This makes our Pick of the Week under protest. There’s no question that it’s the biggest SF-related event hitting this week, and there’s no question that Phantom Menace 3D will funnel even more filthy lucre into George Lucas’ enormous, Scrooge McDuck-style money vaults. But if some of that cash is yours, you’ll simultaneously be supporting a horrible, nostalgia-killing movie and an annoying technological trend that Hollywood only embraced so they can charge more for movie tickets. That’s why we’re specifically choosing only one segment of The Phantom Menace — the kick-ass three-way lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul — as our GFR Pick of the Week. If you already own the movie, just rewatch that scene and save your ticket money for something good, like The Chronicle. That movie was made for a fraction of The Phantom Menace‘s budget, but it contains more excitement, more wonder, and more humanity than all three of George’s Star Wars prequels combined. Also: no Jar Jar.
“The Mirage” by Matt Ruff
On September 11, 2001, Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners and launch a devastating terror attack on the United Arab States. The UAS declares a War on Terror and invades America. Ruff has created a mirror world of our own 9/11 and the events that followed, one which begins to come unraveled when an Arab Homeland Security expert interrogates an American suicide bomber who tells him that their world is just a mirage… [see cover art]
The River (ABC, 9/8c) — “Pilot/Marbeley”
A crew sets out down the Amazon in search of a famous explorer who went missing six months earlier. ABC’s new found footage horror series from Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli has been getting lots of good buzz, and is by all accounts genuinely scary. It kicks off tonight with a two-hour series premiere.
“Westward Weird” by Martin H. Greenberg (editor)
Greenberg collects 13 original stories that mash up Western tropes with those of science fiction and fantasy. Includes tales about a Civil War robot, a mining family’s encounter with parallel universes, and more. [see cover art]
Face Off (Syfy, 10/9c) – “Dangerous Beauty”
The contestants must use their skills to create creatures that are both beautiful and deadly. Being Human actor Sam Huntington makes a guest appearance.
Person of Interest (CBS, 9/8c) — “Wolf and Cub”
This mash-up of science fiction and police procedural has a stellar cast (Jim “Jesus” Caviezel and Lost‘s Michael Emerson) and an equally great pedigree (created by Jonathan “The Dark Knight” Nolan). Unfortunately, it hasn’t really lived up to its potential so far. Too much procedural, not enough science fiction. I keep hoping it will shake things up soon, because it’s in danger of losing me.
“Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side” by Daniel Wallace
The perfect gift for the kid in your life who tried to form a lightsaber dueling society at his high school, or the adult who wants to have horns screwed onto his skull so he can look more like Darth Maul. Learn the secrets of the Sith order, presumably including how to pick a suitably ominous “Darth” name. Such as, for instance, Darth Ominous. [see cover art]
Fringe (Fox, 9/8c) — “Welcome to Westfield”
“The Fringe team gets trapped in a town from which there is no escape.” So they’re visiting the Village this week? Be seeing you…
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continues to baffle and frustrate those of us who have enjoyed him in flicks such as The Rundown by starring in yet another terrible-looking children’s movie. This time it’s in a sequel just barely based on the works of Jules Verne.
Perfect Sense (Limited Release)
A chef and a scientist fall in love amidst a strange epidemic that is robbing people of their senses. Their solution? Screw, screw against the dying of the light. But since they’re played by Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, most audience members will be okay with that.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 8/7c) — “Crisis on Naboo”
Obi-Wan is undercover in a group of Count Dooku’s bounty hunters, hoping to protect the Chancellor from a kidnapping plot during his visit to Naboo.
An Idiot Abroad (Science, 10/9c) — “Whale Watching”
Karl’s bucket-list journey continues with a trip to Alaska. Ricky and Steve send him dog sledding, introduce him to Inuits, and ship him to the North Pole. As for the whale-watching cruise that gives the episode its name…let’s just say it isn’t what Karl expects.
Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island (Syfy, 9/8c)
Syfy tries a little counterprogramming. If you can’t bring yourself to pay to sit through two hours of 3D shenanigans with The Rock and Vanessa Hudgens, you can opt for the Syfy version. They’ll both probably be equally crappy, but the 2D TV version is (slightly) less likely to give you a migraine.
Comic Book Men (AMC, 10/9c)
Reality programming turns its lens to the clerks of Kevin Smith’s New Jersey comic shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Think of it as Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons getting his own show.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9/8c) — “Nebraska”
AMC’s hit post-apocalyptic series returns from its winter break. The group deals with the aftermath of last episode’s tragic discovery, and Rick and Glenn have to chase down Hershel when the old man vanishes. Fingers crossed for a brisker pace in the second half of the season.