Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RIP Tom Snyder

I don't have much time for updates this week, but I did want to take a moment to note the passing of Tom Snyder, former TV news anchor and host of the late-night talk shows Tomorrow (on NBC in the 1970s and '80s) and The Late Late Show (on CBS in the '90s, when I first became aware of him). I wouldn't call myself a big Tom Snyder fan, but I often watched his post-Letterman Late Late Show in the '90s, and was always struck with how thoughtful and down-to-earth he seemed, and how engaged he was in all of his interviews. The show was a nice contrast to the loud, fast-paced comedy on most late-night TV, and was one of those programs that I would flip past late at night and somehow find myself watching for half an hour without even intending to.

My dad actually worked on Snyder's mid-'80s local Los Angeles talk show, and didn't have many nice things to say about the man, but however difficult he may have been to work with, he was always easy and inviting to watch. Gawker has a nice post with a compilation of notable moments from Tomorrow, and an uncharacteristically reverent comments section. Maybe I just have a soft spot for avuncular, intellectual talk show hosts, but I'm definitely mourning Snyder more than either Ingmar Bergman or Michelangelo Antonioni, who died the same day and who have been dominating discussion on film blogs for the last few days (and justifiably so).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Movies opening this week

Eagle vs. Shark (Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Joel Tobeck, dir. Taika Waititi)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I saw this movie just before CineVegas (it played as part of the festival), when the studio was pushing it hard for a big publicity blitz. Their buzz-creating effort didn't work for me, though, since I thought the movie was terrible, but they continued to hype it at the festival. Now a month and a half later, overall reviews have been mediocre, and the box office has been weak. It was delayed a week here and has opened without much fanfare, so I guess maybe it didn't play out the way Miramax hoped. The publicity campaign leaned hard on the Napoleon Dynamite comparisons, which I don't think did the movie any favors, but it's not like it really had the potential to become some giant sleeper hit anyway. Opened limited June 15; in Las Vegas this week

No Reservations (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, dir. Scott Hicks)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I haven't seen the German movie that this is based on, Mostly Martha, but if the remake is as faithful as some reviews suggest, then it was probably already a bland, Hollywood-style romantic comedy even before Hollywood got hold of it. This movie will be forgotten in a month, fodder for Wal-Mart cut-out bins soon after. The bigger question here is whether Abigail Breslin is going to become the new Dakota Fanning - acting cute in boring, mainstream movies - or take on some more interesting roles now that she's got that Oscar nomination behind her. This one is not a particularly auspicious start. Wide release

Rescue Dawn (Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, dir. Werner Herzog)
Having not seen the Herzog documentary (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) that provided the inspiration for this movie, I can't say whether Rescue Dawn is as redundant as some people seem to think it is. It's definitely more straightforward than people might expect from Herzog, but I don't think it's such a Hollywood-ization of the story as to be unrecognizably his. It's more intense and raw than a studio treatment would have been, and if it hits a little hard on the uplift toward the end, I think that's more about Herzog's deep admiration for Dieter Dengler than any sort of audience pandering. Opened limited July 4; in Las Vegas this week

The Simpsons Movie (Voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, dir. David Silverman)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was a serious, hardcore Simpsons fan for many years, all through junior high and high school and most of college, but I've been away from the show for so long that sometimes I forget it even exists. In a way I had the same weird nostalgia coming to this movie that I did coming to the Ninja Turtles movie, or that my entire generation seems to have had coming to the Transformers movie. The difference is that I can look back on old Simpsons episodes and still appreciate their quality, and of course also that this is really a continuation of the show rather than a reinvention of the concept like those other two movies were. But at the same time I kept my expectations low because I didn't want nostalgia clouding my judgment, and I know that the show hasn't been very good in years. As the movie first started I was really pleasantly surprised at how funny it was, but it dragged on far too long with a ho-hum plot, a disappointing lack of activities for all the secondary and tertiary characters, and diminished comedic value. Overall I still enjoyed it, and I think that Simpsons fans, whether those still watching the show or those who gave up on it a long time ago, will enjoy it as well, but the time when it could have been brilliant probably passed a number of years ago. Wide release

