Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn't you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see
This, our town of Halloween
This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Pumpkins scream in the dead of night
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright
It's our town, everybody scream
In this town of Halloween
I am the one hiding under your bed
Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
I am the one hiding under yours stairs
Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair
This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

Greetings, o' ghostly guests. May your day be filled with fearsome frights, strange scares, spine-tingling thrills ... and may you have a hauntingly, horrifyingly Happy Halloween!

Yep, I'm now a long way removed from the days of donning a lame costume, five layers of sweatshirts on my parents' behest, and walking around the streets of Bloomfield in search of candy. But even if I now have to buy my own candy, and even if I'm in 75 degree California weather, it's still Halloween, baby.

But like I said yesterday, tonight I trade the dark gloom and eerie glow of Halloween for the bright lights of the big city - because I'm bringin' the SHOWTIME back to Los Angeles, as me and a veritable wolfpack of blodthirsty b-ballaz head to the hallowed ground of the Staples Center to witness NBA Opening Night - Lakers vs. Suns - THIRD ROW, so we can be LIVE and UP-CLOSE as STEVE NASH does the MONSTER MASH and drives a stake on the hardwood through the dastardly Lakers, as a full moon rises in the night sky of Hollyweird. So good ... it's most definitely SCARY.

So look for us on TNT - tonight, 10:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm PT - if things get crazy I may just have to step onto the court myself and show these "pros" how we things get things done, IBA-style.

- As yet another way to get myself in the Halloween spirit ... I've finally started reading the WALKING DEAD series - a critically acclaimed post-apocalytic Zombie epic by writer Robert Kirkman. So far I've finished Volume 1, and can attest that the series lives up to the hype. While the dialogue can be a bit over the top at times, the genius of Kirkman's work is that he puts character first and horror second, so that when the scares do begin, it's all the more terrifying because the characters are so vividly realized. Anyone looking for a bit of graphic fiction that is a little different should definitely, ahem, sink their teeth into The Walking Dead

- Over on IGN they have a pretty sweet article ranking the all-time top 25 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segments. A good read but, um, where is 3-D Homer on there? Has anyone seen that movie Tron? No, no, no, no, yes - I mean - no. Check it out: http://tv.ign.com/articles/742/742680p1.html
Mmmm .... forbidden donut

- When it comes to scary TV, I've always had a soft-spot for classic horror-coms like The Munsters and The Addams Family. There's just something about horror and comedy that goes together like peanut butter and chocolate, says I. Mmmm ... Reeses Pieces .... But, um, anyways ... as is well-known to anyone who reads the blog, I am a huge fan of Chris Carter's X-Files and Millenium, and I am also a huge scifi anthology fan, particularly when it comes to in my view, perhaps the greatest TV show of all time, The Twilight Zone. And who can forget kids' classics like It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, all those classic Looney Tunes Halloween shorts ... And, dammit all, who doesn't love the classic Family Matters episode where Steve Urkel dressed up as Superman, but he and Laura got caught as hostages in a bank robbery, and Carl Winslow had to save the day, and Steve felt bad because he wasn't a real hero like Carl ...? Oh man, now THAT is good TV.

Now, since I do consider myself somewhat of a Twilight Zone afficianado (I wrote a 30 page paper on the show as a reflection of post-war America in college), and since the Twilight Zone isn't always known for horror, but more so straight sci-fi, I present to you:

The 5 SCARIEST ever TWILIGHT ZONE episodes:

(and no, I can't list Nightmare at 20,000 Feet - the William Shatner-meets-Gremlin classic, just doesn't do it for me like these other eps)

5. "Twenty Two" - When a woman is hospitilized for fatigue, she has a recurring dream in which she visits the hospital morgue, and a creepy nurse greets her with the chilling invitation - "Room for one more ...". The dream eventually proves to foreshadow a real-life plane crash. Man, that woman saying "Room for one more" gets me every time. This ep is one of the grandfathers of all "dream becomes reality" type horror

4. "To Serve Man" - If you don't know the secret of this classic episode, let's just say that those 7 ft tall aliens are not exactly as friendly as they seem ... While this ep has a somewhat silly conceit behind its big twist ending, you can't deny how classic that final revelation is. I love it

3. "Night Call" - An elderly woman keeps receiving strange, ghostly phone calls, seemingly from her dead husband. You know, most attempts at making technology seem scary come off as hokey in my book -- but this look at otherworldly phone calls is genuinely creepy. To add to its eerie factor, it was preempted from its original airdate by of all things, the Kennedy assasination
2. "The Invaders" - With this classic bit of opening Rod Serling narration, this truly trippy episode begins:

"This is one of the out-of-the-way places, the unvisited places, bleak, wasted, dying. This is a farmhouse, handmade, crude, a house without electricity or gas, a house untouched by progress. This is the woman who lives in the house, a woman who's been alone for many years, a strong, simple woman whose only problem up until this moment has been that of acquiring enough food to eat, a woman about to face terror which is even now coming at her from the Twilight Zone

This almost wordless, creepy tale has a classic Twilight Zone twist ending, but the real meat of it is how it so elegantly plays on our fears of the small, the insect, the alien, the intruder ... just awesome.

1. "The Howling Man" - I love this episode, and it still creeps me out to this day. A stranded traveler finds his way into a strange monastary, where a group of creepy-looking monks provide him shelter and rest, with one stipulation -- no matter what the man hears, no matter what happens, do NOT free the man who is being kept prisoner by the monks. As the nights go on, the howls and cries of the prisoner haunt the guest, and when the two talk, the prisoner is utterly convincing in his conviction that he has been wrongly imprisoned. Of course, he finally convinces the man that he should be freed, but little does the man know what evil he will unleash -- because, kept in that cell, by those monks in their remote castle, was the Devil himself! Great, great, great stuff


- Last night's PRISON BREAK, again, did a pretty good job of kicking ass. While over the top as usual, the intensity in many of the scenes was great, and the interaction between Scofield and W. Fichtner's character was awesome, even if Michael did look pretty goofy the entire ep in those horn-rimmed glasses. The one weak link here were the Burrows father and son fugitive team, as, man, there was some clunk dialogue between the two of them that was very unintentionally funny. "How long have you known about girls?" Haha, come on, that was just cringe-worthy. Otherwise, good stuff

My Grade: B+

- Didn't watch HEROES yet, and to be honest, even though I liked last week's ep, I still am not really into the show. It's going to have to REALLY kick things into overdrive if it wants to stay on my radar once 24 comes back in a few months

- Will be taping GILMORE and VERONICA MARS tonight - look forward to checking out the Halloween-themed ep of VM


Well, it looks like we've reached the end of the road. Only eat wrapped candy. Don't cavort with transdimensional transsexual vampires. Walk softly and carry a big stake. Load up your squirt gun with holy water or else face the wrath of an undead Kiefer Sutherland. Beware of werewolves, therewolves, and overly large ladies of the night dressed as nauseatingly naughty nurses. Watch out for ghouls, ghosts, and Mark Foley (if you happen to be a 16 year old congressional page). Sayonara, so long, and I bid you .. . farewell

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Zombies Ate My Blog - NBA hype, Good Comedy vs. Bad Comedy, and MORE

- Word to your moms, I came to drop bombs. What up? Back from a fun pre-Halloween weekend and ready for some craziness in the week ahead. Tommorow, me and three big-time ballaz head to Staples for THIRD ROW seats for NBA opening night - Lakers / Suns, baby. G-Money, Kaiser Roll, and Coach Carter will become honorary members of Danny Basketball's Blue Team, IBA-style, as we cruise VIP into the Lakeshow and singlehandedly bring tha' Showtime back to Los Angeles. Watch out, Jack, there's a new Hollywood b-ball fan in town, and this town may not be big enough for the both of us. Kobe. Nash. Amare. Live on TNT, 10:30 pm ET, 7:30 pm West Coast - look for the four of us front and center - tommorow night.

- Halloween weekend was a good time ... Friday some friends and I ordered some pizza and revisited the Tarantino-penned horrorfest known as From Dusk Till Dawn. Saturday I headed down to Manhattan beach to join in with Mr. S Green's Halloween festivities, live from his beachside apartment. At Sean's and in various other local locales, we saw all kinds of crazy costumes, from superheroes to mustachioed Kazhak reporters to all manner of she-devils, cat-women, gold-diggers, and other creatures of the night. Sunday I mostly took it easy, but did get back into the Halloween spirit with a viewing of Sam Rami's classic Evil Dead. Unfortunately I didn't come up with much of a costume, other than re-donning my Clark Kent getup from last Halloween (which, actually, was quite the popular outfit around Manhattan Beach this weekend ...), but hopefully I'll be able to assemble something more original for next week's Pasadena quasi-Page O Ween bash.

- Speaking of Borat, while I can't find fault in anyone choosing to dress as everyone's favorite Eastern-European iconoclast for Halloween, I am getting a liiiiittle bit fatigued with all of the Borat-bandwagoners who are popping out of the woodwork of late. That includes Universal, who recently paid Sascha Baron Cohen something to the tune of $42 million for the rights to make a Bruno movie. I have to wonder if this could be a collossal mistake ... I mean, I think the ADL may have been right to an extent in its criticism of Borat -- the average person just laughs at his accent and funny look - do most people even GET the real satire behind the character? When people look at Borat, they see a lovably goofy eccentric foreigner. When people look at Bruno, they will see ... a flamingly gay Austrian, which may not equal box office gold. But, I guess I shouldn't complain, as a Bruno movie could be pretty hilarious, though I'd rather just see a REAL Ali G movie in the same fiction-meets-reality style of Borat.

In any case, I will be first in line this weekend for the Borat movie, baby. Yes, I long ago drank the Borat Kool-Aid, and ... I like!

- In other movie news, it's official - Bryan Singer is back for a Superman Returns sequal. Man, I just don't see how this is a positive. Yes, X-2 was pretty damn good, but a lot of that came from the screenwriting - so let's hope that Warners brings in some fresh writers to add fun, excitement, and action to Singer's Superman universe. PLEASE do a comic villain that has not been seen before in the movies, and, man, I have no idea what to do about that kid ...

