Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Restaurant Review: Dumpling Restaurant for Food

This is a repost from something that I tried to put on Yelp. However, the Yelp people have no sense of humor and denied my entry for a new restaurant. And for the record, my daughter named the place.

Dumpling Restaurant for Food

Category: Chinese Food

Hours: Mon-Fri; varies
Good for Kids: Yes
Accepts Credit Cards: No
Parking: Street
Attire: Casual
Good for Groups: No
Price Range: $$$$
Takes Reservations: Yes
Delivery: No
Take-out: No
Waiter Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Wi-Fi: No
Good For: Lunch
Alcohol: No
Noise Level: Loud
Ambience: Hectic
Has TV: Yes
Caters: No
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

It is easy to miss Dumpling Restaurant for Food since it is tucked away in the school-ager's room of Curious Kids Preschool Center. However, I kind of like finding little niche non-chain restaurants and when I went in to pick up my four-year old daughter, she quickly grabbed me and told me to eat at the new restaurant.

First of all, seating is sparse. I occupied one of the five chairs available. Seating is kind of hibachi style, as I was not given my own table, but rather sat down community style. This style of seating isn't bad, but it does take away from the intimacy of the dining experience.

The table I sat at already had the other four seats occupied and the other customers were arbitrarily yelling out their orders to the wait staff who also served as the cooks. By the frenzied pace that orders were being shouted out, it was difficult to tell what kind of food was being served since I was not given a menu when I sat down. Two of the girls at my table asked for dumplings while another customer shouted for corn on the cob and a donut, while the fourth customer just sat there. When I told the staff that I didn't have any silverware or a plate I was given one chopstick and told that I had to share with my neighbor. While I do not mind the communal seating, this was just ridiculous!

I barely had time to complain to the wait staff when one of them approached me and put a large white oniony looking thing on the table in front of me (since I did not yet have a plate) and told me that it was my dumpling. When I argued that I didn't order a dumpling and didn't even like dumplings, I was told to "pretend it's something else". The waitress then left. Mind you, she served me with her hands which I could visibly see dirt on. It was almost like she was playing in the dirt just before cooking my meal that I didn't even order.

I decided to try to make the best of my ordeal and asked what they served for drinks. I was given conflicting reports by the staff: one said that they didn't have any drinks (?!?) and the other told me that the only had tomato juice.

I passed on the drinks and told my daughter to get ready as we were going to leave. At this point I saw one of the customers at my table get up and go to the kitchen and get her own food. I do not blame her! As I was preparing to leave, I was given a menu by one of the staff. I told him that I was leaving and could have used one when I first arrived. He then told me to give it to someone else at the table then. He wouldn't even give it to them himself!

At this point I noticed that one of the other customers from the table got up and got plates and place-mats from the kitchen herself. Again, I don't blame her! As I gathered my daughter and we moved to leave, a staff member stepped in front of me and told me that my bill was two hundred hundred dollars. I balked at the price for the single dumpling that I never ordered. It made me realize why they are reluctant to give out the menus beforehand. Just wanting to leave, because I wanted to take my daughter bike riding, I asked if they took credit card. He said no, only money. I said I didn't have any cash on me and he said that was okay and let me pass.

Dumpling Restaurant for Food is a chaotic mess with no real organized business model. I'm all for niche little restaurants, but the ambiance is loud, distracting and half the staff looked like they had just been playing in the dirt. I really cannot recommend Dumpling Restaurant for Food to anyone. I do not see how the disorganized restaurant can last with the business model they support.

0 Stars.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Green Lantern

One of the Lantern Corps.

I've never been a huge fan of Green Lantern comics. I tried to get into them a few times, but it never worked out for me. Didn't matter if it was Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner or John Stewart (the black architect, not the Daily Show host). Part of the reason why it never meshed with me was because of the weirdly abstract and both unlimited and limited nature of the ring's powers and the application in the comics and cartoons. I mean, it was rife with scenes like, "Holy shit! That woman is falling off of the top of the Empire State building!" Well, thankfully the Green Lantern is there and moments before she smashes into the pavement, she is instead caught be a giant green catcher's mitt. That was always just awkwardly difficult for me to swallow.

And I guess that's where my problem with the majority of the DC comics line came from: other than modern Batman, the comics just seemed to lack a more gritty realism. DC heroes stand like Greek Gods to the humans they protect. They are above them with powers that are near limitless. Meanwhile, Marvel was fully of geeky guys who became powerful, but had to try to learn to work and contain their abilities through their flawed characters. These guys were relatable. And for some reason, someone shooting laser beams out of their eyeballs just seems more "realistic" to me than some guy making a giant baseball glove to catch falling damsels in distress.

Now, I do know enough about the Green Lantern to know that they played around a bit with his abilities in the movie. For example, in the comics, the ring does not allow the Lanterns to create complex machinery. However, in the movie, Hal Jordan was conjuring up Gatling guns and M-198 howitzers. However, to the movie's credit, there were two scenes in which people or things were falling and needed to be saved; neither one was caught in a catcher's mitt. Instead, the world's longest helicopter crash was instead saved by giving it green wheels and putting it on a winding kid's racetrack (incidentally, there is a Green Lantern/Hot Wheels product tie in that involves being able to purchase a Green Lantern race track). And when a woman who was smashed forcefully into a wall by the bad guy finally started to fall to the ground, Green Lantern didn't catch her with a catcher's mitt, but instead made green water for her to land in and she went splashing away in the turbulent waters, leading her presumably out of danger. Unless, of course, she had spinal or neck injuries from her initial crash. In which case, I'm sure she will now be a paraplegic.

