Friday, December 05, 2008

Can "The Dark Knight" really take out "Titanic"? And will Whedon's "Dollhouse" really ever open?


On the surface, it might seem like a gamble for Warner Brothers to send "The Dark Knight" back to theaters Jan. 23, banking on a bounce from the Oscar nominations being announced the day before.

If you think about it, however, there's really no way the flick can lose at this point. If it snags the Best Picture nomination it clearly deserves (and some posthumous love for Heath Ledger), than a run big enough to net the $77 million domestic take needed to unseat "Titanic" as the U.S. champ becomes inevitable. But even if it doesn't, the chip that will put on the movie's devoted fans' shoulders will only gin up the drive to take the title even further.

And I'm not a "Titanic" fan or much of a hater either. I do know that "The Dark Knight" is a far superior flick, and as a sports fan I love competitions of all kinds, so I can only say bring it on (and I'll certainly contribute my $8 or so to see it again, maybe this time finally in Imax.)

But on a personal note, this weekend is now shaping up as perhaps the best movie weekend of the year. Along with visiting a friend for lunch tomorrow, I'm hitting Atlanta mostly to see two of the movies I've been looking forward to all year: "Slumdog Millionaire" and then "Milk," both at the fantastic Regal Tara theater. I can't wait, and of course feel free to check back for reviews of both soon.

Here today, however, it's mostly about the first review of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse," which has been in development for more than a year, has gone through at least two pilots and is supposedly still going to hit the airwaves in February on Fox (though I'll believe it only when I see it at this point.)

Well, it seems that Time TV critic James Poniewozik has done exactly that, and had what could be charitably be called a mixed reaction at best.

For those who can't remember (and really, who could blame you at this point), the new show from the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will be about a group of people known as "actives" or "dolls" who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new ones to perform missions. It's set to star Eliza Dushku, a k a Faith the vampire slayer, in the lead role of doll Echo, and also Olivia Williams (a k a Ms. Cross from "Rushmore") as the matron of the "dollhouse," Tahmoh Penikett of "Battlestar Galactica" as a FBI agent tracking the secret project and even "Angel" veteran Amy Acker in a recurring role (if it even goes that far) as a doctor who tends to the dolls.

After offering the qualifier that he initially misunderestimated "Firefly" when that great Whedon sci-fi Western hit the air for its far-too-brief run, Poniewozik had this to say about Whedon's new offering:

Yes, this is certainly Joss Whedon trying to do What People Think Works on Broadcast TV Today—the legendary serial-procedural hybrid. But the first episode—in which Echo is imprinted with a kidnapping-negotiator's personality to secure the return of a rich man's abducted daughter—is well enough written to be absorbing. Writing a crime hour doesn't seem like Whedon's thing, but the episode is tight, suspenseful, with intriguing psychological twists and flashes of Whedonesque humor. ...

Now the minus. Dollhouse as conceived (a heroine plays a different "person" every week) is less a series concept than an actress' showcase, a sort of extreme version of an Alias undercover premise. And the actress being showcased is Eliza Dushku. Now, I have nothing against Dushku. I thought she was fine on Buffy. But she's not exactly Toni Collette (who's playing a multiple-personality case on Showtime's The United States of Tara, which I have not seen). Watching her inhabit her imprinted "personality"—a tough negotiator with secret vulnerabilities—I did not see her becoming another person. I thought: Oh, look! There's Eliza Dushku with glasses and her hair in a bun!

If it weren't for Whedon's pedigree, I'm not sure I'd be dying to see a second episode. But for me, the main draw now is not seeing Dushku become a different person every week, but getting to see Joss Whedon become a different writer every week.


I could certainly do without the Dushku hating, but from his assessment I'd say this was just about exactly what I'd expect. Anyone who's seen the rather pedestrian first seasons of both "Buffy" and "Angel, however, knows that Whedon's stuff can often get off to a rocky start but - given the chance - eventually develop into something seriously entertaining.

You can read the rest of what Poniewozik had to say here, and like I said, please feel free to check back for a couple reviews of what are hopefully two of the year's best movies later this weekend. Peace out.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha. very funny. i'm sorry, but dark night is not a better movie than Titanic. as far as the greatest movies of all time go, dark night can't even touch Titanic. it's gotta be like a scientific fact or something.

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