Sunday, April 30, 2006

United 93 Review

Well, I thought I'd keep this entry focused on one topic, that being Paul Greengrass' new film, United 93, which I saw this weekend at a screening at Universal. So here are my thoughts - if you too have seen the film, let me know what you think.


Up until recently, I was in the camp of people who thought it was way too soon for Hollywood to start cranking out the 9/11 movies. I remember last year, when I attended NBC's upfront presentations as a member of the NBC Page Program. At that time, NBC rolled out a huge preview for 9-11 - the TV miniseries - and the reaction in the room said it all. As the bombastic music played and the list of big-name Hollywood players rolled - Ron Howard was set to exec-produce - the room was filled with groans, head-shakes, and murmurs of "I can't believe they're doing this." Since that time, NBC scrapped the project, and it was probably a wise move. Nobody wanted to see the still-fresh horror of that day made into an over the top, melodramatic TV show. And you know, it's tricky, because in the current political climate people are so skeptical of Hollywood. IT's too liberal, it's too focused on the profits. Nobody looks to Hollywood anymore as a source of real art, of real politics, of real food for thought. And that is pretty sad. Because what we have in United 93 is not like ANYTHING that Hollywood has ever produced. This is WORLD'S APART from the bombastic WWII movies of old, miles away from the head-trip stylings of the Vietnam films like Apocalypse Now. This is a YOU-ARE-THERE movie, totally removed from what one expects from a typical movie or television show. No real politics, no artificial melodrama, no scenery-chewing actors or overly scripted dialouge.

And that's why, as I read more about the movie, I saw that the questionable marketing campaign of United 93 betrayed the true importance of this movie. In general, I agree with many others that it IS too soon to make 9/11 into a typical Hollywood movie. I have little desire to see Nicholas Cage running around playing the hero in wartorn New York City. Cage had better give the absolute performance of his life for that one to be watchable. But United 93 is different. It's a wake up call, almost a reminder of how REAL those events were and how they were NOT merely the biproducts of some screenwriter's imagination. And that, in my opinion, is an important message that is not too soon to put out there - in fact, I'm glad it's been said before it's too late ...

After 9/11, one of the first big media responses actually came from the comic book industry, when Marvel put out a commemorative magazine called HEROES - basically a collection of pinups by top artists and a few short text pieces. There were some amazing pieces of art in that magazine, and seeing some of those works really was an amazing catharsis following the events of 9/11. We were all looking for heroes in the wake of the tragedy, and books like this one and the subsequent volumes produced by DC and other companies transplanted these comic-book derived heroic ideals from the realm of fiction into the real world. In any case, that magazine HEROES had this one amazing piece of art, by a guy named Igor Kordev, that imagined what the passenger-led revolt against the terrorist hijackers might have looked like, and I remember at the time how that picture blew me away.

It was a powerful reminder of the capacity of an ordinary person to be a hero in the face of an extreme situation. And United 93 brought with it a huge jumble of emotions, but aside from everything else, it brought back that same feeling of pride mixed with terror as that picture evoked. Pride that ordinary people could be so brave, and terror that unlike the movies or the comic books, their story did not have a happy ending even if their heroism did help to save the day.

That is the power of the movie - it so perfectly captures the everyday experience of flying on a plane - it puts you right there. The camera captures the little details, it notices the little quirks, that you yourself might notice when at an airport. The guy next to you is dressed well. The girl across from you is really immersed in her music. That elderly couple looks stressed out, that one guy is talking too loudly. By the time flight 93 took off into the air in the movie, I literally felt like I had just taken off with it - I even had the slight queesiness in my stomach from liftoff and eveything. That's how immersive this movie is -- it really is amazing.

A similar feeling of immersion occurs when the film focuses on the crew at the FAA or in the military. Everything feels so real, every detail is so natural, that you begin to imagine yourself at your own workplace, and then you transplant that experience into the movie. You see yourself working at the FAA - how would YOU react to the news that plane was possibly hijacked? How would you react to the news of the World Trade Center collapsing? How DID you react? This movie forces you to transplant your own experiences into the movie due to its naturalism, and that is why it is so effective. The lack of name actors is a huge asset to achieving this immersion, as is the inclusion of actual people playing themselves in key roles rather than using actors. There is chaos, confusion, overlapping dialogue, messiness - the way people look, talk, act - it's all natural seeming, no hint of hair stylists or makeup people or the like. It really is a complete 360 from what you've come to expect from a movie, especially one of this magnitude.

And man, Paul Greengrass is just awesome. I had never seen a Paul Greengrass movie before this one, but I had followed his career a bit due to his involvement in the Watchmen movie that now won't happen with him as the director. After seeing this, I would love to see Greengrass tackle Watchmen, not because he shows anything in particular here that would translate into that movie, except maybe for a keen eye for little details. But from this point on I will have a vested interest in anything this guy does, because his direction here is simply astounding. The tension this movie creates is almost nauseating in its power, if that makes sense. The movie is utterly naturalistic, and yet the way Greengrass shifts from scene to scene, from plot point to plot point, the way he contrasts the ordinary realities of day-in-the-life minutae with the extradordinary, ripped-from-the-movies unreality of 9-11 - well it is almost too much to take at times. This movie will make you want to leave your seat at times - to get up and yell at the FAA officials to get with the program and realize the magnitude of the threat. You'll almostbe hoping against hope that the day will be saved, that the inevitable tragedy will somehow be avoided with a touch of Hollywood magic. You'll wish that Jack Bauer or Superman or your hero of choice would magically insert themselves into the reality of this movie and bend the rules to conform to the typical hero-saves-the-day-at-all-costs expectations we have of a typical Hollywood drama. Watching this movie though, you are forced to ride this ride that has one inevitable ending - it really is like watching a nightmare play out, a nightmare that you know the ending to that you can't change no matter how hard you try.

When the passengers on the plane finally decide to unite to take down the terrorists, everything to that point has been played so realistically that the ensuing chaos is like no other "action" scene you've ever seen. By that point you've been put on the plane - you're one of the passengers, and you're sitting there thinking about how you're going to attack this knife-wielding hijacker without getting stabbed in the gut.

And I think that that is why this movie is not too soon. That may not be true for other 9/11 movies, but United 93 is a poignant, wrenching reminder of the true terror of that day. It's the oppossite of escapism, which really is quite jarring. Even a fact-based movie like Munich had enough cinematic flair to provide a certain wall between the viewer and the action on screen. Paul Greengrass shatters that wall. And it's funny how all of a sudden, a MOVIE of all things becomes a more shocking reality check than what we encounter in actual life. In a culture where we quickly in a mtter of years try to pretend we're NOT living in a world filled with terorrists and murderers and that we're NOt still reeling from the unprecedented attack against our country and ideals on 9/11, this is a necessary reality check. Sure, some people don't need it. Some don't want it. But for me this was a valuable reminder that this isn't the same world as is depicted in the early part of United 93. We pretend to be, but we're not as innocent anymore. Osama is still out there. Iran has nuclear weapons and talks of destroying Israel. Thousands have lost their lives in a bleak war in Iraq. Our patriotism has turned to cynicism, and maybe rightfully so. But here is a movie with no real politics, no real agenda, except to simply remind us of what happened. And I think I and a lot of others needed that, needed to be taken back momentarily to a time when we were shocked into reality by the events around us. Well, prepare to be shocked again.

And one other thing -- I know that we don't know exactly what happened on that plane. The 9-11 Commision report is sketchy, and yes, there is the contingent who believes that the plane was actually shot down by our government rather than grounded by the heroics of the passengers onboard. Well, all that is debatable, and I don't give much credence to most 9-11 conspiracies, as most of what happened on that day is fairly well-documented. But I think that it's not really important in the context of this movie - it's not a documentary, it has the right to take some artistic license when necessary. And while i don't know exactly how each passenger on the flight 93 actually reacted during the flight, I want to believe that the narrative of this movie is close to the truth. Because there's a huge power in that. That these were ordinary people, forced to go into fight or flight mode, forced to kick into survival mode. And Greengrass puts us there, so that one passengers' squint of the eyes, one guy's look of determination, one man's decision to play the odds and make a go for it, the sheer desire to fight in the face of death itself -- wow, that's powerful stuff there. I think in those passengers' determination is the embodiment of what everyone felt on 9-11 - we can't just sit around anymore, we have to DO something.

So I know that there are those too cynical and fed up with Hollwood's tendency for sensationalism to give this movie a chance. And more importantly I know there are some who will not want to subject themselves to the sheer brutality and realism and immersiveness of it all. But if you can stomach it, I really do recommend United 93. It's an amazing movie. It latches on to your subconciousness and says there. It is life-changing, mind-altering cinema. If it hadn't been this good, it would have been a creative failure, and yes, it likely would have been too soon - but it is really that good and that powerful and that well done that the movie is an unquestionable artistic milestone, and I have to commend those involved for doing right by this difficult subject matter.

My grade: A

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

METAL GEAR: BAUER -- 24, Prisonbreak, More!

