Monday, May 30, 2011

Mini movie review: Run, Fat Boy, Run

Run, Fat Boy, Run is a silly, inconsequential comedy starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria, and directed by David Schwimmer.  About five years ago, Dennis (Pegg) suffered a major case of cold feet and left his pregnant bride Libby (Newton) at the altar.  Now, his relationship with her is strained, although he does love his exceedingly adorable son; he's out of shape; and his security guard job at the ladies' wear section of a department store scarcely pays enough for him to make the rent.

Libby is doing just fine, however, with her popular bakery shop and very nice flat.  Even better, she's dating the smooth, successful American Whit (Azaria) who runs marathons for fun.  When Dennis - who still carries a torch for the woman he abandoned - meets Whit and learns of an upcoming charity run ... well, you can see where this is headed.

This is not the Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead, Spaced or Hot Fuzz.  This is Simon Pegg in a generic, slightly funny comedy, playing an Everyman schlub who overcomes the odds with a supporting cast of vaguely eccentric characters, and ends up learning something in the process.  It's a harmless enough movie, not terrible but not particularly good, and while it's always good to see Pegg onscreen, I prefer him to be unshackled in less conventional fare.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mini book review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'd been waiting for ages to read The Hunger Games - very popular at the library - and took it with me on vacation last week. I tore through it, loving it, this suspenseful, fast-paced, violent blockbuster of a post-apocalyptic YA novel, and when I finished, thought, "I'm so going to love writing a review of this book."  But now I find I don't have much to say about it, other than I'm looking forward to the other two books in the series and am also looking forward to the movie adaptation.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is a great character: tough as nails because she has to be, yet vulnerable because she's yet only a girl; smart and adaptive to her world but often oblivious to the feelings of the people in it.  Brave and loyal, broken and battered, she's a wonderfully flawed heroine, fighting for survival in a vicious world, the ultimate reality t.v. show, The Running Man for the modern age.  Other characters are less fully developed, but that may be because the story is told from Katniss's point of view and her focus is on killing/not getting killed.

So that's all I've got.  I fear there is more murder and mayhem ahead for Katniss and Peeta, and heartbreak as well.  I'm on the waiting list for Catching Fire - hopefully I'll have more to say about the second book.  And hopefully I'll like it as much as I did The Hunger Games.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I haven't forgotten

This may be the longest gap between posts since I started ol' FMS.  I'm so sorry.  But our houseguests just left, and I just finished reading The Hunger Games, and I've got The Town and Session 9 waiting to fire up the DVR ... a book review will be up in the next day or so, promise.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Summertime Television

Summertime television used to be el sucko.  Of course, after this year's lackluster season, once the only bright spot - Justified - ran its course, there wasn't much I wanted to watch now anyway.  To be sure, I've got all the episodes of AMC's The Killing sitting in my DVR, and I've recorded a bunch of Invasions too (although I can't remember why - is it supposed to be any good?).  Burn Notice returns sometime soon too and that's nice and light and fluffy.

But what of the new cable shows, released in the summer when there's nothing on the networks?  This time around I've got a list of them that I'm willing to try, based on some geeky blog post I read somewhere:
  • Teen Wolf - 6/5 on MTV.  This remake is not surprising in the wake of Twilight.  I read something somewhere that this version is "more Incredible Hulk than Teen Wolf," but I'll give it a shot.
  • The Nine Lives of Chloe King - 6/14 on ABC Family.  From the show's site: "Chloe King is looking forward to celebrating her birthday with her friends and single mother, just like every other year…that is until she starts developing heightened abilities [FMS note: cat-like] and discovers she's being pursued by a mysterious figure. Chloe soon learns she's part of an ancient race which has been hunted by human assassins for millennia —and that she may be their only hope for ultimate survival."  Hey, I liked GREEK a lot so I'm interested to see what they do with an urban fantasy-ish series.
  • Falling Skies - 6/19 on TNT.  A post-apocalyptic humans vs. alien invaders show executive-produced by Steven Spielberg?  I have high hopes for this one.
  • Wilfred - 6/23 on FX.  You've seen the ads, right?  Frodo's got a dog.  Everyone else in the world sees an actual dog but to Frodo, it's a guy in a dog suit with an English or Aussie accent.  Could be twisted (she said hopefully).
  • Alphas - 7/11 on Syfy.  Kind of like Heroes (but only in a good way, hopefully) with a team of folks with heightened abilities.  Only this time they have government funding AND David Strathairn.
What about you guys?  What will you be watching when it's too hot to do anything else?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E20 "There Is More Than One of Everything"

