Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Danny's Summer Movie Wrap-Up: Brothers Grimm Review and More

Sitting at work? Bored? Well finally, I'm back with something for you to read. Namely, my summer movie wrap-up. Let's get right down to it ...


As much as CGI has enabled some really cool stuff to be done in movies, there is a certain magic to be had in that old-school special effects wizardry. Whenever you tune into some classic 80's fantasy movie, like, say The Neverending Story, everything is just brimming with detail, dimension, and imagination. So I had high hopes going into Terry Gilliam's latest fantasy opus, because the man has imagination coming out of his ears. Look at Time Bandits, Brazil, or 12 Monkeys. Gilliam is a classic, a visionary, an artist. And he has more problems with studio executives while making each of his movies that you can shake a stick at. Unfortunately, while The Brother's Grimm is a visual feast - brimming with trademark Gilliam imagination and surreality, it is also a mess. The plot is all over the place. The editing and pacing is jumpy and uneven, and the story gets mired in confusion and pointlessness and lack of much internal logic. Sadly, all the pieces are in place for a great, timeless movie. The cast, for one, is superb. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are surprisingly great as the Brothers Grimm, and who knew that Ledger had the kind of crazy-comic acting chops on display here? The leads are perfect and on the mark, the supporting cast is great as well. The plot and pacing is where the problem lies. The whole movie just seems pointless and nonsensical, as if it were trying to have a big, complex, Hollywood adventure story when all Gilliam really wanted was to flex his visual muscle, and he seems to be saying "to hell with this script, I'm just gonna have some fun with this thing." And so, despite the spotty plot structure, all is forgotten in the movie's several moments of visual genious. The magic of Gilliam's unique style shines through every so often, and these moments alone make the movie at least worth checking out for the curious. Where else do you see a demonic horse trap a child in a web and devour him whole? Or how about a blob-like creature that emerges from a well and proceeds to cause havoc in a town square? Or what about the amazing sequence where Monica Belluci as a cursed princess is turned to mirror-glass and then shattered into a million pieces? Awesome stuff, but there's barely anything there to tie it all together. This movie, visually, will remind you of some long-forgotten 80's fantasy - it has that otherworldly gloss of Time Bandits and Labrynth and other such movies. But its tone is so scattered and incoherant ... with few lines that recall the Monty Python-derived wit that you might think Gilliam would try to infuse this movie with. I'm not sure what the specific story was with the making of this movie, but the reports that there was conflict behind the scenes seems to ring true in the final product, because the movie is very uneven, a far cry from being a fully realized vision. I guess that when compared to other bad entries in the fantasy-adventure genre this is at least something unique and captivating in its own way. But mostly it is something that should be seen, sure - by all means, see this misguided attempt at brilliance and support an amazing director like Gilliam, rather than spending dollars on Deuce Begelow or some other generic Hollywood crap. But ultimately this movie will whet your appetite for something amazing, but it's not one that will leave you wholly satisfied with the finished product. Kind of a tragedy, when there is so much to like about it. Oh well, maybe next time. My grade: C +


... And to be honest, I am getting kinda sick of the whole "Frat Pack." I like people like Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson when they stick to crazy, out-there, interesting material. Ferell to me was at his best in Anchorman, for example, not in Old School. I am a big fan of Owen Wilson's work in quirky comedies like The Life Aquatic. Vince Vaughn, well, I can't say I'm a superfan of his or anything. I appreciate his obvious talent for comedy but I just don't find him particularly funny, at least more so than a bunch of other comedians who are probably more deserving of all the attention that Vaughn has garnered recently (example: see the underrated cast of 40 Year Old Virgin like Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd, who seem to me much more likable and comedically gifted than Vaughn, even if they don't have his "look at me I'm a cool 40 year old fratboy" image). Anyways, I won't lie - I laughed my ass off during a large portion of this movie. But I also cringed and yawned alternatively through the LAME "romantic comedy" portions, which were pretty ludicrous even within the strained limits of credibility that the genre enjoys. Unlike the 40 Year Old Virgin, where I really liked the main romance between Steve Carell and Catherine Keener, this movie tried to be way too sappy with its totally annoying and ridiculous romance between Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. So ... they like each other because why? Oh yeah, it's a movie, we don't need to develop a relationship, just tell us to accept that after one day and one thirty second speech at her sister's wedding, the two are madly in love despite about a million reasons why McAdams should completely hate Wilson's character. So yeah, wasn't crazy about that. But the supporting cast was great, McAdams is gonna be a huge star, it had friggin' Christopher Walken, and, yeah, overall, it was an enjoyable movie with a decent number of big-laugh getting scenes. If I watched it a second time would it be nearly as amusing? No. Is this in any way deserving of all the hype surrounding it? Gotta say no. But, darn it all, how can I resist the flavor of the month actors like Vaughn who are suddenly comedic geniouses in the eyes of so many critics? Let's not get carried away here. Decent comedy, by no means a classic. My grade: B -

So, it's official then - the end of the summer movie season. Like I've said before, it was a pretty damn good few months for movies, despite what the naysayers naysay. So here ya go, my own Top 11 Movies of the Summer:

1.) Batman Begins - possibly best comic book based movie ever - saw it twice, friggin' awesome
2.) Hustle and Flow - sleeper hit of the year, Terrance Howard was great - whoop that trick!
3.) Star Wars: Episode III - Ian McDiarmid owns this movie and it's the last ever Star Wars - and actually good! Gotta love the riveting last 45 minutes
4.) War of the Worlds - has its detractors, I know, but come on, THIS is how you do action scenes 5.) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Tim Burton at his quirky best - amazing visually and a great ensemble of talented actors
6.) March of the Penguins - a unique look at this summer's unlikeliest of heroes - penguins
7.) Cinderella Man - Why did nobody see this? Another great performance from Russell Crowe
8.) 40 Year Old Virgin - Best comedy of the summer, great cast, funny stuff
9.) Broken Flowers - Bill Murray again delivers in this subtle but thought-provoking comedy
10.) Sky High - Don't laugh, this movie was great! Come on, it has Bruce Campell in it ...

Biggest Disappointments of the Summer: The Island, Fantastic Four, Brothers Grimm ...


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cuz Mama I'm Hard to Handle Now ... (UPDATED)

And so it continues ...

I't's almost midweek and things are really moving slowly here in NBC-land. But it was a pretty eventful weekend, so let's get to it.

First off, a shout out to Dan "Eye of the" Kaiser, who on Friday put on a great improv show over at the Empty Stage theater in LA. A delegation of NBC pages went to check out his performance, and though we got there late and almost didn't get in, we eventually managed to squirm our way inside and a joke and smile was had by all. The comedy was sandwiched (um, so to speak ...) between some quality dinner and a trip down to the Santa Monica area where a kickass 80's coverband called Fast Times played hard and fast and ensured that my hearing would never be the same again. But they played a mean "I Wanna Be Sedated."

Saturday I went to a free screening of 40-year Old Virgin at Universal, and ...

The 40 Year Old Virgin Review:

Won't go into this one too in-depth (again, so to speak ...), but basically, I thought it was pretty hilarious. I had very high expectations for the movie going in, because I am a huge Judd Apatow fan. For the uninformed, Apatow is the comedic genious behind one of the best TV shows ever, Freaks and Geeks, and it's spiritual succesor, Undeclared - both tragically short-lived. I am also a fan of Steve Carell, and Carell was great in the movie - definitely the most well-rounded character he has ever played, and he proved himself a great actor, not just a great comedian, in this movie. He is believably dorky but not to the point of being a total caricature - and oftentimes Carell's character is clearly portrayed as being, in many ways, less screwed up than his more, um, experienced coworkers / friends. Speaking of which, the supporting cast is great as well. Paul Rudd stole the show in Wet Hot American Summer, and he is great here as well. Why isn't he in more high-profile movies? Seth Rogan, the Apatow veteran, was his usual wise-guy self, but his typically wryly witty character was a perfect fit for the movie. Catherine Keener, another favorite of mine since I saw her in Being John Malkovich, and she was once again great here and very likable. Anyways, so the cast was great, and the movie did a good job of balancing character-based, situational humor with some crazy, off the wall stuff (everyone busting into Age of Aquarius at the end, for example, was friggin' hilarious). So yeah, this was a consistently funny, cleverly written, well-acted comedy that also had some actual heart and character, despite having its share of crazy and over the top moments. And it made ma laugh, a lot, so it gets my whole-hearted recommendation. My grade: A -

Oh yeah, so after the movie, and despite being totally exhausted, my friends and I finished what we started last week and watched the second half of The Office Season 2 on DVD followed by The Office Special, which wraps up the series in epic fashion. Truly five-star TV, people. I am now officially dying to see Ricky Gervais' next venture, Extras, which if it even half as good as The Office will officially be pretty damn good.