Well, it looks like the producers of both Prisonbreak and 24 have been playing the Metal Gear Solid lately. How else to explain how in the same week, both FOX shows unveil sinister cabals of "patriots" who are secretly manipulating a vast web of world affairs, including our own American government? Pretty interesting, but hey, I am pretty much a sucker for any and all "secret conspiracy of men controls the world" storylines, so you won't hear me complain. I mean, who needs Solid Snake when you've got Jack Bauer -- hey he's even got his own Revolver Ocelot in arch-rival Henderson and his own Otacon in the form of steadfast tech-geek Chloe O'Brien. All we need is for Jack to seemingly perish after being spotted by enemy thugs and hear Chloe yell into her headset: "Jack? JACK! JAAAAAAAAACK!"


Like I said, even if we've seen it before I am pretty much a total sucker for all storylines about secret syndicates controlling governments. So even if they are kinda ripped from Metal Gear, among other things, and even if the exact same reveal occurs on both 24 and Prisonbreak in the same night (!), I still marked for it, I admit. And the plot thickens ...


This ep of 24 FRIGGIN' ROCKED!

Possibly my favorite overall episode of the year after the pilot, this one had it all. Jack mano y mano with Henderson. Henderson being utterly Robo-like in his cold-hearted ruthlessness, with one last desperate attempt to pull at the strings of Audrey. Jack vs. Robocop has just been an awesome cat and mouse game throughout this season, and it finally came to a head right here, with Jack being forced to simply break down after Heller's death and scream to Henderson and to the 24 gods above: "WHY?!?!"

And what about "SECRETARY OF GRAVITAS" HELLER? Holy crap - best death scene ever! We know from last season that the man is not afreaid to take one for his country, and this time he did, pretty much exonerating himself from his betrayal last week (ps - how kickass was Jack saying to Heller "With all due respect Sir, you betrayed me!"). Heller went all Thelma and Louise on us in the name of true patriotism, and though we never saw a body we must assume that everyone's favorite crusty old ass-kicker is no longer among the living. RIP Mr. Heller - you went down fighting.

And howsabout Mrs. Logan's INTENSE scenes with her increasingly insane husband? Pure greatness, and we can only wonder where SUPER-AGENT PIERCE is and if he can return soon to kick ass Secret Service style. Hmm .. could he be aboard the plane ...?

The plane! The plane! Jack is about to freaking hijack a plane! No snakes on this MF'n plane, just Jack by-God Bauer! Jack Bauer doesn't give two craps about political correctness when he's trying to save our country!

Speaking of snakes, sweet John Carpenter-style music to open the episode. "Call me ... Jack." Dammit all, get Kurt Russell to guest star, with eyepatch please.

And speaking of eyepatches, who else wants Henderson to get transported back to CTU only to be met by a eye-patch sporting, near-zombified TONY ALMEDA ready to exact some sweet soulpatch vengeance?!?! Make it happen!

And speaking of prisoners at CTU, WTF ever happened to Bierko?

Oh yeah, great RETURN by one bad motha CURTIS as he saved Audrey and saved the day from Henderson's robo-squad.

Hmmm ... who was the incriminating tape of Logan handed off to ... coudl it be ... CHASE?!?! Nah, wouldn't happen. Or would it ...?

Bill Buchanan may not have a decent computer setup in his Hall of Justice, but he takes orders from Chloe like a champ!

Is there anything Jack's P.D.A. of D.O.O.M. can't do?!?!?!

Jack flips on his HOOD while boarding the plane and apparently it's a HOOD OF INVISIBILITY! Sweet!

Aww .. a tender moment between Jack and Audrey. Hmm .. he had a bad feeling about leaving her ALONE WITH HENDERSON ...? Duh!

Man, I think Novick may be a goner next week. But dammit all, let him at least land a punch on Logan before he bites it. With one last "This is for David Palmer, bitch!" for good measure.

BTW, what happened to Wayne Palmer?

- Overall, 24 was simply awesome this week. The story built to a magnificent crescendo, business has long since picked up, and all the players are in place for an amazing last few episodes. This is dramatic TV at its best.

My grade: A


Very nice episode this week, and again, although it's pretty out of left field, I am intrigued by the new developments regarding Lincoln's father and his involvement in some crazy conspiracy that controls the government (obviously the creators of the show have been drinking the same Kool Aid as those behind 24 ...).

Oh man, how crazy was it when the rat guy tries to make a deal with his man-loving cell-mate, only for Big Bubba Love to close the curtain and say something like "Sorry son, but I ain't got but one use for you." Geez ...

Awesome confrontation between T-Bag and the returning Abruzzi - intense!

Pretty good stuff with Michael and his rock n' roll nurse ... hmmm I wonder what he did to make sure he can enter the infirmery even though they changed the locks ...?

Nice standoff with Lincoln and the prison guards / the VP's right hand man.

Overall this ep not only set up the imminent prison-break, but also seemingly planted some seeds for a possible second or third season by introducing the whole government conspiracy angle. Very good stuff, can't wait for the next few episodes. My grade: A -


NBA -- See, I told you that the Bulls might put up a good fight, but would still mostly be dominated by the Heat. MAYBE they will get one game, but even that is looking doubtful at this point. Wow though, the Clippers looked awesome last night - could they make it to the Western conference finals? A few more dominating games like that one and I may be a believer.

- You know, you'd think that being on the Universal lot here there'd be some excitement going on around me, but not really. It's pretty dead here, and all the exciting stuff is going on inside giant enclosed wherehouses that serve as movie and TV studios.

- Veronica Mars tonight @ 9 pm -- catch it!

- That's it for now -- check back soon for more.

- Final thought: I want to see a modern day League of Extraordinary Gentleman with like Jack Bauer, Michael Scofield, Snake Plissken, Quinn Mallory, Fox Mulder, Frank Black, La Femme Nikita, and Robocop. That would rule.

Monday, April 24, 2006

This Blog Just Got POSTERIZED

Dammit! -- I completed a huge new post about an hour ago, but blogger went down and I lost all of it. It's a tragedy I tell ya - paragraphs of original writing by me down the drain, never to be seen by anyone. So I will TRY to approximate what I wrote earlier, but man, I don't know ...

Well, this weekend saw the beginning of the NBA playoffs, and:

FINGER OF SHAME to ABC and ESPN for their lackluster NBA coverage. Back when the NBA was on NBC, we got movie-trailer-quality pregame video packages tht built up the drama of each game to epic proportions. We got top flight commentators like Marv Albert and the alway entertaining Bill Walton, and of course that classic theme music. Now, ABC's playoff coverage basically blows goats.

NOW, we get second rate production values, a sleep-inducing in-studio team, and boring commentators in the form of bland Mike Breen and a lost-without-Dick Stockton Hubie Brown. ESPN, with its poor in-studio players (Greg Anthony is boring, Steven A Smith is obnoxious and headache-inducing), and similarly uninspiring production is not much better. So PRAISED be TNT, the only current home for decent NBA coverage, with the best announce teams (Marv Albert, Kevin Harlan, etc), and the classic Inside the NBA team of EJ, Kenny, Sir Charles, and Magic. But seriously, in spite of the current state of the NBA, the playoffs are always something to be excited for. But it's hard to get amped up when you turn on ABC and the coverage is so freaking lame. And trust me, this is not just corporate bias talking. As Bill Walton would say, "Come on, this is the playoffs!"

As for the games themselves, well no big surprises thus far. As per usual, the superstars step up and the playoff-tested role players make an impact. I do think that da Bulls' chances against Shaq-diesel and Miami were overrated, as Chicago is still a young team with little playoff experience, which is usually the name of the game at this time of year. Indiana on the other hand is composed of some battle-tested veterans, so its no surprise that they bested the Nets in game 1, though that series will likely be close down the stretch. I think Miami, Detroit, San Antonio, and maybe Dallas will all steamroll lover their competition in round 1, while the other series will likely be fairly close. Wizards / Cavs is going ot be a good series, and the wildcard is probably Suns / Lakers. My prediction and hope is that the Suns sweep or come close to it, but when Kobe is capable of putting up the numbers he can, you never know.


