Saturday, December 31, 2005


INSIDE THIS MONSTER OF A POST: End of 2005 thoughts, Munich Review, Best Movies of the Year, Best TV of the Year, and MORE.

And so it ends ...

2005 is coming to an end and the first half of the first decade of the new millenium is coming to a close. You know what that means, right?

Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi channel, baby.

Yeah, some things never change. There's no better way to prepare for whatever New Year's festivities one has planned than to see Rod Serling introduce yet another portrait, submitted for your approval, of an ordinary man about to enter ... The Twilight Zone.

And of course, the end of the year means lots of list-making, so of course I have to do my part. But first ...

Wow, what a year it's been.

A little over one year ago at this time, I had yet move to California. I was at home in CT, wondering what my future was going to bring. I had come home after living in NYC to work at Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and I was anxiously awaiting a response from NBC's page program in New York. Soon afterwards, I did indeed get accepted, and last year on New Year's Eve, as can be read in my blog archives, I was desperately trying to decide what to do. Do I move to California, drop everything, and take a chance? Or do I decline the offer to join the Page Program and stay in CT, where everything was comfortably familiar but the opportunity to do what I wanted to do was simply lacking? Well, I made the choice to come to LA, and I definitely don't regret it. It's been a great year.

While those first few months in CA were difficult as I tried to find an apartment, get settled, and adjust to some of the crazy personalities at NBC, I was still at a point where just being able to work at Leno, Ellen, and Dennis Miller was a huge thrill in and of itself. At Conan, I had the chance to meet the writers, producers, and other staff on the show, but I never really got to be right there live for the tapings - so this was a huge thrill. I was there - I was finally a real part of the entertainment industry, in Hollywood no less! I was part of the NBC Page Program, class of January 2005 - me, Brian, Adriana, Britney, and Tracy. As I got more comfortable in the program things got a lot more fun. As the summer began I made a lot of new friends and had some great times. Unofortunately I was still stuck giving tours and working Leno when I really wanted to be on assignment. Oh man, how naive I was then ... Just kidding (kinda). In the fall I finally got selected to work in NBC's Primetime Development Department, and from Halloween (which was awesome this year - Knott's Scary Farm, movie marathon, and Page-O-Ween!) on it's been nonstop craziness . I've learned a lot, but I may also be learning that the corporate side of entertainment is probably not for me. So now it's a year later, and I'm poised to enter the next step ... whatever the hell that is. Right now I just don't know, not a clue. But I'll be looking ahead, and continuing to follow the dream. This year I've been back home to CT twice, and gotten to see some old friends there and in LA. Just last night, the craziest roommate I ever had, the man, myth, and legend himself - Aksel - made a totally unexpected visit to LA and a good time was had by all. So yeah, you gotta remember your roots, but keep moving forward. Bring on 2006.

In the larger picture, 2005 was a pretty crappy year. Hurricanes, premature deaths, terrorism, and the continued public embarrasment of an American President who lived in a bubble and made a majority of Americans groan at the thought that this was only Year 1 of yet ANOTHER four year reign. I belive that many Americans began to see the Iraqi war for what it is - a misguided effort that produced some positive results (the removal of Saddam) but was pursued for the wrong reasons and was misrepresented to the American public (ie it was NOT related to stopping terrorism or Al Queida, and it was NOT because of an imminent threat of WMD's). Now it's still a mess over there, and there is a total lack of leadership coming from the White House. Where was the effort to rid us of our dependency on oil? Where was the strong involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Where was the swift response to Katrina? Where was the concerted effort to root out terrorism where it REALLY is - in countries like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and yes, Palestine - where groups like Hammas are still wreaking havoc AND, worse, gaining political legitimacy in the emerging Palestinian government. My hope for 2006? How about the emergence of a Democratic leadership that is united, vocal, articulate, and swift to act? The old guard - Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, et all have FAILED to rally the majority to their cause, and amazingly Bush has turned many Americans against him WITHOUT any strong opposition. Look at Time magazine's people of the year - Bono of U2 and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates, of all people. Private citizens with a lot of money who decided to make a difference. Impressive? Yes, but when Bono is the man of the year it tells you something about the current sorry state of politics. I was recently reading Rolling Stone's newest issue, and they listed the REBELS of the year. How fitting. These are times that NEED rebels. People who speak out when its unpopular, who rally people for positive change. Like the 60's, it's the ENTERTAINERS who are doing this and NOT the people in politics. Will all this lead to ACTUAL change? Hopefully - and that's what I'll be looking for in the year ahead.

Which leads me to ...

MUNICH Review:

As I was just saying ...

Now THIS is a movie that is going to make an ideological impact. But more importantly, as a movie, all I can say about Munich is ...


This movie was quite simply a tour de force. From beginning to end, it had me captivated. LEt's get the basics out of the way first. In terms of direction - this is Spielberg at his best. Scratch that, because I don't think we've ever seen a Spielberg quite like this before. Sure, this LOOKS like a Spielberg movie. But as others have pointed out, it feels more mature, more risky, more raw than other movies that he's made before. There's brutal and shocking violence, mature romance, and dark, morally ambiguous characters. In terms of acting, every single performer knocks it out of the park. Eric Bana is amazing as Avner, the leader of the top secret Mossad squad sent to take out those responsible for the abduction and murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games. Daniel Craig (cool that the Israelis have The Hulk and James Bond on their side ...) is excellent as the hotshot of the group. And the rest of the cast is superb. Each character feels three dimensional and alive, from the self-doubting senior member of Avner's group to the mysterious Frenchmen who Avner uses as his soure for intel. Finally, this is a movie where you really notice the excellence of the script. Tony Kushner's dialogue is sharp and intelligent. Each word counts for something , and this is a script that is so good, so emotionally and intellectually sopishisticated that it's almost enough to turn one off from typical Hollywood action blockbusters for awhile. Because despite all the moral, political, and emotional issues that this movie gets into (and handles exceptionally well), it is above all a classic caper movie. It takes us to numerous exotic locations - spanning the globe from Israel to New York to Lebanon - from Paris to London and of course to Munich. And each new locale is expertly filmed by Spielberg, coming alive and making you feel like you're on the same world-spanning misison as the protagonists. There's tons of action - hard-hitting action, life-or-death struggles, bomb-planting schemes, stealth missions - it's all here. But its based on true events and done under the umbrella of a story that carries with it great emotional and ideological weight.

Because these men aren't action heroes. Sure, they're a colorful cast of characters. But they must actually DEAL WITH the moral reprecussions of everything that they do. Are they accomplishing something, or just helping to perpetuate a neverending cycle of violence? Is it worth the cost of alienating family and friends and even sanity to serve one's country? And on a political scale - what does it even mean to serve one's country in a world where politics is so malleable that the line between friends and enemies can change on a dime. That is kind of what this movie is about - people. That in the end we're all just people trying to live our lives, yet we get caught up in these ideological wars that soon lose their meaning except for "they got us, now we get them back."

And of course, that's why this movie might be offensive to some. They say it's not pro-Israel enough or too sympathetic to characters who are terrorists, criminals, and murderers. And yet, I can't see many people actually SEEING this movie and then, still, thinking of it as being anything but a stunning statement on just what makes Israel great and worth fighting for. I mean, just look at the fact that this movie was even MADE. Could a movie like this come from somewhere where freedom of expression, where moral doubts and questioning of one's own history - is forbidden? No, this movie is a complete and utter testament to the fact that Judaism is a religion that has always CELEBRATED DEBATE. Kushner and Spielberg do a masterful job of porraying the main characters as people who come from this tradition - people with strong, unflinching Jewish identities but who can't help but agonize over how killing people in the name of one's country fits into the equation. As it should. There's a great scene in the movie where the characters allude to the Passover tradition of taking a monet to mourn for the Egyptians killed in the Hebrews' crossing of the Red Sea in the Exodus from Egypt. Even though we rejoice at our moment of freedom, we are sad at the price it came at. And that is a profound thing - what separates us from people who have no such moral qualms about killing in the name of religion. Even Golda Meir herself (excellently portrayed in this movie, by the way) said - to paraphrase - I can forgive them for what they did to my children, but I cannot forgive them for what they made us do to theirs. And this is the basic premise of this movie -- the cost of fighting for one's people. And not just the cost for anyone, but for a people who have always taken the utmost care to attempt to do EVERTHING, even fighting and warring and killing when it's necessary - in the most humane, civil, and moral way possible. Of course, morally acceptable killing, even in desperate times, is a bit of an oxymoron for someone with a concious - and that's exactly this movie's point.

From the opening montage of actual news coverage from the Munich incident to the absolutely haunting and profound closing shot, MUNICH does something that other movies this year have tried but failed to do - it makes an undeniable statement on the world we live in today. This isn't a movie that goes out and sets to make us feel sorry for the terrorists. On the contrary it makes us angry at them for the futitily of their goals and the violence that they cling to as a way of life. And it never, ever questions the dream of a Jewish state or the validity or sheer miracle of Israel's existence. What it does though is offer a sobering reality check on the cost of violence - even when one's cause is just, there is a price to pay. And it shows the strong and undeniable bonds between Israel, America, and all free people's who must fight for that freedom. Munich is a must-see. It will affect you, it will move you, it will entertain you, and it will likely make an impact that's hard to shake.

My grade: A+

Okay, so, now for the main event. Yep, I'm talkin' 'bout:



I just don't understand the people who say this was an off year for movies. Sure, the box office was down, but in terms of quality, this was a year to remember. We had serious dramas that pushed the envelope and dared to make relevent political statements. We had blockbusters that rose above past attempts in the genre and could be considered nothing less than serious movies even while being seriously kickass. Comedy was the one genre that was lacking this year, but I guess you can't have everything, right? On the other hand, there were some good ones, and overall, there were a TON of GREAT movies this year - some underrated. We had two great movies from Steven Spielberg, one from his heir apparent Peter Jackson. We had the best Batman movie ever, new films from greats like Sam Mendes and David Cronenberg ... yeah, it was a pretty good year at the movies.

One preface - still haven't seen a couple of possible contenders, including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Match Point, and The Squid and the Whale.

So without further ado ...


1.) A History of Violence - I was beginning to doubt my love of this movie, as I've met few others who thought as much of it as I did. But then in the last few weeks I saw it listed in a number of Best Of lists, in publications from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly, and my appreciation for David Cronenberg's masterpiece was reaffirmed. Why is this the best movie of the year? One word: simplicity. This movie tells a perfectly shaped story that trims away all the fat and does its job. But wait, the deceptively simple plot works on about 5 different levels, and what at first appears to be just a story of an ordinary man mistaken for a killer becomes a story about human nature, about modern man, about America. This is a classic, iconic, profound movie.

2.) Munich - Like I said in the review above, this movie was, firstly, a character based thriller - as intense of a globe-spanning action suspense movie as you'll find this side of James Bond. But it
still made the most profound, shocking, and heartfelt political and ideological statement of any movie this year, becoming Spielberg's overall best movie in years. Along with A History of Violence, this year saw a double-dose of powerful, intense, and relevent movies that stand as more than the sum of their parts - on one hand as character pieces, on the other as important commentaries on the times in which we live.

