Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brak For President: Alex Toth Tribute and Other Randomness

And I'm back. Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend. I myself had a fun and relaxing few days. Some highlights included X-3, 80's Night, A.s.s.c.a.t. 3000 at the UCB Theater, and my first ever visit to Mel's Diner. I also got some shopping done, and had plenty of time to sit around, sleep late, and immerse myself in a few marathons of thumb-numbing videogaming.

I have to say that I am pretty happy that X-Men 3 has had such a monstrous opening weekend. Not because the movie is so mind-numbingly great that it deserves to shatter so many records (even though as you can see from my review below, I did really enjoy it). But because it is just kind of validation that the comic book movie lives, and that not only are these movies successful, but that when a series is given respect like X-Men has gotten in movie form, these great stories and characters really do become the modern day mythology of our time. Even though X-3 has its detractors (and, sidenote: While Brett Ratner is probably not the next Spielberg, what has he done to deserve such a bad reputation other than possibly be kind of a dick? I mean, the Rush Hour movies were pretty freaking entertaining were they not ...?), in my mind it is good enough to give the genre plenty of positive momentum going forward. It's like whenever a total crapfest like Fantastic Four comes out, even if it does well at the box office it kills momentum and makes the naysayers predict the end of comic-based movies -- so it's good to see so much love for the franchise that is one of the cornerstones of the current comic movie renassaince. And even though the fanboys complain about how plot points in the movie don't do justice to the comics, it's gotta make ya' smile to think that the greats like Stan Lee, Chris Clairemont, Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, and somewhere, Jack Kirby, are seeing their canonical work being enjoyed in a new form by so many people.

And speaking of the greats, I want to mention the passing away this weekend of Alex Toth. While not that many know his name, countless people are familiar with his work. Anyone who ever turned on the TV during their childhood and watched some of the classic Hannah-Barbera cartoons like Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman, or the Super Friends know the work of Toth - he was the primary artistic visionary behind many of those classic adventure characters. His designs and his characters were bold, iconic, elegant in their simplicity and brimming with dynamic energy. He was one of the greats in animation as well as comics, and his influence was absolutely huge on multiple generations of artists. I know that I have always been totally fascinated with those old Hannah-Barbera cartoons, loved them as a kid, and still look back at them with a huge fondness today. And a big part of that was the unique, dynamic art style of those shows. Much of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup is practically a love-letter to Toth, with its humourous spins on Space Ghost, Harvey Bridman, and Sealab all using original Toth character art and designs incorprated into the shows. His work continues to be updated in comics, with new takes on old characters like DC's recent Space Ghost series and upcoming Johnny Quest. Comics, cartoons, and animation all owe a debt to Toth, as do the countless fans whose imaginations he inspired - it's sad to see such a legend go.


This really is turning out to be a great year for the NBA Playoffs. While I can't count myself as a real fan of Miami or Detroit, it's kind of refreshing, in my opinion at least, to see Miami coming on strong against the Pistons, as a Miami vs. Dallas or Phoenix final is definitely intriguing and potentially a lot of fun to watch. As for Mavs-Suns, it's been a great series so far and Game 3 should be a lot of fun tonight. Personally I am kind of rooting for the Suns, but more than that am just hoping for some good basketball.


- You know what the thing about comedy is ... it's not easy to be funny when you're not around other funny people. It's like after seeing the improv show at the UCB theater on Sunday, I was suddenly filled with all kinds of comedy ideas and inspiration. Then I come into work today and sit staring at a computer while replying to emails and it's just like zapped right out of me. Must work on this.

- What movies do we still have to look forward to this summer? Tops on my list are:

Superman Returns (both looking forward to and cringing at how it might suck)
Nacho Libre (looks friggin' hilarious - the next Napoleon Dynamite?)
An Inconvenient Truth (have heard great things about this Al Gore eco-doc)
Clerks 2 (could finally be a return to the old-school Kevin Smith)
Lady in the Water (always a crapshoot with M Night, but definitely intriguing)
Miami Vice (Michael Mann makes me want to see this, without him at the helm not interested)
Pirates of the Carribean 2 (looks awesome, prob the summer's most sure-fire hit)
A Scanner Darkly (should def be worth checking out, Linklater is always interesting)

- I went crazy with mix CD-burning this weekend. I made one of all whiny, emo-ish songs from the likes of REM and other such bands, one of all random, political-themed songs, and one of all really long, epic, ballad-y rock songs, including the entire GNR "trilogy" of Don't Cry, November Rain, and Estranged. Yep, I love me some themed mix CD's.

- Alright, hopefully i'll soon have some more interesting stuff to talk about. Right now it's back to the grind. But how about a cheap plug before I go? Be sure to check out NBC, SciFi, USA, Bravo, and NBC News on I-Tunes! We've got everything from The Office to Battlestar Galactica to Saved by the Bell to Monk to Law and Order to Inside the Actor's Studio ready and waiting to be watched on your computer or I-Pod. Check it out.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

SNIKT! X-Men 3 Review

Okay so ... what is all the fuss about?

This movie was pretty damn enjoyable. In fact, I probably had a better time with this movie than I did with the first two. I know, I know, saying that it is apparently blasphemy to the hardcore legions of X-geeks out there who are somehow deeming this movie to be crap, but I just don't get it. You had your build-up movies. You had your slowly-paced, character-driven X-Men installments. So why would comic fans, of all people, be disappointed by the first X-Men movie to FINALLY feature the balls-to-the-wall action and truly epic nature, and oh yeah, FUN, of the comic books? I just don't see what the big complaint here is - as far as I could see, this movie rocked.

But let me address some of the common complaints that I've heard, because I honestly don't quite get where some of them are coming from ...

a.) It's not like the comic books -- What?!?! And the first two X-Men movies WERE?!?! If you want to talk about characters, than we've already gotten plenty of characters who didn't match up to their comic book counterparts. For two movies, STORM was a WEAK character - totally useless, spouting bad one-liners, nothing like the regal queen from the comics. FINALLY, here we get a Storm who KICKS ASS and uses her powers in awesome ways. No, Halle Barry is still not the old Storm we know from the comics and cartoons, but finally, here, she was someone you could root for. And that's just one example. X-3 had the best use of Patrick Stewart as Xavier thu far - he actually DID something other than being kidnapped or rendered ineffective the entire movie. And for all the comic geeks - we had friggin' Kelsey Grammar as Beast, and yes, he WAS Beast. This is pretty much as close as you'll get on screen to the Beast we all know and love- you've got to appreciate that. And how about Kitty Pride? I didn't even realize she played such a large role in the movie going in, but wow, they pretty much nailed her in the short screen time we had. While the first two X-Men movies gave us TOTALLY INCONSEQUENTIAL appearances from fan-favorite characters like Kitty and Jubilee, here we finally saw one of the best X-characters ever given life, taking on Juggernaut head-on in one of the most fun action sequences I've seen in a while in ANY movie.

And yes, the deaths.


Why the big fuss? Comic fans of all people should be familiar with the classic (especially in the Marvel Universe) rule that "if there's no body, they ain't dead." So for all we know Scott Summers may still be alive in the X-movie universe. But even if he IS dead, well, in the MOVIE universe, it's not that big a loss. Yes, in the comics Cyclops is the long-time leader of the X-Men and integral to many storylines, etc. But in the movies, in the FIRST TWO movies, Cyclops has not exactly been all that and a bag of chips. These have mostly been Wolverine's movies, and Cyclops has never the main character that he is in the comics. But hey, in his short screen-time in X-3, James Marsden not only gives his best-ever performance in these films to date, but Cyclops is easily the coolest he's ever been in the X-movies. So 1.) he may not even be dead, and 2.) in the context of the movies, I don't think it's that big a deal if he is.

Now, I WAS very upset about Xavier's death, even if he had a cool death sequence (the whole sequence in Jean Grey's childhood home was great). Both in the ocmics and the movies, Professor X IS the X-Men, and specifically in the movies, Patrick Stewart along with Ian McKellan has been the heart and soul, not to mention the bringer of gravitas, to the X-verse. But it is a testament to the characters in these movies that I really was upset by his death, and that in that final post-ending credits scene I was overjoyed to see that Xavier yet lived. And really, that last scene negated my one big problem with the movie's plot, and really did leave me leaving the theater a happy man.

The fact is that the first two movies, for all their acclaim, were in many ways NOT true to their source material. But worse, from my estimation, they took a fantastic, over-the-top, fun as all hell concept in The X-Men and made it boring, bland, plodding. I'm not just dissing those movies. One got the ball rolling and the second stands as one of the overall best comic book movies ever made, but they were, undeniably, missing SOMETHING. And what those movies were missing, X-3 had in spades -- a sense of scope, of fun, of adventure. It felt to me like an X-Men comic, like the over the top, crazy, mile-a-minute rollercoaster that I remembered from the comics and cartoon.

I mean, decompression is only a recent trend in comics, and one that many comic fans meet with disdain. Why do so many modern comic book storylines drag out over six, eight, nine issues when in the old days you had one issue packed to the gills with story, where crazy stuff was going on in each and every panel? So it was actually REFRESHING to me to see a blockbuster movie that was NOT decompressed, that WASN'T filled with larger than life people doing larger than life things like ... standing around and talking for twenty-minute stretches (cough*Da Vinci Code*cough, cough*everything written by Brian Michael Bendis*cough). It was refreshing to see an X-Men movie that was filled with cool geek-out moments that just felt filled to the brim with stuff HAPPENING. In that way, it FELT like a comic book.

b.) It didn't do justice to the Dark Phoenix Saga storyline - On one hand, I can see where X-fans are going with this. They see the Phoenix saga as one of the best comic book storylines ever and wanted to see it represented on screen. But I just don't see how you can quite look at it that way. I mean, yes, the Phoenix saga could have possibly been an epic three-movie trilogy in and of itself. But there was just NO WAY that was ever going to happen in movie form. I don't see where that expectation came from. As a comic book geek I'd love to see the Death and Return of Superman trilogy, or the Batman: Knightfall saga, or Kingdom Come, or Secret Wars, or Crisis on Infinite Earths. But seriously, be real here. Those stories work in COMICS, not MOVIES. They work as serialized stories that take months or even years to tell, with casts of hundreds and storylines that incorporate decades of continuity. Those types of stories are why comics are so great - ONLY comics can tell that kind of story. What we have here is an X-Men movie that is by no means the sweeping, Shakespearian epic that some fans wanted, but for what it IS it is a more than worthy follow up to the storlines that the first two movies presented. Knowing, going into this movie, that it was part three of a trilogy, why was there an expectation that it was going to be freaking part ONE of what would surely have to be a multi-part introduction to a straight-up adaptation of the work of Claremont and Bryne?

