December 2006 Archives

Target Me

A while back, Static Zombie members helped me get a free iPod. Here's a chance to help me out again!

This time, I'm gunning for a free $250 Target gift card. How can you help? By clicking this link, validating your email, and purchasing an Entertainment coupon book (at a $10 discount!). You know the ones-- loaded with buy 1 get 1 free offers for restaurants you already go to, cheap movie tickets, and other discounts. You already want one of these anyway, so why not buy one through the above link and help me out? They pay for themselves in just a couple of meals. Best of all, by doing so you'll get your own referral link and you could get your own $250 gift card. Unless all your friends help me first.

NOTE: To buy the books at $10 off and get free shipping, when you're on the page that lets you choose which book to buy, change the end of the URL from POPFALL to MEM_DEC06 and refresh. You should now see a message on the page saying you'll get $10 off and free shipping. Also, it's crucial that you don't just buy a book, but also validate your email so that I get credit for your referral.

When I have the 5 referrals I need for the free card, I'll update this entry and pass on the next person's link so we can pay the love forward.

Comment (1) | last by Peter, Dec 29, 1:03 PM

Proofreader's Digest

Someone needs to be fired, even if they thought they were cooking beige pants.

Comments (8) | last by Peter, Jan 3, 5:04 PM

Yul Log

Let's be clear about something. Ozzy was robbed. There's no question that Yul is a deserving winner. It's been a long time, in fact, since the finals contained two contestants who were both worthy of the prize, and had I been on that jury I'm not sure how I'd have voted. Yul played a brilliant game, but Ozzy dominated the challenges and you have to respect that.

Ozzy wasn't robbed by Yul, or by the jury. He was cheated out of his million by Mark Burnett.

In any other season of Survivor, Ozzy would have won the prize. But this time, three people made it into the finals. And while Becky was a complete non-factor in the vote, that rule change cost Ozzy one million dollars. I make that statement based on a key assumption, which isn't at all far-fetched-- that like every other individual immunity challenge this season, Ozzy would have won the additional one required to pare the final four down to three. We already saw that he won the final endurance challenge. Assuming the four to three transition went as we saw it, with a fire-building tie-breaker eliminating Sundra, Ozzy would have had the ability to choose the person to stand next to in the finals. Only a complete idiot would take Yul along for the ride, and Ozzy's not a complete idiot. So had the game progressed to its normal conclusion, Ozzy would have beaten Becky 10-0. Instead, Ozzy never got a chance to get Yul out of the game, and lost the big bucks by the slimmest possible margin.

It's one thing to throw surprises into the game, but to change the fundamental structure of the endgame without telling players in advance is dirty pool. Those guys are forming strategies based on everything coming down to a final two contestants. The dynamics of a final three are completely different, and people might have played differently had they known that was the game they were in. The players knew something was up when Brad made the jury so early, but in their wildest speculations I doubt they thought there would be three finalists. At least Ozzy got the car, thus keeping the curse of the car alive.

Comments (8) | last by alexsim, Jan 3, 4:55 PM

Waste of Time

And this guy is way more into time travel fiction than I am...

I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I think I'm attracted to the attention to detail such stories require, especially when traveling into the past and back. The beauty of it is that as a viewer, I'm willing to let the screenwriter define whatever rules he wants to, and I'll believe the universe works that way. In Deja Vu the writers couldn't decide how their universe worked, and so they let it work in whatever way the plot required. Sloppy.

A terrorist blows up a New Orleans ferry, and a woman's scorched body is found downriver but with a time of death predating the explosion. This sets off a chain of events which sees ATF agent Denzel Washington recruited into a top-secret FBI project that surveils through time. With a lot of expository hand-waving to basically say, "Look, we know it's ridiculous to believe that any number of satellites would provide enough data to not only watch a good chunk of New Orleans at any resolution and from any angle, but also to see through walls-- but we need to assume that it's possible for the sake of our story, so just go along with us, OK?" Washington learns that an accidental wormhole lets the FBI peer backward in time by four days. They can be anywhere in their covered area in that time, but they can't fast-forward or rewind-- they get only one shot. They need Washington to tell them where to look so they can find the guy responsible before he gets away.

