2 and is focused solely on the character L.

And by the way, if you haven’t seen either the anime or live-action movies of Death Note to date, check out my review over at Dee Animated for a more in-depth look at Death Note’s characters, where to watch and what to expect. This is definitely a series worth checking out. Now, back to L.

According to summaries I’ve found around the net:

A case is sent L’s way in the form of a Thai boy who alone survived a deadly virus outbreak in his village. L gets another guest when 12-year-old girl Maki (Fukuda Mayuko, Little DJ) shows up on the doorstep. Both children are connected to an Ebola-influenza virus developed by Maki’s father which has been stolen by terrorists. With the terrorists hunting for Maki and threatening to unleash the virus, L is forced to leave his chair and venture out into the real world, both children in stow. The days tick down as L rushes to develop an antidote and catch the terrorists before time runs out.

It sounded interesting, and since I love L I snagged it off of ebay and when Mac and I (cuz I’m sure she’ll be up for watching it) finish it we’ll let you know if it’s a welcomed addition to the Death Note family or not. The film is directed by Nakata Hideo (Ringu and Dark Water–Japanese versions, and Ring Two), so I’m hoping it’s money at least moderately well spent.

Maybe this will give me the L time I feel like I missed from the first two movies.

Gotham Knight-tastic!

I watched it. I’ve heard mixed reviews, a lot of people saying they didn’t like it, some that the visuals were great, etc., etc. Well, I liked it.

Gotham Knight, contrary to marketing belief, is not really any kind of Animatrix in the sense that the stories connect us from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. So remove any preconceived notions about that before viewing. The DVD has more to do with Batman himself than the upcoming film. I think the false expectation of it being related to the Christopher Nolan movies is its release date and the fact that the Scarecrow is in it.

Think additional Batman: The Animated Series episodes with some spectacular Japanese animation styling, and you’ll likely find the short films more enjoyable.

The DVD contains six short films, some of them interweaving into the next, some not, but a worthwhile watch. Let’s run through them.

more…

Is There a Trick to Stringing Cranberry Sauce?

When I was a kid and watching a lot of Nickelodeon, Nick-at-Nite originally really miffed me. I didn’t want to watch tired old black and white shows or shows where everybody wore way too much polyester for anybody’s good; I wanted to watch more Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren & Stimpy, and You Can’t Do That on Television. I’m not sure when it happened, but I eventually calmed down enough to sit through reruns of classic I Love Lucy, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched episodes. Soon I was also watching The Dick van Dyke Show and a host of other classic 60’s and 70’s sitcoms.

Somewhere in there Nick-at-Nite started airing a 70’s sitcom called The Bob Newhart Show. I’d always been a bit precocious and I’m sure my parents will tell you that my sense of humor almost always leaned toward the dry and sarcastic side, but I don’t know what made me actually sit down and watch it. Whatever the reason, when I did I was hooked.

Bob Newhart is, without question, my favorite comedian ever. I enjoy a good angry comedian (Lewis Black is particularly hilarious) and energetic comedians are usually pretty fun (Robin Williams killed me with his 2002 live stand up album) but I’ll almost always take dry wit and sarcasm when given a choice. There’s just something about deadpan delivery that sends me into hysterics. Bob Newhart can only be described as the god of deadpan delivery.

Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) is a Chicago-area psychologist with a private practice, a wife (Emily), and a bachelor for a best friend (Jerry). He’s also got goofy patients (Mr. Carlin being the most notable; I’ll talk about him later), a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with his parents, and a neighbor that spends more time in their apartment than his own (Howard). Unlike most other sitcoms featuring a married couple, there were no children in the picture, though Bob and Emily did talk about the family they would eventually have.

If I had to pick the perfect TV husband-wife combo, it would be the Hartleys. Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette had a genuine affection and respect for each other that translated incredibly well to the screen. I don’t care how good an actor is, if the chemistry isn’t there, the camera picks up on it. In this case, Newhart and Pleshette were a fantastic team and it showed. The relationship between Bob and Emily is interesting and it feels real to those watching, even 30+ years later.