- And just to go off on a tangent for a minute, I really don't get lately what thought-process is going into the formation of the geek-cannon of comic book movies. The first X-Men is considered great even though it totally deviates from the comics and is bland and boring in many ways? That first movie totally changes Rogue from the comics, craps all over Storm, makes Cyclops the lamest character ever, and totally zaps any potential coolness from the Wolverine vs. Sabertooth rivalry. And yet it's considered "great?" And the Donner Superman movies are considered stellar even though they are basically cheesy as all hell and barely even contain coherant plotlines? Let me tell you, I recently re-watched the first two Superman movies and trust me, whatever fond childhood memories you may have of them, they have their moments, but man, they are pretty bad, with pretty much the only saving grace being Christopher Reeve's remarkable performances as Clark Kent / Superman. I think that the nerd backlash against X-3 really is a turning point where people are unable to see the forsest for the trees in some cases. I mean, save your anger for the utter crapfests like Fantastic Four, Batman and Robin, and, potentially, the upcoming Superman Returns (please God don't suck!), but at least acknowledge that X-3 was leagues better than many of the sub-par comic book movies that somehow get a passing grade from the Ain't It Cool crowd.

But back to X-3, it CONTINUED in the first two movie's traditions of presenting recognizable but altered versions of some of the characters. But you know what, complain all you want about Juggernaut not having his proper helmet or being Xavier's step brother or whatever, but he was a lot of fun for what he was in this movie, and come on, who DIDN'T LOVE the pure shout-out to geeks everywhere in "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" And this movie was filled with those little shout-outs that made it fun.

Sure, some of them fell flat. One of the lamest scenes in the movie had to be the Danger Room sequence in which EVERYTHING seemed half-assed. The Wolverine-Colossus fastball special, the UNSEEN Sentinel ... that entire sequence felt rushed and cheap. But the fact is that this movie was done under rushed circumstances, but aside from some lame scenes like that one, it still came together remarkably well.

Some other complaints I had ...

- Like I said, some of the scenes were clearly rushed. The Xavier-Magneto relationship was not quite given the time it needed, and Magneto seemed a little off in his lack of remorse for one of his lifelong friend's apparent death. But due to the great acting of Ian McKellan, the actor provided some subtext through his mere expresisons that added additional layers to the sometimes flimsy script.

- I also felt that the Angel subplot was one of the other main casualties of the movie's somewhat rushed nature, and that some of the scenes with Angel (ie his big "escape" scene) were overly melodramtic to the point of being a little inadvertantly funny. Still, they managed some nice visuals with Angel, and the character served his role in the plot quite well despite being under-used.

- I also was a little underwhelmed by some of the new villains, and Psylocke, one of the coolest visuals ever in the comics, was a little disapoointing as was whoever the weird she-male was suposed to be that followed her around. Most of the visuals in the movie were great and did the job, but the character design on some of those new villains was a little bit weak.

But like I've said, I felt that the film did a really good job of giving all the characters their moments. The new characters like Beast and Kitty Pride were introduced very effectively and instantly won me over. Characters like Storm and Ice Man had more moments to shine than they had before (the Icing-Up headbutt was damn sweet). Wolverine was too jokey at times, yes, but he still kicked ass when called upon, and I thought the final scene between him and Jean was pretty friggin' intense. So what if it wasn't directly adapted from the comics, Logan marching up to Jean as she goes all Akira on everyone, constantly being torn to shreds only to regenerate himself over and over? Badass, if you ask me.

And man, as much as he was pretty much the saving grace of Da Vince, Ian McKellan OWNED it here. That line about never having another needle touch his skin as he flashed the numbers on his arm? Brimming with sheer gravitas. Everything Sir Ian did here was just kickass, and like I said he really did make the script more than the sum of its parts through the power of his acting. This really was McKellan's movie, and I loved just about every minute that he was on screen.

Rebecca Romajin (sp?) was once again great as Mystique - throughout these movies she's always been a scene-stealer, and was once again magnetic here. Forget Pepper Dennis, how about Mystique, the series?

And of course, Patrick Stewart. One of my favorite actors finally takes center stage here, and actually DOES STUFF. I don't see how anyone could be upset about the coolness that Stewart as Xavier brought to his part here.

So yeah, it had it's moments of cheesy one-liners and a few scenes that were definitely not what they potentially could have been with more time and effort. But for the most part this was a remarkably entertaining movie. Brett Ratner did his job here and gave it a sense of Bigness that the first two movies didn't always have. The action was sweeping and exciting (that bridge scene was just epic), and had a lot of fun moments, from Wolverine vs. the multi-armed guy to Kitty vs. Juggernaut to the Iced-up headbutt to Jean Grey exploding people left and right. I had a great time at X-Men 3, and as far as I can see it was a great follow-up to X-1 and X-2, a nice potential lead-in to future sequels, and a great entry into the comic book movie genre. Was it a perfect movie or even a perfect X-Men movie? No, it had its share of issues. But it WAS a movie that had everyone in my theater clapping, applauding, and enjoying the heck out of it for the duration - it was for the most part done right and undeniably a LOT of fun. I think the haters are really missing the mark on this one.

My Grade: A -

Thursday, May 25, 2006

LOST: Season Finale Review, Brother

LOST Season Finale:

Okay, I am definitely still wrapping my head around that. Or trying to. But here's the thing, kind of the process I went through with this finale, similar to what I often go through with this show. As I watched last night's two-hour finale - I was loving it, for the most part. For most of those two hours I was glued to the screen, trying to make heads or tails of what was going on, trying to decipher the show, paying attention to each new clue, and caught up in the drama of it all. But as the show reached its endgame, I began looking at the clock. I noticed there were only thirty minutes left, then twenty, then ten, and so on. Normally, I try to avoid doing this while watching something, and try to just let myself just get absorbed into the story. But with Lost, I've become extra concious of the amount of time left in each episode. Because after last year's similarly nail-biting finale, I end up hoping against hope that things will get a proper wrap-up, because I have learned that while Lost is great at the setup, delivering any kind of satisfying payoff is not exactly its strong suite.

When last night's episode ended, I was once again angry and frustrated with the show. It's not that I was expecting THE ultimate set of answers to all the show's questions or anything, but I at least wanted the plot at hand to wrap up in some kind of sensible way. Instead, the Lost writers once again take cheap ways out of delivering any payoffs by cutting corners dramatically. If they played fair, then I would have no problem with being kept in the dark. But they don't - they littered the episode with gaps in logic that were never addressed, random bits of plot that came out of nowhere at the expense of long-lingering questions, and quite simply, poor storytelling. But it's funny. With a show like this, it's the viewers who are doing much of the work and not the people actually involved in the show. What do I mean? I mean that the questions of Lost's mythology are left SO open that half the fun at this point is just talking to others and tossing around in your own head what directions the show could possibly go in. It's like a writing excercise where you're given a basic setup and asked to run with it - you just let your imagination do the rest. But what about the show itself? It has to do more than just ask US to imagine where the story goes. It has to TELL US the story. And what story, exactly, did last night's episode tell? Was there a beginning, a middle, and an end? Here's putting it a different way -- what is a good mystery? A good mystery is when the pieces are in front of you, the clues are there, the culprit is there, its just a question of putting the pieces together. What does it say about Lost's storytelling ability as a show when the CLIFFHANGER, rather than building on previous plot threads to produce a stunning finale, instead hinges on introducing a TOTALLY NEW element to a story already bursting at the seams with threads that remain unaddressed or left by the wayside?

But here's where the third stae of my Lost viewing comes into play. As I alluded to above, the show leaves you frustrated but somehow pulls you back in because the story is so open-ended that literally ANYTHING could happen. And when you hear other people's ideas about what the answers are or mull it over yourself, you of course come up with the coolest possible situations. Which of course invariably leads to letdowns when anything on the show actually, um, HAPPENS.

Take a look at last night's dramatic buttons-not-being-pushed scene. I mean, preactically all of America was dyin' to know: what the %$@# happens when you don't push those friggin' buttons. The build up was intense - these guys working on Lost know how to build up tension like no other show, that's for sure. So then the buttons aren't pushed - system failure - holy crap - what is gonna happen? Desmond's flashbacks mentioned something about electromagnetism - about how not pushing the button, as many had speculated, caused the plane to crash in the first place. So sirens are going off, silverware and laundry machines are flying all over the place ... on the island outside of the hatch there's a blinding white light, an ear-piercing buzz, what the hell is going on? This is it! This is huge! Did they rip open space/time? Did they alter reality? Did they unleash a disembodied energy force that is gonna kill them all? At the least, did they cause another plane to crash?!?! Damn, for a second there, all of America was on the edge of their seats about to freaking soil themselves in anticipation ...



Unless there's a DAMN GOOD story explanation for this, then this is just emblematic of what's wrong with Lost. It doesn't have the guts, the intelligence, or the creativity to actually follow up on and ADDRESS the big moments of the show. Just like nobody ever cared that an invisible monster was stalking them, or that a mysterious organization was doing something weird on the island, or even wondered who the hell these Others were or why they look like hillbillies and wear fake beards. Just like all that, now we get Charlie coming back from being at the epicenter of the Big Bang itself and not even telling people what just happened. Okay ....

And so meanwhile, you have Michael heading off with his son - okay, that story was handled extremely well and came to a great conclusion. The thing keeping this show together dramatically for the last few weeks has been the very intriguing character stuff surrounding Michael and his willingness to do anything, even murder, to get his son back. But what about Jack, Kate, and Sawyer kidnapped and taken "home." Um, ending with the three of them still tied up and bound with the Others, and Sayid still off somewhere else isn't a cliffhanger, and it's not very dramatic - it's just a lack of anything happening whatsoever. Again, pretty weak.

And finally, the big cliffhanger. The mysterious Ms. Whidmore, of the mysterious Whidmore Industries, receiving a call from some anonymous foreign guys somewhere where it's very, very cold. They have detected the electromagnetic pulse ... finally, they've found it. See, it's another example where I'm torn. When I first saw this, I like many others I'm sure was thinking how random and weird it was. Because the fact is, this scene had ZERO dramatic buildup and really did kind of come out of nowhere in the larger context of this episode. Sure, maybe if you've studied the Lost websites, read Bad Twin, and listened to the Lost podcasts this may have made a little bit of sense, but again, within this episode and within the context of what had happened prior, it was not an impactful way to END the finale. Had it been in the middle of the episode, it would be a different story. But as a cliffhanger, it REALLY leaves you hanging, and NOT in a "oh damn Jack Bauer just got kidnapped by the Chinese - bring on Season 6 of 24"-way.

