Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Loving, Learning, Sharing, Judging

New podcast today! Extra Hot Great #8: A Gypsy, a Tramp, and a Thief. (Yes, by the image on the EHG site, I guess that makes me the tramp. I can live with that.)

Among other things (Burlesque, Buffy fans, font-based wordplay), we get caught up in a discussion of Clone High, the late, lamented MTV animated show about a school full of sexy teen clones of famous historical figures. It's pretty tough to find on DVD -- I believe I had to try Amazon.ca (and thank Christ that overrated sourpuss Ramona Flowers didn't rollerblade her ass on over to my place to deliver it) to find it. But it's so completely worth it -- 13 episodes of hilarity, just waiting for you.

Anyhoo, I found out something else today as I was YouTubing for Clone High clips: the theme song -- one of the best, hookiest TV themes ever -- was sung by the band Abandoned Pools. Who I totally saw in concert once, even though I had no idea who they were, as they were opening for Flickerstick, a.k.a. the winners of the VH1 reality show Bands on the Run, which was another phenomenal TV show from the early-2000s that only lasted one perfect season!

The world is an amazing place sometimes...




.
.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fall Movie Preview 2010, Part 5

Fall movie season is upon us! What goodies await? What kind of an impact will they make? How many leading questions will I ask before I just get on with it? Three. The answer is three.

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Movie: The Fighter (David O. Russell)
High-Concept Synopsis: Mark Wahlberg plays one of those scrappy, tiny, white athletes that American usually goes ga-ga over, this time a boxer who fights his way up from white-trash surroundings with the help of his ne'er-do-well brother, played by Christian Bale.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences following the (manufactured?) Oscar buzz, particularly in the case of Bale, who is being tapped as a Best Supporting Actor winner. Fans of the pedigreed cast, which also includes Amy Adams as Wahlberg's wife and Melissa Leo as his and Bale's insanely-bouffanted mother. People who can't get enough of boxing movies about credulity-straining short white dudes.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Folks who might be skeptical about how David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings) is going to marry his comedic style to such a leaden story type. People who found a little too much self-conscious bombast in the trailer. Audiences turned off by the combined jackassery of the director and male leads.
Why I'd See It: Russell's I Heart Huckabees is one of my favorite movies of the past ten years. But I am finding a very hard time working up enthusiasm for this movie, which is the perfect storm of a story type I don't care about, lead actors I don't care for (love Wahlberg in comedies, think he's kind of a disaster in dramas), and supporting actresses I generally like seeming to go WAY overboard. This is all based on a trailer, though, so there's no guarantee I won't be wrong. But ... I'm not, come on. December 10


Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Michael Apted)
High-Concept Synopsis: Once more into the fantasy/allegory breach, this time on the high seas of Narnia with the two younger Pevensie kids, fine-ass Prince Caspian, and that little Eddie Izzard mouse. Like last time, Tilda Swinton will return all too briefly.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the C.S. Lewis books. Families looking for neutral viewing options. Folks who maybe didn't care for the first installment of this series but warmed up to Prince Caspian for various reasons.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Folks turned off by the "Lord of the Rings for Christian evangelists" reputation the series hasn't entirely been able to shake. Shallow audiences disappointed that we'll be sticking with the two awkward-looking siblings and dumping the cute boring ones. Audiences unsure of how Michael Apted's career (Rome, Nell, Gorillas in the Mist) jibes with this story.
Why I'd See It: I didn't much care for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I was largely pleased by Prince Caspian, for non-Ben Barnes related reasons, even! I'm not saying I'm going to go out of my way to see this when December is acting like its usual jam-packed self, but I'm not going to reflexively turn my nose up at it either. December 10


Movie: The Tempest (Julie Taymor)
High-Concept Synopsis: After finding critical (if not popular) success with Titus, Julie Taymor aims to crack out Shakespeare once again, this time with Helen Mirren playing a gender-swapped Prospero.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Taymor's wild style, which isn't always successful (Across the Universe) but certainly distinguishes itself. Fans of Mirren, an actress who has shown an increasingly adventurous streak as of late. Shakespeare completists.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Folks who have followed the rather poisonous buzz around the festival circuit. Audiences who have tired of Taymor's excesses. People left on edge by the odd mix of co-stars (Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, Russell Brand, Ben Whishaw).
Why I'd See It: It's supposed to be a mess, but maybe a grand mess. A trainwreck in the making might be fun -- plus Helen Mirren's always good justification for a ticket purchase. December 10