One particular aspect of their relationship is especially refreshing to see: Bob is not a moron and Emily is not his savior. He doesn’t play clueless rube to Emily’s witty housewife/career woman. The norm nowadays is a Homer Simpson-type that looks and acts like a neanderthal but somehow has a sexy, independent, intelligent wife who has to bail him out of whatever stupid situation he’s gotten himself into. Don’t get me wrong, I love Homer Simpson – he’s my favorite Simpsons character – but he’s not meant to be a template for every male character on TV. I’ve had my share of thoughts regarding the stupidity of the male half of humanity (sorry guys), but I know they’re really not all un-evolved, posturing, alpha-male-mentality apes. Bob is an intelligent, responsible guy who has his moments, but those moments don’t last for 22 minutes broken up only by the occasional commercial break.

Oddly enough, if you do happen to run across an intelligent male character in any of the more recent sitcoms you will be watching a boring, one-dimensional character. The egghead types inevitably reject every typically male interest or pursuit. They don’t drink beer, they drink wine. They don’t watch football, they watch the History Channel, if they watch TV at all. They eschew action movies, instead preferring slower-paced intellectual films. Bob Hartley is an intelligent guy, but he’s three-dimensional. He drinks beer, watches football, and goes to basketball games. In other words, he’s a guy.

Bob’s wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), on the other hand, is definitely a woman. She takes her duties in the home seriously, taking care of Bob, keeping the apartment clean, and cooking but she also has a life outside the home. She’s a substitute teacher who eventually goes back to school in order to become a teacher full time. And she also went after what she wanted from Bob, which in itself was another area of the show that was brilliant.

The Bob Newhart Show was one of the first to acknowledge that married couples do more than fight, eat, and talk. The brilliant part: it did so without blatantly throwing sex in the viewers’ faces. It was innuendo, but it was never lewd. Parents could let their kids watch the show and not cringe at what was said; most of it would have gone right over the kids’ heads and by the time they were old enough to understand they’d have already stopped asking embarrassing questions in public anyway.

It really was a product of it’s time. Women’s lib was in full swing and social mores were in flux. This was visible through Carol’s dilemma in the first season regarding whether or not she should move in with her boyfriend. Howard and Jerry were both bachelors with revolving doors on their apartments as far as women were concerned. Still, it wasn’t shoved in your face like in so many of the current shows. Again, there’s nothing in this show that demands explaining to children (aside from why psychologist is spelled so funny 😉 ).

Speaking of Jerry and Howard, both are bachelors popular with the ladies, but the similarity ends there. Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) is an orthodontist with an office in the same building as Bob. He is constantly visiting Bob in his office or near Carol’s desk just outside it. Over the course of the show we learn he was adopted and that he had a younger brother who was also adopted. He loves sports and is often either at Bob’s house to watch football or on his way to a game – if he wasn’t on a date, of course. As far as women are concerned, he always seems to have a really hard time figuring out his place in the world. He’s a serial dater clearly unhappy with being a serial dater, but whenever he hits upon that realization he dismisses it off-hand, often remarking that that couldn’t be the problem and wondering why anybody would give up the bachelor life.

Howard Borden (Bill Daily) is a divorced airline navigator with a son that periodically visits him. Howard is a mystery: he is not what you could call intelligent, in fact he is quite simple-minded, but he still manages to somehow get through life – with plenty of lady-friends. And in stark contrast to the male characters today, his bumbling idiocy is actually endearing, not annoying. You really can’t help but laugh when he just gets in from navigating a flight out of Tokyo or Paris and then gets lost in the streets of Chicago. His mannerisms alone are bizarre and absolutely hilarious.

More friend than co-worker, secretary Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace) is often to be seen in Bob’s office asking for advice on what she should do to solve a myriad of problems. Everything from the office coffeemaker to her love life is in bounds as far as she’s concerned, no matter how much Bob doesn’t want anything to do with it. If she doesn’t get the answer she wants from Bob, she’ll make a beeline to Emily, hoping to get a different answer. (This occasionally results in problems for Bob, as when Carol was unhappy with her job and Emily unwittingly agreed that maybe Carol should quit.)

