The season is over and...
You scored as David Ortiz. You are David Ortiz!! You have a very sunny personality and always seem to be smiling, which makes you very well-liked. You consider yourself a great cook, which is your fave pastime other than slugging homeruns. Big Papi is the man!
You scored as River Tam. The Fugitive. You are clever and dangerous, which is a nasty combination. The fact you are crazy too just adds to your charm. They did bad things to you, but you know their secrets. They will regret how they made you.
Took it twice and the results actually scare me a little:
You scored as Simon Tam.
The Doctor. You have a gift for healing that goes beyond education. You took an oath to do no harm, even when your patients have tried to kill you. You are out of place where you are, being used to refined society. However, if you take that stick out of your arse you should be fine.
River Tam 75% Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 75% Simon Tam 75% Zoe Alleyne Washburne 69% Shepherd Derrial Book 63% Inara Serra 56% Jayne Cobb 56% Kaylee Frye 50% Capt. Mal Reynolds 50% The Operative 50%
You scored as River Tam.
The Fugitive. You are clever and dangerous, which is a nasty combination. The fact you are crazy too just adds to your charm. They did bad things to you, but you know their secrets. They will regret how they made you
Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 75% River Tam 75% Zoe Alleyne Washburne 69% Simon Tam 69% Shepherd Derrial Book 63% The Operative 56% Inara Serra 56% Jayne Cobb 56% Kaylee Frye 50% Capt. Mal Reynolds 50%
I'm all about my car lately, it's a good thing that I spent all that money on the damn thing this year. I miss my home! Unless, of course, I'm in it and I gaze around at the mess, then it's back to the car and the quazillion errands I have to run.
RUSH!!! Late spring 2006!!! somewhere in CT!!!! as heard on WCCC from Jimmy Koplik!!!!
SERENITY: Return of the Western Hero (A shorter review, one that's actually about the movie this time - promise!)
Serenity is a fantastic western, written and directed by Joss Whedon, creator of the WB's hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel. A western which happens to take place five centuries from now in a newly colonized solar system. You've got a hero - Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion - who was on the losing side of a civil war a few short years ago, who knows the war's over and lost, who has walked away from the battlefield without surrendering. You've got him and others helping each other through the war's aftermath, creating a makeshift family out of wrecked lives left in the war's wake - some who, like our hero, have lost friends and family of their own one way or another. But, when you tell yourself a war's over, then make a family and a home somewhere, only to have those on the other side come to hunt that family down, can the war really be over? Not for you or anyone, not if you're even half a hero.
Hard to go wrong with a story like that, which is why I can't resist invoking comparisons to The Outlaw Josey Wales. And Whedon knows how to tell a good story. With one short, riveting, adrenaline-charged scene, followed by a tracking shot through Malcolm Reynolds' spaceship Serenity, the exposition is beautifully and effortlessly put behind us. We understand there are a half dozen or so characters on a smuggler's ship, defying the authority of the central government of the Alliance, that one of them is a fugitive from that Alliance and very much sought-after. And we're racing off with our heroes on some extra-legal business, the action and the momentum unbroken and never missing a beat. As Adam Baldwin's mercenary Jayne sums it up: "Let's be bad guys."
If Serenity's crew might occasionally be bad guys, then Chiwetel Ejiofor's Operative, hunting them down on behalf of the Alliance, is as cool and deadly a James Bond character as we've seen on film in a long, long time. He has depth and charm, as well as ideals - though no principles. He has beliefs, but no rules, and it's a struggle not to like the man who is nevertheless determined to destroy the family of characters living and working aboard Serenity. A real writer understands that the hero and his opponent ultimately define one another - Whedon is first and foremost a real writer.
And Whedon's character River (Summer Glau) is a "reader," gifted with an intuitive genius which transcends ordinary intelligence and gives her insight into people's thoughts and actions - those occurring now, and those which have not yet occurred. Honed by the Alliance to become its greatest human weapon, so that combat comes as easily to her as breathing, always knowing her opponents' moves in advance, she is an unstoppable killing machine. She's also done too much "reading," and knows things she shouldn't know. The Alliance will have her back or have her dead. Very likely both.