3.)Batman Begins - On the other hand, the story of Batman has been a classic for the better part of the last century. Problem is, past adaptations to film and TV have treated Batman like a clown, a farce, a joke - everything but the dark, grim, and deadly serious avenger that Bob Kane and Bill Finger intended, that Denny O'Neal and Neal Adams brought to life, that Frank Miller and Jim Lee made the coolest comic book icon of all time. Finally, someone GOT IT. Christopher Nolan, David Goyer, and an amazing all star cast got it right and did the Dark Knight proud, and aside from al lthat made one of the best damn movies of the year, not to mention potentially the best superhero movie of all time.

4.) King Kong - Another blockbuster done right, Peter Jackson continued with his golden touch. Some of the best action scenes ever, great characters, stunning visual f/x, and tons of imagination. This was pure entertainment for three straight hours.

5.) Walk The Line - My appreciation for this movie has grown since I saw it, as the story of The Man in Black continues to resonate in my mind. Revelatory performances by the two leads, great music, and an emotioanlly charged story make for a memorable movie.

6.) Sin City - No movie has ever brought a comic book to life like this one. Not only does Sin City capture the style, the characters, the mood of Frank Miller's dark comic book crime fiction - it IS Frank Miller's vision, fully realized. This film hits hard and takes names, and is completely uncompromising in its artistic sylization. Awesome.

7.) Jarhead - This movie transported you to the deserts of Iraq, put you in the shoes of the soldiers, and made you feel like you were stationed in The Suck. Only that's a good thing, because this was a powerful, amazingly-shot, and skillfully acted movie with a number of great scenes. Finally, a modern movie that spoke to the masses about what our soldiers go through on the other side of the world.

8.) Hustle and Flow - This movie took me by surprise. It dared to take unconventional twists and turns - never really glorifying the too often glorified life of a pimp - instead showing it for the futile and dangerous road that it is. Breakthrough performances by Terrance Howard and Anthony Anderson, great writing, and a powerful ending made this movie great, plus totally infectious rap songs thoughout.

9.) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Yeah, yeah, I know. To the disciplined movie fan, this is by no means a "great" movie. It has obvious, glaring flaws of dialogue, pacing, continuity. But on the other hand, no movie left me as buzzed leaving the theater this year. No movie made me smile from ear to ear like this one did as Yoda fought the Emperor or John Williams' epic score kicked into high gear as Anakin and Obi Wan fought to the death amidst a fiery backdrop. Visually, this movie was amazing, groundbreaking. It put the first two prequels to shame. And it kicked its fair share of ass, haters be damned.

10.) War of the Worlds - Another one that got a lot of backlash, but I contend that this is yet another blockbuster done right. Best set piece action scenes of any movie this year, great acting (yes, even from the much maligned Tom Cruise), and just a completely involving, edge of your seat thrillride from start to finish. Well, almost to finish. The overly sappy ending kept this from being a classic, but forgetting that last scene, this was a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish.


11.) Cinderella Man - Sure, it's been done, but not with this much impact and a great cast - Russell Crowe completes his badass trilogy that started with Gladiator and then Master and Commander, and does so with a bang.
12.) Broken Flowers - Bill Murray does it again in this thought-provoking comedy that sucks you in with its deliberate pacing and careful character examination.
13.) Sky High - Yes, you heard me. I swear to God, this movie was one of my absolute favorite movie-going experiences of the year. It featured comedy and action legends doing what they do best - Kurt Russell, Bruce Campell, the Kids in the Hall. This will be a cult classic.
14.) The Chronicles of Narnia - Classic, straight-up fantasy from start to finish, Narnia does the source material justice and is a lot of fun.
15.) March of the Penguins - I was totally swept away into the arctic by this nature doc, which made me really glad I wasn't a penguin.
16.) The 40-Year Old Virgin - Best comedy of the year. Judd Apatow does it again, bringing his Freaks and Geeks sensibilities to the big screen with a great cast and lots of laughs.
17.) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Another one where I don't quite get the critics at all. I loved this movie from start to finish - as a movie, it beats out the original, and joins the ranks of Tim Burton's best films.

OVERRATED: Syriana, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Wedding Crashers
UNDERRATED: Sky High, A History of Violence, Domino, Cinderella Man
OK BUT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Corpse Bride, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Bad News Bears, Doom
SUCKED: Fantastic Four, Aeon Flux



- I really don't think that as a whole, TV has ever been better than it is now. Sure, it takes a little bit of effort to find the good stuff ,what with so many channels and so many good shows buried amongst stiff competition from all the networks, the primetime landscape is impossible to navigate without a TIVO or an old fashioned VCR set to record. Of course, with so much content on TV these days, a lot of what you watch just comes down to personal preference ... and lord knows that a lot of people have terrible taste, to be honest. I mean how else to explain lack of ratings for Arrested Development? Why isn't Veronica Mars in the top 5 shows on TV? Sure sure, network execs will blame it on a variety of reasons - too hard to follow, not enough heart, too dark, etc. But when a show like Arrested Development is making me laugh as much as it is, what the hell do I care about any of those things? Funny is funny. Okay, so most people may not know funny if it smacked them upside the head. So maybe my hope for 2006 isn't that TV gets better (I have enough shows to watch as it is) but just that America gets better taste, dammit all. Then again, this is the same populace that elected George W to a second term, so ... brace yourselves for even more lame sitcoms, depraved reality shows, and more assorted crap. But now is not the time to focus on the bad, let's instead celebrate what was GOOD, nay, GREAT, in 2005. Anyways ...

The Top 10 TV Shows of 2005:

1.) 24 - With Season 5 about to start, it's clear that 24 is on a roll. Season 4 was the most consistently good season since 1, and every week was a nonstop roller coaster ride with cliffhangers that killed, characters that kicked ass, and a counter-terrorism plotline that looked at the current national security situation in a no-holds barrred, uncompromising way. Every week it was on this year, there was no TV more must-see, no hour more exciting, than 24.

2.) Veronica Mars - This show went out with a bang last season, producing a final run of episodes to cap off it's first year that were just incredible to watch. VM proved that it ain't no OC - this is dark noir detective fiction, with a high school as a metaphor for all that is cruel about humanity. The cast is excellent, and the show's momentum has continued into S2, where a new mystery is building that peomises to be as filled with twists and turns as S1. If you aren't watching ,you're missing out.

3.) Arrested Development - The best comedy on TV has been much talked about here, but really, the reason why it's good is easy to pinpoint - IT'S HILARIOUS. Look at crap like The War at Home, Freddie, etc. - these shows suck because the situations are contrived and the jokes are the type that practically beg for laughs despite being old retreads of used-up themes. On Arrested, the humor comes from great charaters and smart writing that weaves funny situation into funny situation and doesn't let up for a minute. Season 3 of Arrested has been comedic gold, and it's just ridiculous that more people aren't watching.

4.) Gilmore Girls - Look, I normally hate sappy stuff. I hate the contived "aww shucks" moments and the eye-rolling melodrama. But Gilmore Girls does drama in such a sincere, funny, and witty way that you can't help but love it. And when the big dramatic moments do come, they mean a lot because the characters have come alive, in a way. This show will make even the most hardened soul smile, laugh, and run through the whole gamut of emotions just because it is so brilliantly written and acted.

5.) Prisonbreak - Following in the footsteps of 24, Prisonbreak mixed over the top comic book sensibilities with sheer dramatic intensity to stand out as the best new show of 2005's fall season. An ensemble of great character actors produced TV's best villainous personalities, like the unforgettable T-Bag, and the charisma of the show's stats carried the show. This was the must-see show of the fall.

6.) Stella - God bless the members of Stella - Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain for continuing to bring their absurdist, surreal, and totally irreverent comic sensibilities to TV. I loved The State, I loved Wet Hot American Summer, and although it only enjoyed a short run on Comedy Central this year, I soon began to love Stella as well. Nobody else is doing crazy comedy like this at the moment, and likely nobody else can do it as well as these guys. Here's hoping Stella returns in 2006, since these guys are just about the funniest thing this side of Ali G.

7.) King of the Hill - The show keeps on ticking, and unlike some of its animated competition, it shows no signs of its age. King of the Hill is, for me, the ultimate comfort show. I watch it, I laugh, I see my favorite characters again, and the episode usually ends with something that just makes you feel good - a lesson learned or a moral taught. But it's never too cheesy, never too contrived - it always comes from the characters first. I love King of the Hill, and wish that this was not it's last season. But man, it's been a good run.

8.) Justice League Unlimited - Man, if you like action-packed, mature animation, then you could not go wrong with Cartoon Network's JLU this year, which absolutely hit its stride in 2005, with a series of ultra-intense, sweeping epics that formed a season-long mini-movie pitting the heroes of DC Comics against the U.S. government! This sure as hell ain't the Superfriends. This was adult, sophisticated, animation jam-packed with action and adventure. Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor - this was a fanboy's dream realized in glorious technicolor.

9.) The Office - The Office got off to a shaky start. It was trying to be the British version but failing, and the humor was just falling flat despite the presence of obviously talented actors. Then, this season, something changed - the writing improved by leaps and bounds, the characters (esp. Dwight), began to really come into their own, and suddenly, The Office was among the best comedies on TV, and was THE watercooler comedy, with every episode producing several memorable quotes and lines of dialogue. I give props to NBC for sticking with it - and it's a good thing, 'cause The Office is your future, Peacock Network. Recognize.

10.) Smallville - Smallville ended Season 4 last summer a complete mess. S4 had been a monumental trainwreck as far as I was concerned, an embarrasment to the franchise. But te producers were smart - very smart - and wiped the salte clean for a fresh start in Season 5. And man, did it work. S5 kicked off with an amazing season premiere, and it's been nonstop coolness from there, with this once-great show doing the impossible and RETURNING to greatness - actually, it's probably better now than EVER, and the sky-high ratings reflect that. Superman Returns indeed, and speaking of which, Bryan Singer and co. are gonna have to pull out all the stops to eclipse Tom Welling and the world of Smallville as the definitive version of Superman in 2006.


BEST OBSCURE SHOW: G4 TV's Attack of the Show
BALLSIEST SHOW ON TV: Family Guy's anti-FCC episode
WORST MARKETING DEPT: FOX (See: Arrested Development)
BEST MARKETING DEPT: NBC (see: My Name is Earl)
WORST NEW TREND: a tidal wave of crappy Lost-esque sci-fi shows
BEST NEW TREND: high concept, quality dramas
BEST RAY OF HOPE FOR 2006: Could SNL's "Lazy Sunday" sketch be a sign that the once-great comedy showcase is making a comeback, or was it just an isolated flash of brilliance?
WEIRDEST TV COMING 2006: WB's doing an Aquaman TV show? WTF?
BEST TV OF 2006: ??? Stay tuned ... to NBC!!!!! Bwahahahahaha. Seriously.

