Well, the Wil Wheaton Project is only three episodes old, and they’ve already ripped off

Episode three included a bit about the overuse of the “Bwaaang” sound effect, which seemed pretty familiar to me. Turns out that’s because it had been done before, as part of Cracked’s “5 Bizarrely Specific Ways Every Movie Trailer Looks the Same“. The bit was just over halfway through “Project”, and the corresponding section of the Cracked video starts at 5:00, referring to the Bwaaang sound as “explosiondrums” and “drumsplosions”.

The segment is linked from the Project home page, but I’m told it’s currently unavailable. This may well be because I’m not in the USA, and the clip hasn’t been ported to Youtube (yet) so you may be forced to take my word for it.

Anyhow, this can’t be considered a good thing. To be pulling 5-month-old content from Cracked this early in the game doesn’t bode well. I don’t expect this kind of show to be sidesplittingly hilarious in anything more than very brief bursts, but plagiarism’s a pretty solid buzz kill.

Title Sequences

Some TV shows have little or no title sequence. The first one I remember doing this was Lost. Just a spooky noise, and then on with the show. There are others with really minimal titles, though none pop into mind at the moment. I love the approach – I obviously know what I’m watching.

Hannibal’s is a little longer, but at least it’s got suitable creepifying music, is graphically interesting, and is still pretty short.

There are others, though, that have just gone nuts. Game of Thrones and House of Cards spring to mind. Both of them have some cool music, which is fine and everything, but who needs to sit through two minutes or more of the same thing every week? Both sequences were cool the first time, but after that, who needs them? Maybe do the full one once, and then do the 10-15 second version after that.

I can understand having title sequences back in the day, when who played the second kid from the left might have been of interest, and there was no other way to get that information. But now, what with IMDB and everything, you can find out who the grip’s cousin was with a little type-and-click. All the title sequences provide is motivation to grab the mouse/remote/whatever and skip them.

I guess the other function would have been to give people time to get settled, and to let Aunt Maude finish up in the bathroom, and get little Jimmy his glass of milk or whatever. But I don’t know anybody who watches TV “live” anymore, unless they have no choice. And then they do (because it’s a game or an awards ceremony or something where the perception is that something important in being revealed in real time) it quickly becomes obvious just how annoying commercials really are. Especially when you have the privilege of seeing the same one several times during the same show – I have several times caught the same one twice in a row! Definitely enough to get that company on my never-buy list. Anyhow, the “get in here, Dallas is starting” motivation has largely disappeared, and even back in the day it only mattered to somebody who couldn’t read a clock.

It’s actually even more impressive that House of Cards has gone this direction, given that they’re all-online and it’s got to be pretty obvious that whoever’s watching it is doing so digitally and with the ability to jump around in the file, not to mention starting it whenever they want.

Similarly, it’s annoying to sit through the little Dreamworks (or whatever) mini-film at the beginning of a movie (usually for two or three or more companies these days) , and then to sit through the text versions as well. Whose bright idea was that? As if, having just seen a kid run and jump into a lake followed by a logo, I need to see the name in plain text in order to figure out who I’m supposed to be feeling grateful to. Does anybody even care about this stuff? I’ve never heard anybody say “Oh, I thought this was a Dreamworks picture. I’m out of here!” Not to pick on Dreamworks – they just popped into mind (ironically, because of their logo). But that’s not a positive connotation, unless it’s still “any advertising is good advertising”.

The same could obviously be said for credits at the end of the show or movie. Seriously, this can only matter to people actually being listed, and maybe their grandparents or somebody. And if you do care, it’s easy to find the info online. Given that we’re already down to 40 minutes of actual show per hour (commercials don’t count), why not claw back a few minutes for real content instead of all the dead space?

I’ve seen a few networks that do the preview of another show (or next week’s show, or whatever) split-screen with the credits; the credits are then much too small to read, but given that nobody cares about them, this doesn’t really matter. Now, granted, I don’t care about the previews either, but at least this puts the credits in their place. Sometimes, these credits are even rolled at super-speed.