Movie: Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski)
High-Concept Synopsis: A triumphant return to the computer-world classic beloved by ... dozens of people? If that? Jeff Bridges reprises his role, and does a creepy mo-cap version of himself as the film's villain.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who liked the original and have been waiting for computer-animation technology to catch up to the film's original vision. Bridges fans who will -- and have -- see him in anything. The world's oldest techno-dweebs.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who object to the integrity of the original being sullied by youth-casting choices like Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Technophobes. People freaked the hell out by Motion-Captured Jeff Bridges from the trailer.
Why I'd See It: I don't recall much about the original Tron from Saturday-afternoon viewings during my grade-school year. I'm not sure this is shaping up to be good, but it's certainly distinctive this season. December 17


Movie: How Do You Know (James L. Brooks)
High-Concept Synopsis: Reese Witherspoon is a directionless lady who is courted by pro ballplayer Owen Wilson and endearing disaster Paul Rudd. Jack Nicholson also shows up there as well.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of James L. Brooks's mostly reliable oeuvre (Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment). Fans of Reese. Fans of Rudd. Fans of Owen Wilson.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who remember the last time they saw a movie solely because it had James L. Brooks's name on it. Never forget, Spanglish victims. Never forget.
Why I'd See It: I do love Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd. Each gets a moment in the trailer that sums up why I'm so hooked on them -- his dead face-plant on the table; her getting annoyed at herself for crying. And while I wonder whether their particular brands of charisma are a good match (she needs a strong-willed guy to butt up against), I'm definitely willing to see what they throw at me. December 17


Movie: Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell)
High-Concept Synopsis: The usual awards-baity "grieving parents struggle to cope" story, hopefully livened up by the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and featuring reportedly strong performances by Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Weist.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the Broadway play, which is apparently stunning. People anxiously waiting for Kidman to return to award-winning form. John Cameron Mitchell fans psyched to see what stylistic flourishes he brings to the material.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who are still scared away by Kidman's freaky face experiments. People worried that Mitchell won't be as free to experiment while directing a script that's not his own. People who just don't dig watching parental grief, no matter how exquisitely rendered.
Why I'd See It: I truly do like Nicole Kidman, even if I can't lie that the lingering facial issues aren't a problem. The botox seems to have calmed down in this preview footage, but the lips are still insane. But I'm an even bigger JCM fan, and the reviews have been pretty stellar. My expectations are suddenly really high. December 17


Movie: Gulliver's Travels (Rob Letterman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jack Black brings his fresh and hilarious brand of mugging to a modern-day update of Jonathan Swift's classic tale. Emily Blunt and Jason Segel, among others, lower themselves both literally and figuratively as Lilliputians.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who were longing for the madcap laugh-a-minutemovie antics of Year One combined with the literature-defiling thrills of The Cat in the Hat. Jack Black loyalists. People who'll get a kick out of Jason Segel's quasi-continental accent.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who has anything better to do whatsoever.
Why I'd See It: I tried to keep an open mind about this whole endeavor, and it's probably for kids anyway, but seriously, that trailer about broke me. This looks absolutely awful. December 22


Movie: Country Strong (Shana Feste)
High-Concept Synopsis: Gwyneth Paltrow does the Crazy Heart thing as a boozy, washed up country star who's watching her career get eclipsed by a pretty youngster (Leighton Meester) struggles to get herself back on top with the help of a young hottie (Garrett Hedlund).
Who Will Be Seeing It: Gwyneth fans, having recently been bolstered by her successful appearance on Glee. Fans of the road-to-country-redemption trope, which has endured for decades for a reason. Audiences happy to get to see the dude play the pretty young thing in one of these movies for once.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Country music agnostics. Anybody who doesn't think they can buy pretty princess Gwyneth as a hard-ridden country whiskey-swiller. Anybody who may not want to buy into what could be interpreted as a late-entry Oscar-grab fusion of Sandra Bullock AND Jeff Bridges's awards-bait roles from last year.
Why I'd See It: After years of thinking I hated her -- even while allowing for the wonderful exception that was The Royal Tenenbaums -- it turns out I kind of love Gwyneth Paltrow. And I often take comfort in familiar genre fare starring likeable actors. I am but an average American. December 22