 But that's my problem with Green Lantern. The powers seem limitless, but the application is always silly. I mean, were I the Green Lantern I'd be constantly worried about people thinking my creations were odd and geeky and people would laugh at them. So, despite having a power limited only by my imagination, I would be a Green Lantern that was much more subtle in application to minimize the potential laugh factor of on-lookers  so that I could still get girls.

Here's a quick comparison of how I would use my powers compared to "real" Green Lantern:

Woman falling to her death:
Real Green Lantern: Big Green Catcher's Mitt.
Me: Beam of green energy that makes her float.

Bad guy charging, ready to smash to bits:
Real Green Lantern: Big Green Baseball Bat to knock him away.
Me: Beam of green energy that knocks him away.

Huge alien attacking the city:
Real Green Lantern: Big Green sproingy spring to make a fuel tanker truck fly in its vicinity, followed by a big green howitzer to shoot the tanker truck to make it explode on the alien.
Me: Beam of green energy that hurts the alien.

So, yes, my ability would be much more subtle and subdued. But mine wouldn't look silly. I'd be a Green Lantern out to impress chicks and not 9 year olds with baseball fetishes.

But anyhow, the movie. It was standard, predictable superhero origin story. Nothing that interesting, except how the movie treated a few things strangely. Hal Jordan is a test pilot. And first of all, I hate when movies make pilots crazy-ass maverick wannabes instead of the calm, collected military specialist trained people they tend to be in real life. But whatever. Anyhow, they are testing out billion dollar AI fighter jets against the top pilots in hopes of winning a lucrative contract. Now, first of all, AI fighter jets are pointless. It would be a terrible investment. Wars are not fought with aircraft dogfights these days. AI drone bombers, maybe, but no real need to spend billions, if not trillions of dollars on these AI fighters for dogfights that won't happen. But anyhow, Hal beats the AI jets by breaking the "rules of engagement". But because he broke the rules of engagement, they didn't get the contract and so the company decides on the spot to lay off a shitload of people.

So, later, in the parking lot of a bar, Hal is grabbed and roughed up by three guys who proceed to beat the shit out of him for his causing them to lose the contract and therefore, them getting laid off.

These are aerospace engineers. I don't know if the three were aeronautical engineers or astronautical engineers or a combination of the two, but the movie essentially portrayed a gang of rocket scientist thugs beating the shit out of Hal Jordan. How fucked up was that?

Also, Hal eventually beat the giant monster by flying towards the sun. Because the monster is bigger than him, it is more effected by the sun's gravitational pull, because, as Hal learned earlier in the movie, bigger objects are more affected by gravity. Wait, what? What the fuck?!

Yes, apparently the movie was written by people who so despise science that the aerospace engineers are bullying thugs and they totally disregard basic, elementary physics.

Anyhow, the effects in the movie were actually pretty lame as well. The CGI effects really looked like a top end video game effects rather than effects you would expect to see in a movie. Really, I would have been fine seeing any of those scenes as a video game cutscene and would have thought nothing of it. But as a movie, they just were distractingly bad.

Anyhow, the movie. Big bad monster, uses the power of fear. Green Lanterns use the power of will. Fear is stronger than will. But Hal Jordan realizes that he can move past living in the shadow of his father who died in the world's longest jet crash and proves that humanity trumps all.

But the movie tells that last paragraph in a much more lackluster way than I did.

Molly: (As usual, Molly's portion of the review will be in Q&A form. I'll write what she says and format it later.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Green Lantern?
Molly: I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about it?
Molly: People was friendly, except the bad guys.

Chuckie: How were people friendly in it? What did they do that was friendly?
Molly: I'll get back to you on that one. (takes a big bit of her Devil Dog and chews it down, eventually swallowing and continuing.) I think there was a purple alien and he gave that ring to him.

Chuckie: What did the ring do?
Molly: Chose him.
Chuckie: Well, yes, but what could the ring do?
Molly: Um, I don't even know.

Chuckie: Well, let's talk about this for a moment. What kind of powers did the ring have? What could it do? What could he make with it?
Molly: A brick wall.

Chuckie: Well, yes, but were there rules or limits to what he could make with it?
Molly: Yeah.
Chuckie: What were they?
Molly: He can't make the whole universe with the ring.
Chuckie: Why not?
Molly: Because he doesn't have that kind of power and you can't put a universe inside of another universe.
Chuckie: Oh. Okay. Out of curiosity, why can't you put a universe inside of another universe?
Molly: Um, because you can't take another universe and put it into another universe because there can't be two universes there so they would just be one universe.

Chuckie: Wow. Okay. Anyhow, back to the movie.
Molly: That alien, he gave him the ring. I wonder why he was purple.

Chuckie: Sorry, Pixie, you really stumped me with your universe talk.
Molly: What does "stunked" mean?
Chuckie: No, stumped. That means you said some things that really threw Daddy off. I wasn't expecting it.
Molly: Oh.

Chuckie: So, tell me what happened in the movie?
Molly: He was going to turn green, but he needed more batteries and then he charged it with the ring lantern and then he turned green and he sang the pledge allegiance to the lantern that the dying purple alien that gave him it. And I think he saved somebody. Oh, yeah! He did save somebody. He saved some people in his universe from a giant octopus.

Chuckie: Yeah, the bad guy in this was kind of weird looking, huh?
Molly: Yeah. So I thought it was an octopus.

