Thursday, August 31, 2006

Danny California: Chili Peppers Countdown, Prison Break, David Brent Returns, and MORE

Whew, I am back.

A lot to talk about, so I'll get right to it.

First off, since my earlier posts were so Emmy-centric (in retrospect I have to ask myself: why?), I never got to give the proper shout-outs to all of the people who made last weekend a lot of fun. So Abby, Chris, Dan K, Scott, and Jules - was good as always to see all of you this past weekend and I think we had some good adventures in Hollywoodland.

Speaking of Hollywoodland, that is one of a string of upcoming cool UNIVERSAL releases (cheap plug), which is nice as I get to see them all for free (hey, gotta take advantage of the few perks I actually get from this job). So we've got a few kickass looking film noirs in Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia, and a martial arts epic (apparently Jet Li's "last" - from now on his martial arts movies will be strictly non-epic in nature, I guess) in Fearless all coming in the next few weeks. Nice.

Also in movie news - what is up with IDIOCRACY ...? I remember way back in the Spring of '04, as part of BU's LA Spring Break Trip, a bunch of us star-struck students were treated to a visit with the head of feature comedy-development at FOX. One of the cool little tidbits of info she gave all of us was that the (even then) long-awaited, new Mike Judge film would soon be released, and that it was one to look out for. She didn't have to tell me twice - as far as my opinion goes, everything Mike Judge has done to this point - from Beavis and Butthead to King of the Hill to Office Space, has been comedic gold. So yeah, the premise of his next movie, Idiocracy - about a guy who wakes up in a future where people have gotten so dumb that he, a relative moron, is the world's smartest man - well, it all sounded a little similar to Futurama ... but, come on, it's Mike Judge's take on the future! How could it not be awesome? So I've been waiting for this movie forever now, and all of a sudden it gets canned! What?!?! But now it's back, coming out in limited release this weekend, but getting literally ZERO marketing or promotion from FOX. What is the deal? Is it just due to creative differences between Judge and the suits? Or is the movie so bad that they are simply dumping it? I can't believe that it's that bad, but who knows - after all, Office Space had a storied run as a box-office dud that then went on to become a video cult classic. Will history repeat itself? In any case, I am VERY curious about Idiocracy, and here's hoping it is a fitting follow-up to Office Space. Because if so, we are in for one hell of a comedy.

Speaking of COMEDIC GOLD ...

If you are even a little bit of a fan of the hilarity that is RICKY GERVAIS and the original, best, and British version of THE OFFICE --- you MUST head over to Google Video ASAP and check out the promotional training video that Gervais and Office co-creator Stephen Merchant made for Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. I can only imagine the bucketloads of sweet, sweet cash that Bill Gates and co threw at Gervais to REPRISE HIS ROLE AS DAVID BRENT, something he said he'd never do, for of all things a corporate training video. But watching the video - I mean, holy crap, it's like an all-new episode of The Office! Gervais is classic as David Brent, surely one of the all-time great comedic creations to grace television - he even does an instant-classic David Brent original song! This is awesome and a MUST-SEE. Let's see if I can find the link to make this easy on you:

If you like things that are funny - watch this now!

- And one other thing that is hilarious --- if you have not yet seen it, you should really check the listings and catch the next repeat showing of COMEDY CENTRAL'S WILLIAM SHATNER ROAST. I caught this last week and I was laughing my ass off through most of it. It's rare to see comedians work this "blue" on basic cable, but you have gotta love it - Betty White of all people telling dirty jokes, Star Trek's Mr Sulu, George Takei, going all out, so to speak, and everyone from Andy Dick to Lisa Lampinelli to Fred Willard and Patton Oswalt (and even Brett Tomberlin's favorite actor, Jason Alexander, serving as MC). Whether or not you really care about William Shatner, the point is really moot. This is Shatner getting roasted like few have been roasted before, the roasters getting roasted, and everyone ripping each other to shreds until it's a wonder that any of them are not shamed to the point of shriveling up and crawling offstage. What I'm saying is -- this is awesome TV. I'll even grade it for ya' -- My Grade: A

- On one other programming note - a finger of SHAME to all those who made FOX's Celebrity Duets a ratings success. I happened to turn on the TV at work the other day and saw the East-Coast feed of this crapfest. Yikes! How the mighty have fallen - the great Peter Frampton appearing alongside suckage-magnets like Michael Bolton on a friggin' reality competition. And how pathetic is it that Chris Jericho, former WWE champion, actually FRONTS A ROCK-BAND (the very lame metal group Fozzy), yet gets eliminated in the show's first round of competition?!?! Why? Because Jericho -- you can't sing for #$%! Dump this singing crap and go back to the squared circle where you belong - you WERE a wrestling legend in the making - don't be that guy who WAS on top but went down a former champ who now appears on VH1 and crappy SciFi original movies. The one positive of this utter black hole of a TV show was Lucy Lawless -- 'nuff said!

- And yeah, I'll mention it one more time -- Who Wants To Be a Superhero should be commended for trying something different - a show that preaches everyday moral values! What a concept! Like I've said, it's hokey as hell, and probably like 85% scripted, but I keep watching this show on Tuesday nights when I should be sleeping, because I somehow get sucked in to its utter sincerity in presentation. It really is amazing - us comic geeks usually obtain our sense of morality almost as much from Superman and Spiderman as from anywhere else, so it really is excelsior!-worthy to see the father of so many comic book legends in Stan Lee taking on a different but almost natural role -- grandmaster in a morality play where Stan the Man is preacher of his own weird but endearing sort of superhero value system. I love it! Stan could probably teach a lot of these spoiled Hollywood execs and stars a thing or two - start with "With great power comes great responsibility," and work from there!

Oh, yeah, how could I forget ...?

PRISON BREAK this week kicked ass! I got some flack last week for apparently being too harsh on the season premiere, but whatever - it was a little directionless. This week's episode, however, fully embraced the "anything can happen" setup of the new season and brought on the action. So many golden moments of over-the-top pulp craziness. Who knew that crooked prison-guard Bellick is one big momma's boy? Makes him even creepier than before, and I can't wait to see him go bounty-hunter on the escapees. Stacy Keach is amazing, no question. He once again proved his sheer awesomeness this week - every scene he was in was brimming with intensity - none more so than when he remembered Scofield's betrayal and went totally ape$%&, and destroyed the model that Michael had built for him in a fit of middle-aged rage! Damn! T-Bag was also wonderfully EVIL in this ep - yes, the entire idea that he somehow RE-ATTACHED his dismembered hand is just ridiculous - but that's what I love about this show! Where else do you see a deranged, white-supremicist serial killer with a thing for boys dispose of the VETERENARIAN who just treated his severed limb by giving a crazy-ass speach about devouring his soul? Wow - this show can be really messed-up, especially when T-Bag is involved ... Anways, Michael and Lincoln's rescue attempt was exciting and suspenseful - especially now that they have a great nemesis in William Fichtner. Once again this week, I have no clue where the show is going - but now, I'm fine with it, because my faith is at least momentarily restored. My Grade: A

- You know, after last season I was extremely burnt out on LOST, but I've got to admit that those mysterious ads they've been running in EW are really piquing my interest. If you haven't seen them, they are what appear to be op-ed pieces written by some anonymous insider, praising "Persephone" for her efforts to expose the Hanso Foundation and slamming the producers of Lost for not accurately representing the events and people that they are featuring (acting as though the Hanso Foundation is a real organization which Lost is using as its inspiration). If these embedded ads are indicative of a new direction for Season 3 of Lost- then I'm all for it. I'd love to see them move on from the focus on the backstories of the main characters, and really start to delve into the mythology they've hinted at. If this happens, I can definitely see some renewed spark coming back to the show. I could see the average viewer being turned off by such a change in direction, but I think most people realize that the show needs to evolve a little bit, because the staying power of the current formula is very limited.

In other news ...


I am seeing the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS~!

- Now I'll admit, my enthusiasm for the group has really dropped off over the last few years. I've enjoyed their music, sure, but I feel like they've just been releasing one radio-friendly, middle-of-the-road single after another. A lot of their songs fall into a pattern of being very mellow witha few obligatory moments of fast-paced funk, but overall I feel like their newer big hits, from Dani California to By the Way and others, all kind of sound the same at this point. What happened to the group that blew the doors off of the rock n' roll scene in the early 90's with Blood Sugar Sex Magik? Even on One Hot Minute - they still were first and foremost a ROCK band. Now, at least as far as their new musical output goes, I fear they've lost a lot of their edge. But, and this is a big one, the Chili Peppers have always, always been known as one of the most kickass live bands around. And I am pretty confidant that they will bring the house down tommorow at the Forum. So I am excited, and hopefully by the end of the show, I will remember why the Chili Peppers once ruled the world of rock.

Here are my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Red Hot Chili Pepper Songs:

1. Give It Away - this for me was RHCP at their best - crazy, hard-rocking, and to use a cliche, in your face. The ultimate sign of this tune's iconic status in the modern-rock cannon? It has a kickass Weird Al parody.

2. Under the Bridge - this is just a great song - only downside is, its popularity started a trend that every Chili Peppers song had to be a mellow contemplation of love and loss in LA, one that continues to this day.

3. My Friends - I always used to think he was singing "I was a little girl ..." and wondered what he meant ... hahaha oh man ...

4. Scar Tissue - who else could rhyme "saw" and "push-up bra" in such a memorable way?

5. Warped - all-out rock that is much more hard-rockin' and crazy than much of the recent stuff

6. Californication - of the Chili Pepper's more recent mellow-mediations on California livin', this one is probably their most solid

7. Love Rollercoaster - who would have thought that such a catchy tune would come from the soundtrack to Beavis and Butthead Do America?

8. Higher Ground / Aeroplane - both of these are really fun, funky, upbeat songs - good stuff

9. Suck My Kiss - one more classic, in yo' face style jam

10. Pea - this song, done totally solo by the man called Flea, is still one of the most messed-up songs I've ever heard, with some of the funniest lyrics ever. Give it a listen if you've yet to hear it. Sidenote: How much did FLEA used to rock in MTV's heydey when he was a regulae in the classic Rock n' Jock basketball showdowns? I still remember him getting the win via like a 50-point shot or something, and the announcer going off and being like "The Eliminators have won, and it's all thanks to a little man named Flea!" That was awesome.

So yeah, there will be some rock and/or roll goin' down tommorow night!