- Oh, one more item about basketball. Let me join in the choruses of fans who have paid tribute to the late great Red Aurbach. Red was a true original, and surely one of the great characters in the history of professional sports. The image of Red sitting courtside, chomping on his trademark cigar, never at a loss for a word of wisdom or two, is one that NBA fan will recall with fondness and a smile. His long and illustrious association with the Celtics was one filled not just with championships, but with dynasties. I don't know if any other man has ever been a part of so many winning teams within the framework of a single sports franchise. Without Red, a true part of sports history is missing, and the embodiment of Celtic Pride is no longer with us. One of the all-time greats - that much cannot be denied.

- On the TV Front, just a few quick things to cover:

- So I made sure to record SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE this weekend, as, a.) I had heard that there would be a Borat appearance, and b.) I am a sucker for SNL's annual round of Halloween-themed comedy (I still love the John Travolta-as-gay-vampire bit from way back). So I record SNL, and then on Sunday morning I'm reading a bunch of internet reviews that claim this ep to be one of the best SNL's in a while. Cool, I'm psyched ... until I actually watch the thing. Even if the Borat opener was mostly recycled material, it still made me laugh, so, okay, off to a better-than-usual start. Then, man, alllll down hill from there, until Robert Smigel stopped the bleeding with a hilarious Bush-centric TV Funhouse bit. So, an hour in, and the ONLY remotely funny bits have been provided by people putside of the regular SNL writing staff ... NOT a good sign. The one other saving grace for this lame excuse for comedy was the Will Forte Senator bit on Weekend Update, which I admit was pretty hilarious. So we had funny stuff from Borat and Smigel, one good Will Forte bit on Weekend Update, and ... every actual SKETCH was the suck, despite host Hugh Laurie doing his best to liven things up (though his well-intentioned protest song bit ultimately fell flat). Man, not good, not good at all. The SNL powers-that-be should be thanking the comedy gods that Smigel yet again saved this trainwreck with his reliably awesome brand of subversive humor.

My Grade: C

- But I didn't have to look far to appease my hankering for good comedy. I also had last week's Comedy Central special, Night of Too Many Stars, geared up to watch after being put on the backburner due to lack of time to sit back and take in this benefit comedy show. But man, what a difference the right talent makes. Not only did this special have Borat, in a much fresher bit than he had on SNL, but it had about 20 other comedians showing why they are the best in the biz. I'm talkin' Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais, Steve Carrell, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Martin Short, John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Will Ferell, Jack Black, Will Arnett, Triumph, and many more. Damn! It was great to see rarely-seen performers like Myers and Seinfeld tear it up. I mean, Seinfeld started in about cell-phones, and I kind of cringed at the thought of so-five-years-ago cell phone humor, as did, I think, the live audience. But within minutes, Seinfeld began firing on all cylinders to the point where it was hard to imagine anything being funnier than the quirks of cell phone usage. Son of a bitch - amazing. Between the vintage Seinfeld stuff, Borat doing his thing, Mike Myers as an eccentric billionaire, Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet, Gervais making a crack about Carell, Carell meowing like a cat for 5 straight minutes, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog singing a side-splitting ode to washed up celebrity punchlines, and Stewart doing a great job as MC, this was the definition of "bringing the funny." Any comedy fan should catch a replay of this special or download it on I-Tunes or whatever. Awesome stuff.

My Grade: A

- Okay, I'll be back very soon to turn some more Halloween tricks. Until next time ...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bride of FrankenBlog ...

What up?

Well, things are looking a bit up from yesterday. Soon after I posted yesterday's blog, I had a kinf of revelatory lunch at Universal Citywalk. As the day at work was pretty slow and uneventful, I gave myself a little longer for lunch than usual, and drove over to Citywalk just for the heck of it. I walked into the entranceway and for some reason, The good ol' Back to the Future theme just pumped me up. I was like "yeah! I work in entertainment!" And since that point, I've felt much calmer somehow. Didn't hurt that today, via a generous gift at work, I received four FREE third-row seats to Lakers-Suns on NBA opening night, this coming Tuesday! Wow! I mean, not exactly how I was anticipating on spending Halloween, but there's no way I would pass up a chance to go to a game of this magnitude, with seats that should put me somewhere between Jack Nicholson and Charlie Sheen. Plus, I've been a Suns fan since '93 when I became a diehard fan during the Barkley era, so while I will probably tone down my fandom for fear of getting shot or p'wned by Jack, I will have to work my contain my years of Laker hatred and Suns fandom. This is gonna be awesome. This weekend is still kind of up in the air, but that is much easier to swallow now that I have this to look forward to on Tuesday.

Up until now, I've been to one Knicks exhibition game in Hartford, and a handful of Celtics games while at BU - the highlight of which was definitely a first-round Celtics-Pacers playoff game in which I got to see one of my heroes, Reggie Miller, perform up close and personal. But, the Celtics have been so crappy these last few years (okay, more like last 10 years ...), that the building formerly known as the Fleet Center lacked much excitement or buzz when the Celtics came to play. Going into Staples for a Laker game is like walking into enemy territory, but the buzz should be huge for opening night, especially if Kobe (hate him), is able to play.

I've hated the Lakers for years now. I was actually a fan growing up of the latter days of the showtime era, and always was a big Magic fan, and really rooted for him during his mid-90's comeback years. But then things quickly turned sour when the Kobe-Shaq era began. The Lakers time and again helped dash my hopes that Charles Barkley would make it to the finals, with the '99 playoffs being especially bitter - as Shaq, Kobe, and Glen Rice prevented Barkley and the Rockets from advancing to the Finals. Since then, my hatred for the Lakers has just multiplied as they became a dynasty - all the while being a totally unlikable bunch of whiners and egomaniacs, Kove worst of all. I've always hated Kobe and his Jordan-wannabe antics, and he doesn't impress me at all as a human being. The only thrill I've gotten from the Lakers' championship runs was that somehow, vets like Mitch Ritchmond managed to grab a championship ring through those Laker title wins.

But yeah, going to Staples, being there in the bigtime in the front row under the spotlights, on NBA opening night, Suns vs. Lakers ... well, it should be awesome.

Damn, I've got to get around to playing some basketball.

What else?

- I thought last night's SMALLVILLE was the best ep of the season to date. A cool, multi-layered story brought the spotlight on a young Lex Luthor, and I really enjoyed the flashbacks to his and Ollie Queen's time at "Excelsior" prep school (obviously a blend of Exeter and a nod to the Marvelous competition ... don't they know this is a DC show?). This was an especially geek-friendly episode, with nods to Gotham City, much talk about the Phantom Zone, a true team-up between Clark Kent and Oliver Queen, a bucnh of funny Lois-and-Clark moments, and even a character named Duncan Erlenmyer, which I can't confirm, but suspect is a little X-Files tribute on the part of the writing staff ... hmmm, I wonder? Anyways, Rosenbaum and Glover once again tore it up as the Luthors, and I just really enjoyed almost everything about this ep, with the exception of the somewhat underwhelming cliffhanger, which at first seemed to be about to reveal the presence of some bigtime supervillain, but ultimately just hinted at a return of the premiere's antagonist, Mariah, who I thought was pretty lame the first time around. Overall though, I had a blast with this latest ep.

My Grade: A -


- Well, this week saw the much-anticipated release of film director Richard Donner's run s writer of the monthly SUPERMAN comic, along with DC uber-scribe Geoff Johns, and second-generation artist Andy Kubert. So, what did I think? Well, overall, I am intrigued. I thought Johns and Donner nailed the Clark-Lois dynamic, and the brief scenes with Lex Luthor seemed spot-on as well - luckily, this seemed to be the kickass Lex we're used to from the comics and not the much lamer Lex from the movies - but the jury is still out on that one ... However, it was very jarring to see Superman in a crystal fortress talking to a holographic Jor-El as in the films - to this point no such thing has been scene in the mainstream comics, so it makes me wonder how much normal DC continuity will be tossed aside in favor of the movie versions of characters. But, for those of you who don't know ... the main crux of this story is that a young boy crashes to earth in a ship, from Kypton, and Superman adopts the boy and raises him as the Kents did him. Definitely enjoying the intro to this plotline so far, and undoubtedly the comic felt suitably cinematic thanks to the widescreen pencils of Kubert, who was solid, but whose style, overall, felt a bit scratchy and rough for this type of story. A good start that leaves many questions yet to be answered - very curious for the next issue.

My Grade: B+

- Also got my hands on the long, long, loooong-anticipated SEVEN SOLDIERS #1, the concluding chapter to writer Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers mega-event that began waaaay back in March 2005! Back then, I was sure that the opening chapter, Seven Soldiers #0, was one of the best standalone comics I'd read in years - it was moving, exciting, thought-provoking, smart, suitably crazy, and filled with amazing artwork courtesy of JH Williams III. As the months went on, I really enjoyed most of the follow-up Seven Soldiers miniseries, which had their ups and downs, but together wove a complex and intricate tale that promised to build to one hell of a finale. And now, after several months of delays, here it is - a giant-sized epic finale to one of the best and most ambitious comics events ever attempted. But how did this much-anticipated ish turn out? Hmmm ... hard to say -- One thing is clear, Morrison is in full-on CRAZY mode here - there's a ton going on, and you'll be alternatively saying "huh?" and "wow!" as you read -- this is one overloaded, psychedelic, mind-tripping piece of graphic fiction. But wow, JH Williams was on fire here - he employs several art styles, one for each of the 7 soldiers, and his work is simply mind-blowing - some of the work here is just off the charts, and it's amazing how Williams mimics the art from each of the 7 miniseries that preceded the book, yet makes each chapter his own as well. As for the story, like I said, it's craziness and a bit incoherant at times. Enjoyable, but in that unique - hm, that was interesting, but I'm not sure what the hell happened - kind of way. I would have liked a more straightforward conclusion, but still, this is one that simply has to be read to be believed, even if it is perhaps an example of Morrison loosening his grip on reality just a bit too much.

My Grade: B+

Alright, I'm out. Happy Halloween weekend! CYA.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Night of the Living Blog! A Monster Mash of Rants and Reviews.

As I've said before, the life of the working man isn't far too removed from that of an undead, brain-craving zombie. Know what I mean?

