This Drug Tastes Like Band Candy

Joss Whedon ripped himself off. There, I said it. Echoes, at it's heart, is Band Candy all over again with a darker, more twisted Dollhouse spin. I feel a need to get that out in the open so that no one can say I did not notice or mention or care about the fact that the core of this episode was plucked from one of the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ever. So I mentioned it. Yes, I noticed it. No, I didn't mind it. If I started hating on artists that cannibalized their own material, I would never be able to read another Stephen King novel. Yea, that would suck, a lot.

So beyond everyone getting giddy and childlike (Topher in his skivvies was more hilarious than I would have thought), did we get anything new out of this here yarn? I think we did, yea. We finally got the answer to the question we have all been pondering by seeing how Caroline ended up at the Dollhouse. I had long suspected she was an activist of some kind, so that part wasn't terribly shocking. Getting a taste of just how big this Dollhouse thing really is was a nice touch, though. We now have a face to put on the big bad evil that has to be taken down. Basically, I foresee Rossum as the Wolfram and Hart of the Dollhouse world. We also saw the ultimate motive behind them faking Millie's attack, which wasn't what I'd assumed, at all. I just knew they'd faked the attack to get her in closer to him. Last but not least, we got a big fat dose of "they aren't wiped THAT clean" when the dolls start having acid flashbacks of their happy fun times.

All in all, it was a successful mission for me. Two straight weeks of actual solid character development topped off by Eliza Dushku in thigh highs for 40 minutes. Yes sir, that's a winner in my book. Seriously, though, these last two episodes have really been home runs for me, all around. I am fully and truly excited to see where we go from here and I hope Whedon can maintain this energy for the rest of the season. It's about time for Alpha to start gumming up the works, again, by the way. I am dying to see who it is that's playing our mystery psycho nudist, because I just know it's going to be a Whedon alum that will cause all manner of nerdgasms to go off.


Who is NOT an active, these days?

I will go ahead and say that there be spoilers in here, because I still feel like no one who isn't already watching Dollhouse will actually read this dribble. Not only that, but all the best moments in this episode that aren't "Porn!" related are extremely spoilerrific (fuck you, spellcheck, that's a real word!). To say that Whedon was very much at the top of his game with this episode would be a huge understatement.

So in the first of a few big shockers in this episode, we find out that all is not well in the house of the dolls. Ok, fine, we already knew that, so what? What we had all expected was for Echo to eventually get her mind back and go all Alpha on their ass. What I personally did NOT expect was for someone to tamper with the personality imprints and use the dolls as erstwhile messengers after they finish kicking the living crap out of someone. The big reveal that there are people trying to bring the Dollhouse down from within was cool. The bigger reveal that there are multiple Dollhouses and that there are ulterior motives beyond trafficking in programmable sex dolls was just awesome.

Then you have Mellie. Damn you, Whedon, I called it in my review of Episode 3 and I was totally sure of it until they marked her for termination. So then my heart swung the whole other way and I felt really bad that this sweet girl was about to die and our intrepid hero was going to have his shot at happiness raped out from under him. You know that sicko was going to. That dude was jacked up. Then the phone rings and it's DeWitt's voice on the line. I knew where it was going before it even happened, but it still caught me as off guard as it did Hearn. It does raise an important question, though; What if Ballard plays the message with Mellie sitting there? Would she proceed to whip his ass? Could be that the second command nullified that set of mental programming, but it's still an interesting point, I think.

You brought me back from the brink, Joss. Now the question is, can you hold it? I hope you can, but this is Fox and Fox likes killing good shows at their peak. I doubt they'd blink at the prospect of killing what has been an uneven show that's been more down than up, so far. Whatever the case, I will be back, next week and I will buy the next episode off Itunes like a good little fanboy. Here is hoping this episode starts an uphill climb to awesome.


The Hour of the Blind

Does it piss anyone off that I don't title my reviews with something obvious like the title of what I am reviewing? I wonder that, sometimes. Ah well, fuck em, this is my blog. I promised to share my thoughts on the last two Dollhouse episodes and by god, that's what I am going to do. Rather than go through the mundane task of synopsizing this for people that already know what the show is about because they watch it, too, I am going to just spend a couple of paragraphs sharing my thoughts on the last two weeks of a show that I think is coming into it's own, slowly but surely.

