Batwoman 1.6 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

Tonight’s episode of Batwoman was much, much better, largely because the focus was on another villain and another case and the resultant fallout, and the endless Alice story was consigned to a small running suplot. The Executioner, played by Jim Pirri, appears to be an original-for-the-show creation, and no, I wouldn’t say that he’s the most original idea ever seen in adventure TV. But there are some very topical elements to him as well, and the very real issue of crooked DAs, cops, and judges conspiring to prosecute easy cases against poor minorities is one worth highlighting.

One thing we can’t help but notice is just how bad Kate is at superheroing. She’s fine with fighting and she knows to save civilians, but we got confirmation this week of two more characters knowing her identity. We also got confirmation that the Penguin had served as Gotham’s mayor at one point – that was the plot of the funniest episode of the ’66 series – and that the Joker of this Gotham either went by or goes by the name Jack Napier, which was the name that the Jack Nicholson version used.

Also this week, probably inevitably, Batwoman has to save Jacob Kane from a deathtrap while he growls and snarls about vigilantes and Kate probably prayed that this story wasn’t going to finish with a hat trick and have him learn her secret as well. It’s a good scene, but I guess I’m too old fashioned for liking a Gotham where the cops are glad to have superheroes around. Some other police commissioner – not Gordon, surprisingly – is mentioned this time. I hope that he and the GCPD are on Batwoman’s side, so our hero can have somebody in charge of this dump who appreciates her.

Leave a comment

Filed under batwoman

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.19 – The Brooklyn Dodgers

This is the mostly awful episode where Brisco and Bowler are having a mawkish, moralizing, preachy adventure with two astonishingly aggravating teenage orphans while Socrates is solving a much more interesting mystery in San Francisco. They got the balance and tone completely, breathtakingly wrong with this one. It would have been much, much more watchable if the story was focused almost entirely on Socrates and the amusing characters he meets and occasionally cut in to see our heroes engaged in fistfights, hard riding, and shootouts.

Leave a comment

Filed under adventures of brisco county jr

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

In one way, this blog’s always been a race against time, showing our son classic movies before he stumbles upon them somewhere else, at a friend’s place or after school. I offered to show him Toy Story a couple of times and he always declined. Turned out he’d seen the movies a dozen times each in afterschool care already. Preserving surprises of any kind will get tougher and tougher as kids get older. Once upon a time, I was planning to one day show my older son the classic monster movie Them! and not tell him what it was about, only for him to come home from the library with a book about creature features. Eyes wide, he told me “This movie about giant ants sounds amazing!”

Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman have been forgotten and ignored by Disney for the last several years. Director Robert Zemeckis has speculated that Disney don’t like Roger’s shapely wife Jessica at all and are unlikely to approve a sequel or draw very much attention to the original. This worked in our favor; our son had never heard of the character or seen him anywhere.

So I drew him in last night by reminding him of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and the days of tough guy detectives in coats and fedoras, and then this morning, the movie cued and no hints from the menus or the DVD packaging, re-explained that how, once upon a time, before you saw the main feature at the movie, you’d see a cartoon first. Who Framed Roger Rabbit begins with a short called “Somethin’s Cookin’,” which had our son guffawing, and then at a critical point in the cartoon, Roger blows a special effect, a director yells “Cut!” and the camera pulls back to blow our son’s mind.

I love surprising my son this way. If you’ve got kids of your own, try your darndest to introduce them to the movie this way.

Roger Rabbit is celebrated for its mix of live-action and animation, but it wouldn’t work if it didn’t have a clever and entertaining story underneath it. It’s a delightful throwback to hard-boiled detective fiction, starring Bob Hoskins as a down-on-his-luck PI who’s descended into alcoholism since the death of his partner five years previously. Stubby Kaye plays the industrialist who gets murdered, and poor Roger, a big hearted dimwit of a cartoon character who only has great things to say about his fellows in the business, is set up for the fall. And of course Christopher Lloyd gets to steal the show as the menacing Judge Doom, who, thanks to some odd quirk of the California municipal code, has the power of life and death over all cartoon characters.

The result is a completely delightful movie, full of sight gags, very good acting, and how-the-heck-did-they-DO-that camera tricks. I’ve always enjoyed this film and really had a ball watching it with our kid. It’s a shame there probably won’t ever be a sequel, but fifteen years later, Warner released another live-action/animation hybrid, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which owes an astonishing amount to this film. It’s certainly not as unique or as original as Roger Rabbit, but it’s still a very fun ride and we’ll look at it one Sunday in 2020.