It's been an interesting week thus far. Work has been very busy, as a few very time-consuming projects kept me staring bleary-eyed at my computer screen for hours on end, typing 10-point letters into a 38,000 column Excel spreadsheet. Good times, huh? But, on the other end of the spectrum, yesterday was pretty interesting. I headed over to the Universal tower for a meeting between our department and a few key people at Apple. The interesting thing was that one of the Apple reps in particular, I had been dealing with on the phone since I began this job several months ago, but had never met in person. So, yeah, that kind of meeting is always interesting - to be able to put a face to the people you speak to on a daily basis.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm just kind of cruising along, doing okay but in need of a big breakthrough. I feel like 95% of the forces of the universe are conspiring to keep me going along on the same path I am now, mildly content workin' the 9 to 5. But the 5%, all of which is basically me and my goals, are screaming to hit the brakes and make a change before it's too late. Especially lately, where my job has become more about number-crunching than ever before. That's the grim reality of all this New Media hype - companies talk about sweeping change and digital revolutions and all that, but in the end it's simply all comes back to the almighty dollar.

So yeah, I still have a great interest in I-pods and new media and streaming video and all that. But as much as it interests me my main fascination is with the content itself - not how it's delivered. Good content is good content, whether its on a TV, computer screen, or cell-phone. And what I've wanted to do all along is to be the one creating this content - telling stories, creating characters, putting it all out there. The problem is that 95% of the forces out that don't want to see that happen. I'm talking about the needs for a steady income, a steady job, and health insurance. I'm talking about an industry that would rather keep you out than pull you in. I'm talking about the legions of aspiring writers and creators out there who are blessed with the freedom to live off their trust funds while penning the Great American Screenplay by the poolhouse while sipping a martini. And I'm talking about the general malaise that comes from working in a side of the industry where every TV show is an "intellectual property", where every studio is a "content stakeholder," where crap is routinely praised and the good stuff flies under the radar.

And that's my rant for the day ... thank you for bearing with me.

- Now, I've got a ton of stuff to catch up on, but don't worry I'll keep things to the point ...


- Okay, this week's LOST was a kickass hour of TV, no getting around it. The tension level was off the hook, the actors all turned in great performances, and once again I was on the edge of my seat. But, let's face it ... the cliffhanger of this episode was yet ONE MORE mystery that initially knocks you out of your seat, but ultimately, will we ever get any resolution? I mean, so there's two islands? Wow, cool ... but I have no real reason to care. This isn't one more piece of the puzzle - about 15 different puzzles have been thrown all over the floor and mixed up into some crazy puzzle salad. I pretty much just watch this show for the characters now, much as it pains me to say. But despite that nagging feeling of frustration, again, this was an awesome ep in nearly every way. Josh Halloway is quickly surpassing Terry O'Quinn as the breakout actor on the show. The Snake Plissken-esque injection of doom was a nice plot device, though I'm glad it was a fake-out, as ten episodes of Sawyer beeping every time he looked at Kate would have been kinda annoying. But there was so much to like here - Jack turning the tables on Juliette, planting in her the seeds of doubt, the Others' reluctant emplyment of Jack's medical skills -- all riveting stuff, and I am seriously excited for next week's episode. Is this all going anywhere though? Who knows, and at this point, is it even worth it to speculate?

My Grade: A -

- Speaking of speculation, I totally called NBC's decision to move Scrubs and 30 Rock to Thursdays, for the record. I think that the all-comedy block will really help NBC differentiate itself from the competition, and it just makes sense to pair up a show like 30 Rock with other comedies of similar sensibilities.

- Too bad though that 20 Good Years is likely done for ... not that the show was all that great, but Tambor and Lithgow are each deserving of a quality platform for their talents. I also hate that the execs will look at this and say "see, this proves that a show can't be about people over 35." No, all it proves is that a comedy must be funny.

- This past week's VERONICA MARS was another quality episode that still felt a bit lacking. I miss the first two season's noirish atmosphere, hyper-real setting, and surprisingly dark plotlines. The dialogue is as sharp as ever, but everything just seems toned down a bit. On the other hand, it was pretty crazy seeing Gilmore's Logan meet Veronica's Logan in this ep (okay, the guy from Gilmore wasn't playing Logan, but still), and my interest was definitely piqued by the Aaron Echols-centric storyline. I think that's part of what's missing from this season - that dual dynamic where by day, Veronica is out helping her friends and classmates with their various small-scale mysteries, but by night she's sleuthing on cases that are much bigger, more dangerous, where by all accounts she should be out of her league. Anyways, I enjoyed the ep, just hoping that this show has a chance to be as good on CW as it was on UPN.

My Grade: B

- Speaking of GILMORE, I really enjoyed this week's ep. I thought the entire dinner scene was not only well done but hilarious, with Emily of course thinking that Lorelai's moody silence was just her being unusually pleasant. I also loved Rory's dinner with Logan and his British friends - just great stuff all around and an episode that reaffirmed how good this show can be.

My Grade: A

- If anything, last week's SMALLVILLE was a lot of fun. However, the incosistency in the cast really hampers things, as on one hand we have Johnathan Glover and Michael Rosenbaum turning in typically great performances as the two Luthors, and on the other we have the blonde guy playing Oliver Queen with all the acting skill of the Eifell Tower. It's too bad, too, because Queen / Green Arrow is being written in a pretty fun / enjoyable way. But man, this show sure gets some good milage out of the John Williams Superman theme ...

My Grade: B

- But awwwwww dayum, how awesome was this week's PRISON BREAK? Very awesome, says me. This was a KICKASS return for the show, which delivered a nonstop thrillride from start to finish. From Fichtner's interrogation, to the drowning scenes, to Doctor Tancredi being in all kinds of deadly jeapordy ... this was some good TV watchin'.

My Grade: A

- And holy motha of GRAVITAS, have you SEEN the trailer for the new season of 24?!?! Check it out online if you haven't, I can't wait until the Bauer Hour of Power returns in January.

- Speaking of 9 pm on Mondays ... I thought this week's HEROES was the best overall episode yet, though I am still turned off by a few of the actors and characters. Anyone who knows their superheroes can see some of the twists and turns here coming a mile away, but, I really like how the show seems to be getting more and more fun each week. Dark is good, but in this genre you need moments of awe and wonder or you're just left with a bunch of talking heads. Please NBC, move this show AWAY from 24. Because pwers or not, Jack Bauer would whip all these guys' asses.

My Grade: B

- And how about NBC's other Monday night show? You know, STUDIO 60? Well, this show rides a fine line with me. With the pilot, I was seriously impressed. I think that Judd Hirsch's opening diatribe set a tone for the show that has not been followed through on. In that pilot, things were presented with a surreal, Network-like flair for the melodramatic. Since then, the show has devolved into a cross between a standard, character-based soap and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. And sometimes, it works, but many times, the show is just too preachy, too condescending, and too pretentious for a program that takes place at a sketch comedy show. Take this week's ep, where the writer leads his out-of-it parents around the Studio 60 stage. Every moment of those scenes was so heavy-handed and overdone that I could hear the sound of TV's truning off across America as I watched. As was the almost painful-to-watch sublplot of the old man who wanders into the studio and turns out to be not only a WWII vet, but a oldtime comedy as well. The sheer obnoxiousness of these scenes was hard to contain. In any other setting, some old guy who wandered away from his retirement home would be a non-story. But look! Even though these characters are big-shot TV producers, they can take a minute of their time to talk to an old man! Aren't we impressed! I think the problem is that this show seems to pride itself on representing the pulse of pop culture and politics - but it's written by a guy who clearly doesn't know which way is normal. I mean, look at Matthew Perry's character - Perry does a great job, by the way, I think. But last episode there was some genuine emotion as he pined for his old flame. This week, Bradley Whitford tries to introduce him to a bunch of 18 year old numbskulls as a genuine means of helping his love-sick friend. What? And all the while, we are supposed to mock the dumb girls, while in fact we are thinking "god, these two 40-something guys are kind of pathetic for even talking to them. How can we root for them when they're being so sleazy?" And the whole thing with them hiring the black comedian sight unseen ... what? He made three semi-intelligent, not-very-funny jokes (apparently semi-clever observations are the same as comedy to Sorkin), and he's this young blue-chipper who with a little discipline will be the next, what, the nex Sorkin? As Chandler might say, can the show BE any more heavyhanded? It's too bad, because somewhere buried in this show is a smart, funny, cool look at comedy in America. But it's hard to admire the snappiness of the dialogue when so much of the show is simply so off-putting.

My Grade: C+

- So I've been hearing good things about Season 4 of THE OC ... I am definitely curious to see if Josh Schwartz can recapture some of that first season magic, so I'll check out the premiere in a few weeks.

- What's with all these good reviews for The Nine? EW named it one of their 6 must-see new shows this week, but I just don't see it. I feel like critics often look at a show and see a serious, adult tone, sharp writing, and by default say - oh, we've got a keeper! I mean look, you can have a good cast and nice dialogue, but if the show is about a bunch of people standing around watching paint dry, then count me out. The Nine has a totally uninteresting premise and despite a good cast, gives no real reason to care about the characters. Why would anyone want to commit an hour every week to see the stories of a bunch of people traumatized by a mysterious hostage situation? Give me island castaways, superheroes, spunky private eyes, or troubled southern California teens any day over this depressing mess of a show.

- Alright, I'm sure I'll get in another word or two before Halloween. Until then, keep things scary.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's A Kind of (Strange) Magic: The Prestige, Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D, and MORE

What's up, party people? Back again on another oh-so-delightful Monday afternoon, ready to share with you the latest news and views from here in the middle of Hollywood.

I'll do this one Memento-style, and take you backwards through my last few days like my name was John G.

To start with, last night I saw The Prestige, and I have a lot of thoughts ...

... unfortunately most of my thoughts are actually questions, and most of those questions have to do with the specifics of the story, and if I were to get into said specifics it may in fact spoil the movie for any who haven't seen it. And since my ultimate thoughts on this movie include a plea for any and all of you to run out and see it if you haven't already, I don't really want to spoil it for you. Got it?