Chuckie: Can you tell me about Sinestro?
Molly: Who is Sinestro?
Chuckie: He was the purple guy who wanted the yellow ring.
Molly: Yes. He was the purple guy who wanted the yellow ring.
Chuckie: Well, yes, that's just what I said though.
Molly: I know. I copied you. And the yellow ring is bad though. And we had to wait through the words at the end of the movie to see him take the yellow ring. I can't read though.

Chuckie: So, do you think that Green Lantern was a good hero?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: Who do you think were better heroes, Green Lantern or the X-Men?
Molly: I think Green Lantern was  better hero. The helmet guy from the other movie yelled at that girl. But Captain America is an even better hero. He's there to help! And Iron Man.
Chuckie: Are you excited about the Captain America movie?
Molly: Yes!  Now I'm ready for Captain America.
Chuckie: Well, we'll have to wait a little bit for that movie.
Molly: Oh barnacles!

Chuckie: So, Daddy always thought that Green Lantern's powers were sort of ill-defined and it really hurt the storytelling as a result of that. DC's character tended to be almost Greek Gods in stature, powers and abilities, which made them less relatable to me. Daddy liked heroes who were flawed people, but strove to do good nonetheless. What do you think?
Molly: I'm on your team.

Chuckie: Good. Glad to hear that.
Molly: Thank you.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate this movie?
Molly: Stars, moons and suns. Daddy, I got over what I was sad about.

Chuckie: What were you sad about?
Molly: Well, I was sad about Jonesy and I was sad about that dying alien in Doctor Who.
Chuckie: Yeah, you took that last one kind of hard, didn't you?
Molly: Yeah.
Chuckie: Brave heart, Molly.
Molly: Thank you.

Chuckie: So, how many stars would you give the movie?
Molly: Ten.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of one.
Chuckie: So you're giving it nine stars more than it could possibly have?
Molly: No! I said ten.

Chuckie: Okay. How many moons would you give the movie?
Molly: Ten.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of two. Ah! I mean, out of ten! No, out of zero!
Chuckie: You know that by making it out of zero, it's not a real number?
Molly: I know. But it's just a big round "o", Daddy, so you don't have to worry so much.

Chuckie: (laughs) Fair enough. So how many suns would you give the movie?
Molly: Um, eight million. That's a big number.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of the carnival?
Chuckie: The carnival?
Molly: Yes. I like the carnival and I want it to be sun shiny when I go there.

Chuckie: Fair enough.
Molly: Daddy, I wish we had thirty-five suns in the sky.
Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Then, in summer, I could go swimming every summer day.
Chuckie: You can do that already with one sun in the sky.
Molly: Okay, just eleven suns then in the sky so it can be a little bit more cooler than with thirty-five, but still hot enough that you'll have to let me go swimming.

Chuckie: So, who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: People who have Green Lantern shirts.
Chuckie: True. But Daddy has one, and I wasn't thrilled with the movie?
Molly: Barnacles!

Chuckie: So anything else that you wanted to say about the movie?
Molly: The Green Lantern can fly, but he can't fly faster than light because that's the fastest thing in the universe.

So, that's our review. I thought it was uninspiringly standard for an origin story. The CGI effects were on par with modern video games, but were distractingly poor for a major motion picture. The subplot of the xeno-biologist gaining powers only to get killed (not by the protagonist of the movie) at the start of the third act was just rather weird. All it did was lead to a final confrontation and battle with a bad guy that the movie failed to develop, resulting in a rather unemotionally satisfying end battle scene.

I give the movie one star out of five. I would have given it more, but the movie made me afraid that scientists are going to beat the shit out of me now.

Molly gives the movie ten out of one star, ten out of zero moons and eight million suns out of the carnival, so it would be bright and shiny when she went there. She also posited that you cannot put a universe inside of another universe because since a universe is everything, they will, by definition just be one universe. She also pointed out that Green Lantern cannot exceed the speed of light, because nothing in the universe can go faster than light. So, perhaps I should be concerned since my little girl is on the path to growing up to be a bully thug scientist.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Yes, we got the metaphor.

Note: I was a huge fan of the X-Men comics, back when there was only the Uncanny X-Men and there was only one incarnation of the team. Claremont wrote good stories and the metaphor was there but not blatant. Good stories were told and sometimes there was fighting, but the best issues involved things like Wolverine betting Nightcrawler to walk down a street to see how people would react. I abandoned ship right around when things got shitty, that way, I still have fond memories of the X-Men stories.

The X-Men comic was always about metaphor and subtext. But it was subtle enough that it didn't overtake the story and it could be relatable to many different things: civil rights based on race, gay rights, gender equality--essentially whatever might be oppressing you, the X-Men was there to provide a relatable metaphor of how to deal with the injustices of the world.

Later in my reading, other less subtle metaphors began to creep into the stories: the Legacy Virus (AIDS) and the Mutant Registration act (which popped up around the time that the idea of people having the join a registry if they have AIDS was being tossed around). However, for the most part, even these more blatant metaphors still took backstage to the story.

With this incarnation of the X-Men, however, the metaphor was blatant and the subtext was replaced with obvious text. X-Men: First Class is a story about gay rights and LBGT acceptance, understanding and tolerance and how that was responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy the movie. It was a good one. However, they were less than subtle about the metaphor, so I'll recap the movie and parse the metaphor for them.

So, our story begins in a concentration camp, where young Erik Lehnsherr was been incarcerated for being Jewish. However, his secret mutant power gayness is detected by the camp overseer who is also a closeted mutant homosexual, and wants to develop the mutant powers of out Erik.