But here's the thing ... now that I've talked to others and heard about Whidmore Industries and seen the speculation that that one foreign guy looked a lot like Matthew Fox / Jack, I gotta say I am now even more curious than ever what is going on, and all kinds of scenarios are running through my head. Are the Others looking for alternate versions of certain people, maybe trying to find an alternate version of "Him?" Are they trapped in some dimensional waystation, blinking in and out of existence? Is Ms. Whidmore not only looking for Desmond, but for the secret to her father's secret connection to Dharma? I wonder about all these things, but it has to be a two-way street. All these possibilities exist, all thes question are posed ... but will there be a follow through? Will these new mysteries even be addressed? Or will it end up like the Black Rock, the Smoke Monster, Claire's Baby, the Polar Bear, et al and be just another set of random Lost tidbits that are thrown against the proverbial wall and that may or may not stick?

Okay, with all that critiquing out of the way, it should be obvious by now that yes, this episode was one hell of an intense finale, and I give it a lot of credit for that. As always, the acting was top notch and my favorites like Terry O'Quinn as Locke were superb as usual. "I was wrong" was a great moment. The guy who plays Desmond is great at doing the crazy / intense stuff, even if his character is kind of cartoonish (walking around with a vodka bottle and ending every sentance with "brother" -- might his "Bad Twin" be Hulk Hogan, brother?). And man, Michael has just been acted superbly of late - great performance there for sure.

And BTW, Clancy Brown friggin' rules. How great to see such a badass actor back on Lost. And yeah, hope you're watching, Kevin Spacey - that's THE voice of Lex Luthor right there, and you can see why, as Clancy exudes badassness. Now he is the same guy as the one who took in Sayid from the Iraqi army, but who was his "brother," Radinsky or whatever? Yet ANOTHER unaswered question. Come to think of it, as good as Brown is, most of his scenes were totally mystifying ... but more on that later ...

And yeah, there were a TON of random but most definitely intriguing and exciting things going on in this episode ... the four-toed (!) statue, the talking bird (!), the fact that Clancy Brown tells Desmond that he's "saving the world" by pushing the buttons ...

I mean, what the hell is that statue? Four toes? Is it a reality where Homer Simpson is worshipped as a deity?

And who is this Whidmore guy? Caleb Nichols from the OC, yes, but is he part of Dharma, part of Hanso, funding them, not related, what's the deal?

And just the fact that we saw a moment occuring in the present that was NOT on the island, well that's pretty big, in a way. Who are these people that have been monitoring electromagnetic activity?

And why was Libby (or "Elizabeth") in Desmond's flashback? Did she really have a boat to give him or is she some kind of Dharma recruiting agent who goes around manipulating people to get caught up in the manipulaitons / experiments of the group?

And what was even the deal with the boat race anyways? And why was Desmond dishonored?

All intriguing questions, and at the moment you see them for the first time they work as "hmmm, interesting ..." moments. Especially the statue, that was most definitely epic and a "holy $%&*" kind of reveal. But will these questions ever be answered? What about why Kate, Sawyer, and Jack are the three who the Others want? What about the Others? Who are they anyways? And why the fake beards? Geez.

So yeah, on one hand I am now, to an extent, totally caught up in the mystery. So if the goal of the Lost producers was to create a maddening puzzle that might even compel me to look at websites, check out what careers the Hanso Foundation is offering, or, god forbid, read that book "Bad Twin," well, yeah, they have created one hell of a sideshow around their little nonsensical TV Show. But as for the TV Show itself -- it's riding the VERY fine line between adding up to something meaty and satisfying and just being a complete and utter mess. With all the logic gaps and lack of direction in the show however, I am leaning more towards it being a mess ...

You have Eko believing that not pushing the button will kill everyone on the island because ... why? You have Eko igniting dynamite in an enclosed hatch against a nuke-proof door because ... why? You have Desmond doing ... what now? ... to apparently save everyone on the island. There's the electromagnetic pulse strong enough to bring down a plane and crush metal in the hatch but does nothing to the people on the island? You have Clancy Brown who works for Dharma but is trying to escape on Desmond's boat but who lied about the disease but who was truthfu labout the button ...?!?!

When you really think about it, this show is potentially a complete cluster unless there are some damn good answers or overarching mythology waiting in the wings. And it's too bad because the great moments (awesome scene as Kate, Jack, etc were taken down from afar by the Others) and the great performances (Henry Gale, Locke, Sayid, etc) are overshadowed by the all-encompassing feeling of "WTF!?!?!" that permeates this show. Don't get me wrong -- mysterious and creepy and ambiguous is GOOD. But internal logic holes, cutting dramatic corners, and biting off way more than one overstetched show can chew is NOT.

So like others I leave scratching my head and theorizing and half-sick of this stupid show and half-totally caught up in it. As a drama that sucks you in and keeps you glued to the TV, Lost is still top-notch, and proved it again with last night's finale. But as something more? As a modern day epic story that inspires wonder and awe? As a gripping (let alone COHERANT) sci-fi drama for the ages? As a show that has real depth and substance once you peel away the outer layers of cool characters and random ideas? Maybe in the long-run, but to quote Gladiator: "Not yet ... not yet."

My Grade: B

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

TWENTY BY-GOD FOUR (24~!) S5 FINALE: “Right Here!! Right Now!! You Are Going To Face JUSTICE!!”

The stage was set.

Mondays are rarely fun, but last night one thing was running through my head for much of the day - that night, that night would be a good one, because 24 was on, and it was going to go out with a bang. Literally.

I returned home from work, promptly ordered pizzas from Dominos (and yes, the obligatory side of Cinnastix), and turned on the Dallas-San Antonio Game 7 as the adrenaline began to flow. Brian soon arrived, as did the pizzas, and two hungry men made quick work of their food. But wait! The Dallas game was close, nail-biting, a thriller - headed for a last-second showdown. One for the ages. Out of nowhere a player named Diop was making an impact, and could DALLAS ACTUALLY WIN?!?! Could they dethrone the Spurs and become annointed new kings of the West?


And 8 pm is quickly approaching ...

The OT runs down, Dallas seems to be taking a tangible lead, but who knows, this IS the Spurs we're talking about. There's the 24 clock, be advised of GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Hells yes. But the game ...? Too bad, can't switch now, I'm over the edge, it's 24, baby, ONE LAST TIME.

As me and Brian sit back and watch a mind-bending opening to the mother of all finales, Scott finally arrives. My phone rings, it's him, trying to get into my apartment, RIGHT AS JACK AND HENDERSON ARE HAVING A STANDOFF ATOP A NUCLEAR SUB. Sorry dude, gotta wait. But in MacGuyver-esque fashion, Scott made his way up to the door and burst in just in time to witness Jack Bauer EXACT UNHOLY VENGEANCE on the Man Formerly Known as Robocop. So with the three of us firmly planted and ready for Round 2 of Pizza, and the remote control trigger finger getting a strenuous workout as it toggled between FOX and TNT's NBA coverage during those commercial breaks.

When all was said and done, I, who had almost felt ready for the season to end, was reinvigiorated and wishing that January '07 was here so that I could immediately follow the further adventures of Jack Bauer.

And as for the episode itself:

24! 24! 24!


A stunning finale to one kickass season of TV. The pace never let up and the moments of pure intensity and yes, GRAVITAS, were abundant. Bierko was dispatched quickly, leaving just two obstacles in the way of Jack Bauer finally getting some freaking sleep - Henderson and President Logan. The Henderson - Jack standoff was just AWESOME - showing why Jack is undoubtedly one bad mutha who is not to be trifled with. And then there was Logan. Amazing scenes between Mr. and Mrs. Logan. Awesome stuff with Aaron Pierce, and then, Jack Bauer, in a room, alone, with the PRESIDENT OF THE UNTED STATES. And gravitas ensues. Just when things looks bleakest though, Phase 2 of the PLAN comes into effect, and Jack saves the day once more. All is well, Audrey is here, awwwwww. But this is 24, so it's not over yet. One last twist. And what a cliffhanger it was, setting up things brilliantly for next year. Yeah, no happy endings for JACK. And us 24 fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Let's get to it:

- DAMN, Jack is INTENSE ... telling a kid who has yet to shave to sneak up on the terrorist guarding a sub hatch from behind, cover his mout, and slit his throat "fast, deep, and hard." Definitely an "OHHHHH DAAAMN." moment. But when Jack asks you to do something, you'd best LISTEN. Yup, you'd kill for Jack in the name of saving American lives too if it came down to it.

- And Bierko goes down with the FLYING HEAD SCISSORS OF DOOM. Yes! Jack takes a page from Famke Janson in Goldeneye and snaps some terrorist neck, lucha-libre style. JACK BAUER vs. NACHO LIBRE, STEEL CAGE MATCH. I'd buy that for a dollar.

- Wait, Robocop can't be killed with mere bullets! They'll just rebuild him - better, faster, stronger. But oh man, when Jack went "offline", you knew some serious smack was about to be layed down. "You killed Michelle Dessler, TONY F'N ALMEDA, David Palmer!" Henderson goes for the gun but there AIN'T NO BULLETS. Well played, Jack. Two bullets to the head, and Henderson is DOWN FOR THE COUNT - seriously, one of the most intense moments EVER on 24.

- And even more seriously, how freakin' kickass is PETER WELLER? I don't know where the guy's been since the 80's but I'm just glad he's back kicking ass Buckaroo Banzai style.

- Gregory Itzin is gold as Logan. Emmy, anyone? One of the best 24 villains ever. His nervous facial expressions (the eyebrow raise, the gulp, the neck twitch, the pout) are pure hilarity.

- So ... is the BLUETOOTH BRIGADE gone into the ether like so many hiding-in-the-shadows 24 masterminds before them, or is this season only the beginning of their reign of tech-geek terror?

- And wait, this has to be addressed ... this show is in REAL TIME. Always has been. Sure, it stetches the laws of space/time, but it is still, in theory, a real-time show. So, um, about the President and his wife ... she seduces him one last time in the name of buying Jack time to get onto his helicopter, and TWO MINUTES LATER the deed is done?!?!? LOL, definitely one of the funniest moments in 24 where the whole real time thing made for some interesting situations. I guess the pills only last for so long ...

But yeah, wow, that was quick. Bwahahaha.

- So ... Chloe has an ex-husband?!?! And it's ... GEORGE / MICK from La Femme Nikita?!?! So now we've had Mick, Madeline, and Operations on the show. Next season we need Michael, Walter, Birkoff, and the woman herself. NIKITA and BAUER crossover! Section One vs. CTU! Make it happen! But yeah, gotta love a show that will introduce a new, out-of-nowhere supporting character in it's SEASON FINALE.