- And ... holy allusions to the heydey of MTV, tonight MTV strives to regain a little street cred with those of us in the over-14 crowd by getting reliable funny-man and Tenacious D'er Jack Black to host the VMA's. Like I've nostalgically waxed about many a-time in this blog, the VMA's used to be one of the big events for all of us MTV-addicted kids back in the day. However, they may have hit rock bottom last year in a travesty of a show hosted by P.Diddy. Since MTV no longer plays videos, and I have no idea what most of the big videos out now are even lookin' like, I really have no opinion at all on who wins, not even sure who's nominated. But here's hoping that MTV gets a little of its old edge back and does some crazy stuff, so that poor old Kurt Loder can actually be legitimately excited in the post-show coverage when he has to pretend that, at age 60 or whatever, he actually gives a damn about the lame "artists" that MTV is mostly peddling these days. But yeah, even though odds are it will suck, and be nauseating in its honoring of the faves of MTV's new target audience (and the nominees are: Jessica Simpson! Jessica Simpson! And ... Ashley Simpson!) I'll probably watch for a bit, if only to recapture the days when it was easy to find what was new and cool - by turning on MTV.

- So what else?

- Well, my birthday (the big 24 - holy lord! Can you smell quarter-life crisis?!?!) is fast approaching, and I am slightly stumped as to how to celebrate. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

- Quick plug for I-Tunes: see a movie in the next few weeks at an AMC theater / National Cinemas - make sure to pick up a free gift card on your way in or out, and use said card to get a FREE download of the pilot ep of NBC's new epic show Heroes, a full month before it airs on TV! Good deal, right?

- Also on I-Tunes: We've got a bunch of new shows up there for download: Eureka, Passions, and lots more. Check it out.

- And on that note of soul-diminishing corporate shilling, I am out. Have a good labor day weekend - don't work too hard.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Quick Emmy Awards Wrap-Up - aka (once again), All Hail Conan!

Well, the show is over and it was mostly pretty predictable (see my previous, pre-show post for all my preambling predictions).

I called Kiefer and 24 winning, and I'm glad they did -- the show with the most gravitas clearly won. Howver, super-producer Brian Grazer and his Edward-Scissorhands-esque haircut, standing beside the show's producers as they accepted the award for best drama - well, that did kinda detract from the overall gravitas, just a tad.

Other predictable picks included the obligatory Will and Grace / West Wing farewell awards - suffice to say that both Megan Mulally and Alan Alda are talented and I congratulate them - and I'll even be a team player and say -- go NBC-U! Office for best comedy, Mariska Hargitay best dramatic actress for SVU, and hey, Julia Louis Dreyfuss breaks the Seinfeld curse, reminding us of our glory days in the Must See TV era. But NBC really did do a great job of building up the hype for Heroes, Studio 60, 30 Rock, Kidnapped, 20 Good Years, et al - I think that all this preseason hype may actually lead to some decent ratings spikes for us as well. My personal picks? Studio 60 is a must-watch for fans of good TV, 30 Rock is Tracy Morgan at his best and Alec Baldwin bringing the funny, and 20 Good Years may have lightning in a bottle with the combo of Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow.

Yes, the 'Cock was out in full force tonight, going all-out in promoting our shows. But the star was Conan O'Brien, who was a little wobbly at first but quickly settled into his role as host and pretty much knocked it out of the park, from the hilarious opening montage (COnan encountering House was particularly hilarious, as was Rainn Wilson's reaction to Conan dropping from the ceiling into the set of The Office) to the classic Bob Newhart-in-an-airtight-tube gag, Conan was a great ambassador for NBC and yet still classically self-deprecating and unafraid to mock NBC, going so far as to do an all-out, Simpsons-style song and dance number bemoaning the state of the 'net that would have made Lyle Lanley proud.

Upsets? Well, I predicted lack of award-age for Arrested Development and Malcolm in the Middle, so no big surprises there. I was pretty shocked to see Monk's Tony Shaloub win out over Steve Carell, but, continuing with my unusual amount of NBC cheerleading, it's another one for NBC-UNI! Seriously, Carell did a great job on the Office and I felt he should have won that one.

But just to show I'm not all ra-ra NBC, I give a solid jeer to the Peacock for advertising the new season of the Office as if it were the new season of Melrose Place. Come on, The Office should NOT, of all things, be about soap-opera romance. Advertise the comedy, emphasize the COMEDY, and let the rest of the show follow organically.

Props to all the awards for John Stewart as well, but especially props to Stewart and Colbert for their awesome bit as presenters - their little exchange before the Reality award was simply CLASSIC. Colbert is a True American -- that is all.

Also, as a true TV geek I always look forward to the noms for best variety / talk writing, as the writers always do some hilarious stuff for the intros. As always, my pals (haha not really but I'd like to think so) at LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN kicked ass with their hilarious India-tech-support bit. Those guys are geniouses.

Was surprised, however, that My Name is Earl took home the prize for Best Comedy Writing. I mean, come on ... Earl is kinda funny but Arrested Development has some of the smartest EVER comedy-writing on TV, on a level inhabited by the likes of Seinfeld and The Simpsons. The Office can be up there as well, so I'm surprised both lost out in favor of Earl.

And the Sopranos' writing award only emphasizes the fact that at some point I really need to catch up on that show. Alas, I've been HBO-less for all of my life, and have only seen a few meager episodes of the show.

One more upset in that both Itzin and Smart came up short for their supporting roles on 24. Well, seeing President Palmer up on stage made me realize - if Dennis Haysbert never got a trophy for his kickass role on 24, can anyone? And notice CURTIS taking center stage as the 24 Best Drama award was accepted by cast and crew ... could this indicate that CTU's designated ass-kicker is ready, willing, and able to step up this coming season and walk into an Almeda-like role? Hmm ... still, long live Tony!

Whoah, Gillian Anderson sighting! Oh Scully, where art though (in some obscure TV miniseries, apparently - but I guess it was really good?)? I guess the Emmy nom got the too-good-for network-TV thespian to descend from her flat in London. Now make the second X-Files movie already!

Man, on a serious note, that Dick Clark tribute was almost unbearable to watch - there was something just amazingly sad about seeing a guy who is known for always looking so young get on stage, suddenly looking every bit the part of a guy who had just been through major health complications. It really was jarring to think about how it must feel to go through something like that when your entire career is made on being telegenic. I hope the best for Dick Clark - as was shown in the tribute video he truly has been a remarkably influential force in television.

Similarly moving tribute to Aaron Spelling, and it was a kick to see the original Charlie's Angels on stage, even if it is always odd to see aging starlets looking so plasticy and gaudy (well two out of three at least, right? am i right?) rather than taking a cue from the likes of a Hellen Mirren and acting and looking their age.

All of it was a reminder that showbiz is an inustry filled with odd, eccentric, and exceedingly crazy people. We pay tribute to the greats, but at the same time, seeing the Spelling family, knowing all of the tabloid drama and scandal they've been through, it just kind of shatters the whole delicate illusion of "stardust," as was mentioned in the tribute. We WANT so much to cheer for people like Spelling, and Dick Clark, and even people like Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen, and yet all you read about is their scandal and depravity. It's just kind of sad and depressing that an industry where people are so admired by the public is filled with so many people unworthy of that admiration.

But anyways, let's talk about some of the good, smart, awesome people in entertainment. Conan, John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Greg Daniels, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, the cast of The Office, and all of us little people who are out there trying to live the dream.

Overall, good show - great job and lots of quality comedy from Conan, although in a show like this you can't help but have your share of lame banter (aka all of it not written by the performers like Tina Fey and John Stewart), nutty acceptance speeches (Blythe, anyone?), tons of awards for PBS miniseries and random TV movies that no one really cares about, and odd production errors (Conan getting cut off as he introduced the Sheens).

Next year, maybe Veronica Mars will get some love.

Or, maybe BARRY MANILOW will simply continue his improbable winning streak. Is there anything the man CAN'T do?

The Emmys - aka, all hail Conan

Okay so this one is a little late, I know.

But even though most of you probably won't read this until after the show, I felt the need to plug this year's Emmy's because:

a.) they are on NBC
b.) they are hosted by my man Conan O'Brien, who I have it on good authority is planning some very funny stuff for the show

and, on a more personal note:

c.) 24, aka the best drama on TV, actually stands to win some awards this year!

Still, though, let's face it - the Emmy nominations pretty much blow. The whole voting process was changed this year, and that change seemed to amount to jack squat. We have actresses nominated for 11-second guest-star spots, yet some of the very best work on TV remains totally ignored. OF all the leading ladies in TV-land, did any completely carry a top-tier show on their backs like Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars or Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls? Veronica Mars, especially, just pisses me off in its lack of recognition. GIlmore Girls, as good as it is, it's best years are probably behind it (still, it's supporting cast is amazing and was as good if not better than ever this past year! Where is the love?). VM is a show that out of the gate two years ago was firing on all cylinders, and this past season everyone upped their game to deliver the best drama on TV not named 24. So: WTF?!?!

A few other obvious snubs: Only Will Arnett of Arrested Development is nominated? No Jason Bateman? Jeffrey Tambor? David Cross? Come on!

What about Rainn Wilson for The Office? Bar none, Dwight was the biggest source of laughter on the show this year, and was the true breakout character.

Those gripes are just a few of my own personal pet peeves, but looking up and down the list this year there's a mixture of been there done that and odd randomness. I mean, so much of these awards are just pure hype. Look at 24 - it's been deserving of this level of recognition for YEARS now - but only now are any of the supporting players actually recognized. Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin were great, yes, but it's just odd to me that they get nominated in Year 5 to the exclusion of all of the great supporting actors who have appeared on the show prior.

And once again, let me add: screw the Lost defenders claiming that that show deserved a Best Drama nom - Season 2 of Lost did not live up to Season 1's promise, and more often than not, the show disappointed rather than delivered this past year. That's not to say that Season 3 won't be great (those mysterious EW ads already have me hyped), and I really hope the show gets back on track ... but Season 2 of Lost was not in 24's league this season.

One other comment -- no, The Simpsons as a whole did not have a good season, and definitely not a great season. But it DID deliver a few gems, including the best episode in YEARS, penned by Ricky Gervais. So I see no problem with perhaps the greatest TV show of all time bringing home an Emmy at the expense of South Park, a show which is 80% hype and only about 20% humor. Yes, it's a blast to tune into South Park and see insta-commentary on the latest celebrity scandal or whatever, but the show rarely has any real intelligence behind it, and the humor is never that sharp from a writing standpoint. In this day and age, plenty of animated shows are praised the crazier and more random they get, but crazy and random doesn't always mean good. So instead of talking baou South Park was robbed just because it had the balls to directly reference easy targets like Tom Cruise, let's talk about how the real best animated show on TV was snubbed once again -- King of the Hill!