Putting additional movie content during or after the credits is particularly interesting – now we’re rewarding people for sitting through an otherwise singularly unrewarding 10 minutes of scrolling names of people they (very probably) don’t know and never will.

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Now that we can jump around in the shows/movies, not to speak of watching them whenever we want, maybe I should just be glad I never need to sit through a title or credit sequence again. Those fond memories of just drumming my fingers while waiting for the real show (or waiting for the next one) are over.

Does anybody in Hollywood actually walk anywhere?

There have been several abnormal walking statements or descriptions in (relatively) recent movies, and I’m wondering if I’m missing something. I walk quite a bit, and an 11 minute mile is really pushing it in terms of pace. 15 minutes per mile is a fast walk, 20 minutes per mile is a stroll … just to provide some numbers for comparison.

In Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise (as Reacher himself) says “There’s a bus station three miles away; I can walk there in 24 minutes.” That’s 8 minutes per mile. That’s a decent jogging pace. So, there’s the problem that this is simply a stupid statement. Then there’s the additional problem for people who’ve actually read the Lee Child books: Reacher walks a lot, and he’s not an idiot, so this isn’t something he’d ever say. Needless to say, it certainly isn’t in the book the movie was based on.

My bigger problem is that this line made it through however many writers, editors, actors, and so on, and nobody seems to have noticed that the math just doesn’t work.

Then we move on to The Book of Eli. This is quite a bit more complicated, as the man doing the walking is blind, so there’s some question about his ability to walk in one direction consistently. He does say he’s walking West, and that he’s led in that direction by God, but the watcher has to wonder about his ability to interpret God’s compass.

In any case, we’re told that he’s been walking for 30 years. Wikipedia has an article listing people who have walked across the US. Looking briefly over this list, it’s pretty clear that the walk has been done in three months by a number of people, and faster by many (though some of these were running at least some of the time as opposed to walking). Another guy actually did a TED talk about doing the walk in 8 months. Granted, none of these people were blind (as far as I know) and they weren’t walking through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, even a blind Denzel should have been able to go coast to coast fifteen times or so in thirty years. Call it 10 times to allow for apocalyptic issues – at some point, shouldn’t he have had cause to find a braille compass or something? That’s more blind faith than even a willing suspension of disbelief can support.

In reviews of the movie, many people mentioned other plot issues, many about the movie’s ending. I haven’t yet seen anybody mention the walking issue, though. It’s like people just think about a map and say, “Walk? That must take forever!”

So, I guess my bigger question is whether these people just don’t ever walk anywhere. I live in the city, and I walk everywhere. I’m within 2-3 miles of anywhere I go regularly, so it’s pretty easy to sustain a car-free lifestyle. I’ve read about plenty of people who do the same. I’m guessing, though, that not many of us are in the movie business.

Monday Mornings

Monday Mornings is a brand spanking new series (I’ve only seen one episode so far). It’s a David E. Kelley show, which initially caused me some doubts – Harriet’s Law was a disaster. Several earlier shows (Ally McBeal, Boston Public) disintegrated fairly early on, and then proceeded to limp for years on the strength of new stars imported to prop up the wreckage. I did enjoy Boston Legal (largely because of James Spader), and The Practice was pretty solid all the way through. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Chicago Hope, which I think is the last medical show from Kelley, but I remember it being quite impressive.

So, as I said, I had some doubts. The first episode was pretty good, though. I thought Jamie Bamber was great in the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m glad to see him back. I’m not a big Alfred Molina fan, though he does a good job as the chief (I forget the exact title, but he’s the big cheese) – he’s a great mix of unlikeable and “sensitive inner core”. There’s a decent group of supporting cast members, including Ving Rhames (who is actually billed higher than Bamber).

