Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Return of X-Files

I was more excited than I expected to be when I heard the news that The X-Files would be returning to television as a limited series.  What started out as a brilliant show in 1993, one of my favorites, fizzled as it came to a dragged out, unresolved end in 2002.  The big-screen movies, one in 1998 and the other in 2008, were a let-down.  Can I honestly expect a new six-episode run to recapture all that was good about the science fiction horror drama and not be another anticlimactic disappointment?

The original stars, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, as well as the program's creator and show-runner Chris Carter, will be back, so that's a promising sign.  The X-Files gripped me in its conspiracy mythology about alien invasions and government coverups.  The stand-alone monster episodes were also a lot of fun -- Tooms, the Jersey Devil, the Arctic Worm, the Flukeman -- full of atmospheric chills and thrills.

It was a show that sparked a ton of imitators (and its own short-lived spin-offs, The Lone Gunmen and Millennium) and began the trend of plots that raised more questions than were answered.

I hope the revival succeeds and I'd like to see many of the supporting characters throughout the years make cameo appearances.  Maybe the truth is still out there.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

American Titles

Hollywood loves generic titles for its movies and television shows. Right now I'm seeing a trend in the (over)use of the word "American."  We have American Horror Story, American Crime, American Dad, and The Americans.  Coming soon we'll see American Odyssey, American Gods, American Crime Story, and American Pastoral.  

Here's a list of the "American" movie and TV titles I unearthed before I gave up looking. (I stuck with just "American" and didn't include variations like Captain America or America's Got Talent.)

An American Affair
American Anthem
American Beauty
American Buffalo
An American Carol
American Crime
American Crime Story
American Crude
American Dad
American Dreams
American Dreamz
American Flyers
An American Friend
American Gangster
American Gigolo
American Girl
American Gladiators
American Gods
American Gothic
American Graffiti
American Gun
An American Haunting
American Heart
American Heist
American High School
American History X
American Horror Story
American Hustle
American Idol
An American in Paris
American Justice
American Masters
American Ninja
American Nudist
American Odyssey
American Outlaws
American Pastoral
American Pie (and its sequels)
American Pimp
American Pop
The American President
American Psycho
American Rhapsody
The Americans
American Sniper
American Son
American Stag
An American Tail
American Virgin
An American Werewolf in London (and its sequel)
American Yakuza
The Greatest American Hero
The Last American Virgin
Love American Style
My Fellow Americans
The Quiet American
Ugly Americans
Young Americans

Let me know if a good one is not on the list.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Will Powers Succeed on the PlayStation Network?

Like many other media providers in the ever-changing entertainment landscape, the PlayStation Network is investing in original programming, hoping it will lure new viewers and subscribers, while keeping existing ones, or encouraging them to upgrade to premium services.  Its first stab at a scripted show is Powers, based on the comic book series by Brian Bendis.

I watched the free pilot episode on my PlayStation 3, and while the Network will need more shows to be viewed as a legitimate competitor to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and the rest, Powers is interesting and entertaining enough to make me want to watch the rest of the season.

Our movie theaters and television channels seem over-saturated with superhero series and super-powered characters, so the premise of Powers doesn't seem as fresh as it may have been when Bendis first created the story back in 2000 -- police deal with crimes involving powered heroes and villains (and those in-between who can't be classified one or the other). Still, it has some impressive world-building plotting to keep me engaged, as well as doses of sex and violence to attract audiences looking for more edgy story-lines than what we saw on Heroes or The 4400 (remember that one?).

We jump right into the action as we see a super-powered bad guy in police custody break loose and kill a homicide detective.  The murdered cop's partner is Christian Walker, the protagonist of our tale, a hard-boiled dick who used to be a well-known hero himself called Diamond, before he lost his powers.  Actor Sharlto Copley is perfect as Walker -- he's gruff with a combustible temper, but we see sadness weighing heavy on his shoulders and on his soul.

Plenty of back-story is thrust upon us, hints of past relationships, both romantic (with Retro Girl played by Michelle Forbes) and more complicated (with "Big Bad" Wolfe -- played with a psycho intensity by Eddie Izzard -- a one-time hero who became a world-wide threat and stole Diamond's powers).

The world is populated by those with powers and those without.  Logan Browning is enticing as Zora, one of the many youngsters suddenly discovering their miraculous gifts, living in their own subculture while glorifying the older heroes and villains, and at times bullying those without powers, especially the "Wanna-Be" kids, like Calista Secor.

