Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I’m Back

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t had many updates for the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been away on vacation for part of it, and I was trying to take care of other things before starting the vacation.  I’m back now and I intend to start making regular posts again.

I still have a set of movies to post to complete the All Things Joss Whedon set. 

My vacation consisted of a lot of hiking in Acadia National Park, including the difficult West Face Trail up Cadillac Mountain.  Once I organize my pictures I will be writing that up, along with Great Head, The Triad, Thuya Gardens, Bar Island, Schooner Head, two more trails up Beech Mountain, Long Pond trail, and the Great Notch trail. 

I still have hikes up East Royce in Maine, two hikes up Pleasant Mountain in Maine, two hikes in and around Arethusa Falls, Ripley Falls, and Frankenstein Cliffs in New Hampshire, a recent hike on Mount Cutler in Maine, past Acadia National Park hikes, and others that I will eventually post.  If you have any priority preference among these, let me know.

I have also been reading a series of books that I will be posting about.  The first book – The Game of Thrones – has been adapted as an HBO series.  At 820 pages that book is the thinnest of the four currently published.  The fifth is coming in July and will be the thickest yet.

I may also do a set of posts on the big summer movies that have come out.  It depends on whether I see enough of them or not.  I have only seen Thor so far.  (Short review – 3 stars out of 5 – not great, but decent summer action flick – watch for extra scene after the credits.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Video – Marriage proposal in a movie theater

Movie theaters show a lot of trailers.  Here’s one that’s different – a man proposes to his girlfriend who is in the theater.  I wonder what the other people in the audience thought about all of this.  (Ladies - some of you may want to have a tissue nearby.)

TV – Veronica Mars (2004 - 2007)

Veronica Mars was a great TV show that unfortunately only lasted three seasons.  It debuted on UPN, and then shifted to The CW network when UPN merged with The WB network.  Even though it had a relatively short run, it had a lot of fans.  Among those fans was Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  He even appeared in a second season episode both because he liked it so much, and to draw the attention of his fans to the show.  Whedon alumnus Charisma Carpenter also appeared as a recurring character in Season 2 because she was a fan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TV – Dollhouse (2009 - 2010)

Dollhouse is the most recent TV show that Joss Whedon has had on the air.  His prior shows were Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly.  Please see my separate posts on those.

Dollhouse had a curious history.  It appeared on FOX, of all places.  This was the network that had destroyed Whedon’s last show – Firefly.  The network took control of Dollhouse away from Whedon for a while in the first season, until they had to admit that their monkeying with it was not giving the results they wanted.  They turned control back over to Whedon and he spent the rest of the first season’s thirteen episodes trying to get the show back on track.  By then the ratings were so low that everyone expected FOX to cancel it.  They actually renewed it for thirteen more episodes, let Whedon run it the way he wanted, and the result was a great season of television.  By then it was too late, though.  The ratings never recovered and the show was cancelled.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Video – Dr. Horrible at the Emmys

The 2009 Emmys were hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.  His internet serial Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (see my post here) was nominated for an Emmy that year, so it was only natural for him to appear at some point as that character.

Here is the video of Dr. Horrible “hijacking” the Emmys broadcast.  (Hey, who knew accountants could be funny?)  You can tell from the audience’s reaction that most have no idea who he and Nathan Fillion are supposed to be.  They have their personal assistants deal with that “internet thingy.”

Movie – Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

So, you’re Joss Whedon, a prolific writer.  It’s 2008 and there is a Hollywood writers’ strike going on.  This means that you can’t work on that new show Dollhouse that you are developing.  It also means that you can’t do any script-doctoring for movies.  Other than a comic that you are writing each month, you’re pretty much at a standstill.  Your actor/actress friends are also sitting around without a lot to do because with no writers there are no new TV episodes.  How do you write and produce something new without violating the strike, and at the same time give your friends something to do?  You write and produce an internet serial.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Movie – Done the Impossible: The Fan’s Tale of Firefly and Serenity (2006)

Done the Impossible is a documentary about the fans and fandom of the Firefly TV show and the 2005 Serenity movie.  These people call themselves “Browncoats”.  It includes excerpts from extensive interviews the filmmakers did with pretty much the entire cast and creators of the show.  Its appeal would be for those people who are themselves fans (which is tens of millions of people.)  If you have not seen the show or the movie, or have seen them but didn’t like them, then this movie would not be for you.

The documentary is hosted by Adam Baldwin, who played Jayne Cobb on the show and in the movie.  It takes its title from a line Joss Whedon uttered during his introduction of the movie Serenity.  Please see my video post here for that intro.

Movie – Serenity (2005)

Serenity was a movie Joss Whedon wrote and directed based on his TV show Firefly.  Please see my post on the TV series here.  It was a hugely satisfying movie, not just for fans, but also for people who had never seen the TV show.  One reviewer said that this was the kind of movie that Star Wars fans wished George Lucas was making when he was doing the prequels.  I consider this movie to be the best science fiction film released since The Matrix had come out six years earlier.

Video – Joss Whedon introducing Serenity

Joss Whedon recorded an introduction for the Firefly movie Serenity that was a thank you to the fans that had made it possible.  It was shown during some of the early screenings, which is why he made reference to the movie not quite being done yet. 

Note the line at the end about having done the impossible.  A documentary on the whole Firefly/Serenity happenings took that as its title.  Please see my separate posts on Firefly, Serenity, and Done the Impossible for more on them.

TV – Firefly (2002 - 2003)

While he had two successful shows already on the air (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Joss Whedon decided to try his hand at science fiction.  The result was Firefly.  The FOX network quickly picked up the show and almost as quickly cancelled it.  This was shown to be a stunningly bad decision when the story was turned into a major theatrical movie – Serenity (2005.)

The best description I heard for the show was that it was Star Wars, but with Han Solo as the main character, and with him shooting first.  Who wouldn’t want to ride around space with Han Solo on adventures?  Apparently a lot of people would.  Firefly now enjoys what I would consider to be the third largest collection of adult fans (aka “Browncoats”) in the world, only behind Star Trek and Star Wars fans in their numbers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

TV – Angel (1999 - 2004)

Angel was a spin-off series from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aka BtVS.)  After the third season of that show ended, Joss Whedon transplanted the characters of Angel, played by David Boreanaz (Bones) and Cordelia, played by Charisma Carpenter, to Los Angeles.  Where BtVS was about fighting evil, this show was primarily about redemption.

Its concept was that Angel, Cordelia, and another character set up an agency where people could come when they had non-human issues that needed to be dealt with.  By helping these people Angel could continue his redemption for all the wrong he had done in his life.

Book – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8

So, you’re Joss Whedon, a prolific writer.  It’s 2007 and it’s been a few years since your TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly) have ended and your theatrical movie (Serenity) has been out for two years.  You’re developing a few things, but nothing is hot at the moment.  Fans keep asking if you are going to do a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aka BtVS) movie, like Serenity was a movie of the TV show Firefly.  You know that a movie is unlikely and that if it ever did happen it would be years in the future.  Building all the sets and getting all the actors and actresses back together, even if possible, would take a lot of money.  How do you bypass the costs and delays?  Simple – write the continuing story in graphic form (comic books.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TV – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003)

What is the main thing that keeps some people from watching one of the best shows to ever appear on television?  The title.  People will be interested in the show when I start talking it up, but when I tell them the title is Buffy the Vampire Slayer they get these funny looks on their faces and you can see them rejecting it. 

Entertainment Weekly named this show the best one on television when it completed its third season.  In my opinion it is one of the very best I have ever watched.  I would put the year and a half stretch from midway through its second season, to the end of its third season, up against any season and a half from any other show that has ever been on television – MASH, ER, Friends, anybody.  It was that good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

All Things Joss Whedon

“If somebody comes up to me, it's because they're moved by something I'm moved by. I've never taken a job I didn't love ... So when somebody's coming up to me, or they're writing, they're in the same space I am in. I write for fanboy moments. I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. I write to do all the things the viewers want to. So the intensity of the fan response is enormously gratifying. It means I hit a nerve.” – Joss Whedon being serious

“Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.” – Joss Whedon being funny

So who is Joss Whedon and why should you care about anything he has done?  Well, he is a writer, director, producer, composer, lyricist, script doctor, humorist, and even occasional actor, among other things.  He has worked in all the major media, including movies, television, stage, music, comics, and even the internet.

Joss is known for his strong female characters, witty dialogue, characters that grow and change, and for not shying away from taking risks with his plots.

Writing is definitely in his blood.  He is the grandson of John Whedon, who wrote in the 1950s and 1960s for The Donna Reed Show and Leave It to Beaver, and the son of Tom Whedon, who wrote in the 1960s and 1970s for The Dick Cavett Show, Alice, and Benson.  His brothers Jed and Zack are also writers, although not as prolific.

Joss started out writing for the TV shows Roseanne and Parenthood.  Since then he has gathered a large fan following as the creator of such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse.  He also created the internet serial Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. 

He was one of the writers of the original Toy Story (1995) and was nominated for an Academy Award because of it.  He has written the screenplays for Serenity (2005), Titan A.E. (2000), and Alien: Resurrection (1997.)  As a script doctor he has provided uncredited re-writes for Speed (1994), Twister (1996), and many other movies. 

As a composer he wrote an entire musical episode (all original songs) for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was later turned into a stage production and a hit album.  He also wrote the opening song for his show Firefly, and has songs in other TV episodes, as well as in the movie Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (1998.)  He co-wrote the songs for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, as well as Commentary: the Musical on the Dr. Horrible DVD release.

In the comic book arena he has written many different books, most notably Astonishing X-Men and Buffy Season 8 – the official continuation of the seven season TV show.

He first acted on his show Angel.  There was a new comical character that was supposed to do a funny dance.  Joss’ vision was very particular and his partner on the show told him that if it was that important then he should play the part himself.  He did.  He spent hours in makeup in order to do a comical dance for several seconds on that episode.  Years later he was a huge fan of the TV show Veronica Mars (so was I) and he appeared in an episode to bring his fans’ attention to the series.

As a director, he has done many episodes of his own shows, of course, but he has also directed episodes of other shows that he likes a lot, such as Glee and The Office.  He directed the theatrical movie Serenity (2005), which was based on his TV show Firefly.

Finally, he was chosen to be the writer and director of the Avengers movie, which is coming in 2012.  It will combine all the Marvel characters from Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America, as well as some new characters.  This is the major culmination of what Marvel Studios has been working towards since the first Iron Man movie came out and there is a lot riding on it.

Joss Whedon has had a hand in many things, most of which are ones that I would recommend.  In the coming days I will be making many posts on those.
On to the reviews…