But wait, that was not all I did this weekend. No, because Sunday myself, fellow page Big Mean Sean Green, and a few of his college buddies journeyed to a little California town in the middle of nowhere called Davore, to the Hyundai Pavillion, to see, live, in concert ...


Now this was a pretty huge event for me, as I would consider Tom Petty one of my top 5 all-time favorite musicians, and I had never before seen him in concert. So it was truly awesome to witness Mr. Petty bust out nearly all of his greatest hits - everything from Mary Jane's Last Dance, to Don't Come Around Here No More, to American Girl, to Running Down a Dream, to Freefallin' ... all the big ones were there. Plus there was some cool other stuff thrown in, like a new song called Melinda, and even some stuff from The Traveling Wilburies (the 1980's-era supergroup which consisted of Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne), which was pretty sweet to hear live. The ampitheater-in-the-middle-of-nowhere atmosphere was great, and suited the concert. I had heard that Petty is sometimes distached and out of it during shows, but he was animated and into it all night. Plus, the Black Crowes were great as well. It was like watching VH1 Classic, cuz man are those guys old-school, looking like they just stepped out of a time machine from 1975. But the dudes can still rock, and they did - just no-holds-barred, classic rock, pure and simple. The only disappointment was that for some reason they didn't play the one song that everyone knows by them (Hard to Handle), but oh well, Tom Petty was there to make up for it by breaking out nearly all of his classic rock anthems. Overall, great show. Rock n' roll, baby.

What else?


With the Tonight Show on hiatus, and Ellen and Carson Daly yet to start their seasons, things have been reaaaally slow lately. which was evidenced by the fact that today, for lack of anything else going on, I spent like an hour an a half completely re-writing the bulletin board on the wall of the NBC Ticket Office. This project was met with some mixed reaction, but hey, sometimes it just beez that way.

Oh, and yeah, it's that time again. The assignments that I applied for and didn't get a few months back are once again open for application. So today, for the second time, I applied to work in NBC's development department. Kind of awkward, but I made sure I brought my A-game and typed up an all-new cover letter featuring a bunch of bullet-pointed paragraphs explaining why they should pick me for the job. All that effort probably raises my chances of getting the assignment to about 1 in 30 billion. Let's hear it for the little guy!

Got some pilot episode DVD's of My Name is Earl and Book of Daniel, the two NBC shows which I am most curious to see and still have yet to view. If these two are bad, then let's just say NBC may be in some trouble. Stay tuned to future blog entries for my over-unders on which new NBC shows will fail and which will succeed.


- I have a profile on MYSPACE now. So if you're on myspace.com, make me your friend! Especially if I know you, then you have no excuse. God forbid if users on myspace.com look at my profile and think I'm a total loser due to lack of friends.

- Damn, that Tommy Lee theme song is growing on me! "Take Me Awaaaaay ..." I hated it when I heard him play it on Leno, but it is so ... damn ... catchy. But yeah, unbelievably, Tommy Lee Goes To College still = NBC's best show.

- Speaking of which, caught the Comedy Central Roast to Pamela Anderson. Thanks to the likes of Adam Corolla, Sarah Silverman, and Courtney Love, it was freaking hilarious. Catch the rerun if you can.

Alright, that's all for now - so check yo'self, before you wreck yo'self.

P.S. - whoever signed me up for that Cowboy Troy mailing list ... (and I have my suspicions) ... that was not appreciated. Not cool, man. Not cool.


- Just watched the pilot episodes of My Name Is Earl and Book of Daniel, two new NBC shows. Oh man, talk about disappointment. Of all the new NBC shows I had pretty high expectations for these two, both of which have extremely offbeat premises that promise something different from what you usually see on TV. Unfortuanately, both pilots were very flawed and I can't see either being a critical or ratings success. Let's see ...

My Name Is Earl: Okay ... great cast, innovative premise, clever script. But this is supposed to be a comedy, and it just was not that funny. There was maybe one line that elicited an actual chuckle from me. The early previews I saw of this show made it seem so smart and funny ... unfortuantely it only seems that way. On its surface this show posits to be the next Malcolm in the Middle or Arrested Development, but it lacks the magic and tight plotting of those shows, and most of all, it lacks the laughs. The good news is, there is potential here. But that potential will likely never be reached as lack of mass appeal and lack of overwhelming critical support cause this show to get the axe early on. My grade: C+

Book of Daniel: Oh, wow. This show is BAD. First of all, not sure of the lead actor's name, but he overacts like crazy, and has a ridiculously melodramatic delivery he gives to every line, as if he was in a Star Wars movie or something, when in fact he is in the religious version of The OC in New England. This show tries to deal with social / religious issues through the eyes of a priest and his family, but is so heavy-handed and predictable that just about every character is instantly annoying within 5 minutes of being introduced. The problems that the family faces - drugs, alcohol, teen sex, a gay son, a scandal involving a corrupt brother-in-law - are all ripped right from about ten other shows, and so many different angles are thrown at you that it's all a little much to take in one episode of a show. They have problems, we get it. The cast is very bland and forgettable, and all are cut from old and offensive stereotypes, right down to kindly African-American maid who dispenses sage advice to the family. Oh, lord. But the kicker is that Daniel, the main priest guy, talks to Jesus. And this Jesus is apparently a stoner hippie who speaks to everyone , but only Daniel sees him because he is the only one who "wants to hear his voice." Ayyy ... I want to go reread a few volumes of Preacher just to get this crap out of my head and replace it with some Garth Ennis-penned goodness that should be required reading for everyone involved in this fiasco. Oh yeah, Jesus may not be real, either. See, whenever Daniel takes one of his pills, he can't see Jesus anymore, so Jesus may just be the hallucination of a crazy person. Yeah, that'll go over well. Kudos I gues for at least trying something different ... but you know how people say sometimes you just throw stuff against a wall and see what sticks? Well this one ain't exactly sticking. My grade: D

Alright, enough NBC bashing ... Someone important could actually be reading this. If so - yeah Tommy Lee Goes to College - NICE JOB NBC! Also, Conan O'Brien freakin' rocks! Oh yeah, NBC News kicks the asses of CBS and ABC News, and that's a fact! I'll even go out on a limb and boldly state that MSNBC is, by far, the best cable news network! Do ya feel the NBC love? Good. Bing-bong-bing, baby.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Whoop That Trick: Hustle and Flow Review and MORE

Yo yo yo let me speak on this.

So good thing that I waited to see Hustle and Flow until now. Why? Because it was playing for free at NBC today, that's why, fool.

So let's get on with it.


Wow - great movie. That about sums it up. It took me a little while to get into it, but as this story of a pimp who dreams of getting into the music biz began to unfold, I was hooked. First off, Terrance Howard, as the lead characer, D-Jay, is absolutely phenomenal in this film. He is captivating and charismatic - he makes you really sympathize with and relate to a character who is essentially a lowlife piece of scum. But Howard injects D-Jay with and incredible level of humanity, and even though this world of pimps and turning tricks is (hopefully) remote and alien to most of you, there are numerous instances where you completely relate to the emotions that D-Jay is experiencing. All across the board, the acting in the movie is great. Anthony Anderson puts in probably the best performance of his career as D-Jay's white collar music producer friend, and DJ Qualls adds some humor to the movie as well. The female leads are all outstanding as well, and unfortunately I am not really familiar with any of their previous work, suffice to say that the ensemble cast in this film really is universally amazing, and even Isaac Hayes puts in an appearance in a small supporting role. But Howard steals the show, and though he is surrounded by a great supporting cast, this is, ultimately, his movie.

The musical scenes in the movie really stand out. You can almost feel the sparks of creativity crackling in the makeshift recording studios as D-Jay tries to come up with lyrics and beats for his songs. And the music is actually great in this movie, and if you have any appreciation for rap or hip hop whatsoever you'll probably leave this movie with its catchy songs and verses in your head for a long while.