Gray Hour had an awesome start. I can honestly say I completely misread where the scene with the head of hotel security was going, so big ups to Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft for sneaking that one in. Dollhouse has been building most of the johns (let's call them what they are, here) up to be scumbags all around, so the pretense that one was smacking Echo around wasn't hard to swallow, at all. I liked Alpha being able to wipe Echo with a cell phone, but you have to question his motives here, considering what he did could have easily gotten her killed. Unfortunately, beyond that little tidbit, we didn't seem to get much else in terms of new info in Gray Hour that I recall. Maybe that's why I wasn't in a hurry to write up on it; it was a pretty middle of the road episode for me.

True Believer, on the other hand, brought me tons of joy. The scene with Dr. Saunders and Topher looking at the shower tapes almost made the whole series, much less this episode, worth watching. "Could you zoom in?" will forever make me giggle. Perhaps I am easily amused. On top of that, again, the show did not go how I expected it to. I assumed the cult leader to be a fraud using the religion angle to have an excuse to have sex with as many women as he so desired. When it turned out he was a genuine religious nut job, I have to say I was impressed. This episode also gave me the line, "God brought me here. He has a message for you. And that message is MOVE YOUR ASS!" which I will be forever grateful for. Still, while this week's episode was better than last week's, I do find my patience waning.

We've had three episodes now that end with some little bit of foreshadowing. The first one being Stage Fright and the nod between Echo and Cierra. I thought for sure that was going to go somewhere the following week and got nothing. Two episodes since that nod and still nothing. No further evidence beyond them ending the last three episodes with some allusion to Echo remembering bits of her jobs. At some point, you just want to grab Joss and scream "Get on with it!" I worry about this show's future because frankly, I only keep watching because the premise intrigues me and it is Joss Whedon. The show itself has not lived up to it's potential, at all. Sure, we've had a few shining moments of witty banter, but the fact is no one cares about the jobs Echo goes on. How could you when the Dollhouse is right there, looking all mysterious and intriguing? The Dollhouse absolutely fascinates me and I really wish we'd get to the part where we find out how they came to be. Echo getting a memory implant to become a high priced whore or a safe cracker does absolutely nothing for me. I will say the same thing I said about both Terminator sequels. You know what we want. You know you aren't giving it to us. Just fucking do it, already.


I Have Joined The Cult of Music Gamers

So tonight, the wife and I were perusing the local Gamestop (yea, that's right, I don't hate Gamestop like most folks seem to claim to, these days) and we were looking at the various music games. The idea of dropping 170 duckets on one of the full band games is a little daunting for me, so I was looking at maybe just getting a copy of one of the Guitar Hero games and a guitar. In the end, I bought a used copy of Guitar Hero 3 for 20 bucks and a wireless 360 guitar for 40. 64 bucks out the door for one of these guitar games ain't half bad, I don't think. My only misstep is I had it in my head that I was buying the standalone Guitar Hero 4 guitar, which was what I wanted. It's actually just the wireless Les Paul Guitar Hero 3 controller. Still a nice controller, but it kind of puts a hole in my plan to slowly piece together one of these band kits over time. Ah well, if I end up really loving it, I will just buy the Guitar Hero 4 band kit later and we'll have two guitars if we need them.

As for my enjoyment of the game, my first ten minutes or so wasn't very fun, at all. I didn't play worth a crap and it was pretty rough on my hands, so I had a bad feeling I wasn't going to be able to stick with this thing. That's one of the reasons I wanted to find the cheapest route I could to playing one of these music games, because I had fears my hands would give me fits. I took a break for awhile and then I remembered a friend of mine saying how much more fun it was for him playing it standing up. So after letting the wife have a turn for awhile, I tried it that way. I am on the 4th set list, now. haha. Played through the first set and got the encore of Rock and Roll All Night, Got to the Morello Boss Battle and kicked his ass and then made it through to the Paint It Black Encore and called it a night. It's probably not a game I need to play for long stretches, but I definitely had fun.