Sunshine (Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, dir. Danny Boyle)
This movie pretty much hits everything that I want out of my ideal film, so I've been excited to see it since it was first announced what seems like years ago (and was released in Europe several months ago). Intelligent sci-fi with a horror twist, not an adaptation, a thoughtful, versatile auteurist director, a strong script, a cast of talented character actors - this is seriously my blueprint for the greatest film of all time. So, yeah, my expectations were high, although they were tempered a bit by reviews that warned of a twist that made the movie into a dumb genre exercise and ruined the last act. Prepared for disappointment, I found myself enjoying pretty much the whole thing, although I agree that the reveal of what is behind the disasters faced by the crew of the Icarus II is sort of stupid, and the degeneration into a slasher movie with pretentious metaphysical ramblings at the end was a little disheartening. But up until that point, this is a wonderful-looking and incredibly suspenseful movie, following a crew of astronauts in a hail-Mary mission to restart the dying sun. Boyle creates such roiling, exquisite tension that I think I was literally squirming in my seat during the scene in which two crew members have to finish outside repairs before the ship turns and exposes them to the deadly radiation of the sun. The movie has elements of films like Alien, 2001 and Event Horizon, but it feels like its own unique entity, and even the muddled ending still delivers scares and excitement. Not the greatest film of all time, certainly, but one I'd very much recommend seeing. Opened limited July 20; wide release this week

Monday, July 23, 2007

TV premiering tonight: Saving Grace

I had high hopes for this show, which TNT has been advertising every other minute for months, even after the last new TNT drama, Heartland, turned out to be so lame. Saving Grace is certainly not as bad as Heartland, but it's definitely a disappointment - even more so because without its dumb high-concept hook (hard-living atheist cop gets guardian angel), it would actually be a really interesting and gritty crime drama, different enough from the network's other cop show with a strong female protagonist (The Closer) as to not seem like a rip-off or a pale imitation.

Like The Closer, Saving Grace benefits from having as its star a powerhouse actress best known for her work in movies (in this case it's Holly Hunter). Hunter's portrayal of Oklahoma City police detective Grace Hanadarko is forceful and raw and charming; with her relentless boozing, promiscuity and general recklessness, she's about as far from Kyra Sedgwick's Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson as you can get. And the show features an extraordinary sense of place; it doesn't merely use OKC as a generic American city, but gets deeply into its mix of Southern and Western culture, with cattle auctions and detectives in 10-gallon hats. Laura San Giacomo, as Grace's best friend, a devoutly Christian lab tech, is also excellent, and the two women have great chemistry.

The cases in the two episodes I saw are a little generic, but there is a greater emphasis on Grace's private life (and those of the supporting cast, to a certain degree) that takes the burden of carrying the show away from the mysteries. The problem, of course, is that Grace's private life is not just about whom she's sleeping with or how she's dealing with her large extended family; it's about her interactions with Earl (Leon Rippy), the angel sent to watch over and annoy her when she beseeches God for help after a drunk-driving accident. Thus the show's true message is conveyed: Grace's boozing, blaspheming, adultering ways may be a heck of a lot of fun to watch, but they are wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a show whose first episode opens with one of the most graphic sex scenes I've ever seen on basic cable, and then chastises the viewers (and the characters) for enjoying it. It's self-righteous bullshit that talks down to both the characters and the audience.

Grace is resistant to everything that Earl tries to do, and it's obvious that there's meant to be a redemption arc of sorts. She'll learn not to drink so much, not to sleep around, not to have sex with her married partner, not to question God's existence, etc. The problem is that after two episodes, I hate Earl even more than Grace does, and I don't think that's the intended result. His whole intervention is a contrivance (both by the writers and by the Almighty), and he's insufferably smug. I'm personally an atheist, but I welcome shows that deal with religion in an honest and complex way (from The Book of Daniel to Joan of Arcadia). For all its allegedly mature subject matter, Saving Grace is nothing but a pious, condescending sermon. TNT, Mondays, 10 p.m.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Movies opening this week