Hustle and Flow really is a great movie - one of the best of the summer and a real sleeper hit. It's filled with emotion and resonance, and some of the twists and turns of the plot towards the end were pretty crazy - this movie definitely takes you on - and sorry to use such a cliche - an emotional rollercoaster. A hip-hop epic on par with the best movies of the year. Great cast, great script, great direction, and a rocking soundtrack to boot. So yeah, ch ch ch ch check it out, son. My grade: A

- So ... to once again reitirate how many good movies have actually been out this summer, let's take a look at what we've been treated to, in what has been, in fact, a GREAT summer for movies. Here are a bunch of movies that were all at the least pretty darn good, and at the best friggin' awesome (plus keep in mind that I still haven't seen Wedding Crashers, and we still have Brothers Grimm and 40 Year Old Virgin coming out in the next few weeks):

- Batman Begins
- Star Wars: Episode III
- War of the Worlds
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- March of the Penguins
- Bad News Bears
- Sky High
- Cinderella Man
- Hustle and Flow
- Broken Flowers

Not bad if you ask me.

What else?


Yesterday the Tonight Show saw one of its best lead guests in a while. Yup, you guessed it - Frank Stallone. No, just kidding, it was only the Best. Weekend Update Anchor. Ever. - Norm freakin' McDonald, who reaffirmed that he is one hilarious bastard. Norm had me rolling in laughter, which is not something that usually happens to me while watching the Tonight Show. Not too much else of not to report from the hallowed halls at NBC, except that, OF COURSE, the page program finally gets it's $%#& together and plans a great networking event, where former pages will come and talk with us about their current jobs, and schedules it THE ONE DAY THAT I WILL BE AWAY!!! Nice going, you idiots! (um, if any of you "idiots" are reading this, I meant that in the nicest way possible ...).


Speaking of NBC, the peacock network that can't do anything right finally aired something good last night - and of all things it was a reality show, which I usually don't like. Yes, I am here to tell you that TOMMY LEE GOES TO COLLEGE is downright hilarious and highly entertaining. And it actually gets you rooting for the guy to succeed, get good grades, and make the marching band. Good going, NBC. And lo and behold, I watched NBC once again tonight - I tuned into the Office marathon tonight to do some, er "resaearch" for the spec script that I am in theory supposed to be working on so I'll actually have something current to show people should the opportunity arise. Still can't say I'm a huge fan of the American version of the show, but the premise is so open ended that there is pretty much limitless potential for scripts, and the cast is very good. It's just that most of the episodes so far are very shallow and one-note compared to the geniously-conceived British version which is both hilarious and richly textured and multi-layered.

VERONICA MARS Stuff -- congrats to LAST YEAR'S BEST NEW SHOW for it's success in the ratings that its reruns on CBS over the last few weeks have garnered. There is hope after all. And, if you unconverted need yet another reason to tune into UPN this fall to watch season 2, KEVIN SMITH has agreed to appear on at least one episode of the show, as a store clerk no less!

In addition to the entertaining Tommy Lee Goes to College, last night also saw a guilty pleasure episode of Real World that was easily one of the most entertaining installments I've seen in a while. The sheer hilarity of Wes blatantly getting his freak on with some completely random girl just to make one of his roommates jealous was definitely worthy of the episode being counted among classic Real World hook-up moments.

Also, once again, I have to give a shout out and a PLEASE WATCH THIS SHOW mention to a supremely hilarious little program on Comedy Central called STELLA. Last night's ep was funny as hell, and guest star Janeane Garofolo, love her or hate her, was in her best Wet Hot American Summer-esque comedic form. If you like crazy, absurd comedy, watch STELLA - Tuesdays, 10:30 pm, Comedy Central.

Upcoming NEW FALL SHOWS I'm Interested In: I am psyched for PRISON BREAK on FOX, looks sweet, in the vein of 24. INVASION on ABC could go either way, but I am definitely ready for a new alien-conspiracy show after watching my X-Files DVD's lately. Speaking of which, I've heard mixed reviews, but due to it's premise and its talent involved, namely Frank Spotnitz (big contributer to X-Files and Millenium), I will probably give the rmake of KOLCHACK: THE NIGHTSTALKER a shot. MY NAME IS EARL with Jason Lee is the one NBC show I am genuinely excited for, even if I've yet to see the pilot, though I have seen the pilot for ABC'S NBC-produced SONS AND DAUGHTERS, a midseason comedy that is hilarious. Oh yeah, that new Chris Rock-produced show on UPN, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, could be a potentially good comedy, but really, who the hell knows.


- Went to the ol' Burbank courthouse today and registered for traffic school, aka I forked over more money to Big Brother for, you guessed it, NOT FULLY STOPPING AT A STOP SIGN, WHILE MAKING A RIGHT TURN ... RIGHT OUTSIDE OF MY APARTMENT!

- For those of you have been breathlessly following the saga of me being unable to do my laundry, I finally did my laundry, despite stupid laundry card-point-refill machine still being broken, by purchasing a new card from the office. Exciting, right?

- Saw Minnie Driver (you know, from Goodwill Hunting?) all around NBC today and saw her rehearsal for Leno during one of my tours. Yep, that's right, she sings.

-Hilarious skit on Conan last night with someone i nthe audience wanting "the kosher talk show" and getting it - as Jackie Mason sat in for Conan and rambled on about gefilte fish, his grandson's bar-mitzvah, and his sidekick, some rabbi dude. Oy, now that's funny!


Pamela Anderson and friends, live, in person, on the Tonight Show!

... And that's all for now. More serious political discussion next time on DANNYBARAM.BLOGSPOT.COM. Ya' feel me?

Monday, August 15, 2005

"You did have an elephant. His name was Stampy. You loved him."

How often do you get to see a real live freaking elephant at work?

Today I did. As I was eating lunch in the comissary, someone pointed to the window and yelled "Elephant!" And everyone looked and there, right outside, was in fact a gigantic elephant walking around the midway area of NBC! Yep, we had an elephant, among other things today, on the Tonight Show. We also had Hillary Duff.

So yeah, let's just say that after seeing Ms. Duff perform, I have even more respect for Avril Lavigne now (I initially gained a lot of respect for her when I saw her on MTV: Icons - Metallica, when she belted out a pretty kickass version of "Fuel.").

Why no love for Hillary?

Now I don't want to insinuate anything, I don't know the whole set of circumstances ... but for one thing, she barred all NBC staff from watching her OUTDOOR rehearsal, which is kinda hard to do if you think about it, seeing as how she was on an elevated stage in the middle of the NBC midway. Secondly, when she came out to perform for the show, let's just say that it appeared to be a very-Ashlee Simpson-esque performance, and I don't mean just because Hillary was sporting an odd-looking black wig for some reason (on a funny sidenote, some guy yelled out "We love you Ashlee!" at Hillary when she took the stage, presumably in response to her black wig, and she got very flustered by it ...). Finally, even with her, um, "enhanced" vocals, three backup singers, and a band, Hillary's songs were not exactly pop classics. But hey, whatever. Kids love her and were flipping out for her music, so more power to her. But at least fellow teen pop icon Avril sings and plays guitar and puts on a rockin' show, that's all I'm saying ... and, um yeah maybe also that Hillary should stick to acting?

I somehow met a ton of random people at the Tonight Show today, also. I met this woman who was there with a Hillary Duff-sponsored charity group who is a backup drummer for Journey and Pat Benatar!

There was also this totally psycho woman in the Guest Relations lobby today. She was really hallucinating or something, because she was banging on the walls, trying to "open" them as if there were some invisible doors there or something! And then, she tried to push her way into the video room where we begin the tours - I had to forcibly push the door closed from the inside so that she couldn't barge her way in! Crazy ...

Well, I'm keeping things short today for once.

Now can you dig that ....





Sunday, August 14, 2005

I Fought The Law ... And the Law Won - Plus BU Reunion, Avril Encounter, and More!

Well this weekend was a nice change of pace from the usual shenanigans.

Can you say BU reunion?

Yep, the bad boys of Boston descended upon the smoggy LA landscape. Chris Agra, one of my roommates for three of my four years at BU, came up from Phoenix Thursday night for the weekend. Friday we were joined by Josh, our neighbor on Sleeper Hall's sixth floor from freshman year (West Campus!). Chris and Josh attended the Tonight Show, sat in the front row for a show featuring Selma Blair and everybody's favorite chick with attitude, Avril Lavigne.

