Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Firefly



By J.L. Soto

The TV junkyard is littered with dozens if not hundreds of gems that are shows that were killed off too early by dim-witted TV executives. Everyone's got a favorite show that they loved but apparently no one else did, hence the quick cancellation. Firefly is one such show.

Created by Joss Whedon, the man behind the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel shows, Firefly made its debut in the 2002 fall schedule on Fox and was quickly buried and canceled after only fourteen episodes were filmed (fifteen if you count the original pilot episode "Serenity" as a two-part show). In fact, not even all the episodes were aired. But the show found a new life after cancellation in the world of DVDs. Word of mouth spread and a cult following not seen since Star Trek blossomed. Eventually a film based on the show, Serenity, was released in theaters in 2005 and though the film didn't do well, sales for the Firefly DVD are still strong, giving hope to many that the nail in the coffin has not struck yet.

For the uninitiated the show is basically a science fiction western taking place in 2517, featuring a group of renegades and smugglers who eke out an existence on board the Firefly-class space freighter ship, the Serenity. Here's the back story; humanity has used up Earth's resources in the future. At some point, all of humanity left Earth, traveled to another solar system and terraformed dozens of planets and moons to make them habitable. Now the original terraformed planets are the Core Planets and have the latest in technology and resources and are considered the centers of the universe or 'verse as said in the show. The outer planets in the system are know as the Border Planets and don't have access to the latest technologies and the people are left to fend for themselves with basic tools. In these backwater worlds, the highest level of technology is on the level of the nineteenth century with horses being the common mode of transport, which is why the show has that dusty Western look. Basically, this was an interplanetary society of haves and have nots.

In the pilot's opening scenes, viewers are shown a brutal civil war between the Alliance, the main governing body of the Central Planets and the Independents which are comprised of the Outer Planets. The Alliance won and the show follows one of the veterans who fought for the Independents, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). According to interviews, Whedon stated that this was an allegory to the American Civil War with the main characters standing in for former Confederate soldiers.

Several years later and now a jaded cynic, Mal owns a beat-up spaceship that he uses for smuggling operations. His crew is comprised of loyal first mate Zoe Alleyne (Gina Torres), another veteran of the war, carefree pilot Hoban "Wash" Washburne (Alan Tudyk), who is married to Zoe and has a love for Hawaiian shirts, dinosaur figures and his wife, Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), the whimsical ship's mechanic and Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) a greedy and not-too-bright muscle man. The rest of the cast are the passengers on board the ship for various reasons. Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) is a beautiful and cultured prostitute who rents a small shuttle on board the ship. Reverend Book (Ron Glass) is a spiritual wanderer with a mysterious past. The final two passengers provide much of the conflict in the show; Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau) are fugitives on the run. River was a gifted student who was forced to undergo deadly experiments by the Alliance and became a deadly psychotic killing machine masked under a guise of gentle and mildly retarded teenage girl. Her journey is explored in more detail in the film. Simon, a successful doctor, is her brother and who risked everything to free her from the Alliance. In the pilot, Mal decides to allow the two to remain on board provided Simon keeps an eye on his sister and he also hires Simon to be the ship's medic.

Throughout the series, they faced dangers in the wild frontier in the form of cannibalistic savages called Reavers, other smugglers, criminals, the unscrupulous upper class and the Alliance itself. The stories were usually about capers and the mishaps they would get into. They were well written with witty dialogue that had an interesting touch; often the characters would speak Mandarin. Whedon surmised that in the future both western and American culture will blend with Asian cultures and great pains are taken to show this in the series. Signs and view screens show Asian script as well as English, while in many crowd scenes there is a multicultural feeling with people wearing outfits influenced by various cultures.

Needless to say the production values were superb as were the special effects. The pilot episode won an Emmy for best special effects. There are many other touches that make Firefly stand out from the standard science fiction shows. For instance, it is shown that there is no sound in space. One cliché that has worn out its welcome is the roaring of spaceships in empty space. This is simply not possible since space is a vacuum and sound cannot travel. Instead music, in the form of fiddles and guitars suggesting a country western motif are used for dramatic effect in the space scenes. Genuine risks involved with living in space are shown. In the episode "Out of Gas" the crew is endangered when a minor component breaks in the ship's engine causing the air to leak out and life support to break down. In shows like Star Trek and Stargate this dilemma is only spoken out. Here viewers actually see what happens, it gets cold in the ship, and people have to conserve air. There aren't any aliens to be seen; the creators show that a show set in space doesn't have to show humans in prosthetic makeup to be effective villains. Humanity in the form of crime lords, amoral town bosses, callous government agents and corporate mercenaries are evil enough. No androids either by the way.

But the most important aspect that made it so endearing to many are the characters themselves. They had many layers and ambiguities which were perhaps best shown in the episode "Objects in Space" as River psychically picks up on her associates' inner thoughts. Some were just as likely to turn on the others for greed or jealousy. One minute they would say something funny, the next they would show a wicked level of danger. Viewers find themselves rooting for the rogues when they go up against the snooty upper class as seen in "Shindig" or "Trash" it was class warfare in the future and anyone can relate to this.

Why did Fox kill this brilliant show? Ratings are the reason as usual but the network shares the blame. Apparently they weren't happy with the show because they didn't understand it according to some reports. They didn't like the pilot episode and forced Whedon to abruptly film a new one (a standard robbery yarn called "The Train Job" which isn't considered by fans, known as Browncoats after Mal's military attire, to be one of the better episodes and probably chased away potential viewers) to herald the show. This broke up the narrative flow in the series. Although not arc-driven there was a sequential order that careful viewers would pick up on and it can be confusing for some. Strangely, the original pilot, which explained the show, turned out to be the last episode aired by Fox before they yanked it in December of that year.

In spite of these obstacles, Firefly managed to find its audience after it was cancelled. Now many consider it to be one of the finest science fiction shows ever made. Admittedly it requires paying attention to at first to better understand the premise and the surroundings. But this makes for a greater appreciation for the effort taken to produce the show and it makes discovering the character nuances that much more special. Anyone who gives the show a try will see the foundation of what could've been an even more multi-layered series with three-dimensional people. A full fledged series wasn't to be but at least the Browncoats and others got a tempting sampling of this rich 'verse.

Shut Up & Sing



One of America's most talented Country Western groups, the Dixie Chicks, has released a movie that seeks to determine what ever happened to one of our country's fundamental tenets, that of free speech. It is something the three singers have wondered about it for the better part of three years.

Once one of the most popular country music groups in America, the film features the trio of ladies as they experience the backlash that often accompanies political dissent. The ostracized group moved from the top of the music world to also ran status after one member of the group uttered a rather innocuous comment, at least by American standards. It was back in 2003, on a London stage, that Dixie Chick Natalie Maines offered a somewhat pointed, albeit mild opinion of President Bush. The singer offered the comment that she was ashamed President Bush was also fellow Texan.

For having the audacity to publicly share their political views the group was essentially blackballed by Country Western media folks. With Country Western fans strong supporters of the military and ultimately the President, the Dixie Chicks ended up being put into a position where their fan base was forced to make a decision about the politics of the group.

The criticism led to corporate media conglomerates influencing air time at outlets all across the country. According to the film, "Shut Up & Sing," the fuss created by the words led to the Chicks being banned from air play by management in various media outlets.

As the movie is set to premiere this weekend in both New York and Los Angeles, at least one film company has said that NBC wouldn't accept an ad for the film. Though the political season has been ripe with ribald ads and features several with notoriously false claims about candidates, the ad for Shut Up & Sing seems rather innocuous.

The ad shows some footage of the Iraq War then provides the basic context to Maines' 2003 remark about fellow Texan Bush. But the it also shows Maines calling Bush "dumb" for one comment he made about the group.

Shut Up & Sing chronicles the three years that members of the music group spent attempting to keep their once promising careers on track. The film is rated R for language.

House, Season 3, "Fools for Love"



"Fools for Love" Episode 5 of Season 3

A Review by Jessica Wojtysiak

Cast of Characters

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Lisa Edelstein as Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Omar Epps as Dr. Eric Foreman
Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson
Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron
Jesse Spencer as Dr. Robert Chase

The first episode following the month long baseball hiatus starts with an exciting scene: A young man named Jeremy intervenes to save his wife Tracy from gun-wielding robbers in a quiet diner. With the thugs dispatched, the young woman drops to the ground, unable to breathe.

While the doctors struggle to figure out what is wrong with Tracy, they discover some drug use on her tox screening, but nothing that is definitive enough to explain her symptoms. However, as they put her to a stress test, her husband succumbs to similar symptoms.

Their interracial relationship complicates the issue as Jeremy accuses Foreman of having a problem with them. The doctors suspect that Jeremy may have cheated on his wife, which drives Jeremy's belief in their prejudice. Tensions mount as Tracy slips into a coma after suffering intense delirium and a delusion involving Jeremy's racist father. The best chance of diagnosing Jeremy and Tracy's condition is to perform a dangerous biopsy on Tracy; unfortunately, the condition is likely to cause brain damage and has no guarantee of their needed information.

Dr. Cameron stands up to House and requires that the wife have a guardian because her husband has a conflict of interest in her care. Jeremy could push them to have the risky biopsy done because he would benefit personally by the procedure. She even goes so far as the go to Cuddy, who backs her analysis. House asks Wilson to get involved, first in discussing the symptoms and then by bringing Wilson in to talk to Jeremy personally. However, Jeremy surprises everyone by insisting that the doctors not perform a biopsy on his wife because of the risk. He wants them to perform the test on him instead. Unfortunately, he isn't showing the symptoms needed to justify the biopsy, and he has to get much worse before the biopsy is an option. Foreman is convinced that Jeremy really loves his wife, but House, ever the cynic, thinks that Jeremy has a secret and that he is denying the procedure on his wife to keep it.

Dr. Chase enjoys the best line in the episode. House is only too happy to produce the circumstances that will speed Jeremy's health problems. When House wants to cut the husband off of pain medication to get him to agree to a biopsy on Tracy, his team interferes. After all, such an action is unethical and would cause the young man incredible torture. Chase explains it simply:

"Give it up. Foreman and Cameron are too ethical and I'm too scared of a lawsuit."

What a great way to define Chase! The least interesting of the three assisting doctor is slowly coming into his own. He exhibits the least personal growth of the team, and it works. Watching how little Chase changes is a great measure to the development of Foreman and Cameron.

However, Jeremy actually agrees with House's choices. He wants his treatment to be stopped anyway, because it will make him worse which would allow the biopsy to happen. As the episode continues, the doctors realize a startling truth that leads to their ability to treat the mystery ailment. Unfortunately, the discovery may ruin both of their lives.

Foreman's character acts quite a bit like Cameron this episode, arguing for the love between Jeremy and Tracy. Traditionally, Cameron has been the one least willing to break bad news to patients. In this case, Foreman doesn't want to break the horrible news to them, but House insists that he tell them the truth. Foreman is both their advocate and their advisor, trying to reinforce their belief in their loving bond. It's a nice change. In this episode we see a more confident side of Cameron and a softer side of Foreman. Chase continues to be noncommittal and a bit funny.

House's personal interactions in this episode revolve around his relationship with two characters, his best friend Wilson and his new nemesis, Officer Twitter (played by David Morse). The discussions with Wilson largely involve a red herring. House confronts Wilson about his flirting with a new pediatric nurse Wendy. Wilson denies any romantic relationship. This bothers House to no end, who becomes committed to proving that they two are seeing each other. Perhaps most intriguing is House's reference to Wilson's three failed marriages. Later, House breaks into the nurse's locker using a stethoscope to try to prove that she is dating Wilson.

A trip to the clinic yields the most interesting confrontation of the episode. David Morse guest stars as a patient unwilling to silently accept House's snide behavior criticisms. The actor is signed for a several episode arc that promises to be intriguing. While House has had individuals challenge him in the past, it is rare to find one so vehement, cruel, and capable of rising to the occasion of threatening House. When House gets up to leave his examination room, Twitter knocks the cane out from under him and House falls into the door.

While House exacts his revenge in a painful way, the audience knows that this rivalry is far from over even before Cuddy demands that House apologize to the man (doesn't Cuddy ever get tired of telling House to say he's sorry?). Twitter is not only aggressive but also smart, as he notices the Vicodin pills House pops during their examination and uses that action later to exact his revenge. As Twitter explains, he believes House is a bully and needs someone stronger to stop him from bullying others. Future episodes promise the two men vying for superiority.

The character Morse portrays is reminiscent of the character played by Chi McBride in Season 1. However, McBride's character's power was derived from his money; Morse's character Twitter derives his power from his station as a police officer. It's great to see House out of the medical setting. While House is king of the hospital, he's just another person who can be pulled over and mistreated by an angry cop. But then, Twitter treats House as poorly out of the hospital as House did within, so one is left wondering who is really to blame.

The story arc with Twitter promises to force House's drug addition to the forefront as well. While House may be cavalier about his drug use, those all around him accept the addiction, but seeing House arrested for what has become a normalized behavior on the show really displays the ability of the writers to manipulate their character's surroundings. We see House and the other characters out of the hospital so rarely that when we do, the scene has a real impact. At the end of this episode, Wilson is alone in his hotel room, Cuddy faces another negative pregnancy test, Foreman pursues an interracial relationship, and House is arrested by Twitter. A fantastic ending to a great episode - if more television was this good... I'd watch more T.V.

Planet of the Apes (1968)



By Christina VanGinkel

When we purchased our first DVD player a few years ago, the one request that I had was to be able to buy the complete set of the Planet of the Ape DVD's. I was all of four years old when the first Planet of the Apes show was made back in 1968, and I grew up watching the classic in the making as the show progressed from episode to episode. What follows is my own accounting of the first episode, Planet of the Apes, as it sets up the storyline for the rest of the shows, including Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Be warned though, that if you watch the first show, you are destined to watch them all, for you will want to know how the story continues, each ending in waiting for the next to begin.

Starring Charleston Heston and Roddy McDowall, the original Planet of the Apes is set in a time that spans across the ages. The story starts when a manned ship with four astronauts aboard, three men and one woman, turns itself over to full automatic via computers after being in deep space for six months. However, by their calculations, they figure the earth has aged seven hundred years since they first took off from Cape Kennedy, as they have been traveling by the speed of light and that the people who originally sent them on the expedition are long gone.

When they land, three of the four astronauts are alive. The fourth, the woman Stuart, has aged and died and resembles a mummy more than a human being. They find that they have crashed into a body of water and must race to escape before their ship sinks. Once they determine it is safe, they blow the hatch and abandon ship. Before they do, Taylor, played by Charleston Heston, sees the clock on board, and it says it is the year 3978, much further into the future than they had expected it to be.

As the men paddle away from the ship, they watch it sink into the abyss, and realize that wherever it is they are at, they are there to stay. Unsure of where they are, other than being three hundred light years away from where they began, they have no clear idea where they have crashed. They paddle until they reach a shoreline that is rocky and desolate looking. They take stock of what they have as far as supplies go, which includes a pistol and a medical kit, and they also figure they have food for three days; though they do not have a clue how long a day is under the present circumstances. They run a soil test and determine nothing will grow where they are at, so they had better go in search of somewhere that food will grow.

Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton), and Taylor set out to see what they can find, with no clear design of where they are headed. They encounter thunder and lightning with no rain, cloud cover at night, a strange luminosity, but no moon, and are quickly running out of water as tensions start to rise.

The first sign of life they find is a flowered plant, which gives them the spirit to continue their search for whatever may be out there. Before they find anyone though, they encounter what looks like scarecrows. The forms are apparently a warning of some kind, but when they reach them, they also encounter trees and water. The appeal is too much and they surge on, throwing themselves into the pool of water at the base of a waterfall. On the far shore, they find footprints, and then their clothing is stolen. There are other people about. Now they are in a strange land and naked. They follow as best they can, finding their belongings scattered about and recover enough to cover themselves.

They find a group of people in a cornfield. They do not appear quite normal though, and Taylor thinks they are mute. As they watch the people, a horn sounds in the distance and the people try to run for cover. The horn was announcing the coming of apes on horseback and on foot patrolling the cornfield. The apes use nets to catch the people, Dodge is shot dead, Taylor is shot in the neck and captured. He comes to just long enough to hear an ape talk as he takes a picture of some fellow comrades standing over a pile of dead people.

The next time he comes to, he is strapped on a table as two apes, apparently doctors, are discussing him as if he were nothing more than an animal. Afterwards, he is moved to a cage where the female doctor (Dr. Zira played by Kim Hunter) he remembers from his first encounter is trying to get some other caged humans to talk. Another ape, Dr. Zaius (portrayed by Maurice Evans), belittles her for trying. She gives him the name of Bright Eyes. He leaves, and Dr, Zira gives him a treat, a female human (Linda Harrison) who he eventually names Nova.

When next we see them, Taylor and Nova are in a cage outside with several other humans. As the apes stand by, a fight breaks out amongst the humans. Zira tells the other apes not to hurt Taylor. As Dr. Zaius walks away from the encounter, he spies writing on the floor of the cage where Taylor was just removed. He scratches it out with his cane.

Taylor grabs Zira and hands her a piece of paper that he has written his name on. Before she realizes this though, one of the ape guards beats Taylor. Zira reads the note though, and calls for a leash and collar for him and takes him back to her home. Zira's fiance, Cornelius, played by Roddy McDowell, questions him as he writes down answers. Cornelius at first thinks it is a trick. As they discuss what to believe or not believe, Dr. Zaius comes to the home asking them if they forgot their appointment, and he has Taylor returned to the lab.

Back in his cage at the lab, he overhears that Dr. Zaius has ordered him gelded. When the ape guard enters his cage, he knocks him unconscious and escapes. He runs into a building where apes are worshipping, and is seen by a child ape who points him out to the others. He again runs through the encampment of apes, and though caught temporarily, he soon escapes again. He finds himself in a museum of sorts, where he discovers Dodge has been stuffed like an animal. Back outside, he is once again captured.

As Zira comes forward to ask why they have him, that he is her charge, she is told that he is no longer, and Taylor at that time speaks for the first time, his throat healed enough for him to tell the apes to let him go and to take their dirty hands off him. All of the apes in hearing range are shocked to hear a human speak.

Back in his cage with Nova, he talks to her, even though she does not understand him. He is trying to teach her to say the name Nova. The apes come and take Nova away, using a hose to control them. They move her to another cage. The apes are obviously fearful of a human that can talk.

Several apes come back and take Taylor from the cage, using a collar and leash; they lead him to a room where Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zira, and Cornelius, await, amongst others. It is a hearing to determine what shall become of him. As he stands naked before them, Cornelius asks what the tribunal is for. When Zira tells the others that Taylor should have the right to know what the charges against him are, she is told that he has no rights, as he is not an ape. When Taylor talks, trying to defend his self, orders are given to silence him. One ape claims that his brain was tampered with by the ape doctors and that is why he can speak. Taylor hands Cornelius a piece of paper and asks that he read it out loud or him, as he ahs been banned from speaking. He only reads a few words when he is stopped, that the claim that he arrived from outer space is ridiculous.

The apes nonetheless decide to go and check out all the apes caught the day Taylor was, to see if there are any others that talk. He recognizes Landon, but it is too late, his brain has been cut into and his ability to speak is gone. Taylor is dragged back to the hearing, and when he tries to speak out, he is gagged. While Cornelius does not believe that he came from outer space, he does believe that eh came from the forbidden zone as Taylor's earlier description matches his own memory of when he once traveled there with permission to explore.

Zira and Cornelius are charged with various penalties for speaking out in favor of Taylor. Taylor is told by Dr. Zaius that he has been placed in his custody. He tells him that he plans to do experiments on him. He will spare him he says, if he tells him where he really came from. Taylor stands his ground and says he knows nothing of this world, only that he came from another planet. Dr. Zaius tells him he has six hours to tell him the truth before he starts experimenting on him, and has him returned to his cage.

When an ape by the name of Julius comes to get him to put him in a zoo, saying that he has been spared, the ape guard does not believe the order. Julius is really Dr. Zira's nephew and he helps Taylor escape. He takes Nova with them. By the dark of night, they go to Dr. Zira. She puts them in a cage on a back of a wagon and heads out of the village.

Outside of town, they meet up with Cornelius who has horses and supplies ready. Cornelius tells Taylor that he is in charge of this expedition, but Taylor tells him only he is in charge of himself, and that he does not plan on being caught again. Cornelius and Zira must prove their theory, or face their accusers.

When Cornelisu asks Taylor if he has any proof of the things he said, Taylor said all the proof he has is maybe a flag or a deflated raft. They travel to the forbidden zone with the horses and the wagon. When the terrain gets too rough for the wagon, they load what they can onto the horses. Taylor asks Cornelius why it is called the forbidden zone, but he has no real answer, other than it always has been. When they come to a river, they follow it. It leads to an ocean. Along the shore is where Cornelius had found proof of what he said was an earlier time. As Cornelius is about to show Taylor what he found the first time he was there, other apes arrive along with Dr. Zaius. Guns are drawn and Taylor tells Dr. Zaius if anyone comes closer, he will be the first one shot. Cornelius tries to tell Dr. Zaius that the cave along the shore holds proof of what they believe. He goes with them up tot eh cave. They leave Zira's nephew to stand guard.

In the cave, Cornelius shows Dr. Zaius his evidence, including proof of a culture that was more or at least equal to their intelligence. The main piece of evidence is a human doll, a doll that says mama. Taylor asks Dr. Zaius if an ape would make a doll that talks.

When they hear shooting outside, they all run out of the cave except for Dr. Zaius. Taylor fakes that he has been shot, Dr. Zaius tosses the doll that he has been holding down into the cave, and when Dr. Zaius comes out of the cave, Taylor grabs him and takes him hostage. He tells him to tell the other apes to pull back. They use the opportunity to make a trade, Dr. Zaius for a horse and enough food and water to last a week for him and Nova, and fifty rounds of ammo. Meanwhile, he ties up Dr. Zaius, much to the chagrin of Dr. Zira and Cornelius. He asks Dr. Zira and Cornelius to go with them, but they decline.

Before Taylor leaves, Dr. Zaius has Cornelius read something that talks of a harbinger of death, man. Taylor bids them farewell, and as he tells Dr. Zira that he would like to kiss her goodbye, she says ok, but that he is so damn ugly. Dr. Zaius admits to Taylor that he has known about man all along. Taylor and Nova ride off. The ape soldiers begin to follow, but Dr. Zaius calls them off, telling them to let him go. He then orders them to seal off the cave, and tells Zira and Cornelius that any evidence inside of the cave that would clear them must never be seen, and that they will stand trial.

The show ends as we see Taylor and Nova following the shoreline until they come to what remains of a shattered and broken Statue of Liberty. Taylor realizes that he is home, that he is on the planet Earth. He curses humanity as the waves wash in around him. If this peeked your interest, be sure to check out the rest of the Planet of the Ape movies.

Bufy the Vampire Slayer Season Six



Review by Garnet Brooks

The sixth season begins with a two part episode. In the season finale of the last year Buffy had died. In the beginning of episode one, we see the Scooby gang patrolling by themselves. Spike is helping. They also have the Buffy-bot, a robot Spike created to simulate Buffy. The robot had appeared in the episode in which April is searching for Warren. Willow is secretly planning to use a resurrection spell to bring Buffy back. In the middle of this ceremony the gang is attacked by demon bikers. It is dangerous and chaotic. They leave thinking the spell did not work. But it did and Buffy is awakened in her grave. She claws her way out confused and disoriented. The resurrected Buffy thinks at first that she is condemned to some hell dimension. When the Scoobys find her she does not tell them about what she has been through. The secret she keeps is that she was in heaven and she did not want to be returned to the world. For her it is a torment. So, in this season Buffy comes back an emotionally different character. She is alienated and adrift. The season is a somewhat darker one than most and this is part of the reason. Buffy's struggles are not unlike the struggles many early twenties people experience when they are on their own and unsure anymore who they are and where they fit in. Joss Whedon in his commentary talks about how he sees this.

The villains of this season are the Trio--Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan. The three are nerds who team up to take over the town. At first they are more funny than not as they chase Buffy around in a van that has a Star Wars theme as its horn. In one episode they inflict tests on her one of them causing her to keep reliving a particular moment over and over. The trio turn darker when they decide to use a spell to create a compliant female playmate. Warren chooses his old girlfriend. She wakes from the trance suddenly and threatens to report them for attempted rape. In an instant Warren bashes in her head as she is trying to leave. They try to cover up the murder by blaming Buffy but the deception is found out. This event seems to push each member of the Trio farther into a place of darkness where they let their worst impulses come to the fore.

Buffy and Spike develop a relationship. Buffy turns to him when she feels she cannot talk to the others. They have a sexual relationship but Buffy stops it when she feels she is hurting him. She does not love him and comes to realize that he does love her in spite of his obvious limitations. When he is finally convinced she will not return to him he leaves Sunnydale seeking a magic that will remove his chip. He accepts a demon's challenge and fights to win what he wants. But he is not careful in what he asks for. Instead of getting the chip out his soul is restored to him.

Willow becomes increasingly involved in magic. Giles tells her when he returns from England that she is being unwise but she does not listen. The use of magic is the reason Tara breaks off the relationship with Willow. Willow has become addicted to the magic use. Increasingly reckless she endangers Dawn's life before she seriously tries to give it up. Without Tara she is thrown in with Amy who provokes her to ever greater magic use. The series of episodes in mid-season set up the season ending and Willow has the most prominent part in it.

During the first part of the season Xander and Anya are quite happy. She is an ex-demon and has difficulties understanding human feelings. She becomes the manager of the Magic Box and proves quite adept at running it. She has a naturally capitalistic bent. She is also quite self-centered and in one way or another alienates all the Scooby gang at one time another. Anya and Xander announce their engagement and plan for a wedding. The big day is a disaster. Members of the wedding party are at each others' throats. A demon wanting to wreak vengeance on Anya tries to convince Xander that he is going to regret the marriage. This discovered, Xander still has enough doubts to decamp leaving a weeping Anya at the alter. Crying done, Anya takes up her place again as a vengeance demon.

One of the best episodes of the entire series is in Season Six. It is the episode called "Once More With Feeling." It is a mini-musical. The cast sing and dance remarkably well. The lyrics and music were written by Joss Whedon. A demon is summoned. He causes the whole town to sing and dance. The fun has its down side and if they are under the spell long enough the people spontaneously combust. The demon captures Dawn planning to take her as his bride. In the course of this episode the Scooby gang reveal secrets they have been harboring. Xander and Anya confess in song to dissatisfactions in their relationship. Spike and Buffy have a similar singing heart to heart. Giles confesses his doubts about his relationship with Buffy and his thoughts about leaving Sunnydale. Buffy though is not listening. She sings out her secret at last. She was in heaven and they summoned her back to life so now it feels like a torment to get through every day. There is a very good commentary to this episode by Joss Whedon. Two producer/writers appear in bit parts. Robert Hall is the demon. Though the whole cast do well in the piece his vocals and choreographed dances are sterling. The episode is really quite amazing especially as an hour television episode.

The following episode called "Tabula Rasa" is another good one. In this everyone loses their memory. They have to rethink their relationships. It has a funny interaction between Giles and Spike who think they must be father and son. It is also the episode where Tara and Giles depart. What begins in conflict turns to comedy and then back into conflict leaving with a sense of terrible sadness. The episode is a good example of the complexity and range of emotions that are contained in the Buffy productions.

The season finale plays out across three episodes. Warren is angry because Buffy foiled one of his plans. He shoots Buffy but she is just wounded. Tara, however, is killed by a stray bullet. Tara has just returned to the Summers house. The break-up with Willow was difficult and Willow and Tara have just repaired their relationship. For a moment they are happy and suddenly Tara is shot. She dies in Willows arms. Willow is furious and goes after Warren. She absorbs dark magic and is on the verge of destroying the world when Xander is able to make her remember their friendship. The interaction between Willow and Xander at the end of the episode is a great piece of dialogue.

While this season may be in reruns on television, this is a particularly good season and it is worth watching on DVD. The boxed set has nice extras. The commentaries are good and the one that goes with "Once More With Feeling" is especially good.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Five



Review by Garnet Brooks

By Season Five the series is a long running one that has a popular following and good ratings. This season has a new character. Unlike the introduction of new characters in the past this one is just dropped in as if she had always been there. The character is Dawn, Buffy's younger sister. Buffy does not have a younger sister though. There is a mystical explanation for it. A group of monks who were the keepers of a dangerous key to a demon dimension perform a ritual embodying the key in human form. It is the fourteen year old Dawn who has no idea what has happened. Dawn like all the people in her life was supplied with a set of false memories. This was to hide her better since the being who comes looking for the key assumes it must be something new. Dawn appears to have been there all along and could not be what the being is looking for. The being is a god in her own dimension but in this one she is a pretty young woman named Glory. She has a set of diseased looking, toadying minions who fawn on her. Actually Glory is very like some self-center and overly dramatic daytime soap character. But when she stomps her foot the whole building crashes.

Dawn is a whiny and annoying fourteen year old girl. Her introduction may have been a bit confusing. Dawn gets a special episode. It is one where she is writing in her diary. This is told from her perspective. There is no immediate explanation of Dawn's presence in the series. It is not till episode five that the audience learns along with Buffy that Dawn is the key. Before she was a glowing green energy. In the Buffy dimension the insane recognize that something is different about Dawn. The key is made to open a portal so Glory can go home. She was so evil in that dimension that others ejected her and encased her in a human form. She has an alternate identity which comes out part of the time. It is quite a while before Buffy learns of the other side of Glory.

This season sees the departure of Riley. Things do not go so well in the relationship with Buffy. She is withdrawn or just does not much seem to need him. He feels inadequate and insecure leading him to dangerous behavior. When Buffy finds out about his secret she is horrified. They argue and he leaves going with some of his army pals to fight in the Central American jungles. Buffy wants to stop him but she is too late. With Riley gone Spike is jockeying to take his place. Spike has realized that he is in love with her and pursues her in his stalkerish sort of way. Buffy is displeased when she learns that Spike loves her. Drusilla returned to town and Spike has to choose between the two women. Harmony is still in Sunnydale and is in and out of episodes. Eventually she becomes a character on Angel.

Joyce dies in this season. As Buffy's mother she had an important role in past years. The death is treated in a very different way than any other in the series. Sometimes Buffy quips as she dusts vampires. The killing of the vampire is not seen as such since they are demons in dead human bodies. When humans are killed it is taken seriously. This was the case early on when Jenny was killed. Giles mourned her death. Buffy is extremely upset when the mayor's assistant is killed. Joyce is not killed but dies a human death of disease. In an episode called "The Body" Buffy discovers her mother dead on the living room couch. Buffy and Dawn are traumatized by the loss. It was preceded by a lengthy illness. Joyce was diagnosed with a brain tumor and has surgery seemingly recovering. It is just at the point where she is happy again and seems cured that she just dies. Buffy is in shock. The camera style in the episode reflects the sense of disconnection from reality that Buffy feels. Dawn tries to revive her dead mother with a spell. Buffy stops her. Here we see the development of Buffy's growing maturity. She has to learn to take care of Dawn now that her mother is gone. This theme of responsibility is further developed in the next season and is revisited also with issues about Buffy's dedication to her calling as a slayer.

Surprisingly, at the end of this season Buffy dies. It was not like the brief death and revival at the end of the first season. Buffy makes a sacrifice in the last episode. The portal to a demon dimension has been opened. Dawn's blood is shed. To save both Dawn and the world Buffy dives into the center of a mystical rift closing it but plunging to her death. And, she stays dead. At the end of this year it was clear that a new and sixth season was in the offing but unclear that the star of the series would return. This is left ambiguous till the beginning of season six.

In addition to the year's story arc there are really nice stand alone episodes. In one of them we learn of the background of Tara, Willow's girlfriend. The episode offers explanations for Tara's insecurities and helps the other Scooby gang members understand and accept her. Tara's family made her believe that she was evil and she learns in this episode that she does not after all have demon blood.

Another stand alone episode is the one in which Warren creates a robot girlfriend. April comes to Sunnydale looking for him. Warren abandoned her in his dorm room when he got tired of her. She throws Spike through a window and goes door to door searching for Warren. Eventually she winds down, out of power, and goes dark. April is the quintessentially compliant girlfriend. Her episode highlights the agony girls go through defining themselves by whether or not their boyfriend is pleased with them. Like many Joss Whedon interludes this one makes the fears and conflicts of people manifest in horror genre form. It is cleverly done.

Breaking up the horror and drama is a nice stand alone episode in which Willow and Anya accidentally summon up a troll. The pair is bickering while Giles is away and the troll appears. Small world that it is the troll turns out to have been an old boyfriend of Anya's. In fact he is the reason she became a vengeance demon. He is a hard drinking, womanizing man in Anya's village. He deceived her once too often and she used magic to turn him into a troll. When he is revived he has a comic fight with Xander. Xander is in a tough spot. Anya and Willow are jealous of each other and just do not like each other. He is being forced to choose between his best friend and his girlfriend on an emotional level. With the introduction of the troll he must actually do so. He is told only one can be spared but he fights a much superior enemy rather than choose. The episode is high on random mayhem and its comic tone brings a little relief from the very somber preceding episode where Buffy is grief-stricken when Riley leaves.

This season may still be in reruns on television. It is available as a boxed DVD set. The set contains very good commentary by Whedon and others. As usual Joss Whedon delivers funny and interesting info about his creation.

Monday, October 30, 2006

House, Season 2, "No Reason"



Episode Number 46

A Review by Jessica Wojtysiak

Cast of Characters

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Lisa Edelstein as Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Omar Epps as Dr. Eric Foreman
Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson
Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron
Jesse Spencer as Dr. Robert Chase

"No Reason" ended the second season of House with a literal bang. In the opening moments, House receives a patient that really piques his interest: a man with an incredibly swollen tongue that House unsympathetically nicknames "Harpo" (it's a distasteful attempt at humor which raises eyebrows among his staff, as House is referencing Harpo Marx and one of his more famous facial expressions). In typical callous, Machiavellian House style, he recounts to his younger colleagues his questioning the man and chuckles about how funny it was to see him try to talk. It's exactly the sort of self-serving cruelty that House occasionally dabbles in lest he become too likeable a character. Except this time, Karma catches up to him.

House's enjoyment of tormenting this patient and exploring the case is interrupted by a mysterious stranger who walks into their room asking for Dr. House. The man (played by Elias Koteas, who I will always personally remember as Casey Jones from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie) eerily identifies Dr. Cameron and then, recognizing House, brandishes a gun and shoots him. Shot once in the stomach and a second time in the neck, House is rushed to surgery as members of the hospital scramble to save his life. Strangely, the surgery to repair the damage is not quite as simple as one would expect but the complications are not the result of House's wounds. Dr. Cuddy orchestrates a plan to send House into a chemically induced coma in order to attempt an experimental ketamine treatment aimed at stopping the pain in his leg. Doctors are doing it in Scandinavia, why not experiment on a friend and see how it goes, right? It seems a fairly irresponsible and disrespectful move on Cuddy's part, which seems out of character despite her constant nagging over House's surly disposition and taste for painkillers. Unfortunately for House, the procedure seems to have neurological side effects that cause him to suffer delusions, black out, and forget basic facts. No good deed goes unpunished, Dr. Cuddy.

The remainder of the episode revolves around House as he attempts to navigate through his recovery and the mysterious case of Harpo. Or does it? As House recovers, it becomes apparent that he is suffering delusions. Some interactions are real but others are clearly imagined. For example, House has a conversation with a woman who claims to be the wife of Harpo, but then Cameron informs House that the patient is a widower. Such episodes begin to cause House considerable worry as he questions whether his surgery damaged him mentally.

This episode is definitely not for the squeamish. The symptoms of Harpo progress in a manner that is stunningly painful and graphic.

Cuddy observes House walking without his cane and displays considerable joy. She explains that during his surgery, they attempted an experimental treatment that involved places House into a chemically induced coma in order to allow his brain time to "reboot itself" and remove the pain that has been plaguing House's leg. She believes that the treatment was successful but House is convinced that the treatment, that he objects to because he wasn't informed of it before it was practiced upon him, may have caused neurological damage.

How much of the episode actually occurs and how much is merely House suffering delusions that are the result of his injuries and subsequent ketamine treatment? That question is left to the audience... sort of. I don't want to ruin the ending. When House is forced to share an ICU room with his assailant, the situation seems perverse but Cuddy swears it is the result of short resources and the need to watch both of them recover. When House punches Wilson in Cuddy's office, he awakens from the delusion, but when Cuddy references the incident later, House really wonders what is and is not happening.

The close quarters give House the opportunity to get to know the other man, who explains that House treated the man's wife and cured her, but not before discovering and sharing with her the truth behind her husband's infidelity. As a result, the woman killed herself and now her husband holds House responsible. House is skeptical and blames the man for his affair, but the man wonders why House had to tell his wife the truth and explains it as House simply enjoying his own selfish manipulation of others.

House often employs the sort of brilliant deductive logic that was utilized by another famous fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. His last name, House, certainly sounds similar to Holmes, and the name of his best friend and closest confidant, Dr. James Wilson, is very similar to Dr. John Watson. Interestingly, House's assailant is never called by name within this episode; however the script refers to him as a J. Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes fans will recognize the name as the famous sleuth's greatest villain and this is yet another attempt by the writers to connect House with the famous detective.

The conversations that House has with Moriarty are both insightful and humorous, offering humorous exchanges such as:

Moriarty: I don't want to hear semantics.
House: You anti-semantic bastard.

While Wilson challenges House's inability to let go of his disability, Moriarty challenges all of House's decisions, causing him to question whether his life has had meaning. Moriarty forces House to look into the mirror and reassess the decisions he has made while also providing the impetus to what could lead House to lose his ability to practice medicine.

The most interesting aspect of this episode is the consideration of House's lost cognitive abilities. While other characters, most noticeably Dr. Foreman, have faced physical challenges and even death, none have faced a condition that might impair their mental acumen. For House, the loss of his mind or his brilliance is a far more serious loss than his leg, since it would affect all aspects of his life. His mind is his life, it has propelled his career to considerable success, and in this instance, this great risk is not caused by the gunshot wounds but by his closest friends trying to help him. Were his friends correct in subjecting House to an experimental treatment without his consent? The episode leaves this, like other questions, to linger in the minds of the audience. As the end of season two, this is an excellent cliff hanger that promised an intriguing third season as fans waited to see what actually happened and what was entirely in House's mind. The prospect of a Dr. House free from his cane seemed imminent, if only for a short time.

Singin' In The Rain (1952)



Rating: * * * * * (Out of 5)

Singin' in the Rain is one of the most loved and celebrated film musicals of all time from MGM, before a mass exodus to filmed adaptations of Broadway plays emerged as a standard pattern. The joyous film, co-directed by Stanley Donen and acrobatic dancer-star-choreographer Gene Kelly, is a charming, upbeat, graceful and thoroughly enjoyable experience with great songs, lots of flashbacks, wonderful dances (including the spectacular Broadway Melody Ballet with leggy guest star Cyd Charisse), casting and story. This was another extraordinary example of the organic, "integrated musical" in which the story's characters naturally express their emotions in the midst of their lives. Song and dance replace the dialogue, usually during moments of high spirits or passionate romance. And over half of the film, a "let's put on a play" type of film, is composed of musical numbers.

Because the colorful, witty film is set in 1927, it humorously satirizes and parodies the panic surrounding the troubling transitional period from silents to talkies in the dream factory of Hollywood of the late 1920s as the sound revolution swept through. The film's screenplay, suggested by the song "Singin' in the Rain" that was written by Freed and Brown, was scripted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who also wrote On the Town ). The time frame of Comden's and Green's script, the Roaring 20s Era of flappers, was mostly determined by the fact that lyricist Freed (and songwriter Nacio Herb Brown) had written their extensive library of songs in their early careers during the 1920s and 1930s, when Hollywood was transitioning to talkies. The musical comedy's story, then, would be best suited around that theme. Except for two songs, all of the musical arrangements in the film to be showcased were composed by Freed and Brown for different Hollywood films before Freed became a producer.

The plot of the film is actually an autobiography of Hollywood itself at the dawn of the talkies. The story is about a dashing, smug but romantic silent film star and swashbuckling matinee idol, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), and his glamorous blonde screen partner/diva, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who are expected, by studio heads, to pretend to be romantically involved with each other. They are also pressured by the studio boss to change their silent romantic drama and make their first sound picture. There's one serious problem, however - the temperamental, narcissistic star has a shrill, screechy New York accent. The star's ex-song and dance partner, Cosmo (Donald O'Connor) proposes to turn the doomed film into a musical, and suggests that Don's aspiring actress and ingenue dancer girlfriend, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), dub in her singing voice behind the scenes for lip-synching Lina. The results of their scheming to expose the jealous Lina and put Kathy in a revealing limelight provide the film's expected happy resolution.

Everyone has seen the film's signature "Singin' in the Rain" dance number at one time or another (even those who have never laid eyes on a full Hollywood musical). In the scene, Gene Kelly's character has just kissed Kathy good-night. In a classic, heart-lifting, enchanting dance sequence during a cloudburst, he does a glorious, almost five minute performance of the title song "Singin' In the Rain", a spontaneous expression of his crazy-in-love, euphoric mood and happiness over his new-found love for Kathy. The title song has become movie legend as the most famous dance number in American film, and it is Gene Kelly's finest solo performance ever, although he was suffering from a 103 degree fever.

Composed of only ten distinct shots (with a dissolve at its beginning, at the front door, and at its ending), Kelly strolls down the empty two blocks of street in the rain passing shop windows. At first he keeps his umbrella open above him to keep dry, but after a few short steps, he shrugs and closes it (and either lays it on his shoulder, swings it, keeps it to his side, or imaginatively incorporates it into the number). He skips on the sidewalk, exuberantly climbs on and swings around a lamppost with one hand, with his umbrella folded up in his other outstretched hand. He continues to saunter and slosh along, then jumps and tap-dances through the puddles, becoming more and more child-like. He lets a drainpipe of rainwater drain on his upturned, broadly-smiling face, kicks up water, splashes, cavorts, and stamps around with sheer delight. After twirling on the cobble-stoned street, he balances on the street curb like a tightrope walker. When a mystified and vaguely hostile policeman finally walks over to find out what he is doing jumping up and down in deep puddles, and looks at him suspiciously, he reacts guiltily toward the authority figure. (When the camera cuts from one view to another, Kelly's two hands on the umbrella change to only his right hand on the umbrella.) He slows down, turns, and answers simply: "I'm dancin' and singin' in the rain." He closes his umbrella, grins boldly, walks off, hands his umbrella off to a needy passerby and waves back toward the policeman from afar.

The sound effects are caused by the rain and the pools of water. There is a background noise of the hiss of rain falling, accompanied by the squelchy sound of the taps. This eventually escalates to the gushing sound of the water-spout and the louder, splashing noise made by Kelly jumping up and down in the puddles. Holes were specially dug on the sidewalk and filled up with water (six puddles), precisely where Kelly's choreography demanded them, and a lake was dug out in the gutter of the street. In fact, the whole number, which was shot out of doors on one side of the permanent streets built on the studio back lot (East Side Street), demanded complex engineering to deliver the right flow of water through a series of pipes for the rain and the downspout. The area was also blacked out with tarpaulins (rather than shooting 'day for night') and had to be lit from behind so that the rain was visible in the glare from the carbon arcs and to avoid reflections in the shop windows. (In the opening and closing downpour sequences of Rashomon, Kurosawa added ink to the rain to make it more visible and a similar method was used in Singin' in the Rain.)

We feel his joy through his singing and dancing. I am not sure how he could have expressed that same sensation through dialogue or any other way. In that sense, the choreography has replaced the words in the script, and the dance sequence is filled with signification. Each movement, combined with the singing and the background sound effects, enforces our sharing of his emotions.

Another amazing choreography is showcased in O'Connor's solo number, "Make 'Em Laugh." In it, O'Connor contorts, bounces, and flings himself around in a manner reserved exclusively for stunt performers in the modern era. Even more awe-inspiring, the vast majority of the scene is performed in single, uninterrupted takes. No camera cuts to hide transitions from one leap to the next: All are completed in sequence, in real time. The sheer energy of these performances, Kelly climbing onto the roof of a trolley car before leaping off into a convertible; the leading trio simultaneously walking across a couch and tipping it onto its back; O'Connor running up a wall and flipping over backwards, inspires comparisons with other great physical performers, from silent comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd to modern day action stars like Jackie Chan.

This goes beyond ordinary dancing, just as Buster Keaton's antics go beyond ordinary acting and Jackie Chan's stunts go beyond ordinary martial arts. And, like Keaton and Chan, Kelly and company incorporate props and objects around them into their performances: a lamp-post, an umbrella, a dummy, curtains, a plank being carried by workmen, whatever comes to hand. It's a robust, energetic mode of dancing; and Kelly, with his square jaw and muscular build, gave dancing a more virile, macho face than debonair Fred Astaire.

What makes this movie work so well is a magical combination of factors that Hollywood never managed to bring together again in any other musical. Most musicals are stagey, artificial affairs, with actors breaking into show-stopping numbers that are only thinly tied together by perfunctory, even annoying plots. Characters are often one-dimensional, and can behave with jarring shifts in mood or motivation as required by the song lyrics, supposedly falling in love with other characters that they know as little as we know them.

Singin' in the Rain is so different. First of all, its song-and-dance numbers are worked with some plausibility into the story, which is entertaining enough to be worth watching for its own sake, even if there were no singing or dancing. And yet it is full of such joy that it demands singing and dancing; the musical elements aren not just tacked on. The characters are vivid and delightful, and the romance that develops (amid much bantering and posturing) between Don and Kathy is completely engaging. The film shines with the joy of performance; everyone involved is obviously having enormous fun and it is infectious.

What constituted the decline of the traditional musicals? I believe the traditional musicals have simply evolved into another kind of films, martial arts films. There are many similarities between the two. One is the interrelation between the choreographical conception and the camera. The framing and the editing are fundamental for the perception and the efficiency of the spectacle. We can also note that the framing will be tighter on the character to capture small details, but the editing should not destroy the initial movement. The secret is the continuity, especially when the main object of representation is movement, like dancing or fighting. The director, choreographer and editor determine the mise-en-scene when the fidelity of movement is absolutely necessary to a good representation. While the older musicals and modern martial arts films tend to favor continuity, Hollywood movies nowadays, whether actions or musicals, tend to have a different representation.

In musical movies, like in martial arts cinema, the best films have been made by the people who know the object being represented, whether it is dance or martial arts. These people often become choreographers or directors and they understand perfectly how to use the frame to emphasize their art. Moreover, most of them have their say in the editing. Gene Kelly was involved in many aspects of filmmaking.

The genre of movie musical has mini revival in recent years with the success of Moulin Rouge and Chicago. The newer films are more stylized but at the same time the actors' performance is minimized and other cinematic techniques compensate for that. The rapid cutting, the constant camera movement, and dramatic music and sound effects must labor to generate an excitement that is not primed by the concrete event taking place before the lens. In Singin' in the Rain, almost all the dance scenes are made up of just a few long takes, thanks to the actual dancing abilities of the lead actors. By doing so, it allows the movement of the bodies to take over the story telling, therefore choreography dominates over other filmmaking techniques.
Singin' in the Rain is not only the best of the genre, it is one of the best films of all time. It is almost flawless in every department, with every dance sequence transports us to a world of dreams. It is the kind of film that you can watch over and over again and still have a smile on your face.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, screen play and story by Adolph Green and Betty Comden; directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen; produced by Arthur Freed. Running Time: 1 hour 59 minutes. Don Lockwood . . . . . Gene Kelly Cosmo Brown . . . . . Donald O'Connor Kathy Selden . . . . . Debbie Reynolds Lina Lamont . . . . . Jean Hagen R. F. Simpson . . . . . Millard Mitchell Guest Artist . . . . . Cyd Charisse Zelda Zanders . . . . . Rita Moreno Roscoe Dexter . . . . . Douglas Fowley Dora Bailey . . . . . Madge Blake

The Wolfman and Friends



If there is anything that a movie fan can look forward to it is the annual American Movie Classics TV presentation of Monstervision where for 24 hrs a day, 7 straight days, the TV is loaded with horror films. While one really needs to question the logic of slop like Hellraiser II and Friday the 13th the Final Chapter being promoted as classics, the channel does offer a ton of old Universal Horror film classics. (On a side note, the once great, now hopelessly pathetic Sci-Fi Channel used to have exclusive rights to the Universal horror library and now AMC does which is bizarre considering that Universal owns the Sci-Fi Channel)AMC did offer a cool triple feature of THE WOLFMAN, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, and HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and viewing the three films in a row is the same sequence these films were released theatrically in 1942, 1944 and 1945 respectively.

While THE WOLFMAN was the more serious of the two, the pulp oriented fun of the other two films does not detract from their quality.THE WOLFMAN introduces Lon Chaney Jr. to the world as Lawrence Talbot, a wayward son who returns home to stay with his estranged father in England after his older brother has been killed in a hunting accident. After stirring a great deal of controversy trying to pick up Gwen, a woman who is engaged to another man, Larry Talbot finds himself bitten by a werewolf trying to save a young woman who the werewolf has attacked. Now that he has been bitten, Larry Talbot is doomed to turn into a werewolf when the moon rises and no one believes him when he tells of his curse until it is too late. More than just a horror film, THE WOLFMAN has a tremendous amount of symbolism present with regards to the dysfunction of the family as well as a caustic warning of what can happen to a man who refuses to grow up and accept responsibility in life. This is not to say that the film is devoid of scares as Lon Chaney's fearsome portrayal of the werewolf is top notch.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN sees Larry Talbot awakened from his dead slumber by would be grave robbers. When he realizes that he cannot truly be killed, he seeks out Dr. Frankenstein who understands the secrets to life and death and might be able to give Larry the eternal piece that he requests. He ends up accidentally awakening the Frankenstein Monster (played by Bela Lugosi) and discovers that the Doctor has long since died, but that his granddaughter might hold the key to Larry's troubles. On a side note: pay attention to the way the Monster's lips move and no sounds come out. In the original cut of the film, the Monster had extensive dialogue as he learned developed the ability to speak at the end of the previous film GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN when Ygor's brain (Ygor was played by Bela). However, when the film was tested in front of audiences, they found the Monster speaking with Bela's Hungarian accent laughable so the dialogue was cut out or overdubbed and remains lost forever.

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is a fun and silly monster mash with Baris Karloff joining John Carridine's Dracula, the underrated Glenn Strange's Frankenstein Monster and Lon Chaney Jr. once again appearing as the long suffering Wolfman. While this film is the sillier of the three, it still has some genuine scares present in the form of Karloff's utterly malevolent Mad Scientist role.Even after nearly 70 years, these films hold up quite well and are highly entertaining. While the latter two films are far more pulpy than scary, they do not detract from the seriousness and fearsomeness of the monsters as opposed to, say, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films where Freddy ceased being frightening and became a silly Henny Youngman joke spouting villain.

When I was a kid and watched these films for the first time on UHF TV on an old black and white set, I thought these films were fantastic. Today, they still come off as fantastic and will continue to age well. This is what happens when a film (or film series) is made well.

Enigma



By Simon Woodhouse

World War II movies that don't contain scenes of conflict are few and far between. Even scarcer still are films in the same genre that don't even take place in one of the main theatres of war. It's easy to see why this is - battlefield scenes make for exciting movies. However, the outcome of such a massive conflict as WWII was just as much influenced by events that took place far from the war zone, as it was by the combat itself. Enigma is a movie that tries to show this aspect of the war. It's a tale of unsung heroes, and as such is told in a very down-to earth fashion. But that's not to say it doesn't contain just as much insight into the conflict as the more gung-ho stories do, it's just focusing on a different, but nonetheless important facet of the hostilities.

Set in and around Bletchley Park (though not actually filmed there), the British code breaking facility located in the Northamptonshire countryside, the film cleverly weaves two different stories around one character. Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) is a code breaking genius, but intelligence such as his comes at a price. Whilst part of a team who cracked an earlier code, he pushed himself to the point of having a nervous breakdown. Now his help is needed again, so he's brought back to Bletchley Park even though he's barely recovered from his previous ordeal. To make matters worse, the British Secret Service suspect there's a spy within the ranks of the code breakers, and they've sent Agent Wigram (Jeremy Northam) to try and sniff him out. This story of potential espionage forms one half of the tale surrounding Tom. The other plotline involves an attempt to unravel the secrets of the enigma machine, a clever device invented by the Nazis for sending and receiving coded messages. It's vital the code breakers understand the latest German communications, in order to save Allied shipping from Nazis submarines.

As Tom tries to find a way into the enemy codes, he's implicated in the spy ring by his earlier involvement with Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows), a pretty young girl who used to work a Bletchley. Claire broke Tom's heart, something that also contributed to his breakdown. Now he's back at Bletchley he wants to see her again, but she's gone missing, a sinister turn of events that further adds to her implication in something underhand. Claire's best friend Hester (Kate Winslet), is also concerned for her whereabouts. Together Tom and Hester form an unlikely alliance intent on trying to find out exactly what's happened to Claire.

The film quickly turns into a mystery reminiscent of such classics as The 39 Steps and North By Northwest (both Hitchcock masterpieces). Told partly in flashbacks, and partly in the here-and-now, the movie never becomes confusing. Each different time frame is easy to appreciate due to Tom's mental condition. In the here-and-now he's teetering on the edge of another breakdown, whilst in the flashbacks he's madly in love with Claire.

Clever in its use of good guys and bad guys, the movie portrays the British Secret Service as the nasty men in black. Tom and Hester, using nothing more than there own intuition and risking serious consequences if they're caught, struggle to try and find Claire before Agent Wigram can get his hands on her. Because the audience learn what's happening as Tom and Hester do, it's not long before this film draws you in. Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet display a genuine chemistry, and it's their performances that carry the film. Kate Winslet's character is also the exact opposite of that portrayed by Saffron Burrows - she's dowdy, plain and unassuming. But she's got a real spark and ultimately outshines her more gorgeous co-star.

As the film progresses the two storylines become more intense. The pressure on the code breakers to decipher the Nazis messages moves up a notch, when the Allies realize the largest supply convoy ever sent across the Atlantic is heading straight toward the largest ever concentration of U-boats, but they've no idea where the subs are. At the same time, Tom and Hester realize Claire probably was involved in sending secrets to the Nazis, but Agent Wigram is breathing down their necks at every turn.

Some smashing dialogue, especially the banter between Tom and Hester, helps the film move along at a cracking pace. Considering there's very little 'action' as such, it's certainly not a dull movie. The Big Brother aspect of the British Secret Service turn them into really menacing bad guys. This aspect of the story is highlighted all the more by Tom and Hester's risk taking in order just to find Claire.

On the strength of this movie, Dougray Scott really should be further up the ladder of fame. Kate Winslet (always good), is perfectly cast in the role of Hester, and what's more she doesn't need to assume a fake British accent to play the part. Saffron Burrows isn't really the equal of these two, but luckily hers is only a minor role and becomes less important as the film goes on. Jeremy Northam's portrayal of the caddish Agent Wigram is spot on. He's all smiles and charm, but underneath you just know he's not to be messed with.

If gung-ho war movies are your thing, then Enigma probably isn't for you. But if you love all those old Hitchcock gems, and lament the fact 'they don't make them like that anymore', then I think you'll be just as fond of this film as I am.

Initial Thoughts on Justice



I used to watch legal dramas all the time. For example, I was a big L.A. Law fan back in the 1980s and I absolutely loved The Practice in the late 1990s. But after The Practice went off the air (or, more accurately, morphed into Boston Legal with an entirely different cast), I didn't have any courtroom dramas on my regular television schedule. So when I heard about the new FOX drama Justice, I thought I'd give it a try.

There are a couple of reasons that I was willing to invest my time in Justice. First of all, it stars Victor Garber as slick defense attorney Ron Trott. I think Garber is a wonderful actor and I really enjoyed watching his performance as Jack Bristow on the now-defunct ABC show Alias. Second, the show is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer used to be more well known for his movies, including Top Gun, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Black Hawk Down, but in recent years has produced a string of very successful television shows. His TV offerings include The Amazing Race, the CSI franchise, Cold Case, and Without a Trace. With a person with that kind of track record running the show, I figured Justice would be in pretty good hands!

Justice centers on four defense attorneys from a firm called TNT&G. Garber as Trott is the senior partner of the firm. He controls the shots as far as organizing the defense team and approving trial strategies, and he also handles the media for the firm. The other three lawyers are young Tom Nicholson (played by Kerr Smith), Alden Tuller (played by Rebecca Mader), and Luther Graves (played by Eamonn Walker).

Tom seems to be the idealist of the group. Although he is the best trial lawyer at the firm, he has trouble defending clients if he doesn't believe that they are truly innocent. Of course with the kind of people defense attorneys typically run into, this is bound to cause major problems down the road.

Luther is a former assistant district attorney, so he brings some much-needed experience and expertise to the team. Luther often provides invaluable insight as to the kind of strategy the prosecution team will likely use in a particular case. In addition, he has worked closely with many of the prosecutors that TNT&G goes up against in court, so he knows how they operate and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Alden's role is not as clearly defined, but so far it seems that she deals mostly with the evidence of the case. She helps line up experts to testify on behalf of TNT&G's clients, and helps evaluate the evidence from her own perspective. So far, I think she brings the least to the team and is the most underutilized regular cast member.

I've watched all seven episodes of the first season thus far, and have mixed feelings about the show. On the one hand, the production value is exactly what I'd expect from something that Bruckheimer is a part of. The show comes off as very polished, and is fun to watch from a purely visual aspect. In addition, I really like the way the show treats the viewers to a scene showing how the week's victim died. After spending an hour with the lawyers trying to reconstruct what happened, we get to see what really went down and whether the client was guilty or not. I've read somewhere that this isn't exactly an original concept, but it's the first time I've ever seen it done on a television show, so I'm very impressed by it.

On the other hand, I can't fully commit to Justice yet because the cases themselves aren't very interesting. So far, there have just been run-of-the-mill killings and accidental deaths that didn't have me on the edge of my seat when it came time for the verdict. If the writers start coming up with better cases, then the show will improve greatly.

Overall, I do enjoy Justice, but for an entirely different reason than I expected. Instead of a serious, cerebral legal drama, I find it to be more of a popcorn hour. I simply sit back and have a little fun with it and try not to take it too seriously. After all, it's just entertainment.

Great Expectations (1945)



Recently in our homeschool curriculum, my two middle-school aged daughters were assigned the classic Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations. The novel turned out to be a bit harder than they expected, so I decided to read it aloud to them. When I found the book difficult to read aloud, we acquired the book on CD, completely unabridged. It was a treat to listen and by the end of the story, we had all fallen in love with dear Pip, his friendly pal, Herbert, and many of the other characters in the book. Just before we finished, I promised my daughters that when we finished the book, we would watch the movie. True to my word, I searched online, in libraries, and in book stores for the movie version of Great Expectations, and I was surprised to find many different versions of the movie made over the past sixty years. Finally, I settled upon the oldest version I could find, as I was not looking to put a modern spin on the story. I found a 1945 version of "Great Expectations, " the movie, directed by Academy Award winner, David Lean.

When we sat down to watch the movie, we were delighted to find that the characters had been cast so well. The hero, Pip, is played by a quiet John Mills, who, while a bit boring, seems to really capture the quietness and wonder of Pip. Jean Simmons is delightful as the icy Estella, who captures Pip's heart but cares little for him. Martita Hunt is exactly how my daughters and I pictured the odd and eccentric Miss Havisham, who lives like a hermit in her broken down old house. Bernard Miles is the beloved Joe, and Eileen Erskine, the housekeeper, and ultimately Joe's wife, Biddy. Also were Francis L. Sullivan as the mysterious Mr. Jaggers, and Ivor Barnard as the unusual and hilarious Mr. Wemmick. Yet, perhaps our favorite character of all, and a complete surprise, because we did not recognize him, was a young, sprightly Alec Guiness as Pip's dear friend, Herbert Pocket. We all remembered an old, bearded Sir Alec Guiness as the soft spoken Obi wan Kenobi of Star Wars fame. Yet, this young Herbert is quite a different Alec Guiness. The only part of him we unmistakably recognized were his soft, kind eyes. He was delightful to watch.

The story is about young, orphaned Pip who lives in England with his sister and her husband, Joe, a blacksmith. Pip's sister is unmercifully mean to him, but by a series of unexpected events, Pip is given a fortune to become a gentleman in London. He leaves kind Joe and his cruel sister behind to live in the city, dress formally, and all that went with this type of arrangement in late 19th century England. In the process of his good fortune, Pip must learn the value of friendship and relationship, regardless of education or socio-economic background. Pip associates the lower class with his cruel sister and the ignorance of her husband Joe, and this prejudice is solidified when he meets the kind Herbert and his family, who are of the upper class. Yet in the course of the story, Pip learns that the wealthy and elite are often heartless and careless with their treasures, while the poor and downtrodden will give the shirts off their backs. This is a hard pill for Pip to swallow, and in the end, he is a much humbler young gentleman than he was when he first went to London. He begins the movie with a kind heart and ends it with an enormously kind and compassionate heart.

Although the movie leaves out much of the details that were in the book, it does not divert from the original story. Due to time constraints, many scenes are shortened considerably, and others are left out all together, but the idea still comes through loud and clear. We have not yet seen any other versions of this movie, and at this point, we do not want to. The characters on the screen are exactly the way we imagined them while reading the book; and if that is not good movie making, I do not know what is.

Becoming a Trekkie



I remember the television show, Star Trek, from growing up in the 1960s and 1970s; I mean, who doesn't remember? I never actually watched one of the shows, but I knew who most of the characters were. I am not sure whether it was from seeing small commercial clips of Star Trek while watching other shows, or whether it was hearing kids at school or my cousins talking about it. Either way, I not only knew who Mr. Spock was, I knew what he looked like and all about his quiet, stoic, and logical personality. I also knew about Captain Kirk's cowboy-type personality, always getting everyone out a jam in the wildest possible way, and I knew about Scotty's awesome Scottish accent. I knew about the phrase, "beam me up, Scotty," long before I had any clue about what it really meant. I went through all my growing up years with this very limited knowledge of Star Trek; and then, unbeknownst to me at the time, I married a Trekkie.

Shortly after we got settled into our small home, I found that my husband had to be home at a certain time on a certain night each week because "we" had to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. When I first sat down to watch the show, I was surprised. Captain Kirk and Spock were nowhere to be seen. Scotty had been replaced, apparently. Who were these people? I thought I knew about Star Trek, but this was something entirely different. My patient husband explained to me that this was a new generation of Star Trek; hence the name of the show. It took me a while, not only to get used to the idea of having to watch Star Trek when it was not the Star Trek I had envisioned all those years, but also to get used to a science fiction show I had never seen before. I was never the least bit interested in science fiction, other than the first Star Wars trilogy back in the 1970s. But I wanted to make my new husband happy, so I watched the show with him.

After a few weeks, I began to know the characters and I started enjoying it. Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, I realize now, is an infinitely better actor than William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original series, and the rest of the new crew worked well together. Of course, when I began showing interest, my husband made sure I saw many of the old series, so I could have a complete Star Trek education and be able to compare them intelligently. He even got me to watch a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but I never found much interest in those.

Many years went by and we watched Star Trek: The Next Generation until it went off the air. We also faithfully watched all the Star Trek movies, old and new. Before we knew it, our oldest son had become a Trekkie, just like his dad, but his favorite series turned out to be the original series. I laughed when Star Trek posters began appearing on the walls of his bedroom, and he named his email and his IM name after Star Trek characters. Our entire family was excited when a new Star Trek series came out a few years ago: Enterprise, which, in the Star Trek timeline, was one of the earliest shows ever done. We found ourselves guarding Sunday evenings in our home so we could watch each episode of Enterprise together. The characters on Enterprise were not as dynamic as those on some of the earlier Star Trek series, but it was entertaining; and it was Star Trek.

Today, the only Star Trek we watch on TV are recorded movies and past series. There has been word about another series coming out, but we have yet to see anything. It seems that everywhere we look, there are references to Star Trek; in comedy routines, other movies, TV shows, and even commercial advertisements. I have come to the realization that in American society, knowing about Star Trek is a little like understanding Latin. It is not crucial to getting by in the world, but it makes everything a bit richer. Does that make me a Trekkie?

Nacho Libre (2006)



Jack Black...one of those fellows whom you either like or you can't stand...stars in this adorable, amusing flick, directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), written by Jared and Jerusha Hess. Jack is Ignacio, a Friar at a Mexican orphanage responsible for meal preparation. Ignacio grew up in this very monastery, and now is an adult with no skills to serve him in the real world. As a result, he sees no future for himself. He loves the orphan children he cooks for daily, but is forced to use leftover and donated ingredients and as a result the food is simply disgusting...always fascinated by the Lucha Libre wrestling circuit, Ignacio hatches a plan to become Nacho Libre and make enough money to ensure his charges are finally well fed...while at the same time impressing the new Sister at the convent, Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera).

Lucha Libre is the term in nearly every Spanish-speaking country for any type of professional wrestling or freestyle wrestling. It began in the early 1900's and truly took off in Mexico in the 1930's when American wrestlers headed south of the border. Wrestlers are known as luchadors...the plural is luchadores. Masks have been used since inception, and all wrestlers in Mexico use them until the end of their career. It's common for luchadors on their 'final tour' to become unmasked, their character being officially retired.

Lucha is forbidden by the church, and Ignacio risks being thrown out of the monastery, but when he sees an ad for a match that will earn him a cash prize the temptation is too much to bear. An apparently homeless, painfully thin man steals his donated chips one evening, and Ignacio notices his skill and decides to make him his wrestling partner...Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez). They lose their first match but are presented with an envelope full of money anyway...their share of the spoils. For the first time, the orphans are served delicious, fresh salad and plenty of other goodies. Nacho feels a bit like a hero instead of a loser for a change, and he loves it, though we begin to wonder if he will become caught up in the quest for fame and forget the reason behind wrestling in the first place.

The cast of wrestling characters in this film are hilarious...two little people who call themselves 'Satan's Cavemen', and Ramses, Nacho's long time idol whom he has placed upon a rather high pedestal. Jack Black is fabulous throughout, from his accent, his eyebrows, and his body language right down to his pudgy self in tights and shirtless. He is constantly amusing, and I simply can't imagine the film without him.

As they progress up the ladder of Lucha, Nacho and Esqueleto begin to desire fame and all that goes with it...when they attempt to enter the 'inner world' of the sport at a party (the scene with Esqueleto and Ramses' manager's overweight daughter is a knee slapper), they are promptly rejected. They do manage to discover that the winner of an upcoming match will go on to fight Ramses himself and turn pro in the process, and this becomes the focus of Nacho's world. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of the very people he so wanted to care for and impress...Encarnacion reminds him on the evening of the party that there is no food for the orphans for breakfast, and he tells her there will be by morning. In the rush of excitement, he forgets and returns home with nothing to find that she has taken care of everything in his stead. She's disappointed, the kids are upset and in an attempt to retain her respect he reveals that he is indeed a Lucador and that with the proceeds from his upcoming match he plans to purchase a bus for the children so they can take many field trips. He is acting as God's warrior, wrestling for good...how could there be anything bad about it?

Nacho is of course unsuccessful and loses the match, then heads out to the desert to live the rest of his life alone and shamed. Esqueleto comes to him a few days later to let him know that the winner of the match has suffered an 'accident' and sustained a broken foot that will keep him sidelined...since Nacho came in second, he now gets to fight Ramses.

Nacho Libre is entertaining from start to finish, without any gaps or boring spots that are typical for this genre. Also, the movie is 100 minutes long, which I found to be very refreshing...most films wind up dragging the storyline on and on to make the movie longer, often at the expense of the plot. Short, sweet, and rated PG so it's safe for the kiddies. In fact, they may cheer louder than you do.

Jericho's Online Extras



By Christina VanGinkel

I have been a fan of the CBS show Jericho since the first episode. I watched the series premiere online, and then followed it up by watching it air on television. I have gone on to watch each episode (save for one I missed when it on aired TV) not only on TV, but to watch each again on the Internet. The one episode I missed on CBS, I tuned in to the very next day online. To say that this thrilled me to no end would be putting it mildly. Most times, if you miss such an episode of a new show, you might be able to catch it in rerun format months alter if you are lucky. For those like me who are following the storyline of this show though, missing an episode is just not doable. We need to be able to catch up on what happened in order to understand where the next episode is taking us. The online capability of watching each full episode after it has aired online is a Jericho fan's lifeline when it comes to a missed show!

I have also watched such special extras as a behind the scenes interview with the executive producers Jon Tutreltaub, Stephen Chbosky, and Carol Barbee. The interview was short, but delved into the questions they hoped to answer from their viewpoint of what would happen if nuclear bombs went off in America, and if you survived, how life would go on. Are we ready, are we prepared. When no government exists, no police forces, no order to society as society has come to know it, just how long would law and order survive? They say in the interview that the real questions though are much smaller. That each of us would have to make decisions. They remind us that not all of life is dark, that humor would still be a big part of Jericho, as it would in real life.

The interview also delves into how they cast the actors for each part. Carol Barbee details how they cast Ashley Scott because she did not portray herself as a total sweet girl as many of the other girls casting for the part did. She came off more believable for the part they wanted to fill, where here character could be believed as getting into some trouble in her past. This part of the interview made me realize just how rounded their characters must have been in their minds before they ever started casting for any of the parts.

They also talked about how their digital storyline will play with the on screen version of the show. Besides being able to watch each episode online, I was able to play a clip that was a bit over five minutes long that delved into the psyche of the character of Robert Hawkins, by portraying a top-secret interaction he had via his computer before the onset of the bombs. For those who have followed along with this series, they will remember that the first episode began with nuclear bombs being dropped on the United States. Yet via these digital extras available online through the CBS site, viewers can glimpse into the details of this one individual's days leading up to the first episode.

While I do not know if the producers of the show plan to offer viewers more clips such as this one, I would hope that they do. It offered a bit of extra detail about the character that at this point in the show could not be learned any other way. For instance, as I watched the short clip play out, I was unprepared for the ending that portrayed the fact that there was definitive knowledge before the bombs were dropped that something was amiss. One minute the clip was showing Robert Hawkins converse with someone about what would be expected if bombs were dropped, and the next we witness the conversation being compromised and Robert Hawkins having to race away in his car from the secluded area he had gone to carry out the conversation.

Jericho is not only a new show; it is offering viewers a new way to watch a show. By combining both typical weekly airings of each new episode, via the online venue, those who wish to take their viewing experience up a level may do so. I never thought I would be interested in watching an interview with the producers of any show, yet I find myself compelled to watch every single extra that is available about this show. To the producers of Jericho, I can only say keep the extras comi9ng that there is a whole world of Jericho fans that love the extras and cannot wait for more to come, the same as we eagerly await each new episode.

House, Season 2, "House Vs. God"



"House Vs. God"

House Episode, Season Two, Episode Number 41

A Review by Jessica Wojtysiak

Cast of Characters

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Lisa Edelstein as Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Omar Epps as Dr. Eric Foreman
Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. James Wilson
Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Allison Cameron
Jesse Spencer as Dr. Robert Chase

Atheist characters are rare in television. Often, a character's spirituality is tiptoed about, with vague references toward a belief or faith that point to some doubt about the existence of a higher power. In some cases, a television show may be directly oriented around the issue of faith, such as "Seventh Heaven" or faith may be tied to the individual character's ethnicity and therefore a part of their culture. Nevertheless, faith seems one of the last frontiers of television as writers and networks seem wary of broaching the issue of religion. While homosexual characters, interracial unions, and other "taboo" relationships have become commonplace, the lack of religious faith seems the one area that few writers and television shows are willing to critically address.

House is a rare character in that he not only displays high levels of doubt but he confidently declares his own atheism with a snide superiority that condescends upon those who are more accepting of religious faith. House states, "Faith; that's another word for ignorance, isn't it? I've never understood how people can be so proud of believing in something with no proof at all, like that's an achievement." House's feelings concerning organized religion take the center stage in this episode in which the team treats a 15 year old faith healer who refuses medical intervention. The boy reports that God speaks to him and has done so since he was 10 years old. He has acquired a considerable religious following and rules his father with his faith-based superiority. When the boy claims that God doesn't want him to be treated by doctors, the father backs the decision despite the high likelihood that his son will die without medical care.

In this episode, the audience learns that Wilson has finally moved out of House's apartment. Despite this, the friendly tensions between the two continue as Wilson realizes that House has been hosting a poker night that he doesn't want Wilson to know about. More insight is shed into Wilson as the audience sees his consultation with a dying cancer patient. Wilson is empathetic with her plight, kind and caring, in a way that House never is. However, Wilson, like Cuddy and the other members of the staff, is willing to indulge in House's quirks. Wilson explains his relationship with House to the patient as "Excuse me; I have a friend with boundary issues."

Wilson, for all his immoral imperfections, is a perfect conscience for House, for while House is motivated by rational intellect, Wilson is largely guided by emotion. In discussing religion with House, Wilson shows a greater acceptance toward those who choose to believe in organized religion. He points to the fact that the majority of individuals in the United States believe in a personal God. House is irked by such unfounded belief. "Climb out of your holes, people!" he declares, filled with righteous indignation. Wilson retreats to his office, returning to his dying cancer patient. The scene is evocative of the argument that takes place between those who have faith and those who do not. Rationality demands an answer and a justification of faith that is rarely forthcoming and those who possess faith grow uncomfortable with the process of questioning.

House and Wilson team up to manipulate the boy into receiving the care he needs to safe his life. Wilson, who is inherently more empathetic than House, is able to talk to the boy and his father and slowly move them toward more treatment. House believes that Wilson is being manipulative while Wilson claims to only be listening and talking with the two. This dynamic generates further insight into Wilson's character and demonstrates ways that his strengths are actually character flaws, whereas House's flaws may actually be interpreted as strengths.

As the episode unfolds, issues develop that challenges House's disbelief of faith. The most important of these is the remission of Wilson's cancer patient that occurs after she interacts with House's patient. The boy boasts that he heals her and the doctors cannot deny that her deadly tumor is, in fact, shrinking. However, House maintains that everything in the universe can be explained, and he uses his Sherlockian gifts to deduce a romantic connection between Wilson and his cancer patient. He also realizes that the boy is not the saint that everyone believes him to be. Much of House's interactions are reminiscent of the skeptics dismantling of supposedly gifted individuals able to speak to spirits or connect the living with their dead loved ones. It's a welcome, non-politically correct reaction to such supposed gifts that is rare on television. House says the things that a lot of people want to say but don't because they're too wrapped up in being polite or understanding.

However, House isn't perfect. Much of his disdain for faith is the result of his need to maintain control. The option of a religious higher power weakens his own grasp of existence and that is equally intriguing. When House discovers the boy's secret, he doesn't undo all religious faith, he only reveals one fraud in a long history of religious frauds. The episode doesn't vilify all religion, but it does attack those who utilize religion as a means of exploitation, while also leaving open the possibility of faith free from manipulation or deceit. This is one of my personal favorite episodes of House because it doesn't pull its punches in its condemnation of these wily snake oil salesmen who prey upon the trust and faith of too many innocents.