- Let's face it, The Prestige is a walking geekgasm of a movie. Batman, Wolverine, David Bowie, Scarlet Johansson. The director of Memento and Batman Begins. A Victorian London setting. Nikola Tesla. Magic. What's not to like? But those going into this movie expecting some kind of comic-bookish, Joel Schumacher-esque cluster#$%* are going to instead be presented with something much different. Something dark and twisted and haunting, that reminds you of something that Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman might have conjured up whilst in a particularly sinister mood. If anything, this movie will remind you of Christopher Nolan's own Memento - because, like that masterpiece, The Prestige is a winding, labrynthine movie - shifting timeframes and perspectives, building intensity as the movie methodically but powerfully leads you to its shocking final act. This isn't Harry Potter, people. The Prestige is one dark, messed-up, mind-$#$& of a movie.

To sum up without giving away too much, The Prestige centers around two stage magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, each apprenticed by the same mentor - a saavy veteran illusionist played by Michael Caine. While Bale is the one with the innate talent for magic, Jackman is the natural showman. While training for their own acts, Bale and Jackman act as audience plants for another magician, whose apprentice is Jackman's wife. During one performance, a water-tank trick goes awry, and Jackman's wife is killed. Jackman blames Bale, and a rivalry forms between the two magicians that spirals deeper and becomes increasingly more vicious. Things really reach a head when Jackman witnesses Bale perform a confounding trick known as the Transporting Man, which even to his trained eye seems impossible to pull off. Desperate to know the secret of Bale's trick, Jackman is led to the eccentric American inventor, Nikola Tesla - played by David Bowie.

What happens from there - well, that would be revealing too much ...

Suffice to say, a LOT happens. And you can't help but be enthralled as Nolan weaves yet another Memento-esque yarn, with each turn of the screw leaving your jaw hanging on the floor. This is an ambitious movie - from the way the narrative is framed to the spiralling structure to the scope and lofty implications of the plot - this is a movie that leaves you with profound moral and social questions flitting through your head as you leave the theater. But is it trying for too much? Does it drown under the weight of its own ambition? Honestly, it's very, very ahrd to say after only one viewing. I don't think there is any kind of consensus yet, as only repeat viewings will allow for the kind of scrutiny that this movie's plot demands.

To be honest, if you asked me right now what, exactly, happened in this movie, I'm not sure if I could tell you the correct answer. Already I've heard differing theories, contradictory interpretations of the various plot points. It's just too early to say if this movie is, in fact, an amazingly put-together mind-trip that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, or simply an only sem-decipherable riddle that doesn't lend itself to one particular narrative conclusion. I think that one of the big complaints about this movie will be that, while it started as a grounded character study of two magicians, it soon takes a sharp left turn into twilight-zone territory that never quite gels with the tone of the rest of the film. I think that criticism is valid. Unlike Memento, there seems to be a lot of extraneous stuff in this movie that ISN'T a part of the larger narrative puzzle. Some of the pieces don't "click" in the end. Unlike Memento, where the final scene is a grand "aha!" moment - The Prestige left me similarly breathless but also pretty confused. And it might be that this is a movie that can only be judged after multiple viewings - already I've re-examined certain scenes in my head and realized how they in some way fit into the larger picture. But some things still don't gel, like the relative ambiguity of Michael Caine's character, for example - whose side was he on - what was his motivation?

Anyways, forgetting the twists and turns of the plot for a moment - this film was pure enjoyment to watch in many ways thanks to the greatness that Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman brought to the precedings. Like the duo of Damon and DiCaprio in The Departed, there is something so natural yet exciting about seeing these two face off against one another. Bale in particular brings a Batman-like intensity to his role, and seeing him here brought my level of anticipation for The Dark Knight to a new level. I think Jackman is only slightly less interesting, maybe simply because he (and Johansson) have just been in SO many movies lately. In fact, The Prestige is an odd melding of the casts of Batman Begins and Woody Allen's Scoop - in any case, there's a lot of familiar faces here. But hey, if there's any role that Scarlett Johansson might have been born to play, it's that of a seductive, corset-clad magician's assistant - so, um, yeah, you won't hear me complaining about that one. And of course - Michael Caine - basically gravitas in a bottle, is great as always. Like I said, his character is tough to get a read on, but there's no denying what Caine brings to the performance.

Then, there is David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. I have to admit, I've always been fascinated not only with Victorian times, but with Tesla in particular. I remember I used to get these catalogs in the mail - you know, probably from subscribing to Nintendo Power or something. They had all kinds of stuff that thrills the imagination of a young boy - magician's kits, practical jokes, remote control cars, and books. I remember seeing in those catalogs these ads for books on Tesla - "Read the true story of the man who, over 100 years ago, discovered the secrets of teleportation, anti-gravity, and even time-travel!" Who was this guy, I remember thinking. Anyways, Tesla is a key figure in The Prestige, and played by David Bowie no less, sporting an oddball German accent looking appropriately creepy. I will say, there was something a bit jarring about Bowie's performance here - he definitely stood out amidst a cast and story that up until Tesla's introduction, was grounded in grim Victorian reality. Bowie as Tesla is really kind of an oddity in this movie, seemingly out of place, but in many ways I guess that's the point.

After reading all this, you're probably wondering what I actually thought of this movie. Well, as of now, there's no doubt in my mind that this is a must-see, a spectacular journey into the unknown. This movie is grim, disturbing - don't expect Jackman or Bale to be playing typically heroic characters - both magicians are driven, vicious, downright twisted people by the movie's end. But that's part of what is so captivating about The Prestige - it goes places that no other movie has gone, carrying out its plot to the absolute extremes - examining the grotesque implications of its characters actions in a manner both captivating and highly distrubing. I got the feeling that the people in my theater wanted to clap out of appreciation when the film ended, but were so stunned into meditative silence by the film's wrenching third act that most of us were just sitting there, trying to wrap our heads around what we had just seen. But is this movie a classic, or just an extremely ambitious but flawed attempt at creating a magical epic in the twisiting narrative style of Memento? Again, I can't say, not yet at least. Like I said, I'm still digesting what I saw, and still wondering how it will hold up to repeat viewings. For now, I would just say to go see it, because even if my grade doesn't reflect it (instead reflecting my latest train of thought, in which I almost love the movie but question certain aspects of its plot), this is one that, as the years go by, may indeed become a movie to revisit over and over again.

My Grade: A -

Now, continuing my backwards voyage through time, I take you back to last Thursday, when I got to attend the opening night of The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D at the El Capitan in Hollywood, thanks to a bunch of tickets made available on the cheap via Boston University. The scene was crazy, with hardcore Burton fans lined up dressed as their favorite characters from the film, and all manner of Disney-provided street performers walking and dancing around, as skeletons and other creatures of the night roamed in front of the El Capitan theater in Hollywood. Inside, as smiling pumpkins and other Halloween-themed decorations filled the halls and main auditorium, we were treated to a Q and A with a number of the personnel involved with the film, including the voice of Oogie Boogie, Ken Page, who did a live rendition of his featured song from the movie. Pretty cool ...


First of all, the 3-D technology used for this movie is amazing - definitely the best 3-D I've seen, in terms of the sheer clarity and sharpness of the images on screen. The screen at the El Capitan is fairly small compared to that of a big multiplex, but as the movie started I was amazed at how the 3-D effect seemed to make the entire screen pop out at you, giving the illusion that you were looking at a much bigger image than you actually were. Aside from the opening logos and intro, there weren't really any traditional "stuff popping out at you" style 3-D scenes, but the overall effect was incredible. The stop-motion animated puppets felt completely vibrant and real, and everything just took on a seamless, larger-than-life, totally immersive quality thanks to the depth of the 3-D visuals.

As for the movie itself - well, it's Nighmare Before Christmas - in my estimation one of the true modern classics in terms of family entertainment, and Tim Burton at the height of his mad-genious-like creative powers. The story is simple and immediately intriguing. The characters are instantly lovable and captivating and funny and just plain cool to look at. The songs mix the whimsical catchiness of classic Walt Disney with the breadth and pathos of the best broadway musicals. Finally, the movie, visually, is simply an unmatched work of art - the entire production bleeds with gothic style and drips with carefully-constructed atmosphere. The character design is perfect, timeless. Just from looking at this movie, the care, and heart, and precision and detail that went into every painfully and delicately arranged shot is just remarkable. Even after all these years - Nightmare looks and feels like nothing else that has come before or since.

If you live anywhere near a theater playing The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, I can't think of any better way to usher in Halloween than by revisiting this newly-improved classic.

My Grade: A


- Man, so much stuff to catch up on. I still have to watch last week's Smallville and I've been meaning to watch my recorded Night of Too Many Stars that Comedy Central aired last week. All I've seen so far is the Borat segment, which is, predictably, gut-bustingly funny.

- Really liked both My Name Is Earl and The Office last week. The Office in aprticular had some simply hilarious sequences with Dwight's initiation for hapless former-temp Ryan. Dwight demanding that Ryan metaphorically wrestle his fears by fighting Dwight's cousing mose, decked out in a "Fear" t-shirt, had me dying of laughter. "Get in the coffin!" Bwahahaha .... hilarious. The Office is on a total roll with me lately ... I can't understand why more people aren't watching! Hey, at least it's the number 1 show on I-Tunes! In ya face, broadcast TV, I-Tunes users clearly have better taste than the typical TV-watching tube-zombie.

- I'm very curious to see what kind of episode Heroes comes up with tonight. I think the sheer cool-factor of last week's ending made many (me included), willing to ignore the fact that the rest of the episode was not exactly A-level material. So Heroes has raised its own bar a little, which is a good thing. But I hope it can build off of that momentum and not disappoint. We'll see. A random internet review I read said it best - it's like Hiro is the star of his own much cooler, much better show that somehow got downsized to simply being a subplot within the tapestry of Heroes. Let's hope the rest of the show catches up.

- Also curious about tonight's Studio 60. I thought last week's ep built a lot of positive momentum that looks to continue into tonight's installment, and the inclusion of Lauren Graham as a guest star can't hurt things. NBC needs to get this show to a different timeslot, pronto.