The show revolves around M&M Rounds (morbidity and mortality rounds are closed sessions where the doctors discuss problem cases that may have resulted in death or other issues). The show’s title, with the two “M”s, may also be alluding to this, as well as hilighting that the rounds kick off each week. In the first episode, one “hack” doctor who really screwed up – resulting in a missed diagnosis and a woman’s early death – is kicked out of the hospital as well as being reamed by Ving Rhames (which would have to ruin anyone’s day), who makes the point that he’s only being shunted off to another hospital as opposed to being de-licensed or whatever the medical equivalent of being disbarred would be.

The somewhat odd thing is that Jamie Bamber’s character (Dr. Wilson), who is one of the hospital’s high flyers, also has a patient die during an operation. It comes out, in another M&M session, that Wilson missed several important steps before deciding on surgery (including consulting with colleagues and doing a full medical history), meaning that the possibility of the patient’s death on the operating table would have been recognized. The line was, basically, “the patient would have died soon in any case, but he’s dead today” because of Wilson’s screwup. However, in this case, no Ving Rhames beat-down (note that he was the one who brought Wilson in on the case, and actually gives him a pep talk later on). The argument would have to be that everybody loses patients occasionally, and Bamber’s character is a good doctor who made an unusual mistake, while the other guy’s character was a hack who was known as “007” (because he had a “license to kill”). I can see that, but the individual actions in the two cases were actually pretty similar.

So, it will be interesting to see where this show goes. Nice to see Kelley heading back to serious TV again, after quite some time trying to mix serious with goofy (the Denny Crane clone guy in Harriet’s Law was an absolute disaster, not just because he was so patently unoriginal and one-dimensional, but because it just wasn’t funny).

There was one false note in the episode. Kelley has something about Asian characters being hard to understand – Ling on Ally McBeal being the one exception that comes to mind. Keong Sim plays another brilliant doctor who has a successful case in the first episode, but his dialogue is written so that he’s constantly abrupt, rude, and – above all – hard to understand. He gets colloquial phrases wrong, he leaves out words. He reminded me strongly of Tzi Ma’s character in the final season of The Practice (season 8, episode 10, in case you’re looking); he was another language-mauling Asian (memorable for complaining about “malpuppet” when he meant malpractice and having his lawyer, played by Rhona Mitra, laugh at the way he talked in court). There was also a coroner in Boston Legal’s third season (in one scene only) who was similarly Asian and whose language skills were definitely sub-par. At the end of this first episode, Alfred Molina tells Keong Sim that they will need to meet about his “language skills”. Hopefully, there will be some rapid improvement in Sim’s character’s English, so that Kelley can stop beating this particular (and, again, previously used) drum.

Jack Reacher

I was one of many who was caught between shock, disgust, and amusement when the news came out that Tom Cruise had been cast in the lead role of 2012’s Jack Reacher, the first movie made from one of Lee Child‘s series of novels about a former MP of the same name. The main problem is that in the novels, a great deal of time and emphasis is put in the fact that Reacher is huge. Reacher is 6’5″, and ranges between 210 and 250 depending on how many swimming pools he’s been digging by hand recently. He regularly knocks people out with a single blow, or successfully takes on multiple opponents.

Not to overburden the point, but Tom Cruise isn’t huge. By any stretch. At the risk of stating the obvious, he’s also a cult member, exhibits a bit of a freakish personality, and his personal life is a disgrace. I generally try to ignore the personalities and personal lives of celebrities, because I honestly don’t care – I have trouble enough caring about people I actually know, never mind trying to extend this to fake facebook “friends”. There’s nothing to spare for strangers who happen to be on a screen of one size or another. Still, Cruise’s antics managed to pierce even my well-developed apathy.

Anyhow, Cruise certainly didn’t fit my idea of Reacher, and I wasn’t alone in this. Message boards, on IMDB and elsewhere, exploded with complaints and threats to boycott the movie, as well as suggestions for better fits for the part (Ray Stevenson was one of the better suggestions). People complained about Lee Child having sold out, or defended him for not having had that level of control, and so it went.

