40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hooked on House

My new favorite TV show is Fox's House. I'd been seeing commercials for it for weeks but had never watched an episode. I finally did, and must say I was impressed.

First, Hugh Laurie is great as Dr. Greg House, a doctor who is a great diagnostician but hates patients (he thinks they all lie). Each week he and his group of young doctors tackle a different medical mystery. The episodes follow a particular formula, which can seem repetitious at times, but then House will do something crazy in order to cure the disease/ailment/whatever the patient is suffering from.

Hugh Laurie is a British actor. If he looks a little familiar to you, well, if you're a fan of Rowan Atkinson's BBC series Blackadder, that's where you've seen Laurie before. Maybe this will jog your memory:

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That's Laurie on the left.

I'm enjoying the season one episodes on DVD, courtesy of Netflix...what would I do without Netflix?

On the opposite end of good is the new film, The Hills Have Eyes. I endured it over the weekend, and here's the review:

At what point did all of the creative people in the world stop producing material? Did all of the screenwriters just run out of material? Who can explain Hollywood's obsession with pointlessly remaking old movies for a "new" generation?

Writer/Director Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes is a loose remake of Wes Craven's 1977 cult favorite of the same name. The plot is pretty simple and can be summed up thusly: crazed cannibal mutants terrorize the Brady family. Okay, it's not the Brady family, but do you remember the Grand Canyon episode of The Brady Bunch, in which they get trapped in a ghost town? The Hills Have Eyes has a similar setting, only instead of a crazed Jim Backus, you have assorted crazed mutant cannibals who are in the mood for some human flesh.

Why mutants? Well, it turns out that the mutants are kin to miners who wouldn't leave their New Mexico desert homes while nuclear testing was being conducted, and as a result you've got a bunch of blood-thirsty mutants just waiting to try out some human flesh tikka masala. (Mmmm...tikka masala....)

We open at a deserted gas station. It's one of those creepy gas stations in horror movies where no one seems to actually be there and you know that the proprietor will have a crazed look in his eyes but will seem nice and will give folks directions to their destination — or, rather, directions to a short-cut that will take folks to the blood-thirsty mutant cannibals. Why couldn't they call the movie that? Blood Thirsty Mutant Cannibals. I like it.

We meet the Carter family, making the trek across the New Mexico desert on their way to California. In need of gas and directions, the family stops at the aforementioned gas station. The crazy gas station owner fills up the family's SUV and tells them about a short-cut through the desert that will shave two hours off of their trip. Everyone thinks accepting directions for a crazy man is a good idea and they speed off.

Of course, it's a trap. A few of the crazed mutants lay out some spikes that blow up the tires of the SUV, causing it to crash into a huge boulder, where it is totaled. Patriarch Bob Carter (Ted Levine) decides to go get some help, enlisting the help of his son-in-law, Doug (Aaron Stanford). Just like Mike and Peter did in that episode of The Brady Bunch. Left behind is matriarch Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) and daughters Lynne (Vinessa Shaw) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and son Bobby (Dan Byrd).

What eventually follows is a lot of bloodshed, as the hungry mutants blow away various members of the Carter family. It's in these moments when you'll awaken from your stupor to enjoy a few seconds of gore. I'll admit, some of the gore effects are well done. There's a great shotgun blast to the head scene.

The film does have its gross-out moments. Gore hounds might be happy with the various shootings, bludgeonings, and, in one case, impalement by miniature U.S. flag. The Carter family is very patriotic, you see.

And so it goes, moments of complete boredom followed by a few seconds of bloodshed, and all the while you're cursing Wes Craven under your breath for actually taking part in this travesty (he's a producer), as you check the time every ten seconds to see if you're any closer to the film's end.

Come it does, and as I left the theater I realized I had lost 107 minutes of my life, and I was sad. Oh well, maybe that remake of The Omen will be good.

The verdict: zero stars.

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