OK, okay, I'll skip right to the good stuff. Now last time Avril was on the show we had a brief encounter where "hello's" were exchanged in the backstage Tonight Show area. What could top that? Let's see ... so me, Chris and Josh are grabbing some lunch in the NBC commissary. Me and Chris are in the sandwich line, and suddenly I notice that almost right next to me in line - there she is - pleasantly ordering a sandwich - Avril Lavigne! I tried to inconspicuously motion to Chris, but he was oblivious! And then, I get in line to pay for my food, and I see Chris paying, and I see him once again standing RIGHT NEXT to Avril, and yet again he is totally unaware that the diminuitive girl standing next to him is in fact the voice of "Complicated" and "Happy Ending." So as me Chris and Josh are eating our lunch, Avril and some friends are eating only a few feet way on the porch of the NBC commissary. Wasn't it only a year ago that me, Chris, and fellow roommate Aksel would take study breaks by blasting Sk8tr Boy and jokingly belt out it's oh-so-cheesy-yet-irressistably-catchy lyrics? Sadly, that is pretty much the extent of our encounter (flipping out to full fanboy effect in the middle of NBC probably would have been pretty embarrassing ...), but hey, still, pretty freakin' cool, and not a bad day at work.

The concert itself at the show was great. I mean I doubt I'll be attending an actual Avril concert anytime soon, so seeing her perform was one more chance to see someone live who otherwise I probably never would. The first song she did, "He Wasn't," I hadn't really heard before, but it was great, very upbeat and catchy. The second song was "My Happy Ending" which ya' gotta love in all it's cheesy teen-angst splendor. Okay, those of you who know me know that I am not usually one for this type of pop music, but come on, this stuff is catchy as hell and hey at least the girl actually plays guitar and sings! So sue me, I enjoyed the hell out of Avril Lavigne's performance on Friday.

I just want to expand on a related point where someone at work was trying to tell me that she doesn't like Avril because she's only a teenager and therefore doesn't have the experience to write about "real" issues. Hello?!?! Last time I checked rock and roll was all about channelling one's inner teenager! All the better if the artist in question is a teenager or close to it and not some 70 year old. But rock music is about rebellion, lust, love, fighting the man, frustration, angst, anger. I don't want to hear some rock song about a second divorce or about those crazy weekends shopping at Home Depot. Obviously there is a place in the world of rock for the Bruce Springsteens and Bob Dylans of the world who take on important social issues and whatnot, but come on, if you're looking for meaningful insight into the human condition, READ A BOOK, don't listen to pop music.

And then ...

Friday night me and the BU-crew hit up Universal Citywalk for some dinner, where we were joined by some of the NBC page 'pack, and then drove down to Josh's apartment for some quality hanging-out time. Saturday me and Chris rocked Hollywood, including some touristy stuff and a stop at Barney's Beanery. And today I drove Chris back to the airport and the weekend was complete. In between those things lots of Soul Caliber was played (got my ass whupped ...), and a good time was had by all. So here's a shout out to everyone from BU - here's to the good old days of college (which I have now been done with for a whole freakin' year! damn, that went quickly).

Oh hey, I must say congratulations to fellow BU alum, fellow former Overexposed writer, and fellow former Conan intern Mike D, for recently landing a virtual dream job - working as an assistant editor / writer at the world's best source of fake news - The Onion! Now that is a sweet gig.



So this whole traffic ticket thing is driving me nuts. Tommorow is actually my court date but I am pretty sure that everything is taken care of via online bail pay. Sonova - I cannot believe that I am going through this much hassle because I didn't fully stop at a stop sign that was RIGHT OUTSIDE OF MY APARTMENT. Now I have to do some kind of traffic school just to get this off of my driving record. I was talking to a Burbank cop at Leno and he was telling me he wasn't surprised that I got the ticket because the cops are leery of my apartment complex, since apparently there are a lot of reckless young people who live there, wannabe actors and whatnot. Still, am I one of those people? NO! Every day I see people driving around doing unbelievably reckless, stupid things, and their records are probably cleaner than Martha Stewart's kitchen. This sucks. All I know is that I hope all of my payments and everything are in order, and that there's not like a warrant put out for my arrest. If there is, well, I guess you won't be hearing from me in a while.

But now I feel all paranoid just driving aroud Burbank. There are cops everywhere! On the other hand, I REFUSE to be one of those people who is all like "oh dude, I hate the police" like they are some big rebel or somehting who is all anti-authority. Okay, so the cops of LA county are not exactly Officer Friendly who visited your third grade classroom, but still, come on, your average psuedo-rebellious-living-off-their-parents-twenty-something (NONE of which work at NBC - hahahaha!) most likely HAS NO LEGITIMATE REASON to "hate" cops. I will say that I have a strong resentment of the jerk-off cop who thought it was a good use of his time to give me a freakin' ticket for NOT FULLY STOPPING AT AN EMPTY DRIVEWAY OUTSIDE MY OWN APARTMENT. But, BUT - I still respect your average cop and would rather have a run-in with a cop than some psycho who wants to drive-by shoot me while I'm traveling down the freeway.


- Watched Raging Bull the other day for the first time. Amazing movie, incredible acting by DeNiro (there's my original statement of the day for ya).

- Just after I wrote my recent rant on the stupidity of teaching religion in science class, Time Magazine published a cover story on the very issue. Good article and one which, despite the magazines sometimes-conservative leanings, could not help but admit the pointlessness of countering scientific evidence with biblical stories presented literally as a viable alternative. And now some museum is going to show humans coexisting with dinosaurs despite all evidence to the contrary? The lies people will tell themselves ...

- In the world of entertainment, I honestly don't get those who are hating on this summer's crop of movies. Are you crazy, it's been the best summer for movies in a while. You have possibly the best superhero movie ever in Batman Begins. You have an actual GOOD Star Wars movie. You have a Spielberg alien epic, War of the Worlds, with the best action scenes we've seen in a while. You have a Tim Burton - Johnny Depp collaberation, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that is once again magical. Another great Russell Crowe drama in Cinderella Man. A surprisingly moving documentary in March of the Penguins. A new Bill Murray-at-his-best comedy in Broken Flowers. I mean, come on - last summer you had Napoleon Dynamite, Spiderman 2, and ... what? King Arthur? Troy? I, Robot? So if you come out of the movies bummedo ut because you just wasted 10 bucks on Dukes of Hazzard or Deuce Bigelow, remember - you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Hmm, are those policemen with billyclubs walking into my apartment complex? Wait, I failed to pay my ticket you say? But hold up, it was for not fully stopping in front of a stopsign right outside my apartment! That's like getting fined for not stopping at the end of your own driveway. Come on, that force isn't really necessary. Okay, put away the tazer. Yes, I do work at NBC. You don't care? Stop! Put that thing away! I'll go willfully. Wait! One phone call ... at leat let me publish my blog entry ... dammit, this sucks. Okay, gotta go .... helllllllp meeeeeeeee ....damn you, Burbank police department .... DAMNNNNNN YOUUUU!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Penguins Have the Crappiest Lives Ever ... and Other Random Musings

Just got back from seeing the surprise hit documentary March of the Penguins ... and man am I glad I'm not a freakin' penguin.


Have to say I really enjoyed this one. Basically, the cinematography is stunning. It boggled my mind how this film put you right there with the animals it was documenting. By the film's end, you felt like you knew these penguins as if they were people - the power of this film's narrative really is incredible. My only complaint is that it might have been nice to have a little less personification and a little more of the actual science behind some of the phenomena we were witnessing. Mostly though, the narration by Morgan Freeman was crisp, interesting, and added a lot to the movie. The classical soundtrack lended great ambiance to the awe-inspiring arctic backdrops. What more can I say? The journey of the penguins that this film documents is one of those real-life quirks of nature and evolution that makes most fictional plots look ordinary in comparison. Gotta warn ya though - this movie has some SAD parts. Seriously, don't get too attached to these human-looking penguins, because ("spoilers," if you will ...) not all of them are going to survive the fierce winter climates of the antarctic. Anyways, this one is definitely worth seeing - thanks to its breathtaking and up-close scenes of unspoilt nature and the animal kingdom - especially if you have any interest in nature, animals, or just really, really like penguins. My grade: A-

- But seriously, the lives of these penguins friggin' sucks. They spend like a quarter of each year in water - their natural habitat. Then the rest of the year is spent trekking across hundreds of miles of frozen wasteland to mate and find food, during which time they are practically near-death from being so hungry after going for months at a time without even eating. Damn talk about a hard knock life ...

- Speaking of which, I fill in for the dreaded TICKETBOX for ONE MEASLY HOUR today and lo and behold all hell breaks loose, even as a group of my fellow pages looked on in terror during their training session so that they too can experience the wonders of manning the ticketbox. During this one hour, let's see what happened:

1.) A crazy old woman, an actress no less (never heard of her but I guess sh was the maid on Will and Grace or something?) stumbles into our office yelling and screaming about how she has a meeting at MSNBC and she's late. I tell her she's at the Guest Relations office, not at MSNBC. She goes nutso, and starts yelling and demanding that WE PROVIDE HER A RIDE TO MSNBC. Um, yeah. I tell her that we just sell tours here, we don't provide transportation. She freaks out and tells me that "this is gonna blow up" or some such nonsense, and then MAKES A GUN-SHOOTING MOTION IN MY GENERAL DIRECTION - as if she was aiming a gun at me and pulling the trigger! WHAAAAAATTTT?!?! Well SCREW YOU CRAZY OLD LADY, I don't need your crap, it's not my fault that you don't know where you're going.

2.) The guy who I was filling in for did a few things that caused some problems. One was that he doodled a severed hand on our tour sign-up sheet, which was kind of embarassing.

3.) He also assigned two consecutive tours to have orange-colored wristbands, which resulted in a lot of confusion. So when the first guide came out and asked for everyone with orange wristbands to follow him, he had almost 30 people follow him even though each tour should have no more than 14 people. And the tour guide, being very inexperienced, took ALL 30 people with him on his tour! Which left exactly ONE person for the following tour, which should have had 14 people! Oy ...

4.) Some woman came claiming to be a part of a group of 8. Of course only two were actually present, but she insisted that she reserve 8 spots for a tour. So the other 6 don't show up for another hour, meaning that the entire tour schedule had to be rearranged due to this little change-up.

5.) The whole time all this craziness was happening, a group of about six pages were looking on in complete terror, realizing that soon they too would have to deal with all of this craziness. Of course, our store supervisor, realizing that all hell was breaking loose, took the opportunity to continually point out that "this is NOT how you should be doing things," and "this hopefully WON'T happen when you are ticketbox head." Hopefully, it won't.

What else?

- Saw Stiffler himself on the Tonight Show today. Kinda funny though Dukes of Hazzard looks pretty bad. Next week though two of my favorite comedians from back in the day, Norm McDonald and Kevin Nealon (both former Weekend Update hosts, probably my two favorite of all time actually ...) will be on the Tonight Show, so hopefully I'll be there to see them. Also saw some lameass band called Aqualung, kind of Coldplay wannabes, which in my book is terrible as I really don't even like Coldplay.


- Chris Agra comes to LA!


- Avril does an outdoor concert on the Tonight Show!


- I'm going to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live in concert!


- I haven't been able to do my laundry because I have no more money left on my laundry card and the machine that refills your points is freaking broken. That really sucks, as I'd really like to do my laundry.


- Due to global warming and climate change, penguins forced to live amongst humans. Penguins become our supreme overlords and force humans to build igloos out of toxic waste for their own amusement. HEED MY WARNING - THE PENGUINS WILL RULE US ALL!

Alright, too much penguin on the brain. Until next time, dudes.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ticketbox Brings The Pain, and: Broken Flowers review!

And I thought working at the NBC ticketbox had reached it's fullest potential for sucktitude. Think again. Today was another, shall we say, difficult day at the office, thanks to yet another endless parade of impatient customers, rude tourists, and an episode where I was chewed out for the day's receipts not quite adding up with the amount of money in the register. Yeah, it sucked.

But hey, all was not lost. At least I had a FREE MOVIE to look forward to at Universal, and not just any free movie, but Broken Flowers - the latest from Bill Murray.

So after a quick stop at Bob's Big Boy for dinner, some fellow pages and I convened at the Universal Studios' lot, flashed our trusty NBC-Uni badges, and took advantage of one of the key perks of our job - free movie screenings (and trust me, on a day like today I really needed to be reminded that my job had such perks ...). Anyways, I am a fan of the Universal screening rooms because they are actually pretty spacious and have extremely comfortable seats, and, usually, you avoid the loud, obnoxious crowds of most regular theaters and can skip that extra 20 minutes of previews and commercials. Yet, inexplicably, some moronic woman brought her crying infant to see today's screening. Dayum, where is the love? Keep your baby out of the freakin' movies!!!

But anyways, on to the movie ...


Wow, that one really made ya think.

Overall, I have to say I really enjoyed Broken Flowers. It was a slow movie, that is for sure. But although it took me a while to really get into it, after about half an hour I was totally absorbed into the spellbinding flow of Jim Jarmusch's reflective look at a former Don Juan's journey through the fragmented pieces of his own history. The movie follows a simple premise - Bill Murray plays Don Johnston ("with a T") - an aging ladies' man who discovers that he may have a 20-year old son, and visits a number of his former lady-friends in order to solve this mystery - a puzzle which he may or may not actually have any real interest in solving.

Performance-wise, Bill Murray was fantastic in this film, though he is so naturalistic that he almost makes you wonder how much of his role is acting and how much is simply an extension of the now-familiar, dour and world-weary persona he's developed and honed in recent movies like Lost in Translation, Rushmore, and The Life Aquatic. What you get here from Murray is covering pretty familiar territory, but it's still an engrossing, nuanced performance that is worthy of lots of praise. Likewise, the female leads in the movie seem to mimic Murray's naturalism. Formerly glamorous stars like Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange are deglamorized here, and surprisingly fit right into the movie's stark, sad world where the "reality" of wrinkles, aging, and other blemishes usually hidden by the camera are instead fully revealed and exposed.

Basically, this is one of those movies, like a Lost in Translation or About Schmidt, that is really more of a meditation on various themes - on characters, on small details and nuance, on life - that it does not necessarily follow a traditional story structure or present a real sense of character development, let alone closure to the main character's journey. And that can at times be frustrating, but mostly it's just very refreshing - Jarmusch leaves plenty of room for interpretation, and he provides plenty of small scenes, patterns, and images that really resonate during and after you see this film. While the pacing was often almost excruciatingly slow, you have to admire the artful manner in which Broken Flowers is shot. Seeing this movie's unique style definitely piqued my interest in seeing other Jarmusch films, as this was the first one I've yet gotten a chance to check out.

Anyways, I definitely recommend this film for a HUGE change of pace from most of this summer's rapid-fire blockbusters. This movie is slow, deliberate, and sparse, and can be hit and miss with some of its dialogue and character moments. But it's also brilliantly shot and acted, funny, and one of the most thought-provoking movies that I've seen in a while.

My grade: A -


- Dude, watch STELLA on Comedy Central. Tonight's episode was pretty freakin' hilarious. So yeah, screw the overhyped Chapelle's Show - tune in to this crazy and unique show from three former members of The State.

- RIP to Peter Jennings. My family was always an NBC News family, but I do think it's sad that the era of the trusted and respected and objective newscaster seems to be almost over, and the era of the smartass pundit seems have supplanted it.

- Finally officially began writing a spec script for The Office. Let's hope it doesn't take me as long to finish as it did to start.

- Why are people from New York and New Jersey always the ones to come into NBC and complain about how they have traveled 5 billion miles from their homes to come here so shouldn't they be entitled to blah blah blah?

- Saw Tommy Lee rehearse for Leno yesterday. The bad news: his band pretty much sucks - it ain't no Motley Crue, that's for sure. The good news: his new reality show on NBC, Tommy Lee Goes To College (chap plug!) actually looks pretty darn funny. Hell, it may be the best thing NBC has going right now.

- Some movies I've never seen that I really need to at some point in the near future:
- Brazil
- Lost Highway
- Rear Window
- Vertigo
- House of Flying Daggers
- Enter the Dragon
- Ed Wood
- Dazed and Confused
- Full Metal Jacket
- Ghost in the Shell

Alright, back at ya later with some more blogtastic goodness. Word.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Turning Japanese! --- AND: Psychos! Freaks! Clones! Strange Tales of An NBC Page!

No, that's not what I meant, you sick freak ...

I'm referring to my, um, interesting day at work on Saturday. Sure, work on a Saturday is inherently horrible, but hey at least this Saturday provided something a little different to make things amusing. Can you say all-Japanese, non-English-speaking tour group? Hai~! Having my words translated into comically long-winded Japanese by the group's only English speaker was pretty funny, at least from my end of things. So yeah, I spent my Saturday leading a group of fifteen giggling Japanese school girls around the corridors of NBC while speaking in extremely short sentances and wishing we had some kind of sweet-ass 4-D multimedia holographic interactive experience or something with which to rock the socks off of those techno-savvy Japanese visitors. But hey they were pretty impressed with the robotic cameras in Telemundo, and they did really seem to like pressing the buttons on the 1940's-era McKenzie sound f/x machine. Shoryuken! (aka you know you've played too many videogames when ... fill in blanks here ...). Side note: interestingly, Japanese girls seem partial to holding hands with each other while walking. Domo Orogato, Mr. Roboto.