Alright, so that's that. Been a good year, a fun year, and next year's going to be even better.

Happy Hannukah once again!

And ...


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Year End Wrap Up Begins: Best in Music, and the Syriana Review!


Well 2005 is almost over, and so the list-making begins. And since list-making is so fun, I can't help but partake in my SECOND ANNUAL (!) BEST OF list, counting down the best the year had to offer.

First things first though:

@ Work:

Today business picked up. A far cry from the slowness of yesterday, today much of my day was spent Fedexing stuff to various execs across the country. Still had that surreal quality today though, as me and fellow pages Sean and Abby were literally running NBC, from our solitary perches in our respective offices. See, it is the not-so-lowly pages who wield the true power! Next week things get really crazy, as everyone is back in the office and I get pulled to work Ellen, Leno, and even give a tour ... putting on the polyesta' one mo' time, if you weeeel.

SYRIANA REVIEW (yes, finally!):

Okay, so I really wanted this movie to be good, as its subject matter is something I have a great interest in, and is one of my top political issues that troubles me - our dependence as a country on foreign (particularly middle eastern) oil. Like the producers of Syriana, I see a readily apparent connection between the oil business, terrorism, and the plight of the Arab people. And I think that this is an issue that NEEDS to be brought to the limelight, and in a way that really hammers home the ridiculousness of risking national security, going to war, and compromising our national values just because of our refusal to stand up to Big Oil companies and move forward with new and better fuel technologies.

That being said, Syriana tries very hard to draw the lines from pint A to B to C, much like its predecessor, the excellent movie Traffic. But Syriana doesn't quite succeed. The thing is - is that a movie must succeed, first and foremost, AS A MOVIE, if it wants to effectively make a point. Bad movies can't really make good points, ya know? And Syriana never really picks up steam as a movie. As a lecture, sure, it does its job. But as a movie ... well, it's disjointed, overly long, and SLOOOOW. And by focusing so much on INDIVIDUALS and their respective stories, the movie kind of loses sight of the big picture, never really pulling back to allow one to say "ah, I see, it all makes sense now, this is how it's all connected." Instead, the various interwoven plots - the stories of a CIA agent, an Arab family, an entrepeneur, an oil tycoon, and a corporate attorney - they never really come together, and the connections between the characters all feel tangential and artificial and forced.

Still, the movie has many of the qualities of a top tier motion picture. The acting is superb across the board, for one thing. George Clooney is at his best here. Matt Damon is excellent. Chris Cooper is superb. And the lesser known actors are all uniformly great. But while there are scattered scenes that are excellent, scattered dialogue exchanges that are sharp and memorable ... as a whole this is an excercise in unevenness. And that scattered quality means we never REALLY care about any of the characters. In fact we never even know much about any of them - they are all restricted by being in a cinematic version of a short story, with no room for growth or change, no chance for us to really get attached. No, this movie is almost clinical in how it gets from Point A to Point B, and it makes for a pseudo-intellectual but mostly uninvolving experience.

All this, and, it never really seems to get to the real, underlying politics behind the whole oil crisis. Sure, we see flashes of terrorism, flashes of greedy oil companies. But where is the big political picture? Where is the political relevence? I just never felt like this movie made that profound of a statement. I mean, love him or hate him, after seeing a movie like Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11, you come away buzzed with political thoughts and provocative ideas. In the case of Syriana however, you'd almost be better served just skipping the movie and going straight to the latest issue of Newsweek. More informative, less confusing, and it won't take over 2 hours just to get to the point. My grade: C+


Man, I don't know what it says about me, but I just feel like I don't have much to say about music this year. Sure, there was a lot of new stuff that I enjoyed in small doses, but no one rock group that just lept out and hit me this year, unlike last year where Green Day's American Idiot album felt like such a revelation and proved to be an instant classic in its own time.

Still, some interesting things going on in the world of pop-rock. I have to say that probably my favorite new band of the year is none other than THE KAISER CHIEFS. It all started when I saw them play on The Tonight Show, and I had their catchy rock song "Oh My God" stuck in my head for weeks. That song, along with "I Predict a Riot" are definitely two of my favorite new rock songs of the year. They sound like they come straight from the 70's punk-rock heydey of the Sex Pistols, and are just simple, classic, fun tunes. Definitely a band to watch.

And then there was MATISYAHU, who I guess has actually been around for a bit but really made an impact this year, so much so that he became one of the most played artists on KROQ here in LA! This guy is throwing down reggae beats like he's a Chasidic Bob Marley meets 311, but he's singing about wanting Mashiach Now!, praising God in Hebrew like nobody's business, and kicking some ass while doing it. Who would have ever thought this guy would become such a mainstream phenomena? Whatever the case, "King Without A Crown "has gotta be one of the year's best breakout singles.

What else highlighted (and lowlighted) the year in music? Here's some quick shoutouts:
- Foo Fighters once again delivered with their latest musical output, easily one of rock's most consistently rocking bands.
- The Gorillaz had a great followup to their devut album, and continue to be one of music's most unique, and animated, acts.
- The Darkness' second album, on the other hand, had a few cool songs but overall is a pretty disappointing follow up to their awesome first record.
- With all the Walk The Line hype and promotion, what was old is new again and Johnny Cash reclaimed his place as a bonafide legend and icon. Best musical movie? Definitely Walk The Line. Watching that and then the video to Hurt was this year's must-see musical experience.
- It was sad to see punk-rock princess Gwen Stefani degenerate into a generic pop / hip hop act. Sure, her stuff still rises above most overplayed pop mediocrity, but solo Stefanie, now preoccupied with dance music and all things Harajuku, is no No Doubt, in my humble opinion.
- Pink Floyd came back! So it was for one night only at Live 8, but what an amazing performance. Best musical moment on TV of the year? EASILY, the AMAZING set played by Floyd at Live 8, which by the way was a pretty cool event as a whole.
- Still no sign of the fabled Chinese Democracy.
- Though Velvet Revolver did establish themselves as a solid supergroup, as did Audioslave, whose new album was not too bad.
- Weezer had a pretty darn good new album, and Beverly Hills, thoug annoying after a while, is a pretty fun rock song, as is Perfect Situation.
- And hey, I'll give credit where it's due. In pop, this was the year of Kelly Clarkson. Since You Been Gone is definitely one of the catchiest pop songs to come along in years ... I'll admit it.
- Yep, MTV still sucks.
- Best parody music video: sorry, Weird Al, the winner is SNL's Lazy Sunday, a HILARIOUS rap parody. Surely you've seen it by now.
- Other artist whose new stuff I enjoyed: System of a Down, AFI, The White Stripes (who actually had a damn good year of new music, come to think of it), My Chemical Romance, Queens of the Stoneage, Beck, and oh yeah, can't forget - DEPECHE MODE, whose song "Precious" is maybe their best song ever, and one of the best of the year.

- Some of my musical highlights from working at LENO and ELLEN over the past year, where I was lucky to see a ton of great music live and up close:
BILLY IDOL rocking like it was 1987 - leather jacket and all, AVRIL LAVIGNE belting out "He Wasn't" at an outdoor concert, GWEN STEFANI AND EVE performing "Hollaback Girl" in front of thousands at Ellen's outdoor concert show, meeting GENE SIMMONS and KISS while working CB on Ellen, seeing a legend in action - specifically, LED ZEPELLIN'S ROBERT PLANT outdoors at Leno and actually meeting him, THE FOO FIGHTERS with an awesome Leno performance, THE KILLERS kicking ass at Leno, Americon Idol's CONSTANTINE and the cast of WE WILL ROCK YOU with an amzing rendition of Queen's BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, HILLARY DUFF getting booed at Leno and starting to cry, rounding up screaming teenage girls who came out to see the reuinted BACKSTREET BOYS, seeing one of my middle school idols, ALANIS MORISETTE sing "One Hand In My Pocket" at Ellen, PATTI LABELLE getting a standing ovation after a gut-wrenching, soulful song, MELISSA ETHERIDGE getting one as well for her cancer-beating rock anthem on Leno, being forced to be security for G-Unit's TONY YAYO on Carson Daly, seeing the possibly-evil KENNY G at one of my first days at Leno, AVRIL's double performance on Leno and my earlier backstage encounter with her where she actually SAID HI TO ME, JESSICA SIMPSON WITH WILLIE NELSON and his crazy-ass tour bus!, BIG AND RICH WITH COWBOY TROY, where we were first introduced to the wonders of Tai-Kwan-Flo, VELVET REVOLVER's two performances and my run-in with SCOTT WYLAN, talking with the mom of the lead singer of UNWRITTEN LAW, seeing the KAISER CHIEFS and getting their song stuck in my head forever, as also happened with THE BRAVERY, TOMMY LEE performing the theme from his reality show, CHRISTINA AGUILERA getting soulful on Ellen, as did LISA MARIE PRESLEY and HOPE PARTLOW, though not so much the PUSSYCAT DOLLS, BECK rocked out to E-Pro, and hey, I even endured hordes of crazed country music fans for the now infamous day that KENNY CHESNEY showed me why I should possibly never visit the South - but it all comes back to BILLY IDOL, who showed me what it means to rock the cradle of love

- And of course, aside from what I saw at Leno and Ellen, there was TOM PETTY, who I saw in concert along with the Black Crowes, and who kicked ass classic rock style. He played the hits, and played 'em good. Great concert.

Alright, back later with the best in MOVIE and TV.

Until then ...


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Part 3: Live from ... Burbank, Once Again: The Reviews Continue with - WHAT? - Narnia Review!

First of all:

Happy Holidays to everyone, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and of course, HAPPY HANNUKAH!!!

Well folks, my epic cross-continental blogging trilogy continues, and, hopefully, concludes -- right here, right now, where I am recently arrived back in Burbank and am once again coming to you LIVE from NBC Studios, where I am flying solo, manning these executive offices like the bigshot that you know I wish I was / am. Yeah, it's pretty funny - in all of the second floor of NBC, home to all of the top network brass, there are literally three of us here, two of us mere pages. This, my friends, is true power that I wield. Cower before it, you must.

Okay, so aside from one minor crisis, it's been very quiet up here. Though it is also ridiculously messy, still, from our recent move. I had to move like 20 boxes just to get to my desk. And here I thought that the box-moving era of my life was over and done with. To quote Wayne Campell: "Shyeah ..."

And so it goes ...

Now let me just say this: SNL has sucked, badly, for years. It's sad when the funniest moments of the last few years have quite possibly been provided by a guest-hosting Ben Affleck. Now, let's face it, the Will Ferell - Jimmy Fallon - Molly Shannon Era had its moments. Celeb Jeopardy, for one. But it also had lots of clunkers. So my ruling is that the conventional wisdom is wrong. No, old-school SNL eras are not always merely looked upon nostalgically. The fact is, some eras were great, some were okay, and some flat out blew. Two eras in my opinion were great. The original era with the original cast, and the 90's renaissance with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Sandler, Spade, Farley, Kevin Nealon, and, eventually, Norm McDonald (greatest Weekend Update Host ever). I would call the Will Ferrell / Darell Hammond in his prime (As Clinton, Al Gore, etc), very good to good, though it wwent increasingly downhill after the 2000 presidential election, and once the show became the Horatio Sanz / Jimmy Fallon "we're funny because we laugh at our own jokes" hour, things were pretty bleak. Now, the show is mostly unwatchable. Sure, some of the performers are good, but the writing is 95% crap, with even the once-reliable political satire reduced to boring drivel, and a lame lame lame weekend update team that is simply not right for the job. That being said ...