I saw this for free at Universal this weekend, but I can see why it bombed at the box office. I don't think people knew what to make of this movie, and that held true for me after I had seen it as well. With a great cast and a premise rife with comedic potential, ya have to ask yourself: what went wrong here? Basically, this movie just has a jumpy, tonally inconsistent script that has few moments that are actually, you know, funny. It seems like the premise of this movie is just begging for a movie that plays in an off the wall, anything-goes, Zucker brothers satirical style a la Hot Shots or Airplane. And yet, the humor is surprisingly restrained and inconsistent. For some reson, each character is given a totally unnecessary personality twist in the course of the movie that leaves you scratching your head. Rather than go all out, for example, in making fun of Dennis Quaid as Bush, the movie eventually tries to make us root for the bumbling president as he rebels against his controlling V.P. -- but all we really want is for him to act stupid and make us laugh. And the character we DO want to root for - Mandy Moore as Sally Kendoo, a Kelly Clarkson meets Britney Spears girl next door, morphs from likable protaganist to cold hearted manipulator as the movie goes on, and we don't really know what to think about that, either. It's like they're trying to suffocate what should be a funny satire by smothering it with unnecessary complexity and weird character shifts. It's too bad, because you have William Dafoe, Marcia Gay-Harden, Dennis Quaid, Hugh Grant, and one of the more promising former teen pop stars, Mandy Moore. And this great cast is mostly wasted. Sadly, one of the main sources of humor in the movie is just watching talents like Quaid and Dafoe playing as Bush and Cheny, and Grant as a bored, insecure, snide hybrid of Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell. There are scattered laughs, but there's probably only one real consistently funny character (the lead terrorists' flamboyant cousin). It just seems like every opportunity for hilarity is given a great setup but no punch line. Every scene that SHOULD be funny isn't. A chassidic Jew on American Idol? SHOULD be funny - but is never really given a proper punch line - they never did anything with the funny idea. A sequence that parodies American Idol contestants like Constantine and Fantasia? SHOULD be funny, but isn't - it's played way too straight to get many laughs. The whole premise of this movie SHOULD be hilarious - it's a perfect setup to satirize current politics and pop culture. I love the concept of a bumbling President with sagging popularity going on American Idol as a judge to win over the American public. And i love the idea of a terrorist cell sending one of their own to enter the competition, advance to the finals as a lovable William Hung-esque novelty act, in an effort to get in front of the President and assasinate him on live TV. This could and should have been great. Instead it was mostly, ironically enough, a bomb. My grade: C



MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE: The 150th episode of this show was vintage Malcolm. Malcom and his fellow high school outcasts' efforts to organize an anti-prom, aka a Morp, was classic, as was the Dewey subplot involving the neglected brother's realization that his parents never took a single photo of his childhood. When this show is at its best, it's always been about this family that is just beaten, downtrodden, depressed, and condemned to wallow in misery despite their best efforts to change. And when its at its darkest is often when the show is at its most hilarious. Good stuff, watch it while you can. My grade: A

KING OF THE HILL: This show has always delivered smart and funny social satire, and this episode was no exception - as Buck Strickland decides to turn Strickland Propane into a "Propanery" after visiting a big-on-fun Cold Stone Creamery-esque ice cream shop. Hank's weariness with mixing work and "fun" was great, and overall this was an excellent ep. My grade: A -

THE SIMPSONS: In all the years that the show has been doing these lame three-thematically-related-stories episodes, has ANY of them ever been good? Not really, as these episodes tend to suck pretty hard. Surprisingly, this one, with three nautically-themed segments, of all things, was almost decent, with scattered laughs and one reasonably amusing story in the middle segment, the Mutiny on the Bounty riff featuring Bart and his friends. Otherwise, I wish they'd avoid doing these types of episodes, which usually come off as somewhat lazy and half-assed. And come on, three segments linked by a nautical theme? That is really reaching, guys. My grade: B -

FAMILY GUY: Wow, second week in a row that Family Guy has been nearly unwatchable. What is going on here? We had a main plot that was barely there, a subplot that consisted of Stewie pretending to be a gymnast (THAT'S a subplot?), and jokes that pretty much uniformly fell flat. Man, remember the days when Family Guy was, if nothing, else, consistently good for a lot of laughs per episode? Yeah, it's been a while. This episode was terrible. My grade: D -


SMALLVILLE: While the plot of this ep was ripped from SAW, it was still pretty damn good thanks to the best character on the show, LIONEL LUTHOR, being the featured player. Lionel always brings the gravitas, and when the character is prominent you know you're in for a treat, even if the acting far overshadows the typically corny writing. My grade: B+

THE OC: Well, the kids visiting colleges was something different, at least, but everythign else was the same stuff we see rehashed on a near weekly basis. Ryan and Marissa trying to just be friends. Marissa going back and forth with her vice. Kirsten teasing a return to alcoholism. Summer upset with Seth, thinking he's with another girl. Look, there's old favorite characters Anna and Theresa. Too bad they're gone by next week before we really care that they're back. Watching this show on a weekly basis can be entertianing, but its also like being trapped in a neverending loop. And PS -- there is NO WAY Summer, as she is written on this show, would EVER get into Brown. My grade: B -


- Good times at la casa del Carlos this weekend. Finally met some of the Pages that began their NBC careers in the post-Danny Baram era. Oh man, they don't know what they are missing.

- They are making a Sgt. Rock movie -- cool! Cast Bruce Willis as Rock and include some Joe Kubert artwork somewhere in there and we've got a potentially kickass WWII movie. "Let's go, Easy!"

- 24! 24! 24! Jack Bauer will soon bring the gravitas as only he can ... let the countdown begin ...

- Alright, it's about that time to sign off until next time. I can't believe I re-typed all this crap. I am a blogging wunderkind!

Friday, April 21, 2006


Things I Want To Do -- By Danny Baram:

- Find people who are good at singing and playing instruments and record a comedy album.

- Create a sketch comedy demo tape

- Write for an Onion-style newspaper

- Write the pilot episodes for several TV show ideas I have

- Edit my IBA screenplay down to 120 or so pages

- write a comic book and get someone to draw it, publish it through a small press label

- make an indie film and market it to festivals

- do a parody music video a la Lazy Sunday

If you are interested in doing any of these things, let me know. I want to CREATE stuff already. Anybody else in?


- Well Passover is finally over, and its conclusion was celebrated in spectacular style by some friends and I last night at The Olive Garden - aka home of manna from heaven in earthly form in the guise of unlimited breadsticks and salad. I think anyone who was skeptical about the sublime quality of The 'Garden was converted last night, as the breadsticks, salad, and hearty entrees were consumed with voracious appetitite and vigorous enthusiasm by one and all. If only my old BU cohorts like Aksel, Mimi, and co could have been there to partake in the meal ...

- Many interesting movies soon to be released. This weekend Kiefer tests the waters for a 24 movie in the form of playing Jack Bauer lite in The Sentinel, though the reviews have not been very promising. American Dreamz opens, which I've been looking forward to and will likely see for free at Universal tommorow. And videogame adaptation Silent Hill, which actually looks kinda sweet, comes out and I am definitely curious about it as I am a fan of surreal / mysterious / atmospheric horror stuff. Also interested to see The Notorious Bettie Page, as it looks to be a well done look at the fascinating life of Ms. Page.

- My new obsession of late, thanks to my brother Matt's generally strange taste in music, is the wonderfully weird euro-techno-pop song TARZAN AND JANE, by the Aqua-like group TOYBOX. A quick search on YouTube will not only get you the actual, hilarious music video to this unnaturally catchy song, but also a number of funny home-made videos of random people filming themselves singing it and posting the result on the web for all to see. Here are some of the awesome lyrics so you can sample the fruity euro hilarity for yourself ...

Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
Deep in the jungle, in The Land Of Adventure, lives Tarzan
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am tarzan from jungle, you can be my friend
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am Jane, and I love to ride an elephant
My name is Tarzan, I am Jungle-man
The tree-top swinger from jungle-land
Come, baby come
I will take you for a swing
Let's go, honey, I'm tinkeling
Tarzan is handsome, Tarzan is strong
He's really cute, and his hair is long
Tarzan is handsome, Tarzan is strong
So listen to the jungle-song:
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am Tarzan from jungle, you can be my friend
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am Jane, and I love to ride an elephant
When you touch me, I feel funny
I feel it too, when you're touching me
Come to my tree-house to my party
Yes, I'll go if you carry me
Tarzan is handsome, full of surprise.
He's really cute, and his hair is nice
Tarzan is handsome, Tarzan is strong
So listen to the Jungle-song:
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am Tarzan from jungle, you can be my friend
Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy yoy yay!...
I am Jane, and I love to ride an elephant
Go Cheetah, get banana
Hey monkey, get funky!

So join the cult of TARZAN AND JANE. Once you listen it will be in your head forever! Bwahahahahaha!

- On another note, I think its pretty sad and pathetic how many blogs, myspace bulletins, etc, I've had to read about it being 4/20. Who the hell cares? Seriously, how lame is it for twenty somethings to treat their pot-smoking habit like its this cool counter-culture thing that makes them part of some exclusive little club that even gets its own holiday. Well guess what -- if you're incapable of being creative, or having philosophical conversations, or laughing at stupid humor, or chilling out with friends when NOT under the influence of a drug, then smoking some pot is not going to change much. So yeah, spend all your cash and ruin your lungs on a stupid substance that the media has brainwashed you into thinking is cool. Guess what -- you've been had -- you're wasting your life and you'll probably never amount to crap. Sorry to get on a soap box here, but I just think the whol thing is sad. I mean its funny for a minute, sure ... ohhh, 4/20, haha, pot brownies, hilarious, etc ... then when you really think about it though, about all these people posing as some kind of hippies when they are likely spoiled rich kids who wouldn't know counterculture if it bit them in the ass. Yep, 4/20 is gonna be pretty cool when you're wrinkled, lung-cancer infected ass is sitting in your mom's basement at age 50 laughing at Cheech and Chong. Look, I am not going to diss anyone for being a pot-smoker. Whatever, if that's what you wanna do then fine. Just don't go around pretending like what you're doing is so damn cool or cutting-edge or worth bragging about, because please, it's just not.