Angel-A (Rie Rasmussen, Jamel Debbouze, Gilbert Melki, dir. Luc Besson)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Although some people revile him for ruining French cinema, and he has indeed as a writer and producer churned out tons of shitty action movies in the last decade or so, I am still a big fan of Luc Besson as a director, and was really looking forward to seeing this, his first movie as a director in six years (he subsequently directed Arthur and the Invisibles, which ended up opening first in the U.S.). I love La Femme Nikita and The Professional, and even have some affection for The Fifth Element (although I haven't seen any of Besson's early work). The previews for this movie made it look quite striking, and visually it is indeed marvelous. But the story is sappy and not engaging, and Rasmussen may be gorgeous, but she's no Anne Parillaud. I wish Besson had married his newfound sentimentality with a little more of the ass-kicking spirit of his classic films. Opened limited May 25; in Las Vegas this week

Hairspray (Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Amanda Bynes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, dir. Adam Shankman)
I had no intention of seeing this movie, for a number of reasons: I am not crazy about musicals, even though I am making an effort to come around on that; I am not a John Waters fan; and, most importantly, early images of Travolta in his fat suit and drag really freaked me the fuck out. Then I started reading all these positive reviews, and my sister asked if I would come along to the screening, and I started feeling like I'd be left out of the summer-movie loop if I didn't see it, so I went. And Travolta in his fat suit and drag (not to mention his bizarre Dr. Evil-style speaking voice) freaked me the fuck out, but otherwise I found this to be a charming and thoroughly entertaining movie. I haven't seen the original, so I'm not sure how fans of that will react, and I imagine at least some of them will be outraged that Waters' subversiveness has been smoothed over into one of the most crowd-pleasing, feel-good movies of the year. But the movie's resolute squareness is exactly why it works, and its earnest effort to entertain is endearing and very hard to resist.

Shankman is one of those anonymous directors that no one has heard of who makes awful movie after awful movie (The Wedding PlannerThe PacifierCheaper by the Dozen 2, etc.) - he fits perfectly on the AV Club's list of Directors You Didn't Know You Hated. But he's finally at home here, using his background as a choreographer (a role he reprises here) to bring confidence and authority to the direction. If he's smart, he'll direct nothing but musicals from now on. Other than Travolta, the cast is great, including the charming Blonsky in her first-ever role, the underrated Bynes, and especially Pfeiffer, who revels in playing the evil bitch. The fact that the once-daring subject matter of this movie is now thoroughly mainstream is kind of heartwarming, as is pretty much everything else going on here. Except Travolta. Wide release

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, dir. Dennis Dugan)
Dugan is on that AV Club list, too, as one of the handful of go-to directors for assembly-line Sandler movies (and Sandler-buddy movies like Benchwarmers). Unlike Shankman, he doesn't redeem himself here, although you get the sense that, as with all the actor's mainstream comedies, Sandler, not the director, is the real auteur here. I had been pre-hating this movie for months, and I admit to being prepared to tear it apart. But it's not as reprehensible as I anticipated, merely unfunny and cowardly, afraid of offending gay people and thus too timid to really be about anything (of course, it's not afraid of offending Asian people, hence Rob Schneider's unbelievably offensive portrayal of a buck-toothed wedding coordinator). Absent outrage, there's not really much to say about this movie, other than that it's yet another dumb Adam Sandler comedy. Wide release

La Vie En Rose (Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, dir. Olivier Dahan)This was one of the hottest tickets at CineVegas and one of the movies I was most excited to see, but it's really just like the French version of Ray or Walk the Line. It's a soup-to-nuts biopic of French chanteuse Edith Piaf, whose life is filled with the requisite tragedy, tough childhood and drug addiction. Dahan slices events up in a non-linear style that only proves distracting (and confusing), but Cotillard gives a forceful performance and there are a few powerful moments (including an excellent single-take scene that conveys Piaf's dread in discovering her lover's death). This sort of movie always ends up overrated, but as biopics go, this certainly isn't bad - just standard. Opened limited June 8; in Las Vegas this week

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo, 2007)

(Warning: spoilers.)

This sounds sort of odd, but I don't know if the memories I have of this book are from actually reading it as a kid or merely hearing about it from other kids who read it. Either way, I was familiar with the story and had a general positive feeling toward the book when I heard it was being made into a movie, and I meant to see it when it was out in theaters earlier this year. There was no press screening here, though, and every time I thought I'd make time to see the movie, something more important seemed to come up.

Maybe subconsciously I wasn't all that excited about the movie, so I'm glad that Disney sent me the DVD and thus gave me no excuse not to watch it. Marketed incorrectly as a Chronicles of Narnia-style fantasy film, this is a wonderful and occasionally difficult movie about the hard, grown-up truths that kids sometimes have to face before they're ready, as well as the simple joys of friendship and shared imagination. Josh Hutcherson (who was rather irritating in Zathura) is just passable as main character Jesse, but AnnaSophia Robb is excellent as Leslie, the bohemian girl who becomes his best friend. The decision to depict their titular imaginary world with CGI effects doesn't always pay off, but it does add a nicely bittersweet note to the heart-wrenching conclusion, after Leslie has died accidentally, and Jesse must confront the world (both real and imaginary) without her.

Some have complained that the death is too dark for a kids' movie, and that the way it's handled (off-screen, with little foreshadowing or warning, unless you've read the book) is dramatically unsatisfying. But I'd like to think that kids can handle movies in which bad things happen, especially since the ultimate message is about how to process and understand the senseless tragedies that all of us inevitably face. And that's the thing about Leslie's death - it's not portended with a Significant Cough like in some awful melodrama, nor is it built up suspensefully like in a thriller. It just happens, like these things do in life, and Jesse is left to pick up the pieces. That he is able to do so, and that the movie leaves us feeling like life has meaning and beauty even in the face of such horror, is the greatest testament to the story's power.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

News & notes

As many of you are probably aware, I'm no longer appearing on the Gonzo in the Morning program on Vegas' Area 108, because the Gonzo in the Morning program no longer exists. For a little more info on the split between the show and Area 108, you can check out a short article I wrote here. I'm grateful to Gonzo and Nicole for all they did for me, giving me the opportunity to reach a much wider audience and have a lot of fun along the way. I hope to hear them back on the air in Vegas soon. In the meantime, I am actively looking for a new radio gig and have a few possibilities up in the air right now. If and when something is definite, I'll of course keep my dedicated readership updated.

For those in the Vegas area, if you care to see me in person, I'll be at the Clark County Library (at Flamingo and Maryland Parkway) this Tuesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. as part of NOTBAD's Critic's Choice film series. My pick is John Sayles' Lone Star, one of my favorite movies of all time, and I'll be on hand to introduce it. Whether I will actually have something insightful to say remains to be seen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Movies opening this week

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, dir. David Yates)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I am neither a big Harry Potter fan nor some sort of Potter detractor; rather, I am fairly neutral on the Potter movies, which are generally dependable but rarely great. I've always been entertained by these films, and this one was no exception, although it's not up to the standards of the last two. After peaking with Alfonso Cuaron's third installment, the series has reliably soldiered along, and I have no doubt that the final two movies will be fun to watch, if not spectacular. Wide release

Shortcut to Happiness (Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Anthony Hopkins, Kim Cattrall, dir. Alec Baldwin)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
The tortured history of this film is far more interesting than the film itself, which is being dumped in six randomly chosen markets (of which Vegas is one) on its way to anonymous DVD release. The financiers lied about having the money to make the movie, and got it seized by federal authorities; Baldwin has now been telling reporters that people should not go see the movie. I think these Hollywood sagas are fascinating, and hopefully someone will write a book or a screenplay based on this tale (some IMDb commenter claims to have done just that, actually) that will end up being much more interesting than the movie itself. Very limited release

You Kill Me (Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson, dir. John Dahl)
I saw this movie at CineVegas and found it entertaining if a little disappointing. Kingsley is sort of distant as the main character, and he and Leoni have pretty much zero chemistry (not to mention that her character is barely fleshed out). The whole mob-war storyline is undercooked, but there are many funny moments, and Bill Pullman of all people puts in a very entertaining supporting performance. Nothing special, but given the general state of summer comedies, worth a look. Opened limited June 22; in Las Vegas this week

