Why the second season of "Heroes" was so lame

The Cheese Fry was a big fan of NBC's "Heroes" when it debuted last season. What initially seemed to be some half-baked X-Men rip-off turned out to be engaging and smartly produced. It was deservedly a breakout hit. While ABC's similarly mythic show "Lost" was getting bogged down in tedious subplots and red-herring tangents that took the narrative one step forward and two steps back, "Heroes" moved at a relatively breakneck pace, packing in more twists and cliffhangers and revelations in a single episode than "Lost" mustered in a whole season.

Which is why the second season of "Heroes" was such a huge letdown. It was a mess and you know it. Even creator Tim Kring knows it.

Here's the reasons.

* Rehashed elements. Season one involved one character getting a horrifying glimpse at a future apocalypse (the "exploding man") that destroyed New York City. Season two went to the same exact well, only this time the future apocalypse was a man-made plague so it's, you know, completely different.

* Not playing fair. As abbreviated and anticlimactic as the season one finale may have been, there was real power in the shocking twist that seemingly killed both Nathan and Peter Petrelli. Network TV shows don't do that sort of thing, which is why it was so unexpected and... real. But here in season two, Nathan and Peter are back in action. And the show did very little to explain how exactly Peter survived being the cause of an explosion that lit up the Manhattan night sky. Then again, even if the show did work harder to explain it, we wouldn't be buying it. Shades of Bobby Ewing in the shower: Nathan and Peter survived for the simple reason that they're popular characters. Further points must be deducted by introducing the idea that Claire's blood can regenerate anyone, even someone shot in the face. Now apparently no one can die, which further undermines any genuine worry we may feel for these characters' safety.

* Too much Hiro. His cutesy broken-English and sad-sack romanticism gets real old real quick. Season two inexplicably spent weeks and weeks on Hiro's boring visit to feudal Japan. Moments after the Cheese Fry saw Hiro meet his beloved hero Kensei and realize Kensai was a loser drunk, this entire subplot was immediately apparent: Hiro must show the hero how to be a hero. Which is exactly how it all played out. Very very slowly. No curveball, no twists. Audiences don't like to connect the dots that quickly. It's boring.

* Horrible new characters. By the Cheese Fry's count, season two was 2-6 in the new character department. The troubled immortality of Kensei/Adam Monroe was certainly interesting, but the show waited until the last couple of weeks to really explore him (and how seeing hundreds of years of human cruelty had warped him) in any detail and so everything felt rushed and clumsy. Maybe it's just the plucky charm of Kristen Bell, but there was also something likewise intriguing about her character, the petulant and lonely Elle. The other four new characters, however, ranged from the dull (muscle mimic Monica - cool power poorly utilized) to the derivative (evil nerd Bob) to the infuriatingly pointless (twins Maya and Alejandro). Maya may be the most annoyingly gullible, dim-witted, and whiny character ever put in a prime-time TV show without being intended to come across as annoyingly gullible, dim-witted, and whiny. The Cheese Fry hates her.

* Narrative confusion. Can someone explain to us what the hell exactly was going on with the virus and the cure and all that? A bunch of mumbo jumbo.

* Narrative volume. There's epic and then there's bloated. This season tried to cram in too many characters, too many subplots, too much intrigue. Try watching an episode of "Heroes" with someone unfamiliar with the show and see how convoluted and ridiculous it all sounds as you try to explain the characters and their backstories.

* Mohinder. We'd like to apologize to Maya. Mohinder Suresh is the most annoyingly gullible, dim-witted, and whiny character ever put in a prime-time TV show. We can only hope that his character will die a most painful death as quickly as possible. Perhaps we can throw him to the Sarlaac.

* Using amnesia as a plot device. This is never a good thing. Ever.

Knee-jerk review: "I Am Legend"

1. There are two movies here. One - about what it means to be the last man alive as Will Smith ekes out a lonely existence and seems to be losing his grip on sanity - is pretty fresh and interesting. The other - about fighting (and surviving) a zombie plague and seeking a cure - is one we've seen before.
2. In fact, the makers of 28 Days Later could have a plagiarism case here. There are that many similarities. Had that film not been made, I Am Legend would probably be a lot more memorable.
3. Will Smith is the man. If you were making an A-list action thriller, who would you cast in the lead to insure a slam-dunk? Nowadays, there's Will Smith and there's Matt Damon. That's about it. Maybe Tom Cruise. And the fact that we're saying "maybe" to Tom Cruise says a lot about how his fortune has changed.
4. The movie toys with the suggestion that some of the zombies, er, "infected mutants" have developed an intelligence, but it never really follows through.
5. The panicked, cruel evacuation of Manhattan is vividly portrayed here, but - again - there's a sense that we've seen it all before.
6. Film's best sequence probably is the one that involves a little strip of sunlight slowly shrinking.
7. How does Smith's character - who's all alone - manage to install a high-tech containment lab in his basement and install all of those steel barricades on his windows?
8. It's hard to believe a mutated virus could create some of these symptoms, like being so susceptible to UV light that your skin burns, or growing big long fangs, or having a stretchy mouth that looks an awful lot like CGI effects.
9. Is it worth a look? Yes. Will you want to ever see it again? Probably not.