- I also never got a chance to write about last week's Locke-centric episode of LOST. To sum up, the episode totally captivated me for the first ten minutes or so. Locke's hallucinatory dream sequence was tres cool and was a definite TIVO moment, but it was all downhill from there. The flashbacks seemed to add an unnecessary additional layer to Locke's character, and didn't seem to tie organically into anything else about Locke's past that has been revealed to this point. Also, i think this show far too often falls back on meaningless conversations about faith and destiny in place of actual insight into characters or plot points. The entire search for Mr. Eko and the crazed polar bear was just so random and in many ways lame, as were the various explanations for what happened to the castaways caught in the hatch "implosion." Charlie was fine and acting like nothing had happened. Eko was randomly near death in a bear cave. Locke inexplicably couldn't speak for all of ten minutes. And Desmond was randomly wandering around naked on the island, raving like a lunatic (moreso than usual) and apparently gained the ablity to forsee the future? Whaaaa?!?! This ep exemplified many of the key recurring problems with Lost by just throwing about a dozen different concepts against the wall, seeing if they stick, and asking us to just throw all logic out the window and go along for the ride. Part of my disappointment with the ep probably stemmed from how much I've enjoyed previous Locke eps, but this was also undeniably an uneven and ultimately frustrating installment of Lost, a definite come-down after the relative high quality of the last few weeks.

- I am continuing to like 30 ROCK, and Tracy Morgan continues to make me laugh more than anyone on network TV not named Dwight Schrute. While the sitcom as a whole is still not completely gelling, as much of the cast seems to be lost in the shuffle, the humor has been spot-on. I mean, the NBC Page, in full uniform, smiling like a dope while being grinded on by an overeager female intern? Comedy gold. Yep, NBC Pages are inherently funny. As for 20 GOOD YEARS, I did get a few hearty chuckles from last week's ep, as the situational comedy veered into only-in-sitcomland-style craziness, with Lithgow and Tambor contemplating sharing a mutual love interest, going so far as to almsot have a threesome. You can imagine the zaniness that ensues ... EW this week had a funny little Love Him or Hate Him piece about Lithgow. Personally I'm a fan but can see how he can be annoying. But in the case of 20 Good Years, I think Lithgow's sheer enthusiasm and energy is what saves the sometimes uninspired comedy at play.

- Alright, that's all I've got for now. If you've seen The Prestige, hit me up and let me know what you make of the ending, it's one of those movies I'm chomping at the bit to discuss in detail. And with that, I say Abracadabra, and goodnight.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quick Reviews: Veronica and Gilmore

Just some quick reviews for you here:


Overall, this was probably my favorite episode of the season to date. It was great to see Weevil back (even if he's apparently been hitting the donuts while in jail ...), and his presence made the episode feel a little more like classic Veronica Mars. Also, Ed Begley Jr. is always welcome on anything as far as I'm concerned, and he is a great addition to the cast as the Dean of Veronica's college and a great new foil for our main character. I agree with the fans who have complained about the changes to the show's formatting / editing style though - I miss the old format of having an extra-long cold open that drew you into the story before the old (good) theme song began to play and get you pumped up for the episode ahead. The newly remixed themesong is just so drab ... But, anyways, the dialogue here was just crackling, and there was a lot of good character interaction as well. Weevil had some great scenes with Keith Mars - it's too bad they didn't have more of a build up to his losing it and going ballistic on the crooks he was tailing - that would have been a cool scene if we had actually seen it after some build up, perhaps over a span of a few episodes. Well, I guess one thing you can't accuse this show of is Lost-style decompression. Also, I know that some people are critical of Logan acting like a jerk in this ep, which is supposedly out of character for him. I am fine with it though, as Logan has, mostly, been characterized as a jerk, and his recent star-crossed romance with Veronica has been an exception to his usually erratic behavior. Logan even said it in this ep - Veronica has a problem in falling for bad boys, so I think it's only natural for the real Logan to come out after theh oneymoon period of their relationship is over. So yeah - good episode, nice little mini mystery here as well as some good stuff that planted more seeds for plot threads to come. And hey, any show that repeats the "Larry, is this your homework?" scene from The Big Lebowski verbatim, yet does so totally in the context of the story, has attained a level of storytelling genious that you've gotta recognize. This still isn't hitting on the level of Season 1 or 2, but it's getting there.

My Grade: A -


Yes, this WAS easily the best episode's of Gilmore's season to date. After spending last weekend watching Edward Herrmann play a vampire mastermind in Lost Boys, I have a newfound respect for his acting range - but there's no denying that he completely owns as Grandpa Gilmore, and tonight he delivered yet another great performance. Kelly Bishop stole the show though as Emily Gilmore -- both her and Herrmann are so overdue for Emmy Awards it's not even funny. Overall, this ep felt by far the most natural of any ep since the move to the CW - the dialogue all felt on target, and the excahnges were practically overflowing with quotable lines. Paris was hilarious as always, and she even went on an extended rant about the Hartford Courant! Nice ... Also, I am probably in the very small minority of people who has grown to love Luke's daughter April. The young actress playing her is great, and I got a real kick out of her interactions with her hapless dad in last night's ep. Rory's encounter with the two artsy girls was pretty amusing as well ("genious!"). Excellent ep - good to see Gilmore getting back on track.

My Grade: A

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Name is Daniel-San. I'm From the Future.

Well, I was pretty proud of myself last night. Not only did I finally do some jogging but I also went to sleep before midnight. And yet, after an all too quick eight hours of sleep, I could still barely drag myself out of bed in the morning ... how do most people do it?


- Why do most barbers / hairstylist people have odd or unflattering haircuts?

- Why is my office parking garage equivalent in complexity to a Zelda level?

- Why do people post one or two blogs on their MySpace profiles, then never update, and in doing so make their MySpace pages really depressing since all they have is some list of complaints about life from like last March?

- Weren't all those cable TV workout shows in the early-mid 90's basically just porn movies without the nudity? Think about it ...

- Is it weird that I answer my work phone by just saying "Hello?" ...? I mean, what am I supposed to say?

- Is it normal for me to basically feel like a complete idiot whenever I wear a button down shirt tucked into khaki pants to work? I've never liked this look, and yet I go with it on average about 3 out of 5 days a week.

- Doesn't it suck that by living in a city where you drive everywhere, you are missing out on all the natural excercise one gets in a pedestrian-oriented city like New York or Boston? So, what, now I have to spend an extra half an hour wasting time, running around, all because I drive to work? Hmm, I guess I'm also saving a lot of time by driving, but, then again, not really, considering how bad the traffic is.

TV STUFF, aka: NBC has a good night.

- Yes, I'll say it loud and proud: NBC did good last night. Care for me to elaborate? No? Too bad, keep reading.

- The first time I was really into HEROES was when I read the original version of the pilot script. I was totally captivated and giddy with excitement over the show's potential.

The second time I was really into Heroes was last night, during the show's last 5 minutes.

Last night, Heroes finally "got it." Yes, much of the ep was still hampered by wooden acting and bland dialogue. But, plot-wise, the show finally seemed to grasp a very important truism. You see, until now, Heroes has been all about aping the specificities of comic books - the powers, the archtypes, the on-the-surface trappings. But last night, the show finally captured what it is that makes people fall in love with comics to begin with - more so than the powers or the costumes, it's the wonder and excitement - the feeling that, unlike your typical serialized TV show, anything can happen. And that's why I loved last night's cliffhanger ending so much - it was a true "holy $%&!" moment, not just visually, but story-wise. It was a moment that basically blew the doors off this series, so that it isn't just a comic book with all the fun stripped out anymore - now, it is still grounded in reality, still dark and moody, but it now, finally, has that X-factor, that "anything can happen" feeling. Great stuff.

Fortunately, the coolness of the ending helped overshadow much of the lamer stuff on the show. Mohinder's aimless character still feels like he changes from week to week, with no real purpose other than as a master of pretentious exposition. Pete, the older of the two brothers, is just about as bland as can be. And Ali Larter's kid is still way too annoying. The actress who plays teenaged Claire does seem to be growing into her character, but, still, the writing has prevented us from really getting a feel for her character.

But, for the first time since I read that original script, I feel invested in what happens on this show, and am excited for the directions that the plot could go in.

My Grade: B+ (B- for most of the ep, A for the ending)

- Then, I was pretty impressed with last night's Studio 60. I thought the focus on the characters helped to minimize the annoying political preachiness that has marred the last few episodes. Some of the humor finally took a self-deprecating attitude, bringing things down a notch and giving some perspective that this was, in fact, a sketch comedy show here - not a control room at the Pentagon or something. Take the guy-dressed-as-Lobster interrupting Christine Lahti's speech about how culturally signifigant the show is - a great little moment that helped remind everyone - on the show and us watching at home, that we needn't take things so seriously. Speaking of Lahti, she also seemed to tone it down a bit from last week, and did a great job here. It was also great to see Ed Asner again, and the old vet made more of his few lines than most actors do with an entire episode's worth of dialogue. While the Studio 60 crew focused on character moments, Amanda Peet and the network people were left to deal with the weekly great American debate on ethics, art vs. commerce, etc. Yet another semi-annoying Peet-as-crusading-I-have-the-moral-highground-exec subplot, but as I mentioned, the inclusion of Ed Asner gave a previously unforseen level of gravitas to the storyline's resolution, so it came off a as a lot easier to stomach than it might have otherwise. So yeah, good stuff - now let's see what they can do about making the comedy bits actually seem funny. But hey, at least Matthew Perry was bold enough to bitingly call a sketch "almost good" here - a welcome change from the last few weeks where lame Gilbert and Sullivan bits and jokes about over-diagnosed schoolkids have been passed off as brilliant satire. Steps in the right direction.

My Grade: A -

Alright ... that's all I've got for now. But yeah, last night, between Future-Hiro on NBC and Kevin Federline getting his ass beat in a wrestling ring in front of thousands of jeering fans on USA, there was plenty of televised entertainment to be had yesterday.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Today's blog brought to you by Spy-der ....

Monday once again, and it's back to work after a packed weekend of horror-filled fun.