The EMTs bring Nina Sharp into the ER.  She's unconscious from the whole being shot thing, and the EMTs are weirded out by her robo-arm, which has been stripped of its skin-coat.  Up in Boston, the Fringe team has heard what happened and is already on the case, reviewing the security footage from Nina's building.  They watch as a team of masked men - one is technically bandaged, not masked - shoot Nina, mutter to one another and then black out the camera for four minutes, whilst they do something untoward to the unconscious and bleeding woman.  The FBI runs the muffled voices through some voice recognition software and determine that the bandaged man is Jones.  He seems to be falling apart somewhat, post-teleportation.  The team wonders what Jones did to Nina in that four minutes they couldn't see.  Olivia jumps up on her soapbox and starts ranting about wanting to bring William Bell in for questioning.  Broyles, hilariously, tries to get a word in edgewise and tell her that yes, he's already starting to make those calls.

The next morning, Peter, Olivia and Astrid are all looking for Walter who has gone walkabout again.  Olivia has a slight crisis of conscience about upsetting the old guy at the pastry shop but Peter says that he, and Walter, understand. No one on campus has seen Walter so Peter heads out to search for him.  He's probably not going to find him since Walter is at some remote cemetery, staring down at a headstone whilst the Bald Man watches from a little ways away.

Nina wakes up in recovery.  Broyles is there and tells her it was Jones.  He asks what they did to her arm.  Nina wiggles her robo-fingers and tells Broyles to get Olivia here.  When the younger woman arrives, Nina tells them that Bell is not funding Jones's techno-terrorism: Jones used to be a valued Massive Dynamic employee but there was a falling out and Jones was fired.  Ever since he escaped from the German prison, he's been trying to contact Bell and Nina thinks Jones is trying to kill him.  She goes on to promise that if Olivia will stop Jones, Nina will personally set up a face-to-face meeting with Olivia and Bell, and Olivia will have all her questions answered.  If Jones gets to Bell first, however, all bets are off.  Olivia asks what Jones did to Nina's arm: he removed an incredibly potent power source.

Out on a rainy street, Jones and his team set up a bunch of tech that runs on the pilfered power source.  When they turn it on, the passersby cover their ears in pain.  A shimmer appears in the street, revealing a window into the alt-verse where a semi truck, under sunny skies, is heading towards them.  But the tech won't hold - "It's too thick at these coordinates," bitches Jones - and the shimmer closes, cutting the truck in half.

The Bald Man and Walter stand on a beach.  The Bald Man hands Walter a coin, telling him that it isn't hte one he thinks it is: "There is more than one of everything."  He asks if Walter knows this place and remembers what he's come here for, because there isn't much time.  Walter nods grimly and heads up the beach to a derelict house.

Broyles and Nina stop by the Harvard lab to ask Peter and Astrid about Walter's current whereabouts - they think he might know what Jones is up to.  When they learn that Walter is missing, both Nina and Broyles jump on their phones and order their respective organizations to search for the missing man.  Nina's team wins, soon passing along a photo of Walter at a North Shore commuter rail station, not far from the beach house the Bishop family used to own.  Peter muses that Walter liked it up there because it was quiet and heads out to collect his father.

Olivia and Charlie stare at the truncated truck.  "Where's the rest of it?" asks a bewildered Charlie.  They interrogate witnesses who confirm the shimmer and a man with bandages on his face.  Then Charlie is handed a report which completely befuddles him: the VIN, the parts serial numbers, the registration tag ... none of the truck's identifying numbers exist [in this 'verse].  "This truck doesn't exist! Where the hell did it come from?" He sounds pretty upset.

Back at FBI HQ, Olivia's like, WTF is going on - what's with this truck and where in the world is William Bell?  Nina rolls her eyes: "That's the trouble, Agent Dunham.  He's not in this world."  Charlie is having a really tough time getting his brain around the alt-verse concept but Olivia, who's been edging up to it for some time now, is totally on board.  Broyles is too, because he's complicit with Nina.  (Meanwhile, Jones and his crew get out of their SUVs at some soccer field in Providence.)  Nina tells the Fringe team that jOnes is using the tech out of her arm to try to cross over into the alt-verse and kill Bell.  Suddenly, every single cell phone in the room starts ringing.  That can't be good.

Up at the beach house, Peter finds Walter inside, frantically running from room to room, getting more and more agitated because he knows he has to find something important that he left here, but he can't remember what it was or where he put it.  Peter tries to calm his father, finally recalling a memory of when he was very young and Walter would make them whale-shaped pancakes on the weekends.  For some reason, Walter's brain clicks at this and he scampers up to the attic.

Out in the Providence soccer field, the witnesses are shaken up, describing the shimmer that opened and then slammed shut.  Trouble is, one of the soccer players was running through the shimmer when it closed and it decapitated him (and then some).  The decapitated bits are nowhere to be found - they're on the other side.  Eew.

Back at HQ (because Providence is like a block from Boston - the geography in this show is total crap), Olivia requests all the X-files from the file room.  [Sorry, but wouldn't she have gone through all these weirdo Fringe files AGES ago?  That's what I thought.] Some time later, she has put together a map of all the Fringe occurences and thinks she has made a connection between Jones's latest shenanigans.

Walter opens a trunk in the beach house attic and pulls out a lockbox.  There's a dusty coin sitting on top of the box - looks like the one the Bald Man handed him earlier.  Peter helps him open the box and he removes a gadget.  Walter opines that back in the day, he and William Bell used to do a lot of LSD (Peter is so not shocked by this "revelation") and were convinced that hallucinogenics offered them glimpses into the alt-verse, although they wanted to try to get there themselves.  Bell's cortexyphan experiments were to alter the children to have the ability to travel between the realities.  "Around this time, something was lost to me, Peter, something previous."  Walter decided to cross to the alt-verse and take from there what was lost to him here. 

But he had to find a soft spot between the realities to do so - otherwise the membrane between the 'verses is too tough.  But the world's advance technologies are messing with the natural order of things and creating more soft spots between the 'verses than there should be.  So Walter built a patch - this gadget he's uncovered - to close any holes between the realities.  He thinks that he knows where the next soft spot will be.  Fortuitiously, back at FBI HQ, the team has figured out the same soft spot location.

That dark and rainy night, Jones's crew sets up their tech at Reiden Lake.  "Come on, men, we're going to the other side!"  Peter and Walter arrive at the lake, Walter nervous about being late for whatever it is that's about to happen.  When they get out of the car, Olivia's FBI team pounces on them.  Then everyone figures out they're on the same side and move towards Jones.

This time Jones's tech works perfectly - the soft spot is soft enough.  Shots are exchanged between the FBI and the bad guys but Jones stays focused.  Walter shows Peter how to use the patch gadget and sends him in.  As the portal between the 'verses opens, Jones walks forward, ignoring Olivia's shouts for him to stop or she'll shoot.  So she shoots, but the bullets pass harmlessly through his body, a by-product of his post-teleportation bodily degradation.  Jones starts to step through the portal and Peter fires off the patch gadget.  The portal slams closed, slicing Jones in half.

Later, Broyles stops by Olivia's office and tells her that he's sorry, but they've been ordered to cease and desist in their investigation of William Bell.  And this time they have to pay attention to it.

At the lab, Walter is missing again but this time he's left a note - first time ever, which delights Peter - saying that he'll be back, and this time he knows where he's going.  He's gone back to that rural cemetery, actually, where he places one of those coins on that headstone.  The camera moves so we can read it: Peter Bishop, 1978-1985.  Walter stands there, weeping.

Olivia gets a phone call from Nina, asking her to come to NYC tomorrow so Nina can hold up her end of the bargain.  Olivia goes to the hotel and sits in the restaurant.  And sits and sits and sits and sits.  Nina never shows.  Pissed off, Olivia stalks to the elevator. 

In the elevator, there are some weird flashes of light and the doors open onto a bright white, futuristic corridor.  A tall, elegant young woman greets Olivia by name and takes her to a swanky office.  She walks around, puzzled.  A door opens behind her and Leonard Nimoy (!!!) walks in, introducing himself as William Bell.  She asks where they are and he smiles, saying it's complicated.  As the episode ends, Olivia walks to the windows and looks out as the camera pulls back: she's standing in one of the Twin Towers, which in this 'verse did not fall on 9/11.  That's a damn ballsy final shot.

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E19 "The Road Not Taken"

At FBI HQ, Broyles flashes photos from the recent Fringe cases and hands out information packets.  He tells the assembled agents about ZFT and their manifesto, Destruction Through Technological Progress.  The bizarre acts perpetrated by ZFT appear to be increasing in frequency but are completely unpredictable.  Plus, they think that Massive Dynamic's William Bell is funding the techno-terrorists.  To prove it, the FBI needs to find the connection.

In NYC, a young woman, Sara, runs for the bus.  She's panting and seems very nervous.  As she leans her head against the bus window, it steams up; when she grasps the metal handrail, it glows red.  She stumbles off the bus, crying that she can't breathe.  As passersby watch helplessly, Sara catches fire and explodes right there on the street.

At the Harvard lab, Walter drags out that old typewriter and shows Peter and Astrid the Y that skips, just like in the manifesto manuscript.  The typewriter was Bell's.  But, Walter insists, Bell wasn't a madman: if Bell wrote the manifesto, it's been tampered with since the author refers throughout to the "ethics chapter" and there's no chapter on ethics in the manuscript.  Walter says they need to find the original manuscript to deduce Bell's actual intent.

Meanwhile, the whole Fringe team travels to the NYC sidewalk where Sara (they don't know her name yet but it's easier for me to type "Sara" instead of "the red-headed girl who spontaneously combusted until they learn her identity in a couple of paragraphs) exploded.  Strangely, when Olivia looks at the charred body, she sees two crispy corpses while everyone else only sees one.  After a weird shimmer, the second body disappears from Olivia's sight.  She doesn't know what to think about that.

Nina Sharp pays Broyles a visit - they are so in cahoots but we still don't know exactly how - since Massive Dynamic's counterintelligence has picked up on the FBI's Bell investigation.  "William Bell is not the enemy," she says.  Broyles says he would like to hear that from the man himself but Nina says Bell isn't available as "[h]e's travelling."  Broyles gives Nina a knowing look at that but doesn't press.

During the autopsy, Walter is annoyed that Peter has dismantled the electron microscope for a special project.  He's taken apart the Geiger counter too.

Olivia stops by Broyles's office to give him an update and comments on how he's redecorated.  Broyles: WTF are you talking about?  She tells him that they're working on an ID for the dead girl.  He asks, "What about the other victim?" and hands her a crime scene photograph with those two charred bodies.  Olivia turns around, confused, and that weird shimmer happens again, and suddenly Broyles is behind her, entering his office, and his office furniture is back to normal.  This time Olivia's like, WTF?  Then Harris bursts in, ranting and raving and ordering them to cease and desist with the Bell investigation.  After he leaves, Broyles assures Olivia that the investigation will continue, but she needs to get more evidence.

Walter and Astrid identify Sara from dental records.  Olivia and Charlie go back to NYC [because it's just across the river from Boston, really, so easy to get to and from] and check out Sara's apartment: no roommates, hardly any personal effects, gray and black clothing in the closet.  Olivia finds a $30,000 check from an "Isaac Winters" while Charlie finds the bathroom, completely scorched.  "What the hell happened to her?" breathes Olivia.

When she reports back to Walter and Peter, that they found evidence of other fires, Walter says it obviously isn't a case of spontaneous human combustion then, since that sort of thing really only happens once to a person.  It may have been pyrokinesis instead.  Peter scoffs - A firestarter?  Really?  So why'd she blow up? - and his dad posits that the pyrokinesis may be a new development and Sara hadn't gained the skill to control it yet.

Charlie interrupts to say that they've tracked "Isaac Winters" to a law office in Charlestown.  Olivia meets him there and they find nothing but an empty office with several panicked messages from Sara on the answering machine.  One of the messages relays that after she took the "test" Winters left for her, "something strange" started to happen to her.  At the word "test," Olivia twitches.  She heads outside and is stunned to see the Boston skyline in ruins and flames, with the military shouting commands over unseen loudspeakers.  Charlie touches her shoulder and she shudders, and the skyline is back to normal, no flames.

Walter checks her out, asking wistfully if she's sure she hasn't had any LSD, or acid, or 'shrooms lately.  She confirms that it wasn't a drug trip but she feels like she's losing her mind.  He gently says that if that were the case, she wouldn't realize it was happening.  He thinks that what's happening to her might be prolonged deja vu, going on to explain that there are alternate universes made up of all the choices that might have been made.  Deja vu is just a momentary glimpse at the alt-verse but perhaps Olivia's visions are more extended looks into that world.  She asks if maybe the cortexyphan she was subjected to as a child might have had something to do with it.  Maybe, says Walter.  Astrid interruptst to say that she's found an online photo of a similar pyrokinetic death in Budapest - the guy who runs the web site lives over in Malden.

Olivia and Peter go to meet the guy, played by Clint Howard.  He's a total X Files-level paranoid.  At first he says things that sort of make sense to them (or at least Olivia), about Massive Dynamic being behind the weird occurances, and doing secret testing on children to make them into supersoldiers for the upcoming war ... against the Romulans.  And he thinks he's Spock.  Peter gives him a "live long and prosper" and they get the hell out of there.

Nina Sharp gets an alarming phone call - "don't do anything until I get there" - and tells her driver to get her to the helicopter ASAP.

Back at FBI HQ, Olivia works through the case with Pete, saying that maybe she's missing something: in her visions, she always sees two bodies, so maybe there's another victim somewhere.  If she could get back to the alt-verse, maybe she could gather some additional information.  Harris interrupts and gives her a new assignment: psych evaluation.  They get into a huge yelling match out in the hallway.

When Olivia stalks back to her office, she slips into the alt-verse.  There, the FBI agents are stressed and frantic, and Charlie has a big scar on his face.  She asks him if she can take another look at the firestarter file.  Charlie: "You have half of Boston on quarantine lock-down and you're worried about burned twins?" but he gives her the file.  She gets a quick look before slipping back into her reality.

They find Sara's twin, Nancy, via face-recognition software, but Isaac Winters gets to her first.  By the time Olivia and Peter get to Nancy's apartment, it's empty and there are signs of a struggle.  Olivia calls for forensics; Peter notices that a window pane is slightly melted - he's got an idea.  He cuts a circle of glass out of the window just as Walter and Astrid arrive with Peter's special project.  The project is an audio-reconstructor gizmo so Walter can digitize all his old records - the machine might be able to read the grooves in the melted glass and play back the sound captured there, whatever was going on when Nancy was attacked.  After a few false starts, they hear this: screams and pleading on Nancy's part, a phone being dialed, and Winters's voice saying, "I have her."  They replay the phone being dialed and Olivia uses an app on her cell to dial the number from the tones.  Who answers?  Harris.

When Harris leaves FBI HQ, Charlie, Olivia and a small team follow him to a warehouse.  Inside, Harris tells Winters to hurry up and activate Nancy as "he" (presumably their boss) is getting impatient.  Winters prepares a syringe.  As the FBI team makes their way further in, Olivia sees a cork board with photos of the activated subjects: Sara, Nancy, Nick Lane and Olivia among them.  Shots are fired and Winters, a security guard and one of the FBI fodder go down.

Olivia finds Nancy, strapped to a table, and runs into the room to free her.  Harris locks the door on her and taunts her as she fires her gun at the bullet-proof glass, saying that Nancy will take care of everything for him since once she explodes, she'll take Olivia with her.  Nancy is panicking, finding it hard to breathe.  Olivia tries to calm her, saying that this was done to her when she was young, but now she needs to focus the heat building inside to an external object.  Nancy doesn't think she can do it but then, awesomely, she sees Harris watching them through the window.  He stares at her, horrified, as he starts to cough and sweat, and then he bursts into flames and explodes.  Oliva knocks Nancy to the floor, out of the flames, then hugs her and tells her that everything is going to be okay now.  She doesn't sound the least bit upset that Harris just popped like a firecracker.

Sometime later, Olivia finds Walter sitting alone at an ice cream parlor when Peter goes off to the restroom.  "What the hell did you people do to us?" she snarls, "You and William Bell - what did you do to me?  You were there, you knew what was going on! Why did you do it?"  Walter fumbles, tearing up, saying that they were trying to prepare the children for something, something that's coming.  "What?" hisses Olivia, "What's coming?"  But poor Walter doesn't remember, or can't, and he breaks down, crying.  Olivia gives him a look of disgust and leaves.  When Peter returns, Walter is a wreck and he clutches at his son's hand.

Nina Sharp rings a doorbell; Broyles answers.  She has a stack of photographs of the Bald Man, all taken very recently.  She tells Broyles that he knows as well as she does what happened the last time this guy came around.  They need to talk.

Walter is back at his lab, playing some of his old records.  He finds the original of Bell's manuscript stuck down amongst the albums, complete with the ethics chapter which says things like "the children will save us."  He hears someone come in behind him and turns, excited to share his discovery.  It's the Bald Man who greets him, however, and tells him it's time to go.  Walter: "Is it time?"  He replaces the manuscript and gets his coat, and follows the Bald Man out.

Nina Sharp has returned to her NYC apartment but when the elevator doors open, masked men are there and they shoot her, point-blank.

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe