Nikita: 2.0 (2010)

This is a follow-up to my review of the premiere episode of Nikita, which you can read here.

In the sophomore episode of CWs new secret agent series, Nikita, the corrupt agency Division attempts to make a deal with a shady imprisoned Russian arms dealer, by setting him free. Rouge agent Nikita and her undercover sister-in-arms Alex, attempt to foil these plans, meanwhile the backstory between Nikita and Alex is further developed via flashbacks that show how they met, and how Nikita saved Alex and got her clean.

So with this new episode the series has its head placed squarely on the proverbial chopping block, at least in terms of my involvement. If it doesn't show vast improvements, this'll be the last episode I'll watch. From the word go it's obvious that this dire situation has escaped the attention of the producers (what? they don't read my blog?!) The teaser opening of the story shows Nikita buying a high-powered riffle from a classy black market arms dealer. It turns out he's got other plans for Nikita, but it also turns out that she's prepared for this.

Now, my good friend and screenwriter Lars has taught me one very important thing: Every good scene must have a "turn". There must be a change of direction during the scene that we did not predict going in. The only thing worse than a scene without such a turn of events, is when the turn is so embarrassingly obvious that it hurts. The opening scene of this episode demonstrates the problem, which is symptomatic of everything Nikita has showed us so far.

A meeting with an arms dealer? Gee, I wonder if he'll turn out to be bad (he does.) Gee, I wonder if he'll point the gun at her and say something like "my price has gone up!" (he does.) But maybe Nikita is prepared for this, and has magically emptied his gun, despite not having time for this (she is, she has.) And then, what if she points the gun she was going to buy towards him, even though any moron would know not to keep a weapon like that loaded? (she does, and apparently it IS loaded.) Every scene in the show proceeds along this line. Every tedious turn of events is predictable, and often doesn't make any sense, or is merely badly written.

In fact the whole setup for the show is questionable. I'm sure the folks behind Nikita watched the original film, but apparently they didn't understand it (you should have paid attention to those itty-bitty words at the bottom of the screen.) Take the training facility, for example. In the original the premise is simple: They take people who have nothing to live for, break them down completely, and rebuild them with a new purpose - contract killing. In the series they take insubordinate teens and turn them into highly trained, deadly assassins. How is this best accomplished? Probably not by placing them in a hostile authoritarian environment - the kind of authority they most likely rejected in the first place - where they are treated like shit, offer them NO incentive to improve, and give them plenty of time alone to plot and conspire, or slit each other's throats.

It's probably also a bad idea to pimp out a young, angry girl to be a plaything for a Russian mob guy, two weeks into her training. That's what Division does in this episode, and of course the young girl is Alex. And how do they get her to do this? They tell her nothing... So let me get this straight: You send a girl out in the field, who tried to escape mere weeks ago, she's supposed to whore her body out, there's no objective in the mission, and no one tells her any of this...? Yeah... That'll definitely work.

Another questionable aspect of the whole Alex situation is that in order for the contrived plot to work, she must stay in constant communication with Nikita, from within a HIGHLY secured, secret organization. They're actually IM'ing away on a daily basis, sharing every little detail of their mission! That seems stupid and dangerous to me. Shouldn't they at the very least use a code language or something? Of course they can't do this, because the writers have no other way of spoon-feeding us the information we need. Oh, and remember how I said it was going to be a problem that Nikita had no one to talk to? Well, lo and behold, suddenly her IM client comes with speech software! Everything Alex writes is read by a computer voice, and Nikita can simply talk out loud, to write her back. Maybe I should have given clear instructions... GIVE HER SOME FREAKIN' HUMAN INTERACTIONS, you morons! Nikita needs people around her, or the character won't work. She's already begun to talk to herself ("Who the hell are these guys?" she asks, while crouching alone on a rooftop with a riffle.) They also need to give her some street smarts in a damn hurry. Maggie Q's ass might be as perfect as they come, but Nikita appears to be dangerously inept at that whole secret agent stuff, making one rookie mistake after another. Actually, maybe the writers need street smarts, 'cause they seem to depend on her stupidity to move the plot forward.