It must be said -- this week's Gilmore Girls was AMAZING. As is often the case with Paladino-written and directed episodes, this episode just bristled with witty dialogue, humor, heart, and just an amazing study of character. This whole ep, until the last few tragic minutes, was just so much fun. Any viewer coming familiar with the quirks of family life had to appreciate the hilarity of Lane's wedding. It started out as a traditional Buddhist affair -- but that was only a facade to please Lane's visiting grandmother. Then it became a quiet, plain church wedding, but that was only done to appease Lane's strict mother. Just as the guests were getting restless, Lane's mom goes home to rest, and out comes the booze, Lane's own rock band takes the stage, and the party begins. This whole sequence was just friggin' brilliant. Seriously, this is one of the best pure episodes of TV I've seen in a long while. It overflowed with real humor, real tragedy, and real emotion to the point where it really was one of those moments that validated television as a legitimate entertainment medium for me -- something capable of producing real pop art and not just derivative junk. This was simply a great piece of television, no two ways about it. My grade: A +

On another note though, it is a huge blow to this show that the Paladinos are apparently leaving after this season. In this case, I kind of feel that the show should just end as well -- it's too much of a singular vision, and its no coincidence that all the best episodes of the show include heavy involvement by the husabnd and wife team. While the show does not really seem to be heading towards a satisfying point at which to end the SERIES by the end of this season, it is hard to imagine the show continuing without its creators' involvment. There is definitely plenty of storyline left for another season or two, at least until Rory graduates college, and the show is highly rated, so it makes sense for it to be a fixture of the CW's new fall lineup. But it would definitely be a huge jump the shark moment if it continued Palladino-less, which is too bad.


As predicted, this week's ep was another good one, with a ton of plotlines crisscrossing and converging as the central, season-long mystery of the bus crash races towards its conclusion. Awesome stuff, great acting, even a little action as Keith Mars gets into it with the Fitzpatricks. My latest theory is that a cabal of people conspired to crash the bus, each with different motives, and with possibly none of them knowing who else was involved. It almost has to be a group of ppl that were responsible, because there are just too many motives that have been put out there. Woody Goodman to prevent the "outing of all outings." Kendall Casablancas to off Dick and Beav and collect on the insurance money. Aaron Echols to exact revenge on Veronica. And the Fitzpatricks as a way of tightening their grip on the PCH'ers. My feeling that the conspirators did not know of each other is mostly due to Aaron Echols seemingly not having met Kendall Casablancas until recently. Hmmm ... any other theories? As for this last episode, my grade: A

- Have Smallville and The OC (Anna returns!) recorded for viewing in the near future.

- Come on NBC, how about putting THE OFFICE on a regular schedule where new episodes don't come less frequently than the newspaper does to W's oval office.


- Once again, Olive Garden = magic.

- Hey monkey, get funky!

- Ninjas are cool. So are robots.

- This weekend: NBA PLAYOFFS begin! In terms of possible upsets, conventional wisdom is that Indiana COULD take New Jersey ... other than that I don't see LA upsetting Phoenix or da' Bulls knocking off Miami. Miami wil lreestablish themselves as a force in the playoffs, I predict, though the sad truth is that Detroit and San Antonio are still in a league of their own. I'd love to see LeBron go crazy in the playoffs and really begin to build up his legacy as a top performer, though who knows if he'll step up. Im sure we can expect lots of huge performances from Kobe, but Nash and co are just too much for 'em. The Clips though could, perish the thought, actually make it to the second round, for the first time since, well, do they make record books that go back that far ...? A potential LA vs. LA 2nd round matchup is intriguing, though I can't say I'm that interested given that I still have nto gotten over my hatred for most LA sports teams weaned from years as a New Englander. No Celts this year = kinda pathetic. That franchise needs a major shot in the arm (aka trade Paul Pierce!). Who am I actually rooting for? No idea -- last year at this time I was hoping against hope that Reggie Miller would have one last shot at championship glory. This year, it's a new era for me as a fan, and all my old favorites are now out of the picture. All I can hope for is some good basketball, I guess. Or maybe it's simply time to start rooting for someone like 'Zo to finally get their ring. Or not ...

- Alright, I'm out. Sayonara, suckaaaas.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No. Bread. Till Thursday! -- Back From CT, 24, and MORE!

And I'm back.

Back from Bloomfield, back to Burbank, back to work, back to the blog, and back to business. Now can you dig that.

So my short trip to Connecticut was was a nice way to celebrate Passover and to get away from LA for a bit. Basically, my time at home consisted of two family Passover seders, three straight nights of big family meals, lots of basketball, movies, brotherly competition, and not much else. Which was pretty much what I went home for, so it was all good. It was nice to finally be home again for the seders rather than at a random family's home like last year. And of course all kinds of crazy hijinks ensue when so many members of the extended Baram-Wagner clan are assembled in one place. Well, not THAT crazy.

But, for example, it's Wednesday night. I had only gotten off a plane from CA an hour or so earlier. The relatives begin to arrive -- Jean, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Jonathan, etc. We gather to sit around the table, and it's off we go, right? Wrong -- we can't find our dog, Yoffi, anywhere! And he never runs off! And if he's in the house, everyone can hear him because he doesn't stop barking for a second. So everyone's freaking out, my mom is in hysterics, my grandfather and brother are driving around the neighborhood, I'm trekking through the backyard into the depths of the Connecticut woods, brushing away thorns and stray branches, assuming that Yoffi is lying dead somewhere mauled by a coyote or runover by a car. So finally, as everyone is about to pass out from hunger and exhaustion, and it's poised to be the worst passover ever, some guy down the street calls our home and says he's found our dog. Okaaaaay .... so Yoffi lived to bark another day, we scrape off the mud from our shoes, and sit down to start the seder at 8 pm. Good times, indeed. But it's like that story -- It Could Always Be Worse (if you're Jewish you know of it) -- this was one of those times where everyone was mostly just happy that things hadn't been worse, because they COULD have been a LOT worse.

So that was my first few hours back in CT.

The two seders were filled with the usual readings from my grandparents' fifty-year-old, wine-stained haggadahs, antiquated language and all ("Praised be he who brought us up from the dunghill!"), the usual singing marathons (Who Knows One, Chad Gadyah, my mom's over-the-top rendition of "Miriam's Song", done in the name of feminist Judaism), and the always spirited dinner table conversation of my brother, grandfather, and their differing opinions on most things.

Got some good excercise with a few marathon b-ball games in the ol' driveway, where my shot was sorely lacking its old accuracy.

Caught my Dad up on his movies with some viewings of King Kong and Narnia.

Raided the Wal-Mart $5.50 DVD bin, found a few gems like Necessary Roughness, the classic football comedy.

Got in some videogame battles with my brother, which was good because we both got home realizing neither one brought home any controllers. And yes, we went to some pretty extreme lengths to ensure that we got them ASAP. Hey, what good is being home if I can't whup Matt in a little PS2 game-age. Not very good, is the answer.

Did a lot of sleeping on the plane ride to CT, but did get in a lot of reading on the plane ride back to CA -- finally made some good headway into Kavalier and Clay, got to about page 600 -- now will I ever finish the thing? Great book though.

Also, finally got a new cell phone! Yes! No more crappy Kyocera that has a 20 minute battery life and was held together by scotch tape! My new LG, gotten for FREE thanks to Verizon's New Every Two plan, has a camera, video, and a free month of V-Casts. In ya fayce!

So yeah, that was my time in CT. Saw many of my family members who I had not seen in a long while -- my cousin Abby, my Uncle Elliot, my grandparents, and more. And it's always good to get away from the daily grind and get some perspective. It is a loooong plane flight though ...

And now I'm back in CA, back to work, and already with a major craving for my favorite freaking food --- BREAD~! Oh how i love its moist texture, it's doughy composition, the way it seamlessly melds with sauce and cheese to become something divine like pizza. Two more nights and no more matzoh fer me.

Anyways ...


Hmmm, I do think that last night's episode deserves a ...


I have to say, that one scene at the end where Henderson slices up Audrey's artery and leaves her bleeding like a stuck pig, with exactly THREE MINUTES to live before she is a goner ... simply intense and, well, kind of disgusting, not to mention disturbing. That Henderson eez one bad motha.

And some part of me was almost wishing that Audrey was a goner, as her character has been kind of annoying this season. But at least next week it looks like she's gonna go INSANE and wreak BAUER-STYLE vengeance on Robo-Henderson, or at least try to.

I did kind of get annoyed with Heller's hostility towards Jack in this ep though. I mean, come on, he's going to tie Jack and his own daughter up and leave them in a random hangar? He should have known better. While Heller had a point about not exposing Logan's crimes outright, he honestly thinks that just waltzing up to the President was a better idea? And why not immediately make copies of the tape? Ugh - this whole element of the episode was probably one of the biggest logic leaps plot-wise the show has had in a while.

But ...

Everything else rocked.