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hidden Palms

I'm surprised to be saying this, but I think I will sort of miss this show, which aired its final episode on the CW Wednesday night (July 4, when no one was watching TV). It started off rather unpromisingly, and in my initial review (based on a screener of the first two episodes) I said it seemed like a weak Dawson's Creek rip-off, and sort of dismissed the dark mystery elements. Well, over the course of the eight episodes, the similarities to Dawson's Creek greatly diminished, and the dark mystery elements pretty much took over the show. By the fourth episode or so, it descended into totally ridiculous camp, with characters sleeping with each other left and right, ridiculous murder plots and all that good soapy stuff, and suddenly it became fairly entertaining in a trashy way.

I had almost given up at that point, but I'm glad I stuck around, especially for some of the juicy performances. Michael Cassidy was entertaining from the start as the sociopathic Cliff, but he really shined when paired with Valerie Cruz as Maria, who was wonderfully soap-opera nuts, and quite hilarious. Props also to the always-reliable Sharon Lawrence, doing her cougar-with-a-Southern-accent thing, and the amusing Leslie Jordan as drag queen Jessie Jo.

The last episode rushed to resolve all the storylines in an especially ludicrous manner, and I'm not sure how the show would have handled them had it gone on longer (would the central mystery have been dragged out over a whole season, or would they have moved on to a new one?). We'll never find out now, and that's not really a travesty, but there hasn't been a good nighttime soap in a while, and this one was at least starting to show some potential.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Movies opening this week

Paprika (Voices of Megumi Hayashibara, Tôru Furuya, Kôichi Yamadera, dir. Satoshi Kon)
I am loath to dismiss an entire genre of film because it simply doesn't appeal to me (as Mike D'Angelo also notes in his LVW review of this film, not yet online), but I have to say that I think I just don't get anime. I have made valiant efforts to appreciate, say, musicals and war movies, two genres that also generally leave me cold, and I can think of a few examples of each that I really like. But something about anime just puts me off and baffles me. Although comic book fans are often big anime fans as well, the aesthetic and the modes of storytelling in the genre have never appealed to me, and after I found Spirited Away, supposedly the pinnacle of art and emotion in Japanese animation, tedious and irritating, I figured it was futile to even try. But the idea of closing an entire film genre off to critical comment for myself bugs me, so I gave it another try with this film, since I already had the screener just sitting there next to the TV.

I will say that I enjoyed this more than Spirited Away, since all of the bizarre imagery and semi-nonsensical plotting appeared to serve a purpose and come together into a recognizable narrative, and I had a sense of who the characters were and why I should care about them. It still seems like a lot of weirdness for weirdness' sake, and even if the visual style is inventive (the movie is about dreams slowly invading reality), it gets rather repetitive after a while. I'm not sure I can confidently judge this movie with much authority, since I have a very limited frame of reference, but I can say that it made me slightly less reluctant to seek out more examples of its genre. Opened limited May 25; in Las Vegas this week

Transformers (Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, dir. Michael Bay)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
If you genuinely liked this movie, then good for you, I'm glad you had fun at the movies over the holiday. But here's what I don't understand: the insane power of nostalgia that has both created the huge demand for this movie and seemingly blinded many people to its numerous flaws. Now, I played with Transformers toys and watched the Transformers TV show as a kid, although it was when I was very young and I don't remember it all that well. But even as much as I enjoyed that experience when I was little, I don't see how liking something at age 6 (or whatever) translates into expecting to like it again as an adult. I have a much clearer recollection of being a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (at around age 10 or 11), and although I had a twinge of nostalgic satisfaction when I heard that they were set to return to the big screen, and a certain amusement watching the resulting (rather mediocre) film, I never thought that I would have the same sort of excitement or appreciation for the Turtles' adventures now as I did when I was a kid. I don't think that this is some tragic loss of childlike innocence, but merely the acquisition of the adult ability to discern quality from crap. Apparently I'm in the minority on that, though. Wide release

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Buffy Season 8

Although I was a dedicated fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the very end, I am generally of the opinion that it would have done well to end after the fifth season, and that the final two seasons of the show, when it moved to UPN, were highly problematic despite numerous highlights. I'm not, however, one of the rabid fans who feel personally betrayed by character developments in those latter seasons and would probably burn Buffy creator Joss Whedon at the stake if given the opportunity. I try not to get that personally invested in any work of art.

