Travelers is a Canadian Sci-Fi show created by one of the main Stargate TV guys, with mostly recognizable Canadian TV actors, but also Eric McCormack. I guess it’s sorta like Continuum where they try to get an actor who Americans know to try to make international distribution more appealing.
It’s set in the present day, starts with random people dying but instantly coming back to life with different personalities, for reasons that aren’t revealed until the end of the pilot, which is annoying. You’re literally given an infodump explanation of who they are, and the episode ends with someone saying essentially “well, let’s get started.” And you’re not left with a clear idea of their goals or what they’re going to do to achieve them. So this is an hour-long trailer whose goal is to leave you thinking “ooh, interesting twist, I wonder what the show will be like?,” not an actual pilot whose goal is to leave you thinking “based on this first episode, I can imagine watching a series like this.” I watch a pilot thinking “What am I signing up for?” and the answer here is “I’m not sure.” I feel like I complain about this a lot, especially in SF pilots, but it does seem epidemic. They put mysteriousness first and are afraid to just say “here’s our show, I hope you like it.”
Anyway, I fell for this in Van Helsing only to be let down after a few episodes, so I’m not going to do the same here.
The Revenant, it turns out, is not a good movie to watch while bedridden with an ailment. Watching Leo struggle across the forest floor in anguish and then pausing it to similarly struggle 20 feet to pee is not a good way to keep your spirits up.
A huge portion of the plot was revealed in the marketing, I don’t even really remember paying attention to it, but (spoilers, if you didn’t catch any of it) DiCaprio and his half Indian son are guiding a fur trapping party through Indian territory when he gets mauled by a bear and barely survives. Tom Hardy decides Leo’s going to die anyway and he’s slowing the group down, so he leaves him for dead. Leo, buried alive, climbs out of his grave, discovers his dead son, and crawls across the wilderness to get his revenge on Tom Hardy. I knew all that going in, and about an hour and ten minutes in, the crawling across the wilderness part was just starting, and it seemed like it was going to go on for a while.
The cinematography is amazing (there’s a really long take on a battle scene that’s great), but I just couldn’t get psyched to sit through another hour of extreme human suffering.
Zootopia seemed like a good way to get the bad taste of Fury out of my mouth, and it was. It tells the story of the first rabbit police officer in a city full of mammals. It’s clever and fun and all, not Pixar quality, but pretty good. And nobody spontaneously breaks out into song (not counting a number by a character voiced by Shakira, but since it’s at a concert, that’s appropriate).
The story has all kinds of mammals living in one city together, but tries to give a whole “don’t be prejudiced” message. But the difference in species is very real. Physical differences, the predators pose a huge threat to the prey. Mental differences, foxes are sly, weasels are weaselly. So I feel like the metaphor doesn’t really work.
Still, not a bad movie at all.
Fury is that Brad Pitt/Shia LaBeouf/Shane from TWD/Nick Memphis tank movie from a couple years back that really, really wants you to know that war is hell. Our POV character doesn’t want to kill people, especially kids, so his tank-mates repeatedly force him into horrific situations, until he “gets it.” I didn’t actually make it to the end, because I felt like since I am not personally in war, I didn’t need to experience it myself. Repeatedly. I’m sure he learns his lesson eventually and becomes a heartless bastard and that allows him to survive, but I didn’t feel like I needed to endure another hour to get to that particular transition.
Frequency was a sappy-looking movie with Jim Caviezel that I never bothered to watch, but when the TV adaptation used the always lovely Peyton List instead, I figured I’d give it a shot. The pilot is devoid of any fun, combining sappiness with angstiness in a way that seems quite boring. The chubby brother from Big Time in Hollywood, FL looks like he’s supposed to be the comic relief, but he had maybe three lines in the whole thing. I guess to make more room for angst and sap.
Conviction is ABC’s new legal drama which I’m surprised to see is full of people from nerdy stuff. Agent Carter, Iceman (X-Men, not Top Gun), Beth from TWD, Francie from Alias.
Hayley Atwell (unfortunately doing an American accent, which isn’t great) plays what seems like mostly Chelsea Clinton but with some… Roger Clinton or Billy Carter or maybe a little Jenna Bush thrown in. She’s the daughter of an ex-President whose mother is in the middle of a Senate campaign, but she was a wild child/tabloid staple/distraction from her parents’ political ambitions. But also a “first in her class at Harvard Law” type, so to avoid a drug bust, she agrees to join an Innocence Project type group.