- Speaking of CTU ... Oh Bill Buchanan, you sly old dog you. Your old flame Michelle Dessler bought it only hours ago and already you're making the moves on Karen Hayes? Want to get some breakfast? God, I'd want to get some sleep.

- Jack Bauer's unflinching BAUER STARE OF DOOM as he confronted Logan was pure GRAVITAS IN ACTION. Awesome scene - Jack's quivering hands as he contemplated killing the sitting President of the United States ... wow, now that's good TV watchin'.

- And man, once Jack was kidnapped, could things have been any more bleak? You knew there had to be more to the plan, but what? But Jack went James Bond on us and SWITCHED THE PRESIDENT'S PEN~! Microtransmitter, baby. So of course, all the crazy monologuing that went on during the CRAZY LOGAN-VS-LOGAN bitch-fight was RECORDED and sent to the Attorney General, wired to the Secret Sevice (who only moments ago were Logan's evil lackeys and partners in crime), who immediately resign themselves to the fact that Logan was EVIL and bring him into custody. Hahaha, gotta love how quickly things can happen in the world of 24.

- Aaron Pierce (AGENT OF G.R.A.V.I.T.A.S.) is a beast. That is all.

- One last tender moment for Edgar. We loved ya ya big fat bastard. But where was TONY dammit all? He's really dead? No SOUL PATCH? NOOOOOOOOOOOO! PS where was CURTIS and SECRETARY OF GRAVITAS HELLER?

- Wait, Jack, DON'T ANSWER THAT PHONE! (It's Kim? "Hey Dad, nice job saving the free world. Now can you come help me out of this cougar trap?") Gaaah, not Kim! The Chinese! The Chinese! Damn them! Holy Season-4 Continuity Batman! Is Logan pulling the stings here from beyond the proverbial grave?!?! So much for Jack's happy ending. AUDREY DID IT, SHE'S EVIL! I CALLED IT! Oh wait, nevermind. But didn't her smile look EVIL for a second there. Okay, she's upset. Jacknapping! No Kim, not even a brief Elisha Cuthbert cameo, dammit. Damn, the Chinese kicked the crap out of Jack, to the point where he is pleading with them to kill him. Ahh, it's hard to see Jack in such poor condition. And then he's suddenly on a boat to Shanghai. Jack a prisoner in a Chinese jail? A mind-controlled Jack forced to do the bidding of neo-Maoists and take down newly-installed President Hal Green Lantern Gardner? Jack secretly cloned into an army of Jack-sack-wielding super agents, aka the US government's worst nightmare? Is it January 2007 yet? Dammit! Upload to PDA. Do it! We have a situatioooooon ...!


So yeah, that was one hell of an episode. Awesome stuff, great TV. Kudos to all involved. Let's do it again next year.

My Grade: A

Agent Baram out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

From Somewhere Deep in the Jungle: Da Vinci Code, Art-School, The Simpsons, and Countdown to 24 ...

Well, the saga of my injured back continues, though at the least I am lucky in that I am feeling much better today than I was just a few days ago on Thursday and Friday. I seem to be able to walk pretty normally now without any pain, which is great. I still have some general pain in my lower back and sides and I don't think I'm in condition yet to run around or play basketball or anything, but I am a lot better off than before.

What I don't like is that I still don't know exactly what was / is wrong with me. I may have to go in and get x-rays sometime this week, although who knows what they will show. And I still don't understand why the original doctor I saw at the walk-in clinic last Monday was so convinced that I had a kidney infection. Something just doesn't add up here. For now, I think I will just finish out the Cipro kidney medication as a safeguard, but again, something here just doesn't make sense. And whatever was wrong with me, I want to know so I can watch out for it in the future. If it is in fact a disc in my back that's causing this pain, then I definitely want to know so I can work on strengthening my back and take precautions against hurting it again. But yeah, right now I am just happy that I'm not in the excruciating pain I was in for most of last week.

- Despite my road to recovery which called for me to take things easy, I managed to have a fun weekend. Dinner on Friday at Buca di Beppo in honor of NBC pages' Johanna and Melissa's birthdays was excellent. Saturday I saw the DaVinci Code at a packed showing in Burbank, and Sunday afternoon I went up to Dodger Stadium with Brian and Scott for a great afternoon of baseball, as the Dodgers took on the Angels in an interstate matchup that made for a good crowd. No, not quite Fenway, but ya gotta love an afternoon at the game. And hey, we even topped it off by watching the direct to video American Pie: Band Camp DVD that soeone at work gave to me, featuring Stiffler's little brother going to band camp, and yes, Eugene Levy is in it, dammit all.


THE SIMPSONS Season Finale: A pretty good episode that started off strong with a string of funny jokes that would have felt at home in the good years. While the plot kind of meandered by the second half, I got a number of good laughs from the season finale (what is this, the 178th season?), which is just about all I can ask for these days from the Greatest TV Show of All-Time. Kind of a funny sendup of misguided celebrity couples, and overall a good way to end a year of the Simpsons that has had its ups and downs, but has had just enough ups to make me hold off on my impulse to say just end it already. Instead, I say keep the sunday night tradition alive (so I can write for it, dammit!). My grade: B+

FAMILY GUY Season Finale: Well, this HOUR AND A HALF season finale was just a re-edited version of the made-for-DVD Stewie movie from a while back, but yeah, it just kind of went on, and on, and on. Some funny moments, sure ("You know what really grinds my gears", Peter as host of Family Feud, Stewie meeting older Stewie ...), and one or two jokes had me rolling in laughter. But as a whole this was more of a "meh" than a "Best. Family Guy. Ever." type of thing. It didn't really feel like an epic movie, just kind of like three sorta connected episodes that lacked the crazy pacing or nonstop laughs of the usual episodes when they're on their game. Some funny stuff amidst the 1.5 hours, but glad I saw this on free TV and didn't pay $19.95 for the DVD. My grade: B

- While most of the big shows are now done for the season, this week has two HUGE finales still to come. I'll talk about LOST later, I'm sure, but tonight is all aboot TWENTY-BY-GOD-FOUR. Holy crap, it will likely rule, and the previews and commercials already have me hyped. "I'll do whatever it takes." Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn. Be sure to check back tommorow for one last 24-centric blog rant of doooooooooom.

- Rumor on AintitCool suggests that HBO may be developing a series based on one of the greatest comic book series ever, PREACHER. If so, I can only hope that it is not sanitized for TV, because despite the freedoms HBO allows, Preacher is one of the most shocking, violent, and just plain WRONG things I've ever encountered, but that's part of its charm. It is an AMAZING story, filled with memorable characters and real moral and ethical and philisophical questions, as told to us in graphic novel form by the great Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon. I could almost see a direct adaptation where each episode is told as one issue of the comic series, though if that were done, well, it would really have to be great if it eicited direct comparisons to the comic.

In any case, I would love to see what the ppl who get worked up about the Da Vinci Code would think of PREACHER. For the unitiated, God is the VILLAIN of the series, and an organization called The Grail protects the secret bloodline of Jesus from discovery by the world, because the only descendent of Jesus is an inbred freak! So they seek a new Messiah to become their figurehead, and that messiah is Jesse Custer, a Texas-bred preacher who wields the Word of God and talks to the ghost of John Wayne. He travels across the globe with his ass-kicking girlfriend Tulip and his best pal, a hard-drinking vampire named Cassidey, in search of God, in order to make him pay for abandoning the world he created. All the while, Jesse is hunted by the maniacal Herr Starr, the leader of the Grail, and encounters all manner of freakish characters, including a disfigured pop idol known only as Arseface! Yep, the Da Vinci Code's got NOTHING on PREACHER.

One of the best stories ever told, and something that one day could make one hell of a TV Series or movie, especially if done right. Seriously, read it, it's friggin' amazing.

But onto the movies ...



Like many critics have already stated, this was one movie that seemed like a no-brainer. You've got THE fiction book of the decade, popularity-wise, a usually reliable director in Ron Howard, and an A-list cast, with Tom Hanks in the lead surrounded by pretty much the best in the biz: Audrey Tatou, the amazing French talent from Amelie, Ian McKellan, able to bring the gravitas to any role, Jean Reno, a great actor as well, Alfred Molina, another accomplished thespian, and Paul Bettany, who is usually great and makes the most of any role he is given. So yeah, what could go wrong?

Apparently, a lot. I mean look, this is definitely not a BAD movie. It has many moments of fun, of intriguing plot turns, and of inspired acting (mostly from McKellan). But it never comes together as a film for a variety of reasons. Let's run them down:

- Waaay too much exposition: It feels like half of this movie is people telling us the backstory of the grail, the knights templar, the opus dei, etc, in long, boring stretches of narration overlayed with odd-looking flashback scenes that look like outtakes from some early 90's CD-ROM computer game. Ian McKellan's voice is such that he makes much of this exposition more interesting than it would be otherwise, but for the most part the pacing of this movie is way off.

- Tom Hanks is sleepwalking: Well that, or else he was just really miscast. I kept wishing that Jack Bauer or Fox Mulder was on the case and not this guy, who seemed to just be along for the ride. The professor had little to no defining characteristics, except for the left-field and random point that he is claustrophobic. In a novel this may work as a nice little character trait, but in a movie, what's the point? It's not like Indiana Jones being afraid of snakes or Marty McFly hating to be called "yellow," which are key to the story arcs of those movies. I mean, Tom Hanks is just useless in this whole movie. He never does what David Duchovny did as Mulder and totally draw you into his particular obsessions. He's not an action hero, or even particularly charismatic, like say Sam Neill as the lead in Jurassic Park - another expert in his field. And there never even seems a real reason for Langdon to be involved in the case -- what exactly is compelling him to get caught up in this life or death situation when he could easily get out of it if he wanted to? Hanks is probably miscast here, as his usual everyman vibe just comes off as blandness in this case, but the blame also goes to the script for never giving him an active or interesting role in the story, even though he's the lead character.

- Akiva Goldsman: Three words: He wrote BATMAN AND ROBIN. And BATMAN FOREVER. And LOST IN SPACE. Oh, and I, ROBOT. Yikes. Sure, his collaberations with Ron Howard are usually solid. A Beautiful Mind was excellent as was Cinderella Man. But clearly, this guy can be hit and miss. And as I alluded to when talking about how exposition-heavy the movie is, this script is not hit out of the ballpark by any means. It rides a fine line between overly serious to a fault, unintentionally campy, and just plain ludicrous at times. Many lines got unintentional laughs, and some of the flashbacks were just plain confusing (why was Paul Bettany's albino monk shown killing Alfred Molina in some kind of random flashback?). Seemingly major characters got sudden sendoffs (Bettany and Molina's quick and pointless deaths). And the "twists" were often foreshadowed to death and way too heavyhanded.