Oh, while I'm on the subject of work, I should note that my Friday experience as ticketbox head was possibly the WORST ever - aka it was the DAY FROM HELL. Aka it was ...


Seriously, the weirdos came out of the woodwork for whatever reason on Friday. It wasn't one of those days where families come in eating ice cream and enjoying a nice summer outing where you think "awww isn't that nice." No, this was one of those days where the absolute dregs of humanity show up, making you realize that it's a miracle that the human race has not yet annihilated itself. But I won't bore you with an account of each and every white-trash hick, borderline schitzofrenic, or shady character that walked in on Friday. I will tell you that we had, among other things, a woman who left the Tonight Show because she was "cold," and came into our lobby pacing back and forth talking to herself for half an hour.

But then there was this one guy - one of those guys who probably picked legs off insects as a child, a guy with a chemical imbalance, a guy who probably sits at home watching FOX News and ranting to himself about the military-industrial-liberal-Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. 100% funny-farm-certified CRAZY.

So he marches into our lobby, and right off the bat, totally unprovoked, he is shaking like a leaf and yelling about the lack of parking at NBC. He is going on and on, cutting people in line and demanding to know how is going to get on a studio tour if he can't find a place to park his car. Now what happened over the next few hours is, at this point, pretty much a blur of insanity in my mind. But I'll try to recount what happened, so excuse me if this is somewhat disjointed. Basically, I explained our policies of first-come first-serve tour sign-ups to him and he was IRATE. He then proceded to go on an insane rant about how there was more parking in Grand Central Station, how he was from the midwest, how NBC obviously didn't want customers, how he wanted to speak to a manager, etc. etc. etc. Oh yeah, inexplicably, this hulking, quivering, convulsing insane guy actually had a wife and kid, who seemed to be standing there in numbed silence, terrified of their own relation. Basically, the crux of the conflict was that this guy wanted to be put on a tour in advance, which we don't do. But he said that the parking situation was so bad that, even though he had forty minutes until the next available tour, he doubted he'd be able to park and come back in that time. So he left, came back in twenty minutes, by which time the next three tours were sold out. And yes, he was furious. And he proceeded to yell incomprehensibly at me, at other customers, and almost went at it with one of our staff, and had to be held back. Inexplicably, our store manager Christy believed at first that this guy had some sort of legitimate complaint, and actually signed him up for a tour and gave him a discount! When she heard the whole story though she quickly realized that my recommendation that his insane ass get booted out was more than reasonable. But let's just say I had to lay the verbal smackdown on this guy's psycho ass. Here's some choice, paraphrased excerpts of the whole situation, involving the Insane Guy, Anisha - who works in our NBC Store, and another customer who was in front of this guy in line at the time:

INSANE GUY: (pulling up his pant-legs) Do you see these legs?!?! These legs can walk anywhere in FIFTEEN MINUTES!

INSANE GUY: See, I'm from the Midwest! And over there we do things a certain way!
ANISHA: Well this is how we do things in the WEST COAST!

INSANE GUY: As far as I'm concerned I should get a free tour!
ME: Well as far as I'm concerned you've been a pain in the ass since you got here, so you can just leave and not come back!

CUSTOMER: See, you're being so rude and loud that you caused my whole transation to get screwed up!
INSANE GUY: You're being rude!

Ohhhhhh maannnn. So this guy of course gets on a tour where he is unable to see any of the studios, seeing as how they are all closed at the time. So he apparently threw a few more tantrums on his tour, and even one-upped his own idiocy to that point by muttering a racial slur directed at his tour guide. Wow, big surprise that our boy is a friggin' rascist. Probably a card-carrying KKK member. In any case he'd be right at home on Jerry Springer.

What a day.


In other news, had a good weekend. Hit up new NBC page hot-spot BJ's on Friday and then for the first time in a while made like The Dude and went bowling. Strike! Saturday I had to work, as I mentioned, but then followed that up with a hardcore viewing marathon of The Office where some friends and I plowed through the entire first season and half of the second season of the British classic.

Also, saw The Island this weekend.


- A while backk I predicted that this movie would fall into the same category of I, Robot - potentially great due to a strong premise but critically flawed due to key elements of production taking a very, very wrong turn. What went wrong with I, Robot is a little more complicated than with The Island. There you had a bad casting choice with Will Smith as Will Smith in the lead role, and an excellent concept that was slightly dumbed down and turned from hardcore Isaac Asimov scifi into generic Hollywood action movie 101. With the Island, it's clear what the problem is. See, the movie has a great cast. You can't ask for better leads than Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johanson, Sean Bean, and Steve Buscemi. The premise itself is intriguing, if not entirely novel. So here is the problem: this is Michael Bay gone wild. To borrow a metaphor, it's like taking a candy from a box of chocolates. On the outside you see this dark, creamy, enticing chocolate. But then you bite in and find some nasty purple crap. That's what this movie is - a lot of potential turned into mostly a lot of crap thanks to a bad, uneven script and a director who has no idea how to pace a movie. The plot of this movie, not to mention the characters, get totally lost amidst this movie's rapidly cut, nonsensical action sequences. Now normally a movie's action sequence are what keep you on the edge of your seat - in many ways the highlights of the movie. I think of Spielberg's amazingly choreographed set pieces from War of The Worlds, or Sam Raimi's energetic, kinetic fight scenes from the Spiderman movies, for example. But the Island's second half is basically one long chase scene that despite being non-stop action, had me literally yawning and looking at my watch. It was like "wait, how did they get on top of that building?" Or "okay, this is STILL going on?" The killer has to be theclimactic ending sequence, where the clones played by Ewan and Scarlett break back into the facility they've been running from this whole time to ...? Um .. set all of their fellow clones free? By ... doing what exactly? What all that running and chasing means is that the final confrontation between clone and creator - what should have been a big, epic, dramatic duel - is reduced to a disappointingly brief, anticlimactic cheesefest of a battle where Sean Bean's character actually says "I created you, and I can DESTROY you!" Some good dialogue there ...Every cool scene in this movie seems to be countered by an equally bad one. Ewan and Scarlett playing a real-time version of an X-Box fighting game - they are being trained to fight because .... why? Ewan meeting his the man he is cloned from, and then convincing his persuers that the original is in fact the clone is right out of some Saturday morning cartoon or something. Ugh. Basically this whole movie is a really bad kids cartoon under the pretense of being a serious, adult scifi movie. But it is rarely even cool in a fun, B-movie way. While it is not quite as bad as Bay's worst (in my opinion, the godawful Armageddon), it never reaches the adrenaline-pumping heights of his best (clearly, the pretty kickass The Rock). Overall, there is some fun to be had with this movie. It looks great, has an awesome cast, a sweet soundtrack, and a very interesting premise (even if it will remind you of about 50 other movies - Blade Runner, Dark City, Logan's Run, and that movie Clonus from the '70's which I haven't seen but it apparently directly rips off). It has enough fun moments and keeps you entertained enough to avoid it being a total waste of a few hors in the theater. But ultimately, this is a movie that, thanks to the usual annoying schtick from Michael Bay, came nowhere close to it's potential, and rightly deserved to get lost in the box office amidst a summer of far superior blockbusters.
My grade: C -


- Chris "Christos" Agra comes to LA and chaos ensues
- Avril performs on the Tonight Show
- free screening of Broken Flowers at Universal

Alright that's all for now. Leave a comment ... if you dare.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Do The Evolution

What in the hell is wrong with people? Namely, Ohio?

The same state that tipped the scales to elect our current president is now moving to replace the theory of evolution in schools with so-called "intelligent design" theory. Honestly, I just do not understand this. Let's look at the flaws of inserting a variant of biblical creationism into science class textbooks:

- Evolution is a valid scientific theory with plenty of evidence to lend it credence. Even if it is presented as only one widely supported theory, why would a biblical story be presented as an alternative in a public school where religion is meant to be kept OUT? What about non-Christian students? What about people who are Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, atheists, or of any other religious persuasion? What makes a literal interpretation of the Christian bible a viable alternative to scientific theory?