Scenes between Logan and everyone's favorite stressed-out advisor Mike Novick? Awesome. Anything with Henderson? Awesome. Jack and Heller's elite agents versus Robocop and his posse? Movie-quality action scenes. Aaron Pierce has all of a sudden become the new standout character, bringing he gravitas each and every week. So, um, what happened to him? Hmm ... and where is Curtis? Nice gathering of the troops at la casa de Bill Buchanan, aka the Hall of Justice.

Great music again as has been the case lately. Can't wait for the last half dozen episodes. As for this one, despite some annoyances with the contrivances of the plot, this was an ultra-intense, balls to the wall ep that thoroughly kicked some ass. My grade: A -


Very good ep, yet again. Once more T-Bag and the rest of the gang stole the show, even as Michael's adventures in the PSYCH WARD were kind of, um, out there and cheesy. Otherwise, I feel like the show is losing focus a little. Does Lincoln even WANT to escape? Why would they let him leave the prison rather than bring his son to him? Otherwise, awesome character stuff as usual - the best pulp prison adventure show on TV. My grade: B+


Last week's ep was fantastic, and tonight's (now on TUESDAYS) promises to be even better. The mystery is REALLY coming to a head now, and I am dying to know whodunnit. Any guesses, people? We have gotta assume that Woody Goodman is involved somehow, but did he crash the bus, conspire to have it crashed, was his daughter involved? Hmmm ... so many possibilities. Please, people, watch this show. It's too damn good to not have more of an audience. Great acting, characters, atmosphere, and the best season-long mystery on TV.

Alright, fingers are tired from typing, must end this blog. Stay tuned, as always, for more, and Happy Passover once again to all my Jewz out there. May you endure two more days of matzoh with good spirits. See ya.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Just a Little Battle-Worn." 24, Prisonbreak, Thank You For Smoking, Brick, AND MORE

Well, Kiefer Sutherland has signed on for three (3~!) more years of 24, which means that Jack Bauer is in store for at least a few more really, really bad days.

And as far as last night's episode goes .... daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

Now THAT was some vintage 24 goodness. You had Jack breaking into a bank, tag-teaming with Wayne Palmer and RANDOM CIVILIAN GUY against Robo-Henderson and his goons, the LAPD, and, oh yeah, the US MILITARY in a stand-off worthy of a Kurosawa film.

Aaron Pierce saying "Just a little battle-worn" in response to the First Lady's concern = GRAVITAS.

Pseudo JAMES BOND-ESQUE MUSIC kicking in towards the end = AWESOMELY CHEESY and KICKASS.

Inevitability of the RANDOM CIVILIAN BANK OWNER becoming yet another casualty in Jack Bauer's quest for justice? Pretty damn inevitable. Becoming a trusted ally of Jack to the point where he actually tells you everything he knows = CERTAIN DEATH for a civvie.

Vice President Green Lantern is ready to kick some Presidential ass, and I like it.

Who among us does not applaud the return of William Devane as everyone's favorite crusty yet still-kicking Secretary of Defense? I think the GRAVITAS METER just got cranked up a bit with Heller's return.

And yeah, I think this ep quelled the fears of those who were concerned that President Logan was now suddenly an evil mastermind when until this point he had simply been an indecisive incompetent. Well, I think it's now clear that good old Logan is the same as ever, just slightly more EVIL than we initially expected. Because it seems from this ep that it's he who is being manipulated and controlled by Henderson (duh, he's freakin' ROBOCOP), and not the other way around.

My one annoyance with this episode: How did they find that bank-owner so fast?

The little girl breaking down and calling 911 = drama. But what happened to her mother? We never find out. Hmmm ...

Where's Curtis?

Chloe = hacker extraordinaire, and a damn good liar.

Is Tony still dead?

Nice ending with Jack putting things into perspective as only he can. "We have to bring down the President." Indeeeeeeeeed.

Overall, a great episode, with things really coming into focus and with the mission now clear: bring down Logan. Awesome stuff -- 3 More Years! 3 More Years! My grade: A


Nice, another excellent installment of everyone's favorite ridiculously over the top prison saga. If anything, this episode reminded us of the cold, cruel realities of being locked away in the Joint -- the loneliness of Solitary, the sadistic prisonguards, and the giant grinning guys named Bubba who want nothing more than fresh meat to break in. Disturbing ...

Cool stuff with Scofield in solitary, and the conclusion of his plan to get himself into the psych ward was pretty cool, if not totally improbable. But hey, this show ain't exactly about realism, so I guess it's okay. Michael's cellmate trying to escape, and failing was really cool. But once again everyone's favorite psychopath, Teabag, steals the show. "So I hear you like to party." Oh. Man. As Austin Powers would say "That's a man, baby!"

Excellent stuff, if not gratuitously campy. My grade: A -



Missed most of FOX's Sunday Night lineup this week due to a long-awaited viewing of Conan The Barbarian on DVD (By Crom!), and yes, I of course recorded King of the Hill, Malcolm, and The Simpsons for later viewing. But I did catch Family Guy, and I have to say ... just as I was getting ready to write a huge Family Guy owns South Park diatribe ... along comes this completely craptacular episode that pretty much represented everything that is NOT COOL of late about this once-great show. First off, this episode was NOT FUNNY. The jokes were tired and lame, and I barely laughed at all throughout the whole thing. And literally every sentance was "Remember that time when ...", "It's not as bad as the time when ...", or "This is like that time when ..." followed by a so-random-it's-NOT-funny cutaway. And too often the cutaways were simply gags that were NOT ACTUALLY JOKES. So Stewie and Brian try to expose mayor Adam West. They find a shady informant. And -- oh my god HAHAHA it turns out to be Kermit the Frog! Hilarious? No, that's not a joke, it's just supposed to be funny because it's Kermit. Now, every so often, these jokes are funny when you hit upon the right punchline. Who doesn't fondly remember the classic FG moment where a bunch of ppl are screaming Oh No! and suddenly the Kool-Aid gu crashes through a wall and screams "Oh Yeah!" THAT was hilarious, because the timing, the surprise, etc, was so well-executed. Now this type of gag happens every few minutes, but on episodes like this one where the writing isn't as sharp, nobody is laughing. This ep sucked. It had nothing going for it plotwise, terrible gags, and just came off as a frail shadow of the show this used to be. I know this show can do much, much better, but this was just pathetic. My grade: D



Movies that are legitimately funny yet also intelligent are few and far between, so it was great to come out of this movie having been thoroughly entertained in a number of ways. I laughed, a lot. I enjoyed the satirical aspects of the film. I enjoyed almost all of the performances. And it made me think. I know, that sounds cliched, but it was cool to see a comedy that actually tackled a particular issue, without being too preachy or boring, and still managed to focus on character and humor. Aaron Eckhart was great here - perfect for the lead role as a smarmy, fast-talking tobacco lobbyist. We immediately recognize that he is not exactly a saint, in fact he is in many ways just a step removed from being a criminal -- morally bankrupt and always looking for the next angle to play. And yet we grow to like him - we sympathize with his desire to spend time with his son, and his drive to succeed at his job. All thanks to Eckhart's great performance. The supporting cast is also excellent. William H. Macy, of course, is outstanding as a short-tempered, crusading anti-tobacco Senator from Vermont. Sam Elliot brings his gravelly cowboy voice to a part he was born to play - that of an aging former Marlboro Man who is dying of cancer. Rob Lowe is hilarious as an eccentric Hollywood agent -- reminded me of his role as a similarly worldly power-player in Wayne's World. And The OC's Adam Brody is really funny also as Lowe's eager to please assistant - definitely reminded me of some of the types I've encountered here in LA. While the style wasn't quite the same, this movie's sharp wit and free-wheeling stle kind of reminded me of a Cohen Bros. type of film, which is always a really good thing. The movie can get a little talky and oddly-paced at times, but I was mostly glued to the screen thanks to the smart script and excellent acting. Again, I really enjoyed this movie and think it's a must-see for anyone who enjoys good satire. Check it out. My grade: A -


My senior year of college I took a great class at BU called Detective Fiction and Film Noir. I read the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and watched the adventures of Sam Spade. I read Daschel Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and was exposed to great films like The Killing, Touch of Evil, Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, Laura, The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, and The Long Goodbye. Though I had already had a small appreciation for the shadowy world of noir, the class really opened my eyes to what was out there beyond modern takes on the genre like Memento and The Usual Suspects. So I was excited for Brick - a movie that promised to take the sharp dialects and shady characters of Hammet and transpose them into a modern high school setting. Veronica Mars has shown us that high school can be just as shadowy and dangerous as any urban cityscape or remote border town, so it was definitely a juxtopasition that can be made to work. And as for Brick? Well, it really is an entertaining and interesting movie. While at first it was pretty jarring to hear modern high school kids talking in some weird, Maltese Falcon-meets-Sin City-esque dialogue, the strange rythms and patterns to the dialogue soon really grew on me and became a lot of fun to try to interpret and figure out. Like the classic noirs, the plot kind of becomes secondary to the characters -- and Brick has some good ones. The crime kingpins and femme fatales of classic film noir are reimagined as high school drama queens and juvenile delinquints. Brandon, Tug, The Pin, et all were all really fun characters, and I loved going along for this ride and getting sucked into the crazy world. I also loved that there was a lot of humor, and some of the more absurd moments were kind of done tongue in cheek, knowing that you can only take some of the more outlandish moments so seriously before you have to laugh - and Brick embraces that. Take The Pin - the "old, like 26" leader of the local drug trade, who runs a shady gang of teens by night, lives in his congenial mom's house by day. Pretty funny stuff. Sure, this movie is mostly based on a gimmick -- high school kids acting out a film noir -- but it's a really, really fun gimmick. Definitely check this one out as well. My grade: A -


- Tommorow morning, 7 am, I'm off for Bloomfield, CT. I'm only going to be home for a few days, and I am beginning to realize just how short a time that is. While there is no way I'm going to have time to do much outside of a few mandatory appointments / visits, I am hoping I do just have a chance to relax and veg out. I've mostly been working nonstop since December with only a few days off since I went home in the winter, and I am just kind of burnt out from my daily routine. To have a few consecutive days off (if you can call it that) should be a very good thing.