- Poor Pacing: Again, the pacing was just off. Long stretches of boring exposition, climactic action in the middle, not the end, of the movie. Car chases that never popped. Showdowns that had no drama, no pulse. Characters introduced but never given their dramatic due. And no real sense of closure. Basically this movie seems to be about throwing all these "shocking" ideas at us and succeeding on that alone. But despite the supposed controversy that this movie has caused i nsome circles, these ideas are not all that shocking. We've seen movies where dinosaurs live again, where men can fly, where aliens walk among us - what is so startling about telling us that Jesus had a family? The movie can't work on its ideas alone, yet that's what it tries to do.

- No Intelligence: This movie tries to be a smart, serious, intelligent look at some high-concept ideas. The seriousness with which it takes itself and the pedigree of actors suggests that this is an "adult" movie. And yet the movie consistently insults the audience with the aforementioned lame twists and moments of pure campiness, and scenes like the opening where Tom Hanks teaches a class (and in turn, us, the audience) a rudimentary lesson on symbiology. Gee, thanks for informing us that a three-pronged rod can be BOTH the devil's pitchfork AND the trident of Poseidon. Anyone who's ever seen the Little Mermaid knows as much, yet hear it's treated like a shocking revelation. Give the audience some credit - we can watch a movie like Lord of the Rings, with all its arcane mythology, and follow along just fine, we don't need a relatively simple plot spelled out like its, well, the bible.

Okay, so that pretty much sums up why this movie isn't all it's cracked up to be. But still, it has its moments. As I said, Ian McKellan gives a sprited performance that pretty much SAVES this movie, literally, it comes alive when he enters the picture after about the first third of the film. And most of the performances are good, what you'd expect of these actors. Paul Bettany LOOKS and ACTS like a great villain - he just has nothing very interesting to do. And Tatou is talented, no doubt, but her lack of English proficiency and somewhat boring character here hurts her performance.

So it was a decent movie, but a lot worse than it could have been if it had a tighter script, more interesting direction, and more inspired casting in some cases. Not worth much hype though, either as a movie or as a political statement. My grade: C+

- It's funny though, you could tell that there were a lot of ppl at the Da Vinci code showing I went to that hadn't been to a movie in a while. Because there was all this laughter at the opening "turn your cell phone off" fake movie preview thing. Weird.

As far as previews go ... Lady in the Water looks potentially cool, but then you never know with M. Night post-Signs and Village. World Trade Center, eh, way too melodramatic for a 9/11 movie- doubt it will be as well done as United 93.

- And man, I guess the folks at WB marketing read my blog, because as soon as I complain about Superman being the summer's biggest-budgeted chick flick, along comes a new wave of TV ads that I saw during the male-oriented FOX Sunday night lineup that tries to make this look like one kickass action epic. But, come on guys, do oyu have nothing to show me other than that airplane scene? I want Superman kicking ass, dammit! Don't worry, next week I will do the same as I did for Batman Begins and begin weekly listings of all things Superman. The best artists, writers, and stories in the history of the Man of Steel, for those of you needing you fix of all things Super so as not to cry yourself to sleep thinking of how Bryan Singer is going to soon ruin our last best hope for a kickass Superman movie in this decade.

But let me make another quick movie recommendation in the midst of all this hyped-up summer blockbuster talk ...


For anyone looking for an interesting, quirky, and funny summer film - here it is. The fans who have been looking forward to this probably already know the history and have already seen it, but for the uninitiated, the short version is ...

This is the new Terry Zwigoff film. Zwigoff got acclaim for his documentary Crumb and his offbeat comedy Bad Santa. But Art School is really the spiritual followup to GHOST WORLD, Zwigoff's previous collaberation with underground cartoonist Daniel Clowes, whose work inspired Ghost World and Art School. Ghost World showcased the unique, quirky visions of Clowes and Zwigoff, and had breakout performances from Thora Birch and a young Scarlett Johanson, as well as a great turn from Steve Buscemi. Art School is another tale of outsiders trying to navigate through the beginnings of adulthood, and while its not a direct Clowes adaptation like Ghost World was, the same unique sensibilities are at play.

There is a great cast here, and lots of funny performances from My Name Is Earl's Ethan Suplee, John Malkovich as a self-centered art teacher, and Anjelica Houston, also playing a strange teacher at the art academy attended by the lead character, Jerome. Sophia Myles stands out as Jerome's nude-model love interest, and overall the cast is great.

This is a really interesting movie in that it starts out as an almost too-typical college comedy, with lots of hilarious parodies of college life. There's the pretentious professors, the ass-kissing students, the overprotective parents, and the crazy roommates. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly dark, and veers away from strict comedy into psychological thriller / mind-trip territory. while Ghost World had one distinctive tone that rode the edge between comedy and serious character study, Art School definitely becomes a totally different movie in its second half, which is pretty jarring.

But in the end, this is a movie well worth seeing. If you've ever been around artists of any kind, or are one yourself, this is a must-see for its dead-on satire of the art-student scene. Otherwise, anyone who was a fan of Ghost World, or is just looking for something different, should really check out the latest from Zwigoff and Clowes. It's not a perfect movie, but will make you laugh and get you thinking, and I look forward to a hopeful third effort from these two unique creative voices.

My Grade: B+

Alright - enjoy, be back tommorow for a 24 wrap-up. Tonight its two count-em two Jack Bauer hours of power, TWO game 7's in the NBA playoffs (dammit I wanted Cleveland to win yesterday), and several helpings of gravitas. And I'm out.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gimme Somethin' For The Pain.

Man, doctors. I mean, when you're a kid you think of doctors like your parents - all-knowing, ominscient, their word is gold. But then, at some point, you realize that doctors are just like you and me, except they went to medical school. Which is good, sure, but it means that they are fallible, they are on occasion wrong, and sometimes, you really do need a second opinion.

So of course, after several days of being under the impression that I had a kidney infection, I go to a specialist today who says that, no, it his opinion that I, in fact, do NOT. He thinks that the pain in my back and side is likely due to some kind of damaged disc in my back, which hurts in the side due to the nerves that extend from your spine to your side. Which is interesting, since I've been taking Cipro, an anti-kidney-infection antibiotic, since Monday night (and a drug, I might add, which I had to miss the first half of the Prisonbreak season finale to procure ...). In a way, I guess it's a relief to think that I don't have kidney problems. On the other hand, if that was what I had, it seemed like it was simply a matter of a week of medicine and be done with it, whereas with the back this could be an ongoing problem that will bug me for a while, even if its not as potentially serious in the longrun.

But it just baffles me how a doctor at a walk-in clinic AND a general practice doctor could both come to this potentially faulty conclusion. Just so weird, and disturbing because that means time and money that I wasted and a lack of proper care for what IS actually wrong with me. It just makes me even more skeptical of doctors than I already am. It's like with my car. I know, weird comparison. But it's like every time I go to get something in my car fixed, a few weeks later something new is wrong. It's like why can't they just do a full diagnostic, charge a flat fee, and fix EVERYTHING in one fell swoop? Same goes for me. I just want a full diagnostic where I never have to worry about nay health problem for at least a few years. I mean just tell me everything, all at once, I can take it.

One thing that is really weighing on me, so to speak, is that if I'm mostly immobile, I am going to REALLY have to watch what I eat, because I won't be able to get much excericise. Not that I usually get so much, but I was really hoping to really try to get more active in the next few weeks before this problem really took hold.

But yeah, I feel okay today. Tuesday though --- not so good. I was exhausted from a long day of work, my back / side was really causing a lot of pain when I walked, and I really just wanted to go home after work and collapse... but the engine coolant warning light on my car had bene blinking and i wanted to get that checked out ASAP so my car wouldn't explode or something. I go to good ol' EZ Lube (hehe), and they tell me it looks like I have a leak in the water pump. So I head down Olive to PepBoys, where I tell them my story and they say they'll be able to look at the car in about an hour (aka 8 pm). I agree, and end up sitting and waiting forever. Finally I ask them what's up, and they say they won't, in fact, have time to even look at my car, let alone do anything, before they were set to close at 9 pm. Gaaah! So I head home, tired, hungry, in pain, and with nothing to show for my efforts. All I had was a tight basketball game between the Clips and the Suns to get me through the evening.

So Wednesday, I have my general doctor's appointment in the morning, which seemed good enough at the time (at least my randomly selected physician seemed like a really nice guy ...). Then I hit up Pepboys to bring in my car, which actually worked out okay. But ...

Sidenote: One thing I hate about being in CA and so spread out from my friends: when those situations arise where you REALLY are in a tight spot and need help with something, it's not always easy to get the help ya need. I was DESPERATE on Wednesday to get a ride to and from work to Pepboys, and let me tell you it was not an easy task to find willing helpers. Thanks to those who did end up helping me out, but man, it was one of those times when you just wonder if anyone is willing to help a man when he's down without having their teeth pulled.

So today I went into work like usual, then at around lunchtime went for doctor visit round 3. This guy like I said, was a specialist, and like I said it was he who planted seeds of doubt about whether or not it's the kidney that is bothering me. And so it continues ...



I actually kinda liked last night's episode, for the simple reason that it seemed much more tightly scripted than usual. Even though it maintained a slow pace and was clearly a building-up-to-the-big-finale episode, almost everything, especially the flashbacks, seemed relevent and important and interesting, and I rarely got the feeling that what I was watching was pointless. Sure, there were a few moments that just screamed "get to the POINT already!" -- did we really need yet another montage of Charlie contemplating his heroin addiction before discarding the remaining containers of his drug of choice? But I did enjoy the flashbacks this week, since they dealt with directly relevant events and did not cover redundant territory or feel overly contrived. In fact, they would have made sense even if the show did NOT follow its inhibiting formula of forcing flashbacks into EVERY episode. The stuff at The Others' camp was actually pretty cool, and did pose a few intriguing questions, that actually got me thinking up theories rather than just feeling like I wanted to bang my head against the TV. Walt's appearance, the mysterious Ms. Clue (or is it Klew? Cheesiest name ever, I know - very comic book-y), all were something new and somethign interesting, that actually brought new elements into the plot that seemed to move things FORWARD, for a change. In addition, the characterization this ep was spot-on, much more so than last week's "let's make Eko and Locke as dumb as possible" installment. Locke was once again distant and mysterious. Jack was sympathetic and not so pig-headed. Hurley was grounded and emotional, and Sawyer was the antihero everyone loves to hate. Michael also was portrayed very well, and the flashbacks did a lot to explain his manic state of mind. I know, it stil doesn't quite explain his murderous behavior, but at least it makes things a little more clear. All in all, it was a good build up to next week's finale, which really has to be spectacular in order to make up for last year's disappointment of a cliffhanger. At two hours, there will be plenty of time for action and answers to some of the mysteries, and I really hope for some good twists and turns. As for this ep, it did its job of laying the groundwork for the finale, and got in some great character bits before what is hopefully a very plot and mythology-centric season-ender. My grade: A -

- As for LOST theories, I read one online today that would be super cool if true but it's prob waaay too out there to ever be used ... but, what if The Others were all descendents of the crash survivors, who have drawn them to their future in order to alter it, or maybe because they need their ancestors' DNA ... Far-fetched, but would be kinda sweeet. As for what I think about why those particular 5 castaways were chosen to be brought to the Others, I would guess that each have been EXPERIMENTED on as part of Dharma's machinations, as could be implied from the various flashbacks. What if Jack's seeming healing abilities, Hurley's numbers-induced string of bad luck, Kate's run from the law, and Sawyer's long con were all actually part of Dharma's manipulations, perhaps augmented by the psychic abilities held by the Walt-like test subjects that the group constantly uses as human guinea pigs? Yep, I'm the man.