Friday night, my annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon kicked off the weekend with a bang. It was a small but enthusiastic group this year, though that is probably ideal for a gathering such as this, where everyone was primed and ready for some hardcore movie watchin'. Not to mention, had any more people tried to pack into my studio apartment, seating might have become an issue. But anyways, I was very happy with the movie selection this year, as it was a nice mix of the weird, the campy, and the straight-up scary. Things started off the right way with the traditional viewing of a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode, and then as more people started to arrive, we segued into Lost Boys - a highly enjoyable but extremely 80's-riffic cheese-fest replete with mullets galore, two Coreys, a young Kiefer Sutherland, and hard-rocking vampire biker gangs. Suffice to say, some of the scenes and lines in the movie are just classic. As a few more people arrived, we got serious with the original Friday the 13th, highly appropriate considering Friday's date. Anyways, the movie was full of vintage scares and had some legitimate creepiness. Since my knowledge going in was fuzzy at best, I was surprised to find that this movie has no hockey masks in sight and Jason Voorhes, who later became synomonous with the franchise, only makes a cameo appearance in the original film. Oh well, it is easy to see how this, along with Halloween, became the prototype for endless slasher movies to come. Finally, as our eyes grew bleary and stomachs became full from pizza and candy, we settled in for the trip-tastic mind$#%& that is Donnie Darko - not quite a horror movie per say but plenty weird enough to make it appropriate for the occasion. While I've now seen it a number of times, I still get a kick out of trying to wrap my head around just what the hell is going on in this movie, and watching it with a group always leads to some interesting interpretations. So yeah, overall, it was another great chapter in the annuls of Halloween Horror Movie Marathon history.

Saturday there was no rest for the weary, as a group of adventurous souls shook off the cobwebs from the previous night's festivities and headed down to Buena Park for our second annual excursion to Knott's Scary Farm.

Again, I can't help but wonder -- why is it that last year so many people were game for a trip to Knott's, yet this year so few were up for it? I honestly don't get it - it's October, it's a once a year event, it's tons of fun at one of the country's best Halloween attractions. Why WOULDN'T one want to go? I just can't get over how lame it is that we couldn't get a good group of ten to twenty people together like we did last year. But in any case, our smaller group still went and had a great time - I just am of the opinion that for things like this, the more the merrier.

But yeah, Knott's was lots of fun - the haunted mazes were as crazy as ever, and for sheer comedy value there's nothing quite like watching scared-out-of-their-mind preteens running at full speed around the park to escape the clutches of chainsaw-wielding evil clowns in hot pursuit. Oh man ... hilarious. And yes, despite arriving late thanks to truly horrific traffic outside the park (and a somewhat shady dinner at Paul's, the only slightly-less-sketchy alternative to nearby Hoff's Hut ...), we still managed to hit up all the big haunts -- Lore of the Vampire, Hatchet High, Redbeard's Revenge, and Lost Vegas were just some of the places we braved in the darkness and fog-engulfed landscape.

And yet one other minor complaint - sure we were all tired and worn out after a few hours of haunted thrills ... but, why is it that in like 3/4 of all photos of me I end up looking like a total weirdo? Honestly, I had to immediately delete like a quarter of the pics I took because I end up looking like a complete freak in them. I swear, cameras hate me.

But in the end, Knott's was an awesome time, and a great bookend to a truly terrific weekend of terror.

Sunday continued to be busy, as I rested up from the late night Saturday and the nset out to meet my great uncle Josh and his wife for dinner in Brentwood. A nice time was had and it relaxed me for the week ahead ... But man, with all the Halloween-related excitement this weekend, it's hard to beleive that the day itself is still weeks away.

- Which leads me to a question ... the big Halloween bash (the spiritual sequal to last year's superlative Page-O-Ween, I guess ...) that was supposed to happen on pre-Halloween weekend is now postponed to the first week of November on order of its organizer! This means that, a.) that, like FOX's annoying habit of airing the Simpsons Halloween specials in November, the party now loses much of its seasonally-contingent luster, and, b.) I have no idea what I'm doing the weekend before Halloween. So, if anyone has ideas or is doing something exciting, let me know!


- Last week's SMALLVILLE was a very entertaining ep until the ultra-sappy last 10 minutes, during which I had to check to make sure I wasn't watching a Lifetime original movie. That ending sequence was just so long and pointless and awkward -- do we really need it spelled out for us that Lana Lang and Lex Luthor are now sleeping together? I hate when this show veers into semi-scandalous territory like this - it just clashes unpleasantly with the show's generally innocent and fun and all-ages-appropriate nature. I hate when this show goes for the cheap ratings boost by inserting extra skin and scandal. And it sucks, because aside from the ending, this was a really fun ep - lots of cool f/x with the villain of the week, and the notion that a bunch of alien badguys escaped from the Phantom Zone along with Clark is a fun idea and great fodder for future storylines. I thought the writing was especially sharp for most of the ep as well, with some great moments for the suddenly-likable Jimmy Olsen and Chloe, some interesting Ollie Queen stuff, and some long-needed pointed exchanges between Lex and Clark. But with my complaints being what the are, I can only give this otherwise excellent episode a grade of: B

- Finally watched last week's STUDIO 60. I continue to enjoy the character dynamics on the show but like many, I'm getting increasingly put off by way that the writing equates each little hurdle for the characters and show-within-the-show to the goings-on in, say, the West Wing. Too preachy and too self-important, I continue to feel that the show's best and most enjoyable moments are when it allows the characters and situations to be goofy and actually reflect the fact that it is about a sketch comedy show. Case in point - I thought Matthew Perry's baseball bat-through-the-window gag was the highlight of an otherwise way-too-angsty and pretentious lecture on plagiarism and the lengths that the show would go to to apologize for its error. Finally, I loved Christine Lahti on Jack and Bobby and was happy to see her here, but am wary of yet another hitch-up my bra-and-powerwalk female character on the show. My Grade: B -

- Anyways ...

That's about all I've got for now. Take it easy everyone - now quit readin' and get back to work.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th - The Weekend of Terror Begins

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. "

Yes, today is Friday the 13th. And for me tonight kicks off a Weekend of Terror that begins tonight with my annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon (early this year to coincide with the uniquely eerie date today), and continuing tommorow with a return trip to Knott's Scary Farm.
Kickass. I love this stuff ...


- By the way, Chag Sameach in honor of Succott. I miss the days at BU when we always had a good time at the anuual Hillel dinner beneath the Succah along Com Ave. That always seemed to be a time when you'd be guaranteed to meet new people and have some interesting adventures, even if it was always a pain to carry a wobbly tray stuffed with food down that narrow staircase of the old Hillel building and into the Succah, where we were all packed like rats into the enclosure. But it was nice to have somewhere to celebrate the holiday and fulfill the mitzvah of shaking the lulav and holding the etrog. Plus I always thought the various laws and rules pertaining to observing the holiday and building / living in a Succah were kind of interesting for how detailed and arcane they were. Then, of course, Succott culminates in Simchat Torah, which is a celebration that I never quite took to at BU - too crazy for me to be around so many drunk orthodox Jews dancing around with the Torah, but quite a sight to see nonetheless. I still smile when I think about me and Aksel walking by Chabad and encountering these crazy drunken Chasids, making a new l'chayim every minute or so, and randomly yelling at everyone who passed: "Are you Jewish?!?! Are you Jewish!?? Half Jewish?" Hilarious.

- Last night, I attended a dinner in honor of three NBC pages leaving the program - Kelly, Adam B, and Johanna. Very surreal, as these are almost the last remaining pages left who overlapped with my time as an NBC page. Sure, I've now met some newer pages at various parties and stuff, but it's not quite the same ... This is it - the end of an era. But I hope that this isn't the end of gatherings like last night, where a good 30 or so people came out for the occasion. Good times.

- Really looking forward to The Prestige next week. I love the theme of magic, I love the turn-of-the-century setting, and I love the casting of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, David Bowie, and Scarlett Johansson. Mostly though, after Memento and Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan has yet to disappoint, and is one of the few big budget blockbuster directors to understand the importance of mood, character, and script. This should be great.

- Terrance Howard in Iron Man, as the man who will become War Machine? Awesome.

- Sascha Baron Cohen oppositte Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd? Also potentially awesome.

- That trailer for Robert Rodriguez's half of he and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, aka Planet Terror? Yes, once again, awesome.

- John Cena's first starring role as The Marine? Well the fact that it has had ZERO screenings for critics, and that the few early reviews have been horrid, does not bode well for Cena's prospects of being the next Rock. And this coming from a big Robert Patrick fan ... I mean he WAS Agent Doggett ...


- THE OFFICE - Yet another hilarious episode, I figure this one will be a crowd-pleaser since it had both a ton of random humor as well as an extra-helping of heart (heart perhaps layed on a bit too thick in the overly heart-string tugging ending). But overall this was another excellent ep, continuing a string of hilarious installments of The Office, currently establishing itself as the best comedy on TV right now. My Grade: A -

MY NAME IS EARL - Another fun if somewhat light-weight episode, especially funny since I love Ethan Suplee as Randy and find him pretty hilarious at times. Plus, as The Simpsons has shown us (and 30 Rock tried to), Cat Lady's are pretty inherently funny. My Grade: B+

- But hey between Ethan Suplee on Earl and Ryder Strong on Veronica Mars, Boy Meets World lives on! Now yank that girl who played Topanga away from her National Lampoon Dorm Daze movies and get her back on network TV!

- Have yet to watch Smallville from this week, but it seems promising ... Green Arrow!

Alright ... time to firmly plant one foot in reality, and the other in The Twilight Zone. Fun times ahead. Bwahahahahahaha ....

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I'm Straight-Up Trippin'!"

Man, what a long, tiring week. I guess after two Monday-less work weeks in a row, going the full five days is really taking its toll. This is also one of those weeks where I wanted to leave my weekend completely open, as I've got a lot of stuff planned. That means that getting home from work every day only leads to a seemingly neverending assortment of errands and chores. Laundry, cleaning, groceries, etc. All of that combined with the fact that I watch too much TV does not make for a relaxing week, and I've been getting much too little sleep over the last few days. Also, strange, messed-up dreams are pretty normal for me, but the last few days I've just been waking up in a cold sweat from the sheer weirdness and horrific nature of some of these dreams I've been having. I guess the Friday the 13th vibe I've been on is starting to seep into my dreams or something.