- It's Passover, and once again let me reitirate how there is no better time to be home where someone can cook for you. While I do make a mean matzoh pizza, that gets pretty old pretty fast.

- This past Monday, a new NBC Page class started. What does that have to do with me? Pretty much nothing, which is a really weird feeling in a way. I can barely even keep track anymore of which of my friends are actually still pages. But I know the number is steadily dwindling.

- Things to do in CT: beat my brother in basketball and videogames, get a new cell phone (finally!), I would say go to Luna's Pizza but it'll be Passover so no ... oh, recite the word "dunghill" at my Passover seder without bursting into uncontrollable laughter (yeah, not gonna happen ...). NOTE: See last year's Passover-related entry for all the dunghill details. Sidenote: Speaking of that, I can't believe how long I've had this blog.

- Speaking of THAT, let the countdown to 10,000 hits begin. But don't get too excited, according to this blog is only like the 860,000th most popular on the 'net.

- Thanks to (which due to my job I should probably, like, not be supporting, but oh well), I have relived some great TV comedic moments. Borat from Ali G being interviewed, in character, on Conan, for one. And on a whim the other day I typed in The State and lo and behold -- there was Barry and Levon, Louie ("who's got something for me?!?!"), the sideways House, The Bearded Men of space Station 11, etc. Damn, The State was and still is amazingly hilarious. DVD's please!

- I Wanna Rock (ROCK!)!

- Once again, I'd like to reitirate how fantabulous Conan the Barbarian is. Great movie. "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, to see der children driven before you, and to hear de lamentations of de women!"

- And that's all I've got for now. Tommorow I'll be seder-ing in CT. Bloomfield represent what what.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"But Wait, You Haven't Seen The Big Finale!"

What up, dudes?

Another slow Friday afternoon, and I guess I can't complain too much about that, as a slow Friday afternoon is probably preferable to a busy one. But the problem with times when things are slow is the question of how to best occupy said time. Since I don't have much else right now demanding my attention, I could be doing all manner of productive things, at least in theory. But am I? Hmm, not really. But don't worry, I am using this downtime to update the blog, which is of course always of paramount importance, so that all three of my loyal readers can have their days made.

Looking back on this blog and it's history, I have to say I am kind of disappointed with the blog's current state. Back in the day it was more real, more raw, and more interesting, as far as I can tell. So wha happen'? I think it's just a combo of things. World events are less interesting. Professionally, I'm kind of just doing the same old same old -- no exciting celebrity sightings to report on, and none of the crazy daily experiences I had as an NBC Page. It's mostly just come in to the office, do what is asked of me, and check out for the day. Sure, I'm happy to be in a job where everything is laid back and I don't have to deal with any crazy personalities, but at the same time it's hard to motivte myself each and every day to give 110 %. I need to just metaphorically slap myself every so often and say "look, kid, this is what you need to do -- these are your goals." I fear that the slow pace of this job may be making me lazy, and that is not a good thing because I have a lot to do.

I think being so isolated in my current office really makes you realize how important having others around you as motivation is. When a bunch of people are excited about something, then that motivates you. When everyone is competing to do a good job, that motivates you. When there's something o nthe line each and every day, that's what motivates you to strive to do your best.

That's what's so great about doing something creative for a living. I mean, look at the people who work on a show like Conan. Every day they create a new piece of television, and at the end of each day they can look at it, evaluate it, and think "job well done." They have created something that makes an impact. Honestly, unless that is what I'm doing on a daily basis, I don't think I'll ever really be satisfied.

Okay, I am definitely rambling here. But that's what happens when you're sitting at a desk on an empty floor of the Universal lot, completely alone with nothing to do. Coherant thought becomes difficult. Wit becomes a challenge. Humor is tough to muster.

And thus the blog, unfortunately, suffers.

Then there's the NBC factor. Even from my somewhat isolated perch here on the lot, I get a great glimpse of the inenr workings of this company. Would make for some interesting blogs. But now that I am no longer a naive page, it just seems too risky to talk about company matters. So for now, that stuff is going to be left out of what you read here.

Also, the audience of the blog has changed. At first few if any read it, and it was easy to write about almost anyone or anything, which made for some good readin'. Then my coworkers began reading it, which opened up a whole new can of worms. Then, my PARENTS of all people began not only reading, but actually ANALYZING my blog to search for hidden clues as to what I was REALLY up to here in CA. So now each week I must endure pointed questions concerning my latest blog entry from the homefront, with the expected amount of things taken out of context, blatant misreadings, and overanalysis of all humor, jokes, wiiticims, and sarcasm. I mean, how did Dave Barry deal with this crap?

So yeah, in my earnest quest to promote and hype up my blog as the coolest, most awesome-est thing ever, I have inadvertantly boxed myself into a corner - one which I guess all writers soon find themselves in. Do you put yourself out there in the name of good writing and just brace for the fallout, or do you censor yourself in order not to offend?

Well, in the name of professionalism and inabilty to deal with overanalysis of my writing, I am going to continue to try to show some restraint in what I write about. But even in doing so, I won't hesitate to get to that tipping point where the words begin to flow like gravy and the humor, enthusiasm, and fun of this blog reaches its crescendo.

So YEAH, keep checking RIGHT HERE for the best in blogtitude.



Well, after one week of PURE AWFULNESS, Smallville returned with a darn good episode. Contrary to what the previews seemed to indicate, this ep had some sharp writing, some bits of coolness, and some nice character development, even if the plot was still pretty hoaky. But as a card-carrying Superman fanboy, I loved Lex's vision of his dead mother , chiding him for the hundreds of murders he will eventually commit. As we saw the black-gloved Lex reacting with horror to his mother's apparition, I was definitely thinking "cool!" which was prob what the writers were going for. Nice to see John Kent back again, even if in ghost form, and as annoying as Lana is now, at least they are doing SOMETHING different with her now and finally moving towards sealing the deal between her and Lex. Next week's ep looks potentially super sweet, but as for this one, all I can say is welcome back Smallville. My grade: B+


Like I've said before, this show has all the tools to be a classic comedy. It just needs sharper writing. And this week's ep was a perfect example. It had a funny premise, the usual great cast plus a great guest star in Juliette Lewis, and had lots of potential. It just was never all that funny, because the actual jokes were lacking. Sure, I enjoyed the ep, but did I love it? Not really. Did I laugh out loud? Maybe once or twice, but hardly. On Ain't It Cool News someone described this show as Raising Arizona written by the people behind Yes, Dear. And I tend to agree. I would love to see it break out of its shell and just kick comedic ass, but it will need some retooling creatively. It's too bad because Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee have gotta be two of the most talented performers out there. My grade: B -


Wow -- another GREAT episode. It's nice that after having such mixed feelings about LOST, I can watch this episode and just wholeheartedly enjoy it on multiple levels. I REALLY hope the ratings pick up next TUESDAY, as hopefully the new night will get some Lost devotees to check out TV's actual best mystery show - VERONICA MARS. This ep just had so much going on, and the character dynamics were just handled really well. The changing / developing relationships between Veronica and Logan, Wallace and his various women, Kieth and Mayor Goodman (what is he hiding? Damn you Steve Gutenberg - we KNOW that it was the STONECUTTERS who made you a star [Simpsons reference] ... ), and especially Mac and her boyfriend were all very entertaining to watch unfold. And great plot development -- awesome ending! The mysteries are really building, and business is really picking up. THAT'S how you do a cliffhanger / shocking ending -- take note all TV shows not named 24. Oh, random GOLDBERG cameo! Who's next?!?! Great stuff all around, my only complaint as is often the case is that the plot did sometimes get a little TOO convoluted to the point where even a devoted Mars watcher like myself had trouble figuring it all out. Then again, that IS part of the fun of the show, so I can only complain so much. My grade: A


- These Conan O'Brien Lord of the Rings The Musical parodies over the last week have been brilliant. That's where my title quote is from, BTW. Check em out if you missed 'em -- comedic gold!

- Speaking of comedic gold on Conan - scour the internet for Wednesday's appearance by a DRUNK Michael Jackson on Conan. Nope, not THAT MJ - this random beer expert, yes, a legit expert and author on the subject, named Michael Jackson. He appeared on Conan's show to talk all things beer, but really took it to extremes by showing up TRASHED, unbuttoned fly and all. Friggin' HILARIOUS.