In a regular western, River would be the girl who knows where the greatest treasure in the New World is hidden, who holds the key to a holy hoard of Indian gold. She not only can name El Dorado and recite its truest, deepest lore, but she can find it on a map. She also knows a treasure greater than gold waits there. She will breathe its name.
As if that weren't enough and more than any of us could expect from a good old-fashioned adventure at the theater, there's also plenty of wit and humor, well exceeding the glimpses offered in the trailers. (Not taking anything from what the previews offer, such as: "This landing is gonna get pretty interesting," "Define 'interesting,'" "'Oh, God, oh, God, we're all going to die'?") Whedon's finely crafted writing and his love for his characters shines through from the movie's rocketing start to its gut-wrenching finish. Woven through the suicidal heroics, heart-pumping action enough for several lifetimes and a number of worlds, and ties broken and reforged in the incandescent heat of battle, is something being said about the human condition. It never changes, we're always tested, you can't hide from who you are, and who you are is in the end defined by what you've chosen to believe.
Sadly, I can only give it a three-and-a-half star rating: ***1/2.
Of course, that's on a scale where the highest possible rating is two stars.
A couple of reviews worth checking out (just possibly better than this one):
Serenity: Dark Angel Meets Han Solo Meets Josey WalesThis is a review of the movie Serenity, but let's forget that for a moment so I can ask you a question. Do you have a favorite western? Maybe one where a challenge to John Wayne runs, "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!"? (If you remember that line - from True Grit - then do you recall Rooster Cogburn's response? "Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!") Or one where Eli Wallach, having just shot dead a man who spent too much time gloating over finding him "helpless" in a bathtub, admonishes his deceased would-be assassin, "When you have to shoot, shoot - don't talk!"? (Wallach's bandit character Tuco from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, for anyone who may have failed to catch such a classic.) Or, in response to a bounty hunter justifying his hostile intentions as an attempt "to earn a living," Eastwood's, "Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy"? (That would be the outlaw Josey Wales in the awesome western of the same name.) How about: "You said you wanted to be around when I made a mistake, well, this could be it, sweetheart," or "What an incredible smell you've discovered," or "That's 'cause a droid don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose - Wookiees are known to do that"? Wait a minute, you're saying, those last quotes aren't from any western - they're Han Solo's lines from Star Wars!
Well, you're right. Probably pushed my luck a bit with that very last quote.
It's not saying anything new to point out that the horse opera was eventually replaced with the space opera. Lucas understood as much when he launched his Star Wars saga with a young farm-boy raised on the desert rim of a planet deep in the galaxy's outback. There are smugglers, bounty-hunters, desert bandits, prospectors and scavengers all trying to eke out a living while avoiding the scrutiny of an overweening big government and its soldiery - not to mention the simple folk working hard and hoping not to be interfered with by the merciless and uncaring Powers That Be. Han Solo has more of a hold on the audience than Luke Skywalker because he's someone we know from of old. It's no stretch at all to imagine him delivering Tuco's line: "If you have to shoot, shoot - don't talk!" That the story morphs into some hybrid of the French Revolution and World War II later on changes none of that. Space adventure science fiction is, as Roddenberry noted, about a frontier, and therefore owes a big debt to the previous frontier: the Old West.
Enter Joss Whedon, creator of the acclaimed Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which became the flagship TV show for the brand-new and struggling WB network. Who also created the successful spin-off series Angel, which ran for five seasons. Whedon, also one of Hollywood's top script-doctors, was now a proven television genius, writing and directing excellent material for that medium. So when he approached Fox with an idea for a space western, where the science fiction would pay tribute to and draw from the western genre, Fox warily committed itself to a handful of episodes. The network was clearly hoping, with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series both being wrapped up, that the loyal fan-base for those shows would be transferred to Whedon's latest effort, the television series called Firefly.
In Firefly, as in many westerns, a civil war casts its long shadow over events in the evolving story. In this case, it is an interplanetary civil war, which ended six years earlier with the Alliance government (also known as the Union of Allied Planets) of the more "civilized" Core Planets claiming victory. People unhappy with that victory, or merely unhappy with restrictions imposed by close proximity to the central government - or those unhappy with both - can be found on the frontier worlds at the edge of the system. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, a veteran of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series), formerly an officer for the Independents who lost the civil war, is one of those who falls into both categories. He has scraped together enough funds to purchase an out-of-date Firefly-class spaceship, named Serenity after the final battle of the civil war, and has also put together a crew: Zoë (Gina Torres of Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions), his amazonian comrade-in-arms from the war and his second in command; ace pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk of Dodgeball and I, Robot), witty but not a warrior, yet married to Zoë; cute mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite), a country girl who never spent much time at school but who has a knack for fixing things; Jayne (Adam Baldwin of Full Metal Jacket), a big tough mercenary more interested in gold and saving his own skin than anything else. Aside from smuggling jobs, Mal keeps his ship flying by taking aboard some passengers: a preacher known as Shepherd Book (Barney Miller's Ron Glass); Inara Serra (Morena Boccarin), a high-class courtesan; Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher); River Tam (Summer Glau), Simon's sister. These are the folk who make up the wagon-train in a solar system sporting dozens of planets and hundreds of moons, terraformed and colonized by Earth some five centuries from now. In case anyone's still wondering, Captain Mal is Serenity's Captain Solo, cocky, funny, tough, resourceful, but also darker and more vengeful. The war really isn't over for him, as should be obvious from the name of his ship.
What happened to Firefly? The show was expensive to produce, running over $2 million an episode, and Fox expected Whedon's loyal fan-base to transfer almost immediately. But there's this thing about loyal fan-bases: you lose their loyalty the second they feel they've been betrayed. Which is what happened. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had not yet ceased production, and the fans resented Whedon devoting his energy and talent to a new show at the expense of his old ones. They didn't flock to Firefly. The program was aired on Friday nights - death to most television shows. Then the episodes were aired out of sequence, with the pilot actually being shown last. Only 11 of the 14 episodes produced for the series were even shown on Fox, often pre-empted by baseball games. So it was cancelled, and the smell of failure combined with its expense kept other networks from going anywhere near it.
And then along came Universal looking to work on a movie project with Joss Whedon, and the movie Serenity was born. As hinted in the series, half-crazy River Tam has some deep dark secrets, and they're the reason she's no longer quite "all there." She was the most successful product of a secret project to create a human super-weapon. Her native psychic abilities were enhanced - she's a "reader" - and she was given the best training in hand-to-hand combat the Alliance had to offer. Always several steps ahead of anyone foolish enough to go up against her, she is the ultimate assassin and cannot be defeated by any human opponent. Now, with her brother's help, she has taken refuge aboard Serenity. The Alliance, however, regards her as stolen property and will stop at nothing to get River Tam and her secrets back. By now you may have noticed some parallels between River and Dark Angel. There is also homage paid to animé here, where battle becomes ballet (so don't be surprised to learn Summer Glau is a trained ballerina).
And all that is background no one really needs to know to enjoy the movie. Serenity opens immediately with action, and we meet The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a relentless agent working for the Alliance, who believes in everything the Alliance stands for and will do anything in its name (a remorseless polar opposite to the Man with No Name, made famous by Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood). Simon and River have become too great a burden for the ship Serenity to bear much longer. Malcolm Reynolds has sworn off fighting for lost causes, which protecting River Tam certainly seems to be. But River is a vessel of secrets, and has one which will change everything. It will bring down upon Serenity's crew the fury of the mindless and bloodthirsty Reavers - humans driven insane at the edge of the system when confronted with the abyss of space - as well as the ruthless Operative and the military might of the Alliance which stands behind him. Captain Malcolm Reynolds is about to discover that even in infinite space you can only run so far till there's nowhere left to run.
So is that all the movie is about? Resurrecting a cancelled television show? A chase across space? A terrible secret? No, it's about a whole lot more than that. It's about what it means to be human in any time, whether back in the Old West or out on the edge of the galaxy. This is an adventure yarn in an old style which never really goes out of style. What do you believe in? What are you willing to fight for, even die for? If Serenity fails to rouse something deep in your soul, then that's ice-water, and not blood, in your veins.
So I'll close with a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales, with which this movie has more in common than it might seem at first glance, delivered by Chief Ten Bears (Will Sampson):
It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carry the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life.