And about the Emmy show itself -- I am really hoping that Conan goes all out and makes his mark tonight. I realize the Emmy's are not exactly an ideal showcase for one's comedic talents, but I hope that Conan can go out there and convince the doubters of mainstream America that he is the man when it comes to late night. I know that there are many, especially older people, out there who don't really get Conan per se, but I really believe that Conan's humor has just the right amount of classical comedy and heart to be mainstream, even if he can be really out there, and maybe too intelligent for some weaned on Jay Leno's Middle-American king-of-the-obvious-brand of humor.

So yeah, Conan kicks ass, so watch the Emmys tonight and show some support!

Now, my picks:

NOTE: Honestly I don't care who WILL win, per se, because the Emmys have no real history of honoring who is most deserving. As for what to expect, well, I expect a bunch of recently-ended shows like West Wing and Will and Grace to clean up, though likely personal faves that recently called it quits, like Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development, will get snubbed. I DO think that this is finally the year that 24 will clean up, for whatever reason, so Jack Bauer may FINALLY get his due. I don't care about reality TV, as pretty much every reality show is sleazy crap in my opinion, so whatever.

But anyways, here are some picks of nominees who I DO actually care about and would like to see get an award:

Lead Actor in a Comedy:

Steve Carell for the Office.

The only other guy nominated who I'd consider is the always-hilarious Larry David, but Season 2 of The Office was a true break out season of TV. It had it's ups and downs, but The Office put together a streak of classic episodes that was the best comedy on TV for a while there. Carell deserves it, and I think he'll get it, too.
Chance of Winning: Excellent

Lead Acress in a Comedy:

Jane Kaczmarek for Malcolm in the Middle

I'm probably the only person on the planet who doesn't work for the show that is actively rooting for this choice, but any true Malcolm fan knows that Lois is one of the absolute most horrifying, most cringe-inducing, and best TV moms of all time. I think of Malcolm's great series finale, where Lois reveals to Malcolm her "plans" for his future, in a speech that embodied all the cynical humor, blue-collar tragedy, and pure hilarity that Malcolm was about. I know, I know, people ask "That show was still on?" It was, and this past season one of the best comedies of all time in Malcolm ended, and went out on a high note to boot.
Chance of Winning: Terrible

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:

Bryan Cranston for Malcolm in the Middle

Again, like I've said many times on this blog, Cranston was the heart and soul of Malcolm and one of the out and out funniest characters on TV in Hal. I of course am also a HUGE fan of Will Arnett as Gob on Arrested Development, but I'd love to see Cranston get some recognition for his years of hilarity on Malcolm in the Middle.

Chances of Winning: Terrible

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:

None of the great actresses from ARRESTED were nominated? Okay then, don't care.

Comedy Series:

Arrested Development

As good as The Office was at times this year, Arrested was just awesome - years from now it will be looked back on as one of the funniest, most underrated shows ever made. The last 4 eps of Arrested were plain and simple some of the best television I've ever seen. While the Office got mired in soapy romance plotlines as the season progressed, becoming more and more sitcom-y, Arrested stayed true to itself and became even more obscure, witty, and offbeat as it went on. Long live ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

Chances of Winning: Medium - has a shot but I think The Office will take it.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

Kiefer Sutherland for 24

Do I really need an explanation here? Kiefer has made Jack Bauer the most fun character to watch on TV over the last 5 years. He has created a true action hero for the ages. Give him his freakin' due already.

Chances of Winning: Excellent, though you never know, as the West Wing sympathy vote may come into play.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

No Kristen Bell? No Lauren Graham? Screw you, Emmys. I guess I'll root for Geena Davis or something.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:

Gregory Itzin for 24

You know, too bad nobody from the pretty kickass Prisonbreak was nominated for this category - where's the love for Abruzi and T-Bag? But of the choices we've got, Itzin was one of the great 24 villains this season, and did some damn fine acting as the Nixon-esque Prez on 24.

Chances of Winning: Pretty darn good, though again I feel like I shouldn't count out the West Wing.

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:

Jean Smart for 24:

While Smart did an excellent job as the first lady on 24, I have to say - she is getting a little bit overhyped by the press, and in fact I would probably count her as one of the weaker elements, overall, of this season. Still, I could care less about the other nominees, and there's no question Smart had some ultra-intense scenes on 24 that render her worthy of recognition.

Chances of Winning: Excellent

Best Drama Series:


What more can I say? I'm no bandwagoner - I've been a 24 fan since Day 1 (literally), and this has been my absolute favorite show on television since the X-Files went off the air. 24 is a thrill-ride every week that is more intense, more satisfying, and yes, more packed with gravitas than just about any other feature film in the same genre. This show should have won Best Drama in SEASON ONE, which is still the best, but hey, Season 5 was a consistently amazing seaon as well that deserves its props. Sure, many of my other fav shows were snubbed, but it will be nice to see 24 finally get its moment in the sun.

Chances of Winning: Count on it ... and screw the West Wing if it wins.

Reality Series:

No Beauty and the Geek? Don't care. Since it's our big seller on I-Tunes I'll root for Project Runway.

Okay, that's it for now - be back soon with reactions, and a lot more.

If nothing else, watch for Conan.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"I was born of the Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcissism." SCOOP Review, Prison Break, and MORE

Okay, okay - a lot to talk about. So strap in and get comfortable.

First of all, some TV Stuff:


- Very good season premiere, but as of now nothing spectacular. Monday's episode was very cool, but felt a little too much like a direct continuation of last season's season-ending escape. But, I think a lot of promising plotlines were set up for the season, most of all the introduction of the always-excellent William Fichtner as an FBI Agent who looks to be an intellectual match for Michael Scofield. T-Bag as always was awesomely over the top, and was a real scene stealer in every segment he appeared in ("I AIN'T nobody!" = DAAAAAAAAMN!), and, I can't wait to see what happens when he finally catches up with the other escapees.


I actually like that they offed Veronica, as her character was getting stale, and it reinforces the notion that the inmates are truly on their own, with no one to help them on the outside. But it also begs the question - where do they go from here? On one hand it's exciting that I literally have no clue where this season is headed. On the other hand, it worries me that things still seem very directionless. Are they still going to focus on the warden and the other jail personnel even though the inmates have fled the coop? Is the whole season going to be about the search for Curly's Gold? And are they actually going to keep all of these guys together, even though by all logic they should split up and go their separate ways? Hmmm ...

I'm very curious to see what happens next, but I've yet to be convinced that this season will live up to season 1. Here's hoping the intensity gets turned up a notch in the weeks to come.

My Grade: B+


I just have to quickly point out that this show needs to be commended. It seems to be completely staged, is totally cheesy, and just downright absurd, but it has won me over with its sheer earnestness and fun. Last night I caught the previous week's ep on SciFi, and man, when a guy who's seen it all like Stan Lee gets choked up over having to off the latest contestant, well, it truly puts a tear in yer eye. There seriously is something wonderful about seeing a reality show - normally the domain of sleaze, excess, and vulgarity - governed by the old-school, superheroic rules of Stan The Man, where such basic misdeeds as littering, jay-walking, and all forms of duplicity are frowned upon and grounds for dismissal. Imagine - a reality show that encourages people to be BETTER human beings! As wacky as this show is, I highly respect it on this premise alone. Count me as a True Believer.


Finally, I've got to comment on this amazing season of comedy television recently made available on DVD. For me, this represents the best ever comedy on television. While other previous seasons of The Simpsons are often highlighted by others as the best ever, this one was for me when I really began to notice the writing, the craft, the genious that went into the creation of these episodes. This season originally aired in 1996-97, my freshman year of high school. Not exactly the best year of my life, but those dreary Mondays were always highlighted by the question on the lips of every geeky guy in school: did you see the Simpsons last night? In the halls of high school, the dining hall, the classrooms - that week's episode was reviewed, analyzed, and quoted to death. And right at this time when kids begin to identify with certain things as a form of self-expression, well, the Simpsons was IT. Every Sunday I sat down to watch the coolest, most amazing, most ingenious thing there was. And I think if it wasn't for those Simpsons episodes, the idea that I myself wanted to work in TV never would have materialized. Now, watching these episodes, it's clear that Season 8 was a turning point - the show was getting crazier, more random, more experimental - a style that would inspire shows like Family Guy's sensibilities, and lead to the current house style that the Simpsons still employs. But while newer seasons are often hurt by their realiance on randomness and abusurdity to drive the humor, Season 8 of the show thrived by pushing the stylistic envelope. Mr. Sparkle, Frank Grimes, The Lovematic Grandpa, Sherry Bobbins, Hank Scorpio - all absolutely classic moments from the season. So if you haven't checked it out, or need a primer on The Simpsons and how it influenced current television and a generation of comedy afficianados, get Season 8 now - it may be the funniest TV ever made.

Now, on to movies ...

SCOOP Review:

Well, this was certainly a fascinating movie to watch.

First, there's the movie itself - like some old 1950's farce unearthed and infused with some vintage Woody Allen schtick, this movie is decidedly old-school. Scoop is plenty entertaining, but a lot of things about it just seem off. Unlike, say, Anything Else, where Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci fit in fairly seamlessly with Woody's somewhat antiquated worldview, Scarlett Johanson and Hugh Jackman stick out like sore thumbs in what might as well be a period piece, despite being set in modern London. Well, more so Scarlett. Hugh Jackman is a natural at playing an upper-crust British playboy who may or may not be a murderer, but Scarlett Johanson in this movie ... all I can say is: odd.

Sure, eventually we warm up to Scarlett as Sandra - a stammering Brooklyn girl and ambitious journalism student on vacation in London. But wow, let's step back for a minute here and take a look at this:

This has to be a first for Woody - here, Woody Allen essentially plays his usual Woody Allen role, though adjusted to the fact that Woody is now in senior citizen territory, he plays a surrogate father / mentor figure here to Scarlett ... who plays --- a hopelessly attractive, female version of Woody Allen! Okay ... for a director who often deals with the theme of psychoanalysis, this setup is just begging to be psychoanalyzed. And for this reason, while the movie itself is pretty good, the movie, when looked at as direct line into the psyche of Woody Allen, is just fascinating.

And on a sidenote, that's what's great about a movie like this that is the sole vision of a single creative mind - unlike a big studio film, this really is a look, in it's own weird way, at the man behind the camera (and on it, in this case).