Meanwhile, young Charles Xavier has found Raven, a young mutant lesbian, who has been rejected by society because of her obvious physical mutations she's flaming. He outs himself to her as well, and agrees to protect and shield her from society as he teaches her how to fit in live in the closet.

So years pass and Erik is bent on vengeance and Charles is questing to find acceptance from society. Charles and Raven are still close, but there is no sexual tension between them because they are both mutants gay. Charles' quest for acceptance brings him to the US military where he out himself before them to prove that despite being a mutant gay, he is still capable of doing things just as well as everyone else. He accidentally out another mutant homosexual already in the CIA with his mental powers gaydar. In response, the outed military man tells his commander officer, "No one asked, so I didn't tell."

Anyhow, the story moves along to the point where Charles and Erik team up and find young mutants gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and offer them a place of acceptance. Each is surprised and happy to be around others like them. They had each thought that they were the only ones who were born felt that way and they take to one another quickly, even as the military soldiers around them mock them for their genetics orientation. Soon, they sit around and begin to take pride in who they are and accept themselves for who they are, despite society's pressures for them to conform. This outing and acceptance is symbolized by each of them accepting their mutant gay persona by coming up with a flamboyant code club name.

There is a subplot where Hank McCoy and Raven do not fully accept their nature and wish to suppress their mutations feelings even to the point where Hank works on a "cure", to which comes the question: does it really require a "cure"? Raven comes to accept who she is and Hank finds out that repressing what he is does not work. There is a true side to him that cannot be masked.

Oh, and during all of this, the Russians and the US are ready to start World War III, but the group works together and use all of their mutant gay powers to stop them.

So, despite the parsing of the metaphor above, I did really enjoy the movie. I liked it more than I thought I would. It was not at all actiony schlock and instead told a good story. I just wish that Hollywood wouldn't think that we are such idiots and did not have to make a metaphor so blatant and obvious. Messages are deeper and more meaningful when we unlock them in our subconscious, rather than when you have people running around shouting "Mutant pride".

A couple of quick comments though:

*Both Charles and Erik were cast and acted so well. Each threatened to upstage each other and when either was on screen, no one else mattered. They were both excellently acted.
*Emma Frost was horribly acted. Really, she was just terrible.
*Kevin Bacon should stop making movies unless they specifically require Kevin Bacon to play himself. He takes you out of the movie and you cannot help but think, "Hey, that's Kevin Bacon on the screen".
*I am beginning to believe that it is utterly impossible to have the blue "Beast" form of Hank McCoy to be portrayed in a non-distracting manner in any live action X-Men movie.
*X-Men purists will cringe at the new backstory and the fact that Havoc and Mystique were original X-Men; let alone the fact that Mystique was Xavier's foster sister and Juggernaut wasn't his step-brother.
*The movie was much more sympathetic to Erik's plight rather than Charles' dream.

Molly: (Molly's portion of the review will be in Q&A form. This is due primarily to her age. She's by my computer now and I'll transcribe our conversation and format it later.)

Chuckie: So, Molly, what did you think of the movie, X-Men: First Class?
Molly: Um, I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about it?
Molly: Um, that there was nice people.

Chuckie: What nice people?
Molly: The ones that were fighting the bad guys.

Chuckie: Do you want to tell me a little about those people?
Molly: Why?

Chuckie: Um, because it'll help the review.
Molly: Well, um, they showed their powers. Um, one can fly and I forget the one that sticks his head in the water.
Chuckie: He could adapt.
Molly: Huh?
Chuckie: He could adapt to survive.
Molly: Oh. I was going to say the one that kind of slowed things. (Molly's kitten, Pond, jumps and attacks her feet as she is talking to me.) Hey! Pond, we're doing a review now so I can't play with you.

Chuckie: The one that slowed things?
Molly: Mm-hm. The one that said, "Stand back."
Chuckie: Oh! Havoc. He didn't slow things, they just showed him shooting in slow motion.
Molly: Oh.

Chuckie: What did you think about the girl who could change forms?
Molly: Um, I liked her. I liked that she could change forms. Probably she could change into me. If she was pretending to be me she'd do everything that I'd do. She could even turn into you. But if she turned into you, what would you think she would do?

Chuckie: I don't know. The comics implied that she'd kind of like to hang out with Mommy.
Molly: It would be funny if Mommy kissed her.

Chuckie: Yeah. Well, what did you think about the girl with the wings?
Molly: I liked her.

Chuckie: So, was there anything you didn't like about the movie?
Molly: Yes.
Chuckie: What?
Molly: The exploding.
Chuckie: All the fighting and explosions?
Molly: Mm-hm.
Chuckie: What didn't you like about that?
Molly: 'Cause there was exploding and there was fighting.

Chuckie: Tell me about the movie and what it was about.
Molly: Um, people was fighting. People was , um, um, pretending.

Chuckie: Pretending what?
Molly: Well, they were actors. They weren't really those people. So they were pretending.

Chuckie: Okay, true, but what happened in the story?
Molly: There was bad guys and they fighted the good guys and the good girls.

Chuckie: Now, you disagreed with me when we left the theater. I said that the actor who played Emma Frost was terrible, but you defended her. Do you still think she was a good actor?
Molly: Yes! 'Cause I liked her.
Chuckie: But was it just the character that you liked?
Molly: Yes.
Chuckie: But the acting was bad.
Molly: I liked the acting!
Chuckie: Really?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: Okay. Fine. So tell me about the differences between Charles and Erik.
Molly: Um, well, I liked the mind guy a little bit better, but I liked the other guy little less better.
Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because the metal guy after he got the helmet blamed the girl that the mind guy got hurt but it was really his fault. And he also broke out the diamond girl which was bad and that's why I liked him less.

