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Mary McDonnell (#110 of 28)

Computer Nerds As Superheroes Sneakers at 25

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Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Universal Pictures

Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers is a comic-book movie where the superpowers employed are mental, not physical. Its plot and structure will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in the Marvel or DC Universes: A group of uniquely skilled folks from different backgrounds join forces to combat a more powerful, ominous enemy. There’s an overlong yet enjoyable climactic battle where each hero gets a moment to shine; the bad guys aren’t so much defeated as they’re temporarily contained; and the film’s ending hints that the heroes will continue to fight for their brand of justice. Sneakers even has Robert Redford, whom today’s youngsters will recognize from his work in the best of the Marvel movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 20, “Daybreak, Part 2”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 20, “Daybreak, Part 2”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 20, “Daybreak, Part 2”

“Daybreak, Part 2,” the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, is about as audacious and ambitious a piece of television as I’ve ever seen. There’s basically no way the episode doesn’t end up being deeply polarizing (and, indeed, it already is), but outside of a few small moments, I found it pretty tremendous, first a fittingly epic action ending and then a sweet and enigmatic series of character endings. I suspect, as seems to often be the case with this show, that what I liked about the episode will end up driving the rage of those who hated it, but, as always, it really does come down to whether you’re more interested in watching the show for the characters or for the mythology. If you’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how discontinued Cylon model Daniel fits into things, you were probably sorely disappointed. If you’ve been spending the last few weeks, however, trying to figure out how the writers were going to close off the problematic Baltar (James Callis) character arc, then you were probably deeply satisfied. “I know about farming,” indeed.

(And I know we say it every week, but we really, really mean it this week. I’m going to spoil the hell out of this below the jump, so abandon this review unless you’ve seen the thing.)

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 19, “Daybreak, Part 1”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 19, “Daybreak, Part 1”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 19, “Daybreak, Part 1”

Over my years of reviewing Battlestar Galactica for The House Next Door, I’ve found that the hardest episodes to write about with any authority are “Part 1” episodes. Generally, these are setup episodes where the payoff is uncertain. They tend to invite speculation rather than analysis, and it’s hard to see, exactly, where they’re going (or, at least, it SHOULD be hard to see that). So if “Part 1” episodes are hard to analyze already, then the first part of the EPIC, THREE-HOUR SERIES FINALE is probably going to be REALLY hard to analyze. So this might end up being a little short because, as much as I loved “Daybreak, Part 1,” written by series mastermind Ronald D. Moore and directed by series directorial head Michael Rymer, it’s still just the beginning of a story that will lead to the End of All Things Galactica, and that’s a little sad. So let’s talk about other things!

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 18, “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 18, “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap, Season 4, Episode 18, “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

One of the smarter things I heard about the film Rachel Getting Married, my favorite of last year, is that in a lot of cases, most of the things that people who strongly disliked the film disliked about it are the sorts of things those who really liked the film liked about it. It’s the sort of thing where the exact same element can rub two people in very different ways for very different reasons. It’s not even about rejecting, say, a specific story element (as with the many who just lost it over the final third of No Country for Old Men); it’s about rejecting something that lies deep within what the film itself and the creative voices behind it were trying to do. And, in a way, that’s increasingly how I feel about the back half of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, which had its final non-finale hour tonight in “Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” written by Michael Taylor and directed by series star Edward James Olmos. There are going to be a lot of fans of the show who rail against everything it did in this episode, which is basically a long throat clearing before the big, three-hour ending, and I’m going to be hard pressed to disagree with them. But, as with so many prior hours this half-season, I liked a lot of what it was doing, even if it wasn’t an all-time classic episode of the series. So when you say, “But it was slow-moving and there were no ANSWERS and where is this all GOING?!” I guess I’ll just have to agree and say that those were some of the things I LIKED about it. And a lot of this gets to some fundamental issues with how we watch and criticize television.

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 17, “Someone to Watch Over Me”

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\Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 17, “Someone to Watch Over Me”

Sci-Fi Channel

\Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 17, “Someone to Watch Over Me”

Every season, Battlestar Galactica does a Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) episode, which delves into the character’s motivations and her dark past. How much you like these episodes usually hinges on how much you like borderline melodrama and how much you like Sackhoff’s performance, but I’ve tended to find them pretty reliable studies of a character that could feel been-there, done-that but has always had a kind of livewire confidence that makes her fascinating to watch. I’m sure there were a good number of fans as frustrated by “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the final script from David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and the final directorial effort from Michael Nankin on the series, since it featured very few major plot revelations, which were all crammed into the last five minutes, and since it was, again, a leisurely character piece, but I thought it was pretty terrific and maybe the best of the show’s “Starbuck episodes.”

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 15, “No Exit”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 15, “No Exit”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 15, “No Exit”

Genre fiction requires the infodump.

Eventually, you’re going to get to a point in a science fiction, fantasy or horror work where you need to lay out, exactly, the rules everyone’s playing by. The One Ring to rule them all corrupts absolutely. Dr. Jekyll’s potion lets out his bad self, but it also slips from his control. Use the Force! Other genres don’t require the huge piling on of exposition that genres where something “other” is present require. You might find some infodumping in a Western or in a period piece, but for the most part, we know the rules those genres play by because those genres take place in our reality, just in the past. Romance? Everybody knows what it’s like to fall in love. Comedy? Everyone likes to laugh. But genre fiction? That requires the infodump, and that’s where a lot of people get off the ship. It’s all well and good when we’re talking abstractly about folks on other planets fighting over resources, but once you bring in specific concepts like “spice” and “Arrakis” and “sandworms,” a lot of people are going to say, “That’s it! I’m outta here!”

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 14, “Blood on the Scales”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 14, “Blood on the Scales”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 14, “Blood on the Scales”

“Blood on the Scales,” written by Michael Angeli and directed by Wayne Rose, wasn’t quite as good as last week’s “The Oath,” but it was still an excellent episode of Battlestar Galactica, taking the action-packed pacing of last week’s episode and layering on a few genuinely emotional moments amidst the panic. Battlestar is a show moving with confidence into its final hours (much like The Shield last fall), and that’s allowing it to carry out story turns with a sort of dread efficiency. Yeah, they didn’t kill Adama (Edward James Olmos), but there were other big moments aplenty. Also, Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) spent much of the episode crawling around in a pipe. So there you go.

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 13, “The Oath”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “The Oath”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “The Oath”

The first five minutes or so of “The Oath” were pretty good Battlestar Galactica, if a little on the on-the-nose side of things (as the show can be every so often). But then, oh, then, “The Oath” turned into the awesomest thing that ever walked the face of this Earth. It had its flaws, and I want to pick on them, but, man, oh man, Starbuck shot a guy in the head, and Baltar and Roslin had to work together to help quell a growing mutiny in the fleet, and Adama and Tigh had their very own version of the impossible last stand of so many siege movies, and the whole thing just rocketed along like a leftover script from season one (when the series was most overtly an “action” show). I’d like to criticize the whole thing, but did you hear me? It was AWESOME!

Battlestar Galactica Recap Season 4, Episode 12, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

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Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 12, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

Sci-Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 12, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

“A Disquiet Follows My Soul” is probably going to piss off a lot of Battlestar Galactica fans, especially coming this late in the show’s run. Many of the big plot developments occur offscreen and are only alluded to, the episode tries to shove us into the point-of-view of the members of the fleet instead of our heroes, and the whole thing is more of a grim mood piece about a species giving up without its leaders instead of the razzle-dazzle space opera we’re used to.

Battlestar Galactica Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “Sometimes a Great Notion”

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<em>Battlestar Galactica</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “Sometimes a Great Notion”
<em>Battlestar Galactica</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “Sometimes a Great Notion”

So we’re ALL Cylons now.

Battlestar Galactica gets a reputation for being a dark show, and some of that is well-deserved. It’s a show that examines some of the worst things human beings can do to each other, and it’s often unflinching in its gaze. Especially as I was reviewing the series’s third season, I would often get in arguments with commenters over the balance between the series’s mythology-advancing episodes, which took the grand master plot and set it skidding in new directions, and the series’s more angst-y, character developing episodes. The character development can often feel glacial when watched on a week-to-week basis, but I’d argue it’s necessary to make anyone give a damn about the show in the first place. What was interesting about “Sometimes a Great Notion” was that it blended a series of big, mythology-altering story points with what was maybe the darkest story yet attempted by the show, an examination of what happens when all of your dreams are crushed. Most other shows, with only a handful of episodes to go, would find a way to give the characters a glimmer of hope at the end of the episode, but Battlestar’s smarter than that. The glimmer of hope here rests solely in the fact that these characters (or at least some of them) simply decide not to give up, even though everything rational might tell them to.