But back to Scarlett ... I mean, is there any woman in the world who looks like Scarlett Johanson yet is a nebbishy Jewish girl who speaks in a Woody-Allen-esque stammer? I mean, I guess it's like when that one James Bond movie asked us to buy Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist or something, but still ...

I guess though, that part of the joke of this movie's premise is that behind this stammering, innocent girl lies a promiscuous sexpot in disguse -- is this Woody's commentary on women - that all the rich pretty-boys a la Jackman in this movie (who are, in reality, murderers!) are able to turn these outwardly nice Jewish girls into swooning sex objects? Like I said, fascinating. This movie can be read all kinds of ways. We see Woody Allen as a guy probably lusting after Scarlett (which he apparently is in real life), but due to his age he's reduced to playing a father-figure role even as he meets an impossibly beautiful young woman, who inexplicably shares his exact personality and mannerisms! The woman of course falls for the rich playboy who is secretly a murderer - the very guy she set out to expose to the world as a murderer (the classic girl falling for the badboys they condemn thing). And, finally, and quite humorously, Woody Allen's character is -- SPOILERS -- killed~! as he tries to make a heroic attempt to save Scarlett from her would-be killer.

So yeah, while the plot, essentially revisiting the same basic premise of Match Point, is oddly dated-seeming and quirky, with its random supernatural elements (the ghost of Ian McShane as a slain journalist is the one who tips off Scarlett to the case), Scoop is most interesting just as a meta-character study of Woody Allen at this advanced stage of his career.

But as for that - the whole complaint of been there, done that, when it comes to Allen's movies, I don't see what the big problem is. I still got plenty of laughs from the classic Woody-isms - the Jewish humor, the fish-out-of-water jokes, the high-art meets Borscht-Belt comedy. The man may not be as fresh and sharp a humorist as he once was, but he still carries a certain intelligence and culturally-educated slant in his writing that you don't see from many other filmmakers.

To be sure, this is an odd movie. The sheer spectacle of seeing the same Scarlett Johanson who played an action hero in The Island and a sullen, rebel teen in Ghost World, in full-on, young-female-version-of-Woody Allen-mode is simultaneously jarring, perplexing, entertaining, and hard to take your eyes off of. The supernatural / whimsical elements of the film are both strange and yet very amusing at times. And the vintage Woody Allen humor can be both tedious and refreshing, depending on the joke.

Overall though, I would definitely recommend checking out Scoop. It's an immensely interesting movie to watch, even if some of its flaws and oddities are glaringly obvious. But compared to what else is out there, Scoop is a refreshing dose of something different, even if different in this case is comfortingly familiar.

My Grade: B+

Alright - more later. Leave a comment and check back soon.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Snakes! Snakes? Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakessss!" Snakes on a Plane Review and MORE

Alright, I'm back from the all-too-brief respite of the weekend and ready to lay it down for ya.

I'll start by tackling the subject on the lips of everyone in showbiz right now - Snakes on a Plane -- why did it bomb?

I think there has got to be a realization that a movie primarily fueled by internet buzz is good for about 8 to 16 million at the box office - at this point, no more. See exhibit A: Clerks II. See exhibit B: Snakes on a Plane.

The thing with these movies is that they appeal to a relatively small audience, albeit one that happens to be very vocal. Also, sadly in some cases, I think the blame lies partly on us - Generation Y. Sadly, I don't know if we are where the money is, at least not yet. We are the generation most dripping with ironic appreciation of bad movies - I don't know if anyone over the age of 35 not named Quentin Tarantino quite gets why the whole Snakes on a Plane thing was ever that funny in the first place - and yet as of now we are a generation that is low on time, strapped for cash, and more apt to go on the internet and JOKE about Snakes on a Plane than actually pay 10 bucks to see it in a theater.

Can Gen Y be a moneymaker for a major movie studio? Honestly, I don't know. Remember, we are the generation that went to college with broadband internet right in the prime of the Napster boom. I remember many a college night huddled around someone's desktop watching a bootlegged copy of Boondock Saints or whatever that someone ripped off of the intra-college network. Most of us are in crappy entry level jobs with no real opportunity yet to put our unprecedentedly expensive college educations to use. We were the ones who grew up with an ironic appreciation for the awesomely bad movies of Jean Claude Van Damme, Hulk Hogan, and the like, and then watched as guys like Quentin Tarantino took the B-movie genre and turned it into blissfully self-aware pop art. We were the ones who went to see Snakes on a Plane on Friday and Saturday night ... and sadly, we're not good for that much in the way of bank, at least not yet.

And it doesn't look good for the future of Snakes, either. Most people realize that the only way to see this movie is to see it in a crowded theater, for optimum reaction and participation from the peanut gallery. If only a handful of Snake devotees turned out on opening weekend - (as I alluded to above, my Friday night showing was mostly filled with irony-saavy Gen Y-ers and a few younger teenagers), then what hope do the stragglers have to get the optimal Snakes experience in a theater this coming weekend or the weekend after?

With all that being said, this isn't exactly Titanic in the budget department, so I'm sure when all is said and done (and the inevitable DVD's are sold by the bucketload), SOAP will emerge as profitable for the studio. But here's a little hint for the future: A low budget cult classic is given its status by the FANS, not by studio-created, prerelease hype.

And on that note, on to the much anticipated ...


And they said irony was dead.

Well, "they" were clearly wrong, as for months now, the internet has been buzzing about how great Snakes on a Plane was going to be, based largely on how entertainingly bad it appeared to be.

But some movies are so "bad" that they are great - campy classics, often ones we took in as kids, that somehow struck a certain chord that made them more than just a bad movie, but a sentimental favorite. This week, for example, The Wizard came out on DVD. By no means a "great" movie, but for many of us, when were seven or eight, it was the Best Thing Ever. Hence, the nostalgia tinged lense we watch it through makes it great in its own weird, Power Glove-sporting way.

And then, there are the "great" B movies. Movies like Army of Darkness and Evil Dead, like some of the blaxploitation and martial arts movies from the 70's. Movies that had low budgets and a large degree of campiness, but in their own way had a huge spark of imagination and a unique sense of style and self-aware humor - an undeniable coolness factor. Even though an uninformed observer might see these movies and dub them bad, those in the know recognized their innate awesomeness.

It is in this tradition that Snakes on a Plane tries to land - a movie that takes all the trappings of the worst late-night TV movies and says "look, we are not pretending to be a polished, big-budget epic when we're not - we're taking the inhernet cheesiness of the concept and running with it - we're f'n Snakes on a Plane."

But here's the thing - a bad movie is a bad movie. And make no mistake - in it's original incarnation, Snakes was clearly one craptacular flick, about on the level of Mansquito. Just because audiences of a certain generation have been cultivated to enjoy a bad movie almost as much as a good movie - by laughing AT it and enjoying it ironically, this doesn't make it good.

I mean, look, I thought the Island was a complete trainwreck, but I had a great time at the theater mocking it's crappiness with my friends. Does that somehow make it a good movie? Hells no.

So now, here's the kicker - the Snakes producers got wind that their endearingly titled C-grade horror movie was becoming an internet sensation, largely due to the sheer audacity of calling it Snakes on a Plane (again, bringing to mind those terrible late-night Sci Fi movies). So due to a fluke of the pre-production title being leaked to the public, the producers were left with a dilmena: a growing internet fanbase was sitting around getting hyped up about a movie that they assumed would be a self-aware horror-comedy - a balls to the wall, crazy-ass flick that pitted Samuel Jackson in full-on badass mode against a plane full of killer Snakes.

But what was the reality here? This was by no means a lovingly-crafted piece of genre-reinventing pop art that the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, or Sam Raimi might have created.

Nope, it was just a really crappy movie, with bad CGI, a phoning-it-in Sam Jackson, and of all things a PG-13 rating. Not good, not good at all.

So, then what happened? The suits got wise to the fact that the fanbase had a much different expectation for this film than what the reality of it actually was. In response, a bunch of reshoots are done, more sex and violence is added, and the whole movie is painted over with a winking gloss that says "yeah, see, we ARE in on the joke, we WANT you to laugh."

So yeah, the whole state of this movie is pretty much summed up by the fact that its best, trademark line was thought up by random internet bloggers rather than the actual writers of the movie. In the ultimate example of internet populism meets corporate America, the few, the outspoken, the irony-lovin', Snakes-cheering, Sam Jackson-worshipping fanboys got the movie that THEY envisioned.

Well, sort of.

That's the crazy thing about this movie -- it is like a crazy mishmash of moments that are genuinely, unintentionally bad with other moments that are genuinely, intentionally bad. And the weird thing is I'm not sure which parts were funnier.

Because in the end, the movie mostly lived up to my expectations - it was a blast to see in a packed theater, full of rowdy fans eager to see Samuel L Jackson lay the smackdown on some snakes.

But had this movie been made, from the START, with a smart, hip, self-aware mindset - had it had someone at the helm like a Sam Raimi who really gets horror-comedy and really could infuse a movie like this with legitimate creativity and vision - well, then it could have really been something - a true B-movie cult classic.

As it stands now, it is a bad movie trying a little too hard to be an enjoyably bad movie. Oh, sure, it was pretty enjoyable, but take away the rowdy crowd and the fun of all the prerelease buzz, and what are you left with? A poorly-shot, badly-written thriller with mostly mediocre performances and a few great one-liners.

And let's set one thing straight - yes, this is a movie that invites audience participation, and in my view you can't beat a great live audience to heighten the fun of, well, just about anything. But come on - if Deep Blue Sea had been called "Super Intelligent Sharks Attack!" and benefitted from the same amount of internet buzz, that movie would have had as good of an audience reaction and been even better, since it actually had some cool action sequences, a fun cast, and some plot creativity - and hey, it even had a badass Samuel L Jackson.

So yeah, I hope that all of you who can't help but smile at the very IDEA of a movie called Snakes on a Plane headed to the biggest multiplex around this weekend with a few friends, kicked back, and cheered everytime Sam Jackson did something badass. I hope you laughed at the sheer awfulness of Keenan Thompson, smiled ironic smiles of mockery at the carboard characters, and had a small spasm of glee as the screen morphed into green-tinged "snake-vision." And I hope you applauded and cheered as Jackson dutifully uttered the movie's now-famous catchphrase, and that that glorious, expletive-filled sentance was all you hoped it would be and more. I know I got a kick out of it, and yeah, I had a great time as the theater watching Snakes on a by-god Plane. Probably most of all, it was because this film invited the audience to be a part of it - to cheer, to boo, to clap, to yell out random obnoxious comments. Unlike most crappy movies, where you have to sit there in silence and take it, this one wore its crappiness like a badge of honor -- a heavily-market-researched, corporately-manufactured badge of honor, but a badge of honor nonetheless. And I respect that. I think. Kind of.