Here's to "Lazy Sunday," easily the funniest, most memorable SNL sketch of the post Will Ferell era, and probably the singular most standout sketch since the instant-classic Cowbell sketch from a few years back. And I know, what I'm saying is nothing new, as this faux rap music video has now been all over the 'net and everyone's seen it. But I guess you'll just have to take my word that immediately after seeing this sketch last Saturday, I proclaimed it to be hilarious and the best thing SNL's done in a while. Hey, I recognize trends as they happen - I ain't no bandwagoner (I am still proud of the fact that I saw Napoleon Dynamite on its opening weekend).

So yeah, Lazy Sunday, basically a mixture of a Run DMC / Beastie Boys style rap track with lyrics that mock the middle class white-boy lifestyle, is hilarious. It was just a great satire and hilariously absurd. Is it as classic as Cowbell? Too early to say, but probably not, as Cowbell is just transcendently, timelessly funny. But hey, kudos to SNL. That's one small step back to relevance ... (and no, being talked about for an Ashley Simpson screw up doesn't count).


The Chronicles of Narnia:

When I was a kid, I was a reader. I devoured books as fast as I could. Sure, I still read now, but back then I was always looking for the next book to read, the next series to begin, the next world to explore. Of course, being me, I loved all things out there, all things science fiction and fantasy and adventure. I loved anything by Rahl Dahl, anything by Bruce Coville, I loved L Frank Baum's OZ books. I loved Lloyd Allexander's Chronicles of Prydain. I loved Choose Your Own Adventures. I loved Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But most of all I loved Narnia. I read those books at an early age, and I have always had fond memories of the adventures of Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy. Sure, I barely remember the details, but I remember well the feeling I had while reading those CS Lewis books - that feeling of being transported to another world, of adventure, of magic.

And so for a long time, I was REALLY looking forward to this movie. With the total success that was Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, I had really high hopes that this would be the start of the next great cinematic fantasy series. But as I reminded myself of the source material, it became clear that this just wasn't going to happen. As much as I loved this stuff in the third grade, Narnia lacked the maturity and epic grandeur of Tolkien's Middle Earth. It was more a classic fable -a kid's storybook world that was whimsical and fantastical. Sure, there is the weighty symbolism of Aslan and the pure evilness of the White Witch, but this is a story about children - a children's fantasy. Which is why the books just didn't make an easy transition to screen ...

I mean, these characters are kids - maybe 12, 13 years old for Peter and Susan. So it was a bit jarring to see them involved in an epic LOTR style battle against the forces of evil. And to see the cherubic young Lucy weilding a deadly battle knife, given to her by Father Christmas no less, well, it just was a lot to swallow. While the movie is unflinchingly true to the books, it could have used a little updating. A scene providing some explanation as to the kids' fighting prowess, for one. Some more scenes of Aslan. Some more fleshing out of the peripheral characters, like the centaurian general of Aslan's army, for example. The movie just felt a bit incomplete.

On the other hand, I completely respect that this is a straight-up fantasy. No modern updates, no ironic in-jokes, no pop culture references, no cheesy out of place humor or one liners. This is just pure old school fantasy storytelling, and I love that fact, and I think that that's also a part of the secret to this movie's somewhat surprising box-office success. It's timeless.

Acting-wise, pretty much everyone delivers. The kids are mostly great, though the older two are a little on the bland side. Lucy however steals the show. The girl who plays her is ridiculously cute, and she will instantly win you over. She is the heart and sould of the movie, easily. Liam Neeson is fine as the voice of Aslan, though he isn't given too much to work with. Tilda Swindon, however, owns this movie. As the White Witch, she chews up the scenery like a female Emperor Palpatine, spouting her evil proclamations with gloriously icy aplomb. Yep, Tilda rules in this movie and is in the running for best fantasy villain of the year. Special note must be made of the scene where The Witch and her legion of minions dance in the night around a captured Aslan - truly a nightmarish spectacle that couldn't have been made better or creepier - up there with any scene in any fantasy movie this year.

And it's scenes like that one that make this movie. At times, everything comes together so well that you get totally caught up in the fantasy. Sometimes though, Aslan looks noticebly computer-generated, and his movements appear jerky. Sometimes the costumes seem a bit rushed, or the computer effects are just, well, off. Like Kong, this film seems to get overly ambitious f/x-wise at times, and this leads to an inconsistent visual look, and there are some jarring transitions from CG Aslan to lifesize animatronic Aslan, for example, that really take one out of the movie for a second. Still, there is a ton of imagination at work here, and the crowd scenes are just brimming with all manner of wonderfully conceived creatures.

The thing is - even though this movie had some undeniable flaws, I still loved it. Sure the f/x were inconsistent and rushed and overall the movie felt rushed ... but many of its scenes were just ... great, magical even. When Lucy first enters the Wardrobe and enters Narnia. When Mr. Tumnis plays the flute and the fire dances in tune with the notes. When Aslan makes a dark pact with the White Witch and then suffers for it. The final battle. The great, after-the-credits begin, send 'em-home-happy ending. If you can watch this movie without being too cynical, then you might recall when you first saw The Neverending Story, or The Wizrd of Oz, or even when you first opened a strange book about a Lion and a Witch and a Wardrobe and entered a place called Narnia. This is far from a perfect movie, but it has that special ingredient that makes it a pleasure to watch even when it maybe shouldn't be. No, it's not the next Lord of the Rings, but it's something different, that yes, is really for kids, but hey, so is most of all the really good stuff. So yeah, bring on the sequels. My grade: A -

Alright, time to head out. I know, I know, where's that Syriana review?

Stay tuned for that, and for my BEST OF THE YEAR in music, movies, TV, and more. DOUBLE TRUE.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Live from Bloomfield, CT -- Blogmania CONTINUES to run wild!!! FINALLY, WITH MOVIE REVIEWS!

Okay, so as many people have pointed out ... my last post, which was at this point created a long while back, was abruptly cut off. Was it's fault? Nope, just my own, as I began writing that post at work thinking that I had a large chunk of time, when in fact I would soon be called away to do who knows what - at this point I can't say I remember, exactly, but what I do know is that my last week in CA before heading home for a little winter break was, to put it mildly, ridiculously crazy. Not only was it a, literally, back-breaking week at work (okay, not LITERALLY literally), but I also tried to make the most of my small amount of free time. On a few hours' worth of sleep each night I went out for Secret Santa celebrations, appointments wit da' Chronic ... (... les of Narnia, that is! bwahahaha), King Kong, and more jam-packed excitement than you can shake a stick at. Then, when I had pushed myself to the brink, driven to near catatonic exhaustion from days of heavy lifting, manual labor, and more over the top workplace shenanigans even than USUAL, I was leaving on a jetplane for frosty C-T, where I have been since, and will be until Monday, when I'm back in the other big B - Burbank, CA, just in time for (wait for it ...) work on Tuesday! Luckily, it'll be (or SHOULD be) an easy rest of the week, as I'll basically be alone in the offices doing phone duty. We'll see though, we shall see.

What has my time in CT brought? Well to be honest I think I need a vacation from this vacation, as right now is about the first relaxing moment I've had since being back in this winter wonderland. Okay, that's not entirely true. For the first few days my brother Matt and I were reunited (and it felt so good ...) and were able to beat the crap out of each other virtually for old time's sake ... over and over again. And that, that was cool. We of course did the mandatory run to Luna's Pizza in Simbsbury, and took in some DVDs, some Monday night wrestling, and even a little basketball. Sadly though, the cold weather prevented us from ACTUALLY hitting the driveway for some one on one hoops, but surely, if it had come to that, I would have once again reestablished my dominance in the field of B-Ball. I also got together with my BU friend Stephanie P, as we hit up Hartford for some good times. In between there was lots of family stuff, a visit to my Grandmother in Newton, MA with a quick stop at BU to see the old stomping grounds and check out the new state of the art Hillel building. And then there were the doctor appointments. SO many doctor appointments. And all WAY too early in the morning, of course, courtesy of my Dad who as some of you know is a stickler for starting one's day EARLY. So yeah, my internal clock is somewhere in Switzerland right about now, and I don't know if I should be eating dinner or sitting down for some cereal and OJ. Luckily, my various health issues seem to be in pretty good order, and don't ask me how but my various test results were much improved over before. Must be all those frozen Lean Cousine meals ...

I'm also typing this from a brand spankin' new computer, which the Baram residence in Bloomfield was DESPERATELY in need of, as the old one was about ready to implode. I'm talking barely operational and sputtering towards an ugly death. Luckily it was retired and a shiny new model was purchased with my help at Circuit City. Only problem is I won't be around to use it much, but man using this one makes me long for my own computer upgrade in CA, as I've had my current Dell since freshman year of college and it too has survived the brink of the technological abyss more than once, and could stand to be replaced. Well, once I get a job that pays more that $9.50 an hour, have health insurance, and can afford to pay my rent ... then the new computer, digital camera, newfangled Ipod, and plasma screen TV will follow. Booyah.

Anyways ...

If I remember correctly my last blog entry caused a stir because it SEEMED like I was about to delve into some long-awaited MOVIE REVIEWS, and even went so far as to get cut off right as I was about to go into the ins and outs of Syriana. So, looks like I have some time right now ... let's see what I can do, but in the interest of time management I may be briefer than I'd usually be:



Let's start with the 800 lb gorilla. Literally and figuratively. This is one of those movies that in the week or so since I've seen it, I must admit, that my opinion has soured A LITTLE since I first saw it, after some reflection. See, this is one of those movies that, when you've digested it, when you actually analyze the logistics behind certain scenes, it turns out that, well ... that frankly they make no sense. Some of the characters reveal themselves to be somewhat flat. Some of the continuity (like, how DID they get Kong off that island?) begins to fall apart upon scrutiny, and some of the cheese factor (yes, we get it, it's called SKULL island, you don't have to TYPE IT IN SLOW MOTION to make it sound scary) begins to become more obvious. But, all that is after the fact, after its been digested. But, as far as this being a theater-going event, an experience, and a thrill ride, make no mistake about it ...


Now I enjoyed the beginning of the film, enjoyed the building of tension and the mounting anticipation for all that is SKULL ISLAND. I enjoyed the end of the film, marveled at Kong in NYC, and loved the Empire State building finale. But I'm not going to be some pretentious idiot who says that the NYC scenes were the best. Nope, for me the movie came down to one thing -- Skull freakin' Island. Because for that hour, when Jack Black and Adrian Brody were running from stampeding dinos and fighting off mutant spiders, when Naomi Watts was being strung up by crazy-ass island savages and being tossed around by Kong in mid-battle - man, that hour was just pure fanboy ecstasy. And basically, as I sat watching the marvel of Kong vs. T-Rex, and then Kong vs. multiple T-Rex's, the thought did indeed cross my mind that maybe, just maybe, this was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

Peter Jackson directs with such energy, such passion, such pure geek love for the material - he basically is the barnone best action-adventure director there is right now. He is Spielberg circa Raiders of the Lost Ark, only better and with cooler technology at his disposal. Like Spielberg, Jackson always emphasizes character, but never sacrifices action and always delivers something new, something cool, something breathtaking. I mean, the pure visual spectacle of Naomi Watts getting strung up to be sacrificed by Kong - that scene was just incredible visually. Jackson just has that innate sense of what works - not of what is commercial, per se, not of what is cute or easy or marketable - but what is cool - what makes that inner 12 year old inside you want to jump up and down and go buy King Kong toys just because.

Acting-wise, Naomi Watts as always is great, doing a Mulholland Drive-like mixture of old Hollywood innocence and naivete with a dash of modern wit and action heroine chops. Jack Black is suitably energetic and comedic, and Adrian Brody is pretty good as well - my one problem is that neither of the male leads ever bcome very likable. Jack Black is less adventurer and more con artist, and Adrien Brody never feels like a leading man who you really care to root for. No, the real star of the movie is Kong - given life by Andy Serkis and the wonders of CGI, Kong bursts with personality, coming across like a bigger and meaner version of your pet dog, or something. The scenes between Kong and Watts are pretty damn good - even the ones with no action whatsoever.

Overall, this movie is maybe a little too ambitious for its own good. So much is being thrown at the screen that some of the CGI stuff is bound to look a little fake at times. And some of the action is so over all over the place the realism is obviously thrown out the window, and the laws of physics and gravity seem to suddenly appear and then disappear just as quickly, lending an inconsistency to some of the action.

But still ... this is state of the art. This is KING KONG FIGHT ING DINOSAURS like you've only imagined or doodled in your notebook in fourth grade. So yeah, this is Peter Jackson at his unrestrained best. Sure it's 3 hours, sure there's crazy logic holes. But it's a big budget blockbuster DONE RIGHT, done out of passion by a director and crew that obviously gave a damn. There's action, adventure, romance, and giant friggin' monkeys. What more do you want for your 10 bucks?

My grade: A


Thursday, December 15, 2005


As Jim Anchower would say, it's been a long time since I rapped at ya'.

And I do have a lot to say, and since I'm sitting by my lonesome in NBC's Primetime Development Department, covering phones while everyone else is in a presentation, I figured now should be a good time to update this thing, because God only knows that the natives have been getting restless in eager ... anticipation of the latest blog entry. So wait not longer, cuz the beast is back, Jack.


Well it's been another LONG-ASS week here at NBC, and I've been doing all kinds of running around, moving boxes, getting lunches, getting yelled at, etc. Man, the corporate world is not all fun and games, let me tell ya. But anyone who knows me knows that I'm not exactly the corporate type, so of course I'm just trying to take it all in, read scripts, hear the chatter, absorb knowledge, etc. Though who knew - even doing THAT seems to be frowned upon around these parts. Seriously, screw it. I go in everyday and bust my ass. I run around like crazy, do everything I'm asked to the best of my ability, and do my best to stay nice, polite, and personable through all the crap I have to take. So if people want to get on my case about every little minute thing that bothers them, then so be it. I'm not going to let it all deter me from seeing the fact that I am on my way in this biz, irregardless of whether or not I got enough salsa at Baja Fresh to make everyone happy at lunchtime. So yeah, before I type more things that I'll probably regret later ...

Let's change subjects:


Well i got magically pulled for Leno this past Monday, seeing as nobody told me that I'd be working at it. But it turned out to be cool as some BU friends were in attendance, as were a bunch of other random people I knew, so it was great to see so many ppl at the show and feel like I knew half the audience. Also, it was hilarious as Coldplay was on the show, and basically they put on a pretty cool, energetic performance (even though they still kinda suck in my opinion, musically). But yeah, the funny part was that since the lead singer was running all over the place, even taking a sec to hug guest Anthony Hopkins on stage, Leno got caught on camera looking off into the distance looking awkward. So suddenly Leno had to start clapping and dancing, even more awkwardly. Funny stuff.

Hmm, in retrospect that wasn't as interesting of a story as I thought it'd be.

In summation - this week, hell, the last FEW weeks have been nuts. Luckily, come Saturday I'll be in CT, with nothing to do (hopefully ...), except sit back and enjoy the music ... and the bitter, bitter coldness. Oh man, I think I've un-adapted to the New England climate in the year I've been out here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Fair? Who's the #$%&'n Nihilist around here?!?!"

Okay, some quick hits here:

WORK: Holy schneikies, already this is the work week from hell, and it's not even Thursday yet. Okay, so it hasn't been THAT bad. But why must there be so much melodrama and whatnot all the friggin' time? People need to just chill out, learn to have a sense of humor about things, and not treat every mini crisis that comes up like its friggin' Armageddon. Worked @ Ellen today, was okay but it made me ill to have to see hordes of smiling people walking away with literally hundreds of dollars worth of DVD players and other awesome giveaways, simply for showing up. I know, I know, quit complaining. But dayum it's just ... not fair. And yes, I WOULD like some cheese with that wine (sorry, heard some construction worker say that yesterday and thought it was funny in a really, um, cheesy way). On a positive, I must commend DJ Tony for his unusually awesome musical selections at Ellen today, which seemed to be all 80's rock themed and incleded Duran Duran's Hungry Like a Wolf and The Pretender's Back On the Chain Gang.


ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT - Okay, what's the deal?I know I'm not alone in my disappointment that this show is getting the axe by FOX. So, what, is everyone just giving up on Arrested now? This Monday's episode, maybe one of the last ever, was easily my favorite of Season 3, and yet not one other person I know saw it. 'The hell? This episode was AMAZING, comedic GENIOUS. Every actor played their part to perfection, every joke was on the money, and the pace was a mile a minute. Watch NOW, before it's TOO LATE. My grade: A+

MY NAME IS EARL - Decent episode, though not as good as last week's either. The actor's continue to shine, and Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, and yes, even Jamie Presley are at the top of their games. But the scripts continue to slightly lag behind. My grade: B-

THE OFFICE - First, self-congrats to NBC for the huge rating this ep did. Second, it was once again pretty darn funny, though somehow it lacked the all out humor that the script had when I read it a while back. Still, a very good, very dark episode, almost too dark in that Michael Scott regressed back to being a total jerk after a few episodes of him becoming more sympathetic. My grade: B+

QUICK PREDICTION: On Thursday nights, the ratings for Earl and the Office will both go up from what they were doing on Tuesdays, but will begin to even out, with Office going up and Earl slightly down, and maybe The Office will even eventually eclipse Earl, ratings-wise. Earl is the immediate breakout hit, but The Office, if they can keep up the buzz and the high quality, has more overall potential to become an enormous hit.

VERONICA MARS - Well, not quite as good as last week's tour de force, but still some pretty cool moments, esp. Kieth Mars' investigation into the missing Aaron Echols' tapes. Overall this ep felt slightly off though. The jury duty stuff was a bit long-winded and hard to follow, and the Logan as buyer of the tapes subplot was just kind of weird. The ending cliffhanger once again delivered though, and hey, Wallace is back, and his return was a cool if predictable moment, that kind of redeeemed an otherwise slightly below par ep. But come on, a less that amazing Veronica Mars is still better than pretty much anything else out there. And oh yeah, kickass music, as usual. My grade: B

NOW FOR AN EDITION OF: "IF YOU LIKE_________, TRY ____________."

- If you like PRISON BREAK, try:
HARD TIME: Hard Time is a gritty, funny, and action packed comic book set in a prison, and you'll see when reading it that the Prison Break producers were likely fans. Hard Time follows the trials and tribulations of Ethan Harrow, a quiet teen who was involved in a Colombine-style school shooting and is tried as an adult. This comic, which just realunched with a new Number 1 issue, is available now and is a GREAT read. Check it out.

If you like BATMAN BEGINS, try:
BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN: This new limited comic series by legendary writer / artist Matt Wagner is a moody, psychological look at Batman's early years fighting crime that deals with the transition from a Gotham controlled by the mafia to a Gotham suddenly overrun by all manner of costumed criminals. Wagner's name may not be as mainstream as say Frank Miller, but he is one of those classic guys who just gets Batman, and with issue 2 hitting stores this week, this series is shaping up to be a great followup to the types of tales told in Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, and Batman Begins.

If you like 24, try:
LA FEMME NIKITA: Before they worked on 24, that show's producers created this cult classic TV show. Nikita was filled with great characters, tons of drama, intriguing story arcs, and the best, most stylish action scenes you'll ever see on a TV show. While the DVD sets are somewhat pricey, make sure you don't pass up this underrated TV gem.

If you like DEADWOOD, try:
JONAH HEX - Alright, one more comic here. Since grim n gritty Westerns are all the rage these days thanks to shows like HBO's Deadwood, why not read some classic adventures of the original badass cowboy, Jonah Hex? DC Comics just launched a new series starring the character, who is famous for his grotesquely scarred face and his quick draw on the ol' pistols, and also for having his own unique moral code. The new book has great writing, amazing, digitally painted artwork, and is a danged cool new take on the Western.

Alright - I'm out. Once again I cannot believe yet another day is already on the horizon after I barely finished this one. But when sleep calls, well, the dude abides.

P.S. - I now am the proud owner of a swanky new, un-ripped, un-shredded, bright and shiny new model deluxe NBC page tie, and I couldn't be happier to rid myself of my old tie, because its retirement was long overdue.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Do Mandroids Dream of Electric Blue Smurfs? Aeon Flux Review, Why You MUST Watch Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, and More!

And thus the almighty weekend comes to a close, and a week of more manual labor, long hours, and general insanity beckons. And so it was.

Some fun times this weekend, though my Friday was shot due to extreme fatigue brought on from a crazy day at work of moving boxes, relocating the contents of whole supply cabinets, and numerous errand-runs done in the rain. Not a fun day, and I barely made it through the unrelenting afternoon, and it all caught up to me at about 6 pm and I was just plain done for the night. Oh well, Saturday was fun (if a little bit crazy ...), and tonight I got to make up for Friday and head out for some good Italian food and a viewing of Aeon Flux. Yeah, you heard me.

So before the week starts, a few thoughts on the world of entertainment ...


