Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Dream of Dollhouse

Well, we've finally done it--the Mrs. and I finally got around to watching the series finale of Dollhouse, "Epitaph Two". (We would've done it sooner, but we had to track down on DVD the episode "Epitaph One" in order for "Epitaph Two" to make sense.) I'm sad to see the show end so soon but given its troubled production history and low ratings, I'm just glad that the show made it to the air at all.

Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's most ambitious work so far, was unlike any other science fiction TV show I can remember: In contrast to other shows in the genre which take sophisticated technology for granted (space travel, artificial intelligence, advanced medical tools, etc.), Dollhouse traced the development and abuses of a new technology and its impact on both individuals and society at large. It explored themes similar to movies such as A.I., Dark City, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Total Recall and pushed them into wild, disturbing new directions. Furthermore, it had an unflinching amorality which permeated the entire series, much like Dexter, Profit, and the animated series Aeon Flux. Top it all off with a haunting opening theme song by Jonatha Brooke (which you can listen to in its entirety here) and you have one of the most thought-provoking, morally complex, and emotionally challenging science fiction TV series ever to air in the U.S.--yes, even more so than the recently re-booted Battlestar Galactica series. Check out io9 for in-depth yet spoiler-heavy articles here and here.

Oh, those lovely, creepy programmable doll people, how we hardly knew ye . . . .

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Economics of Video Game Geekery

I've frequently heard over the last few years that in the realm of electronic entertainment, video games are flying circles around movies in terms of revenue. While I can understand why this is, what I have yet to comprehend is the economics behind product longevity when it comes to video games. Read on . . .  

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Parasitic Extraterrestrial Bloodbath You Can Dance To

I was looking around YouTube the other day to find some tracks from the Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem soundtrack to listen to (because I was to cheap to buy a copy of my own) when I found this video. I think the song is called "No Peace on Earth", but it's in Russian so I can't tell you if I'm right--I can't even tell you the name of the band itself. According to the person who posted it, MoscowGolem, this was part of the Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem soundtrack when it was released in Russia. Be sure to watch the video: The song has got a great beat, and the video cleverly incorporates footage and themes from both AvP movies into the band footage. For example, there are a few shots of the Russian band rocking away while viewed through heat-sensitive Predator vision. Nice!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Duckman: This Is What The Hell You Should Be Staring At

Being the devout lover of oddball animation that I am, I've been spending the last few weeks catching up on Duckman, one of the best--and most overlooked--prime-time cartoon shows from the immediate post-Simpsons era of the mid-1990s. While it only aired in obscure time slots on the USA Network from 1994 to 1997, Duckman was an animation pioneer in many ways:
  • It featured two characters, the androgynous talking teddy bears Fluffy and Uranus, who were killed in horrible, absurd ways in almost every episode, years before South Park did the same to thing to Kenny.
  • It featured an episode-length parody of/tribute to Star Trek, complete with original Trek cast members, years before Futurama did the same thing.
  • It featured an episode-length parody of Hope/Crosby "Road To . . . " movies, years before Family Guy did it too.
  • While it was excessively raunchy in episode after episode, it never veered into the unbearably nauseating--quite an accomplishment for a show with a title character who is deeply involved in auto-eroticism.
  • It never relies on endless streams of non sequiturs to carry its episodes. Then again, you could argue that the entire world where Duckman takes place is just one big non sequitur unto itself. Your call.
  • While it was cancelled way before its time, it at least avoided the state of ongoing, on-air living death that has befallen The Simpsons for almost a decade.
  • While not a pioneering fact, you should at least know this: If anyone ever asks you what the true meaning is behind Donny Darko or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, tell him/her to watch the third season Duckman episode, "The Once and Future Duck". It's the alternate timeline tale to end all alternate timeline tales--and in less than a half hour to boot!
Overall, the writing is clever, the animation is strange and grotesque, and the voice cast is top-notch. What's particularly worthy of notice is Jason Alexander's work as Duckman himself. It's a rare thing of beauty when an actor's particular vocal talents effortlessly match the animated role for which he/she is cast, and this is one such instance. Alexander's performance perfectly articulates the unhinged libido, raging temper, and barely concealed insecurities of Duckman; if you watch this show for any reason, this is it. It's uncanny how spot-on it is.
So, if you haven't seen Duckman yet, by all means do so now. All four seasons were released on DVD in 2009, so be sure to load all of 'em up on your Netflix queue and go get ducked up.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Terminator Terminated?