But of course we in the audience know there's more to the story than that. It's Denzel Washington, people-- do you really think he's going to let the ferry blow up or the girl get killed? So it's no real surprise to discover that the wormhole isn't just a viewer, but a true portal. The way Denzel discovers this is the first time the writers break their own rules, confusing a monitor displaying the data from the wormhole with the wormhole itself, but it's not the last. They couldn't seem to decide if time was mutable or immutable. Washington participates in an autopsy of the charred woman's body, but later prevents her from being charred in the first place. Mutable. Meanwhile, the first time he visits her apartment after the autopsy, refrigerator magnets (among other things) indicate that he's already been there. Immutable. Which timeline is he in-- the one where the woman dies, or the one where he saves her? The writers don't seem to know, and so he's in both at once. The timelines of the movie just don't make sense.

Still, the film does give leverage its premise to give us a wonderful (if absurd) action sequence in which Washington chases the bad guy through time, tailing him from a distance of four days and just a few yards. It wouldn't surprise me if the entire movie were created to support this one gripping and inventive sequence. Washington, as always, is terrific, and there's some nice supporting work from Val Kilmer and Adam Goldberg. And if you can suspend disbelief long enough to accept the technology as given, Deja Vu serves up a solid action brownie. Just eat from the middle, and avoid all the imperfections at the edges.

Comment (1) | last by Chris Lemon, Dec 5, 7:13 AM

I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I think I'm attracted to the attention to detail such stories require, especially when traveling into the past and back. The beauty of it is that as a viewer, I'm willing to let the screenwriter define whatever rules he wants to, and I'll believe the universe works that way. Is time fluid and mutable? Is time fixed, with the effects of time travel already incorporated into our view of history? Does a new timeline branch from each decision point? Can you visit the same point in a timeline more than once, or do you only get one shot? How much energy is required? How much mass can you take with you? Who remembers what? Are changes instantaneous, or do they ripple forward? I don't much care what the screenwriter decides, but I love watching for the minute details that indicate he really thought through all the ramifications.

Day Break is ABC's mid-season replacement to allow Lost to return uninterrupted in the fall, and it hasn't fared very well in the ratings. That's a shame, because the series-- I should say mini-series, since it was designed to be 13 episodes and out-- is doing some very nifty things with its high-concept premise: what if a man had to live the same day over and over again until he got it right? The idea was famously tackled in the movie Groundhog Day, but where that Bill Murray vehicle mined it for comedy, Day Break plays it straight. Police detective Taye Diggs gets framed for murdering a district attorney, and the people responsible are sufficiently connected that they can murder his girlfriend, threaten his sister and her children, and pluck him from a prison cell in the dead of night to try to coerce his capitulation. Not a very good day to be living again and again.

We don't know why this is happening to him, but right away some rules are established. Each day is a complete reset for everyone but him. Not only does Diggs remember everything that happened in the previous loop, but he has to live with the physical after-effects too. When he gets beaten up in a quarry, he wakens with bruised ribs. When he gets shot in one loop, he wakes up bleeding from the wound in the next. Brute force is therefore not a solution-- whatever he needs to do to break the pattern, he'll have to do it carefully.

Cleverly, each episode's title (not shown onscreen, but visible in the Tivo data) is of the form, "What if he ___?" and the episode plays out the answer to that question. What if he just ran away? What if he let his girlfriend go? What if he could change the day? That last question shaped the most recent episode, in which Diggs helps his partner out of a jam and, at the start of the next loop, receives a phone call from her that he never got in any previous loop. Is this the way to break the cycle? Will he need to fix all the broken pieces of his life in order to crack the conspiracy?

Day Break is a tight, nimble serial, and the qualities that elevate it may also spell its doom. Viewers have already rejected serialized crime dramas this season, and Day Break requires diligent attention and loyalty. It's impossible to understand what Diggs is doing unless you've seen what he's already done. That's fine for a 2-hour movie, but it makes it hard for a 13-hour serialized program to pick up new viewers along the way. Day Break may be one of those shows that is best experienced on DVD, where you can watch multiple episodes back-to-back (as I did with the first 4 hours-- thank you, Tivo!). Fans of serials like Prison Break or 24 should not let this one slip under their radar.

Comments (3) | last by Lurker, Dec 12, 11:58 AM

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