Leave a comment

Filed under movies

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.5 – Blast from the Past

For a show that’s more about Limbo and the afterlife than we’ve ever seen in either series before, “Blast from the Past” is a lot more down to earth than the lunacy in the previous story. Paul Whitehouse, another compatriot of Reeves, Mortimer, and Higson from The Fast Show and their various sketch comedies, plays the ghost of a criminal who had died on the run from Marty’s policeman father in 1970. The ghost then began haunting his brother, but since the brother took a bullet himself a few years later, the ghost has been locked in Limbo unable to make a connection with the mortal world.

But despite the fantasy storyline and focus on the rules of the spirit world, this one’s played completely straight. The only real giggle the adults got was a tiny little use of some archive footage of Mike Pratt to wink at the original series, although there were some silly special effects that had our son chuckling. But that’s not a bad thing, because it’s a fine dramatic story with an interesting mystery in the real world. Familiar face Dudley Sutton has a tiny part in it. He maybe the first actor that I’ve noticed to have appeared in both the original series and the remake.

The very last shot of the episode – it’s the second and last one directed by Rachel Talalay – is a pretty gruesome image that hints at what fates the afterlife may have in store for people who don’t deserve a cloud and a harp. It’s a terrific little surprise that left our favorite eight year-old viewer wincing with his eyes wide. That image might just linger in his brain a little longer than any of the goofy afterlife animation gags.

Leave a comment

Filed under randall and hopkirk (deceased)

Doctor Who 1.13 – The Parting of the Ways

For my money, Christopher Eccleston has the absolute best batting average of any of the Doctors. Just 13 episodes – 10 stories – and not a turkey among them. Even his weakest hour, “The Long Game,” is guilty of nothing worse than being a little forgettable, and even that one had Simon Pegg in it. I kind of like the idea that there was one Doctor with an incredibly short life. There’s a tendency in Who fandom, with all the spinoff novels and comics and audio adventures, to make sure that every Doctor lived for decades and decades, with far, far more stories than we ever saw on TV, but I like having one who only had a few months. Makes up for the eleventh living for all those centuries on Trenzalore. The ninth was the one who died.

So of course the kid loved it to pieces, especially when the Anne Droid disintegrated three Daleks. He really liked the Emperor, and we had to discuss whether the “immortal god” version could move anywhere or whether it’s part of the ship. We’ll never know for sure, but my vote’s for having the Emperor be completely stationary, but able to manipulate things with those arms underneath its tank. That makes for thematic similarity with the original Emperor from “The Evil of the Daleks” back in 1967, and so I showed him some pictures to see what I mean, since the only surviving episode from that serial doesn’t have the Emperor in it. He respectfully disagrees and thinks that this Emperor stomped around its ship on its three big “legs.”

Our kid might have been only the second person to ever watch “The Parting of the Ways” who didn’t know it was going to end with a regeneration. I did know one fellow who understood that the thirteen episodes were in the can and then Eccleston quit, so the ending was a huge surprise. It was a beautifully written and acted scene before the visuals took over – I really don’t like the star-volcano special effects of modern regenerations – but I’m afraid that this blog’s oldest recurring gag came roaring back. No, our son didn’t recognize David Tennant.

Not only that, but when we watched the Randall & Hopkirk adventure “Drop Dead” literally two weeks ago, I paused the show with Tennant onscreen, told our son that of course I didn’t expect him to recognize this actor as Crowley from Good Omens, but told him to remember his face because we’d be seeing a lot more of him in the future. The blasted kid doesn’t even remember that I paused the episode to tell him that.

We’ll return Doctor Who to the shelf for a break, but we’ll look at series two in mid-December. Stay tuned!

Leave a comment

Filed under doctor who

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.18 – Hard Rock

Something kind of weird happened in February 1994. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman were on different networks and didn’t share production teams, although some of Brisco‘s staff, including this episode’s writer, John McNamara, would move over to L&C a few months later. Neither program was a hit. L&C ranked around the middle of the Nielsens and Brisco was usually around # 80 of 100 shows. And somehow, about two weeks apart, both programs threw a hail mary to try and get a few hundred thousand more teenage girl viewers and some press in the teen mags by introducing new young men in the cast in recurring roles. On ABC, Chris Demetral showed up toward the end of L&C‘s first year as a street kid named Jack who gets a job at the Daily Planet, and on Fox, Jeff Phillips was introduced as a headstrong wannabe gunslinger called Whip Morgan. I wonder whether this happened on any other shows that year.