But let's not kid ourselves - this was a bad movie that mostly kicked ass because we were so, so ready for it to. As cool as it is to see a movie transform itself mid-production to better represent what the fans wanted, it still makes you wonder -- has it really come to this? Do the fans now have to take it upon themselves to add all the best parts to a movie? Snakes on a Plane, if nothing else, establishes an amazing (though not necessarily succesful, with this weekend's box office-returns) new precedent for Hollywood marketing - just don't get tricked into thinking that this is anything more than what it really is - a movie that's occasionally fun to laugh with, but mostly just fun to laugh at.

Still, you gotta love a python squeezing a guy till he drops, venomous serpents dropping in on a couple aiming to join the mile high club, and a rap star who learns an important lesson about how to keep it real, even in the midst of being trapped in a plane whilst being attacked by an army of rabid snakes. Dammit all, I think my grade just went up one notch.

My Grade: B -

- Alright, what else?

- How about tonight's RETURN of last season's best new TV show: PRISONBREAK.

Like Snakes on a Plane, in a way, Prisonbreak is completely over the top and implausible, but fun as all hell. Great characters, 24-like intensity, and an overall sense of overriding badassness makes tonight's Season 2 premiere a must-watch.

I have to say though, I'm almost kinda sad that the Fall TV Season is beginning ... as much as I am a TV junkie, and work in TV, I hate the amount of time that TV can take up during my week. As comforting as it is to have, say, a new episode of Prisonbreak to look forward to on a Monday night after a long day's work, it is also nice to come home and have the night be an open book, so to speak.

And that's about all I have for now -- stay tuned tommorow for a major blog-related announcement ...

And how about it: Can I get some mother$#%# comments on this mother%$&% blog?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Ask Me About My Weiner!"

Oh man, that line never gets old ...

Saw Accepted last night at a free Universal screening, will get to that review in a minute ... first off though, some other assorted stuff ...

- Ryan Philipe as Harvey Dent in Dark Knight? I don't believe this is 100% confirmed yet, but I have to say I don't know about this one. Philipe is definitely a talented actor, but as far as I know he still has that kind of boyish look and prep-school voice ... not exactly what I picture in Harvey Dent. I gotta side with the internet geeks on this one for now and say that someone like Liev Schrieber or Guy Pierce would have been ideal. Also, I hope they don't overload this movie with too many villains. I don't really see any point when you already have the best villain of all ... the Joker. Harley Quinn in a minor role though ... that I wouldn't object to.

- Speaking of superheroes, I've gotta say that Who Wants to be a Superhero is one heck of a fun show. I've been working with it on I-Tunes, and while the premise is pretty absurd, the show is so earnest and innocent compared to other trashy reality shows that it just has this really addictive, eminently watchable vibe. Stan Lee is perfectly old-school in his role as superhero guru / MC. Take it with a grain of salt, but don't be surprised if it hooks you in.


Okay, so this movie has a number of prety funny moments. But those moments are buried within the unsightly framework of a movie mired in cliched mediocrity. For every line that makes you giggle (yes, including the insta-classic "Ask me about my weiner!" line ...), there is a character, a scene, or a moment that is directly lifted from some other, better movie. And most of all, the premise is totally mishandled - what could have been a funny idea - a bunch of college rejects form their own school and pass it off as a legitimate university - is played way too straight.

This premise begs for an absurdist approach ala Wet Hot American Summer. Instead, we get the obligatory scene where our protaganist stands before a board of accreditidation and gives a big speech where he expounds about the merits of his fake college, inciting his students (all of whom, of course, are in attendance) to give a standing ovation. And guess what - wonder of wonders - his speech is so damn moving that the crusty old board members have a change of heart and allow the school to go on! No big spoilers here folks - this movie is by-the-numbers every step of the way, right down to the preppy fratboy villains, the Dean of a rival school with a stick up his ass, and the girl stuck with the wrong guy who breaks up with said guy after he cheats on her and is then won over by our witty, charming, fast-talking main character.

You've seen this same framework in ... oh, I don't know - The Breakfast Club, Old School, American Pie, Animal House, Feris Bueller, Camp Nowhere, and, um, just about every other teen / college / misfit adolescent movie ever made.

Here, though, even the paint-by-numbers stuff just feels kinda off. For example, the movie has a really strong anti-education message that to me was really off-putting. Sure, it's always funny to see Lewis Black (here as a bitter ex-professor) go off on his usual, quiveringly pissed-off, fight-the-man diatribes. But Black's usual stuff is mixed in with this message of "Hey kids, college sucks. You learn a bunch of useless crap when what you should really be learning about is how to slack off and waste time." It'd be funny if this idea was played solely for laughs, but the movie starts to get really preachy in its own weird way and doesn't let up. The capper has to be the big, aforementioned "big speech scene," where Justin Long, as our hero, B, goes on, and on, and on, about why his fabricated college (South Harmon Institute of Technology -- aka S.H.I.T. -- get it? get it?) is actually deserving of being accredited. Again, it would be pretty funny if the course list, including things like "Rocking Out" and "Math-terbation" was just there to be funny, but we're actually supposed to be agreeing with B and saying "yeah, this guy has a point." It's not even like, say, Billy Madison, where Adam Sandler's climactic speech at the end is a satire of other big movie speeches, or in Not Another Teen movie, which also mocked said big speeches (as well as all the other conventions of teen movies ...). Too many elements of Accepted are not played up as absurd or whatever, instead there are way too many sitcom-y moments that would feel more at home on Saved By the Bell: The College Years, than on a big screen, college-comedy.

Still, there is plenty to like here. The side characters in particular have a ton of funny little moments, where the true potential of what this movie COULD have been is glimpsed. There is a lot of comedic talent here in the supporting actors, and its too bad that that talent isn't fully embraced.

So all in all, it's a decently funny movie, but one that's built on a dumb premise that isn't taken to the absurd extremes needed to make it work.

My Grade: C

Alright, I'm out. It's been a crazy day, and I. Am. Outta Heeeeeeeeeeere.

Monday, August 14, 2006

From the World's Third Most Preeminent Proust Scholar: Little Miss Sunshine Review, and much, much MORE

This past weekend was one of reunions. While I had initially thought that my entire weekend would be spent hanging out with the visiting Chris Agra, it turned out that Chris only ended up being in town Friday night. So me, Chris, Chris' travelling posse, and our former 6th-floor Sleeper Hall-mate Josh met up late Friday, but made the most of our time ... hitting up Hollywood hotspot Barney's where a great time was had by all. Not only that, but I guess the Beanery was the place to be on Friday, as we ran into a bunch o' the BU crew, as well as a number of former / current NBC colleagues. All of which made me seem tres cool, since I knew like half the people there that night. Good times.

Unfortunately, Chris and his crew headed south to visit a friend on Saturday, so our BU reunion was cut a bit short. But luckily I was able to hit up a truly great movie Saturday evening: Little Miss Sunshine, the review of which I will get to in a minute, don't worry.

Sunday the remnants of the NBC Page Class of January, 05 were brought together once again. No longer constricted by the confines of a Communist regime, future journalist extraordinaire Adriana joined the G-Man and myself, as well as her partner in crime Diane, for a very nice dinner in Pasadena followed by the obligatory stop at 21 Choices frozen yogurt shop. We were regaled by Adriana's tales of adventure in Hong Kong and China (the land where this very blog is banned!), and my usual anxiety about Mondays was made all the more painful by my renewed wish to just quit my job and travel the world in search of adventure while I'm still young. Well, I guess its better to at least be inspired to dream of such things than to be devoid of such ideas of faraway lands altogether. So yeah, a nice way to cap off the weekend before I found myself once again staring at a computer behind a desk, staring down the corporate void wondering how I got to this point and why.

Um, yeah, it's not that bad ... I just really don't like Mondays. Can you tell?

But anyways ...


- I finally watched Adult Swim last night for the first time in a long time, as I've been meaning to see what all the hype about The Venture Bros is about. I was definitely entertained by the show, although it's another one of those quirky Cartoon Net shows where the premise is a little bit funnier in theory than in execution. I definitely want to see more episodes, but I feel like with this show its one of those situaitons where things are thrown at the wall simply in the name of being quirky, without really being thought-out. I get that it's supposed to be random, and I have a deep affection for all the Hannah Barbera genre stuff that this show satirizes, but I guess it's just a little too disjointed for me. Still, that's just my initial opinion - like I said, I definitely need to see more. And yes, Brock Sampson sneaking up on and holding three separate villains at knifepoint in a men's room was pretty hilarious. Also ... Metalpocalypse -- again, the whole premise and crazy sensibility of this show cracks me up. Extremely random almost to a fault, but it's reassuring to know that absolutely crazy animation like this has a home on TV. I mean, where else can you see a ficticious, animated Metal band sing a song called "Mer Maid Murder?" Yeah, that's what I thought.

- How about that new Buck Cherry song, "Crazy Bitch?" Pretty sweet, huh? I totally forgot who Buck Cherry was until I was pointed in the direction of their 90's one-hit-wonder song "Lit Up," which still rocks.

- "This reminds me of Highlander"
" What's that?"
" A movie. It won an academy award."
" For what?"
" Best movie -- ever."

Why do I have the feeling that years from now, this paraphrased exchange will be the most quoted line from Talladega Nights? Classic.

- Season 8 of The Simpsons is out on DVD this week - nice! Probably the last CLASSIC season ever of The Simpsons. While it would be "very good" for a few more years before eventually becoming a much lesser show than in its prime, Season 8 is rife with all time, legendary episodes. The Frank Grimes ep might still be the single funniest episode ever of the Simpsons, and who doesn't love Hank Scorpio? If you don't enjoy the Hank Scorpio episode of the Simpsons, I seriously question your sense of humor. That is all. PS - been gunning through season 1 of Futurama - amazing show - sharp writing, awesome animation, and tons of quotable lines - most of these eps I've only seen probably once before, so now I am finally able revisit some of the best quotes that I hadn't really absorbed until now. All I'll say for now is: Zap Brannigan = comedy gold.

- Well with the cease-fire in effect between Israel and Lebanon, we can only hope that this means peace in the region. But other than end the immediate hostilities, I don't see exactly what this truce accomplishes. You still have Hezbollah out there - not only as a terrorist group but as a faction of the Lebonese governement ... yet still they are looked at in many corners as a legitimate movment ... it really is amazing. Again, you can't really negotiate with terrorists, and while a prolonged air and ground war isn't exactly the best way to dismantle them either, it seems naive to think that a treaty really addresses the root of the problem in any way. You don't see the US making a treaty with Al Queida, do you? It just saddens me that even with this temporary peace, there is no real indication that this is an end point of any real legitimacy.