In any case, this weekend should be a good one. Friday is my annual Halloween Horror Movie-Thon, which has been going strong since the BU days. Saturday, me and a few intrepid thrill-seekers make a return visit to Knotts' Scary Farm, which has gotta be one of the absolute coolest places to visit during the Halloween season. Basically, the entire theme park (normally a Six Flags-esque park called Knotts' Berry Farm), is converted into a dark, sprawling labrynth of haunted mazes, each amusingly themed, covering the gamut of horror faves from vampires to pirates to killer clowns. They really do a great job - the only comparable experience I've been to was when they used to have Haunted Happenings in the old G. Fox building in Hartford, though that was one giant haunted hause whereas this is like fifteen separate attractions scattered throughout the park. And, the haunts here definitely beat the cheesy attractions in Salem, MA, although you can't beat the sheer atmosphere of walking around Salem in all its authentic haunted glory. That's one thing about being here in LA in October - it just doesn't have the same feel to it as being in New England - as the leaves turn orange, the air begins to chill, and it really begins to feel like Halloween as October comes 'round.

Anyways, this weekend should be great. My only other regret is that I am already kind of nostalgic for last year when we had a great group of NBC pages who participated in all of these events. Now, many have gone their seperate ways, and getting a big group together for anything these days is about the equivalent of pulling teeth.

But yeah ... tommorow is Friday the 13th, a slight chill is in the California air, and I'm primed and ready for a weekend of scary fun. Hopefully, there's also time to catch up on a little sleep ...


LOST - I thought last night's ep, like the premiere, was a really well-put together hour of TV. Excellent acting from all involved, and I almost always enjoy the Jin and Sun-centric episodes. Just the mere fact that tens of millions of typically xenophobic Americans are tuned into an episode of a show that is primarily subtitled really amuses me. But aside from that, the Jin/Sun eps tend to have a kind of simplicity and intensity to the flashbacks that I enjoy - they really do take on the rythems of a foreign film in some ways. And man, the Others were real bastards in this ep, so I was all excited when Sawyer began to kick some Other ass (btw, I still laugh out loud whenever Jin says "Others" - just something funny about that to me). But yeah, this show is amazing when it comes to manipulating emotions and heightening the tension. And mostly, this ep got away with having little to no plot advancement because, from the start, it was almost purely about the character dynamics. So I wasn't too bothered by the continually glacial pace at which the show reveals information. And I love how the diehard Lost fans are like "No! A ton was revealed! Now we know that they live in 2004 and it's been 69 days since they crashed and they are in the real world!" Um, no. Whoever said they WEREN'T in the real world? Giving an answer to a hypothetical question is not plot advancement, fanboys. If it is, then I cant wait for the next big series of revelations, where it's revealed that the Castaways are NOT in outer space, that they are NOT in an alternate dimension, and that they are NOT actually figments of the imagination of their genetically-mutated clones. Jeebus. But hey, the Redsox bit was funny, I admit, and the episode had a lot of cool character moments and nearly every scene was gripping and had my full attention. The Sawyer-Kate stuff, the Jin/Sun backstory, the Henry Gale / Benjamin Linus scenes, and the continuing intrigue behind the character of Juliette - all top-notch. For now, I'm just watching in leave-brain-at-the-door mode. But sorry, it's against my nature to be that way for long.

My Grade: B+

And since all the geeks are disecting the name Benjamin Linus ... well here's my own two cents ... Benjamin = the youngest brother of the Bible's Joseph - the one innocent one who did NOT participate in assaulting Joseph in the famous incident involving the Coat of Many Colors.
Linus = the innocent boy-child of Peanuts fame, who goes nowhere without his security blanket and waits and waits for the Great Pumpkin to appear every Halloween to minimal success.

Thusly, the man formerly known as Henry Gale may be the boychild who has lost his innocence - the prodigal son of the Dharma initiative's founders who has now been hardened by his responsibilities as leader of the group.

Still, I feel like the key to Lost's plotline may lie HERE - in the Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life," in which an omnipotent little boy uses his powers to keep a town wrapped around his bratty fingers, which means that Linus may indeed be "a bad man, a very bad man!" Thoughts?

HEROES - Again, I find myself loving anything on this show having to do with Hiro. A great, fun character, and that scene with him stopping time to save a girl from getting run over was awesome. But nearly everything else about this show is marred by poor casting, wooden writing, and bland plotting and characterization. I don't mind the show being dark, in fact I respect the fact that it's willing to go into some pretty out-there, creepy territory (ie the shocking ending visual, which due to less than ideal f/x came off as slightly cheesy ...). But, in a show about, well, heroes, they need to mix in a sense of wonder, of awe, in with the brooding darkness. Only Hiro so far brings any of that element to the show. I'm also increasingly souring on Claire, aka Cheerverine, who has become almost comical as a walking death-magnet, getting assaulted, mauled, or fatally injured in each episode to date. The two brothers are just not working for me, and neither are Ali Larter, her annoying son, the Indian professor and his totally nonsensical scenes, or the psychic cop who is about as bland as can be. Plus, that heavy-handed narration has got to go. There are glimmers of greatness in this show (mostly in the form of Hiro), but there's way too much that is falling flat.

My Grade: B -

VERONICA MARS - Well, the latest EW echoed my concerns that this season will be Veronica-lite, and this ep continued with an entertaining but still slightly off installment that had all the great dialogue, character, and style I expect from the show, but slightly less bite. But man, talk about cool cameos. Freaks and Geeks' Sam Levine! Boy Meets World's Ryder Strong! Hahaha, talk about a blast from the past. As only Veronica Mars is capable of, this ep took a somewhat pedestrian mystery on the surface and turned it into a Hammett-worthy potboiler. I still just feel like the main storyarc feels a bit too OC, and the Kieth arc, dark and gritty to compensate, is still confusing and has yet to really draw me in. But these are the critiques of a huge Mars fan -- this is still barnone one of the best TV shows out there, and I have faith that this opening arc is merely the calm before the storm.

My Grade: B+

GILMORE GIRLS - Sorry, but there's something awkward and slightly creepy about seeing eternally innocent Rory and Lane having extended conversations about phone sex. There just is, I don't care how adult little Rory has become. That aside, this was another good ep made all the better by the welcome return of grandparents Richard and Emily. The etiquette class that Emily taught was hilarious, and these two actors just bring a totally different level of class and quality to this show. Overall good stuff, but I can't take much more of Rory and Lorelai being so, well, dirty. More wholesomeness with my Gilmore Girls, please.

My Grade: B

- So I also tuned in Tuesday to watch Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz on Spike TV. I flipped back to Veronica as the fighters were introduced, flip back at the next commercial, and the fight was over! Talk about anticlimactic ... this is why UFC has nothing on fake wrestling - I like my epic grudge matches to actually be epic, thank you very much.

30 ROCK - NBC's latest sitcom is pretty friggin' funny so far, thanks largely to Tracy Morgan given freedom to do his thing. I've been a huge fan of Morgan's comedy since I first saw him go back and forth with Norm McDonald on SNL's weekend update as Dominican Lou. Morgan's over the top delivery, randomness, and general insanity had me rolling, and of course there's also Alec Baldwin doing his deadpan thing to great effect. This show definitely had more laughs than most. I do feel like, so far, it's a bit uneven. While it had plenty of great one-liners, it had a kind of thrown-together feel that left me questioning how invested I was in any of these characters. Plus, I liked it better with Rachel Dratch in a lead role. Still, this was good stuff - a much welcome lighter look at the TV biz compared to the overly serious Studio 60. And yes, the NBC Page character is hilarious, and I give points for the authenticity of his polyester uniform, hideous tie and all.

My Grade: B+

20 Good Years - The old school charm of this show is tempered by a distinct feeling that everything is forced. While Lithgow and Tambor give it their all, there's only so much tht these two verteran talents can do with a by-the-numbers script that is saved only by the sheer enthusiasm and charisma that the two leads bring to their roles. But man, that laugh track really stood out to me - more so than on other traditional sitcoms, this one felt like a smart, hpotentially hilarious single camera trapped within the confines of the multi-camera, laugh-track sweetened boundaries. Still, I get a kick out of Lithgow's ranting and raving and Lithgow's put-upon grimacing - I just wish they had material that was more worthy of their natural abilities. I want to like this show, it just doesn't feel as funny as smart or as sharp as it could be. But yeah, "I am the reborn!" got a hearty chuckle out of me.

My Grade: B -

Alright, peace - out until next time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

You Talkin' To Me? THE DEPARTED Review and Much MORE

Back from the weekend, and not quite ready for another Monday. I'm telling you, the world is a scary place right now. North Korea testing nuke - yeah, I mean everyone on earth not named George W. saw this one coming, but the prospect of Kim Jong having the power to level a major city is not exactly pleasant. My already paranoid mind went into overdrive last night, as I fell asleep after staying up too late watching CNN and MSNBC, and had all these crazy dreams involving nuclear warfare. One in particular was really strange ...


I was at some special screening of the Borat movie, that for some reason was held at this huge high school somewhere. Before the movie, everyone was mingling on the football field having a good time. I saw Sascha Baron Cohen emerge in full Borat getup, and went over and started talking with him, joking about Kazakhistan and whatnot. Suddenly, Cohen breaks character and in his normal voice starts yelling expletives, and I was like what is going on? I look up and there's like 25 giant missles coming right towards us. I started running for shelter than woke up, moments before I was to be vaporized. Crazy huh?


So yeah, it's just a messed-up world sometimes. The entire concept of a nuclear arms-race is just totally absurd when you think about it (if you're not convinced, watch Dr. Strangeglove ...), and the fact that we've been in a prolonged war with Iraq while allowing an insane dictator to openly test a nuke is, similarly, fairly mind-boggling. And meanwhile, conservative Republicans are writing scandalous emails to 16 year old Congressional pages while preaching about family values. Lesson: don't mess with pages!