One of the scenes in the preview was of Cruise stepping into a crowd at a bus stop to evade some police who were chasing him. There was a great deal of hilarity around the idea of the casting call, specifically looking for a group of 5’2″ people to make him look at least average in height. Speculation was rife about how they would have him on huge risers, shoot exclusively from the ground up, and/or hire a lot of tiny fellow actors, in order to try to make Cruise fit the huge “Reacher” mold.

However, when December rolled around, I decided to support the story and the author, as opposed to expressing my doubts about Cruise in this role. And, I have to confess, I’m glad I did.

Jack Reacher (the movie) was based on the novel One Shot, which is the 9th novel in the series. The first shot of Cruise was shot from the floor up at his back, and I thought “Oh, here we go …” but that was the last time they shot anything specifically to make him look particularly imposing. They basically just dropped all references to Reacher’s size. He was still a tough former MP, but not a large one. This was surprisingly effective, and the fact that both the “leading lady” and the leading henchman were bigger than Cruise completely deflated my size-related objections to the movie. I have no idea if any changes were made after the public outcry about Cruise, but either way, the result was pretty impressive.

I have to admit it, Cruise gives pretty good action. The early MI movies are a little dated at this point, of course, but they were entertaining at the time. I liked The Last Samurai, though I may be in the minority there.

My remaining problems with the movie are mostly just standard-Hollywood-crap stuff. The final showdown in the novel is very different from the one in the movie (relying on Reacher dousing himself in freezing water and then walking slowly toward the bad guys in order to avoid detection via infrared, as opposed to the movie’s run-and-gun approach). Also, the idea of Reacher getting the drop on the henchman to the extent that he has his gun to the guy’s head, and then throwing the gun away so they can duke it out was pure Hollywood, and extremely non-Reacher. This happened in Gangster Squad too, apropos of nothing, and it was equally annoying. Generally, the story was pretty close to the novel, but this was definitely a false note.

So, Cruise isn’t the novel’s Reacher, but he does a pretty good movie Reacher. If further Reacher movies are in the works, I’ll be less likely to complain to anybody I think might care (at least until I actually see the movie).

Skyfall and Underwater Combat

I just saw Skyfall, and was quite impressed. Daniel Craig provides all the usual Bond-ness, as well as a believable action hero. Javier Bardem never fails to please as a crazy / creepy villain. Even Ralph Fiennes, who I hadn’t realized was in the movie and thus initially assumed was the bad guy (on the “it’s a recognizable actor who I didn’t expect to see” rule – apparently this doesn’t apply outside TV) ended up fitting right in.

The storyline was interesting, and provided a little backstory for Bond himself – something these films largely have steered away from. There was an interesting, and well-underlined, moment late in the movie when the justification for having agencies and agents like these was explained. I’m not sure I agree exactly in the real world, but at least within the world of the movie, it provided a sense of purpose.

So, all in all, an enjoyable film. It was marred though, for me, by a basic misunderstanding about human biology evidenced in a fight scene near the end of the movie. This fight is between Bond and an underling / sidekick type, so (very minor spoiler alert) it’s no surprise that Bond eventually prevails. What is a surprise is that though the fight takes place underwater, both Bond and the sidekick spend most of the fight attempting to choke one another.

It may just be me, and I must admit that I’ve never fought anybody underwater, but I would think that the objective in such a circumstance would be to attempt to force your opponent to breathe, as opposed to stopping him from doing so. There’s no logical reason to attempt to cut off someone’s air supply when all that’s available is a (fatal) water supply. All you’re doing by choking someone is prolonging the period where they’re not breathing water!

On a side note, I feel like I’m missing an Air Supply (the band) joke there, possibly about how the music is fatally sappy, but feel free to submit one in the comments if you feel strongly about it.