The second episode of Nikita has sealed the deal for me. When the show is not downright bad, it's just mediocre - so heartbreakingly mediocre. I won't watch any more episodes, and I hope they cancel the show soon, so Maggie Q can go back to feature films where she belongs. As for the "creative" team I suggest a calming vacation far away from the rat race of serialized television. Go to Europe, or something. I hear Venice is nice.


Nikita: Pilot (2010)

Last Thursday The CW network aired the pilot episode of Nikita - The newest incarnation of the classic French story, about a reluctant assassin, who works for a clandestine government agency.

Luc Besson's original La Femme Nikita from 1990 was a masterstroke of modern action cinema. The less said about the American shot-by-shot remake from 1993 the better. Then came the 1997 TV-series with Peta Wilson in the titular role, which ran for 5 seasons, and managed to stand on its own two unbelievably gorgeous legs. And so we reach 2010, and another TV-series. This time with Maggie Q in the lead role. Did we need that?

The story picks up 3 years after Nikita escaped from Division, the aforementioned agency. Suddenly she's back on the radar. She makes no attempt to conceal her motive: She wants to take down the organisation which has corrupted so many young people, and taught them to kill. The pilot simultaneously tells the story of a new young girl Alex, who is captured and put through the ringer, much like Nikita was in the original story. Her death is faked, and unless she cooperates, she really will be dead. She'll have to train to be a coldblooded assassin, side by side with a bunch of other teens. The episode sets up the two characters Nikita and Alex, their dual storylines, plus the team from Division that will hunt Nikita down.

Let me be blunt: Maggie Q is a goddess. She's stunningly beautiful. She's got a gorgeous body, but she's also got that dangerous look in her eyes. Like she could reach out and snap your neck with one hand, without spilling a drop of the cocktail she's holding in the other. Here's what she's not: She's not warm. She's not emotional. She's not vulnerable. Nikita is, though. The character needs those elements to work, and frankly I can't see Maggie's version carrying this show.

I mean, how is this going to work? Nikita will be all alone on her mission, she'll have no one to communicate with (except through IM), and so inevitably we'll form a bond with the only character we can relate to, Alex. In other words: Nikita will be a background character in a show called Nikita, which will really focus on a character called Alex. Of course, we don't know where the show will end up yet, maybe this is just part of a clever plan, but we need to be included in that plan in a damn hurry, or Nikita will fall flat on its face.

I must also confess, I was actually a bit confused at first. Alex's back-story is identical to the original Nikita's, was this a flashback? Alex's other experiences were also identical (I mean IDENTICAL) to Nikita's experiences in the original film, so what the hell is going on? Okay, obviously I caught on quickly, but why would you want to gamble with the expectations of hardcore fans like this? And why would you create a muddled dual storyline, when what we really need is a single clear line to hook us, and pull us in. Besides, is it just me, or is this more or less Alias? The Nikita part of the story anyway.

On top of the unnecessarily complex setup, the rest of the episode is pretty badly written, stuffed to the brim with low-grade spy clichés. Stuff like a character being COMPLETELY surprised at a new development one moment, only to reveal that this was AAAAAALL PART of the plan 2 seconds later.

As for the other characters... Shane West takes on the part played by Tcheky Karyo in the original, and Gabriel Byrne in the remake. Unfortunately he looks like he's 16 years old. And what's that? Indie talent Aaron Stanford in the thankless role of "the token tech guy"? Say it ain't so... I guess mediocre small films that no one sees don't pay the bills. Then they have Xander Berkeley as the generic angry boss, and Lyndsy Fonseca of Kick-Ass fame as Alex. She's cute, but the character needs SO much work.

Add to this a cheap TV look (there's a reason modern action movies are expensive), badly staged fights, complete lack of blood (despite close-quarter gun-battles and some impressive knife wielding), and you've got one dud of a pilot on your hands. We did not need a remake (or reboot) of Nikita, but if you're going to do it, at least have some style, and remember why the original worked (here's a hint: It's not the action and the spy stuff). I'll check out episode 2, but that's the last chance this show will get. Without massive improvements, Nikita will be dead to me.

A Purely Visual Guide to the Brilliance of Citizen Kane

This is a series of screenshots of the 1941 movie Citizen Kane. I'll let the images speak for themselves.