- Nice to see that MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE did a pretty decent rating for its finale. Shows you how FOX never took advantage of what they had, instead filling the 8:30 timeslot on Sundays with crap like The War at Home.

- Looks like CW is in fact going with the much-speculated Gilmore / Veronica Tuesday night lineup. So following the GRAVITAS of Mondays, it's once again emo-rific Tuesdays for me.

- Speaking of which, THE OC finale tonight should be interesting, as pretty much everyone already knows who's gonna bite it, but the question is how, and if it'll be interesting enough to hook me into watching one more season of this once-great but long-past-its-prime show.

- And oh yeah, tonight is the ACTUAL last-ever That 70's Show. So long, Fez and the rest.

Well, I am out. Sorry to bore you all with my personal dramas. But don't worry, good back or bad back, I'll BE back, ya' best believe.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"You're Not the Boss of Me Now And You're Not So Big!": 24, Prisonbreak, JLU, Malcolm in the Middle, Upfronts, Kidneys, and lots MORE

Okay, so it's only every so often that one gets to experience a totally new type of pain. Okay, i know that sounds weird, but it is kind of startling when you are feeling bad in a way you've never really felt bad before. For the last few days, I've been hobbling around with this sharp pain in my back, side, and abdomen, thinking it was a pulled muscle or something. But as the pain intensified to the point where just walking around was difficult, I knew this was a problem. So it didn't really occur to me to think that it was a kidney-related problem, as come on, what do I know about kidneys. But there it was, it fit. I went to a walk-in clinic yesterday evening and they basically all but said it was a kidney infection, and gave me a prescription for some antibiotics. But I still have to go to a real doctor and figure this all out.

And man, talk about a process. Finding a doctor out here is way to difficult. I mean apparently everyone under 35 in LA is a paragon of immaculate health, who have never used a doctor ever. Okay, not that I know that many people who live nearby me who would know about these things, but geez, can anybody refer me to a freakin' doctor? Apparently not. Because I mean who wants to put your health in the hands of a doctor that is randomly found online? Sure they may be good but how do you know. And it's also slightly disturbing that, well, EVERYONE has a website these days. I have a website, every business you can think of has a website, and yet when it comes to doctors barely anyone has a website. Of all the people who SHOULD have a website, it SHOULD be doctors who should be dominating the internet, doling out every strand of info available about them for us info-needy potential patients. Dammit, will the medical community please enter the year 2006 already!

So yeah, kidneys. If you had told me two weeks ago that I'd be worrying about my kidney right now I'd be both shocked and amazed. I mean what causes this? Why now? Why me? Ugh. And then, the doctor from the walk-in clinic was scaring the crap out of me, off-handedly mentioning all these potential ailments I could have. "Oh yeah," he nonchalantly mentioned, "you may have diabetes."

Awesome! Well, I don't THINK I have diabetes. Seeing as how I've been tested for lipid levels for years now, and apparently my last test had the levels almost normalized, I don't see how diabetes could suddenly materialize. Must be all that Special K With Red Berries I've been eating, or something. So yeah I don't think I have diabetes, but seriously, screw any walk-in clinic doctor who would simply throw that out there without elaboration. I mean, who ARE these people?

Anyways, this is kind of a weird way to open up a blog entry, I know. Especially when I have so much other stuff to discuss. But yeah, for the last few days I've just been kind of hobbled and in pain because of this, and now I've been struggling to find a doctor and get to the bottom of what's wrong with me. So it sucks, but hopefully it's not that bad, and like my kidneys will heal up stronger than ever and I'll be able to take a punch to the gut like nobody's business.

But yeah, going to that clinic last night and waiting FOREVER in their lobby, and then waiting forever in line at the pharmacy to pick up my Cipro, forced me to miss the first half-hour of Prisonbreak, which was a major downer as I was AMPED for the big season finale. But whatever, I'll review it anyway, because das how I roll, yo.


PRISONBREAK Season Finale:

Well, I DID miss the first half, but nonetheless I will give this episode a hearty cry of:


Because this episode, as has every installment of late of the pulp serialized adventure series, kept me on the edge of my seat. Sure, it took me a little while to catch up on what was going on, but all of my brief confusion was forgotten as I witnessed gang-banger Abruze CHOP OFF T-BAG'S HAND WITH A GIANT AXE! Yes, that ruled! A hand-less T-Bag then running to catch up with his partners in crime was pretty amusing too. But I will say, the last few eps of this show have been so riveting that by comparison, the finale was a little bit of a letdown. I mean, I was expecting some huge plot twist to lead into Season 2, but all we got was the prisonbreakers missing their plane to freedom, and then RUNNING THROUGH A FIELD as police helicopters swirl overhead. So a cool image, I guess, but come on - how could they possibly get away when there's search lights shining right on them, and dozens of cars hot on their tail?

Sure, there were some good twists though. The good doctor offing herself was pretty shocking, even though it did seem a bit out of nowhere ... I don't think there were really many hints that she had it in her to O.D. like that. And the lawyer finding the former Vice President alive was kind of cool, but they didn't really indicate where they were planning on going with that plot thread, so it kind of just left us hanging.

Still, I was on the edge of my seat, I can't wait to see what happens in Season 2, and man, did I mention T-Bag's hand got chopped off? This was a very good finale to the best new show of this season - Prisonbreak. My grade: A -

24! 24! 24!

Hmm, i don't know if I can muster my usual unbridled enthusiasm for last night's ep. It did kind of seem to be stretching the plot a little thin, and pretty much serving as a placeholder until next week's mega-sized finale that is sure to rule all. But as for this ep, yes, it had its moments of gravitas-infused awesomeness, but it also seemed to be reachign a bit to present just one mo' huge horrible disaster that only Jack Bauer can avert.

- The MVP of this ep had to be AARON F'N PIERCE, who ruled it in his scenes with President Logan, I mean, "Charles." If anyone brought the gravitas this week, it was this man - a true patriot and hero in the world of 24.

- Also, who doesn't love to see Henderson, aka ROBOCOP himself, on-screen acting badass like only he can? My problem lies in the Jack-and-Henderson-form-an-unlikely-team scenario, which was a little cliched and not handled as well as it could have been, as was Jack interrupting Henderson's brilliant but seemingly dangerous plan.

- And we are also back to CTU operating like the A-Team, with seemingly only five people now working there, two of whom are fired and thought to be detained, and one of whom, Jack, who is legally dead.

- And Bierko nerve-gassing a nuclear sub and commanderring its missles? Wow, that was quick. I mean, okay I realize they have to up the ante for the finale but this was pretty crazy and sudden. And can you even do that to a sub? And wouldn't a nuclear sub be on ultra-high alert on a day when multiple terrorist attacks have hit the country? I guess part of the problem is that the focus has been totally shifted away from Bierko to Logan, Henderson, and the Bluetooth gang as of late, so at this point yet another terrorist plot by Bierko comes off as kind of "meh," even if it does involve commandeering a nuclear sub.

- BTW I noticed that Kim Raver, aka Audrey Raines, in scheduled to appear in a new ABC Pilot called The Nine in the fall. What does this mean for her role on 24, and might she bite it in next week's finale? Hmmm, interesting.

- Damn that Miles. What a smug bastard, he had better get his ass whupped Bauer-style next week.

- Speaking of next week, man, it DOES looks pretty awesome. Can't wait. 24 is seriously one of the most purely entertaining shows of all time, and its 2-hour season finale should be epic. EPIC. But yeah, this ep, while thrilling, wasn't quite up to 24-at-its-best standards of gravitas.

My Grade: B+


- KING OF THE HILL Season Finale: This one was all about the Tom Petty-voiced Lucky, and watching, I felt lucky that this would not in fact be the SERIES finale as was once thought. FOX in its not-so-infinite wisdom did something right, and renewed this show after it had already been cancelled. Old shows won't die lately, as seen by the ressurection of 7th Heaven (um, why?), but this is one show that deserves to stick around. Because judging from the continued quality, its creators still have lots of stories left to tell. This was a funny ep that played up many of the show's classic dilemmas - Hank is confused, Peggy is spiteful, and Luanne is seemingly in over her head. Not earth-shattering stuff, but this is one of the most reliably funny and entertaining shows around. My grade: A -

- THE SIMPSONS: Decent ep - it tried for a lofty theme by doing a Simpsons-meets-Inherit The Wind evolution trial satire. And if this ep had been done ten years ago, with the creme of the crop writers and the late great Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz, well, it could have been spectacular. But it was merely okay, which is too bad because its been a while since the show even attempted this level of social commentary. My grade: C+

- FAMILY GUY: Wha' happened? Last week we finally got a quality ep, and this week it was back to complete sucktitude. Not only did this show's format totally rip off The Simpsons, but I mean come on, even The Simpsons has rarely, if EVER, produced a good anthology ep outside of the annual Treehouse of Horror. So what made Family Guy think it could out-do the Simpsons at somethign that the Simpsons has never really even done well in the first place? Okay, that last sentance I realize makes no sense logically, but you get the picture. in any case, this ep was just poorly done and not funny. And so I guess Family Guy's return to greatness won't be happennning this season ... although hey, next week FOX airs the near-complete Stewie DVD movie, which I have yet to see. Cool. But this ep = the suck. My grade: D

Goodbye to MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE: Last Ever Episode!!!