But while I'm moping about the seemingly impending nuclear apocalypse (hey, wonder if JERICHO will get bumped up in the ratings now?), a movie came out this weekend that was the perfect catharthic experience for those feeling nihilistic. Yep, I'm talkin' 'bout ...


Now this, my friends, is a movie. A movie with texture, with layers. A movie that it's okay to find flaw in, because it works on so many levels that it invites the kind of analytical criticism that a great novel or play warrants. Was this scene the best way to emphasize that theme? Was this character used as effectively as possible? Whatever the case, Scorcese is back, and he's darn sure given us something meaty to think about with his latest, The Departed.

So far, The Departed is up there with my best of the year to date. It's Scorcese's return to the dark, gritty, violent, world of organized crime, and any fan of movies knows that that means that one of the best director's of the last thirty years is making a return to the genre he does best - in other words, this is a cause for celebration.

Of course, we as filmgoers are lucky, because Scorsece has assembled an amazing cast here. Aside from the quality of the performances, which I'll get to in a minute, it is unspeakably exciting to see young actors like Damon, DiCaprio, and Wahlberg mix it up with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen. This movie has a real "passing of the torch" feel to it that gives it an added layer of weight and depth that is exciting to watch as a fan of these actors. It's like the film equivalent of watching an aging but still-kicking Jordan match up with a hungry rookie named Kobe.

But yeah, DiCaprio and Damon each turn in career-best performances here. While Damon will probably be a bit overlooked, as his character was written in a lightly more over the top manner, DiCaprio brought an emotional depth and scrappiness to his role that made it a very memorable, perhaps Oscar-worthy performance. But watching Damon and DiCaprio play off of one another, despite scants amount of actual screentime together, made for a classic cat and mouse game. The tension between their characters was palpable even when not in the same scene, up to and including a climactic moment where they each have the other on the phone, too cautious to say anything and each waiting for the other to make the first movie. Classic.

Jack Nicholson is pretty great here as well, but what do you expect. Given the "rockstar" nature of his character, Jack is given creative license to be over the top, and he does so with the charismatic blend of scariness and zaniness that has made him one of cinema's most enduring stars. Sure, there are one or two moments where he probably oculd have toned it down a notch, but mostly, his schtick fits, because The Departed isn't so much a dead-serious film like Casino, but more so a black comedy a la Resevoir Dogs (Actually the two have much in common). So Nicholson's antics are fitting, hilarious, scary, fun, and don't overshadow everything else, because his theatricality works within this film's overall tone.

Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg are total scene-stealers in this movie. Baldwin does a slightly more self-mocking version of his "brass balls" character from Glengary Glenross, and proves yet again that nobody does self-important comedic deadpan like he does. The man can do it all - from drama to black comedy to sitcom humor (hello, 30 Rock). Wahlberg really surprised me in this movie. At first glance, his character is a typical ball-busting asshole cop. By the end of the movie, he is the surprise breakout character of the film, thanks to impeccable comedic timing and snappy line-delivery by Wahlberg. Baldwin and Wahlberg have some absolutely hilarious exhanges and individual lines that had the audience I saw the movie with applauding out of sheer appreciation.

The rest of the supporting cast is similarly great. Martin Sheen lends some added class to an already classy-production, but he centers the movie as one of the concious and father-figure to his two-faced colleagues in the police force. All of the other smaller roles are well-filled as well.

Also, relative newcomer Vera Farmiga does a very nice job as the woman caught between Damon and DiCaprio. Her storyarc is probably the toughest to swallow in the film, as it rings as being a bit too convenient .... but Farmiga is extremely solid and it's great to see a lead actress in such a star-filled cast who is legitimately talented, multi-layered, and believable, and not simply another star shoehorned in to complete an all-star lineup of name-actors. That being said, she has some great scenes with the two male leads, and does play a key part in completing the almost Shakespearian plot of the film.

Yes, I said Shakespearean. From its dark humor to its theatricality to its sometimes over-the-top plot twists, and especially with its classic Shakespeare-style ending (you almost wait for the characters to yell "I hath been smote!" as they systematically drop dead towards the end in increasingly sudden fashion), this really does feel like Scorcese's attempt at crime drama-as-Shakespearean tragi-comedy. But it all works. The narrative flows effortlessly, and the crisp directorial style heightens the mood and intensity but never overshadows the characters. This movie pulls off the tricky feat of gritty crime drama mixed with flashy humor with ease and grace.

Also, as a New Englander and BU grad, I love the way in which the film captures the feel of Boston. From the accents to the music (Dropkick Murphys!), to the bleak scenes of the T's rustic orange line to the local pubs to the overarching mentality of Irish scrappiness - this was a real film of and about Boston as much as some of Scorcese's other movies are films of and about New York.

Finally, as much as this was a classic Hollywood tale of cat and mouse games and guys caught on the wrong side of the law and betrayals and gunplay and snappy dialogue, it was also for me a movie that really came together thematically. A movie about the high price of lies and deception, about the inevitabilty of death and the self-destructiveness of criminals and those who hunt them. This, in the end, in spite of one's individual critiques or issues with it, was undeniably damn good movie-watching in the classic sense. They don't much make 'em like this anymore, so go to the theater, enjoy, and discuss.

My Grade: A

... So yeah, good movie watching this weekend. Also saw The 300 trailer on the big screen ("Tonight, WE DINE IN HELL!") and a few other solid-looking previews for The Black Diamond and a few others.

- Also, I finally, finally saw Network. I know, I'm about 30-odd years late in jumping on this bandwagon, but see this movie if you haven't already. Especially those of you who work in TV. Amazingly, it is as fresh a satire today as it must have been then, and it's scary how many of its visions of an entertainment and ratings-obsessed television industry have come to pass. So yeah, see it. A classic - a masterwork of superb acting and the potent combination of Sidney Lumet's directing and Paddy Chayefsky's words. And, also, an obvious precursor to Studio 60.


- No new FOX stuff to report on, as most shows are on hiatus for the baseball playoffs.

- Like I said, I was all ready to dump Jericho but I have to admit, I am now almost more morbidly curious about what if any parallels exist between the show's fictional nuclear attack (hinted to be caused by North Korea) and our current real life political mess. If only the show were actually halfway decent. As it stands, it is atrocious. What a shame.

- You know, I'll go on record as predicting big things for 30 Rock and Twenty Good Years. On Friday, I saw the Departed in a fully packed theater, and the entire audience snickered and smiled when Alec Baldwin first appeared on camera -- it was clear that his hilarious character from 30 Rock was on everyone's brain. Those commercials have been doing a great job of promoting the show, and are just really funny. Everyone is pronouncing the sitcom dead but NBC, I am proud to say, has two pretty good ones coming up this Wednesday.


- A quick update on some good stuff I've been reading lately. Still have Brian K. Vaughn's "Pride of Baghdad" sitting on my coffee table. I'm waiting for a open weekend day where I can really sink into it, as I've been reading nothing but superlative reviews thus far. But anyways, here's some stuff I've been digging lately:

- PAUL DINI on DETECTIVE COMICS - Dini, you may know, was the mastermind, along with artistic collaborator Bruce Timm on the seminal Batman: The Animated Series. So to any Bat-fans out there, having Dini write Batman comics on a monthly basis as the new regular author of Detective Comics, is a dream come true. While Dini started off a little slowly, somwhat hampered by inconsistent art teams, with this month's ish Dini is firing on all cylinders. Clever dialogue, guest appearances galore, and gorgeous artwork thanks to Don Kramer. If Dini can keep this up, this is, no doubt, quintissential Batman.

- Y: THE LAST MAN - If you've read my blog consistently you know how much I've loved Y for the last few years. Simply put, this is epic, funny, exciting storytelling. This past week saw the release of the landmark issue # 50, and it was, as usual, a great read, filled with simple, clean, but amazingly emotive artwork from Pia Guerra. Set to end at issue 66, this issue was a reminder to savor the last year and hald of Y, possibly the best ongoing comic of the last 5 years.

MARV WOLFMAN on NIGHTWING - Marv Wolfman is a legend of comics. In the 1980's, he turned a poor-selling book called Teen Titans into the No. 1 comic on the charts, and did so by including unprecedented realism, maturity, and by taking beloved characters like Wally West and Dick Grayson (the original Robin), and actually having them do the impossible in the realm of comics -- grow up. Wolfman took Robin the Boy Wonder and turned him into Nightwing - a new incarnation of the hero who instantly became a fan favorite. Of late, Nightwing has had some rough times, not from any particularly dastardly supervillain, but from the menace of hack writing and lack of respect from DC editorial. So it was a huge relief to see Wolfman, who knows Nightwing better than anyone, come in to replace writer Bruce Jones, who in only several issues churned out some of the worst and most off-putting Nightwing tales ever told. Wolfman's writing is decidedly old-school, with some stilted narration and familiar plotting, and the art by Dan Jurgens is a bit inconsistent and not Jurgen's best. But man, after the atrocity that was Jones, the first Wolfman-penned ish felt was a very welcome return to familiarity. Even with its lack of new-school style and polish, the voice, the tone, the attitude felt right.

52 - What started as an experiment in weekly storytelling has quickly become a must-read for comic fans. As the story expands beyond the initial cast of primary characters, it really has begun to feel like a weekly glance into the fantastical world of the DCU rather than a conventional serial story. Half the fun is the spotlight on lesser-know supporting characters, including this past week's emphasis on Dr. Will Magnus, the pipe-smoking, plad suit-wearing ingenue and creator of the Metal Men. While this series has had its ups and downs, it's always the first thing I read every week, as it really does feel like a series where anything can happen.


- Whoah, Google bought YouTube for an insane amount of cash. I don't know about this one ... YouTube's grand social video-sharing experiment has yet to amount to much more than a bunch of clips of old TV shows and of girls dancing to Aqua songs. Similarly, Google's video offerings have thus far been weak. Can two wrongs make a right ...?

- Leave it to the local LA News to cover car chases and celeb scandal when the North Koreans are poised to blow us to kingdom come. Unbelievable.

- And yeah, I haven't mentioned it yet, but you may have noticed that the blog has surpassed the 15,000 hit count! Not too shabby, I dare say.

- Alright, thanks as always for reading. Keep reading, and I'll keep fighting the good fight.