A Tale of Seven Brothers

After hearing the review for Shotgun Stories on Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema, I knew I had to see this movie. Just listening to them talk about it dredged up moments from my past that I figured would give the movie a lot of weight for me. While my own stories of family stress are nowhere near as heart wrenching as the events depicted here, a lot of the sentiments carried over well enough to say that, yes, this movie hit close to home on a few different levels. The fact that Jeff Nichols directed the film in a manner that let the story breathe on it's own only served to add gravitas to the events as they transpired. From the very first scene of Son getting ready for work, you know this isn't going to be a happy film. In fact, you could say the whole feels like you are in mourning with these characters the whole time.

Shotgun Stories tells the tale of seven sons born of one man and two mothers. Son, Kid and Boy born of the first wife and Cleaman, John, Mark and Steven born of the second. While the events that led to the first divorce are never detailed, we are made aware that the father all but disowned the first set of boys to start a new life with wife number two. The event that sets things to a boil is best left to be a surprise simply because it had a tremendous impact on me when I saw it. Suffice to say that something transpires that sets the two groups of sons against each other and begins a struggle that is the crux of the plot progression for the rest of the film. I know I am being almost frustratingly vague, but this is most definitely a movie where the less you know going in, the better off you are.

What really struck me about this movie was, as I said before, the subtlety of it all. There is almost no melodrama to be found here and the story unfolds in a way that feels very natural. The characters all look and act like people I knew in my life and in some cases, people I still know to this day. The character of Shampoo, whose only purpose, as far as I can tell, is to push people against each other just to see the sparks fly, rang especially true. Sure, I suppose you could call him a plot device, but I literally was in a situation where a person like Shampoo was going back and forth between myself and a third party doing everything they could to get us to fight. It just seems like some people get off on that kind of thing. The other characters mostly had traits that I recognize in my friends and family, but Shampoo was like an embodiment of someone I knew put to celluloid.

Another thing I wanted to mention was the way characters in Shotgun Stories grieve. They mourn the dead the way real people do; by getting on with their lives and gritting their teeth through the pain. No outlandish scenes of tears and declarations of "Why, God, why???" Just people that looked like the world has ended going about their daily lives the same way they did the day before tragedy came knocking on their door. Again, this hit home, because it is a reflection of how I grieve, as well. You almost feel worse for the mourners as you watch them go through this, because it seems weird compared to what we are used to in films. Almost as though you are going through the time with them as opposed to simply watching the events transpire.

I don't know that I can throw particularly high praise at Jeff Nichols as a director for this film, simply because he doesn't show you much to get excited over from the directorial side. What I will give him credit for is having the balls to give his film room to unfold at it's own pace. In this day and age of two second cuts and way too much dialogue, the scene in the hospital, with it's long takes and almost no dialogue, pleasantly surprised me. I will say that the writing was fantastic, though, and for me, that's almost enough to satisfy me and keep me coming back. I will definitely be watching out for his upcoming projects and I hope that he continues to hone his craft. He has the patience needed to become truly great. Time will tell if he has the skill.


Another WoW Milestone

I mentioned before that when I saw the dragon mounts for Outland, I said to myself, "I must have one". Well, when I got to Northrend, I saw something that gave me that same feeling; the Mammoth Mount. The first one I saw, of course, was the Wooly Mammoth that you can buy in Dalaran along with the Traveler's Tundra Mammoth. The Wooly requires a ton of Heroic Instance runs and the Traveler's 20,000 gold. Neither are really optimal for my poor and lazy ass. Then I got to Storm Peaks and found The Sons of Hodir.

At Revered, the generous giants offer up an awesome looking Ice Mammoth and guess who hit Revered, this week? My wife. Nope, just kidding, it was me. The Ice Mammoth is neither 20k gold nor does it require a bunch Heroic Dungeon runs. Just a wee bit of faction grinding and 850 gold is all it takes to have an elephant that is much cooler than the fairly underwhelming Elekks the Draenei get. Not only that, but at Exalted, if I so choose, and I will so choose, I can get a Grand Ice Mammoth. While it isn't as awesome as the Traveler's Tundra Mammoth due to it's lack of vendors, it does share that mounts ability to carry two other passengers. That will be freaking awesome for helping friends level alts. It is also half the price at 8k gold at Exalted. I can't help it, I love huge, redonkulous mounts. Wow should have more of them.