Sorry to subject you to what is essentially my prep for an upcoming podcast about Citizen Kane, but just look at those images. They don't make movies like that anymore. In fact, I'm not sure they ever did.

The rest is silence.


Words to Live by


The idea of a "top movie quotes" list is not exactly new. Thousands and thousands of such lists are created EVERY second somewhere in the world. Or something. But instead of a traditional "best of" list, how about doing a "my personal favorites" list? A list of movie quotes I, myself, actually use every day!

So without further ado, here's a list of stuff you can actually hear me say on a daily basis!



"Nonsense, Maurice!"
from Madagascar (2005)

A quote from one of my favorite films, and a handy put down of anyone who dares to say something I disagree with (it happens more often than you'd think). You have to say it, though, in that weird King Julian accent.

"My nipples explode with delight!"
from the Monty Python sketch Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook

I could probably litter this page with Monty Python quotes if I so desired, but I won't. To compensate, I've chosen this unbeatable quote, which is actually from the TV-show. You will find it impossible to express unadulterated excitement any other way from now on!

"How long is this going to take?!"
from Madagascar (2005)

Ever find yourself being impatient with something, like a computer or a co-worker? Try screaming this at them, again, you have to use that King Julian accent.

"This isn't going to have a happy ending..."
from Se7en (1995)

On top of being the best film ever made, Se7en sports this chilling quote from the stoic Morgan Freeman, spoken at a particularly crucial time in the film. You can use this, as you embark on a futile endeavour, you just can't get out of.

"You are a sad, strange little man."
from Toy Story (1995)

You might get slapped in the face when you say this to someone, but it's so worth it. Watch the utter horror in the eyes of a friend or foe, as you obliterate their soul and crush their spirit with this perfect prose. Works on girls too.

"The horror... The horror..."
from Apocalypse Now (1979)

In the face of stupidity, shock or disbelief, you can't go wrong with the classic closing line from Francis Ford Coppola's epic war film. Also a great way to call out posers. People who have actually seen the film will nod silently, posers will ruin the moment with talk.

"I can't talk about it and I can't talk about why."
from Ocean's Twelve (2004)

Speaking of talk (Wow! That's kinda meta!) If you ever need to hint at some information to somebody, while pointing out that they are not cool enough to be completely included, this is the way to go! Try channeling Brad Pitt's suave attitude when you use it.

"Here she comes to wreck the daaaaaaay!"
from Liar Liar (1997)

Scream this when a dear friend (preferably male) enters the room. Works best if complete strangers are watching.

"They mostly come at night. Mostly."
from Aliens (1986)

There's not really any immediately obvious use for this, I'll admit, it just sort of pops of every so often, when you're in geek company!

"Damn! That's good TV!"
from Showtime (2002)

You can use this when you marvel at a superior TV-show, or you can use it when you're mocking a truly atrocious one, which - let's face it - is more likely to happen.



"Your lies are like bananas. They come in big yellow bunches."
from Wrongfully Accused (1998)

This is the best line Leslie Nielsen ever spoke. Ever.

"We mohst contaarct the zeeeenat!" "Are you braindead?"
from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Well, this wonderful classic exchange is not even the worst thing in the movie. You have to get the weird Asian accents just right, though.

"My earpiece in failing, you got me on GPS!"
from Mission: Impossible II (2000)

This is what happens when you work in a DVD store and have the same damn movie running in the background for a week. You'll pick up increasingly random quotes from films.


No titles or explanations here. You have to know these, or be square.

"Do you REALLY believe that there's some stored up conflict that exists between us? There IS no us. WE don't exist. So who do you wanna hit, man? It's not me."

"How do I make a film called the Old Mill, when I don't have an old mill?"
"Well, first you gotta change the title"

"Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f**k the prom queen." "Carla was the prom queen!" "Really?"



Since I quote movies more often than I breathe I'm sure I forgot some, watch out for a 2.0 list!

Also, please leave your favorite quotes in the comments below.

And with that it's game over man, it's game over!



Thanx to Dennis Rosenfeld, who often finds himself the target of these quotes!