VERONICA MARS - This past Wednesday's episode was awesome! This season is getting better by the week, and is now shifting into high gear, layering mystery upon mystery, and twist upon twist. The show is almost in danger of becoming TOO dense, with so many subplots and just so much going on ... but for now, it is kicking ass, and for the last few weeks has definitely been, dare I say it, the BEST show on TV, bar none. The Logan vs. Weevil stuff is getting so intense, both actors deserve a lot of credit. The bus-explosion mystery is evolving very nicely, and the vice-principal stuf fin this ep was just grin-inducingly awesome. "You've been reading Machiavelli over summer vacation." Awesomeness. And hey, this show is quickly becoming the king of killer cliffhangers (literally!), and this week's was another big one. And oh yeah, this ep even delivered a pretty cool ALTERNATE ENDING for online viewing, and is actually letting viewers VOTE on which one they prefer. Pretty cool, very innovative, and that alternate ending provided yet ANOTHER shocking twist that could totally throw the season for a loop if it comes into effect. Veronica under arrest for MURDER~? I say it's almost a little TOO much, with all that's going on in the show, but that's why it's an alternate ending, I guess. Anyways, this show is brilliant, if you don't watch it then you need to tune in now. This is the ultimate depiction of high school as a conspiracy-laden hell, and it's got mystery, action, humor, smarts, character, and style. My grade: A

- No new FOX stuff tonight, except King of the Hill (still the most consistent, heart-filled, earnest comedy on TV), which was taped by me and will be watched at a later date, along with last week's OC and Reunion.



Watch ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT ON FOX TONIGHT @ 8pm! This could very likely be one of your last chances to see it on TV. To see what now? Only the BEST TV COMEDY OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS! So please WATCH, tell your friends to WATCH, tell them to tell their friends to WATCH, because who knows, maybe an osmosis effect will occur and everyone will watch and FOX will take notice and hold off on pulling the plug on this brilliant show. Sure, chances are slim, but there is always hope! What other show features a a teenage boy in love with his cousin, a fugitive father who hires a stand-in to make appearance at family functions, an attorney named Bob Loblaw played by Scott Baio, David Cross as an ambiguously gay idiot, self-mocking narration by Ron Howard, or Charlize Theron as a British spy?!?! This show has the best cast, the smartest writing, and the funniest gags of ANY show out there. TRUST ME. Just watch.

Speaking of Charlize ...


Oh man, remember when MTV was COOL? I do. I remember in middle school turning on some MTV and seeing videos from Tom Petty and Aerosmith and Weezer and Green Day and Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots and Metallica. I remember seeing a new type of sketch comedy in THE STATE. And I remember late nights of flipping on MTV just to see what was on, and coming across wierd, subversive, trippy stuff that pretty much blew my mind. Sure, there was Beavis and Butthead - that's a given - a pretty hilarious classic that was underappreciated for its genious in its time. But then there was Liquid TV. There was crazy, intense, underground comic-book and anime inpired fare like The Maxx and The Head and most of all, Aeon Flux. AEON FLUX was pretty much just about the coolest, most freaked-out thing ever. There was a scantily-clad dominatrix chick, before such things were all the rage, doing backflips and kicking ass in an anime distopia, getting into all kinds of suicidal and homicidal adventures. Back when MTV was at the height of its coolness, Aeon Flux was THE coolest thing it had going. It was like a videogame acid trip that made no real sense but still assaulted your senses and undeniably ROCKED. So yeah, basically, there was no way Hollywood could NOT screw this one up. And all signs pointed to this one sucking beyond suck, as it was not even screened for the press, and the few early reviews were godawful. But then I saw a few positive reviews here and there, notablyon Ain't It Cool News, and thought, hmm, may not be so bad afterall? In any case, my curiosity factor for this movie was extremely high, as I have a huge love and nostalgia for the old-school animated Aeon Flux.

And no, it was definitely not terrible. It even had moments of awesomeness. Overall though, this movie had a lot of flaws that kept it from being great scifi. This is definitely no BLADE RUNNER (yeah right, no movie is), no Dark City, and no, not really as good as Gattaca either. It does borrow from all those movies though, cobbling together bits and pieces from a collection of other scifi stuff to assemble a story for Aeon - something that the animated series only hinted at but happily did without, instead reveling in its illogic and randomness. And maybe this movie could have used less story and more of that animated energy. More style and less substance. Yep, you heard me. Because while Charlize Theron as Aeon does a decent job of emulating the stylized cartoon she is based on, the movie often looks like something that a bunch of fanboy friends shot in their high school soccer field rather than a big budget sci fi movie. Sure, some shots and a few sets are pretty cool, but the quality is not at all consistent. This movie just didn't look RIGHT to me. On one hand you have some futuristic, trippy stuff going on. On the other hand you have everything shot in bright light and in mostly very simple, conventional Hollywood action movie ways. I almost think Iwould have preferred if this had been all crazy-acid-trippy like Tony Scott's recent DOMINO. Basically, the full on freakiness of the original Aeon Flux series seemed trapped and struggling to get out of generic Hollywood scifi action move # 5,739. Sure, there were moments. The old man who was the Keeper of everyone's DNA - weird and surreal like something Peter Chung might have thought of back in the day. Aeon's escape from her prison cell and cool shifting between spacial realities ... Coolness. Her knock-down, drag-out fight with a female pursuer, that saw Aeon grab the woman's earring with her tongue and proceed to rip it out of her assailant's ear ... pretty damn kickass. The rest of the movie ... the tired political power-struggle subplot, the non-chemistry between Aeon and Trevor Goodchild, the random action scenes that boiled down to lots and lots of bullets being fired and not much else ...? Not so much. Overall, this movie is in fact worth seeing, especially on a big screen where you can get lost in the futuristic world and just enjoy the ride. You could do a lot worse and its at the least an entertaining film, with some cool visuals, some interesting ideas, and some intriguing concepts to mull over. But does this EVEN HOLD A CANDLE to the animated series it's based on? Hells no. So check out the newly released animated Aeon Flux DVD, and be reminded of what COOL is, of what ARTISTIC VISION is ... and I'll give you a hint, it's NOT always what Hollywood thinks. My grade: C+

Well, I have more to write, more to say, and more to do. But time is limited and I'm already looking at T minus 6 hours of sleep before I have to wake up for work. Dammit!

Looks like I'll be dispatching my clone to go to work for me ...

Until then I'll be singing the body electric

Friday, December 02, 2005

Kid, You'll Never Make It in This Town

Friday is here!

Man, can't wait for this week to be over. Been a long one without much chance for rest, relaxation, and the all important sleep. Therefore I hope to accomplish all three this weekend. But anyways, on with the show.

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a great event - a BU alumni shindig which featured Seinfeld's Jason Alexander (one of my favorite BU graduates), bigtime movie producer Michael Barnathan (first two Harry Potter's, Rent), and smaller-time but trailblazing producer Shelby Stone (Lackawanna Blues). The panel focused on convergence in film and TV, and how technology and changes to the studio system might allow for more diversity in content. It was very interesting, and the discussion soon veered into more general advice for those aspiring to make it in entertainment. Which was awesome, because there were some very inspirational remarks made, and in post-college life that kind of talk is seldom heard. Like at BU, lecturers and faculty advisors would always be like "your class is the future, you're the best and brightest, you can do it, go get 'em," etc. But then all you hear is "make my coffee" and "get my lunch." Not exactly inspiring words. So to be sitting there with a bunch of students on BU's LA semester program and hearing these bigtime people give such good advice and motivational stories was just what the doctor ordered. And to think about the entertainment industry in terms of the big picture - ie what is possible and what the future holds and to talk about creative ideas in a creative way instead of discussing making copies or filling out timesheets ... well, it was pretty cool. And what about Jason Alexander? First of all, this guy is not only funny, but super intelligent. He knows what he's talking about and yet is completely humble and down to earth and an ultra class-act. Basically a regular guy who was lucky enough to play one of the greatest comedic characters in TV history. Jason Alexander rules. The other two speakers were really interesting as well, and both again were very humble and honest and candid - so far removed from the typical Hollywood industry-types I see everyday or hear about from others. People who actually have a creative vision and are willing to take a loss for that vision. This one story in particular that Michael Barnathan told, about how as a fledgling assistant he always had to get his boss a cantalope from the store everyday, was great. Basically the old assistant was fired for never being able to find a ripe enough cantalope, so Michael, even though he found it demeaning that he had to do this every day, always made sure to get the best possible cantalope at the store, and he credits that to making a good impression on his boss and being able to move up. Funny stuff. Overall it was a great panel and good times.

Only downside is it leaves me totally drained today. Oh well, like I said, it's Friday.

And I was already drained by the time I got to the panel yesterday. Because:


I was designated manual laborer yesterday. I was moving couches, stacking cases of water, reorganizing supply closets, and more yesterday in preparation for our office reshufflle / move that's going ot be happening over the next few weeks - and had worked up quite a sweat by go-home time at 7 pm. So yeah, my back is pretty sore today.

- Find me a job! Once again, if you're one of those well-connected types, let me know of any cool positions you hear about!


I give credit where credit is due - this was a pretty damn good episode, and possibly my favorite of Season 2, up there with the season premiere. Lo and behold, we have plot advancement! Finally, things seem back on track story-wise, as Dharma, the hatch, and the nature of the island all came back into focus, and it looks like Walt, the Others, and even the long-forgotten Monster are on deck to be addressed. Plus, we got some killer cliffhangers. That opening, with Kate eerily silent as she nonchalantly blows up her house ... pretty cool. And the ending, though predictable (who DIDN'T see it coming that Walt was gonna be the one IM'ing his dad), was still a nice can't-wait-for-next-week's-ep type moment. Good stuff with Jack, Kate, and Sawyer, and while the Eko-Locke stuff was kind of melodramatic and stupid ("There was a Book ..."), at least it opened up a very potentially interesting can of worms. And I like the fact that they are keeping Kate morally ambiguous - is she a "killer?" Some interestign threads developing ... Could this be the beginning of a midseason turnaround in quality? I hope so.Because even when it's bad Lost is still water-cooler buzz-worthy, but when it's on it is, like I've said many times, potentially mind-blowing. This was a start. There's still a LOT of work to do, but it's a step in the right direction. My grade: A -

- Still have yet to watch this week's Veronica Mars, OC, or Reunion.

- Interesting changes to the network's midseason schedule. Huge leap by NBC to put Earl and the Office on Thursdays - potentially VERY risky, but change was necessary and this was definitely their best quick-fix move before next season when they can hopfelly reload on the good comedy front. My main hope is that the surging Office can find a bigger audience, because it has gone from being a weak adaptation of the British version to a half hour of comedy gold that has established its own unique identity thanks to good writing and awesome work from Rann Wilson and Steve Carell. Curious to see how Book of Daniel does for us on Fridays as well, against the all powerful might of Jennifer Love Ghost Whisperer.

FOX is really gonna have a hardcore two hours of action with Prisonbreak and 24 on the same night. That's almost too much intensity for one night, not sure if I can handle it.


- Oh man, I was excited to see Aeon Flux but the fact that no review screenings were held for critics is a REALLY bad sign. Yeah, it will likely suck but I hope I'm wrong.

- King Kong just looks so far above and beyond anything else action-movie wise. Until proven otherwise, Peter Jackson can do no wrong, neither can the f/x ppl at WETA, and the cast is amazingly picked. This is one of those rare action-adventure movies in recent years - only Batman Begins, Kill Bill, the Lord of the Rings movies, and maybe one or two others come to mind that are just destined to rule all - where you just KNOW that you're in good hands and the stars are all alligned, and that you're poised to witness and instant classic.