- It's the WEEKEND! Woohoo!

- This coming Wednesday: Home to CT for Passover until Sunday. Already looking forward to a post-Passover BREAD filled meal.

- Still need to get my CA license. Damn the DMV and their limited hours of operation!

- Still need to get my new cellphone. Damn Verizon and their non-functional website!

- My DVD collection is overflowing! Must get a new rack to hold em all. Recent additions to the stash include King Kong, Narnia, Conan The Barbarian double pack (don't laugh these movies freaking rock!), The Truman Show, and Seinfeld Season 4. (Note to all LA'ers -- the Sam Goody at Universal Citywalk is going out of business and right now everything in the store is a ridiculous 60% off).

- What? No takers for Pearl Jam in LA in July? Come on!

- Congrats to everyone's favorite crazy Rabbi-turned-TV personality, Rabbi Schmooley Boteach, on gettign a new reality show! I have the honor of having attended one of Schmooley's birthday celebrations two years ago, courtesy of Schmooley's assistant turned live-in indentured servant Eryka, and it was a night I will not soon forget. Le'chaim!

- Alright, that's it for now. Have a good weekend, and as usual feel free to immediately forget / ignore / disregard everything you've just read. Except the good stuff, that is.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

LOST: Okay, now I'm kinda Lost myself ...

So wow, it turns out that the secret mastermind behind all of the strange events on Lost is in fact ...


Drop Dead Fred!


No, no, i kid. But seriously, I am not quite sure what to make of last night's out-there episode. While it was not exactly obvious, I am pretty sure that the point of this episode was not to legitimately make people think that the whole show is just a figment of Hurley's imagination, but instead was intended as kind of a satire of the whole "it's only a dream" cliche. As a satire, it was okay, except it was mostly played straight. In a way, it wasn't even quite a satire but kind of a bone thrown by the writers to the fans as if to say "look, this is DEFINITELY not where we're going with the show, so we'll have some fun with the premise as a kind of "what-if" scenario. So as a one hour piece of entertainment, this WAS undeniably entertaining and captivating. Because any fan of Lost had to see where the hell they were going with it. Would they actually have the balls / stupidity / chutzpah to say that the entire show was just a dream? Of course not, that would be terrible and they'd never live it down. But you had to keep watching, just in case, just in case.

But the problem is, this episode was yet another totally random tangent. And unless everything gets tied together somewhat neatly, it just is emblematic of the lack of direction with this show. For example, the big cliffhanger is that ... LIBBY was ALSO in the same nuthouse as Hurley. Now, it has previously been implied that the flashbacks are NOT tied into the show's main mythology. And therefore any connections between islanders that occur in flashbacks are more fun and incidental than integral to the plot. But now a whole cliffhanger is predicated on us being both shocked and amazed that a.) two of the survivors have an intertwined past, and b.) one of the survivors is not who we thought.

And yet, we have come to EXPECT that both of those will be the case. So what WAS going on here? I think that this episode was all about playing with the audience's expectations. It was about saying "look we know a lot of ppl have speculated that we're going to go with the "it was all a dream" route, but we're NOT going that route ... BUT, we WILL have some fun with the idea before we dismiss it completely."

Because the way the episode was set up, it was obvious that Hurley's friend Dave was imaginary from the moment we saw him. Too obvious. And it was clear that something was off about Libby as well. And that's why I say it was kind of a play on the whole "it was only a dream" sci-fi cliche.

But in a way, it was kind of one giant cluster as well. It opened up a number of new questions, while STILL doing little to answer previous ones. So let's see what we can imply from this episode:

a.) The people on the island are not random, but were either chosen by man, fate, or some other force to be on the plane -- they are all interconnected. This would lead us to believe that the Dharma group or some other organization has played a hand in the fates of all of the survivors, and manipulated events to ensure that specific people would be on that plane.

b.) Multiple people on the island have seen manifestations of people or things close to them that only they would know about. Jack's dad, Kate's horse, and now Hurley's imaginary friend. Also, we have seen ths "smoke monster" or whatever projecting images of people's memories. So we can assume that whoever is controlling the monster, nanobyte construct, whatever it may be, is collecting memories somehow and creating manifestations of those memories. For what purpose we don't know.

c.) When Henry Gale referred to some mysterious "Him" he may have been referring to the same person mainpulating these events and / or controlling the smoke monster.

So here's my theory. Basically, think of the famous Twilight Zone episode where a little boy who happens to be omnipotent creates a virtual island for himself, where his friends and family are helpless to oppose his will for fear that he could simply make them disappear if he so chose.

Okay, so the Dharma Group or whatever was doing all these genetic experiments on this island -- and they in essence created a monster -- someone with the ability to alter reality. So this experiment gone wrong is abandoned on the island. But he soon figures out how to pull people to him and his island. Why is he doing this? Because he is looking for a new host body to imprint his conciousness in, preferably a baby. But he is not yet strong enough to do this. He needs to populate his island with psychic energy, with people who have a hidden or latent or not-so hidden power to manipulate reality. Locke has it (healed his legs). Jack has it (healed his wife). Walt has it. And yes, Hurley has it (can subconciously manipulate numbers to influence probabiblities - ie bad luck) . What about Kate, Sayid, Sawyer, etc? Not sure. Maybe they were just along for the ride. Or maybe they were all on the plane due to some kind of secret involvement with Dharma of which they were unaware they even had (Kate's dad, Sayid's military connections, Sawyer's criminal cohorts, Jin's father-in-law). Perhaps, just as the smoke monster experiment drew people to the island, Dharma was also working to get people to the island to carry out its own agenda.

So that's all I've got for now. I see the show going in some kind of direction that resembles this at least a little bit. But it needs to be consistent and maintain tight continuity in order to make its mythology work and payoff when the time is right.

As of this episode there is not much indication that that will happen. Sure, it was a capticating, enthralling hour of TV, but where is the beef? What does it all mean? Until we get some indication, some solid clues, some well-thought out and developed plotlines that flow and develop, it's hard to give this show ringing approval. I was entertained, yes. But was I satisfied? Not exactly.

My grade: B

Okay, that's it for now.

But soon I have to address the Cartoon Wars, because after last night's South Park business has just picked up. So tune in soon to hear why South Park ain't exactly in a position to critique Family Guy ...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"I Work for Dick Jones!" -- 24, Prisonbreak, etc.

So last night, between the time that 24 ended on the east coast and the time it ended here in California, I was bombarded with IM's stating things like "daaaaaaaaaaamn!", "wow! wow! wow!" and (in best Joey Styles impression) "Oh my god!" So suffice to say that my expectations were raised to a pretty high level by the time I popped in my tape of the night's episode at about 11 pm. And it was, as usual, a fun, intense, exciting episode of 24, and yes, my nails were bitten to the core by the time it was done. But come on now, was the ending THAT shocking? I mean, from the reactions that i heard I thought that Jack had turned evil or something. But no ... it was merely a case of ...


President Logan not only being incompetent and indecisive ... it turns out he is also this season's secret EVIL MASTERMIND BEHIND EVERYTHING~!

Now sure, it's shocking in a way that the President himself is evil. But is this really all that shocking given a.) our current political situation and b.) the alternate universe of 24, where pretty much anyone in a position of political authority NOT named David Palmer is at the least manipulative and conniving, and at the worst a full-on bad guy. So come on, how could anyone be that shocked that President Logan of all people was the mastermind? I mean we already knew that at best he was not exactly a saint. Now if someone like Bill Buchanan was a turncoat, that would be shocking. Now am I saying that this was a poor twist? No, actually, it's pretty cool and opens up tons of awesome story possibilities. But anyone who's ever watched much 24, played Metal Gear Solid, or had even a bit of conspiracy theorist in them should know that when these big government conspiracies occur, the trail usually leads right to the top.

As far as if this twist makes any sense or not, well, that will take some time to digest, but my gut says it does actually fit pretty well into the grand scheme of things, and could go all the way back to Logan being responsible for the last President's near-fatal air force one crash last season. No big contradictions that i can think of YET, but I'll have to keep mulling it over.

Otherwise, this was a cool episode. Great action scene towards the end with Jack and Wayne Palmer doing their best Batman and Robin impression. Awesome stuff with Peter Weller as always - that man is just ridiculously badass. How sweet would it have been if he was like "I work for Dick Jones! Dick Jones at OCP!"

The CTU interoffice stuff though was getting pretty annoying with about the fifth shift in power to occur thus far in a twelve hour period. It seems like Chloe's been removed and reinstated like 50 times already. I mean why would Homeland security just replace all personnel in the middle of a national security crisis, at 11 pm?