Chuckie: Did you feel that they pressed the mutant acceptance metaphor a little too strong?
Molly: I forget that part.

Chuckie: Fair enough. So, how do you want to rate the movie?
Molly: (laughs) In my head I thought it would be funny if I said I hated it. But I liked it.

Chuckie: Yeah, that would really trick the movie-goers who rely on the opinions of four-year olds before choosing their feature.
Molly: (laughs) Daddy!

Chuckie: So, do you want to give it stars?
Molly: Yes. And moons. That will be it.

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: If I was to rate the movie, I would give it one star.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of nine. Because that's the only number I could think of.

Chuckie: And how many moons would you give it?
Molly: Hm. One.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of one.

Chuckie: Okay. I guess that's pretty good.
Molly: Yeah, it's great.

Chuckie: Okay. So who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: Um, the people who watched it.
Chuckie: But I mean, what kinds of people would like to go and see it?
Molly: Um, everybody.
Chuckie: You don't think anybody wouldn't like this movie?
Molly: Yup, I think that everybody would like the movie.

Chuckie: Even with all the fighting?
Molly: Yeah. Why wouldn't they?

Chuckie: Because didn't you say that you didn't like all the fighting when we first left?
Molly: Yeah. But I meant everybody that isn't me, so I don't count.

Chuckie: Okay, so anything else you'd like to say about the movie?
Molly: Yes. (She waits a long beat and doesn't say anything.)
Chuckie: Okay. What?
Molly: Well, the people came to I think that it was a house and the people wrecked it. The people that had the powers.

So, that's our review. I really liked the movie. I wished that they could accept that the audience wasn't so stupid and let the subtext remain subtle instead of beating us over the head with the message. It happens to be a message that I believe in and agree with totally anyhow. There wasn't a need to make it blatant. You risk offending those who disagree with the message instead of letting it sink into their subconscious.  And the lack of subtlety was even more disappointing because the story was really a more cerebral story (for an X-Men movie, at least) instead of a fighty action flick. If Hollywood would trust it's audience more, it could have produced a much better movie.

I give it three and three-quarters out of five stars. Erik and Charles's characters were both compelling and masterfully acted and were, fortunately, on the screen much more than Emma Frost's cardboard acting. I would have given it a half-star more if the movie would have been a little more subtle in its message: gay people should be accepted because they have cool superpowers.

Molly gives it one out of nine stars and one out of one moon. She also thinks that Emma Frost's character was played by a masterful actor capable of emotion and depth. That and the fact that she is four makes me wonder why anyone would take her portion of our reviews seriously.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

I usually don't worry about spoiler alerts. However, this episode has not aired yet in the US, so I kind of feel guilty in not warning people that there will be spoilers in this review about this episode. So, if you don't want to know about Amy's baby and River Song, you should probably stop reading.

Anyhow, so the Doctor finally decides to rescue Amy Pond after melting the ganger that was sitting in her place. However, he realizes that he'll need an army to help him "go to war". So, who does the Doctor round up to help him in his epic battle where he will "rise higher than he's ever risen before"? Well, he checks out the wardrobe and raises an army based on the extra costumes they have laying around.

Really, none of these people gathered were of any importance to the Doctor. At least not from the viewer's perspective. There is no Captain Jack, Leela, Ace, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leading a squad of UNIT commandos, or any other warriors or fighters that would make sense in a time traveler's continuity to bring along with him. Instead we get random lesbian Silurian and her lover maid, a lactating Sontaran and that blue guy that was in a fraction of a scene last season. Oh, plus he also grabbed the pirates from the siren episode and Danny Boy and the space Spitfires (you know, because they are so much more effective than actual ships designed to fly and operate in space).

These are the people that owed the Doctor the most? These are the Doctor's trusted army? No. These are what was in the wardrobe and the actors who aren't too old to play their old roles now. So that was rather disappointing.

But anyhow, for all of the hype of River's speech, "The Doctor will rise higher than he ever has before, then fall to his darkest place," it actually played out rather undramatically. The Doctor falling was apparently him being annoyed and frustrated and giving up for half a minute. For all of the focus on that speech, there was not much pay off in the story's drama.

As far as the revelation that River is Amy's daughter? That was inadvertently guessed at the start of this episode for us. When Amy's daughter was shown I read the name of the crib to Molly, "Melody Pond." Molly then asked, "What's a melody?" Jessica responded, "It's a song." Then woosh. It clicked for me and we figured it out. And in our second viewing the relevance of River's two birthdays was not missed.

There was a lot of flash, but little substance to this story. I hate that I keep delaying my reaction to see how these two-parters will conclude, especially with Moffat's style, but we'll see. Really not much happened in this episode. It was a big build up with fewer answers given about anything other than who River is. However, that was an exterior question and wasn't really a question that I had about this episode's plot at all (such as, who the hell is the eyepatch lady and who is she working for?).

However, there are a few things I would like to comment on:

The Headless Monks. The moment you introduce characters in heavy robes with their hoods up and make a point that you are not allowed to look under their hoods, you just know it is a matter of time before the Doctor, Rory, River or whomever pops back the hood and yells surprise. However, their use of light sabers and shooting Jedi bolts out of their hands was really just a little silly and over the top.