- Didn't we already cover this, oh, EIGHTY YEARS AGO? Now I attended a private, religious, Jewish day school. In that school we were taught every biblical story, EXTENSIVELY, over our eight years of Jewish education. But guess what? We ALSO read Inherent the Wind and watched the movie version as well. And it was clear, even in middle school, that the religious extremism that caused a school teacher to be put on trial for teaching evolution was horribly misguided. Now one thing I love about Judaism is that it encourages INTERPRETATION, which, sadly, seems to be an art that is left up to demogogues and politicians lately, and is frowned upon when practiced by the general populace. All one has to do is to look at the writings of the most respected and revered ancient biblical scholars - people like Moses Maimonides and Rashi. These scholars recognized that the bible - yes, that holiest of holy books, contained a plethora of vague passages, inconsistincies, and puzzling sections. So what did they do? They INTERPRETED. They created what is known as a MIDRASH - stories and explanations that filled in the gaps of the bible. But these stories were recognized as just that - human-created additions to a long, winding, and ultimately ambiguous text. And that was the beauty of bible studies in middle school - we were always encouraged to have an open mind. We discussed how the scientific reality of dinosaurs, for example, could coexist with the biblical story of seven days of creation. Now ask almost any rabbi if dinosaurs existed - of course, being rational human beings, they'd say yes. Now look at dinosaur fossils - we can carbon date them and determine from when they emanated. Clearly, these creatures existed long before the first humans ever did. So how could any rational person say that on a literal sixth day of creation, humans were created, apparently mere hours after animals first roamed the earth? The absurdity of saying that biblical stories should be factored into science textbooks is amazing.

- Now, evolution - we know that there have been numerous human fossils found that show a clear progression from prehistoric cavemen to modern humans. Why would anyone deny that? I just cannot see any logical way to deny that evolution happened, and still happens today, and will continue to happen. It's fact. Okay, so what about the Big Bang? Now this is one thing where most can agree - science does not yet have a definitive answer? But does the bible? Surprisingly, yes, it does. It really is amazing just how scientifically accurate the creation story of the bible is when looked at in a non-literal manner. But, does that mean that one specific religiously-oriented version of the creation story should be presented in a science textbook? Only in the proper context. Mention the parallels between scientific theory and biblical accounts. Mention that the complexities of life cause many to speculate on some kind of "intelligent design" that sparked the universe's origins. But - do not use the murky science behind the Big Bang as an excuse to discount science as a whole when it comes to creation. The fact is we don't know what happened, and it's something that should be discussed and debated intelligently -- NOT something that should be forcefed one way or the other. BUT - in the case of evolution, where science has proved that things happened a certain way, why are we even arguing about it? If you do believe in God, then you probably agree that nobody knows what his real deal is except the man himself.


- @ WORK:

- Saw this amazing musical talent, Raul Midon, yesterday on Leno. Where did this guy come from? Suffice to say everyone on hand was blown away by his musical stylings. Basically, this guy is a prodigy. He played insane guitar while singing and using his voice to simulate all kinds of instrumental sounds. Watch out for this guy. On the same show I got up close and personal with Sharon Stone herself. Okay, well not that up close and personal, but still closer than most have gotten, so, yeah. But of course as usual Jay busted out his "awkward interview with attractive female actress" card which resulted in weird, pervy, embarrasingly broken interview #57892.

- Did a bunch of "partial tours" with new pages today where I get to play teacher and evaluate them on their performances doing their first tours. Oh, good times.


- WILL THE CAR TROUBLES NEVER END? So I pull into work today, roll down my window to open the security gate at NBC, and bam - CRUNCH - window goes down for the count and won't come back up. So I have to leave my car parked in the lot with the driver's side window fully open. And I have to figure out a way to bring my car to get repaired in the midst of my crazy work schedule, which simply WILL NOT LET UP FOR A FREAKIN' SECOND. Ugh, just the thought of pulling into Community Chevrolet in Burbank makes me sick as things have never yet gone smoothly for me there.


- To defend my Sky High review - look, I'm not calling the movie a masterpiece or anything - I'm just saying it did what it set out to do to near perfection, and really hit a home run as an excellent if predictable example of the high school teen comedy genre. And that's the whole point of a genre movie - to stick to convention. So once again, SEE this highly underrated flick now.

- It's official - the Greek Wonder Chris Agra, aka my original BU roommate from the early days in West Campus, will be in LA next weekend, and hopefully in attendance for next friday's Avril Lavigne concert. Let the craziness ensue.

- Time for another edition of: Danny's Most Anticipated Movies For Which He Has Already Seen The Trailer:
1.) King Kong - Peter Jackson post LOTR is extremely likely to rule.
2.) Corpse Bride - Tim Burton's followup to Nightmare Before Christmas. Nuff said.
3.) V For Vendetta - What the ..?!!? Could Hollywood be making a GOOD Alan Moore adaptation? Looks friggin' sweet from the trailer - awesome casting of Hugo Weaving as V.
4.) Chronicles of Narnia - Hugely anticipated by me as I loved the books when I was younger. But can Disney get it right? Preview looks sweet though. Aslan!
5.) Domino - Kiera Knightly as a tripped-out assassin? Sign me up.
6.) Chumscrubber - Okay I haven't actually seen a trailer for this yet but it sounds muy cool and seems like it could be the next Donnie Darko-esque cult classic.

Alright - daz all I got. Now get yer' stinkin' paws off me, you damn dirty ape!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

RAY GUNS! Sky High! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Bonfires!

It's been too long but I'M BACK with a SUPER-SIZED entry full of rantings and ravings that may cause temporary insanity, spontaneous cranial combustion, and/or tooth decay.

If my title to this post seems weird, sorry, but that's just the kind of mood I'm in ...

Yep, I'm back, and it's been a very busy week or so since my last post, but man I got some stuff to talk about. Let's get right down to it - to a pair of movies I saw over the last few days that I am dying to talk about. First off, just got back from SKY HIGH, which I absolutely LOVED. Now first thing's first - a big "screw you" to everyone who dissed this film in conversation (and i mean that i nthe nicest possible way ... ahem ...) because this movie rocked, and sure many of the previews were weak, but if you could watch this and not have a smile on your face for much of the film then it's time for you to hit the ginseng and make your bed in the old folks' home because sorry to break it to you - your inner child is dead. So on with it:


Now I admit, Sky High looked pretty sketch from the early commercials and previews ... but I realized something fro mreading Harry Knowles Ain't It Cool review a week or so back - this film had potential to be awesome. I mean look at the cast of adults. You've got SNAKE PLISKEN and ASH together! You've got WONDER WOMAN! You've got two of the KIDS IN THE HALL! Now that - THAT is how you cast a FUN superhero movie. But anyways, Harry's review conveyed something that came through even amidst his usual over-enthusiastic ravings. Something shone through that any geek could read and spot - a true, true passion for this movie. So I was psyched to see it, and yet had something gnawing at me telling me that the doubters were correct - the movie would be cheesy, derivative crap. But that was far from the case. I loved the movie, and not only that I think it will become a kids' classic. Because as much as I could enjoy and appreciate this movie now, if I saw this at age 10 or 12, whoah boy, this would have been IT. Why? Let me try to explain:

- The movie is really a perfect blend of John Hughes-esque high school comedy with all things superhero. In fact it's exactly what you'd expect that kind of mash-up to be. But it's done so well - every beat is hit to such perfection, that even the predictable twists and turns of the plot are great, because so much thought and care and imagination is put into each CHARACTER that you are dying for the boy to get the girl, for the underdog to have his moment in the sun, for the bad guys to get their due. Now in this age of endless formulaic movies and remakes and rehashed ideas, it might seem like this is just another one of those. But as far as I'm concerned the story of the high school underdog is one that can and needs to be eternally retold, and as long as it's done well, then hey, go for it. There will always be a new generation of misfits, outcasts, and geeks who need this kind of movie - happy ending and all. And let's give some credit - this is a DISNEY movie through and through. And I don't mean crappy nu-Disney. I mean the Disney that made Mary Poppins and Flight of the Navigator - the one you could count on for wonder, imagination, and yes, a happy ending that makes you smile. Now in terms of high school movies / TV shows I am very picky. I usually hate cliched high school settings when no thought or character is put into the script. But even though this is a cartoony, kid-appropriate world, there are little bits and pieces that have those pangs of realism and angst you usually only see in the best high school pieces - Freaks and Geeks, My So Called Life, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, etc. And even though the high school melodrama character moments are there ...

- This movie is filled with fun and imagination. None of this "realistic" superhero stuff here. No leather costumes, no psychological profiling. Sky High worships at the altar of 1950's scifi, of comic books, REAL comic books (not "graphic novels") from the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the present. From Hannah-Barbara animation, from Jack Kirby, from Stan Lee, from Julie Schwartz. This movie is just plain FUN AS HELL. Crazy costumes, cool superpowers, villains that look like they are from new acid-tripped version of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. I love it. And there is ACTION. DIRECTOR OF FANTASTIC FOUR TAKE NOTE: This isn't "ooh look at me use my powers for five seconds as I stand here and pose and say some lame one-liner." This is kinetic, fun, well-edited yet easy to follow action that makes for some truly cool set pieces. Sure, the f/x are cartoony and not exactly Lucas or WETA quality CGI, but that's the whole fun. So much crazy stuff is going on that it works awesomely, especially since ...

- The cast rocks! Kurt Russell is classic Kurt Russell here. He says his every line as Commander Stronghold with such a sense of fun that he puts a smile on your face whenever he appears. This is classic pulp hero Escape From NY and Big Trouble in Little China wink-wink nudge nudge but I still can kick some ass acting here - it doesn't get any better. Bruce Campell is Bruce Campell - B movie icon and classic character actor, The Chin delivers the goods as a demoralizing gym teacher in a standout role. Hail to the King, baby. And then comedy lovers everywhere rejoice - Kids in the Hall reunion! Dave Foley is pitch perfect as a former sidekick turned teacher (Mr. Boy - hilarious!) and Kevin McDonald often steals the whole show as a super-braniac who is embittered for never getting his rightful due thanks to his brains over brawn powers. Lynda Carter is wondrous as the school's principal. Even minor characters like Ron Wilson: Bus Driver get there little moments to shine and so much attention is paid to those character moments that nothing ever feels left out or inconsistent ... and then there's the kids. In short, they are great. Sure they are playing variations on familiar high school stereotypes, but they do a damn good job of making you love / hate them to the point where you'll probably have a favorite by the end of the movie. As good as the casts of kids were in Bad News Bears and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this one was better and more memorable.

So yeah, this is a great movie - for kids, for kids at heart, and for those looking for an underhyped summer adventure that won't make you question humanity. Honestly, in many ways I enjoyed this more than The Incredibles, which was an animated wonder, but plot-wise was more derivative than inventive in some respects. This movie was laugh out loud funny in many spots, had a lot of good action scenes, endearing characters, and oh yeah I must mention the kickass 1980's soundtrack, which completely rocked. Clearly, the basic premise or plot stucture is nothing new. But everything is done right, which is rare for this genre. Sometimes a crappy movie comes out and people defend it by saying "oh don't bash it it's a fun movie." Well this movie may be formulaic, but who cares - it's hella fun, but also smart, imaginative, energetic, and entertaining to boot - with a wonderful cast and sharp writing and direction. So bring the whole family. Who wouldda thunk it? SKY HIGH is one of the summer's best movies. My grade: A -

Well after that it's time for ...


- Another thing that gets on my nerves: people whining and complaining about remakes of movies in cases where the original movie was NOT EVEN AN ORIGINAL CONCEPT. Sure, remakes in general are getting to be a problem, and originality in general is getting increasingly harder to come by. But come on, Batman Begins is NOT a remake of Batman - the character existed LONG BEFORE Michale Keaton donned the cape and cowl. War of the Worlds is NOT a remake of the earlier movie - HG Wells wrote the book first. And CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is NOT, I repeat NOT a remake of the Gene Wilder version. Why? BECAUSE DECADES EARLIER ROHL DAHL WROTE THE BOOK! Now Dahl was a genious, one of the greatest, most imaginative writers ever, and deserves credit for coming up with the idea in the first place. So if anything, we should be questioning the Gene Wilder version for straying from the original novel, not faulting the Tim Burton movie for straying from the earlier film. Now it so happens that I really like the Wilder version. I love Wilder as an actor, for one thing, and he is classic in that movie. The movie is a psychedellic, trippy, creepy, creative cult classic that many kids fondly remember from their youth. But is it a great movie? Gotta say no. Close, but no. It has great performances, great moments, but as a whole it is more of a novelty than something truly great. Now is the new version great? Hard to say so early in, but overall, it is a BETTER MOVIE than the first, and is more in keeping with the scope, breadth, and spirit of Dahl, which is to its credit. Now I didn't expect to really love this movie, but I came away from it very, very, impressed.

Burton was on his game here. This movie had his trippy visuals, his eccentric style in spades. But it had the cohesion and internal logic of his best movies like Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Big Fish - and none of the messy, painful flaws of duds like Planet of the Apes. Sure, Burton was handicapped here - some of the scenes and characters can only be changed so much, and bare a striking similarity to the Wilder movie. But Burton infuses this movie with so much that is new and different - a subversive, mad-genious mentality pervades it - and it turns out to be plenty original and interesting. I won't dwell on the details, but basically in this movie it is, in fact, all in the details. Wonka's glances and expressions, the set design, the seamless, spell-binding f/x, the costumes, the inflection that the characters speak in. The movie has a timeless feel. You lose a sense of geography and history - you only know that Charlie, and Wonka and Veruca Salt and the rest are these classic storybook concoctions that work in any era. The movie works in plenty of humor. The child actors are great (Augustus Gloop is hilarious, Charlie is spot-on). The music and songs by Danny Elfman are just great, and the upadated take on the Oompa-Loompa /s is pretty funny and highly entertaining. Most of all this feels, unlike the earlier film, like a complete movie. The main characters grow and change. The storyarcs evolve and progress and end with satisfying conclusions. This is Tim Burton at his best - as a storyteller. He's telling you a familiar story but adding new bits and pieces. He's drawing out a world and vision uniquely his own even if the story itself is old hat. But Burton, Depp, and the rest are the ones you want telling you the story, because they are the ones with the vision to bring that antastical world to life and reimagine it one more time. My grade: A

So ...

Two great movies. All those reviews, though, leave me little time to write anything else. So. What else?


Pretty eventful ... NBC Pages old and new came out to celebrate the weekend at some Italian restaurant on Friday - it was a big-ass family style dinner at Bucca Di Beppo (or whatever it's called, and no they don't have super-monkeys there ... get it, Beppo the Super-Monkey? No I thought not ...). Saturday I had to freakin' work almost all day at the ol' ticketbox. Sunday caught up on sleep and then headed out to Dockweiller Beach by LAX airport for some CA-style beach bonfire fun. Well the fire did a-burn and a good time was had by all. Sitting around those flames rook me back to the good old days at Camp Shalom sitting around the campfire and singing The Circle Game or other such songs and telling classic camp stories like my famous rendition of "It's A-Comin'." If only one of the pages could play guitar ... oh man it takes me back ... let's see what were some of the classic camp songs? "Me and Julio" by Paul Simon, "The Circle Game", "Puff The Magic Dragon," "One Tine Soldier," "Closer to Fine," "If I Had A Hammer ..." Hahaha talk about cheesy ...

Let's see .. TONIGHT SHOW ....

Some highlights of late: Thomas Hayden Church was on a few days ago and was HILARIOUS in my opinion, one of the best guests in a while on the show. And I'm a long time fan of his dating back to his underrated sitcom NED AND STACY which was GREAT back in the day. His segment about imaginary superviallains that he WON'T be playing in Spiderman 3 was classic. Who else have I seen? Al Gore was on yesterday and was pretty funny. Man shoulda been president. At least he has the good sense to get out of the political spotlight unlike John Kerry, who has no clue when to step down and to STOP UTILIZING HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN EMAIL LIST EVERY OTHER FREAKIN' DAY! Oh man, I won't get all political on ya right now, I promise. I'll save that for later. Today saw and outdoor performance by the favorite artist of Contemporary Adult Music Listeners everywhere, Faith Hill. Well, her first song, about Mississippi Girls, was, I admit, kinda catchy (could have benefitted from an injection of COWBOY TROY though ...). But, um, yeah, Faith Hill must still be judged and found to be ... pretty lame. Next week business picks up as Tommy Lee skips class and performs for us (sans Motley Crue, damn it!) and Avril "I'm not Jewish / LEVINE" pops in for some s8RBoY-riffic fun.

Oh yeah, yesterday ROYALTY graced Leno with it's presence. A prince from Florence, Italy's DeMedici line was in attendance at the show, actually put on the guest list by one of us pages (these pages are surprisingly well connected - first Ben Savage and now this?)! Craziness! And he DANCED before the show. See, even princes can get down with their bad selves.

On that note, that's all for today. Sure there's more to say but time is short and you've go to get back to work ... or something. Peace in da middle east.