Bob’s patients are the weirdest, most neurotic, funniest bunch of people on the show. Particularly Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley). Mr. Carlin belongs to every single one of Bob’s groups, including the unemployed group and the over 60 group. He’s neither unemployed nor over 60. The reason he’s in those groups: he has a hard time relating to people of all ages and employment states. Mr. Carlin is a successful businessman with a knack for finding all the worst in life. He has a hairpiece (it was actually Jack Riley’s real hair, which made the whole thing funnier than it already was), he wears lifts because he feels short, and he’s constantly criticizing everybody around him, often telling them their actions are making him feel like they aren’t respecting him, even if what they’re doing has nothing to do with him. I’d have to say, of all the TV characters I’ve loved, he’s probably my favorite. It might have something to do with the fact that he can say things in perfect deadpan that any other person would most likely laugh or cry while expressing. As the TV Land website says:

Elliot Carlin is probably Bob’s most notable patient. He is a financially successful, morally bankrupt bundle of neuroses. He appears to suffer from both low self-esteem and narcissism simultaneously—no small feat for a man in a toupee and elevator shoes.

Aside from Mr. Carlin, Bob’s patients include Mr. Gianelli, a man who has a host of problems and is constantly putting down Mr. Peterson, a small high-voiced man who was, unbelievably, once a Marine. Michelle Nardo is a woman in her 20’s with severe father issues (mostly the fact that he won’t listen to her and let her spread her wings). And Mrs. Bakerman spends most of her time in group knitting and saying “Isn’t that nice” whenever anybody else talks about their problems.

I’m sure by now you can tell I love pretty much everything about this show, but one of my very favorite things about it is the theme song, “Home to Emily” by Lorenzo and Henrietta Music. Normally I skip past the opening themes of shows but with The Bob Newhart Show I don’t mind sitting through it. It’s upbeat and I love the drums. You’re more than welcome to take a listen below.

Verdict: A. Even though I’m in my late 20’s and had to learn about The Bob Newhart Show through Nick-at-Nite, it is one of my top 10 TV series of all time. The writing was great and watching Bob do his signature telephone conversations sometimes has me close to tears from laughing so hard. Bill Daily is an expert at playing the somewhat clueless friend; I realized that while watching I Dream of Jeannie and this show just solidified that realization. My one major hope is that 20th Century Fox finally gets around to releasing the final two seasons on DVD so that I can enjoy the whole series together.

I’m officially giving The Bob Newhart Show the “Ultimate Fix” award.

On a more morose note, I’d like to express my sadness at Suzanne Pleshette’s death in January this year. While I’ve never seen her in anything but The Bob Newhart Show I truly enjoyed her wit and sense of humor. She definitely deserved all the accolades she got as Emily Hartley and with at least the first four seasons of the show on DVD I’m deeply grateful that I get to see her shine even though she has passed on.

Stop Messing with my Head!

What is it with TV networks and DVD releases? I feel this is a valid question to ask for a few reasons.

First, when I buy a season of a series it’s because I like that series. I also expect to be able to own that whole series on DVD eventually. At this very moment I have had the first season of Murphy Brown for well over a year and the general consensus is that there will be no more releases. Even worse, I have the first four seasons of The Bob Newhart Show (one of my top 10 TV shows of all time) and while the company hasn’t even come out and said if they’re going to stop the releases or not, they’ve started releasing Newhart, which is leading everybody – including Bob Newhart himself – to wonder if they ever plan on releasing the last two seasons of the first show. How wrong is that?

Second, Law & Order – the whole franchise – is releasing DVDs at a pace slower than a snail in a bowl of solidified gelatin. What reason could anybody possibly have to hold up these releases? Seriously. Criminal Intent is half way through its seventh season and you can only get the first three on DVD. SVU finished up its ninth season and they’ve only managed to release up through season six. The original Law & Order finished its 18th season and you can only buy seasons 1-5 and 14. This is unacceptable when you consider I had season one of Heroes before season two premiered. Same thing with Kyle XY. Even cancelled shows are seeing DVD releases faster than one of the most beloved franchises on TV. If anybody reading this happens to have an idea of what’s going on I’d like to know because I haven’t found a thing.

Third, some networks understand that, while you might like the credits at the beginning of an episode, you really don’t want to sit through them for the whole disc and that it’s very convenient to have a chapter break right at the end of said credits. DVDs have been out for how long and there are still networks that refuse to put chapter breaks after the opening credits? Is it laziness or are the people in charge messing with us because they can?

Sorry, I just had to rant. These are some of the things that just bother me and make my DVD viewing a little less fun than it should be.