Delightfully brought to life by Olesya Rulin, Calista yearns for a taste of the powers she believes will eventually manifest themselves, frustrated that they haven't yet, and putting herself at risk by engaging in dangerous activities that might give her a taste of temporary powers.

If nothing else, Powers made me want to hunt down the graphic novel compilations of the original comics.

The first three episodes are also available on YouTube, so give it a shot.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kikback: My Favorite Posts About Open Salon

Now that Salon.com has officially shut down its Open Salon blogging community, allow me to reminisce about its glory days.

Here are some of my favorite posts about that once great site.

What I've Learned During My First Week at Open Salon (August 2, 2009)

What I've Learned During My First Month at Open Salon (August 31, 2009)

How to Make Open Salon Even Better (November 10, 2009)

A Year on OS and Some of the Writers Who Inspire Me (July 28, 2010)

Measuring My Most Popular Blog Entries (January 10, 2011)

Bits and Pieces: Recent Pop Culture News (July 31, 2011)

Why I Continue to Post on Open Salon (November 18, 2012)

Farewell, Open Salon (March 11, 2015)

If any of you from OS are out there and happen to read this, post a comment below and say "Hi!"  Don't be strangers.  Let me know where you're writing these days.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Farewell, Open Salon

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that the wonderful blogging community Open Salon is no more.  It has finally been shut down, its memory drifting off into the ether of cyberspace, never to be be heard from again.

It comes as no surprise, since its death knell was long heard.  Still, it will be missed.  The community of writers and commentators was one of the best on the Internet -- smart, opinionated, wonderful.  I had some good times sharing my blog there.

Hopefully some of the amazing people I met there will find their way here or wherever the cyber-road takes me next.

Here's the message that was sent to me and the rest of us, who were the last holdovers of the once proud Open Salon.

Thank you so much for being a part of Open Salon for the past 6 years. We have
appreciated every personal story, every joke, every anecdote and every
conversation within the community. However, due to the changing landscape of
blogging, we have made the difficult decision to close this site. Starting today
you will no longer be able to log into and, consequently, to upload, update or
edit information within your Open Salon account.  For the next 14 days you will
still be able to view your profile page and all the content stored therein.
Please refer to our attached FAQs for more information pertaining to Open Salon
and the closing of services.

We remain dedicated to facilitating discussion
around the issues and events you care about on Salon.com, and to deliver thought
provoking, passionate, content.

Thank you again for being a part of our

Open Salon Staff

Farewell, Open Salon.  Thank you for being there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Poll Results: The Future of Movie Franchises

My latest poll has concluded.  In answer to the question "Which movie franchise has the most promising future?" the majority of you who voted (55% to be exact) chose Star Wars.  We shall see if the sequels and spin-offs live up to expectations now that Disney controls the fate of that galaxy long ago and far, far away.

The runner-up was Marvel Superheroes.  Disney controls that franchise too, and unless they screw it up, we can expect many more feature films about Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and all the rest.

Tied for distant third we had DC Superheroes, Star Trek, Universal Monsters, James Bond, and "other."  I imagine that lumped in that vague "other" we have Harry Potter, the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, etc., which still might have some life left even though the tales seem to have run their official course.

What do you think?

P.S.  A new poll is open, asking "which streaming video service has the best original content?"

Friday, March 6, 2015

Best Reader Comment from Last Month (February 2015)

My post on the Brian Williams lying scandal generated the most comments for my blog in February.  Titled "Whom Can We Trust?" it sparked a thought-provoking discussion.  I chose the comment by Bill Beck as the one that stood out for me the most:

"One thing that gets lost in the Williams matter is that he did not tell this story on the Evening News.  He told it in speeches and various places away from the news desk. He was trying to build himself up personnally rather than give a false account for a broadcast. In either case, it was the wrong thing for him to do. I think he will be gone from NBC. But I don't see it as massaging a story to twist it. He just got caught up in trying to look like a cool celebrity."

Bill joins a growing list of others who provided terrific feedback month after month.

Ben Sen
Cranky Cuss
Ellen Clancy
Francois Arouet
John Hamilton
Margaret Feike
Robert La Vallie
Pam Malone
Matt McMillan
Jan Sand
Bob Skye

Thank you all for reading, especially the rest of you in February (too many for me to list) who read, shared, and responded to my posts.  I appreciate it!