Malcolm in the Middle has to be one of my favorite television comedies of all time. I've always loved its stylized, bitingly glass-half-empty view of growing up, and its painfully funny depiction of the relationship between brothers and parents and their kids. Having grown up with two strict parents and a younger brother, I instantly related to this show and its central themes - how family life was brutal, painful, and often torturous (literally!), but in the end it was your family and you were pretty much stuck with 'em, that is, until you finally found a way to get out -- and even then, they'd be there. This show has produced so many classic episodes ... some favorite moments that come to mind: Christopher Lloyd guest-starring as Hal's crazy dad, the amazing pilot, Hal trying to procure a rare comic book for Malcolm, anything with Francis at the dude ranch, Comandeer Spangler, Dewey and his class of special kids, Stevie's overprotective parents, Reese's cullinary hijinx, Bea Arthur as Dewey's babysitter, the red balloon, the alternate universe Malcolm and co who were great ppl due to lack of Lois ... and the list goes on ...

I have two hopes for this show's legacy. One is that its cast will get the recognition they deserve, as it really was an outstanding cast, with Bryan Cranston as Malcolm's dad Hal criminally unacknowledeged with Emmys and whatnot. And say what you want about Frankie Muniz, but he really did a great job as Malcolm, and in particular, his on-screen relationship with his TV mom Lois was always great - full of all the angst, anger, confusion, and rawness of most relationships between teenaged boys and their middle-aged mothers. One of the best episodes of the show was when Lois took up smoking again, and Malcolm's whole relationship with his newly-exposed-as-a-hypocrite mom was turned upside down. Oh yeah, my second hope is just that they release more seasons of this on DVD -- I mean, come on already.

As for this ep in particular, well, it was a pretty damn good finale for this show, and one that really cut to the core of what it's all about. And that's what kind of made this show great amongst comedies -- it really was ABOUT something. Here, all the themes kind of came full circle, and I really appreciated that. Dewey's simultaneous hate / love relationship with his brothers, and his sudden sadness that he was left all alone with his parents and his baby brother. Francis' never-ending battle of ideals with his mother, and his refusal to ever admit that she has won. Reese's black sheep status and his total state of arrested development. And Malcolm's constant struggle to be normal, conflicting with his undeniable knowledge that he is doomed to struggle and be different. Hal and Lois' plan for Malcolm - to be nothing less than the president of the united states, was great - kind of ever parent's dream for their kid, but the great part about this was that Malcolm is doomed to struggle his way to the top. I often kind of feel the same way, so I love Malcom's resignation to the fact that for him the easy way is never truly an option.

It was great to see all of the classic supporting players come back for the final ep. Cloris Leachman as Lois's mom has long been hilarious on this show, and it is always great to see her in this role. Craig is easily one of the funniest characters on the show, and prob had the best line of the ep (to Reese, his new roommate-to-be: "I do have a private life."). Stevie of course has had many great moments in the show's history, from the fight with the bully in the pilot to as recently as a few epsiodes ago where he patiently waited for a reluctant Malcolm to visit him in the hospital. And Stevie's overprotective, nervous dad has always been a hilarious character.

All in all, a fitting finale for the show. But one caveat -- what is up with FOX's total lack of respect? While 70's gets an hour finale AND a retrospective, and tons of ads, Malcolm gets absolutely nada. What gives? And they didn't even play the themesong / intro for the last ever episode? Dayum.

But yeah, a great final episode to one of the great comedies of my generation, and one that has personally entertained me since I was in high school. As an aspiring comedy writer, it's been one of my biggest influences, and yep, it really was one of the greats.

My Grade: A


Yet another sad TV goodbye - this time to an entire animated universe that was brought to life under the watchful eye of Paul Dini and his artistic collaberator Bruce Timm. Since 1992, these guys have done an outstanding job of bringing DC Comics to life. At first, it was via Batman: The Animated Series - a historic, superlative series that stands as one of the greatest works of animation ever - a truly amazing depiction of the Dark Knight that to this day stands as the greatest ever on-screen realization of the Batman. While Dini and Timm would never quite reach those same heights of artistry, they continued to expand their animated universe in the years to come. Batman: The Animated Series spun out into Superman and Batman Beyond, and finally into Justice League. But it wasn't until Justice League became JLU that the show truly found itself, and became a superhero epic for the ages. But let's talk about this final episode ...

Wow - all I can say is, I really hope that Bryan Singer and co were watching this. Because this. was. Superman. This is the Superman I want in a movie. Fighting to his last breath, inspiring his comrades in arms, never backing down, and knocking the living crap out of a pissed-off Darkseid. Great stuff, and as big as a nerd as I know this makes me, this episode gave me chills. Just the sweeping music as all those heroes do heroic things ... just awesome. Batman vs. Darkseid, the Batman-Luthor team, and that old-school Batman: Animated themesong playing at just the right moment ...

And let me talk about Kevin Conroy. Since day one in 1992, this man IS Batman. Forget Michael Keaton or even Christian Bale - when I think the VOICE of BATMAN, I think Kevin Conroy's brilliant delivery, carried out with such pure gravitas in Batman: the Animated Series, the best Batman movie ever - Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman Beyond, and now JLU. And it was only fitting that the final shot of the final episode was a close-up on the Bat - because that is where it all began all those years ago.

Yes - THIS has been the best, coolest, and most faithful adaptation of Batman ever. THIS is how Superman should be done. THIS is how Lex Luthor should be - thirsting for power - cold, calculating, and dangerous as hell. Awesome job by Clancy Brown at voicing Lex throughout the years. And yet, Cartoon Network axes this show? Gives it the shaft? Treats it like a red-headed stepchild in the midst of a neverending onslaught of incomprehensible anime shows? WTF? But hey, at least the Dini-verse, the meticulously-crafted, interconnected and rife with continuity, DC animated universe, went out in style.

So many great moments in this ep. The preparation for battle, the cameos, the dialogue ("Five minutes? You've gotten soft, Bruce."), all spine-tingling. With this final ep, the Dini-verse that had been almost fifteen years in the making went out with a bang, and in doing so, set the standard for how Superman, Batman, and the rest of the DC pantheon should be portrayed on screen. Which, if you think about it, is saying a hell of a lot.

My grade: A


- Yes! VERONICA MARS IS RENEWED for the CW! It's apparently 13 episodes with a full 22 being contingent on the ratings, but hey, it's something.

- Whoops, my bad. That WASN'T the last ever 70's Show - that is this coming Thursday. No wonder it seemed underwhelming as a series finale ...


- Well I did get a chance to watch NBC's upfront presentations on Monday, and i will say that my company did a great job of hyping up their new fall lineup. Whoever cut the promotional trailers deserves a raise, and the stars were out in full force, with nearly every big NBC celeb, news personality, and even Madden, Costas, and the NFL crew there for the precedings. I think our new schedule is pretty solid for the fall, though of course it was hard to fully evaluate before knowing what the other networks were planning. As we saw today, with ABC moving Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays to go head to head with our great white hope, Studio 60, success ain't gonna come easy. I am legitimately excited about Studio 60 though - I have seen the pilot and it is an amazing piece of TV. I think people are really going to be into it, though of course it is certainly not a guaranteed ratings-grabber. I think Heroes has the potential to be the next "big" show a la Lost. It's going to be tricky to keep its momentum across a whole season, like Lost, but I am am excited by what I have seen so far. And finally, 20 good Years with John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor has all the makings of a classic sitcom. Two of the funniest actors out there who ahve a great chemistry on-screen, it should be great. I think it's going to be rough going for all the networks next season as they try to navigate a changing TV landscape, but I do think that NBC is poised to have big improvements across the board as compared to this year, where we did undoubtedly struggle.

- I am disappointed that ABC didn't pick up 60-minute Man, one of the coolest scripts I read for shows in development. This could have been an awesome sci-fi adventure show.


- Well, this weekend I guess I kinda got in my last bits of fun before the kidney stuff kicked in and I reached my current debilitated state. Saw ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL on Friday -- very funny and interesting movie which I'll review soon, but I will say that if you're a fan of the previous Terry Zwigoff / Daniel clowes collaberation, Ghost World, you should definitely check out Art School. Sure, there's no Scarlet Johanson or Thora Birch, but it's still a worthy movie. Saturday, I went to celebrate Abby's big bday, at which I sampled her excellent homemade red velvet cake. It was a good time, even though by the end of the night the pain was really starting to kick in. And oh yeah, the exit going to Abby's place was of course closed off, leading to some annoying lost-in-LA moments which I am never too thrilled about. But yeah, always good to celebrate a friend's birthday, and I also finally met Abby's friends who worked as writer's assistants on Malcolm in the Middle, which was cool. Oh yeah, did I mention that I got totally disoriented and couldn't find my car for awhile when going home? Yeah, but still, good times!

And now I am basically waiting on two doctor's appointments that I have scheduled for tommorow and Thursday, which will hopefully expedite me feeling better from this Kidney stuff, because, man, today I could barely make the walk from my office to the commisary at Universal.

Well, I guess its a new experience, and what better thing for a writer than to have a new experience. Um, right?

Anyways, take it easy, thanks for reading, congrats to all those who graduated from college (esp BU!) this past weekend, and, as always, stay tuned.

Friday, May 12, 2006

We're All Alright, We're All Alright

Alright, I'm back with one more blog before the weekend hits. What's new with me, you ask. Well, same old, for the most part. I really wish I had more interesting stuff to report but things are pretty much just in a holding pattern right now - also known as the real world. This week I was having some problems with the car but luckily it seems it was just a dead battery, which was replaced fairly quickly and easily by the good folks at AAA, all things considered. I'm looking forward to a few potential visits from some of my college friends that may occur in the next few weeks. And since I know she is a loyal blog reader, I of course have to say a happy birthday to Abby W - aka the future VP of Entertainment at NBC - who I am pretty sure is my first LA friend who I can now say I will have celebrated two consecutive birthdays with, which is pretty cool though also pretty scary in a way.

I mean, wow - has it really been a year since those golden days of the NBC page program - the Summer of 2005? It's pretty amazing and unbelievable to realize how much time has passed in what seems like the blink of an eye. Then again, since last summer I've finished the page program, gotten a new job, visited home in CT twice, and met a decent amount of new people also. But I think that I will definitely look back on the period from May 2005 to around January or so as a great time when I met a ton of great people and really finally began to feel like I was making the most of my new situation in sunny California. It's funny, this coming Monday are the NBC Upfronts, and I still fondly remember last year's upfronts, which I know is odd as for most entertianment-industry people the upfronts are just a crazy time and one of the busiest and most stressful of the year. But for us NBC pages wh owere chosen to work the screenings at Universal Studios - we had a great day of TV sneak previews, catered lunches, and then an afternoon running around in our uniforms at the theme park. Yep, I think in my blog entry at the time I even called it the best day at work ever ...