Anyhow, this fight scene felt absolutely backwards because of this. We’re one guy away from the boss fight, and both Bond and the last sidekick forget that humans breathe air?

After the scene ended, I had a brief flashback to a terrible early 90s Charlie Sheen movie (I’ve just looked it up, and it was actually called Navy Seals). One early scene from that movie involved a fight underwater (if you could call it a fight). Basically, the SEAL in question – probably Charlie Sheen –  simply grabbed the guy and dragged him deeper and deeper in the water. I don’t remember if there was any dialogue around this, but the clear message was that if you know without a doubt that you can hold your breath longer than the other guy, you don’t need to fight him – just wait him out, and make him wait with you. All the bad guy was trying to do at the end was to get away – as another non-spoiler, I don’t think he makes it.

This approach is actually taught (or was taught at one point, back when I was young) as part of lifeguard certifications. One major safety issue in a rescue situation is getting grabbed by a panicking drowning person, who then proceeds to attempt to climb you in order to get to the surface, and thus ends up drowning you along with them. There are several outs, including just punching the person in the face (something like that happens in the middle of that Kevin Costner Coast Guard rescue swimmer movie from a few years ago – you can look that one up yourself if you want to). The simpler alternative, though, is just to drag the person underwater. Then you are no longer a route to perceived safety, and the drowner stops trying to use you as a flotation device. Needless to say, in the “lifeguard” scenario, the point is to get free so you can then turn around and save the person, not to continue dragging them under forever, a la Charlie Sheen. I can only imagine that you would fail the certification exam if you forgot that last bit.

It’s got to be a bit embarrassing when a bad movie from 15 years ago, starring Charlie Sheen of all people, as an action hero of all things, manages to get something right that goes oh so wrong here.

So, this is not to say that the movie was ruined, or anything along those lines. Just that it was a jarring error in both basic human biology and hand-to-hand combat tactics (at least as I understand them, purely as a bystander) at a very late stage of the game in an otherwise enjoyable experience. Did anybody else notice this, or did I miss something, or can everybody else just breathe underwater and I somehow lost the coupon for the upgrade?

Same old same old

I suppose it was inevitable, with the massive proliferation of TV channels and the constant hunger for new shows, that repetition would become more obvious. I don’t mean just the spin-offs from established franchises (all the CSIs or Law and Orders), but rather “new” shows that are clones of other new shows. Let me give you a few examples.

Last year, two new cop shows began. “Southland” and “The Unusuals” were different in many ways, with The Unusuals being much funnier and having better (read wackier) characters, and thus being doomed to failure (canceled after only one season) – Southland is still going (in theory anyway). Here’s the thing, though. Both shows’ main character was a rich kid who decided to walk away from it all and become a regular cop. This was also the year that “Castle” began, with one rich writer as assistant cop, and (you guessed it) a former rich kid who had thrown it all away to become a regular cop.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Castle (probably the most of the three, though The Unusuals had great potential). But what’s with the central idea? Does somebody shop these ideas around town, have them rejected a time or two (or fake-rejected so they can be developed by somebody else) and the finally sell them? Actually, now that I read that, it doesn’t sound that improbable. But wouldn’t we all be better off without three near-identical main ideas fighting for survival?

That said, these three shows did go in wildly different directions. The Unusuals was the funniest, and got some flack for trying too hard. Castle is funny at at times, but mostly because of situations as opposed to slapstick. Southland isn’t funny at all, or hardly ever, as it’s aiming for that hard-bitten approach.

Still, it’s easy to see that they all depart from a pretty similar point.

Similarly, we have “Haven,” and “Happy Town.” (I think there are a couple of others I can’t call to mind right now as well). These two (and others?) are about supernatural (or otherwise weird) things happening in small towns where weirdness happened in the past but then stopped. Needless to say, the weirdness returns in time for a father-and-son small-town police force to be shocked into action. Happy Town has already been canceled, which is nothing but a relief as the two episodes I forced myself to finish were painful in the extreme.

Haven just started, and is not quite as painful (though still pretty bad), and might have some legs as it is loosely tied to a Stephen King story (The Colorado Kid). My main problem is the essential lameness of the main plot idea – a small town where a lot of people (if not everyone) have some bizarre supernatural powers. I mean bizarre as in making mental patients sane but everyone else insane, or controlling the weather with their emotions … just odd stuff. As stated above, this is all being investigated in a crime-solving framework, which just makes it awkward. At least the X-Files had aliens to throw into the mix every second or third episode, not just an unending freak show (and not just in one town).

Maybe I’m just not cut out for “supernatural drama,” which I was surprised to find out is a semi-recognized category (Wikipedia-recognized, anyway, for what that’s worth). I found “Eastwick” painful as well (even while I wanted to see Paul Gross onscreen again), and I’ve never been able to get into “True Blood” or “Torchwood.” At the same time, I loved “Dead Like Me” and the couple of episodes of “The Dresden Files” I’ve managed to catch, though that may have more to do with having liked the books than with the show itself.

Back to cop shows, we have a group of cop shows with a “gimmick” main character – “The Mentalist” (2008) and “Lie to Me” (2009). Depending on your analysis, you might also want to include “Law and Order – Criminal Intent,” depending on how you read the work of the “genius” male lead(s) of the “Major Case Squad”. The Mentalist and Lie to Me are both decent shows, with interesting lead characters, good, acting, some humour, good stories, and a plot arc that continues outside the individual episodes. They’re both quite watchable – my only complaint is that they’re both the same story. Some guy can, due to his training and experience (either in science or as a magician/con man) tell when people are lying, and cracks cases other people couldn’t because of this “skill” (or whatever). In both shows, the liars’ “tells” are explained (and thus the exposé isn’t magic, but skill) and this provides part of the interest as well (“maybe I could learn this” – never a factor in the supernatural stuff – was that a twitch? LIAR!).

It just seems odd to me that with the amount of money being so obviously poured into the entertainment industry as a whole, that a little innovation, imagination, or effort couldn’t produce something both unique and interesting. As it is, many of the industry’s offerings are neither.

Maybe I’m pushing too hard. As I’ve said, I do enjoy both Lie to me and The Mentalist, for all their similarities. Depending on how you break them down, there are only 14 or 36 or 20 plots in all of literature, so maybe asking for uniqueness isn’t practical. Still, since all cop shows are really one plot (Friedman’s “Action Plot”), maybe that type of breakdown might be too general to be useful in this type of discussion.

I don’t have an answer – I just know that if another show comes out this season, featuring a small town with “strange occurrences” or a formerly rich cop who can read minds, I’m not going to be rushing to the TV Guide to find out when it’s on.

Plot holes in Salt

As mentioned in Spys in Flats, I noticed a couple of gaping plot holes in this week’s new release, Salt. Well, to say I noticed them isn’t an attempt to flatter myself – you would have to be blind or in Hollywood to miss them. Or maybe they were noticed and nobody cared. I don’t know, but given that it looks like there may be a sequel, I thought a little illumination on the subject might be worthwhile.

Note that there are SPOILERS-A-PLENTY in the following.

At the beginning of the movie, and shown in all the previews I saw, Salt’s cover is blown. A Russian, who proves to have been her handler for the past 30 years or so, walks into the CIA (or whatever cookie-cutter-type agency) Salt works at, and gives up the information that there will be an attempt on the life of the Russian President while he’s in the States for a funeral. He then wraps up by saying that the assassin’s name is Evelyn Salt (and thus that Jolie is the spy).

She is, of course, immediately detained until they can look into this. During this time, the Russian agent kills his two escorts and walks to safety, leaving Salt (the Russian agent) to look out for herself.

Surely this must be the all-time most incomprehensible way of kicking off a mission! I mean, I’ve heard of leaving chalk marks on mailboxes, or having the window blinds half-way up. These days there’s email and phones and on and on and on. The only kickoff this guy could think of was to focus everybody’s attentions and suspicions on his long-hidden and very well-placed assassin?

It turns out that all this is a long-established plot to place well-trained Russian child agent sleepers in the US, so that they could grow up and attain positions of trust. Salt certainly did, and there are early indications that she’s not the only one. This isn’t a unique plot element, as I know I’ve read something similar before, but I can’t place it at the moment. Still, this general idea was handled well. So well, in fact, that the whole situation above seems even more moronic in comparison.

OK, so that’s one. Surely they would have had a way to notify Salt, to set her “active” and give her a mission, without blowing her cover at the same time (thus making it impossible – or movie-all-but-impossible – for her to succeed). Granted that thirty years ago it wouldn’t have been email, but there are plenty of options.

The second came at the end of the movie. Note that I’m not describing action-holes (one person going hand-to-hand with two or three other trained professionals and kicking their butts) here, but rather plot holes. Action holes are part of the genre, and we accept them even as we remember that these things are just begging to kill us if we tried them in real life. Just as punching somebody in the face is just as likely to break your fist as it is their jaw – still, there are few things as movie-satisfying as somebody crumpling under the hero’s (gender-free term) righteous blow.

OK, so the second plot hole (again, SPOILERS). As forecasted, there are other Russian sleepers in positions of trust. One of these gets Salt into the White House, and then sells his life in a bid to get the (US) President into a bunker under the White House. She also manages to get down there, and kicks and punches her way into the bunker itself. There she finds that (yet) another Russian sleeper has killed everyone but the President, after waiting for them to get the nuclear missile launch codes almost all the way verified. This new sleeper has a little conversation with the President (while Salt was running and kicking outside) in an attempt to get the President to OK the final launch, explaining the sleeper plot, giving his “real Russian name, and so on. The President bravely tells him to get lost, and receives a pistol-blow to the head for his troubles, knocking him unconscious – I think – after which his hand-print is used to verify the launch.

Two-minute delay before launching, during which time Salt breaks in, beats up the new sleeper, and cancels the launch at the last second. The (too late) security forces arrive at that moment, and shoot her in the back just as she disables the launch. It’s OK, she was shot in the vest (surprise, surprise) and is fine. Everybody knows getting shot in a bulletproof vest is like a walk in the park (never mind – action hole, not plot hole).

Here comes the plot hole: Salt, in cuffs, is marched out of the bunker, through the White House, toward a helicopter that will take her somewhere cold and dark (presumably). They walk her right past the new sleeper (the guy who killed all the bunker personnel and knocked out the President). She, in quite a cool scene, kills him. The reasoning she gives is that someone had to do it, and that nobody else would believe he was a sleeper.

What about the President?

Unless I missed it (always possible) there is no clear indication that the President is dead. You don’t see him again, but the sleeper does say “Somebody look after the President” or words to that effect when the security people finally break into the bunker and shoot Salt. The President is certainly never shot (though others are, and shooting him would have been a great “evil sleeper agent” moment). So, as far as I can tell, the President (who, you remember, heard what amounts to a full confession by the new sleeper agent) is alive and well, though possibly with a headache (another action plot hole to do with blows to the head and concussions, but never mind).

Salt, at the end of the movie, is on the run, having vowed to kill the other sleepers. OK, and more power to her, but there’s no reason for her to be on the run at all. Two minutes with the President, asking him to point a finger at the person who hit him and killed everybody else, would be enough to clear up the ultimate-bad-guy problem. Now, granted, Salt did cause a little mayhem and beat up some people. She even shot some folks, but they were just red-shirts (turns out she didn’t kill the Russian President after all, just paralyzed him). So, maybe a slap on the wrist …

Now, obviously this movie wasn’t written by John Le Carré or even Tom Clancy, and I’ve been told it was originally meant for Tom Cruise – troubling in itself – but surely whomever did write it could have done better than this? I watch a fair number of movies and a fair amount of TV, and I’ve come to expect plastic-thin characters, meaningless dialogue, and plots that are obviously an excuse for action as opposed to a motivation for it. Even so, surely this must be a new low?

Or am I thinking too much about an action movie? Should everything (including plot) be put under the action-movie banner and just brainlessly enjoyed for what it is? Clearly, the Karate Kid franchise couldn’t survive any other way …

Spys in flats

I just watched “Salt,” the new Angelina Jolie spy-action movie. In terms of the action, it was pretty impressive. There were a couple of plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, which I’ll address in another posting, but I thought I should mention something specific that leapt out in the early moments of the movie. There are no spoilers involved, as the action I’m discussing was in the preview anyway.

At the beginning of the movie, Salt (who is an acronym-agency spy of some kind, possibly CIA) is outed as a Russian agent and brought under suspicion with her colleagues. They promptly detain her, and she promptly escapes. During the escape, she removes her high heels so that she will be able to run/fight better. She then proceeds to run around the building she’s in, escape through a window, and run around the streets of DC in bare feet.

I can understand the not wanting to run in heels part, and I’m sure that the “I’ll just beak the heels off and then I’ll be fine” approach doesn’t really work in real life. But in the back of my mind, throughout all this action, was the thought, “That must be KILLING her feet!” Similarly, “No, not the fire escape! Don’t run across the grate! Watch out for broken glass!” and so on.

Now that I think of it, the Japanese Yakuza guy in the new Predators movie also chose barefoot over dress shoes, in the jungle, with a lot of freaky wildlife around. I did  notice it then, but he carried it off with a certain “curling my toes into the mud” nonchalance that made it seem a little more natural. And, of course, ot was the jungle, which everyone knows is easy on the feet (?).

I don’t spend a lot of time in bare feet myself, aside from wandering around my apartment. Maybe I’m different from everyone else; maybe my feet are softer or wimpier than most. And, needless to say, I don’t spend a lot of time in high heels either (I can never find anything in my size). But given the wincing and mincing that has accompanied past bare-footed forays across roads (to get to the beach), gravel (to get to the lake), and so on, there’s no way I would choose bare-footed as my escape-and-evade option. Heck, I’d pick up a pair of high heels before going barefoot. Otherwise, my slow and cautious escape would be bound to fail miserably. Of course, my high-heeled escape would be equally slow and cautious, with the added embarrassment of everyone commenting on my gams.

So, a word to all those spies out there. Maybe it’s time for a general fashion choice: Wear flats. Or even trainers on those “Might get my cover blown today” days.

Angels and Devils

During the past few episodes of 24 (and needless to say, there is a SPOILER ALERT in effect), a fair amount of time has been given to the good vs. evil struggle between former President (and known evil bastard) Charles Logan and current President Taylor’s Secretary of State (former Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin). There is a very palpable sense of the little devil and the little angel on President Taylor’s shoulders as these two play tug-of-war with her surprisingly malleable opinions and decisions.

So much so, in fact, that I find myself singing softly to myself, “He’s the devil,” whenever Logan appears and makes another bid for Taylor to do something unethical and doomed to long-term failure (because it’s against Jack’s wishes, among other reasons).

I guess, having thought about it a bit, that I actually enjoy President Taylor’s being a lot more flawed this season. Gives the show a bit more depth, and some of that “the government can never work because” sort of feeling. Democracy is flawed because people, both as individuals and in the aggregate, make terrible decisions (less flawed than when only one person gets to make all the decisions, mind you). This plays out well on the show, as they’re now trying madly to cover up their cover-up of the initial incident this season.

I think that the worst part of this (from a “feeling for the characters” sort of view) is that President Taylor knows she’s wrong, knows it’s all slipping away, and yet can’t help herself. I anticipate her cracking up before the season ends, but I’ll just have to wait and see.