Friday, May 2, 2008

Striking While the Iron Is Hot: LOST, Smallville, 30 ROCK, The Office - Reviewed!

Man ... this weekend cannot come soon enough. It's been a tiring week, a lot going on at work, a visit from my old BU buddy Sarah W., watching a lot of NBA playoff action, and trying to finalize plans for an upcoming quick trip to Beantown for my brother's graduation ...

Anyways, tonight: IRON MAN. Hells yeah. Check out my entry from yesterday to get pirmed and ready, with my list 10 essential tunes featuring a comic book character in the title. Yes, I am a nerd.

- By the way, one thing that I hope will be a lesson learned from Iron Man's eventual success: for the love of God, when casting action movies, especially superhero flicks ... you don't need pretty-boy post-teens in the main roles! We need more Christian Bale's, Ron Perlman's and Robert Downey Jr's in these roles. When the casting began for the now-dumped JLA movie, the casting was simply atrocious-seeming. Adam Brody as the Flash? I like Brody, but please, no more baby-faced effeminate types in leading action-movie roles.

Okay ..... way too much TV was watched by me last night. Let's get to it:


- I went back and forth a little about what I thought about last night's ep, but then it hit me, as the clock struck 11 pm and that final tone rung out signalling the episode's end -- for an hour, I had been holding my breath, on the edge of my seat, and hanging on every word of LOST. The fact was, this was a totally intense, character-driven episode that overall, I'd have to say was one of the season's most compelling to date.

Give a lot of credit to Matthew Fox. He just has that intangible quality as an actor that makes him seem human and relatable no matter what situation he's thrown into. Fox did an outstanding job last night, plain and simple. I know that Lost fell a bit out of favor with the Emmy's in recent years, but, well, it may be time for Fox to once again be deemed worthy of awards consideration. Last night, we really went to hell and back with Jack. On the island, we saw Jack's control-freak tendencies manifest in dramatic fashion, as he insisted he be kept awake as Juliette performed surgery to remove his appendix, and that Kate be present as well, possibly to offset the sometimes duplicitous nature of Juliette. That overt trust of Kate was parallelled in the flash-forwards, where we are shown an intermediary period between the various Kate and Jack flashes we've seen to date. After Kate's trial, but before Jack finds himself desperately teling Kate that they have to go back to the island, seen during last season's finale. In this particular period, Jack surprisingly seems to have found a measure of domestic bliss with Kate, who we know prior to and after this period he's not exactly on great terms with. But here, we saw the facade of the happy couple begin to crumble. Jack isn't sure if he can trust Kate, who is apparently helping out the island-bound Sawyer in some secretive manner. Add to that the fact that Jack keeps seeing glimpses of his supposesedly dead father, and we have the beginnings of Jack's eventual meltdown.

All of this emotional and psychological turmoil was depicted pretty brilliantly by Fox. The scenes between he and Kate bristled with sadness and intensity. And it's pretty remarkable how the Lost guys have constructed this out-of-sequence tapestry of Jack moments. The best part is that, whereas circa Season 2 these probably wouldn't have fit together particularly seamlessly, they now have the air of pieces of a puzzle being fit neatly into place. It's fun to watch, that's for sure.

Aside from all the Jack stuff, there wasn't much else to this episode. The biggie was the cliffhanger, in which Claire goes missing from Team Sawyer, apparently having disappeared with Ghost Dad. Interesting, and like everyone else I perked up during the next-ep preview when that guy told Locke he had been dead for thirteen years ... say what now? I see dead people! And even Crazy Hurley says the Lostees are all dead. But if they're dead, then what are Rousseau, Karl, and poor Alex? Really, really dead? Now, if one is plucked out of time at the moment of death and transported to a magical island that heals all, does that make them dead, undead? Hmm ...

Anyways, really good stuff here. Not a ton of on-the-island plot movement, but in terms of intensity, character drama, thought-provoking existential crises, and good ol' fashioned mystery ... it doesn't get much better.

My Grade: A


- Some geeky part of me really wanted to love last night's Smallville, which pulled the old "what would an alternate reality in which Clark Kent never existed be like" trick. Apparently, a world without Clark is a world that is one giant tribute to the Superman lore of the movies and comics. In this world, Lois Lane is a crusading reporter, Jimmy Olsen a bow-tie wearing photographer, and Lex Luthor a black-gloved, white-suit wearing President of the USA. Cool, right? Yeah, it might be, if this episode didn't contain some of the most ridiculous writing I've yet seen from the typically campy show.

From Clark Kent running into his alternate timeline doppledanger and trying to convince Martha and Jonathan Kent's biological son that he wasn't crazy and was an alien from Krypton, to Jimmy confiding in a guy who he'd never met before in his life, to the trip to Krypton that saw Clark Kent rocket his own infant self to earth ... holy lord, was this a cluster of an episode.

I liked the kind of big action feel we got here, I really did. I've seen complaints about some of the budgetary constaints in terms of not showing much of Krypton or whatnot. I agree it was lame that Krypton was just the Fortress with a green tint, but at the same time you've got to admire a show that even gets this ambitious in its storytelling, even if the end result of said (overly?) ambitious storytelling is pretty messy. I guess it's just nice to see Smallville aim high for once and actually have Clark deal with danger where the stakes are high and all can't be solved with a speed burst-powered clock to the head.

Still, the stilted dialogue, hamfisted acting (sans Michael Rosenbaum, who once again classed up the joint with his always-great depiction of Lex), and questionable f/x really made this a shell of the action-packed extravaganza it could and should have been. The time-travel elements were handled with laughable nonchalance, and Braniac was yet again not used close to his full potential as a villain. It really makes me worry about the recently announced arrival of Doomsday, set for next season. The show has yet to prove, in seven years, that it can introduce a cool, effective villain other than the Luthors. Kinda sad.

My Grade: B-


- After hitting a high point last week, this week's Office was a bit of a come-down. Not that there weren't some funny moments, but this episode overall never really seemed to find its voice. I really liked the idea of focusing in a bit on Stanley. He's one of the Office characters who we know the least about, and the potential for a real conflict with Michael was always pretty good, as Stanley is one of the few who is actually actively angry with Michael's workplace antics. But after some interesting buildup, it seemed like things never really went anywhere. It was funny and awkward to see Stanley really call out Michael - it's too bad that the ep never truly delved into Stanley's thought process. I mean, most of the time Michael is actually naively rascist in dealing with him - doesn't that piss him off?

I don't know, this episode was just a bit frustrating, as it seemed like there was both a comedic potential and dramatic potential with Stanley that was never quite tapped. Meanwhile, there were some interesting little threads with Pam and Jim, Toby, and Dwight (who supplied the biggest laughs of the night, by far, with his in-your-face methods of pursuasion used on both Andy - successfully, and on Michael - unsuccessfully). Thank you Rainn Wilson for always bringing the funny to The Office. Oh, Daryl was pretty fun as well with his fake gang-advice to Michael. And I also give the episode some bonus points for Steve Carell's so-awkward-it-eventually-became-hilarious closing monologue, which started as a Rodney Dangerfield impression and soon became a freakshow amalgam of various famous stand-up routines. And yeah, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Creed and his dirty thoughts about Pam. Wow.

My Grade: B

30 ROCK:

- And then, there was 30 Rock. Again, a funny episode but a bit too Liz-centric for my tastes. The problem is that the Liz-focused episodes, I find, tend to be a bit more sitcomish that most. Of course, 30 Rock always has some innovative and random humor in spite of the sitcom trappings of a particular episode. But this episode teased us with one or two funny lines each from the likes of Jenna, Kenneth, and Tracy, but then relegated them to bit players for much of the episode, while we focused on the on again off again romance between Liz and Floyd. I did enjoy some of the Cleveland-centric humor (the Ikea bit was pretty good - the same humor could easily be transplanted to CT ...), and I especially thought the minute or so of Liz eating her sandwich at the airport was pretty classic.

The teamsters subplot, in which a bunch of very realistic-seeming teamster dudes would only relinquish a specially-made sandwich if they were beaten in a drinking contest, had a few amusing moments but ultimately didn't give much to Tracy and Jenna to do, though the climax, in which everyone on the Tracy Jordan show overcame their various drinking restrictions to triumph over the teamsters, was pretty funny.

So, not an instant-classic episode of 30 Rock, but still a pretty good episode of one of TV's best comedies.

My Grade: B+

Okay ... enough of this jibber jabber. I'm out - stay tuned for the big IRON MAN review coming soon.


  1. but the flaw in your entry is this: we do have an Ikea in Connecticut.

  2. Hahaha ... I guess my flaw was in comparing a single city (Cleveland) to an entire state(Connecticut. Then again, bringing, say, Hartford into the discussion would just be sad.