Author Archives: reviewsbyrussell

Fringe Dodges a Bullet

I think Fringe is one of the smartest shows on TV. They're juggling a freaky premise (two alternate universes are trying to survive under the shadow of possible demise) and some subtle character work at the same time.

But the multiverse they've constructed assumes that for every person 'here', there's an exact duplicate 'there'. Same looks, same age, same name. That makes it fun for the actors, most of whom get to play alternate versions of themselves. But that also presupposes that every couple has their children at the exact same time… and has for all of history. If any one person has a different set of offspring anywhere in history, the entire doppelganger concept falls apart.

In the recent episode "6B", the climax relied on the situation of an elderly couple having children in one universe, and no children in the other. In fact, they had at least two, since they were referred to as "the girls".  Uh-oh! The entire construction of this multiverse may be faulty!

But wait. The Walter from 'here' broke into 'there' to steal Peter. That, theortically, means that everything from that moment on (in 1985) is up for grabs. Children born after 1985 wouldn't necessarily have doppelgangers.

In the episode, the old woman claim to have been with her husband since they were 20, and said they were together "almost 45 years". That means she's almost 65.  1985 was twenty-six years ago, when she was almost 39. She might have had two children (even twins) at such an age.

Bullet dodged! All is right with the multiverse!

Of course, I haven't dodged the bullet of excessive geekiness. But that's okay, too.  That ship sailed long before 1985.

Russell’s 2010 Movie Wrap Up

What am I waiting for?!

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The sky is far from the limit.

There are so many things to dislike about this film, I have to address them in the order that they appear on screen.  (This review will have many spoilers.  If you want the spoiler free version, here it is: "Don't see it.  The best stuff is in the trailer.")

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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Oh, Gordon, how we’ve missed you!

(This review is kind of out of date, but I wanted to get it up before I did my year end wrap up…)

In 1987, Gordon Gekko taught us that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”  Nobody remembers the whole quote.  All they remember is “Greed is good.”  And this sequel is kind of like that memory.  It’s not as complex and engaging and filled with family drama and angst as the original.  It’s a simpler tale, told well all the same.

Gekko has done his time in prison, and is now hawking his new book which (prophetically, since this takes place in 2008) anticipates the sub-prime bust that dropped us smack dab into the Great Recession.  (Do you hate that term as much as I do?)

Gekko’s daughter Winnie (played by the remarkable Carey Mulligan) has tried to put her father’s troubles behind her, mostly by starting up a left-wing activist website with the terrible name “The Frozen Truth”.  But she certainly hasn’t backed away from Wall Street enough to, you know, leave New York.  Or not date Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who is (you guessed it) a Wall Street analyst.  And just so we are reminded of the whole Enron debacle, the screenwriters made Jake an expert in energy.

The film juggles quite a few plot balls.  Jake is on a quest to avenge the professional destruction of his mentor (Frank Langella) by a sort of mini-Gekko (Josh Brolin).  He’s trying to wean his mother (Susan Sarandon) off of her real estate tweaking.  He’s trying to marry Winnie.  He’s trying to finance the next phase of human development in laser-assisted fusion.  But all of these are secondary to his primary fascination: Gordon Gekko.

Ostensibly to help heal the rift between Gekko and his fiancé, Jake befriends Gordon.  But it’s clear from the outset that he worships the guy.  The central mystery of the film isn’t whether Jake will get the girl or destroy the bad guy or save the world.  The central mystery is whether Gekko has really been rehabilitated, whether he’ll help Jake or screw him over.

This is a pretty clever construction.  It gives all the heavy lifting to Shia, and leaves Michael Douglas to come in a few minutes at a time and be awesome.  And awesome he is.  By the climax of the film, I was really not sure which way he’d jump.  Some things he said and did were just like the Gordon of old, and others were a picture of an old man trying desperately to reconnect with anything from his pre-incarceration life.

Oliver Stone has done many superior films, not to mention some real turdballs (I’m looking at you, Natural Born Killers), but this one is, I think, certainly above average.


I can't say that the first half of "The Deathly Hallows" is a perfect movie, and it's certainly not the best of the series.  (That would go to whichever of Azkaban, Goblet, or Order I've seen most recently.)  But it's miles better than "Half-Blood Prince".

The most unfortunate thing about this film is the palpable feeling of disorientation since there's not a single scene in Hogwarts.  Harry (and, by proxy, Hermione and Ron) are outlaws, missing their final year at the wizarding school because they're on a seemingly impossible mission to find and destroy the artifacts that contain the shards of Voldemort's soul.  And in this two-and-a-half hour installment, they only manage to find one, while they also manage to lose a number of friends in the process.

The least unfortunate thing about "Deathly Hallows Part 1" is that it's almost all about our three heroes.  Ron and Hermione got short shrift in the last film, I thought, and having all three of them stuck out in the wilderness, getting on each other's nerves (and generating some big laughs in the process) is enjoyable, at least for someone who really likes these characters.

But, make no mistake, this is definitely a "Part 1".  The ending is a real low point for Harry, and a real high for You Know Who, but that only cements my desire to see "Part 2" next year.

Russell’s Pre-Review of the 2010 TV Season

I enjoy
pretending that my opinions matter.  I
mean, this is the internet, after all, the home of unmotivated whonking.  Here are my uncalled for, unreasoned, and
unnecessary thoughts on the new TV season, in the order that the shows will

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Summer Movies 2010 on Gilligan’s Island

I was reminded recently that I haven't done a single movie review on CWSS all summer!  The horror!

Rather than shoehorn in a bunch of reviews of films which are mostly gone from theatres, I thought I'd provide a season review (along with links to a handful of reviews I wrote on my brother's website, 6throwcenter).

But, just for fun, I'm categorizing them based on which character in "Gilligan's Island" would have liked them!

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Fun with Polls

Specifically, polls that make conservatives look foolish.

"A new poll showed that nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, believe Obama is Muslim. That was up from 11 percent who said so in March 2009. The survey also showed that just 34 percent said Obama is Christian, down from 48 percent who said so last year. The largest share of people, 43 percent, said they don't know his religion."  (Quotes from Yahoo! News.)

Now, this isn't a poll of just conservatives.  This is a poll of everybody.  But we all know who disseminates these kinds of foundless rumors, don't we?

But here is the part that's particularly fun.

"The Pew poll found that about three in 10 of Obama's fiercest political rivals, Republicans and conservatives, say he is a Muslim. That is up significantly from last year and far higher than the share of Democrats and liberals who say so."

IOW, nearly twice as many conservatives are plain wrong on this point compared to the entire population.


Of course, this is all just a distraction from the bigger question: why does it matter?  Is it so terrible, the thought of having a Muslim president? 

It's funny that conservatives are wrong.  It's scary that they care in the first place.

“Beyond the Lighted Stage”

Russell's favorite moments in this Rush documentary:

  1. Home movie of Alex Lifeson as a high-schooler telling his parents he wants to be a musician; he doesn't need school.
  2. Gene Simmons wondering why, when Kiss toured with Rush, he gets all the girls, and the Canadians never did.
  3. Neil Peart talking about how he just does not want to talk to fans; it's just creepy.
  4. Geddy Lee still referring to Neil as "the new guy".

Russell’s Week with Glenn, Day 2

The theme of the episode is that GB has a problem with faith based initiatives that are designed around advancing green technology. (He uses the phrase "the EPA merging with churches" about twenty times, making it sound like some sort of Borg assimilation.) He has no problem using religious language to impart his own message, so I assume he's either simply against green technology, or believes it to not be consistent with Christian ideals. He does not make clear which of these is his stance, though either one is a hard sell to me.

GB claims that this program will be the final nail in the coffin of our churches, though he offers no indication of how or why that would happen.  More baseless fear-mongering.  (This concept may become a theme of these posts.  How about I just call it BFM from now on?)

16:00 – GB talks about how much more of his income he's given to charity than either Obama or Biden.  I humbly offer the following:

Proverbs 26:12
2 Philippians 2:3
Matthew 23:12

31:00 — "They're already indoctrinating our children. 'There is no God.'" Really?  Alot of classes in atheism in our primary schools nowadays? Not talking about God <> talking about God's nonexistence.

42:00 — GB's guest likens taxation to stealing, which is contrary to one of the commandments. I offer him this:

Matthew 22:21

GB also (I didn't get the time marker on this one) said that Net Neutrailty is Marxism.  Really?  How exactly does the ability to have non-discriminatory access to the internet going to elevate the proletariat?

As for things I agreed with, I suppose I can't fault him for criticizing the left for being silent on Obama's faith-based initiatives, when W was loudly castigated for the same thing.  Of course, Obama hasn't (that I've heard) indicated that he's President because it's God's will, so perhaps there's little need to fear he'll become some kind of theocratic oligarch.