The other new character introduced in “Hard Rock” is Sheriff Aaron Viva, who is Elvis Presley, basically, but he only shows up in one other story. Viva is played by Gary Hudson, who moves and points in pure caricature, but he delivers all the dialogue completely straight. The writers make sure that he’s quoting Elvis lyrics whenever the narrative suggests them, and I love the way Hudson never underlines them. I mean, when villains are blasting at you from both sides, of course you’d say something like “We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out!” On the other hand, the thankyaverramuuuuches and the like get old pretty quickly. I’m reasonably confident Marie won’t be pleased to read this post to learn that either character will be back again.

Ah, but the kid enjoyed this one. It had a big explosion and Lord Bowler wrestled a bear. And the heroes invent the drive-in window, hamburgers, and sunglasses. What’s not to like?

Leave a comment

Filed under adventures of brisco county jr

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.4 – Paranoia

Well, that was about as perfect an hour for eight year-olds as can be imagined. There are fart jokes. A heck of a lot of fart jokes. We thought our kid was going to stop breathing at a couple of points. And then there’s the farce around several assassination attempts, which all of us enjoyed, not just the kid.

In “Paranoia,” a former government employee is ready to publish a book blowing the lid off several worldwide conspiracies. He’s targeted by five different players, including his former mistress, and his wife, who schemes with the publisher to get rich off the sales figures if his paranoid nightmares come true and he’s assassinated at a top-security conference. Some of the movers and shakers who decide this man has to go are a little less competent than each other. Charlie Higson’s Fast Show co-star Arabella Weir plays the wife; Simon Pegg and Buffy‘s Alexis Denisof also have solid roles.

As for the fart jokes… Marty is trying to learn how to levitate things, but he only succeeds in moving paper when he breaks wind. The byproduct is an unholy room-clearing smell. This becomes useful when he needs to get everybody out of a room with a bomb and Jeff is, literally, tied up elsewhere. It may be immature, but good grief, it’s funny.

Plus, we got to pause the show and explain what all this talk of government conspiracies was about, which meant that I got to tell him how, among other tales of hollow earths and lizard people and aliens, some people believed the Queen of England was the head of an international drug smuggling operation, and ran for president many times hawking that story. Our son gave an animated facepalm. LaRouche died earlier this year. He knew too much. Fnord.

Leave a comment

Filed under randall and hopkirk (deceased)

Doctor Who 1.12 – Bad Wolf

I’ve kind of gone back and forth about watching the “Next Time” trailers. The one we watched at the end of “Boom Town” convinced me not to look at them anymore, because of course our son jumped for joy when he saw that the Daleks were coming back, and of course they only show up for a few minutes at the end. It’s a terrific end, but I kind of had to temper expectations a little.

On the other hand, the trailer reminded me that I needed to take a few minutes and give our son some backstory, otherwise he would have had to catch up to what was going on. He has never heard of Big Brother, The Weakest Link, and What Not To Wear. In fairness, I hadn’t heard of that last one either prior to watching this in 2005. I just looked it up to make sure I got the name right and learned there’s an American version that ran for ten years. Amazing the irrelevant crap you miss by not watching irrelevant channels like TLC.

But more broadly, our son had almost no idea that such things as reality television or game shows even exist at all. For him, TV is either the stuff we show him, the cartoons he watches, or the animal documentaries he enjoys on the various National Geographic channels, particularly one called Monster Fish. This past weekend, we took a day trip up to the Smoky Mountains and I really enjoyed giving him a potted history of what little I know about such programs as The Real World and Survivor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, making sure I mentioned the specific shows that tonight’s episode parodied. That way he could connect a few dots himself and he ended up really enjoying this installment.

Happily, he didn’t ask for any more details about the reality-game genre, because the only thing I know about Survivor is that a guy named Richard Hatch won one of them, and I only remember that because he has the same name as an actor who was on Battlestar Galactica.

Leave a comment

Filed under doctor who