Baseball Toaster Western Homes
2007-03-05 23:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I've been getting a lot less work done since I changed my desktop wallpaper to this. Three cheers for gratuitous fan service! Seriously, though, next week marks the launch of Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy Season Eight" series and I'm terribly excited for it. Since plans for a series of loosely related made-for-TV movies continuing the "Buffy" story (left quite pointedly open-ended at the end of the television series finale, "Chosen") were scuttled, this is the next best thing. Joss Whedon will be writing at least two four-issue arcs and an undetermined number of standalones and other major "Buffy" writers (Drew Goddard, Steven S. DeKnight, Doug Petrie, the great Jane Espenson) will be contributing in addition to some people who I guess are famous comic book writers...I don't know, I haven't really had much to do with the comics world since "Sandman" wrapped.

You'd think in the wake of the success of stuff like "Lost" and (especially) "Heroes" the networks would be beating down Whedon's door to get him to come back to TV, but it doesn't seem like it'll be happening any time soon. In an L.A. Times interview promoting the comic series, Joss sounds showbiz-weary discussing the demise of the TV movies: "I think the studio thought they could do this for no money — that everybody would show up because we're all buddies. But I don't think they noticed that everybody seems to have careers. It was an unrealistic business model." He's also taken himself off of the Wonder Woman feature film which he's been working on for the last few years. I love the idea of the comic books, especially because they'll allow the established "Buffy" characters to play on a bigger stage than ever before with no special effects budget. But Whedon's claim to fame is and always has been his crisp, deeply influential dialogue writing. Great dialogue really needs to be heard, not read out of little bubbles. Someone get this guy a genius grant already. For those of you who don't have set as your default browser homepage, there's another good recent Joss interview up at IGN.

I was just writing about "Veronica Mars" last week and alluding to the fact that when Season Two seemed to be going off the rails, Rob Thomas got things under control with one wonderful episode right in time for the race to the finish line. Well, the semifinale "Papa's Cabin" (it wrapped up the second of the three medium-sized story arcs which this season has resentfully been chopped into) was just what the doctor ordered. Exciting, surpring, great ending, and without the self-conscious artiness this time. (Just what was up with that episode a few weeks back when almost every single shot was at a slightly askew angle? I felt like I was going to have to put sugar packets under one of the legs supporting my TV to watch it properly.) But now there's no race to the finish, because "Mars," like "Heroes," is going on a month-long hiatus in order to position new episodes for May sweeps. I'm bummed. On the other hand, "Lost" is back with a vengeance and the rest of the episodes of the season will run without repeats through the end of sweeps month. Hey, Hurley, hey Charlie. I missed you guys all winter while Jack was playing mind games with the red herring killer from the first Saw movie and Sawyer and Kate were trying to figure out how to have sex with each other while locked in separate cages.

Speaking of the Saw franchise, I recently saw Saw II for the first time and, well, I don't have much in particular to say about the movie proper. The first one had a lot of bad acting and at least one entire subplot (the one with the two cops) that could have been excised entirely, but it also had a genuinely surprising twist ending and some tension in the main body during the scenes where Westly and the screenwriter shout at each other. There was some question about what was going to happen to those guys. The victims in Saw II though are so obviously mentally handicapped, even for a horror film, that you know they're all going down. Except for the one who the camera lingers on suspiciously to the degree where the ending is all but given away.

Both movies cheat the laws of screenwriting. The first one manages to get away with one of the lamest gags possible in the puzzle-movie genre (the killer isn't any of the suspects introduced as speaking characters but rather a guy who's randomly in the background of like one scene) because the ending is clever and the basic two-guys-in-a-room setup is unbeatably high concept. The second movie gives the already ridiculously resourceful antihero apparent powers of prescience. There's a bunch of people all in a house full of traps, some of which are just random, and some of which are targeted for specific victims. How can Jigsaw possibly know which people will survive long enough to reach their customized scenarios? How did he know not to bother to prepare a personalized death for the poor moron who's the first to go? Oh, well, I don't know what I was expecting, it's a horror movie. But anyway Saw II does have one sequence that's kind of a feat of bad filmmaking, and it makes me glad I bought it used on clearance the other day. There's a flashback scene at the end of the movie that has to be the single most condescending, over-explaining plot recap I've seen in any film of any genre ever. Kind of convenient, I guess, because if you don't particularly feel like watching people roll around in pits of needles but you're interested in how not to write a screenplay, you can just start the movie right there and get the gist of the whole thing in minutes.

2007-03-06 12:24:35
1.   DXMachina
If you like the new series, it might be worth your while to look around for some of Joss's previous efforts in comics. Right now he's finishing up a long run on Astonishing X-Men, which has been good, although if you don't know much about the X-Men it may not work for you. My favorite series so far was one he did for Dark Horse back around 2002 called Fray, about a slayer a couple hundred years in the future. It was terrific both in comic book terms, and in terms of adding to the Buffiverse canon. Dark Horse also put out a couple of collections of stories written by Joss, Jane Espenson, and some of the other writers called "Tales of the Slayer" and "Tales of the Vampires" focusing on individual stories on earlier slayers and vampires of note. Very good stuff. Jane also did a very good series for the Buffy comic called "Haunted."

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