I know I'm a little late to jump on this bandwagon, but how cool is it to have an ultra-orthodox Jewish rock/reggae singer being played on mainstream modern rock radio? Count me in as one of the growing number of Matitsiyahu fans. This guy drops more "Hashem" references then Snoop Dogg drops f-bombs, and yeah its kinda quirky but kinda cool as well.

On that note ...

Happy weekend, Shabbat Shalom, and PEACE.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Half Man. Half Machine. All Blog.

Hello there, true believers, and welcome to another at-work edition of my blog to end all blogs. Yes, things are tranquil right now here in primetime development, so I thought I'd kill some time by entertaining the millions and millions of readers out there with another daily dose of Danny's Digital Domain. Ya' dig?

Not too much to update as far as work goes. Still plugging away. Yesterday however was the morning from hell, if you wanted to know. So I ordered all this paper for our office. We needed a lot so I ordered 15 orders each of holed and non-holed paper types. Whoops, turns out that one order of paper wasn't one ream like I thought, it was one big box containing ten reams of paper. Suffice to say, we got A LOT of paper. Luckily I channeled my inner attorney-at-law and convinced the delivery guys to return half the shipment. Still, that left me with 150 packs of paper. Damn ... so yeah, I had to do a lot of box-moving. Guess I picked the wrong day to wear a sweater to work ... Then -- I had to deal with all the new gadgets I had purchased for our kitchen, namely, the coffee maker, which I knew would be an issue since I never drink coffee and therefore am terrible at making it. So yeah, the new coffee maker uses a larger filter than the old one ... so after using the too-small old filters, I open the machine to empty out the old filter, and its filled with water and coffee rinds, and spills all over the place. I must say I did a very good and thorough job of cleaning up this mess, but no, it was not a fun morning, and I felt like I had bathed in coffee (which I kinda had) all day.

So yeah, there's my crazy work story of the day. Haven't seen too many celeb-types lately as pitching season is pretty much over, though I did greet Jay Mohr the other day. Yeah ... pretty ... coool ... huh?


- FOX has done it again. After pretty much giving the best comedy on TV, Arrested Development, the axe, they go and cancel REUNION in the middle of its season. Now I was really starting to get into this show. Yes, it is cheesy as hell, but it was good, over-the-top, melodramatic fun. And it delivered a pretty compelling mystery - one that was set to span a full 22 episodes. So now we'll get a truncated finale, which is too bad. This show had a GREAT concept and could have caught on if it wasn't always preempted by baseball and whatnot. Another one bites the dust.

- Meanwhile, who wouldda think it, but SURFACE is nearly the sole survivor of the battle of the network scifi shows trying to capitalize on the success of Lost. A textbook example of how bad reviews doesn't always mean bad ratings, Surface is actually doing decently well for us at NBC even as Nightstalker and Threshold are cancelled at ABC and CBS. Good riddance to those shows, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to Surface from here.

- PRISONBREAK FINALE: Pretty awesome episode. Great scenes with the two secret service agents, with Michael and his brother, etc. Very intense. Of course there's some crazy lapses in logic (they're just gonna leave Lincoln Burrows totally alone and unguarded in the infirmery ...?), but like 24 you just have to kind of run with it and go along for the ride. Prisonbreak has an awesome cast, great pacing, and a lot of excitement, and is the best new show this year. Now, what is up with the cliffhanger? We have to wait until March to get a resolution on whether or not they escape? I blame this one more on the inept programmers at FOX, but still ... lame. My grade: A -

Speaking of 24, those promos have me hyped! You just know that 24 is going to kick some ass Jack Bauer-style come January. And in a super-cool move, they've cast PETER WELLER, aka Buckaroo Banzai, aka ROBOCOP to play a mentor figure to Jack Bauer. "You have the right to remain silent!" Indeed.

Yes, Robocop is one of the best action movies of all time. I dare you to tell me otherwise.

Alright, that's all for today.

Baram Out.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

There Was Turkey For Me, and Turkey For You

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. As the contented nothingness of the holiday weekend gives way to the return of the working week, I hope we can all look back at a few days of peaceful tranquility and say: "ahhh, that was good."

I feel I can, because, man, that extra little time off really gives ya that necessary buffer zone to just kick back and relax. Sure, I had to work on Friday, don the page polyester, and give two tours after a long absence from the NBC tour-giving circuit. But despite every fiber of my being wanting to sleep late on Friday, and despite the painful reality of having to get to work early after a mere one day off, the suffering was soon alleviated by a multi-hour nap that was just what the doctor ordered. Of course, even with a little extra time added to my weekend, I still have so much stuff left undone, but hey, it's the holiday, it's all about doing nothing, right? And I mean a GOOD kind of nothing. Not doing nothing like just sitting staring at the computer screen wondering how best to spend your carefully planned time. But doing nothing as in realizing that there's nothing more pressing to do than to just kick back and give the ol' PS2 a workout, ya know?

Forgive me for all this nonsensical rambling, I think I'm still feeling the after-effects of all that turkey, or something. Speaking of which, our little Page-Giving Thanks-Giving Feast was a good time, with lots of hearty food, mostly courtesy of fellow page and Julia Child-in training Abby W, who brought it on like Donkey Kong, serving up some home-cooked servings that left noone hungry for more. All that was missing was my uncle Michael to declare that the stuffing (if there was any), was, indeed, "well-stuffed." And of course there is no other experience that can quite replicate my hipster-Rabbi great-uncle Elliot belting out jokes and songs, Zaydee reading yet another Turkey Day proclamation from former CT governer Wilbur Cross, or the madhouse that m house becomes as we strive to vacuum, dust, and scrub every inch so that it meets my dad's notoriously demanding demands for cleanliness. On second thought, maybe a change of pace for one year wasn't such a bad thing after all? After all, we did have nearly 80 degree weather here in LA last week. Now isn't that something to be thankful for?

But don't worry all those in CT-land. I'll be back soon to visit and I can't wait for one more round of do-nothing vacationing, as I am beginning to think that the lazy life might really be my natural state of being. At least that's how it seems in the face of 11-hour workday NBC corporate craziness, which has a tendency to make a lazy day of relaxation look like just baout the greatest thing ever. And hey, maybe it is.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging:


- Oh man, at work? Already? Yeah, and look at the time, it's been about a month already since I started my assignment, and my thoughts inevitably turn towards the unclear future ahead. So ... what the hell am I going to do next? Yes, I REALLY have to start thinking about life post-NBC pagedom. My ideal is probably to be a writer's assistant, but yeah, those types of gigs are not exactly a dime a dozen. So if you are one of those people who has, like, connections all over town (in a good way I mean), then give me a hand will ya, hook me up. Seriously, if anyone has any ideas or connections, fill me in!


- Okay, I hear it every day - people discussing LOST like it's ULYSSES and people dissing VERONICA MARS simply because they don't know what they're talking about. And yet while Lost continues to falter this season, Veronica Mars' second season is beginning to hit its stride, and just delivered another A-level episode. So let me quickly summarize while you should be watching MARS on Wednesdays and merely taping or Tivo'ing Lost to watch for later, even at the peril of god-forbid being excluded from water-cooler discussions the next day. So ...


- CHARACTER THROUGH PLOT: While Lost needs to use contrived, formulaic flashbacks every episode just to give overly long explanations of why their characters are the way they are, the characterizations on Veronica Mars continually evolve alongside the unfolding mysteries of the show, and are revealed organically.

- CONTINUITY: While Lost has more loose ends than an unmade bed, Veronica Mars is meticulously plotted and mapped out, so that when mysteries are solved, you know you were i good hands all along as the pieces of the puzzle fit neatly into place. Lost has posed about 5,000 questions, none of which will likely ever be answered in a satisfactory way, simply because it's clear that the writers and producers never had a clear vision for where they were going with the show. So while you can legitimately watch Veronica Mars and piece together all the clues, trying to figure out how the island , the numbers, Walt's powers, the hatch, the Others, etc., all fit together on Lost is pretty much a lost cause (pun intended).

- ATMOSPHERE: While Lost gets all the comparisons to shows like X-Files, Veronica Mars shares an important quality with that show - it is positively dripping with dark, foreboding atmosphere. As a matter of fact, the whole show is film-noir DARK, with nary an "awww isn't that cute" moment in sight. Lost on the other hand is filled with wannabbe-Spielbergian moments that are just oh so cheesy, and that usually come wrapped in an all too convenient montage. Oh look, let's watch everyone hug for ten minutes in this past week's episode. Hmm, maybe the reason for all those montages is that nothing actually happens.

Okay, so I'm not here to just bash Lost. The thing is that I completely want LOST to be good. That's why I keep watching. There is so much potential in the show. The cast is great, the premise has SO MUCH possibility. And I am eagerly waiting and hoping for that potential to be fullfilled. But it is possible to have great characterization that is a natural extension of an ongoing PLOT. Everything doesn't have to stop just so we can find out that Ana Lucia was a cop. I've been reading a lot of Grant Morrison-written stuff this weekend, and that man packs more ideas into a single page of his writing than an entire season of Lost. And don't try and tell me the show is ABOUT the characters. EVERY non-procedural TV show is about characters. This show is about characters but also a lot more. What that more is though, has totally disappeared into the background, because the writers seem too afreaid to step up to plate and craft a real story that dazzles the imagination, that's more than just a soap opera set on an island. So come on behind-the-scenes people, step up the game! And everyone, watch Veronica Mars - it's dripping with dark atmosphere, rife with mystery, and is the best show on Wednesdays at 9 pm.


SIMPSONS: A plot that lasted the whole ep makes this a decent effort, though what it had in structure it lacked in funny. Some good lines, Milhouse's middle name is Mussolini!, and an overall old-school tone made this, despite a lack of laugh-out-loud moments, one of the more solid efforts this season. My grade: B

FAMILY GUY: Alright, I guess there's no point in resisting it anymore, Family Guy is funny again. But I am stil lworried that it's becoming more "did you see what they just did?" funny and less the clever, downright hilarious, and innovative show that it originally was. Still, as far as offensive humor goes, this is still must-see material, and some of the gags this week were pretty freakin' funny (the doctor's schtick, Peter addressing the room full of fat people ...).
My grade: A -

And that's about all I got for now. I'd write more, but my sleep schedule is WAY off from this weekend and I can already tell that tommorow might potentially be one reaaaally long day at work. Luckilly there's the kinda-finale of PRISON BREAK tommorow, which is pretty much guaranteed to rule all.

So that is all for this EXCELLENTLY-EXECUTED posting. I bid you all goodnight and / or good morning, and good luck.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"And the Flames Went Higher ..."

Man, it's been a CRAZY week.

I guess part of it is just that the holiday season is approaching, but things just seem to be moving at a strange, dream-like pace lately, and everything seems just slightly removed from reality.

My last post was on Wednesday, and that post now seems like it was made ages ago.