They make several references to Atwell having awesome boobs, which simultaneously seems crass/exploitative, but also… totally works on me. Still, there’s not a lot to distinguish this from every other legal show. I think the angle is supposed to be the First Daughter thing and the “I’m a rebel, I don’t mind taking my shirt off in front of strangers, and I take drugs!” thing. Which… I dunno. I could totally be down with an entertaining trainwreck like House, but she seems to be a decent person at her core, but fucking things up on purpose to piss off her mother. Maybe if there was nothing on in its timeslot, I might give it another episode or two, but I’m running with Timeless so I’m passing on this one.
Westworld is HBO’s new sci-fi series, based on the 70s movie about a western-themed park with robots that go awry. This one is co-created by Jonathan Nolan (brother of and frequent collaborator with Chris, creator of Person of Interest), so it’s less “killer robots!” and more cerebral. Comics writer Ed Brubaker is on the writing staff, so that has me optimistic.
The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Shannon Marie Woodward, Paolo from Lost and James Mars… something (I see their names in the credits and I never know if I’m getting Cyclops or Spike, this time it’s Cyclops). So a quality cast.
The pilot presents some interesting ideas. The robots are indistinguishable from regular people, except that the robots can’t harm the regular people. The fantasy, consequence-free environment causes people to engage their darker impulses. Which I take as a parallel to things like anonymously harassing people online.
Timeless is a new NBC show about time travel with Abigail Spencer, co-created by the Heroes guy and the The Shield guy. I’ve been fond of Abigail Spencer since that Twix commercial and I dig time travel, so I was certain to at least find this show to be ok. And it’s… slightly better than ok.
The basic plot is an elaborate version of The Voyagers or Quantum Leap. History’s broken, we need to travel back and fix it. Which makes for a nice episodic formula, fix one problem per episode. There are seeds for larger story arcs too, and the time travel mechanics are decent enough for my tastes.
It also stars that one Eastern European guy from ER, Mustache and Glasses from Better Off Ted, Matt Frewer, Johnson from Peep Show, and a generic handsome white guy to give Abigail Spencer someone to presumably bang (after a half season of arguing, because that’s how TV romance works).
Luke Cage is Netflix’s latest Marvel series, following the bulletproof hero for hire from his appearances in Jessica Jones into Harlem for Marvel’s first live action thing with a lead character that isn’t white. And it’s good, on par with the other Netflix series (probably my least favorite of the three to date, but it’s splitting hairs to rank them because they’re all high quality).
Misty Knight is pretty damn hot. And a good actress. I think that role could have come off really poorly in the hands of a lesser performer. Why isn’t she even remotely famous? Hopefully she’ll have a lot of opportunities after this. Juice from SoA is really good too, as are Alfre Woodard, Frankie Faison, and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali. Diamondback (the dude, not any of the female versions from marvel comics) is the only actor I didn’t really care for.
I’ve really been getting into the recent-ish revival of funk/soul/r&b from the 60s/70s by contemporary artists, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the like, and this show’s soundtrack is full of that type of music. Even some artists I wasn’t familiar with, which is going to add some to my music library. There are some points where the score, from the guy who did Black Dynamite‘s music, comes off as a little corny, but more often than not it’s just super cool retro funky stuff.
I find it interesting that they do the fight scenes more like classic Superman, with bullets bouncing off his chest like they’re nothing, rather than like a typical modern hero thing (post-Indiana Jones, we seem to like our heroes bruised and battered). They start to address the police/race/shooting stuff later on, but in the beginning, I think it’s all about seeing a black man as a bulletproof hero, to be inspiring. Which… I hope it is, to people who might need that kinda thing. I’m too dead inside to really be inspired by anything.
Southpaw is that Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie that I guess follows pretty predictable boxing movie tropes. But Jake Gyllenhaal is a pretty damn good actor, Rachel McAdams is hot, and Forest Whitaker is good, and 50 Cent… isn’t in the movie all that much. The good performances are all that elevate it slightly above the generic story. Nothing too special.