Since then, I haven't had many workdays that would really qualify as the best work day ever. I mean, not that they've been bad, just, you know, in an office and not at a theme park. It's funny though, on weeks like this one where the weather has been great it feels very summer-y, and yet I'm cramped in a flourescently lighted office, I kind of just wish I was in CT working at Camp Shalom, spending my days running around, playing sports, swimming, and teaching a bunch of kids what's what. Ah, Camp Shalom, you may not have bene the greatest summer camp, but we had some good times together.

Speaking of which, my back is killing me. I have no idea what happened but it kept getting worse throughout the day yesterday and now my lower right side and for some reason that same side of my stomach is really sore. i must have pulled a muscle or something, but i don't know how - I guess I slept weird or something.

Anyways, I'm sure nobody really cared about any of that stuff, so let's move on to some TV Reviews, which are, let's face it, what pulls in the crowds. One other thing first though - another happy b-day goes out to Tina Lin, a fellow diehard 24 fan, a rising star at NBC, and also a frequent commentator on the blog.



And yet more of the same ... This episode had some cool stuff, I mean what Lost fan wasn't salivating as the latest Hanso Foundation orientation video began to play? But it also had lots of the usual pointless banter between the characters that tries to sound mysterious but really makes no sense. I mean it's like:

LOCKE: I believe I've lost my faith.

EKO: You must still have faith to master the island.

LOCKE: But the video ... it said we're all part of some experiment.

EKO: The video changes nothing.

LOCKE: How so?

EKO: Because I believe.

LOCKE: I can't say the same.

EKO: Then you have lost your way.

LOCKE: Maybe you have.

EKO: No, you have.

LOCKE: What the hell are we arguing about again?

EKO: I don't know.

And so on ... I mean, why would Eko believe that everything he's seen is due to fate, when the video made it pretty clear that nothing was coincidental on the island and that the Hanso Foundation was all about manipulation? It just makes no sense, and I hate that they have made Eko into this lame, backwards character who apparently has no desire to apply logic to any situation. And I was practically lulled to sleep by his flashbacks this week, which aside from establishing a few interesting potential plotpoints (ie that Claire's psychic was more manipulator than legit seer), they once again served pretty much no purpose, and again constantly interrupted the flow of the main story on the island. I don't get why the format has to be the same for every episode ... as of late these flashbacks are completely detracting from many of the main storylines.

Once again, there few moments of coolness (also gotta love the fake Dharma ad placed during the show's commercials), but also lots of circular logic and frustrating characterizations. There was some decent drama over whether Libby would spill the beans on what Michael did, but mostly our time was wasted with yet another "let's go get the thing we need from Sawyer's stash" side-plot, and not enough time on the character most affected by things, Hurley. I don't know, this whole ep just felt meandering and had yet another two steps forward, three steps back kind of vibe. Plus, the lameness of Eko's character here just didn't sit well with me.

My Grade: C+

SMALLVILLE Season Finale:

Well it's been a roller coaster ride for Smallville this season. Things started out with a bang, and suddenly, this show was BACK, firing on all cylinders. Then, a series of lame episodes followed the somewhat needless death of Jonathan Kent, and it looked for a moment like things had really reached rock bottom. But in the last few weeks the show has picked up, refocused on the Lex-Milton Fine drama, and seemed poised to deliver a pretty epic season finale.

Overall I've gotta say it was a pretty darn good season-ender, though it did have its share of goofiness that kind of stepped on the toes of some of the high drama they were going for. First, the good: Well damn, this was a pretty epic story. An alien invasion by rogue Kryptonians, the coming of Zod, worldwide panic, and Clark Kent faced with his biggest threat yet. Lex vs. Clark was great - the battle we've been waiting for. Lionel as always was awesome, I though he was goon abit it at the hands of his son. Nice little moment between Clark and Chloe, and James Marsters as Milton Fine also pretty much ruled it. For the most part, the show looked great, with lots of epic scenes of chaos, sweet stuff in the fortress, Clark using his powers in cooler looking ways than anything out of Superman Returns we've seen so far, and man, that shot of Lex in all black standing on the rooftop looking down on Metropolis -- very cool. And hey, look, Tom Welling may not be the next Olivier or anything, but the guy has the look of Superman, and I appreciate that after seeing Brandon Routh looking like Super-Zoolander in those commercials.

The not so good? Well Martha and Lois Lane were just kind of there, and after 24 and Veronica Mars I was just kinda weary of dangerous plane-related situations. What the hell happened at the end there? Clark skewers Braniac with the crystal, unleashes Zod, and ends up in the phantom zone? Haha wow, that's some true comic book logic for ya. And so the world is ending, Chloe is practically getting RAPED on the street by angry rioters, and Lana decides its time to talk with super-powered and more-evil-than-ever Lex about their relationship?!?! Witness as Lana continues to become the most annoying character ever ... Also, that stock footage of riots in NYC and LA was pretty damn cheesy, and disappinting on a show that is usually so good visually.

But yeah, I'm inclined to give this show the benefit of the doubt, just because in the end it can be one of the most fun shows on TV, and this episode really was a lot of fun to watch. I mean what other show delivers this kind of superhero action? Yes, it's cheesy, and no, this wasn't Smallville at its best, but it was Smallville sticking to what it's best at - fun action, adventure, heroics, and random craziness. So nice cliffhanger with Clark trapped in the Phantom Zone, hurtling through space. I guess this was part one of two? Look, up in the sky - is it a bird? A plane? No, it's to be continued, next season, on the CW, hopefully as the lead in to an all new season of Veronica Mars!

My grade: B+


In this "super-sized" season finale, we get a look at what happens when Earl is pushed to the limits, is stripped of all his money, and by all accounts should be pushed back into a life of crime. This was definitely an enjoyable ep, as the show really hit its stride here. Great performances as usual from all the lead characters, and a nice plotline that had the feel of a good episode of King of the Hill or Malcolm in the Middle. Unfortuantely, Earl is still not quite as cleverly or subtlely written as those shows, and still lacks the poilsh to go from being good to being great. The performances though are waht make this show, and kudos to Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jamie Pressley, and the rest for making this show pop. My Grade: B+


Okay, I know, I know. Everybody loves Pam and Jim. The nation collectively held its breath as Jim professed his love for Pam, and *gasp* kissed her. People can't wait to tune in to the premiere next season to find out what is going to happen between Pam and Jim.

But wait, when the hell did this show become a soap opera? Last I checked it was a comedy. And I laughed maybe twice during the entire 40 minutes of last night's episode. I don't mean to sound like a comedy snob, but it's just a shame to see a show that was once a dark, realistic mockumentary-satire degnerate into a typically cheesy American sitcom. During the first two-thirsd of this season, The Office was just getting really good. Each episode was filled with hilarious bits of dialogue, memorable comedic moments, and the dynamic between the characters was really starting to gel. Now, the moments that have people talking are all soap-opera centered, with each new development seemingly processed through audience surveys for maximum mainstream appeal. And that's just too bad, when you look at what this show COULD be and HAS been on occasion - the best comedy on TV.

I mean let's look at Steve Carell as Michael Scott. In the early part of this season, Michael Scott, like David Brent from the UK version, was the boss from hell. His obnoxious, self-centered demeanor covered the fact that he was a giant loser. Couldn't get women, had no friends, etc. But wait - audiences don't want to see a show featuring a giant loser! That's too depressing! Let's make Michael Scott more sympathetic. He had a rough childhood. Women DO actually like him. He's just one of the guys. I call LAME. In the UK version, David Brent's evolution from being hated to loved by audiences was totally organic. Here, it's like every time Michael becomes too much of an asshole they pull back and show that he's not all that bad so as not to scare people away. I mean, Jan should NEVER have wanted to sleep with Michael. Doing so for her should mean hitting the absolute rock bottom. And yet in this finale Michael has two women who wouldn't mind his attentions. Just seems totally antithetical to the character in my opinion.

I don't know, as I was telling some friends earlier, the British Office was so great at pulling off emotional moments because it was usually so dark and bleak for the characters that you never really expected any happy endings. So when Tim and Dawn finally did have their moment, it was just huge - you wanted to stand up and applaud. When David Brent finally did find a woman who like him, you couldn't help but smile because you really believed that it could never happen. Here, everythign just has an air of inevitabilty. Duh, of course Jim and Pam are going to get together in the season finale, it's an American sitcom, what did you expect to happen? I just think that the show has tossed aside much of its uncoventionaliy in favor of the all-too-familiar beats of just another plain old sitcom, and that is too bad.

I will say though, that Dwight's astonishment at Jim's purported telekinesis had me rolling in laughter. So it's not like I'm trying to say it's all bad.

My Grade: B -

THAT 70'S SHOW - Series Finale

Yes, I watched the last ever 70's last night. Because I used to be a big fan of the show and I have a lot of respect for it, as it is one of the few traditional sitcoms in the last few years that always made me laugh for much of its long run. You have to give credit to the writers of the show for establishing an amazing rythm between the characters that really worked for years. Sure, they milked this show for all it was worth, and bringing it back this year sans Topher Grace or Ashton Kutcher was kind of pointless. But this is one of those shows that will live on forever in syndication, because you can always tune in to a random episode and get a chuckle or two from the antics of Eric, Kelso, Hyde, Fez, and the rest. The show really did have a great cast, and had great additions like Tommy Chong who of course fit right in to the show's 70's-stoner vibe. So sure, after eight years, Fez's foreign-guy schtick, Red's threats to kick someone's ass, and all the other jokes that had gone on forever had gotten pretty old. But as far as formulas go, That 70's Show really did stumble upon a sitcom formula that worked, which is certainly a rare commodity. As far as this particular ep goes, well, it was pretty underwhelming as a series finale. I mean, when the main stories going into your final episodes ever are whether Kitty and Red will retire to Florida, and if Jackie and Fez will hook up or not ... haha oh man well those aren't exactly killer plot threads. This ep only gets a C+ from me, but as a series I gotta recognize that this was a great sitcom in its time.

- And hey, I have to remind people that this Sunday is the last ever ep of one of the best sitcoms EVER - Malcolm in the Middle. If you haven't watched in a while, I don't blame you as FOX has consistently screwed with the show's timeslot, but the fact is that Malcolm has, remarkably, been consistently fresh, funny, smart, innovative, and entertaining throughout its entire run. I mean, this is the ORIGINAL single-camera, no laugh-track sitcom. Its creator Linwood Boomer gave this show one of the most unique voices ever in a sitcom, and every member of the cast is great. Some of the episodes of this show are some of my favorite ever of any comedy, and I have faith that the finale will be one more great one. So watch - this Sunday!

Alright, on that note it's almost time for the weekend. Have a good one.