Monthly Archives: February 2011

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Predator”

Dear Frank,

So, okay, you say that you’ve watched Predator, but I’m here to question whether you’ve truly seen it. For one thing, you never talk about it, and having just seen it for the first time a few days ago, I can tell you that I CAN’t stop talking about it. Maybe it’s been a while for you? Or maybe you’ve forgotten how incredible this movie is.

Also, I just checked with your girlfriend and she says you don’t have two penises. Given that this movie’s hypermasculinity caused me to GROW a penis while watching it (it is kind of weird having a penis, for the record!), and it seems unlikely that you were born without one, I can only assume that you have not truly let Predator into your heart.

So lemme tell you what happens in Predator so you truly understand. Some bad-ass Alan Silvestri music takes us into the jungles of… I dunno. Probably South America somewhere. It was the 80s, after all. And you know it’s the 80s, because here’s Ahnuld, ripped and youthful, accompanying his team of commandos off a helicopter and into a base.

Here, he meets Carl Weathers! And let me just get this out of my system now: Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “The Hunger Games” (Sorta.)

Dear Frank,

This week, I’m deviating a bit from our established pattern to tell you about something not so you can skip watching it, but instead to encourage you (and others) to enjoy it. See, Frank, I am fully aware of the fact that you are a cultured man who has read many books, long complex books that use big words. I bet you’ve even finished a David Foster Wallace novel! Maybe not Infinite Jest, because c’mon, but certainly maybe one of his shorter works.

So I understand that young adult fiction might not necessarily be your genre of choice. But The Hunger Games, a post-apocalyptic trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins, is a terrific and heart-breaking ride. And you should read it.

I’m making a big thing of this because I first read The Hunger Games about three weeks ago, and the second I started talking about it, it turned out that, like, half of my friends had also read it! And had not told me about how great it was! Which is bullshit! Friends, I mean no offense, I know you lead busy lives, but stuff like this is IMPORTANT, okay? (Sure, this would have all been avoided had I been reading IO9 regularly, but whatever.)

Anyways, here are the basics: In a bleak post-America totalitarian empire called Panem, 12 districts live under the thumb of the Capital, which every year demands a “tribute” of one teenage boy and girl, who are forced to compete in a televised fight to the death. (Yeah, another social commentary on the evils of reality TV, though to Collins’ credit it doesn’t belabor this point too hard.)

So, yes, technically, this is a young adult series, but it’s also a young adult series where, in the first book alone, over twenty children are brutally murdered. These books do not fuck around. Read the rest of this entry

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

Hey, want to check out on the complete series? A guide to all seven seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” as well as its spinoff “Angel,” can be found in “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides,” now available on Amazon!

A quick bit of back story: Karmically I feel obligated to write this guide, because I never would have watched Buffy without my friend Nicky. Nicky was a good friend from high school who moved to Arizona my senior year; for the next five or so years, I’d visit every once in a while for a few days of sitting on her couch and watching TV. (It was glorious.)

It was on one of those trips — right before the premiere of Buffy season four, if I recall — that Nicky said “Okay, it’s time for you to understand Buffy,” and using her insane archive of videotapes (Nicky taped everything) I proceeded to get a highly compressed version of the first three seasons, which was instrumental in helping me fall in love with the show.

The first season of Buffy is a season spent figuring out tone and plot and character; there are a few great episodes, but nowhere near the number that would follow in subsequent years. So, if you’re new to the show that made Joss Whedon a nerd god and wanna get to the good stuff faster, here you go!

Buffy Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Batman and Robin”

Dear Frank,

So as you know, I’m a very big fan of performance artist Lady Gaga, primarily because in the world of pop music, she’s the rare person unafraid to truly experiment. Like, I know there are plenty of people giving her shit over coming to the Grammys last night ensconced inside a translucent egg, but frankly I kinda loved it. Especially because she also came on stage inside said egg, basically making the red carpet a dramatic lead-up to her onstage performance, which is such a bold and interesting way of approaching the conceit of an awards show! Lady Gaga is so great.

Why am I talking about Lady Gaga, Frank, when (as the subject of this post clearly states) I am here to tell you what happens in the 1997 film Batman and Robin? Here’s the deal. We all know this is a terrible movie (Akiva Goldsman, even Fringe being awesome doesn’t mean I forgive you). But while other cinematic disasters I’ve told you about were failures because of a lack of talent or inspiration, that’s not where Batman and Robin falls apart. Batman and Robin is fucking terrible, but it’s fucking terrible because it was a bold attempt at capturing a certain spirit in film format — specifically, being a live-action comic book.

The primary problem, of course, is that the people involved have this completely childish idea of what comic books are — probably because the last time they read a piece of sequential art, they were actually children — and the entire movie is a fucking mess. But there is a part of me that admires the amount of risk taken here, the flat-out balls of trying something new with what was previously such a profitable franchise. The visual extravagance of this film alone could inspire an entire concert’s worth of Lady Gaga ensembles. In short: This is probably why I am not in charge of a major motion picture studio, but there is a part of me that would rather Hollywood make five flat-out insane Batman and Robins than one generic and blah Transformers.

Thus ends my defense of Batman and Robin. Let’s begin making fun of it, shall we? Read the rest of this entry

“Fringe” Season One: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

Hey, want to check out on the complete series? A guide to all five seasons of “Fringe” can be found in “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides,” now available on Amazon!

A few weeks ago, I spent a whole bunch of words telling Frank how great the show Fringe is. But I included this one caveat: The first season is pretty problematic, as it darts between narrative-heavy developments and stand-alone monster episodes almost at random. That might have worked for The X-Files in its day, but screw The X-Files, it’s the 21st century and Chris Carter floats in exile on a surfboard. We can demand more from our TV, is what I’m saying.

So (because I have had at least four friends request it) here is a guide to watching Fringe that should help you avoid the less consequential episodes and focus on the good stuff that relates to the ongoing narrative. I try to add as much guidance as possible when it comes to the Watch It episodes, so that if you’re on the fence about a particular storyline you can use your own judgement. But otherwise, trust in me to steer you around the dull bits.

Fringe Season One: The Skip It/Watch It Guide Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Babylon 5″

Dear Frank,

So I don’t think it’s any secret that I pretty much spent the 1990s watching whatever sci-fi television was readily available to me. But one that I’ve never given much thought to was Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski’s five-year tale of a space station caught in the middle of intergalactic war. Maybe a part of it was the fact that my heart at that point belonged to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and there were only so many space station shows to which I could pledge eternal fealty? I dunno, to be honest. I just know that it’s weird, because I have been rewatching Babylon 5 this week, Frank, and Babylon 5? Actually kind of awesome.

The basic deal was this: Babylon 5 was a space station created as a port of call for a Mos Eisley cantina’s worth of alien races as well as a neutral seat of politics for various planetary federations — ostensibly doing what the United Nations did after World War II to prevent another interstellar war.

Instead, though, it ended up becoming an independent political force that led a war against a totally ancient first evil called the Shadows (you know they were evil because their space ships looked like giant spiders, and yes, it’s a first evil with space ships, just go with it), not to mention an Earth gone completely fascist and no shortage of inter-species fighting. It’s an incredibly dense four seasons of narrative, covering the political situations on at least four different planets simultaneously with the on-station intrigue, while also managing to find time for some incredibly endearing characters, romance, time travel, religious symbolism, telepaths and the occasional Looney Tunes clip. Read the rest of this entry

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