So let's say I was cautiously optimistic about Whedon's new "official" eighth season of the show in comics form. I tend to stay away from licensed comics, because they are usually done without the input or involvement of the properties' original creators, and often handed to inexperienced writers and artists because companies assume (often correctly) that the name alone will sell books. The only Buffyverse comics I'd read in the past are the ones with Whedon's direct involvement (Tales of the Vampires, Tales of the Slayers) and some of IDW's Spike comics written by Peter David. This, to me, though, is how to do a licensed property in comics, and kudos to Dark Horse for making it happen and possibly setting an exciting new precedent, if the rumors about Rob Thomas overseeing a Veronica Mars comic at Wildstorm end up being true.

Written like a TV show, with Whedon serving as showrunner (comic-runner?), the new series has a clear direction and an authorial voice that was missing not only from other licensed comics but also in large part from later seasons of the show. Whedon sets the overall plot direction, then farms out individual arcs to other writers, going over their work himself before it sees print, just as he would do as the executive producer of a TV show. The recently concluded four-issue first arc was written by Whedon himself, as will the stand-alone fifth issue. After that is an arc by Brian K. Vaughan, and a number of former writers for the Buffy TV show are set to pen future installments. Artist Georges Jeanty is a veteran of mainstream comics with a dynamic style and a strong sense of storytelling. Clearly the talent is in place.

But if the narrative possibilities were already run dry before the series even began, then what's the point? I'm happy to say that, freed from the constraints of TV (effects budgets, the availability and demands of actors, notes from network execs), Whedon seems to have found a way to make the concept work again. It may bother some fans that the way he's done that, though, is to basically throw out the original concept entirely. Buffy the TV show was about the supernatural as a metaphor for real life (first high school, then college and adult responsibility). It was about balancing the mundane (homework, crushes, family problems) with the fantastic (vampires, demons, etc.). It was easy to identify with Buffy and her friends because they went through the same stuff normal people went through, except they also had to stake vampires along the way. But as the show went on and the demon-fighting side of the characters' lives inevitably overtook the everyday-life side (since the show had to keep raising the stakes to keep viewers' interest), the quotidian goings-on in Sunnydale seemed less and less vital and more and more forced. Who cares if Buffy passes her history test if the entire world is about to end? Clearly that's more important.

Whedon has solved this problem by making his characters into full-time evil-fighters. Sunnydale no longer exists - it was destroyed in the show's finale. As far as I can tell, none of the characters ever finished college, but that doesn't seem to bother them. Another consequence of the TV finale is that Buffy and Faith are no longer the only Slayers on the planet; there are now nearly 2,000. Buffy leads an army of them from a command center in Scotland; Xander is now a strategist with a Nick Fury-style eye-patch. Although these are fairly drastic changes, the core of the characters remains intact, and their interactions feel true to who they were on the TV show. Whedon indulges in plot elements that would have been far too expensive for TV (the far-flung locales, the large cast, Dawn recast as a giant) that give the story a greater scope that makes up for its lost emphasis on the everyday.

Even with all the differences, the first arc still sets things up the way a season premiere would on the TV show. We've learned the new status quo, found out what most of the characters have been up to in the time away, hinted at a few mysteries and introduced the Big Bad, in the form of two familiar characters from the show (Amy and Warren). But again the scope is bigger, since those immediate threats are backed up with a larger one, as a government operative tells Buffy that the increased power of the Slayers has put them at odds with all of humanity. It's a sufficiently grand premise to warrant the return of the series, and even though I'm not sure it was strictly necessary, I can't imagine it being executed any more effectively.