I'm wondering if River's prison sentence is for killing the Doctor, since she may have been the one to do it when she was younger and in the space suit. I believe at one point she said that she was in prison for killing "a good man".

The best moment of the show was when Rory was tending to the dying Sontaran. Rory was in his "war" garb and as he tried to comfort the dying Sontaran as the Doctor listened in, the Sontaran tells him that isn't really a warrior. He's a nurse. That is the same for Rory. The Doctor turned his nurse into a centurion warrior and the moment was probably the most interesting one in the episode. And it isn't the only time that the Doctor has had this effect on people. Look at Martha the doctor and what she became. I've come to really like Rory. He's developed and become interesting. I'm rather impressed, since I really thought that they didn't know what they were doing with him and he was just "tag along" at the start of this series.

But overall, the episode didn't explain itself. It was too fast and furious and relied on too much flash over substance. What could have been a good story was lost in the process as new characters were introduced to die valiantly (with no audience connect because they are new characters that we have no attachment to their sacrifices) and no time was taken to explore and reveal anything from the current story. Villains need motives and backstories. This one doesn't have any.

And one last annoyance that I had. They had to open with one last "is the Doctor the baby's daddy?" moment as Amy was talking to baby Melody. Hopefully that was poking fun at themselves and they've move beyond any need for this in the future.

Episode Highs:
*The scene with Rory and the dying Sontaran made the episode and helped build Rory's character.
*Rory now has kept his no-dying streak to three episodes now!
*The lactating Sontaran was actually kind of cutely funny.
*Seeing the reveal of the next episode's title made me chuckle.

Episode Lows:
*The Doctor's army was really uninspired and was a hodge-podge of "what's available in wardrobe".
*The story was lacking in explanation and depth and the only question answered this episode was really one that wasn't even brought up by this episode or story arc at all. So it was a misdirection as they "satisfied" us with a reveal of something that wasn't even pertinent to the current story.
*So the Doctor isn't just older than River, but knew her and interacted with her when she was a wee baby. Doesn't that just make their romance all the more... creepy?

Molly: (As usual Molly is beside me as I write this. Her portion of the review will be in Q&A form and I will transcribe what she says and format it later.)

Note: Molly was rather down and a bit dour in giving this review. Apparently she was really affected by the death of Commander Strax in the episode, even to the point where we had to pause it and talk to her because she was crying. She apparently wasn't too happy with the death of the lactating Sontaran.

Chuckie: So, what did you think about the episode, "A Good Man Goes to War"?
Molly: It's Doctor Who.
Chuckie: Yes, but that's what the episode of Doctor Who was called.
Molly: There was... um... their pirate friends came.

Chuckie: But how did you like it?
Molly: I liked it and don't like it.

Chuckie: Okay. What did you like about it?
Molly: That there was... um... the Doctor in it.
Chuckie: Anything else?
Molly: No.

Chuckie: What didn't you like about it?
Molly: There was fighting and people died.
Chuckie: I know, that made you sad, didn't it?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Well, let's talk about the story. What happened in the episode?
Molly: Um, the Doctor came down the stairs and the baby wasn't real. It was really a... what's the melting white stuff called?

Chuckie: Gangers?
Molly: No, the white stuff.
Chuckie: Flesh?
Molly: Yeah. The flesh... The baby wasn't really real because it was made of flesh.

Chuckie: Anything else happen?
Molly: I don't remember anything else.

Chuckie: Really? Not even anything about River?
Molly: She's really the baby.

Chuckie: What baby?
Molly: Rory's and Amelia Pond's. (She looks at her kitten that she's named Pond.) And not you, Pond. It's a different baby.

Chuckie: So, how is it that she's their baby?
Molly: Amelia had a baby.

Chuckie: But how did it end up being River?
Molly: Crap.
Chuckie: (Laughs.)
Molly: What? Well they didn't tell us about it good enough so its crap. Time box?
Chuckie: What about time box?
Molly: Well, I thought that was the reason she was her baby and old. She traveled through time.

Chuckie: You kept saying that you were confused during this episode. Was the storyline too confusing for a four year old to follow?
Molly: No. Remember there was two rivers?

Chuckie: What two Rivers?
Molly: The baby and the one who was older.

Chuckie: That wasn't too confusing for you?
Molly: That part was.

Chuckie: Okay, well, did you think that this episode was good for kids?
Molly: No.
Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because somebody died.

Chuckie: Fair enough, Pixie. So, how would you rate this episode?
Molly: Good. I mean bad.
Chuckie: Which one?
Molly: Bad and good. There was some good parts and a lot of bad parts.

Chuckie: Did you want to give it stars?
Molly: Um. One.
Chuckie: Wow. That's not many.
Molly: Because I really didn't like this episode.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Two.

Chuckie: Okay. Any moons?
Molly: I don't want any suns, Daddy. Just one moon, Daddy.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Six.

Chuckie: So anything else--
Molly: Daddy. I'll give it suns.
Chuckie: You don't have to, Sweetie. That's fine.
Molly: I'll do it for you.
Chuckie: Really, Pixie. It's up to you.
Molly: Okay. Then I'll give them.

Chuckie: Alright. How many suns?
Molly: One.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Nine.

Chuckie: Okay, so, who do you think would like this episode?
Molly: Everybody except Ava at my school and Karlie from dance.
Chuckie: Why wouldn't they like it?
Molly: Fighting and killing and all that stuff.

Chuckie: Okay, fair enough. Anything else you want to say about this episode?
Molly: I liked seeing the pirates again.
Chuckie: The Black Spot pirates?
Molly: Yeah. I liked that one. No one died and there was much more no crap in it.

