Friday, February 13, 2009

Camera Obscura Part 2: Dollhouse Tonite; New Tarantino Trailer; Denzel vs Travolta

Since today is all about sequels at the movies, I made sure I had a sequel movie post. And there's some great twists ahead.

Tonight at 9 p.m., a terrible time slot for ratings, the FOX network will start the brand new series from Joss Whedon, "Dollhouse." I am still amazed that Whedon agreed to work with FOX again, after the way they dumped "Firefly" into the ash heap before it even aired. But Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku had a deal with him and she wanted to do another show with Josh after her career-starter with him as the bad-girl vamp slayer named Faith in "Buffy".

So, after some serious problems and re-shoots the series lands at 9 p.m. Tracking Whedon's career is a real lesson in how the business end of Hollywood works and how the creative end works - often at cross-purposes. Even last year, as Hollywood worried thru a Writer's Strike, Whedon crafted an end run around the mess with an Internet-Only mini-series sci-fi musical with the improbable name of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog" which became a smash hit on iTunes and DVD.

So now - "Dollhouse" -- the pitch here is a series about a group of young people who are utilized by a shadowy (government?) organization as agents for various missions via a method of DNA-alterations and mind-wipeouts. They are 'dolls', called "Actives", who get fed mission info and key personality traits for missions, get it all erased at the end, and sort of live in a weird dorm complex. Dushku plays a girl named "Echo".

Yeah, I know audiences and FOX execs are going "whaa?" to all that. But the man has proved more than once he can take a jumble of genres and styles and make something pretty unique and entertaining. And the word complex scares TV people.

In an interview with Salon, Whedon talks about the confusion and the plans for the series, which gets into some fairly intense stuff ... though not at first glance:

Well, the question of whether they've actually volunteered or not is obviously somewhat dicey. And as we'll begin to learn, every Active has a different backstory. What I wanted to do was talk about the idea of sex and what we expect from each other. Power, love, how these things are all connected. We're positing the idea of, if people were in a position to give up their lives, how many of them would?

We saw a thing on "This American Life," where guys had found a way to block a memory stream on mice and they got flooded with letters from people begging them to be test subjects, because they were like, I don't want to remember my life. Something bad happened or I want to cut out something. There is also this fantasy of not having control, of not having responsibility. These people are taken care of like children. They live in the best spa ever.


"I think television is getting smarter and dumber at the same time. As it gets harder for the networks to figure out how to make their money and what's going to happen structurally with advertising, at the same time, on cable and even on some of the bigs, people are taking chances. It's a time of crisis, which means a lot of entrenching, a lot of let's just go for exactly what we know how to do, and a certain amount of let's shake it up. And those will be the shows people remember."

Read the full interview here, and their review here. As for me, I figured out long ago, he makes things worth the time it takes to read or watch.


Warning!!! The following trailer, while not R-rated, is from the gritty and explosive brain of Quentin Tarantino and his new World War II movie, "Inglourious Basterds". Heck, with that title, I'm not even sure he can advertise the thing on TV or in newspapers. But we have the Internet, we have You Tube, and whether anyone wants or deserves it --- now we have Tarantino tackling the Big One. Brad Pitt calls out the marching orders:

I think Tarantino turns a lot of folks off - but, like Whedon, I'm gonna be watching what he does. And is it just me, or does Pitt sound a little bit like George W. Bush there??


A best-selling novel and movie from the 1970s has been remade for summer 2009 release, "The Taking of Pelham 123" -- a tense tale of a subway hijacking. The original still holds up very well today thanks to acting from Walter Matthau as a subway supervisor against terrorist Robert Shaw.

The remake puts Denzel Washington into Matthau's part and John Travolta in Shaw's. This adaptation is by Oscar winner Brian Helgeland and the director is Tony Scott, which means lots of rapid cuts and edits and somehow, doves and pigeons flying will be shown at various points in the movie. I think this is the 3rd time Denzel and Tony have teamed up, and to be honest, I like what they've done so far. Here's the preview:

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