Movie: True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen)
High-Concept Synopsis: The Coens remake the John Wayne "classic," which is notable for winning The Duke the Oscar, but maybe not for much else. Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Coen fans who recognize the hottest of hot streaks they've been on lately. Bridges fans who: ditto. That sad band of westerns fans who come out of the woodwork every time one of these movies comes out, moaning about how this is the quintessential American genre and they don't make 'em like they used to.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Western fans who object to John Wayne getting re-made in any way. Coens fans who nonetheless don't think they should be in the business of remakes, and who can point to disappointments like The Ladykillers as proof. Matt Damon fans who maybe aren't thrilled about seeing their guy second-billed and covered with dirt.
Why I'd See It: I'm already onboard when you give me Coens, Bridges, and Damon, and to top that off the trailer looks positively amazing. I'm no drooling fan of the western, but the Coens did it about as well as I've ever liked it on No Country for Old Men. I'm in. December 22


Movie: Somewhere (Sofia Coppola)
High-Concept Synopsis: Stephen Dorff plays a fuckup of an actor (hrm...) who's living in swanky hotels and keeping the world at bay until he gets a visit from his young daughter, played by Elle Fanning.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Coppola's previous films, all of which have their passionate fans -- yes, even Marie Antoinette. People who have been waiting a long, long, long time for Stephen Dorff to finally have his moment in the sun. Fans of movies about lounging, looking intriguingly bored, and pondering your wealthy, meaningless existence at poolside.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who thought Marie Antoinette was vapid and shallow. People who don't feel like Dorff's career achievements thus far have bought him enough goodwill to warrant this kind of a role. People who have a kneejerk opposition to whatever movie those snooty Cannes folk decided to honour.
Why I'd See It: Personally, I don't have any objection to watching movies about the idle rich, provided they're compelling and intriguingly filmed. Coppola has shown she's able to do just that. December 24


Movie: Another Year (Mike Leigh)
High-Concept Synopsis: Leigh delivers another typically lived-in tale, this one about a longtime, happily married couple and the degrees of sadness that exist in their many close friends and family members.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone who's grown fond of Leigh's brand of modest English realism. Fans of the critically lauded performances by Jim Broadbent, Ruth Shean, and Lesley Manville. Audiences looking for a constant stream of laughter to cushion some deep-cutting meditations on loneliness.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Leigh fans who need more of a Happy Go Lucky-type hook to grab them. Non-fans of quiet British humor. Audiences who won't have time during the holiday rush to seek anything beyond the shopping mall multiplexes.
Why I'd See It: Actually, I already have, at the New York Film Festival. I'm absolutely over the moon for it, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. December 29



Movie: Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a young couple going through some painfully cinematic troubled times.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences following the couldn't-be-more-stellar festival buzz. Fans of the two stars, both of whom are said to give blazing, challenging performances. Folks who will always see a movie that's been the subject of an MPAA rating controversy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Folks who would never see a movie the MPAA slapped with an NC-17. Audiences turned off by a movie that's been called "difficult" and "punishing." People who don't get the benefit of Oscar screeners.
Why I'd See It: I'm a huge fan of both Gosling and Williams, and everything I'm hearing about it has me thinking this is right up my alley. I will always line up for intense movies about young people in love. December 31
.
.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

22 Short Thoughts About Burlesque


01. It's not Showgirls. That's going to be bad news for people who were hoping for the next kitsch classic. It's nowhere near as insane, as poorly acted, as aggressively off-putting as Paul Verhoeven much embraced gilded turd.

02. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Planets really had to align for a movie as terrible as Showgirls to have become as embraced by the trash-humping masses. Trying to repeat that kind of "success" would have been a fool's errand. Instead, this is a mostly pretty-good movie if you happen to enjoy: 1) Cher, 2) Christina Aguilera, 3) Dancing, 4) Movie cliches, or 5) sparkly things.

03. Cher is Cher, and if you like that, you're golden. Yes, her face is kind of puffy and fishy, and that gets distracting at times, but that charm of hers comes shining through. She's such a relaxed, lived-in presence on the film, it's like Aunt Cher stopped by for some dress-up fun.

04. Christina Aguilera ... it depends on what your starting point is. You could point out that she doesn't bring a whole lot of idiosyncratic life to the role of "Ali," the small-town girl looking to Make It in L.A. But considering the fact that this is her first feature film role of any kind, I found myself a little impressed that she wasn't stilted or all that mannered. It's a solid debut.