So Thursday I'm at work, in the middle of the usual craziness. My cell phone rings and I answer it on a whim. It's someone calling from Boston University's Daily Free Press newsapaper. They're telling me that they saw via The Facebook website that I was friends with someone - with a girl named Anne Meadows. I was, but more of an acquaintance, really. I mean, I had had a ton of classes with her at BU together we slogged through professors Cavalieri and Schneider in writing and production classes, and we always got along well, and joked a lot, and she was undoubtedly talented, smart, and one of the nicest people I had come across at BU's College of Communication. One of those people who you can't help but call your friend even if you weren't particularly close outside of classes. I knew she had moved out to LA. I had talked to her online, asked her about her job at Disney, I even invited her to my recent birthday celebration, hoping to get back in touch and reconnect with some of my old BU pals who had moved out here. She was unable to attend, but I always kind of assumed that at some point soon in the near future we'd finally hang out. It wasn't meant to be, I guess ... it turned out that she had passed away. She was dead at the age of 22, and the Free Press was calling me for a tribute story they were doing to run in Friday's edition. My hands shook as I asked the guy on the phone to repeat what he was saying, and I was in complete shock and disbelief. I tried to go about the rest of my day, but my head was swimming. I don't really want to go into it anymore than this on the blog, but suffice to say that the whole thing is just sad, just a tragedy, and just not right. I only hope that for the people who were truly close to Anne - her friends, her family - that they can find peace and solace in the face of a life being so tragically cut short, in the knowledge that Anne made many people's lives better in the short time she was here.

By Friday I had had some time to process, but of course Friday turned out to be just about the craziest and most ridiculous day at work ever. The Current Primetime group who we at Development have shared our offices with are moving out, and on Monday they'll be in new offices down the hall at NBC. So of course nobody in my department stopped to plan for the fact that Current was taking everything but the kitchen sink with them to their new offices. That meant we were left without a fridge, copier, water and soda supplies, coffee maker, paper, microwave, toaster, and few office supplies. And guess who was given yet another trial by fire and suddenly put in charge of getting all of this stuff THE DAY BEFORE CURRENT MOVED OUT FOR GOOD? Yep, that poor soul was me. So with nary an ounce of guidance, I had to order all of this crap online, set up new accounts, go through miles of corporate red tape, and try to explain to all my coworkers what the hell was going on. Not fun. The only positive is that taking on this responsibility hopefully earned me some brownie points with the assistants and execs who I work with, but on the downside it provided for the most stressful day ever. Because as all of our weekly scripts were coming in on Friday evening that needed to be printed and copied, we found ourselves without a big copier that could handle the task of reproducing them quickly. Of course, utter chaos ensued.

All of which added up to the fact that I was more than ready to leave work on Friday and see Harry Potter 4. Now I don't really like Harry Potter all that much, but the sight of wizards couldn't have been more welcome after the two days from hell.

So, yeah, I know it's a bit of a jarring change of subject matter, but here's what I have to say about the latest Harry Potter, namely Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ...


Okay, so I can't say I've really LOVED any of the Harry Potter movies. And I felt basically the same about this one that I have about the others. I enjoy the characters, the f/x, the IDEAS behind the whole premise, but the movies, as a whole, kind of bore me and feel pretty lacking. This one especially had some cool scenes, but felt like it was just that - a collection of scenes with no real sense of a coherant plot that was driving the action. Sure, there's the TriWizard tournament or whatever, but this setup, which was the focus of the movie, felt more like a diversion from the real, more important plot that was happening in the background. And sure, I understand the need for setup, but this is the fourth movie, how much setup can you have? And yes, I realize that obviously, this is just following the books. But guess what, all you Harry Potter elitists ... THESE ARE MOVIES, THEY DON'T HAVE TO AND SHOULDN'T NECESSARILY FOLLOW THE BOOKS TO THE LETTER. WHY? BECAUSE THE MOVIES INEVITABLY SUFFER FOR DOING SO. But Danny, you ask, aren't you the same geek who complains when Alfred Pennyworth doesn't have a mustache in Batman Begins like he does in the comics? Why yes, yes I am. But while I do have a problem with movie adaptations altering key details or plot points for no particular reason, I also have a problem with jumpy plots in movies that lack coherance or dramatic stucture. As they stand now, I see these Harry Potter movies basically as a fun diversion, a collection of cute little ideas and characters that exist in a fun and magical world. But are these anywhere near the same league as, say, Lord of the Rings or even the original Star Wars trilogy? Oh hells no. That being said, let's give some credit to how great the cast is in these films. Alan Rickman is pure money as Snape. Mad Eye Moody, despite a stupid name, was great. All three kids are golden, and totally embody their characters. On the bad side, Voldemort looked like a poor man's Nosferatu, which was kind of a letdown after so much buildup. The movie was entertaining enough, but in the final assesment is merely decently entertaining. But seriously, the whole Harry Potter thing really does kinda scare me with its weird ability to inspire grown men to dress like its lead, KID characters. Are there ANY nerds that are creepier than Harry Potter nerds? I think not. My grade: B -

The next day I took in yet another much-hyped movie, but one that was totally different ...


I've talked on here about my growing appreciation for the music of Johnny Cash over the last year or so. So I have really been looking forward to this movie for a while, and it didn't disappoint. Like a good Cash song, this movie sticks inside your brain and refuses to leave - it's simple yet ressonant, deceptively powerful. Firstly, the performances in this film are great. Joaquin Phoenix is great here. While he looks and sounds differently from the Johnny Cash most are familiar with, at the same time, he embodies Johnny Cash in an eerily accurate way. He lacks the exact look - the craggy face and old-past-his-years visage, and he lacks the exact sound - the deep gravel in his voice and always earnest tone. But yet ... he is very, very, convincing. And in terms of his acting, of his ability to draw you in - well, the mimicry is almost spot-on, but the performance as a whole, well, it's a home run. And Reese Witherspoon ... she has come a long way here from Legally Blonde. In easily her best performance yet, she is charming and subtley pained as June Carter, Johnny's unattainble object of delirious affection. And hey, X-Files fans, Agent Doggett, aka Robert Patrick, does an awesome job here as well as Johnny's disapproving father - in a scene-stealing performance. This movie, for what it is, basically fires on all cylinders with superb acting, rousing musical set-pieces, a deliberate but absorbing pace, and moody, era-evoking cinematography - taking us back to the birth of rock and roll in a land populated with the likes of Elvis, Orbison, Dylan, and more. But what is this movie? Well, it's less a full biopic and more a love story between Johnny and June. And it's a very, very good love story - inevitably an Oscar-worthy one at that. But I did leave with a feeling that it oculd have been slightly more, as the movie stops short of giving us a full picture of the life of Johnny Cash. When the courthsip between Johnny and June is over, so is the movie, even though it feels like there is so much more to tell, and a larger context that the whole thing should be put into. We get intriguing hints of something more - scenes of Cash mixing with other rock legends, of his desire to represent society's outcasts (ie the transcendant concert scene in Folsom Prison). When I got home from seeing this movie, I watched the amazing music video for Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's "Hurt", released in the months between June's death and his own, and it left me dying to see how the Johnny Cash from Walk The Line became the wizened, fatherly, world-weary Johnny Cash from "Hurt." I guess there is only so much you can put into one movie, and I did just complain about Harry Potter's lack of focus, but I do think that an extra ounce of context would have pushed this movie from the realm of "great" into that of "classic." As it is, the main focus, the love story, is presented with all the drug-fueled passion and fiery angst that seeped into so many Cash songs of the time. The power of this movie is that it will make you need to know more about Johnn Cash - you will need to hear his music, need to find out what happened next, and need to learn about his place in rock history. And most likely, you'll have his infectious songs stuck in your head for days to come - I know I do. My grade: A -

Okay, some quick capsule TV REVIEWS:

- MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE: Wow, GREAT ep this week. Maybe with Arrested on the chopping block people will come back and appreciate the original single camera sitcom. This was vintage Malcolm, full of clever plot points and with no shortage of laugh out loud humor. My grade: A

- KING OF THE HILL: Best ep in a while. Classic Hank vs. Everyone Else premise, and even though it mortified Hank, ya gotta love the idea that his precious town of Arlen was founded by a bunch of hookers. My grade: A

THE SIMPSONS: Dayum, this episode was BROKEN. The main plot began TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE SHOW! Worse, if given time, Homer running for mayor could have actually had some potential. That is just terrible writing, and more evidence to the fact that the producers of this show are currently either hacks, barely trying, or both. That Ricky Gervais-penned episode cannot come fast enough. My grade: C -

FAMILY GUY: After a run of a few above average eps, this one was back to the land of lameness, with few legit funny moments and enough totally nonsensical 80's references for four episodes (yet ANOTHER Transformers joke? They should give it up, they will never eclipse the classic "Optimus Prime? YOU'RE Jewish?" joke). Sure, the Disney parody stuff was kinda funny (can't go wrong with a Captain EO joke ...), but we've seen it done better in classic Simpsons (Itchy and Scratchy Land anyone?). This one had its moments, but was kinda pushing it. On the other hand, after careful conisderation, I am upping my grade slightly solely due to the hilarity that is "Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" My grade: B

Last Week's SMALLVILLE - freaking awesome. Superman vs. Milton Fine in full-on evil Braniac mode! The threat of ZOD! Antarctic Fortress battles! Lex for Senate! Lois at the Daily Planet! This episode could do no wrong, and was one of the best, most action-packed episodes ever! Dare I say it was BETTER than that new Superman movie teaser? I might go there, because, unlike the teaser, this week's Smallville didn't need the Donner Superman's theme music or Marlon Brando Jor-El voiceover narration in order to kick some ass! Oh no you didn'. Yes, I did. My grade: A

- Dude, PRISON BREAK is gonna rule this week. Last week's was good stuff, and the question of the TV week is now: WHO is gonna get ousted from the group of prison escapees? My bet is on ... Michael's cellmate - sure, the two are friends, but what does he bring to the table?

- If nothing happens on LOST ... everyone will still watch it.

- Bring on NARNIA, RENT, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and possibly AEON FLUX (I was a HUGE fan of the cartoon but the movie could suck ...).

Well, sorry for starting the post on such a downer this week, but as you can see it's been a wild ride the last few days and all one can do is keep on truckin'. Thank God for the holidays this week as the prospect of a shortened work week is making the impending thought of the MONDAY OF DOOOM a little bit easier to swallow.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my BU partners in crime ... HAPPY BIRTHDAY AKSEL, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERYKA. Don't worry guys, there will be more good times to come. But my question for Eryka, my favorite honorary Wiccan-turned-Jew, is ... did you once again partake of Rabbi Schmooley's Cake of Immorality? Man, has it really been a year since I was in NYC feasting at the craziest Shabbat dinner / duel Birthday party of all time in the house of rabbi turned media mogul Schmooley Boteach? Man how time flies. Seriously, Happy Birthday to the both of ya's - I am playing Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever" right now in your honors.

" ... And time keeps dragging on / But that train keeps a-rolling ..."