In case you haven't heard by now, Deadline Hollywood has reported that the rights for the Terminator franchise have been acquired by the Santa Barbara-based hedge fund Pacificor, which out-bid both Sony Pictures and Lionsgate to the tune of $29.5 million. While io9 has subsequently reported that Pacificor is in talks with Sony and Lionsgate about future installments of the Terminator franchise, the overall future of this time-travel epic is still quite uncertain.

Personally, I don't see this as a bad thing. Don't get me wrong--I'm a rabid, drooling fan of all things Terminator, largely due to the fact that the idea of futuristic killer robots (especially ones that wear human flesh like cheap suits for the purpose of infiltration) never gets old for me. I loved Terminator Salvation, particularly because it had some of the best Skynet machine designs since Atari's Terminator 3: The Redemption video game in 2004. Furthermore, the ending where Skynet--while wearing the face of Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter)--explains to Marcus (Sam Worthington) why he's the perfect Terminator, while the prototype T-800--which looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger had just walked right out of the first Terminator film from 1984 and into the fourth one in 2009--terrorizes puny humans just gave me chills up and down my nerd spine.

Then again, if I ruled the world and had oodles of money to burn, I'd love to see the production crew of the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show wrap up all the loose ends from the season two finale. Heck, TSCC executive producer Josh Friedman could scribble down all of his ideas for season three on a used cocktail napkin and I'd pay top dollar for it right now.

Alas, I don't think Terminator will be going anywhere for a long while (if at all), and I think that's a good thing. It's not that the franchise is out of ideas; it just lacks a consistent, designated caretaker to nurture the franchise to proper maturity and conclusion (and of course, merchandising). At the current state it is in, a caretaker is the last thing it will get--all the more reason for Terminator to either lay low or not "be back" at all.

I've long noticed how entertainment companies of late have been treating franchises less as works of creative storytelling and more like real estate to develop (and then demolish and re-develop, ad infinitum), but putting an entire franchise up for the highest bidder is pretty degrading and I doubt it will get any better. It's bad enough that Jim Cameron lost the creative rights to Terminator in the first place; it has since gone to Carolco, then to Halcyon, and now to Pacificor (a hedge fund, of all things). I can't possibly see how this is a good thing. Even if it had gone to Sony or Lionsgate, things wouldn't have been much better. Lionsgate was considering a full reboot of the franchise, so I shudder to imagine what Sony had (has?) in mind.

I could be wrong. Maybe Pacificor, Sony and Lionsgate could come up with the best time-travelling killer robot movie and/or TV series ever made. We'll see. Besides, if the Pentagon and Congress get their way, we'll be seeing aerial Hunter-Killer drones deployed all over the world in the near future anyway--much like they are now in the Middle East. By that point, horribly mishandled movie/TV franchises will be the least of our worries. Yay us!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome to Titans, Terrors, and Toys!

Hello, and welcome to Titans, Terrors, and Toys, a blog I'm putting together as part of my ongoing appreciation of the horror and science fiction genre and the fan cultures that keep them interesting. This blog will take a nostalgic look at stuff from the past, make informed observations about events in the present, and eagerly contemplate future possibilities for horror/sci-fi entertainment. In short, I'll be rambling a lot, and hopefully some of it will be amusing and enlightening (if not coherent). So pull up a chair, grab some popcorn, and enjoy!