Amidst all of the overhyped blockbusters of this summer, I am pretty sure that this weekend I saw one of the few truly "great" movies of the last few months. In fact, Little Miss Sunshine is maybe the first movie since United 93 where I really was thinking "Oscar" after I saw the film.

What is Little Miss Sunshine? It's not exactly easy to describe, but to use Hollywood's favorite method of tagging a movie, I'd say this: take the basic family road-trip premise behind National Lampoon's Vacation, add in the family drama and angst of Ordinary People, and mix with a little of the dark comedy of The Royal Tannenbaums and a dash of the earnest quirkiness of Napoleon Dynamite. That is Little Miss Sunshine in a nutshell, but it really is its own unique thing - the tone of the movie is heartfelt, affectionate, even sentimental at times ... yet it definitely has a little bit of a darker, adult edge.

What I loved about this movie though is how its different scenes really took you through the gamut of emotions that a family trip like this might have. There are the moments where you can't stand everyone else - are you really even related to these people? There's the moments where you fight even though you know it's pointless. There's the arguments about little things that quickly escalate into family State of the Unions. And then there's these weird moments of triumph, where some external factor puts everyone on the same wavelength, and the family really does function as a unit in the way that only a family can.

Little Miss Sunshine just kind of captured this whole feeling of looking around at your family members and wondering who these people are. Take Alan Arkin as the outspoken granfather figure in the movie. To his young grandaughter he's a hero, a mentor, a silly cheerleader of her burgeoning beauty pageant career. But to almost everyone else he's a vice-riddled, vulgar, problematic character - he really is kind of an odd, sketchy guy. But to Olive, his eight year old granddaughter, he's just Grandpa, with all the unconditional love that that title entails.

The movie really is, as you can see, a fantastic character study, and that's in no small part due to the absolutely phenomenal cast, each of whom turns in a performance for the ages.

As I said, Alan Arkin is the scene-stealer here. What I didn't mention before is that he's freaking hilarious in this movie. I won't spoil the jokes but some of the very un-grandfatherly advice that he gives his teenaged grandson concerning women is just off-the-charts hilarious. Arkin's distinct voice is put to full comedic effect. When he utters things like "Chicken? Again with the chicken?" he makes it funny in a a way that only he can. Basically, this is one of the best actors around putting in perhaps one of his best and most memorable performances ever.

Steve Carell really showed me something here. Carell takes his deadpan comedy skills and puts them to use in a whole new way. While this is the same droopy-eyed Carell you know and love, it is a character far-removed from anything he's played before - a much darker character, and yet one who's really the heart and soul of the movie. Just as in the 40-Year Old Virgin, you find yourself rooting for Carell here, even though he plays a depressed, suicidal, gay Proust scholar - not exactly the recipe for a lovable character, but Carell somehow makes it all work.

Greg Kinnear may have the most underrated role in the movie. He takes the classic embattled Chevy Chase character from Vacation and puts a darker, more desperate spin on it. The irony that he's a motivational speaker whose family is in shambles only adds to the depth of his character - great work here by Kinnear.

The rest of the cast is universally talented. Toni Collette does a great job as the broken-down mother, desperately clinging to a sense of familial unity. The scene in the beginning where she spreads out fast-food chicken, a salad, and Sprite at the dinner table is perfectly symbolic of her character - grasping at straws to preserve a semblance of normality. Paul Dano as the brooding teenaged son who has taken a vow of silence is another great performance. Dano and Steve Carell have a great chemistry in their scenes together, and it's yet another performance that mixes laughter, sadness, comedy, and tragedy, to great dramatic effect.

And lastly, special mention has to be made of Abigail Breslyn, who has got to be one of the most talented child actors around. She is effortlessly real and believable as a little girl who dreams of being a pageant queen, and is funny, poignant, and just really, really good here. Just like her character in a movie, she never really felt like an actress playing a part - just a real, ordinary kid.

Abigail's character of Olive is the stimulis for the story, and through her the movie becomes more than just a family-based character study, but a social satire, a look at the pursuit of fame and of living out a dream when it's all you have left.

This movie is loaded with great little cameos and tons of funny bit characters. But with a lot of these quirkier indie comedies, you get a few funny lines, and a lot of self-aware cleverness, but rarely does a dark comedy in this vein make you laugh out loud continuously throughout an entire scene. Not this one. While Little Miss Sunshine is by no means a comedy in the vein of the latest Will Ferell movie or whatever, it is not just a clever arthouse film either. The last ten minutes or so of this movie had me, and the entire theater audience, laughing so hard we were in tears - and man, the climactic moment of this film is just one of those all-time great film moments, where it's so funny you're laughing out loud like crazy, but it's such a great, happy moment that it becomes so much more than just pure comedy. I won't say any more, just that as much as this is a "dark" comedy, it really is also an uplifiting, enlightening, life-affirming one. Suffice to say, this one is a crowd-pleaser, an applause-getter. And overall, I'd call it one of my favorite movies so far this year.

My Grade: A

- Alright, well, that's about it for today. I've been thinking of creating a separate blog that would have all of my TV and movie reviews in one place - I'd still post them here, but then cut and paste them separately into a more organized format later on. What do you think?

- Lastly, I will get in a few quick plugs. Any of you guys soap opera fans? Anyone you know? Parents, grandparents? Well starting tommorow, fans of PASSIONS will be able to download episodes of the show, daily, on I-Tunes. Never miss an episode again! Brilliant!

- Okay, seriously now, I'm out.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Random Pre-Weekend Thoughts

Well, it's Friday, the weekend is almost here - as Jamie Foxx might say: Hoo-rah.

Some random thoughts as I head into the almighty weekend:

- Bryan Singer: you already did a poor-man's remake of Superman, please don't remake Superman II. Yes, Zod was cool then (obligatory KNEEL BEFORE ZOD here), but it would suck if you brought him back - SUCK I tell you. Warners: get a new director with an original vision on these movies ASAP. But, if you've got to go with Zod, I vote for Ewan McGregor (apparently it's Jude Law ... um, okay, I guess). I demand CGI Darkseid voiced by James Earl Jones, dammit all.

- Mel Gibson: what's with people calling on us to forgive him? Doesn't forgiveness imply that you are angry at the person first for a bit? How about this - I'll be pissed at Mel for a few years or so, then I'll reevaluate. It's not like he stepped on my foot while passing me in the subway or something. That's like an instant forgive - no biggie. I think certain offenses, we as a public are entitled to be ticked off for a while before we immediately turn the other cheek, so to speak.

- So they are remaking The Prisoner, eh? This is one of those classic shows along with Twin Peaks that I REALLY need to see.

- Sweet, David Duchovny is on Leno as I type this (watching the live feed). He's always a great talkshow guest, gotta love the dry sense of humor. Just please make another X-Files movie already before the two leads are ready for the convalescent home - it's been talked about for years now already!

- While in the grocery store recently i came across new Pepsi Jazz. Unable to resist new and gimmicky soft drinks, I tried the Black Cherry and Strawberries and Cream varieties. My opinion? Black Cherry is decent, but it's no Dr. Browns. As for Strawberries and Cream ... well, some things just should not be made into Cola form.

- Every day we in the know at NBC receive a meticulously put-together newsletter known as Headlines, which is an amazing compilation of news, views, and random tidbits for our daily reading pleasure. I have to admit that when the new Headlines comes via email each day, it is one of the highlights of my sometimes boring / uneventful workday. And I learn a lot from it - today I learned that today is, in fact, Hulk Hogan's birthday! Thank you, Headlines! And on that note, Well ya Know something Mean Gene: Happy 53rd Birthday, Hulkster! Brother!

- See this is why Hulk Hogan needs to keep wrestling and kicking ass. Sure, he fake-wrestles, but since he's about the same age as the parents of people of my generation, it is a reassuring reminder to see Hogan, 53, with two bad knees, a bad back, and countless other injuries, limp down to a ring, flex his old-man muscles, and defeat his opponent in staged combat. Because if Hogan can do it at 53, then my dad, in theory, could still, if he wanted to, kick some ass.

- And I'm out. Have a good weekend, dudes.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Politics: To All of You Party-Line Liberals and Conservatives: Listen up!

Okay, more politics to talk about here, but now I am getting a little bit upset about some of the stuff I'm hearing. Man, what crazy times these are. First of all, before I mention this morning's foiled terrorist plot, more about Liberman:

I am so sick of all the comments from the Left and Right peanut galleries about the signifigance of Lieberman's loss - namely the comments that oversimplify the current political situation into the broadest possible terms. Okay, according to many, it seems like there are only two foreign policy positions one can take - you can be either a Hawk, or a Dove.

By this VERY FLAWED simplification, you can be:

a.) A Hawk - You support all instances of Bush-approved military action against the perceived Islamo-fascist terrorists. This means you fully approve of the war in Iraq, root for the Israelis to kick Hezbollah's ass, and are fully convinced that the Iraq war was fought because doing so was a direct response to the threat of global terrorism.

b) A Dove - You are basically a peacenik hippie who not only opposses the war in Iraq, but wants immediate withdrawel no matter the consequences. You denounce all politicians who voted for the resolution to go to war. You are more concerned for the oppression of the Palestinans and the civilian casualties of the Lebonese than for Israel's right to defend itself from terrorists hellbent on its destruction.

So yeah, this simplification is RIDICULOUS.

But right now it seems like the real, actual Hawks and Doves are by far the most vocal groups, and each end of the spectrum is looking to pull in the average voter, most of who are probably in the middle. Most people, like you and I, actually think things through rather than go on oversimplified, dogmatic beliefs.

Someone like Michael Moore, who states that Lieberman's ousting was a message that Americans won't stand for anyone who supported the war, is a gross oversimplification, and also a foolish condemnation. Moore is falling into the same trap I described in my post yesterday - his views come off as simply reactionary rather than well thought-out. The oppossite is someone like Ann Coulter, who demonizes liberals by always speaking in broad strokes about what liberals believe versus what conservatives believe. Ann takes the same approach of oversimplifying things in the name of neatly fitting things into a very general worldview that conforms to the Conservative norm.

Also, praising one guy just because you don't like his opponent rarely leads to good things. See: the election of George W Bush following public weariness with the Clinton administration.