05. Stanley Tucci! I mean, right? He's spent the last 5 or so years playing utterly charming supporting characters and allowing that wonderful, unforced humor of his to infuse entire movies. The depressing fact that his lone Oscar nomination was for last year's The Lovely Bones -- the fidgety, mannered exception to that rule -- has been made up for this year by ace work in both Easy A and now here.


06. Is it weird that coming out of a movie starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, my first thought was of Cam Gigandet? And not purely for shallow reasons, either! Well ... 70% for shallow reasons. That boy is rocking a torso that is here to please, and he's kind enough to sport some butt, after all. But when did he develop a personality? He's kind of ridiculously charming in his guyliner and junk-covering Famous Amos cookies. I take back all those "Hatchet Face" comments, Cam! I find your mug beguiling now.

07. Steve Antin's direction leaves a good bit to be desired. The whole movie is kind of flabby, there's no real flow from one musical number to one another. A better director with a tighter style would've kept the movie from lulling the way it does.

08. The musical numbers could have been funnier, too. I understand Christina needs her torch ballads, but this is the girl who did that dirty Andrews Sisters video for "Candyman." Or "Dirrty" for that matter. And then there's Cher! You're telling me no one could think of anything memorably hilarious?

09. Steve Antin has definitely watched Rob Marshall's Chicago at least two times. He probably also saw the Rob Marshall-directed Broadway revival of Cabaret. Which would explain why Alan Cumming's emcee character is lifted wholesale from that show and placed in the Burlesque ticket-taking booth for absolutely no Earthly reason.

10. Not that I'm here to totally bag on Steve Antin. He did write the script, which while not setting a new standard for screenwriting definitely produces a story that gives a shit about its characters in a way that lesser films (and even some better films) don't manage.

11. Antin's script also makes room for one of those perfunctory "The bank is about to foreclose on our home/farm/dance warehouse/burlesque parlor" subplots that's both dumb, unnecessary, and kind of awesome if you're in the mood to laugh at things like plot twists revolving around "air rights."


12. Here's the biggest problem in the movie, and one that I'm surprised no one else is mentioning: Cher and Christina never perform together! Didn't the concept, casting, promotion, trailer, and overall story of the movie pretty much promise that they would? I feel ever so cheated!

13. Props to So You Think You Can Dance alum Chelsea Traille for getting cast as dancing girl Coco. (You go, Glenn Coco!) Chelsea's triumph gives hope to 16th-place finishing contestants everywhere. There's still hope, Jessi Peralta!

14. Dancing with the Stars fans can also enjoy Julianne Hough as pregnant (ish?) Georgia, for whatever that's worth.

15. Blink and you'll miss Glee's Diana Agron's thankless appearance about an hour and a half into the film. It's a fine match to her thankless role on Glee. Free Quinn Fabray, people. Free Quinn Fabray.

16. If you think about it, Burlesque is really just a high-wattage retelling of Coyote Ugly. Except that movie got made when the slutty-bartenders craze was only a year or two past its prime, while the burlesque trend peaked at the latest in 2004, right?

17. Speaking of Coyote Ugly, Piper Perabo's Casio-based songstressing gets transferred not to Aguilera's character but to Gigandet's. And after a movie's worth of secretive songwriting, we get the episode-capping "Show Me How You Burlesque," a fun-as-hell, energetic number that nonetheless could have been written by Robin Antin's pet cat.


18. Speaking of the songs, how many of them had the word "burlesque" in the title? Four? Seven? All of them?

19. Kristen Bell doesn't get the most rewarding role, but she employs her bitchface to full volume and reminds me once again that no matter how much I rooted for her as Veronica Mars, her future in movies is playing hellacious bitches and nothing but.

20. One of the montage scenes was set to Madonna's "Ray of Light," an excellent song choice, and one which gave me visions of a Burlesque 2, where Cher and Xtina must deal with a rival burlesque club that moves in across the street, run by a wizened Madonna and her protégée Britney Spears. This kind of has to happen, right?

21. Eric Dane is pretty great shorthand for "sleazy opportunist." The fact that he gets no more naked than short sleeves is kind of a betrayal of the audience, though.

22. All told: B-? B+? C+ with A- tendencies? I'm not sure a letter-grade assessment does this film the right kind of justice. If you think you might enjoy it, you probably will. It's no disasterpiece, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
.
.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Best Laugh I've Had All Week

I'm not sure if I thought this week's Community was quite the miraculous benchmark for televised comedy that some of its internet champions did, but it was very funny and a huge step up from the rather dire direction the show had been heading in. A big part of that was due to the following scene, easily the funniest thing on TV all week:



Well, that and the pregnancy test box, but that was more of a visual gag. Enjoy!
.
.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 6: "6995 kHz"

Hey y'all. I'm in the midst of a hellish week, work-wise (I'm recapping three shows at TWoP, so if you feel like popping in to see what I thought about Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, or Grey's Anatomy, please do!), so no Fringe review from me. But I contracted my pal Kirk Hamilton to give the write-up for me. Now, I haven't even had time to WATCH the episode yet, so I can't even comment, but I'm confident Kirk has it covered, and I'll be back to make comments (in the ... you know, comments) probably over the weekend. Enjoy it! And thanks again to Kirk for coming through for me.
-Joe
- - - -

Thanks for having me, Joe! Okay, let's do this.


So here I was, hoping that after real-Liv realized the truth of her situation, we'd actually get some Liv-on-Liv action this week. Oh, how naive I was! It's like I haven't been watching television my whole life. No, instead, we got another placeholder episode as the various pieces of this season's puzzle (and Walternate's doomsday machine) were slowly moved into place.

The episode begins with a bunch of interesting-looking strangers getting waylaid by a bunch of numbers, and man… the whole "Spooky voice reading numbers on a radio" has sure started to wear out its welcome fast, hasn't it? Between this episode and a similar trick working its way into the new Call of Duty game, I'm kind of on Mysterious Numbers-overload this week.

12, 34, 17, 9, 15, 42, 40…

The bulk of the episode is spent trying to figure out what happened to all the Ham Radio Number-Channel Enthusiasts (hey, it's a "thing," okay?) around the globe who lost their memory by listening to a certain numbers broadcast. Also, to figure out why the broadcast was happening in the first place. Which… to be honest, still kinda hazy on that over here.

We learned that there was a race of super-advanced people who populated the earth Before The Dinosaurs, which on any other show would seem like a pretty major revelation but in this episode is treated pretty matter-of-factly. I dunno, I hope we learn more about these "First People" in coming episodes. Seems like it could just be another narrative device to explain implausible stuff—"You say this is impossible? The First People must've done it!"—and I'm not really sure that this show needs yet another of those.

We also got to meet another shapeshifter, who must've watched a bunch of Alias back in the day since he chose to take the form of Ken Weisman, a.k.a. Marshall Flinkman, everyone's favorite impressively-chinned CIA tech wiz. After Walter (excellently) repurposes a wah-wah pedal to mute the signal's low frequencies, he learns that the Evil-Flinkman (Fink-man?) was plugging in a box at various radio towers and broadcasting the numbers for some unknown purpose. The memory loss was simply a side-effect of the signal, built in to keep people from learning about it.

The larger goals of the shapeshifter's mission are left unclear, mostly because Fauxlivia blows his ass out of a window right in front of Peter and Broyles, which prompts Lance Reddick to give what might be the single most hilarious reaction shot I have ever seen:


Peter and Walter spend the episode arguing about Peter's quest to understand the doomsday device from last season's finale. Peter seems to think that they need to keep up with the Alt-Universe, while Walter is terrified for Peter's safety and is afraid of what the device is capable of, should he get it working.

After sharing some more chemistry-free kissy kissy scenes with Peter, Fauxlivia gets Nina to talk to Walter about letting Peter continue his research, since of course, she (Fauxlivia) wants Peter to reactive the device and destroy his world, thereby saving her own. Nina agrees, but only after appearing to intuit that something is off about Fauxlivia. She heads over to the lab to talk with Walter, and the two of them do a J on the Harvard campus and talk shit about how wussy and boring Harvard students have become. It's as awesome as it sounds.

So in the end, it would appear that the magnetic box was kind of a MacGuffin (shocker!), a tool in a larger scheme. Asterisk gets her Rubicon on and cracks the First People's code in increasingly improbable ways, eventually realizing that the numbers code to the First People's wacky calendar, which lines up to a code matrix, which eventually winds up pointing to the coordinates of 59 different points on the globe. …yeah, okay, whatever.

The twist is that each of the locations marks a buried part of the doomsday device, and the team will now have the means to reassemble the thing. Walter changes his mind about not letting Peter experiment on the device, just after Peter explains to Fauxlivia that it is not his plan to destroy her (and really, their) reality, but that he hopes to find another way, something that won't cost so much innocent life. Fauxlivia remains difficult to read, as always.

The episode ends by flashing to real-Liv, still trapped in the Alt-World with the boring boringness of Ghost-Peter. She realizes that Walternate has gotten what he needed with the tests, and that she needs to escape. So then Ghost-Peter tells her, "They've gotten what they needed from the tests. You need to escape." POW! ROLL CREDITS!

So yeah, kind of a placeholder episode. Though between the electromagnetism, the numbers recordings, the plane going down, the Flinkman factor, and the presence of a Mystery Box, it certainly felt even more Abrams-y than most.

But what did I miss? What did everyone else think? Has the show dropped more hints about Walternate's plan more than I caught? Can Peter really find a way to fix the tear without killing everyone? And WHAT, by God, DO THE NUMBERS MEEEEEEN?

You can -- and are encouraged to -- find Kirk elsewhere at Murfins and Burglars and Gamer Melodico.
.
.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 5, "Amber 31422"


And we're BACK from the baseball hiatus with a somewhat impromptu episode (had the World Series gone to seven games, tonight's episode would have been pre-empted) that throws us right back into Alt World and helped me to clarify at least one thing about this still-young season.

Because, for the most part, I've been totally in love with this season, both the Alt episodes and the Our World episodes. But while "Amber 31422" showcased a decently strong standalone storyline, it also brought to light my least favorite element of the season so far: Ghost Peter. Or Mind-Figment Peter -- however we're assessing him, he's the part of the show that has me thinking I've stumbled into an episode of Dexter where he's being lectured yet again by his long-winded ghost of a dad. (I like Dexter. I HATE those scenes.)

In this case, yes, Ghost Peter does lead Olivia down the primrose path to realizing that she doesn't belong in alt-world, but he does it via a lot of irritating exposition and underlining of the major points of Olivia's story so far. I'm of the belief that Anna Torv is doing a good enough job that she could let us know what Olivia's thinking without having GP essentially repeat it for us, and if that means Joshua Jackson takes an episode off, so be it. That said, it seems like we're moving ever closer to crossover, where our two seperate story paths will merge (let's hope very soon -- the baseball break has really made it seem like the show's been split in half longer than it actually has.

But now on to what I liked about this episode, including another reminder of how very much I am liking the chemistry of the Alt World fringe team. Liv, Charlie, and Lincoln make an excellent team -- more traditionally bantery in a way that makes me think they're being written to emulate some kind of CSI-squad, but the performances are so strong that it never feels generic. I'm dearly hoping the show finds a place for Charlie and Lincoln once the two-Olivias story gets resolved.

I'm also really digging how these episodes make use of Alt World's expanded (im)possibilities -- in this case, that anti-matter glowy ring thing (jargon!) -- to put a twist on well-worn TV tropes like a heist. I also admire the boldness of dealing with socio-political questions for a world the audience likely sees as less real. The murky ethics of amber quarantine were given a fairly three-dimensional treatment, from Walternate's most human scenes yet (he looked almost regretful for a second there) to the sad tale of the Brothers Ashmore.

Speaking of the Ashmores, I thought they did a great (if occasionally mumbly) job selling a story that often seemed unnecessarily complicated. But their last scene together was, I thought, well-played by the both of them.

Oh, and finally (FINALLY) the show decides to play the Rachel card, having Olivia realize that on the other side, her sister and niece are alive. Of course, her mother is dead on the other side, and unless the show is willing to promise me copious amounts of Ari Graynor this season, I'd just as soon we find a way to stick with the Amy Madigan we already have. (And, sadly, are under-utilizing.)

What else am I missing? What did you guys think? Am I being too hard on Ghost Peter? Would you best describe Alt-World Asterisk as autistic or a mentat? (What? They could have Dune in Alt World!) And wasn't I promised some Marshall Flinkman this week?

More Fringe on Low Res:
Fringe 3.1 "Olivia"
Fringe 3.2 "The Box"
Fringe 3.3 "The Plateau".
Fringe 3.4 "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"
.