So, that's our review. I thought that it was all-flash with little substance. Sure, questions were answered, but just not the ones posed by this story arc. There were a couple of good moments in it, but it set up a few moments for the characters to reflect what they have become, but also for the series to reflect on what it has become. From the Doctor being known to the soldier for being a mighty warrior and saying "Run!" to the Doctor being a name feared throughout all times of the universe, perhaps the show has gotten away from itself. Just as the Doctor was given the moment to reflect about what the nurse Rory had become under him, hopefully this is a chance for Moffat to reflect about what the Doctor has become under him. Hopefully River's words about the Doctor falling so far were meant for Moffat. It shouldn't be all running from monsters, explosions and action-packed battles-- I mean, the show began with the Doctor being fucking ancient. Hopefully River's words will be heard and things will be tempered a bit from this point on.

But I doubt it. The show isn't a kid's show anymore, but rather a show for those who remembered it as kids. But it still has its moments.

Anyhow, I give it two and a half out of five stars. The episode was entertaining, but it was lacking substance. Moffat was too busy giving us set-up moments to milk the last bit of "the Doctor is really the baby daddy" plot dry to give us actual character development, background and real plot. (Though I'm certain the fan-fic writers are doing a fine job of continuing the Doctor is the baby-daddy thread along)

Molly gave it one out of two stars, one out of two moons and a very reluctant one out of nine suns. This was definitely her least enthused review because of the death of Commander Strax. However, she was at least a little pleased to see the pirates make a return, as ridiculous as that may have been.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Doctor Who: The Almost People

Here's a bunch of Almost People now.

So when we last left off, the Doctor was in the Gamma Quadrant where he discovered the Founders had been imitating certain members of the crew in order to infiltrate before the big Jem'Hadar attack, but Odo had rebelled and would not rejoin the Great Link and... wait. That's not right.

Actually, the Doctor had just found a ganger Doctor and a small scale war had just broken out between the gangers and the "real" people.

Unlike Moffat two-parters, this episode picks up where the last one left off in story, theme and mood. I had enjoyed the first half of this story and felt that it was a little more along the lines of a "traditional" old-school Doctor Who episode. This continued that theme, but it wavered a bit at the end.

Ignoring the sudden change in the ending, there were a couple of parts of the episode that stood out to me. First of all, the ganger Jennifer brought Rory to see the discarded flesh, left deformed and dying as Rory began to feel even more sympathy for the plight of the gangers. The discarded flesh still left conscious brings up a few problems; like first of all, why didn't the humans begin to consider the ramifications of the flesh if the discarded flesh remained conscious after the link? But whatever, I thought that it was an unnecessary means of getting the point of the story across too bluntly. But then it became even more blunt with Jennifer's line of, "Who are the real monsters?" Yeah. We got it. We got it a while ago. That really wasn't necessary and it kind of felt like the audience was being treated as if we were morons and couldn't figure out the ethical dilemma that was set up in the previous 80 minutes.

I was also a bit disappointed that for a story about morality, they had to end it with Jennifer turning into a monster for a final runaway and battle scene. Really, I wish that they would have enough faith in the audience to give us a more cerebral ending instead of ending it with a monster to fight. Plus, the fact that Jennifer could turn into this ravaging beast threatening to destroy half a dozen people on her own kind of hurts their message about the gangers being just like people and acceptance. Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd be a little wary of someone who could turn into a rampaging murderous beast and kill everyone around them with little effort telling me that he just wants to be accepted and treated like everyone else.

But probably my biggest problem with the resolution is that they spent two hours making the case for the fact that the gangers are in fact a valid life and are worthy of an existence in their own right, but then they casually discarded them at the end. The ganger Doctor and the ganger head-ache girl stay back to fight off the monster Jennifer and everyone is fine with their impending deaths. Just a quick, "Thanks, mates!" and they leave them to die.

Had the human head-ache girl stayed behind instead of the ganger one, I think there would have been more pause. Plus, the two gangers who stayed behind stopped the Jennifer monster by using the sonic screwdriver to revert the flesh, also taking themselves out in the process. Why the fuck didn't the real Doctor send all of the flesh gangers into the TARDIS and close the door and sonic the Jennifer monster to death himself? It was really just sloppy writing at the end to try to get rid of the ganger Doctor who would have caused some story problems, but also make sure that there are no pairs of identical humans and gangers left, because that would have caused potential off-stage complications if you thought about it.

So really, the Doctor spent all of this time validating the existence of the gangers to casually shrug off their deaths at the end. Kind of depressing.

And so, the only survivors of the acid mine are the ganger father, who is dropped off early to see his "inherited" kid, the real head-ache girl and the ganger of someone who did so little in the fucking two episodes that I'm not even entirely sure he was even in the first half.

And the little twist of the Doctor and the ganger Doctor swapping shoes was guessed by me very early into the episode. There were far too many lines of Amy saying, "I know the real Doctor and that's you," and, "Yep, you are the one and only real Doctor alright. I can tell the difference," and, "There's no way you are really a ganger who swapped shoes. I can tell and I'm not just being overly blunt about a message about prejudice." Well, maybe she didn't say the last line. But she really implied it.

But the extra twist comes at the end of the episode where we discover that Amy has really been a ganger and the "real" Amy is pregnant and being held captive, which is why the TARDIS couldn't accurately read her pregnancy. There are a shitload of continuity issues that come along with this revelation, such as how and when her abduction took place. It also annoys me that the Doctor supposedly knew about this (or at least suspected) since the first pregnancy readings. Well, if that's the case, then why didn't he prioritize that little fact and not go on random pirate adventures? He's also the most incompetent time traveler when he cannot solve a lot of these problems. I understand the whole not affecting his own timeline stuff, but he could have decommissioned the flesh Amy much earlier, spent fifty years preparing to save her, then go back in time to the moment he decommissioned the flesh Amy to save the real one.

But, whatever. Instead, we get yet another awkward instance of the Doctor decommissioning a flesh being after we just spent two hours of him validating their existence as worthy of life.

Anyhow, I still liked the theme of the storyline, but was disappointed at the ending and I'm wary of the little Amy ganger swerve at the end. I figure they'll never fully satisfy the logic behind that for me, but I'll still enjoy the ride well enough.

Molly: (As usual, Molly's portion of the review will be in Q&A form due to her age and inability to write on her own. She's by my computer and I'll ask her questions and transcribe the best I can as she answers me. I'll format it afterward.)

Chuckie: What did you think of the episode, the Almost People?
Molly: Um, well, I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about it?
Molly: That there was... that she had her baby.

Chuckie: Who had a baby?
Molly: Amelia Pond.

Chuckie: So, what happened? How did Amelia Pond have her baby?
Molly: Well, in the other episode, the TARDIS said she was pregnant and not pregnant and she had her baby. She was a ganger.

Chuckie: So, tell me what happened in this episode?
Molly: Well, um, at the end, he blowed balloons as a ganger. To his kid. The white haired boy ganger did that. Um, and there was, um, and, and, Amelia Pond, um, well when Rory stepped closer to her, she was really a ganger and that one.

Chuckie: Yeah, but what happened with the rest of the gangers and the acid factory?
Molly: Well, one ganger that wasn't made of acid, he died.

Chuckie: How?
Molly: Acid.

Chuckie: Oh. What else happened?
Molly: Um, Rory and a ganger runned, and then Rory, like, was near a wall and the gangers and the two Doctors and one of them was a ganger and ganger Amelia Pond went to try to find Jennifer and Rory.

Chuckie: Okay. So, tell me about the ganger who became the boy's daddy.
Molly: He, um, well, he was taking over the one of his real daddy's job to take care of his kid.

Chuckie: That was his job?
Molly: Yeah.

Chuckie: Well, what do you think that means that the ganger was going to be his dad?
Molly: That he was going to be nice to the kid and register him for kindergarten  because he turned 5.

Chuckie: So, do you think that the gangers could be real people and live real lives, or are they really still monsters?
Molly: One is still a monster. Jennifer Lucas.
Chuckie: Lucas? Was that her last name?
Molly: Yeah, probably.
Chuckie: Okay, you might be right.
Molly: She was a monster at the end. Her head was so long and she had four feet.

Chuckie: What happened to the ganger Doctor?
Molly: Well, now I'm getting confused again. Because one was holding the door and the other was going inside the TARDIS, but I couldn't see their shoes. So I don't know which one made it into the TARDIS.

Chuckie: Well, the one that stayed behind got turned into the white flesh goop. So, don't you think that one was the ganger?
Molly: So, the ganger Doctor was holding the door?

Chuckie: Yeah. The real Doctor escaped in the TARDIS.
Molly: Yes!
Chuckie: You weren't sure?
Molly: Yeah, I didn't see the shoes, so I wasn't all the way sure.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate this episode?
Molly: Twenty million stars and it was okay.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: One. And a million eleven moons. That's not even a real number, right Daddy?

Chuckie: Well, a million eleven could be one million and eleven which is a real number.
Molly: But I'd rather pick a not real number.
Chuckie: Okay, like what?
Molly: Um, one hundred and one.
Chuckie: That's a real number.
Molly: Fine. Can we just get on with the suns?

Chuckie: Okay. How many suns?
Molly: One hundred and forty-two.
Chuckie: That's a real number. Out of how many?
Molly: Out of zero.

Chuckie: That makes it not a real number.
Molly: I know. That's why I picked it. You said that when I make it out of zero it's not a real number.
Chuckie: Wow. You mean you actually remember what I said about real numbers?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: So how do you think this episode ranks with the other episodes this season?
Molly: I don't even know what that means.

Chuckie: I mean, do you think it was better than the other episodes or worse than them or somewhere in the middle?
Molly: It was okay.

Chuckie: Fair enough. Anything else you'd like say about this episode?
Molly: Pop Pop might like it.
Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because he likes Doctor Who. Because there's a doctor in it.

So, that's our review. I thought the first two-thirds of it was good, even if they were a bit blunt with the morality and messaging of the episode. The ending was a bit disappointing because of the Jennifer Monster (which is, however, a fun term to write) and the casual sacrificing of the gangers after spending all of that time validating their existence. And the real Doctor's little speech before the sacrifice of the gangers was, "Well, there is a chance that your consciousness might be preserved somewhere, somehow," wasn't overly validating for that sacrifice. I mean, isn't that the same thing that we say to real humans when they are about to die?

I give it two and a half out of five stars. I would have given it more if not for the bluntness and the off-message endings. I still like the concept of the story and a fair bit of the execution, but it just didn't quite pull it off and some of the errors are ones that were hard to forgive.

Molly gives it twenty millions stars out of one, either a million and eleven or one hundred and one moons, and one hundred forty-two suns out of zero, making it a not-real number. She also remembered that dividing by zero does not produce a real number. So apparently our reviews are turning my little girl into a math nerd.