Knee-jerk review: "Enchanted"

1. Exceedingly cute and charming. It's been a long time since there's been a hilarious comedy this... well, pleasant. The great comedies of the last year or so have been either edgy (Little Miss Sunshine), raunchy (Superbad), or just plain twisted (Borat). Enchanted throws in a few requisite gross-out gags, but for the most part it's all very PG.
2. Much has been made of Amy Adams' breakout performance here as Princess Giselle. What you've heard is all true. She lights up a film frame like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan once did. Some may wonder if Adams is just playing herself since both Giselle and her Oscar-nominated role in Junebug are so similar: the wide-eyed ingenue innocent. But the Cheese Fry suspects she's got more layers than that.
3. The big dragon ending may have been too much, but if you have Susan Sarandon playing your villain, you probably should give her something to do at the end.
4. The premise is pure genius. One of those ideas that seems so obvious you wonder why no one thought of it sooner. What happens when a Disney princess comes to our world and realizes the real world is no fairy tale?
5. That Disney was the one to poke fun at those cliches earns them bonus points. Although, as some critics have suggested, this good-natured deconstruction of the familiar Baby Boomer Disney movie is also lovingly rendered in such a way that the film also honors that tradition. Yes, "happily ever after" is cheesy, but don't we all also sort of long for it?
6. The little chipmunk Pip steals the movie.
7. That narrator may sound familiar. Can you recognize the voice? No fair peeking.
8. Old screenwriting rules suggest every great movie needs at least three memorable set pieces, the kind of thing audiences remember long after they leave the theater. This one has two huge ones that probably count as three. One is Giselle's clean-up of Patrick Dempsey's apartment. Two is the showstopper musical in Central Park. Instant classics.
9. James Marsden's always seems a little wooden and dim, traits that serve him perfectly here as Prince Edward.
10. You're seeing a new Disney franchise being born. Maybe they don't need Pixar after all.


Knee-jerk review: "The Mist"

1. Writer-director Frank Darabont has certainly carved out an odd niche for himself. He's written and directed four feature films and three are Stephen King adaptations, including this one. The best, obviously, is The Shawshank Redemption. But you knew already knew that, right?
2. It's a good movie, but it never quite becomes a "great" movie. Or even a "pretty good" movie.
3. What the heck happened to Thomas Jane's career? It all looked so promising for him back in 1999 when he was the star of the deeply strange, steroid-shark thriller Deep Blue Sea. He's got a stoic and steely charm about him that's not unlike Steve McQueen. If they ever remake Bullitt - and they probably will/are - Jane's the guy.
4. You may have heard about the ending. Yes, it's different from the original Stephen King novella, but not necessarily better. Whereas the novella ended on a note of hopeful ambiguity, the movie answers all of the questions and offers up a very depressing twist moments before the fade-out. At first it feels like a real sucker punch, a cinematic middle finger offered to the audience for no good reason other than it's "cool" to do it to us. A twist for twist's sake, much like the dark and pointless ending of The Departed. But upon further review, Darabont may actually be onto something. If the story is all about faith and hope in the face of tragedy and certain death, then the ending undeniably suggests what can go wrong if one stops holding out hope.
5. Marcia Gay Harden's always great, even if she's stuck here with the stereotypical religious kook role that's so prevalent in King's stories.
6. The mist refugees, all huddled up in that supermarket, display a curious lack of preparation and foresight. They know something's out there, they have hours and hours to prepare... and when the creatures attack, these people run around like the Keystone Kops. It's the kind of phony moment that creates exciting action and suspense in the story (i.e. someone catches on fire and no one knows where the extinguishers are), but does so at the expense of logic and plausibility.
7. Best part of the movie is Toby Jones as bagger Ollie.
8. Points must be deducted for the blatant Aliens rip-off involving cocooned people.
9. Additional points must be deducted for stooping to explain the mist with one of the most cliched and tired excuses possible. It might have been cool and intriguing back in 1990, before "The X-Files" debuted on Fox.