Basically, I'm sick of people on the far left and right oversimplifying everything just so that events fit neatly into their own narrow world views. Every foreign policy decision has to be looked at as unique - there's no logic in saying "well, I'm against the war in Iraq, therefore I oppose Israel's actions against Hezbollah." That thinking doesn't add up.

Finally, about Lieberman, again I have to say that he should not run as an independent. It goes a long way towards further screwing with the already-critical Democratic party, and really, is pretty pointless other than that it sets a terrible precedent. If Lieberman truly wanted to run as an independent, then fine - he should have done that from the START, not after losing a primary. It just shows that Lieberman was resting on his laurels and not really paying attention to the political climate of Connecticut.

I think what Lieberman really suffered from was his inabilty to communicate his platform. John Kerry suffered the exact same problem in the presidential election. Lieberman is a smart guy - he should have been able to explain himself and his platform in a few simple sentances. instead he got caught up trying to refute his opponents allegations against him, meaning he was always on the defensive rather than the offensive.

Again, I don't think Lieberman's loss REALLY has to do with his foreign policy positions - that is the easy and simplified way of looking at things. His loss stems from the same problems that plagued Kerry - we are at a time when we need leaders who can articulate, can sweep us up in their message, who seem to relate to the common man with a vision for the future. It's why Clinton succeeded, it's why people like me are already wondering when Obama is going to run for president - he's one of the few politicians out there who doesn't come off like a crusty old lifer on Capitol Hill. I think Lieberman's loss, ultimately, is just the result of a huge national frustration with the political establishment.

Which brings me to ... the thwarted terrorist plot today.

All I really have to say right now is that:

a.) thank God for British Intelligence- MI6, baby.
b.) Ugh - once again the world is in turmoil and Bush is on vacation, seemingly reciting half-assed rhetoric fed to him over a wire - at least that's what it seemed like as he stammered something this morning from Crawford about Islamic fascists.
c.) the continued terror threats are a good reminder to those whose anti-war position has somehow morphed into a "Dove" position as described above. There are A LOT of terrorists out there who want to kill Americans, Jews, and basically are crazy murderous bastards. These guys need to be rooted out, aka exactly what Israel is doing now. Where Iraq fits into this equation is something apparently determined by big oil companies, but the fact remains: there is ample, legit terrorist ass that needs to be kicked - we just have to find it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Lieberman Losing ...

Well let me throw my two cents in on this whole Lieberman thing.

First of all - I think that there's no point in getting carried away with attacks on the man. Because in the midst of all the debate over his politics, I think that one thing is clear -- anyone who has met Joe Lieberman will tell you that he is a dedicated public servant, a longtime supporter of a number of worthy causes, and in general an upstanding example of a politician who has truly strived to better the lives of others through his work.

That being said ...

The democratic party right now is a mess. On the one hand, they need to distance themselves from the President, as was evidenced by this primary election. There WAS a time for unity in our country following 9/11 - that time is clearly over. Unity and bipartisanship are worthy things to strive for, but the fact is that a lot of people are pretty fed up with our president on any number of issues, and the democrats need to reflect that.

But what else did this primary show us? It showed that it's all about PERCEPTION. Lieberman was PERCEIVED as being too buddy-buddy with Bush, and that was a big factor, pretty much THE factor, in his loss. But the democrats also have to be wary of being perceived as a bunch of reactionaries who ahve no real platform of their own, whose only agenda is to refute everything that the president says or does. This is stupid and pointless. Sure, it may be effective in rallying a small, activist base to usurp a guy like Lieberman, who has never been particularly effective at sweeping people up in the emotion of his statements. But come on - on a national platform, a far-left guy with no real platform of his own stands NO CHANCE of being elected.

Look at the top people in the national, democratic camp. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and even Lieberman. All are moderates who voted FOR the resolution to go to war (only a select few didn't), and only a moderate has a chance to win a national election. But when I say moderate, I DON'T mean someone who has conservative leanings on key issues. I think that the public is ready for elected officials who are PRO stem cell research, PRO gay marriage, PRO environment (including strongly PRO alternative fuel sources), and generally LIBERAL and PROGRESSIVE on any number of social issues.

Here's the thing though - being socially liberal has NOTHING TO DO WITH being tough when it comes to foreign policy. Nor does being critical of a botched war in Iraq have anything to do with being, say, supportive of Israel and determined to crack down on global terror.

And yet that is the PERCEPTION - that being a critic of the Iraq war means that, by default, you're not supportive of Israel and vice versa. You're either tough on foreign polic or you're not. Again - what does one thing necessarily have to do with another? If our resources weren't so occupied in Iraq for instance, we'd be much better able to focus on the broader Middle-East conflict. Whatever happened to picking your battles?

Which brings me back to Lieberman. The problem is that he has fallen into the trap of falling into line with the WRONG party line - the Republican one, in his case. Obviously the man is a huge supporter of Israel and it's right to defend herself. Does this make him a conservative? It shouldn't, but unfortunately that makes him a neocon in the eyes of many. Why? Because this is the trap -- the Bush administration sees Israel as just one cog in its war on terror - a war that has been totally botched and misguided from almost Day One. Supporting Israel and denouncing terror SHOULD have nothing to do with the war in Iraq, in fact they are almost oppossite golas, as the war in Iraq has arguably created new havens for terrorism and further destabalized the region. But the perception is that all these things are related.

So the plus side is that a number of conservatives in power now support Israel, because doing so fits into their view of the War on Terror. Think about it - before 9/11 how many conservatives were pushing Bush's poorly conceived and followed-up upon Roadmap to Peace? But, the reverse is also true. Jews and other Israel supporters now find themselves falling in line with a more Conservative ideology, simply because that ideology now seems to include support of Israel. In truth, it should be obvious that it is only an inclusion of convenience, not of TRUE support.

So here you have Lieberman, whose deservedly-questionionable support of Bush's foreign policy further exposes his more conservative leanings in a number of other areas. Is it any wonder that a liberal, activist base turned on him?

The Democrats can't win with a perceived conservative-Democrat like Lieberman, and they can't win with an overly liberal, reactionary agenda either. The party seriously needs to get itself together, and say "okay, this is what we believe." What should the platform of the Democratic party be? How's this?


- Denounce the war in Iraq as a botched mistake based on faulty intelligence. Commit to repurposing our troops away from Iraq as quickly as possible, and towards other areas of the world where terrrorism is a true threat. Commit to eliminating oil companies and other financial interests as a factor in political decision-making.

- Reaffirm the Democrats as the party for Israel, and commit to supporting all allies who fight against known terrorists, be they Hezbollah, AL-Quaida, or any other such group. Commit to a lasting plan that would not only bering peace to the Middle East, but eliminate influences like Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, who are not true partners for peace from the negotiating table.

- Commit to the environment. Make the widspread manufacturing of alternative fuel-based vehicles one of our top priorities as a country. Lessen drilling and destruction in preserved areas, and don't make concessions to the oil companies - their time is over.

- Commit to social justice and social progress. This means allowing science to go forward with stem cell research and making health and scientific decisions the jurisdiction of the individual, not the government.

Of course, in an election there are many, many issues that rise to prominence, but I wanted to convey the fact that the Democrats have NOT expressed their platform with clarity. Instead, they tend to either let the Republicans act, and then react (not a good plan for success), or else fall in line with the opposing side on too many key issues (see: Lieberman).

I can't say that I support Lieberman's position to run as an independent, because I think it ultimately weakens the Democratic party. I think Lieberman needs to concede, step away, and call it a day, for now. And even though it was a dedicated liberal base that ousted Lieberman, it reflects a desire that many have to be rallied, to be swayed, to be moved in some way. I don't agree with the candidate that the people chose over Lieberman, but I do agree with the sentiment that an established politician has to be proactive and not complacent. Politics is all about communication - Bill Clinton knew that well. Al Gore is lately starting to grasp this. Lieberman has yet to really communicate with the public and show why he is the man.

Yes, his public service record is top-notch, and any number of people will vouch for him as a person and as a leader. But with so many people dissatisfied with the status quo - is it any wonder that the status quo politician of Connecticut got the boot?

People keep saying that it's the Republican who should be concerned that such a prominent incumbent lost in large part due to his perceived association with Bush. in truth, the Dems have got to be worried - their party is a mess.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Shakin' and Bakin': Talladega Nights review and 'lots MORE

What up, cuz?

Well I'm back after a relaxing weekend. A weekend that included a trip to the Olive Garden, thus making it a fulfilling, and filling, one in my book. Hahahaha .... I'm hilarious.

Anyways, the relative quiet of this week will soon be interrupted when the Greek Wonder himself, Chris Agra, comes by to pay a visit this coming weekend. I'm not sure yet what the itinerary is, but if it's anything like our college days, there will be a lot of sleeping all day and staying up until 4 am playing videogames. Hahah, like I said, it's gonna be crazy! For those of you not in the loop, Chris was my random roommate freshman year of college, in the prison-like dormitories of BU's West Campus. I think at that point in our college days, each of us simply looked at the other wondering who the hell this weird dude was who sleeps about 5 feet away from me every night, and why is he always HERE? Oh man ... well anyways, m then-random roommate and I went on to become good pals, and were roommates again junior year first semester (before each of us went on to spend a few months in jolly olde England - me in London, Chris at Oxford), and then again throughout our senior year (though luckily, that time around, we each had our own room, albeit separated only be this weird partition thingy, but still, a huge improvement over our freshman living situation). Christos hails from sunny Phoenix, AZ, home of the SUNS, and is currently studying to be a lawyer / highly educated slacker at Gonzaga.

Chris is one of the few, the proud - People Who I was College Roommates With, an elite group to be sure. For the curious, here were my various living situations throughout college:

Freshman Year: single in West Campus - Sleeper Hall - me and Chris

Sophomore Year: suite in Shelton Hall - me and Dan "Remdog" Remin (aka "The Demon") in one room, Dan Levin and Aksel in the other (this suite was famously known as the home of 3 Dans and an Aksel).

Junior Year (first semester): BU apartment on Aberdeen St., South Campus - me and Aksel in one room, Chris and Gabby in the other (on bunk-beds - their room was really small ...).

Junior Year (second semester): BU apartment in South Kensington - LONDON, England - me and 6 other guys

Senior Year: BU apartment on Beacon St (right across from Fenway) - me and Chris (see how that all came full circle ...?).

Each year brought with it an assortment of interesting personalities, crazy neighbors, and varying walks to and from classes along the sprawling urban campus of BU, and a lot of crazy stories.

Okay, enough reminiscing for now. Let's get to the movie reviews, shall we?