But yeah, this was a decent episode, but not all it was cracked up to be. And what happened to Bierko, by the way? Anyways, Jack as always ruled it, Robocop was da man, and for an hour I was thoroughly on the egde of my seat and entertained. But was this better than last week's episode? Don't think so. My grade: B+


Wow, great ep. A change of pace flashback episode that was a very welcome shakup from the usual format, and a very interesting look at the pre-prison lives of our protaganists. I especially loved the Teabag storyline, with him seemingly reformed at and domesticated only to be turned on, sent to jail, and regressing back to a vicious serial killer while incarcerated. Sweeet. Cool stuff with Lincoln having funded his brother's education, and some more neat twists in the backstory of how Lincoln went to prison and Michael dedicated himself to breaking his brotha out. Actually, Lost could take a lesson from this episode, as pretty much ALL of the flashbacks were smart, interesting, and clever. Michael's cellmate's was particularly funny as he robbed the same liquor store over and over again to fund his romance with an uptown gal. Just good stuff overall, one of the overall best episodes yet. My grade: A


- Whoah, we had an EARTHQUAKE DRILL at work today. That's a personal first. Funny part is, since I was ALL ALONE on my ENTIRE floor at the time of the drill, a loudspeaker told me to duck and cover and wait for my floor warden, but that was about the extent of it. Let's hope in the case of a real legit earthquake whoever my floor warden is remembers to check in on us elusive employees here in sector 7-D.

- A quick FINGER OF SHAME to some of my fellow bloggers out there, who as of late have taken it upon themselves to air work-related dirty laundry that should remain private on their all too public blogs. Not only is this inappropriate and immature, but it's potentially damaging to those who get caught in the crossfire. If you have issues with someone having to with work, tell them TO THEIR FACE, or complain to your friends in private if you must, but don't talk about someone behind their backs via a stupid blog that will likely get back to them within minutes anyways.

- Well it's Tuesday and pouring rain once again. Hopefully our second writer's meeting tonight will still manage to attract a few people, despite LA becoming one giant flooded mess whenever it rains it like this.

- GREAT NEWS for The Simpsons Movie ... from Ain't It Cool News:

This morning, an Austrailian publication called The Melbourne Age shed some light on who will be handling these monumental duties. According to The Melbourne Age, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE is written by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, Brian Scully, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Matt Selman, John Swartzwelder, and Jon Vitti (thanks to Skel for pointing us to this article).
In related news, Reuters is reporting that David Silverman, co-director of Pixar's MONSTERS, INC., director of many SIMPSONS episodes (and now the series' "supervising director") is helming the movie.

This is awesome -- a few of the classic writers like Reiss, Swartzwelder, and Vitti he who wrote the classic Leftorium episode!) are in there so that is definitely a positive sign. Let the countdown begin ...

- Alright, people. Chill ...

Monday, April 03, 2006

"Well Ya' Know Something Mean Gene ..."

Well it's back to work today after a very fun and packed weekend, and man do I wish I just had one more day to relax and recover. But here I am, at work, and it's back to the grind, baby.

This weekend a good time was had as Friday saw Liz host her new apartment house-warming party in Studio City, and Saturday night saw Tracy's b-day celebration in Santa Monica.

Sunday me and Brian met up with Paul Lurie and co in Valley Village for a little gathering to watch the once a year sports entertainment spectacular, Wrestlemania. Sure, it wasn't quite as good as last year when Paul and I were there LIVE in the Staples Center right up in the front, watching HBK battle Kurt Angle in a 5 star mat classic for the ages, but hey, it's always a good time when you get a bunch of guys (and, surprisingly, some girls), to sit around, eat pizza, and watch two men attempt to beat the living crap out of one another, all the while mocking the complete absurdity of Triple H's ostentatious entrance where he rose to the ring in a throne dressed in full-on Conan The Barbarian regalia. Yes, yes, it's all staged, I know, but tell that to the guy covered in thumb tacks who just speared off the ring apron through a flaming freaking table. Yeah, that has to hurt. Not that great of a card and no big surprises, but the big matches proved entertaining and the top perfomers like RVD, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Mick Foley brought their A-games.

So yeah, it was a fun weekend, and an excellent distraction from the various nagging issues that I've had to deal with lately (all this car stuff, for one thing). And check this out - one of Tracy's friends whom I met is an actor who has appeared in signifigant supporting roles on Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars! Nice guy as well. So I am now partied out after that and Liz, Abby and Scott's themed production the night before, which was a reunion of once and current pages who always make any gathering interesting to say the least.



Smallville finally returned from its hiatus last week and, well, it completely sucked. Yep, Smallville brought out all its played out old standards for its big return. Let's take a look: Clark Kent mind-controlled and coerced into fooling around with femme fatale of the week? Check. Lana catches them in the act? Check. Lana and Clark's relationship on the rocks yet again? Check. Clark using his powers in front of everyone and yet every single person in the room either gets hit on the head, has their back turned, or finds some other logical explanation for Clark's sudden bursts of super speed? Check. Lex Luthor all but having it shoved in his face that Clark is an alien with extranormal abilities and yet STILL not grasping it? Check. Clark agonizing over whether to tell Lana about his powers, despite there being no good reason why NOT to? Check. And so on. As you can see, Smallville is just terrible at the moment, and after a resurgance earlier on this season, it's really sad to see it degenerate into a mess of sleazy, cliched, poorly-written, uninspired crap as exemplified by this godawful episode. Can't we FOR ONCE see an episode where Clark does something HEROIC and INSPIRING rather than being mind controlled and acting like a total idiot? Can't we see an episode with an actual PLOT rather than a rehashed mishmash of recycled ideas and been-there-done-that cliches? I almost turned off my TV in disgust as I witnessed a teenaged Clark Kent, mind-controlled by some random chick, getting down and dirty for no real reason other than to make people sit up and take note how at just how trashy this show can be when it wants to. Leave the trashiness to The OC or whatever, this is Superman and it shouldn't suck this badly. Honestly, whoever was involved in this episode should be ashamed. If not for the always great Michael Rosenbaum as Lex and a supporting cast that always brings the effort, this would have ZERO redeeming value. They have taken an enduring icon that inspires milions of people and made him the star of a show that with epsiodes like this becomes nothing more than D-level quasi-pornographic crap. It was only a few months ago that I was praising Smallville as having returned to greatness. But no I give it a Finger of Shame for reaching a pathetic new low of awfulness. My grade: F


Just when I thought I was out ... yeah, I knew I couldn't cut myself off completely. Not that this show is anywhere as entertaining now as Season 1, but I'll admit that the last two weeks have steered the characters in some very interesting new directions, and FINALLY shaken things up a bit. Marissa is a druggie! Nice. Ryan is with Sadie now! About time. Sandy Cohen has his hands full with his fired assistant who is now out for revenge! Finally, a fun plotline for Sandy. And good stuff with Seth and his mom. Sure, it's still cheesy as hell and has its share of crappy plotlines, but The OC is at least watchable again. My grade: B


Why? Why? Why must the near-brilliant Ricky Gervais episode be followed by an all new half hour of complete and utter sucktitude? This was one of the WORST episodes of the show I have EVER seen. Honestly, I could barely watch the whole thing, it was that bad. A few decent pop culture parodies in the beginning gave me some hope, but then a promising opening was followed by a COMPLETELY USELESS "plot" and not one ounce of funny. Grandpa Simpson becoming suicidal? WTF? How NOT funny was the pointless video about why the new football team should come to LA rather than Springfield? Good lord, just atrocious. Just everything that is bad about the Simpsons today was pretty much evident in this abomination of an episode. My grade: F

- Now, speaking of The Simpsons, one of my boyhood dreams is now coming true, a mere ten years too late. The SIMPSONS MOVIE is now almost a reality, and I just do not know what to think. Back in the day, this news would have been IT. Me at age 13 or 14 or even 17 would have been salivating at the mere thought of a Simpsons movie, counting down the days and making it my most anticipated pop culture event. But now? Make no mistake, I still love The Simpsons. I still think that Seasons 3 through 10 or so are up there with the best comedy ever produced. And in my mind there's no doubt - The Simpsons is the best comedy TV show ever, hands down. But will this movie be any good? If the writing, the premise, the passion is there, then hells yes, it will rock. But if it's just more of the same new-era crap? Then it will be a sad day indeed. While I don't know what stae the script or production is in - let's hope that this movie is made with the best of the Simpsons writers - at least a few of the likes of Conan O'Brien, Jon Vitti, and their classic-era contemporaries. And let's hope that whatever he's been up to, Matt Groening himself gives this his utmost attention, his personal involvement, and his blessing. If that is the case, we should be in for a treat, and the years-in-the-making fantasies of a Simpsons movie will live up to our once-lofty expectations.


- Some good movies coming up as free screenings at Universal for us lucky employees ... Brick looks great, American Dreamz looks very cool ...

- Cannot wait for 24 and Prisonbreak tonight. INTENSITY, baby. Plus the secret origin of Teabag, everyone's favorite white supremicist soap-dropper. Should be interesting.

- Sorry, but I no longer really care about the NCAA Championship at this point, with no UCONN, let alone any other team I had in my bracket.

- Business is beginning to pick up in the NBA, on the other hand. The race for playoff positioning is going to be a good fight, with some interesting potential matchups heading into the playoffs. Detroit and San Antonio still look like a lock for the finals, but this year it's going to be the undercard that provides the hot matchups.

- That's it for now, back later with the always fun 24 thoughts. Keep reading, humanoids.