For me, Will Ferrell is kinda overrated. To reiterate what I've probably said before, I really enjoy Will Ferrell SOMETIMES, usually when he's doing outrageous characters. When he's acting as an extension of his regular Will Ferrell persona, I can't say I'm that big of a fan. Some of the stuff that other people find hilarious, I don't really get. I always hated the Cheerleaders on SNL, and I couldn't stand the organ-players sketches. I loved Harry Kerry, Robert Goulet, James Lipton, him and Rachel Dratch as the crazy professor "lovers", and of course, Cowbell. But when Old School came out, and everyone was all into Will Ferell, I didn't quite get it. It was an OKAY movie, but not that great. However, I loved Elf, and then Anchorman was pretty hilarious. So I guess what I'm trying to say is: Will doing Anchorman-style deadpan humor = very funny. Will doing over-the-top frat-packish humor = kinda annoying. Luckily, Talladega Nights is, mostly, the GOOD, funny brand of Will Ferell.

Basically, this is just a really fun movie. It reminded me of a cross between the sincerity and affectionate redneck satire of King of the Hill combined with the irreverence and false bravado of Anchorman. It doesn't really rank as a classic comedy, and takes a lot of shortcuts with its plot and characters, but it has enough laughs to easily justify the price of a movie ticket.

I mean, for one thing, the supporting cast is great. Let me do a quick run through:

Gary Cole (Office Space) - very funny as Ricky's deadbeat racing Dad
John C Reilly - pretty much the funniest character in the movie - most actors would make you want to shoot them for saying "Shake n Bake" 5 billion times in one movie - Reilly makes you love it.
Jane Lynch (Best in Show) - one of the best comedic actresses out there, she's great as Ricky's mom
Sacha Baron Cohen - What can you say? We're talking about Ali G here. Cohen is never as funny as the gay, French racecar driver / villain Jean Girard as he is as Ali G, Borat, or Bruno, but he crafts a memorable antagonist who has some of the film's funniest moments.
Amy Adams - shows some legit acting chops and has some scene-stealing moments as Ricky's assistant / love-interest.

And man, the kids in this movie are pretty hilarious as well. The younger one in particular gets off a ton of great lines.

So yeah, this is a funny movie, but structurally it definitely feels a little rushed. There's a ton of characters, and a lot of the character arcs occur really quickly, so that even when they are deliberately absurd (John C Reilly moving into Ricky's house and taking up with his wife hours after Ricky is hospitalized), they still seem a bit off. The humor walks the line between being organic to the plot and left-field absurd, but mostly it works, in the same vein as Anchorman or The 40 Year Old Virgin. But like I said, some of the randomness here feels more the result of poor pacing and structure than purely part of the joke.

As a comedy it's funny - to me it isn't as memorable as Nacho Libre, and not quite as good of a Will Ferell vehicle or as smart of a parody as Anchorman, but still easily among the better comedies to come out this year. Compared to the lame You, Me, and Dupree, it is on another plateau of comedy prowess, and this one's laugh ratio blows Owen Wilson's as Dupree out of the water. This one is very, very solid - probably not one you'll revisit over and over, but at least upon first viewing you'll get plenty of laughs.

My grade: B

Speaking of comedy, I've been seeing a few reports online that THE STATE is indeed, finally, coming to DVD? Please let it be so! I also read about THE TEN, a new comedy from David Wain (who directed Wet Hot American Summer and Stella) that looks to have an all-star cast, though no Michael Showalter or Michael Ian Black. I'm curious about pretty much anything that comes from any member of The State comedy troupe. So far we've gotten Wet Hot American Summer (amazing), Stella(very funny at times), Reno 9-11 (has its moments), and The Baxter (have yet to see, haven't heard great things). Coming soon we have Reno 9-11 the Movie, and Balls of Fury (the premise, about an underground ping-pong league, sounds hilarious), both of which should be very funny. But I' ll definitely keep an eye out for more info about The Ten.

Well, I couldn't help myself, while they were on sale I bought the final two seasons of Futurama, meaning I now own the complete series. This show was comedy GOLD that was totally screwed by FOX during its orginal run. It really does combine the best of Simpsons-style humor with ongoing plot threads and story-arcs that go beyond what even The Simpsons ever really incorporated. Can't wait for the new eps.

And since my soul is in the process of being continually, slowly, painfully drained as I wither away in the bowels of corporate hell ...

... that's all I can think of to write for now.

The end - bye.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

And I Ra-a-an: Miami Vice Review, and Other Random 80's Nostalgia

Well, after missing not a one, but two free screenings of Miami Vice, I was frustrated to say the least and itching to just see the freaking movie already. So yesterday, after bolting from work, running to Subway, eating in the car and then heading down to Universal, I get there only to find out the screening is once again completely full. But I would not be deterred. I called up some friends and was off to the AMC Burbank, where I did have to plonk down $9, but at least I was treated to a huge screen and a preview of Borat to boot. Man, that movie looks hilarious. Borat rules. On the other hand, Rocky Balboa has the stupidest premise ever. I wouldn't even mind another Rocky movie if it had some kind of inventive plotline that didn't necessarily involve rocky in a boxing ring. But a fight between a 60 year old Rocky and some young guy, set up because of a virtual battle in a videogame? WHAT? That's like if the new version of NBA Live or whatever determined that Bill Russell would beat Shaq one on one if they bothe went at it in their primes. I don't think you'd see Bill Russell come out of retirement to put that theory to the test - that's why videogames exist - fantasy fullfillment. So yeah, the new Rocky looks very underwhelming. Children of Men though, that one looks really cool, even if it is really similar to Y: The Last Man in premise.

Anyways ...


Here's a movie that I can see many people pretty much dismissing without giving it a shot. Because although I can't say I'm very familiar with the Miami Vice TV show, it is pretty obvious that aside from the names of the characters, this movie is nothing at all like the pastel-tinged, pop-music showcase that was the TV hit. But the movie still has a legitimacy factor, since it is done by the show's original creator, Michael Mann. And here you get the sense that Mann wanted to demolish the campiness of the original show in one fell swoop. This certainly isn't anything like Starsky and Hutch ...

What it is is a plain and simple Michael Mann movie. If you saw Collateral, you know what to expect, to a degree. This movie is all about the look, the style, the ambiance - the glow of neon in the nighttime cityscape, the gleam of water smashed by a speeding boat, the feeling of motion. This is one BADASS looking movie. Every shot is silky smooth, every cut effortless. Every single frame seems to have some visual element that pops. Like Collateral, the digital cinematography gives everything a hyper-real, cold and distant look - perfect for telling stories of guys who are equally cold and distant, immersed in an unforgiving life that allows for little other than the constant need to focus on the task at hand.

And the focus, here, is not on the plot. It's simple enough - an undercover drug bust that twists out of control. But unlike your standard action flick, Miami Vice, like many of Mann's other works, has that added edge to it, that existential aspect that really makes you study these guys and wonder what makes them tick. I really appreciate that about this movie - you're never given any extraneous information, never bogged down with plot overload - we are just put right there in the moment. Sure, it's a little jarring at first, but it makes for a different and more immediate movie experience than we are usually given. The movie really works at presenting an overriding theme without ever really putting it right there on the table. Kind of like the best episodes of 24 - we are led to ponder what the sacrifices are that these characters make for their jobs, to wonder how they can live with themselves in a world of such moral ambiguity and personal tragedy, how they can keep on going even though they really have nothing to gain. Mann throws in little snippets of dialogue, little moments that accentuate the tragedy of the film (okay, so some of the extended love scenes are a not exactly the most what you'd call little moments ...) - but the plot's focus is always on the Mission, even though a dark cloud of lingering doubt and hopelessness is there the whole time.

Colin Farell and Jamie Foxx are basically just required to look badass and brood a lot, and they do that pretty well. They turn up the intensity when needed, and they get the job done. Really though, despite the star power here, this is the director's movie, and the actors do a good job of blending in and never overshadowing that fact. I also, mostly, enjoyed the dialogue in the movie, which could be pretty heavily stylized at times but I found to be entertaining and fun to follow along with.

I also thought the music was pretty damn cool. I've heard some complaints about the soundtrack, and I'm sure it was disappointing for some who were expecting some 80's throwbacks and whatnot (though that end-credits cover of Genesis was pretty awesome). But you could tell that a ton of care went into the music of this movie, and a lot of times I found myslef tapping my foot to the pulsating beats that helped accentuate the action.

But the music, like most of the movie, is hard-driving. The action here is brutal, the dialogue laced with slick and sleazy characters trying to out-badass each other. The women here are powerful yet mystrious - Gong Li, I thought, was great in her part. Her broken English kind of accented her character - a bruised woman who has always had to try her hardest to assert herself and stake her claim in a world of tough guys with big guns.

Sure, this isn't a movie that needs to be revisited again and again. It's not one that blows you away with the intricacies of its plot or the nuances of its character. But for two hours it immerses you in a world of crime and violence, of neon-lit hotels and swaying palm trees, of speedboats and nightclubs, of men who exist for their dark missions and the women who at a moment's notice step into the shower with them (happens not once, but twice here ...). It's all over the top and crazy if you really think about it, but Michael Mann is dead serious, and if you let yourself get caught up in the world he creates, his sincerity is contagious.

Go, see this movie on a big screen with good sound, sit back, relax, enjoy. It's gritty, dark, violent, beautifully-shot, and one hell of a badass film.

My Grade: A-

What else is going on?

- Well, not too much. My big problem right now is that I CAN'T FIND MY NBC BADGE. Yes, this seriously sucks. I assumed this morning that I left it at the theater last night, but I called and they can't find it. Damn. Where could it be? This blows.

- And one final thought: Yesterday I blissfully wasted a lot of time watching old 80's cartoon intros on YouTube, and I came to a few conclusions:

1.) Buck O'Hare had one of the best themesongs ever.

2.) Turbo Teen had a legitamately freakish premise.

4.) Seemingly every other cartoon from my childhood involved two warring factions who somehow find themselves displaced in space/time, or else find the landscape of their eternal war changed by someone lost in space/time. See: Transformers, Dinosaucers, Dino Riders, He-Man, Captain N, et al.

5.) The Silverhawks had amazing character design and BADASS costumes. Themesong kicked ass as well.

6.) There sure were a lot of dinosaur-themed cartoons back then, many involving dinosaurs who could either a.) use military-grade weaponry, b.) were outfitted with military-grade weaponry, c.) could talk, or d.) knew how to rock and/or roll.

Oh man, 80's cartoons were amazing. I seriously feel bad for kids these days for missing out.

And on that note: