Friday, March 30, 2007

Come on Baby Light My Fire! BURBANK IS BURNING!

What a weird day! Right this second, an enormous fire is raging RIGHT HERE IN BURBANK. Seriously, this thing is crazy. I ran out at lunchtime to grab some Subway, and as I've driving back towards NBC on Hollywood Way I look up and see what almost looked like a mushroom cloud sucked into a tornado. I was seeing a gigantic ploom of orange-gray smoke rising up from the hills behind the famous Warner Bros. water tower. Ummm ... what!?!? As I drive closer to NBC, I could see a fire raging along the hilltops surrounding Burbank and crossing into Universal City and Hollywood. Wow, I mean, I've never seen a fire of this magnitude up close and personal like this before. The air right now is filled with ashe, and even from inside my office I can smell the smoke from outside. Outside, the entire sky is obscured by smoke.

Finally, all of this is made all the more surreal by the fact that PAULA ABDUL is in our office ... RIGHT NOW.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Should I ask her if opposittes really do attract?

As 80's one-hit wonder band Midnight Oil sang:

"The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
Lets give it back
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep when our beds are burning?"

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who the Hell Is Nikki? LOST, THE WALKING DEAD, and MORE

- On last night's LOST:

On one hand, I really, really admired what this episode was trying to do. I loved the Twilight Zone / Alfred Hitchock-ish ending, and I appreciated the attempt at being quirky in a Daren Morgan-on-X-Files kind of way. Still, this episode felt like it had too much padding, and never quite broke through from the realm of merely "entertaining" into the category of "brilliant." Part of it was that Nikki and Paulo just weren't that great a pair of characters. Sure, there's only so much fleshing out that can be done in one hour, but I just never really "got" why, even after being stranded on an island for months, Nikki was willing to kill Paulo over a bunch of diamonds. Okay, she didn't kill him, just threw a paralysis-inducing medusa spider at his jugular. But still, the sentiment was there. Some of this ambiguity about the characters has to be attributed to the actors, who never really elevated the writing in any meaningful way. Nikki was never really shown as anything more than a conniving, D-list golddigger, and Paulo was, well, I really have no idea what Paulo's deal was, why he hid the diamonds, or why he ever agreed to go along with Nikki's con to begin with (other than her obvious, um, assets ...). I will say though, that it was pretty clever how the show's new favorite power couple was woven into many of Lost's "greatest hits" moments. In doing so, we got a few cool new insights into prior plot points. Especially interesting was the scene of Paulo listening in to Ben and Juliette's machinations in the hatch (except, remind me again why The Others at times dress like they're in a school play of Robin Hood?). My one big complaint with these types of scenes though (and I had the same issue with Smallville a few weeks ago) is that we are often forced to re-view long sections of past episodes just for the sake of inserting these new characters into them. Look! It's the Lost pilot justl ike you remembered it the first time, except that this time, Nikki and Paulo are there! See, they WERE there all along! This is what comic book fans commonly refer to as a "retcon," a retroactive alteration of a story's continuity for the sake of making new plot elements fit into an already established backstory. Now, while this retcon did give us a few cool scenes, and brought back fun characters like Shannon, Boone, and good ol' Artz (and who knew Artz was such a horndog?), it wasn't exactly subtle in its premise that Nikki and Paulo had been key players in the Lost mythology all along. And since they weren't especially compelling characters, and since their motives on the island weren't all that interesting (finding a sack of stolen diamonds), many of these flashbacks kind of dragged. Luckily, we had the present-day mystery of N and P's apparent deaths, and in these scenes we got Josh Halloway in rare form as Sawyer. His opening exchange with Hurley was classic. "Nikki's dead." "Okay, but who in the hell is Nikki?" That oddball sense of humor set the tone for the rest of the episode, although the quirkiness and humor was never really maintained throughout. In terms of humor and cleverness, this was no "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," or "Small Potatoes" (to cite some of the classic "quirky" X-Files episodes). Sawyer and Hurley had some great lines, some interesting randomness in the form of Billy Dee Williams as himself, and yes, I got a kick out of Paulo's $%&#-taking ways finally being explained. Still, this felt like an episode where many of the cool moments were padded with filler. I will say though that the sheer coolness of the buried-alive ending really helped redeem the episode for me, and made an otherwise decent episode into a much more memorable affair. I'd also caution those who think this was a purely standalone episode, because I have a feeling that we haven't seen the last of these two. As Locke said, nothing on the island stays buried for long.

My Grade: B

- And next week on Lost ... Catfiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight~!

- Help save Veronica Mars. Vote on E! Online's poll right now!

- Quick Sunday night FOX thoughts:

a.) The SIMPSONS was okay, and had some of the funnier lines in a while, most relating to the A-plot of Homer becoming an amateur member of the papparazzi. Still, it took like 15 minutes for this plot to get into gear, and overall things felt very uneven. In the glory days, this would have been a story that started in the first act and given time to develop. My Grade: B

b.) KING OF THE HILL was pretty damn funny, and I welcomed its return to TV with open arms. Who wouldda thunk it - Tom Petty is brilliant on this show as slow-talking Lucky. Lucky's oral history of his family's quest to uproot a rare tree stump was flat out hilarious. And Hank HIll remains one of my favorite characters in that you can't help but love his simultaneous weariness of Luck and his childlike glee at the prospect of goin' stumpin'. My Grade: A -

c.) Man, FAMILY GUY continues to suck. It's so sad to watch. This episode had barely one joke that even registered as remotely funny, and the flashbacks seem to get more random and unfunny with each passing week. My Grade: D


- I don't think I've yet mentioned this, but the deleted scenes on the BORAT dvd are amazing! Two scenes in particular - one with Borat in a massage parlor, and one where Borat hassles a grocery store clerk, are possibly more funny than anything in the actual movie! I'm STILL laughing over that grocery store scene two weeks later.

- This morning I somehow recived like 5 phone calls between 8 and 8:30 am. Who calls at that time? Unless it's an emergency, don't call me then! I freak out and think it's someone from work calling to tell me I missed an early meeting or something. People -- be mindful of someone's schedule. If you IM me at 6:55 pm, I'm most likely at work and desperately trying to leave. Not a good time to catch up. Word.

- More and more rumblings about a second X-FILES movie, with David Duchovny claiming a deal will be done as soon as this week. As a diehard X-Phile, I would love to see this happen before the show's two stars are using walkers and eating out of tubes. Realistically though, this is probably the last and only shot they'll get to do more X-Files, so if it happens, it had better be good!

- YES! I just read that a new edition of FLETCH will be released on DVD in May. One of my all time favorite comedies, and movies in general. Also, greatest soundtrack ever.

- Speaking of 80's cult classics, Kurt Russell on why no one else should play Snake Plissken but him:,,20015465,00.html

- Some quick COMICS stuff:

- THE WALKING DEAD is simply an incredible read. Several months ago I blew through the first three volumes but had yet to purchase Volume 4 until recently. And once again, as soon as I began the latest chapter in this story of a band of ragtag survivors in a world overrun with, well, the walking dead, I couldn't stop reading. Writer Robert Kirkman does an amazing job of putting the focus squarely on his characters, and making them into living, breathing creations. Imagine a show like 24, where it's established that no character is safe from biting the big one, where virtually anything can happen at anytime. Now imagine that same atmosphere of intense, life or death drama, except in a story where every character, from A to Z, is completely three dimensional and where, as a reader, you have a huge emotional stake in their well-being. Anyways, Volume 4 is where things kind of reach a boiling point. The group has already suffered heavy losses, but until now the core characters have at least had each other's backs. Here, Rick and Tyrese, usually like brothers, erupt into an all out brawl as the simmering tensions between them come to a head. The amazing thing here is that Kirkman clouds even the quiet moments with an impending feeling of dread and danger. Whenever characters go on a scouting mission, we never know if it will be just another routine outing, or the catalyst for some unforseen diasaster. As with all great horror movies, reading the Walking Dead, even through the character bits and interpersonal drama, has you on the edge of your seat, waiting breathlessly for the other shoe to drop. In addition, the artwork by Charlie Adlard is deceptively simple, but always effective, perfectly complimenting the writing and giving each character a distince and immediately identifiable look and personality.This is a must-read, one of my favorite pieces of fiction I've read in years - and this is coming from someone who's never been all that into zombies or even horror fiction as a whole. Forget all that, this is one of the best character-driven suspense dramas you'll find.

My Grade: A

- Have I mentioned how awesome God of War II is?

- Alright, I'm about done for today. ROCK.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This blog is like SO whatever. 24, Prison Break, and a TMNT Review!

"She's like, so whatever. You could do so much better!"

Oh Avril, you have come through again with yet another amazing piece of musical poetry. Yes my friends, Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is another instant-classic pop single that you will try to deny, ty to hate on, but really, deep down, you love it. After that decidely un-Avril-like Eragon soundtrack song she did, this is a return to the bratty poser we all knew and secretly loved. Hey heh yeah yeah (yes, I have issues).

Anyways ...

So much to talk about here. It's been a while, as it's been a crazy few days at work. I mean, I didn't even get a chance to do my customary post-24 / Prison Break wrap-up - that should tell you it was busy over here at the Peacock. And I have a new Ninja Turtles movie to review to boot.

Dude, yesterday I heard a guy use "'natch" in an actual conversation, as an abbreviated form of "naturally." Are you kidding me?

Okay okay enough digression. It may be a day late but it's not a dollar short, baby.


Hmmm, Monday's 24 was over the top, cheesy, and featured about 8 instances of Jack bellowing a gravitas-infused "Dammit!" To this I say: hells yeah - it may not have been pretty, but this was vintage 24. I mean, this week's 24 was totally absurd, but at least it was SOMETHING other than the boring, derivative-of-itself mess that it's been over the last few weeks. At least, for old time's sake, we had Jack Bauer involved in a classic ridiculous scenario, where he has to get the autistic brother of a rogue techie to complete an information drop to Russian baddie Gredenko. instead of badass Jack, we got kind, tender Jack, reassuring our Rain Man stand-in that everything would be all right. The thing is, even when he's in an absurd situation, Jack Bauer is always fun to watch, and Kiefer Sutherland makes every moment as intense as possible for our viewing enjoyment. The same can't be said for still-somewhat-lame side characters like Milo and Nadia, whose forced romance comes off like a lame retread of the far-superior Tony-Michelle courtship from back in the day. It's just that these characters have little personality or charisma. I mean did anyone really care one way or the other if Nadia wasn't really guilty of being a mole? That's the other thing - all of these storylines - a mole in CTU, a rebellious Vice President, etc seem to be recycled from past seasons. And yet, without great characters like David Palmer and Tony Almeda to carry these storyarcs, we have little investment in what happens. And to build up that missing tension, the writers are really forcing the issue. I mean, even apolitical Jack weighed in with a condemnation of the VP's plan of attack ... as if Jack, locked up for two years in a Chinese prison camp, has an intimate familiarity with the current middle eastern political landscape. So the payoff to all this political drama is Wayne Palmer rising from the dead, giving an executive order to call off the nukes. Okay ... kind of entertaining in a fairly goofy way. Of course, the previews for next episode show a critically injured Palmer up and about in a suit and tie. So much for bringing him out of his coma being potentially fatal ...? So now we get YET ANOTHER instance of the VP attempting to declare the Prez unfit for office. Ummmm, again? Dammit! Stick with Jack Bauer kicking the asses of cool villains like Gredenko, get rid of all this recycled, hackneyed CTU and White House crap, and give us some characters who don't suck. In the end though, this was actually a pretty entertaining episode, if only for Jack's absurd-but-highly-entertaining trap for Gredenko, and the sheer over-the-topness of Palmer being woken from his coma for the sake of politics. This was offset to some extent though by a totally "meh" Nadia-Milo story, more "who cares?" reaction to Doyle and co, and Powers Boothe as the Veep getting too ridiculous for his own good. PS - awesome music throughout the entire episode though.

My Grade: B

- PRISON BREAK though, hot dayum, now that was a badass episode. Prison Break wears its B-movie (dare I say Grindhouse-esque) comic bookishness on its sleeve, and for that I love it. Michael Scofield is getting more and more interesting as the pretty-boy version of Jack Bauer, and Lincoln Burrows is the brawn to his brother's brains - doesn't say much but can kick some ass when called upon. Anyways, this ep entertained my socks off. The highlight had to be the climactic Scoield vs. T-Bag showdown, punctuated emphatically by Michael skewering Bagwell through the arm with a giant knife. I mean, where else on TV do you get that? Kellerman was also a show-stealer in this ep, as he made his welcome return to the show and seemed to position himself as a changed man who will now potentially be Sarah's savior in her ongoing trial. Prison Break's biggest asset is that it is loaded from top to bottom with great characters, and each had his or her moment to shine in this ep. Mahone, Bellick, T-Bag, etc. Awesome stuff. I complained last week that the plotline was getting pretty contrived to arrange all the proverbial chess pieces, but that this was clearly being done to set up a real knockout of a finale. Well, good call by men, because all of last week's contrivances allowed for some good TV this week. Can't wait for next week's finale - as T-Bag said to Michael: "Bring it, bitch."

My Grade: A

- Excited for Lost tonight, if only to see the secret origin of "Take a $#%& Guy." But seriously, Lost has been on a roll of late and when it's on its game, Lost is, dare I say, the best show on TV? (Keeping in mind that 24 is having an off year, and poor Veronica Mars can't catch a break, scheduling-wise).

On to the movies ...

TMNT Review:

- As I've mentioned on the blog, I grew up with the Turtles. From the day I first saw the cartoon show as a kid, probably no other set of characters had ever fascinated me like those four green ninjas did at the time. It didn't hurt that in the early 90's, the Turtles were, quite literally, everywhere. More so than any kids' property to date, us young fanboys weren't just watching the Turtles on TV - we were shelling out dough for the movies, parading around in colored masks at Halloween, wearing the merchandise, and spending countless hours trying to get those damn underwater bombs to deactivate on the classic NES game all the while parading around in TMNT pajamas screaming things like "Cowabunga!" For my generation, having a favorite turtle was like having a favorite Beatle. My Turtle of choice was always Rafael "cool but rude." Not only did he have the coolest weapons by far (the sai blades), but on the cartoon he was always wise-cracking and basically too cool for school. Just my kinda hero. Of course, he sucked in all the videogames, but oh well. But let's look at what's happened since this halycon era of kids' TV programming. The way I see it, TMNT was kind of the last great gasp of the golden age of 1980's action Saturday morning cartoon programming. For the kids like me born in 1982, we were a little young to fully immerse ourselves in the worlds of Thundercats and Voltron, even though we watched those shows with great enthusiasm. But as it debuted in 1989, TMNT was kind of the first cartoon that kids my age didn't just watch passively, but became obsessed over. And it hit right as the NES and Gameboy were hitting their strides, and continued its run right into 1991 and 1992 when the 16 bit videogames gave us even more gloriously animated Turtles adventures. Of course, all of us kids spending all this time fantasizing about mutant turtles was looked at with a skeptical eye by most adults at the time. The show was deemed too violent, inappropriate, and in general, a bad influence. This was at a time when Nickelodeon was all about subversive, anti-establishment programming (think Ren And Stimpy), MTV was playing Nirvana and Pearl Jam videos, and violent videogames were exploding on to the scene(yet now look tame compared to Grand Theft Auto and the like). The backlash that ensued saw kids programming neutered, videogames scrutized, and a generation of kids weened not on GI Joe, He Man, and TMNT, but mild, nonsensical fare like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Nickelodeon dropped its subversive image and became a direct competitor to Disney, and MTV lost its rock n' roll mystique, instead targeting 12 year old girls.

This is all leading up to something, don't worry. What I'm building towards is this: I couldn't be happier that TMNT is back in the spotlight, and that it seems to be as much of a hit with kids as it is with us twentysomethings who get a kick of nostalgia from all this. Now, this comeback would be all for naught if the movie sucked. But luckily, what we have here is a fun, great-looking film that manages to be family-friendly yet "dark" enough so that all of us old-school Turtles fans can find something to enjoy.

To be honest, TMNT is far from a perfect movie. But you can't help but admire its sheer enthusiam for its subject matter and its nonstop energy. There's a constant "wow" factor at work here, and the CGI visuals, for the most part, look great. Stylistically, the human characters are a bit too Shrek-like and cartoonish for my tastes, and the detail level seemed to drop a bit depending on the scene. However, many scenes flat-out look awesome. I mean, not only is the Rafael / Leonardo fight the film's narrative high-point, but man, it just plain is a marvel to look at. The direction by Kevin Munroe is fast-paced, kinetic, and energetic, and most of the action sequences are very well done, with a distinct sensibility to them.

Now, many reviews I've read bag on the script / plot here. On one hand, I admit that the main plot is somewhat weak and definitely convoluted, to the point where we're never quite sure who the villains are and what's going on. But on the other hand ... well, something about the whole way-out-there comic book-level cosmic plot made me smile. A convoluted, cosmic plot that included mumbo jumbo about portals to other dimensions, immortal warriors, and 13 escaped monsters? It may be a bit much to reboot a franchise with, but at the same time, it felt like a real comic book storyline, not oversimplified or made more palatable because this was a movie. That doesn't excuse the fact that it wasn't the greatest plotline, but it definitely gave the whole movie a feeling of authenticity. Not to mention, it took advantage of the movie's CGI form to deliver a bunch of crazy looking creatures that wouldn't have been possible with live action.

The other thing is that, as we all know, the crazy story about monsters from another dimension is really just window dressing, as the real meat and potatoes of TMNT are the characters. It was great fun revisiting all the classic personalities, and seeing the classic supporting characters like April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and of course Master Splinter. Sure, they went the obligatory route of having April, once merely a reporter, reimagined as a Lara Croft-esque adventurer with mad kung-fu skills to boot, but hey, it worked, so whatever.

All the character dynamics were captured to a T. The dialogue however suffered at times, with many attempts at humor falling flat, and nowhere near as many laugh out loud or just cool moments as the orginal, live action movie. The Turtles' quips may not have been on the mark, but the voice acting at least was universally excellent. I mean, they got Patrick Stewart to play a B-list villain, what more can you ask for? Similarly, it was fun to hear the late, great Mako as Splinter, and everyone else did a good to great job.

Overall, this movie definitely had a few rough edges. The dialogue wasn't as sharp as it could have been, the music seemed off at times, and as I said, the plot was a bit convoluted and out there. But the movie nailed it where it most counts - the characters felt spot-on, the action was a lot of fun, and there were not only a number of nods to the past movies and cartoon, but plenty of seeds planted for future installments, including the fanboy-pleasing promise of a return for Shredder in the inevitable Part 2. And, as I said, I loved that this was really an all-ages, kid-friendly movie that still had plenty of appeal to all of us old-school fans. I loved seeing a new generation of kids going to the movie and becoming infatuated with the Turtles all over again. And I love that this movie was a box office hit, because to me that signals that a.) a CGI comic book movie can do well, b.) 80's / 90's franchises are a big draw, c.) all of these characters that we loved growing up are still viable today. A solid movie, more than deserving of a "Cowabunga!"

My Grade: B+

- Alright, I gotta jet. Back later with thoughts on LOST.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rafael Is Cool But Rude: Smallville, movies, MORE

Man, what a great month for the movies. We have a movie based on a Frank Miller comic (300), a movie based on a parody of a Frank Miller comic (TMNT), a throwback to the glory days of ET and Flight of the Navigator, etc (The Last Mimzy), a new Fincher film (Zodiac), a new Will Ferrell comedy (Blades of Glory), and then right after that we get Grindhouse. I mean, if you're a 12 year old kid you must be foaming at the mouth at the prospect of all this coolness. I know I am, and I'm 24.

I just got back from a really fun experience over at Universal. Me, L-Squared, and two other up and coming NBCU employees participated in a panel discussion for a bunch of interns looking towards their next step in the entertainment world. It was a great time answering questions and imparting my vast wisdom on these young minds, but honestly, the best thing was seeing how enthusiastic they were. Several people came up to me and were like "Wow your job is so cool," and the like, which was pretty energizing. While my day to day involves a lot of number-crunching, email-writing, and corporate red tape, it was pretty cool to have other people remind me why I should be excited about my job. It's kind of crazy though that these college students seem to have things so together. I mean some are only sophomores and they already seem to have their next 5 years planned out. One even told me she wished she could fast-forward and be out of college. I was like, "what?!?!" I want to rewind! Anyways, it was a great time, and really brightened up what otherwise has been kind of a monotonous work week.


- Last night's SMALLVILLE was yet another mediocre episode in what has been one of the most lackluster seasons of the show to date. While I enjoyed the fact that the ep had some nice action scenes (more action in the first five minutes than in all of Superman Returns!), the plot here was just total weak-sauce. Oooh, an underground fight club, never seen that idea used before. Not only that, but this ep had every lame Smallville cliche that we've all come to know and hate. I mean, who DIDN'T see it coming that, moments before Clark was forced to use his powers, Lois would conveniently get knocked out cold? Such lazy writing. And Clark just lets himself be broadcast on an internet site, without even wearing a mask or something? By this time, everyone in the universe knows that Clark Kent is superpowered in the world of Smallville. Finally, I could not believe how haphazardly they had Clark kill the phantom-zone escapee. I mean, one of THE biggest things with the modern Superman is that Superman doesn't kill. Yet rather than address Clark's stance on killing in a nuanced, well thought out manner, we get some trite throwaway bit of angsty conversation between Clark and his mom, in which he barely regrets his action for a minute. How such a MAJOR plot point could be done so half-assed is beyond me. Meanwhile, we had more whiny Lana, no Lionel, and fairly craptacular "acting" from the WWE's Kane and Ashley. I was actually surprised at how bad Kane was, seeing as how he's starred in his own movie. At least he got in a nice-looking chokeslam somewhere in there. In the end, this was a thoroughly below-average episode that delivered a few nice action scenes but little else, and, disappointingly, totally glossed over what should have been a huge deal in Clark actually taking a life.

My Grade: C -

- I hope everyone out there is watching ANDY BARKER, P.I. -- the show has so mmuch potential, it's scary. Like 30 Rock or The Office in the beginning, Andy Barker is still kind of finding its legs and while the premise is there, the laughs aren't as plentiful as they should be. But just watching the first two episodes, you could already see some nice development in that department, and last night's ep had a few genuinely laugh out loud moments. Watch this - make sure it has a chance to blossom from very good to great.

My Grade: B+

- I've been so into CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM lately. I just finished up the third season on DVD and began the fourth. So far, I'm not as into the 4th season's overarching anniversery storyline, but man - that finale to Season 3, with Larry David and co unleashing a barrage of profanity at his new restaurant's grand opening - is simply classic.

Alright everyone - I'm out - have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lost Locke-Down, Arcade Fire, TMNT, and MORE!

What's up everyone ...

- To start out, last night's LOST was plain and simply kickass, continuing a string of A-level episodes. This was Terry O'Quinn at his absolute best, and it was so great to see him reestablish Locke as the great character that made his mark on instant-classic episodes like Walkabout. I mean, this episode alone should see an Emmy reserved for Mr. O'Quinn. Take the scene where a newly-paralyzed John Locke was lifted into a wheelchair for the first time - wow, talk about intense. The sheer emotion and sadness on Locke's face was almost hard to watch. Locke is now, once again, one of the most interesting and complex and tragic characters on television, which is a huge relief after the last Locke centric ep from earlier in the season, which was uncharacteristically crappy. But last night - last night Lost hit a total home run. Great scenes with Locke and Ben - two great actors going at it. Lots of intrigue with Kate and Jack, interesting stuff with Alex and her mom Rousseau as well. The level of plot development, for once, felt spot on. We were given plenty of tidbits to chew on but it's not like they went overboard and blew the mystery of the show either. Right now, Lost has this great feeling of momentum where it really does feel like the curtain is slowly being pulled back more and more each week, even as the aura of mystery remains. Great stuff. The one huge vice of the show is the diminishing relevance of the flashbacks, but last night delivered one of the few *money* flashback arcs the show has left - the story of Locke's paralysis. These flashbacks were intense, tragic, dramatic, and cleverly tied into the main plot on the island. Man, Locke's dad is one evil bastard - when he pushed his own son out of a building ... man, that had to be one of the more sadistically evil things I've seen on a TV show in a while. Anyways, this was just great TV and I'm now more excited about Lost than I have been in a while. Thank you, Lost writers and actors, for (at least temporarily) silencing my doubts about the show. All other shows: this is how it's done.

My Grade: A

Okay, time for a rare MUSIC REVIEW on the blog. My review is of an album that I've been talking about here and there for a little while now ...


- So as you may know, I tend more to be into rock music that gets you on your feet and ready to go, rather than more mellow, contemplative fare. So it is a rare occasion that a band comes along - REM, Pearl Jam, a few others come to mind - who really blow me away with not just their ability to uplift, but their ability to sing about the larger issues, the bigger picture. This is why I can't stand most "emo" music. Whiny crap that has no bite. It's one thing to be a band with a wicked sense of ironic humor a la Weezer. It's another to be one of the endless line of lame bands who try to tap into your inner twelve year old girl: Death Cab, Modest Mouse, Dispatch, etc ... But Arcade Fire is different- their songs have that feeling of Dylan or Springsteen, even if the vocals lack that rougher edge. Their songs feel legitimate - a product of their time - a substantive reflection of the world today. At the same time, the music is big, huge, epic, operatic - with multiple vocals, varied instrumentation, and a real narrative feel. Neon Bible isn't a concept album per se, but it feels like one giant statement - a sad yet oddly optimistic look at the world we live in. There's politics here, pop culture, references to 9/11, Ashlee Simpson, the religious right, and more. But the social commentary never feels cheesy or forced, and instead it all lends to the music's haunting tone, that churns out ideas that stick with you. For the last few days, for example, I've had the utopian chant, "No Cars Go," stuck in my head, and I keep coming back to the images in the song, trying to figure out what it all means. Before that it was "Intervention," which sucks you in to its loud, bombastic lament, which, I think, is about the War In Iraq, but who knows. In the end, this is just great, timeless music, that at the same time is of the here and now. It's rich, textured songs seep into your brain and don't let go. I'd highly recommend this album.

My Grade: A


- I am so excited for TMNT. Who's with me on this. I love the fact that this movie is out there and poised to be a hit with kids and nostalgic young adults everywhere. I mean, anyone my age will speak in hushed tones of the glory days of Saturday morning TV - when heroes were heroes. GI Joe, Thundercats, He Man, and the Ninja Turtles. Now it seems like every movie or TV show geared towards kids has fuzzy animals spouting instantly dated pop culture references or incomprehensible Japanese anime imports. Well hey kids, get ready, if this movie is indeed vintage TMNT then you're about to have your minds blown. I'm so excited that a new generation is about to learn the difference between a sai, a kitana, a bo staff, and nunchucks. That there will be kids running outside with red and purple and blue masks screaming "Cowabunga!" and "Totally tubular!" I remember how awesome it was back in the day when the original movie came out. I was so excited, although kind of nervous that it wouldn't be as good as the cartoon. But man, once I saw that movie, I was in Turtle heaven. I remember, I entered some drawing contest at my local supermarket, and I actually won the contest and won a gift certificate to the grocery store. I had no idea what I could use that on. Cookies? But then I went and saw that they sold VHS tapes at the store, and suddenly, it all clicked. The Turtles movie was due to arrive on home video any day, as I knew from all the TV ads. I waited patiently until the week of release and then had my mom drive me to the store. I snatched up the Turtles movie and proudly brought it to the register. And man, I must have watched that thing hundreds of times, and after I had worn it out, my brother rediscovered it and watched it another hundred times. Between the cartoon, that movie, the TMNT videogames, and the obiquituous action figures, my childhood was practically spent in a TMNT-induced daze. Of course, all those warnings and alerts about how the show was too violent for kids seemed to finally wear programmers down. For a while, it was out with TMNT and in with relatively toothless fare like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. As a camp counsellor for years, I pitied the kids who were so sheltered that they never knew the glory of mutated sword-fighting amphibians and the rest of my childhood action heroes. Well, TMNT is back, and I can't wait for another generation to be corrupted!

Alright, I've gotta jet, but I have more to say so check back tommorow, foo.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nuke 'Em: 24, Prison Break, WizardWorld, MORE

Whaaaaaaat's happennin'.

So this weekend the usual crew and I went to WizardWorld in LA, with VIP access thanks to NBC-provided press passes ... as usual, good times. Some highlights:

- I met VERONICA MARS! Yes, though it was kind of embarrassing, since my friends all but pushed me into Emmy-worthy actress Kristen Bell, where I had about the most awkward 30-second conversation of all time with her - the end result was that I got a picture with the star of one of my favorite shows, and probably a restraining order as well. But seriously, it was cool to meet Kristen and express to her how great the show is.

- HEROES panel - we heard Tim Kring, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, and others talk about the show in a very interesting Q and A session. Tim Kring comes off as very cool and down to earth, with a lot of perspective on the show and what does and doesn't work for it. The one obnoxious thing was that, when a concerned fan asked about the controversy revolving around the show's sudden removal of a character's implied homosexuality, Jeph Loeb basically denied all knowledge about the subject, despite this being a well-publicized issue. Then, as the crowd sensed Loeb's blatant denial, Tim Kring addressed the topic head on, making Loeb look a little foolish in the process.

- After the panel, I met some people who were doing a promotion for the Heroes website, where they were filming fans, asking about their theories about the show. And I got filmed! So I'll keep an eye out on and see if my interview made the cut ...

- KISS! To promote their latest comic, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were on hand, and we heard them speak, which is always interesting as they are huge geeks with encyclopedic knowledge of comics. And really badass.

- Random celebrities! I had another ridiculously awkward conversation with Playboy covergirl and TNA wrestler Chisty Hemme, chatted with the Suicide Girls, professed my love of BEASTMASTER to Marc Singer, spotted Bud Bundy, Virgil, that trainer guy from Rocky, The Incredible Hulk, Jerry from Survivor, and walked by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

- Great photo ops! aside from my prized pic with Kristen Bell, I posed with KISS wannabes, guys in robot suits, etc ... Not as many cool costumes as year's past, but there was this one woman dressed as Black Cat ...

- Hey Kids, Comics! We attended the DC panel and heard greats like Marv Wolfman, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and DC EIC Dan Didio speak. I even asked a somewhat biting question to writer Bill Willingham about one of his stories which generated a lot of buzz - no hard feelings, Bill - while I have issues with some of your stories, I still consider Fables one of my all-time faves. On the show floor, I talked to a bunch of creative people who are some of my personal inspirations. Guys like Peter David, Greg Horn, Josh Middleton, Dustin Nguyen, and many more, not to mention the brother of the X-Plosian, who is an accomplished comic book artist in his own right. Plus, I got a ton of trade paperbacks at bargain prices, so I shouldn't be in short supply of reading material anytime soon.

So yeah, good times were had, even if the show seemed a bit quieter and less star-studded than in years past (no Kevin Smith, no Lost, no Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, etc). Still, look forward to doing it again next year.


24! 24! 24!

24 this week was very ... meh. Most of the focus was away from Jack Bauer, and the spark of electricity that the likes of Aaron Pierce, Charles, and Martha Logan brought to the table last week was vanished into the ether. Instead, despite the plot going full speed ahead with the threat of another nuclear bomb detonation, the focus was squarely on the excitement, the intrigue, the drama ... of interoffice politics. Ugh. A nuclear bomb is minutes from going off and we have scene after scene of petty soap opera squabbling? Another mole in CTU? More oval office infighting? How is it possible that Wayne Pa;mer's administration is comprised of people with completely disparate political views? Furthermore, the show's politics are just getting silly - it's "Let's blow up a random country" VP vs. "I'm a shrill, spineless liberal" Karen Hayes. Both liberals and conservatives had to have been groaning at how cartoonishly each side is being portrayed. And you're seriously telling me that Karen Hayes is going to risk killing Wayne Palmer so he can wake up for 30 seconds and magically override an executive order? Laaaaaame. Also, yet again, seemingly no government agencies exist in the world of 24 other than the consistently understaffed, security-compromised, ineffectual CTU Los Angeles, whose ability to stop a nuclear strike comes down to ... Jack Bauer playing a 1980's vector flight sim, complete with PC joystick circa 1991? Not only can Jack fight terrorists with the best of 'em, he is also a videogame wiz. Who knew? Finally, this new guy Doyle is completely sucky. Please tell me HE's the mole so Jack can whup his metrosexual, poser ass.

Otherwise, this ep had some cool action scenes and some good tension surrounding whether or not the bomb would actually go off. The revelation that Audrey had died trying to save Jack in China was the most interesting bit of the episode, and Jack's rage, and his vow to find those responsible (his dad?), was the best hope we've been given that, at some point soon, the show will refocus on Jack and get away from all these stupid subplots and side characters. This was kind of subpar for 24 though, and if things don't turn around soon this will go down as the worst season since 3.

My Grade: B -

- PRISON BREAK was pretty good, but kind of contrived, as the writers stretched all plausibility for the sake of having all of its surviving main players converging in Panama for one final play by Mahone. Hopefully, the show can pick up some momentum for its last two installments, but in this episode you could practically see the invisible hand of the producers descending upon the chess board that is this show, moving the pieces around so everything is alligned just as they see fit. In the process, a lot of plot points seemed to get lost in the shuffle. How did Mahone get access to Michael's website and Sucre's user ID. How exactly did T-Bag end up in Panama? What exactly happened to Sucre's girlfriend, and when?

The show had some interesting drama between Michael and Lincoln, and the C-Note storyarc came to a nice conclusion. William Ficther, as always, was terrific, and his descent into ever-increasing levels of insanity was a lot of fun to watch, especially the scene where he realizes that one of his own men is keeping tabs on him. I do look forward to next week though, as even though it took a lot of forced plot manipulation to get the this point, I do have to admit that the writers have now set up a potentially kickass finale.

My Grade: B

- I am actually liking THE WINNER on FOX. Despite it having a terribly dated laugh track and mostly subpar writing, Rob Cordry just does such a great job with his material that he elevates the show to a much higher level of quality than it should be. Cordry just does the whole overgrown kid thing to perfection, and he makes this show a lot of fun to watch despite its uneven comedy. I really enjoyed Katey Segal's guest appearance on Sunday's episode, and I find it kind of funny how despite being such a suppoesed loser, basically every episode sees Cordry lying on some woman's (or man's) bed, awkwardly trying to figure out what to do about their sexual advances. In any case, it's leagues better than The War at Home or 'Till Death.


- Have you seen the Pirates III trailer? Pretty awesome, especially that one scene of Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones sword-fighting atop a storm-wrecked Pirate ship. Can't wait to see this in May - see for yourself:

Alright - I'm out. Yo-ho!

BTW - for my pics with Kristen Bell, KISS, etc - check me on MySpace or Facebook. Cya.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Greystache! Not Greystache! SIMPSONS Paley Fest, Smallville, October Road, and MORE

So last night Paul L and I ventured down to the Museum of Television and Radio in Hollywood for The Simpsons' Paley Festival event. Overall it was a great time, and the initial coolness of being able to listen to the like of Matt Groening, Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright and others speak in person made for a very exciting evening for all of us lifelong Simpsons fanatics. The event began with Groening and co introducing two recent episodes of the show, both from this season - the one where Bart befriends Nelson and Homer gets into a Harry Potter-esque books series, and the one that is about a documentary filmmaker who's been chroniclling the lives of The Simpsons and other denizens of Springfield. It was cool to see the episodes in front of a live audience, but at the same time I was hoping for some kind of sneak peak, possibly of the upcoming 400th episode, or even a scene from the movie. I had seen both of these episodes already, and both, though decent, are about on par with most episodes of the show in the last few years, meaning not classics. I will say though that I really did enjoy that first Bart-Nelson episode on the second viewing, which is a testament to the fact that many episodes really need to be seen a few times to be fully appreciated. There's one line in there where Martin says something like "Alone we are each but a fragile twig, but together we shall form a mighty fagot!" (with a disclaimer popping up explaining how a fagot means a bundle of sticks) that had me rolling on second viewing, as did Homer's lamentations for fictional wizard Greystache.

Anyways, after the screenings we got a lamely-moderated Q and A session with a guy from TV Guide leading. The questions were sooooo mundane, the type that Simpsons fans and all of the guys on stage had heard countless times: "When did you know the show was a true success?" "What celebs were the most fun to work with?" etc. The been-there, done-that line of questioning led to a rather sedate session, livened up a bit during the audience Q and A, where a little nine year old girl sweetly asked Matt Groening: "If I got your autograph how much could I sell it for on e-bay?" Hilarious. One guy asked an oft-wondered question when he asked Groening what his actual day to day role on The Simpsons is. I've wondered this a lot myself, but Groening kind of dodged the question a bit, settling on an answer of "I'm the guy who stands in the corner and approves or shoots down ideas for jokes." Personally, I've always been very curious about the guy - he is, of course, the public face of The Simpsons, but was he ever really the creative force behind the show after its initial conceptualization? And why, other than Futurama and his ongoing Life in Hell comic strip, has he never really branched out and done anything other than The Simpsons? Has he not been approached? What's his deal? Until I know more, I'll continue, I guess, to assume the man's the genius I like to think he is, because, really, wouldn't it be a shame if he wasn't?

It did strike me though, that most of the old-school Simpsons guys did have a kind of weary demeanor - inevitable after 18 years working on one show, I guess, but you do get the sense that these guys' glory days have come and gone and they're now kind of coasting on the good will they initially earned and the energy brought in by the younger writers. I don't know, it's hard to describe, but I guess it IS kind of odd that guys like Groening and Al Jean are content to just coast along doing merely decent Simpsons episodes instead of moving on to the next great comedic endeavor. I mean, these guys have a Simpsons MOVIE coming out, and yet no one was really jumping out of their seats, chomping at the bit to crow about how awesome and hilarious it was going to be. The one person who was absolutely GREAT was Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, Nelson, and Ralph, among others. She was just a pleasure to listen to, bursting with enthusiasm about the show, and not a bit jaded by it all. She is just very cool. This isn't to say that everyone else wasn't very interesting, funny, and smart ... just that, like I said, there was that hint of weariness in the eyes of many of the veteran creators.

In any case, it was a great event and through the Q and A discussions I was reminded of a ton of great Simpsons memories. It really is amazing to see the breadth of people who are fans, from 50 year old men to 10 year old girls - it's just unbelievable that a show can be so smart and funny yet have such wide appeal and work on so many levels. I can't wait for the movie, and am crossing my fingers that it delivers.

- By the way, just had lunch today with one of my good friends from BU, Christine T, now Christine W after her recent marriage (!!!). Man, I don't think I've seen her in almost three years so it was great to catch up and meet her husband Michael, younger brother, and his girlfriend. It's a shame we didn't have more time to hang out, but as always it's great to meet up with real New Englanders!


- SMALLVILLE last night delivered a very solid episode that was easily one of the better installments of what has been, so far, a pretty lackluster season. The wedding of Lana and Lex delivered some of the best performances we've seen from the regular cast in a while, and was very artfully shot, structured, and scored. In fact, the music in this episode was mostly awesome - and sound and image came together to create a few classic scenes. The one with Lex going medieval on Lana's physician in the church crypt was just kickass, and yet another fine showing from Michael Rosenbaum as the young Luthor. Lionel was also excellent here, and after a long stretch of him being played as a relative do-gooder, it was nice to see him return to his old villainous form (even if, plot-wise, it makes little sense ... oh well). Anyways, there was some good drama here, and I was legitimately unsure of whether Lana would end up going through with the ceremony. My one big complaint was in the episode's structure ... I liked, in theory, how it jumped around in time, but why did they make us watch whole conversations over and over again? That got kind of annoying. And of course there were the usual inexplicable Smallville moments - Clark showing up wherever and whenever he pleases, Lana's continual moping, etc ... Otherwise, one of the better episodes in a while. And next week's looks to have some much needed action, courtesy of the WWE's Kane. Nice!

My Grade: B+

- I watched ABC's OCTOBER ROAD last night. I read the script for this last year, and while I found it kind of an oddity, I respected the fact that it was going for something different and trying to be a little bit more artfully-minded than your average coming-of-age TV show. Of course, it was riding a fine line between being a script with a lot of quirky, almost literary touches and a pretentious crapfest. I was hoping it'd come off well, and it did okay, but mostly, the show is just kind of annoying. The characters all feel like every young adult stereotype you've ever seen - the prodigal son, the girl next door, the stern dad, the doting younger brother, the goofy friend, etc. And yet, the show asks us to not only take all of these characters at face value, but asks us to buy into their mopey, one-dimensional angst as if we were watching the latest Zach Braff movie. Unfortunately, the quality of October Road makes Garden State look like The Catcher in the Rye by comparison. This isn't to say that October Road is totally unwatchable as some critics have suggested. It has a lot of appeallingly familiar faces who give energy to otherwise thankless roles - people like Bill Bellamy, Laura Prepon, and Tom Berringer are all very likable even if they are suffocated with lame dialogue and contrived personalities. The constant musical flourishes are often annoying, but once in a while endearing, like in the opening when our hero drives off to the big city to Boston's "Don't Look Back." However, EVERY scene seems to be burdened with the weight of THE most cheesy, mopey pop songs imaginable. When I heard Collective Soul's "World I Know" immediately followed by the Gin Blossoms, I knew we were in trouble. Similarly, the main character here just can't pull off his role as some kind of modern day JD Salinger. There isn't much going on behind his eyes. He's plenty believable as a NYC scenester, but not as a best-selling author. Then again, in a world where Pamela Anderson is a best-selling novelist, who's to say? Actually, the idea of Pam Anderson as a novelist kind of sums up how I feel about October Road -- interesting to check out and nice to look at, but all the while making me wonder how I'm supposed to take it seriously.

My Grade: C

- I can't take the drama surrounding VERONICA MARS' fate! First I read in horror that the show was being cancelled, and I was all ready to write a rant of doom about what's wrong with America when a show this brilliant can't find an audience. Then, I hear that rumors of VM's death were greatly exaggerated. Now, I'm hearing the plan is for the show to possibly go forward with a reduced budget, contingent on the show being revamped with Veronica now a young FBI intern. Sounds cool, though I hope that wouldn't mean the loss of too many supporting characters, as one of the show's greatest assets is its colorful array of Neptune, CA residents. So ... I don't know for sure if it will be back, but I'll reserve my ranting for now.

- Alright, I'm about done for the week. Tommorow it's off to WizardWorld LA, and then I will need Sunday to recover from the last 10 days! PEACE.

And by the way ... I wanted to throw up when I read confirmaiton of the Gerard Butler remake of Escape From New York today, and listneing to this audio clip only made the original that much cooler and the idea of a remake that much more lame:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MORE THAN A FEELING: Lost, Andy Barker, Tango & Cash, Snake, BOSTON, and MORE

What a week ...

After a hectic start to the work week following a packed weekend with the family, things are not letting up, which is good ... Yesterday my parents and brother met me for one last LA lunch at good ol' Bob's Big Boy before heading back to CT, capping off several days overloaded with family fun ... But never fear, some good times are a' coming ... Tonight me and Paul L hit up the Paley Fest, which is a huge event here in LA, with multiple special sessions, each dedicated to a different TV show. We have tickets for tonight's SIMPSONS event, and will be front and center for cast and crew panel discussions, Q and A, and likely some screening of never before seen material. As you probably know, I'm a lifelong Simpsons fan, and love hearing discussion about the show, to the point where one of my favorite aspects of the DVD sets is listening to the writer and directors' commentary to get some insight into the creative process behind my favorite episodes. The Simpsons is one of a handful of shows that made me wonder about writing for TV, that made me realize that I wanted to be involved with whoever the geniuses were who came up with the dialogue for Homer, Bart, and the rest.

I remember a few years ago, I went to an event in Boston where Mike Reiss, writer / exec producer of the show spoke. He was pretty hilarious, and spoke at length about the genesis of the famous Sideshow Bob rake scene, among other things. I was basically in awe, and afterwards I meekly went over and tried to slip him my meticulously written (and pretty funny if I do say so myslef) Simpsons spec script (hey, it was good enough to get an A in my Writing For TV class). Reiss looked at me and winced, and basically said "sorry, I can't accept that." I don't know what I was expecting, but somewhow I thought that would be my big moment. Well, tonight I go to the event a fiull-fledged member of the entertainment industry, but in a small way, the dram lives on. I won't be bringing any spec scripts with me, but just the mere idea that I will be meeting with the men and women behind The Simpsons ... I mean, that is it for me. So yeah, full report tommorow!

Friday, one of my first friends from BU, Christine T, now a married (~!) woman, will be visiting with her husband and attending the Tonight Show. Should be good times!

Saturday, me, G-Man, X-Plosian, and Latina Heat will make our THIRD annual trip to Wizard World LA, the annual mecca of all things geek, where we will attend all kinds of panels, collect all manner of free schwag, shmooze with celebs like Kristen Bell and Stan Lee, and take lots of photos with women dressed like Black Canary or Zatanna. Excelsior! Should be yet another great time.


- Last night, LOST kicked some ass, with one of its best overall episodes of the season. We had some great character moments, some interesting plot progression, and a classic WTF cliffhanger ending that had me grinning as the closing credits played. For the first time in a while, Claire was not annoying, and I was reminded why I ever liked the character to begin with. Her flashbacks didn't contain much crucial info other than the big "Claire and Jack are related!" revelation, but they seemed to be kept rather short and sweet so as to not bog down the main plotlines too much. Really, the show-stealer here was the Kate-Locke-Sayid interaction and their trek to find the Others' camp with a certain eye-patched hostage in tow. Damn, ol' Patchy was in rare form tonight, and it was a shame to see such an sweet character bite it. But he sure did go out in gruesome style, with a death scene both memorable and shocking. At least before he went, Patches gave a great little speech that contained some of the most interesting plot revelations the show has had in a long time - the idea that Kate, Sayid, and Locke are not on "the list," is one of the more intriguing concepts in a while, and, finally, it feels like a few of the pices of Lost's puzzle are beginning to fall into place, especially with the revelation that Ben is not the "him" who the Others serve. Otherwise, the Desmond-Charlie stuff was kind of cool, espcially since Desmond delivers his lines with such out-there dread. All this and Goth Claire made for a great episode, plus, next week's Locke-Ben confrontation looks like a classic in the making.

My Grade: A

- Okay, so you guys need to check out ANDY BARKER PI tonight on NBC. I'll say this - the pilot ep is not the series' best, but it is a good start and its just great to see Andy Richter in an original, suitably quirky comedy rather than crap like Quintuplets. Arrested Development fans will also want to be on the lookout for Tony Hale, aka Buster Bluth, who is funny in his supporting role here. in the end, this is one of those cult comedy shows that, let's be honest, is going to have a hard time finding a big audience. So please - watch on NBC tonight, download on iTunes (all eps available now), and spread the word! Co-created by Conan O'Brien, Andy Barker is a show that deserves to find that audience!

- Also tonight is NBC's newest drama, RAINES. my opinion is that tonight's pilot is worth checking out, but mostly for Jeff Goldblum, who as always elevates a somewhat thankless role way beyond what it could have been in lesser hands. Goldblum is fascinating to watch as always, but he is stuck with an oddball premise that doesn't really hold up. The idea of Goldblum as a Marlowe-style private eye is what carries the show, but I hope that future episodes sort out how, exactly, our hero having imaginary conversations with murder victims makes for compelling drama.


- A few crazy movie rumors out there right now. One is that Gerard Butler will assume the role of Snake Plisken in a remake of Escape From New York. Please lord do not less this be true. I like Butler, but KURT RUSSELL and only Kurt Russell IS Snake Plisken. And, judging from the trailers for Grindhouse, the man is still plenty badass. Look, Escape From NY is one of my all-time favorite action movies, and it just seems like blasphemy to remake it when the obvious thing to do is to erase the stain that was Escape From LA and have John Carpenter work with an up and coming director to make an all new, REAL sequel to Escape with Kurt Russell back in the leading role. Throw in some young actors if you must to round out the supporting cast, but why remake the movie for no good reason? Call me ... Snake. The other big one is Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Marvel in a SHAZAM movie? How does that work? Captain Marvel is a 10 year old kid who says a magic word and becomes a Superman-esque superhero. So ... which one does Jake G play? If anything, this should be a fun, bright, whimsical movie - get a lead kid actor who isn't too annoying and get someone cartoonishly superhero-esque, like the guy who played The Tick / Puddy on Seinfeld, to play the Big Red Cheese.

- Speaking of Kurt Russell, this past weekend, my brother and I were exposed to the sheer brilliance that is overlooked 80's gem TANGO & CASH. Okay, this is one of THE cheesiest movies I've ever seen, chock full of vintage 1980's buddy movie cliches, but it's so awesomely over the top that my brother and I were in a state of old-school action movie euphoria as we watched Stallone and Russell mix it up with a young Terry Hatcher and a villainous Jack Palace, in full-on camp mode. When one of Palance's lieutenants responds to his boss with a protest of "But sir, I insist ...", Palance snaps and yells "Don't insist! I HATE insist-ers!" DAAAAAAMN! EVERY line in Tango & Cash is some attempt at snappy back and forth repartee, it's hilarious. At one point, Cash (Russell) realizes that to escape from the prison where he and Tango are being unjustly held, he can use his belt to rapell down a power line over the prison wall. Cash escapes, but as Tango is about to do the same, he is attacked by a thug and forced to engage in some rooftop fisticuffs. Finally, Tango disposes of the guy and rapells down, crashing on the ground next to Cash. "What took you so long?" asks Cash, "Stopped for a coffee and a danish?" "I hate danish." quips Tango. LOL. A reference to Stallone's failed marriage to danish actress Bridgitte Nielson. At one point, Stallone even dissed Rambo. When Sly as Tango uses exceesive violence to take down a perp, a fellow cop asks "Who do you think you are, Rambo?" Says Stallone: "Rambo's a pussy!" Hahahaha ... 80's buddy action-comedy at its craptacularly awesome best. You must do yourself a favor and discover the glories of TANGO & CASH.

- Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it's still got the longest line! Whooooo! During this past week's trip to Disneyland, I got to experience the temporarily revamped Space Mountain, now with Red Hot Chili Peppers soundtrack and laser light show. My review: Awesome! Also, I finally saw the retooled Pirates of the Carribean with Jack Sparrow added and a holographic Davy Jones. Not bad, still one of the absolute top artistic creations of Walt Disney and one of those life-affirming experiences. I realized while riding Pirates and the Haunted Mansion that all one needs to do to set your kid on the right path is to take 'em to Disney and have them ride these two classics. Within minutes they'll realize why pirates and ghosts are cool, and that pretty much sets 'em on a path to enlightenment. I think.

- You know, I just don't get March Madness. Honestly, I just find most NCAA games hard to watch. They're sloppily played, messy, and involve teams filled with an ever changing roster of 18 year old newbies. Who has time to keep track of which teams are good this year and what players to watch for? Half the fun of sports to me is watching the personalities evolve over the years and to see their stories played out in the games. Watching a bunch of players I don't know bobble the ball around as they march toward the inevitable last-second finishes gets pretty old. The reason so many games are close is because as soon as one team gets the lead, nerves take over and all defense is forgotten. I'd much rather watch an NBA game like last night's epic Suns-Mavs matchup, with players like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Dirk Nowitzki playing at the top of their games, having a true back and forth battle made all the more interesting by the years of history between the players. So yeah, I have my little facebook bracket like everyone else, but honestly I just put Gonzaga as my winner since my friend Chris A goes to law school there. Sorry, all you NCAA bandwagoners, but even though I'll have fun seeing who wins in the tournament, the REAL action is in the NBA as the playoffs loom.

- On the subject of 300, how dumb are these Iranians who are offended by it and see it as American propoganda against their country. Let's see, the movie is based on a ten year old graphic novel, which in turn is a fantasy version of real historical events. The movie was made now not because of any political timing, but because studios have been chomping at the bit to adapt any comic book they can get their hands on, and after Sin City's success, creator Frank Miller suddenly has some clout in Hollywood (even though his greatest comic book successes were two decades ago). So yeah, clearly, 300 was made as anti-Iranian political propaganda ...

- Speaking of 300, you should have seen how crazy the audience was in the theater where we saw it last Friday. A huge fight almost broke out about saved seats ...

- Finally, RIP to Brad Delp, singer of the legendary rock group Boston, one of my all time favorite bands. Delp's trademark wail made so many Boston songs fun to sing along to - his vocals combined with the band's classic guitar hooks made for a catalog of classic rock hits that will be remembered and rediscovered as long as kids like to rock. More Than A Feeling, Don't Look Back, Higher Power, Peace of Mind, Rock N' Roll Band, Long Time, and so many more were some of my all time faves. Laugh if you want, but Boston's greatest hits CD has been a regular fixture in my CD player for years, and I only wish I had gotten to see them live. Not only could Delp belt out his tunes like few others, but his lyrics were often classics. As the man said:

Now you're climbin' to the top of the company ladder
Hope it doesn't take too long
Can't you see there'll come a day
When it won't matter
Come a day when you'll be gone ...
I understand about indecision
But I dont care if I get behind
People livin' in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

(Insert kickass guitar solo here) ...

And one more:

Well, we were just another band out of Boston
On the road to try to make ends meet
Playing all the bars, sleeping in our cars
And we practiced right on out in the street
No, we didn't have much money
We barely made enough to survive
But when we got up on stage and got ready to play
People came alive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Then We Will Fight In The Shade ... 300 Review, 24, MORE

So it's back to work after a crazy, extended weekend of family fun. And yes, I truly am in need of a vacation from this vacation, as it's been a fun but exhausting few days. Friday my parents and brother flew in, and we met for some dinner before my brother and I went to see the much-anticipated 300. On Saturday, we did some shopping at The Grove and Farmer's Market then met my great uncle Josh for some dinner in Brentwood - the first time that he and his wife Lianna had ever met my brother. Sunday, we headed down to Long Beach for some scenic ocean views and a visit to the highly-regarded aquarium there. Good times - Long Beach has a great board walk and is a place worth checking out. Yesterday, we headed to Anaheim for a day at Disneyland, which was a lot of fun, though of course kind of exhausting. Anyways, my parents are still here until tommorow afternoon, though now they are in "get down to business" mode, which means microanalyzing my apartment's cleanliness, my wardrobe, my finances, and everything in between. Fuuuuuuuun ...

24! 24! 24!

Last night, Prison Break and Heroes were MIA, so it was up to Jack Bauer and co to carry the night and bring the gravitas. Luckily, the gravitas was sufficiently BROUGHT, as we got a tense, nail-biter of an episode that saw the welcome return of Martha Logan and AARON PIERCE to the world of 24. Seeing Jean Smart and Greogroy Itzin together again was an instant reminder of what made last season a breakout one in terms of great character performances. Martha and Charles Logan had some great scenes together, and even though it was telegraphed, Martha's deadly stabbing of her ex-husband still suprised me and had me gasping. Damn, First Lady gone crazy! While Aaron Pierce could have used a little bit more to do, it was still great seeing one of the true heroes of the 24-verse back in action. Now get him suited up and in as a field-ops agent at CTU - this new guy Doyle seemed okay but was a bit too metro to carry much gravitas. We need some badasses at CTU in the tradition of Jack, Curtis, Tony, Castle, etc, dammit all. Once again though, Powers Boothe as the VP did a great job of bringing the awesome, and he is already making a very interesting fil-in prez. My only hope is that they make him less a right-wing idealogue and more just a guy who is a hardliner. I mean, let's be realistic here - in the real-time world of 24, this is the DAY of a nuclear attack on US Soil - people are going to be pissed. In any case, this was a really fun episode of 24 that had some of the better character moments of the season. Unfortunately, much of the coolness came from old favorites brought back on a special basis, so, long-term, this show still needs to find its footing for this season.

My Grade: A -

300 Review:

TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL! Going into 300, the great marketing campaign had me pumped for a movie that would be filled with nonstop action the likes of which had not been seen outside of the latest next-gen videogames. Coming out of 300, this was exactly what I had just gotten: two hours of elegantly staged action, with all the trappings that make this type of movie fun: badass heroes, twisted monsters, grand battle cries, and a hyper-stylized artistic vision. More so that almost any movie to date, 300 replicated the experience of playing a good videogame, to the point where the violence became so immersive that each new adversary seemed like a new challenge that we the viewers must overcome. Director Zach Snyder makes strong stylistic choices with this movie, expanding upon the green screen technology that made Sky Captain and then Sin City able to exist as live-action / animation hybrids that brought to life unique worlds with hyper-stylized flair. Like Sin City, 300 takes the comic book stories of Frank Miller and quite literally brings them to life. Frankly, I love it. I mean, realism is great at times, but what's wrong with a little hyper-reality every now and then? 300 earns my respect by having a very specific artistic vision and going all out to see it realized.

Basically, this is a movie about one giant battle. We are quickly introduced the warlike Spartans, their prideful king Leonidas, and their struggle to overcome the invading armies of the conquering Persian empire. The subplots, character backstories, and so on are only important in so far as they drive the action forward, and in that regard they are quite servicable. I mean, think of the cut-scenes in an action video game -- they give a little context to the gameplay but ultimately its the fluidity and immersiveness of the action that counts. What counts here, as in say God of War, are the character designs, the artistic direction, and the energy of the action. 300 may appear as an oddity to those expecting a classic action movie epic in the vein of Gladiator, but for Generation Y, well-versed in the methodology of action, the trappings of the movie will feel familiar and welcome in a medium that is still trying to catch up to its digital cousins. Basically, 300 feels like a series of videogame levels, each with its own variety of enemies, bosses, and stylized combat. What this does is imbue the movie with an immersive quality of progression, to the point where, whenever the action slows, there is a feeling of anticipation for the next outbreak of violence. Does this make for a movie with the depth of character, emotion, or resonnance as, say, Gladiator? No, but 300 is the equivalent of an AC/DC song on film - this is rock n' roll in movie form, clad in loincloths, armed with swords, ready to rock.

The cast here does a good job, though as I said, the characters are presented in broad strokes of hero and villain - we get to know them in the same way we get to know the players on a sports team when tuning in for a big game. We have the team captain, Leonidas, played with charismatic grandiosity by Gerard Butler. Looking like a roided-up rabbi, Butler nods his head, furrows his brows, and yells things like "Nice Thrust!" with a great sense of campy gravitas. I mean, as I said, this is a VERY stylized movie, and I admit, some of the stylistic choices here are a little weird - it's one thing for the 300 Spartans to be a hard-nosed, badass bunch of warriors. But Snyder gives each one an eight-pack of abs made of stone with musculature looking like it was drawn by Jim Lee. Possibly overdoing it a little ... But as I was saying, Butler makes the most of his role and is a lot of fun to watch here - his Leonidas overcomes the potential to come off as unintentionally funny and instead is a hero worth rooting for (and worth quoting / imitating ad nauseum after seeing the film). The other standout is David Wenham, familiar from Lord of the Rings, who narrates the movie with steely aplomb, and whose character is one of the most fun in film, framing the story as a kind of rallying cry for his troops. Rodrigo Santoro is completely over the top as the androgynous god-king Xerxes, and while some dismissed him, I thought he was the perfect counterpart to Leonidas' alpha-male hero. Finally, Lena Heady is great as Queen Gorgo of the Spartans, exuding a calm, powerful vibe as an amazonian queen who can hold her own with the men of Sparta. While her political subplot does kind of drag, Lena does a great job with what she's given and has a few great moments. Otherwise, the rest of the cast is admittedly just window-dressing, and we never get to ecplore them as more than just "that one Old dude," "hunchbacked-freak," or "that guy who says 'Then We Shall Fight in the Shade ...'" But like I said, this is a movie that is painted in broad strokes ... Would it have been nice to see some of the other Spartans fleshed out a bit more? Yes. But would it have really added to the film as a whole? Probably not ...

And that's the thing -- while on one hand I sound like I'm advocating the virtues of a totally action-centric movie like 300, it remains hard to place it in the same category of greatness as a film that places as much of a premium on character, plot, and dialogue as it does on action and visual artistry. But man, this movie manages to kick ass in style, and for that I respect it. Rarely has a movie made each sword-swing, each battle, each leap and parry and clang of metal so vivid. I enjoyed watching it from start to finish, and left suitably hyper and ready to take on the Persian empire. Like I said, this is heavy metal and Frank Miller comic books and videogames in movie for, enough to amek everyone's inner twelve year old boy jump up and down in a gleeful state of testosterone-feuled bloodlust. Sorry if that sounds crude, but it's why the movie rocks.

My Grade: A -

- Okay, more to come, but for now I've gotta jet. A reminder to myself: be sure to tell of ghetto movie audiences, the glories of Tango and Cash, Space Mountain, Pirates, and Snake ...

Friday, March 09, 2007


And so the craziness begins ...

Tonight: Mom, Dad, and brother Matt fly in from the CT for five days of family fun in LA. For them this is a vacation. For me it is five days of holding my breath, preceded by heavy cleaning, shopping and mentally preparing / bracing. Good times, good times ...

Anyways, should be a good weekend, and I'm taking Monday off from work to add to the allotted quality time. The sad part is that all of my cleaning (my dad is a notorious neat freak) is probably in vain, as within five minutes of my brother setting up camp in my apartment, my studio will likely look like a hurricane just ran through it. Oh well. In any case, I am looking forward to a little bit of classic videogame competition with Matt, even if I can't say I'm looking forward to sharing the apt with him for five days. Sorry, but two guys in one studio is not my idea of fun. I am very big on personal space, as you may or may not know, hence part of the reason why I live in a studio to begin with.


Right now, I'd like to take a moment to give a giant FINGER OF SHAME to my apartment complex, Avalon at Media Center in Burbank, CA (for those of you interested). Mostly, I really haven't had too many complaints with them. It's a nice complex with good facilities. But ... they are certainly not infallible. I mean, it's two years into my time there and I am STILL stuck with a freaking smoke alarm that will blare like hell's bells whenever I take a hot shower. So yeah, the apartment complex has been riding a thin line between me being happy with it and me wanting to strangle someone every morning when I hear that stupid smoke alarm go off. The sad thing is I'm almost numb to it at this point, which can't be a good sign for my hearing.

So anyways, last weekend I drop off my rent for February in the leasing office drop box, and because it was mistakenly one day late, I got to my apartment on Monday night to find a voided rent check and a 50 page copy of my lease agreement, with an added form stating my rent was late, the check was voided, and I now owed the rent plus an additional $75. Okay, pretty lame for the rent being a day late. So I call on Tuesday afternoon, and talk to someone from the leasing office who was completely rude and obnoxious, talking to me as if I was a criminal and saying that I was lucky I wasn't being evicted. At first, I was basically just calling as a last-ditc effort to see if I could avoid paying the extra $75, but the leasing rep was being so obnoxious that it prompted me to become argumentative. I made my case that I found it somewhat absurd to slap me with a $75 fee with no warning for having the rent be one day late, after two years with zero rent problems. Finally, she admitted that there actually WAS a policy that waives any late fees for a first-time offender (as if this was the equivalent of drunk driving or something). She probably hated me afterwords, but she said to just pay the original rent amount (okay, so why did they void my original check then? does that make ANY sense?). So Tuesday after work, I dutifully drop off off a new check in the drop box. All settled? Not quite. Wednesday at work I get a call from the office from a different guy saying that any late rent checks must be in the form of a cashier's check or money order. Oh, I see, thanks for telling me the first time (sorry, apparently it was written in the 50 page copy of my lease agreement they sent me -- however, seeing as how my late fee was waived and I was essentially just re-submitting my original check, why would I assume that this rule would even apply?). So, this info was relayed to me on Wednesday at about 4 pm. So after work on Wednesday, I go to Vons to get a money order. Turns out they only do money orders until 7 pm. I usually don't get out of work until 7 pm. I called Albertsons - same story. So now it's Thursday, and I'm going to have to leave work at lunch time, get a money order, and then bring it to the leasing office - all this on what was a very busy day when most of my coworkers didn't even take a lunch. So I figure okay, I'll call the leasing office one more time and see if this is absolutely necessary -- little did I suspect that I'd have to talk to that same, terrible woman again. Now I don't know if this woman is having some external problems or if she's just generally a huge jerk, but she completely gave me the runaround again. All I wanted was to verify if it would be absolutely necessary for me to leave work to re-submit a rent check for THE THIRD TIME in the form of a money order, seeing as how doing so was going to cause a pretty big inconvenience. Anyways, I started out trying to be nice and asking a simple question. Within minutes, I was once again being talked to like a criminal, and I kid you not, this woman sounded about to break out into angry tears, asking "What do you want from me?" over and over, and even going so far as to repeatedly ask me "I don't understand - you have time to talk to me on the phone but don't have time to go get a money order?" Sorry, I anticipated a one minute phone, friendly call, not a back and forth defense of my character with a total beyotch. I mean, just unbelievable. Looking back, I cannot believe I paid my rent THREE TIMES. I mean, I realize I live in a large apartment complex, but I didn't realize I was living in Nazi Germany here. What happened to customer service and friendliness and common decency? I mean, I work for freaking General Electric, and in my job of getting our shows on iTunes, every day slip-ups and delays occur from our end and Apple's that, if looked at a certain way, do cost us money. But that's business - you remain calm and realize that there will be the occasional, unavoidable setback. But in my stupid little apartment complex, that CAN'T EVEN FIX MY SMOKE ALARM AFTER TWO YEARS, a rent check received a day late for a short month is a friggin' RED-ALERT. So I go to Vons, wait for 20 minutes for someone to help me who knows how to do a money-order, and then run over the the leasing office to give them said money order. Luckily, in those offices where they are courting prospective tenants, everyone is all smiles and handshakes. No room for psycho rent-Nazis there. So I gave my money order (why do they need a money order anyways? somewhat absurd ...) and that was it, or so I really, really hope. Rest assured though, my March rent will be early and on-time, because who knew that a day late meant a week from hell.


- This week's LOST was a very fun episode, although it still had it's share of problems. However, the creators realized something that most geeks innately know, and this alone made for some quality pulp goodness: Characters with eye-patches are cool. Yep, who doesn't love a good eye-patch-clad hero or villain? From Snake Plisken to Nick Fury, you've gotta respect the 'patch. So ever since Lost first showed that one tantalizing glimpse of ol' Patchy staring menacingly at Locke from one of the Dharma hatch monitors, geeks everywhere collectively jumped for joy at the thought of the Lostees squaring off against That One Dude in the Eyepatch. And this week, finally, we saw more of Patchy McGee, and who out there didn't didn't love this guy? Let's see: Badass Russian accent? Check. Cool Street Fighter-esque fighting style? Check. Obligatory backstory invloving him being an aimless soldier at the end of the Cold War? Check. Obligatory ambiguity over whether he's lying or telling the truth? Check. Eyepatch? Check and check. And there you have it folks, the making of a classic Lost villain in a few easy steps.

Otherwise, this ep was kind of disappointing in some ways. I appreciate the show's ability to throw a bone to its fans and poke a little fun at itself (I was dying of laughter when, withing the opening minutes, Paulo, aka "Take a $#%& guy," entered the scene having just come from, well, the name says it all, people. But, as much as that was funny, the other Island stuff was just kind of overly jokey and cute, and took away from the urgency of the main plot. This is a recurring problem with Lost - the subplots, the flashbacks, etc, often become really intrusive and rob the main A plots of their gravity and length. This week, the Sayid flashbacks were okay, but not really very necessary, not really adding much to the character or the overall storyarc.

It has to be said though that Naveen Andrews as Sayid is great, and brings a real intensity to the show that some of the other actors don't. And thank you, writers, for actually having Sayid ASK SOME RELEVANT QUESTIONS to Patchy. Of course, the cop out is that much of what Patch revealed was then revealed to be false. One step forward, two steps back ...

Overall though, this episode had a fun sense of discovery and adventure in its A plot, lots of action, intrigue, and cool moments. Even if there were some logic gaps (why would Dharma require one to beat a computer chess game to activate a security fail safe?), the main A plot was great, and featured an eye-patch-sporting badass villain to boot. It just got weighed down by the overly cutesy Hurly-Sawyer ping pong game and the pretty pointless flashbacks.

My Grade: B+

- Meanwhile, this week's HEROES was once again pretty awesome, which was great to see as I was worried that last week's great episode was more a blip than the start of a trend. But once again, I was really captivated by almost every plotline, and even some of the more annoying characters (Mohinder, Peter) took on an added element of intigue this week by being put in mortal danger (always a good way to spark some interest). But man, my eyes lit up when I saw Malcolm McDowell turn up as Linderman at episode's end. Somehow, I had totally forgotten that McDowell was scheduled to appear, so I was genuinely surprised to see such a great actor appear on the show. McDowell gives Heroes an instant shot of gravitas, exactly what the show needs, as it is filled with a number of photogenic but learning-on-the-fly faces. Good stuff overall, and some classic cliffhangers to boot - this episode had at least 5 really good twists, which is pretty damn impressive. And who doesn't love the new shape-shifting girl? Kudos to Heroes for raising the bar.

My Grade: A

- I thought last night's 30 ROCK was one of the weaker episodes to date, though still pretty decent overall. Not a lot of big laughs, though as usual I smiled at almost every line that Tracy Morgan bellowed. "He's pointing right at me!" Hahahaha ... But for the most part, a lot about this episode just seemed a bit off, and the Alec Baldwin plot about his con-artist family got kind of grating after a while. Like I said, it was a decent episode, but just slightly disappointing since the last few weeks of the show have been off-the-charts hilarious. This is still one of the best comedies on TV, so check it out if you haven't seen it.

My Grade: B

ANNOUNCEMENT: You guys all need to check out NBC's newest comedy, ANDY BARKER P.I.. Nope, it hasn't aired yet, but all 6 episodes (including one that won't air on TV) are available RIGHT NOW on iTunes, including a FREE download of the pilot. Now many comedy fans know that FOX's Andy Richter Controls the Universe was one of the funniest shows of all time, and one of the saddest premature cancellations in recent memory (when will it be on DVD already?). Now, that stupid Quintuplets show sucked, but this is a return to form for Andy. It's not quite at Controls the Universe levels of funny quite yet, but it is well worth checking out and with plenty of laughs. It's co-created by CONAN O'BRIEN himself, so any Conan fans must check it out. Plus, if you're a real Conan afficianado, you'll recognize that Andy Barker is in many ways a retooled version of Conan's legendary unaired Adam West pilot, LOOKWELL (see it on youtube). So yeah, check out ANDY BARKER PI on iTunes now!!!


- You've probably heard by now that over in the pages of Marvel Comics, CAPTAIN AMERICA is DEAD. I have yet to read the story itself, but the great thing about events like this is that they garner mainstream attention, meaning that we get lots of comic book discussion on national TV, in this case we even have conservative blowhards hurtling condemnations of the death as liberal propaganda! Awesome! Hahaha ... stupid conservatives ... But, last night on COLBERT, his segment "The Word" was all about Captain America! Hilariously amazing! Yes, my blog's first ever embedded video, courtesy of the Lord of Truthiness. Check it:

Pretty awesome, huh? Also, The Onion got in on the humor as well:
Pretty classic ...

- Official announcement today about Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes in Dark Knight. I like the actress, but the character was the weakest thing about Batman Begins' script. No stupid love interest is needed (unless within minutes she becomes Harley Quinn).

- I picked up the new Arcade Fire CD and so far am really into it. I love the song Intervention.

- Also picked up Borat on DVD - I've never seen such hilarious packaging. The DVD looks like a generic DVDRW with the word Borat written in faux-Sharpie on the disc. LOL.

- Read the Rudy Guliani cover story in this week's Newsweek. This guy is pretty nutty and I hope his current popularity fades. In the same issue there's a great op-ed about how the last thing we need in the Whitehouse is yet another stubborn urban cowboy.

- Tonight, WE DINE IN HELL. Okay, not really, I'll probably be having dinner with my parents. But after that, 300, baby! YES~! Can't wait. THIS IS SPARTA. I wonder if the legions of Gerard Butler fans I met via working at the Tonight Show will be all over this one, or turned off since they are mostly middle-aged women and this movie is geared aquarely at my inner 14-year-old boy. On second thought ... don't wanna think too much about that one. And I'm out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jack Bauer Saves U S and A: 24, Prison Break, Scooter Libby, MORE

Alright, well, my relative lack of enthusiasm about 24 has been pretty visible the last few weeks, but last night I got back with Jack and I'm down with the real-time countdown. No, this wasn't an A-level episode, not quite yet, but it was a marked improvement over the last few weeks.

24 (TWENTY FOUR) 24!

This week's 24 was made by the presence of a character who up until now, honestly, I could have cared less about. But the great thing about 24 is that it's structure allows for certain background players to, on occasion, step into the limelight and steal the show. Tony Almeda, Michelle Dessler, Curtis Manning - all began as bit players and then slowly but surely became fan favorites.

Last night, Powers Booth as the Vice President stepped up and brought GRAVITAS back to 24. Okay, maybe I was just semi-delusional, realizing that this badass actor had voiced Gorilla Grodd on JLU, but Powers had some real power to his 24 performance last night, to the point where I wasn't sure if I liked or hated his character, but was sure that, in either case, he was pretty badass. After a run of fresh-faced Wayne Palmer as a mostly uninspiring Prez, it was nice to see a take-charge character who could stand toe to toe with such grizzled vets as Jack Bauer and Bill Buchanan.

Speaking of Buchanan though ... one of my biggest complaints about the show of late is that Buchanan is being made to look like a total loser. He apparently has no control over CTU or his agents. He runs an organization that is perpetually short-staffed, and totally reliant on the services of a guy (Jack) who is only working for them on an ad-hoc basis following his release from a Chines prison only hours earlier. The preview for next week seemed to be a step in the right direction with a new head of field ops for CTU ('bout time!), but still ... what 24 needs is to establish a better sense of the CTU hierarchy. It's absurd to think that the LA branch is constantly the nations' sole hope in combatting terrorism, and that Bill Buchanan basically reports to no one save the President, esp considering how spotty his record is.

My other big complain is how Jack has become such a robotic automaton killing machine. As an aside, I agree that the show has completely overused torture as a plot device of late. I think the idea that the torture shown on 24 could have a derogatory affect on our nation's military practices is pretty absurd - I mean let's face it, from a narrative standpoint, whenever someone is tortured on 24, it's usually practically a necessity. It's usually the ONE GUY who knows the location of a nuclear bomb set to go off in 15 minutes or something, and if Jack doesn't get its location from him, MILLIONS WILL DIE ... so yeah, in that case, who's going to object to a little tough love? Not I. But from a purely creative standpoint, it's just old hat by now to see Jack need to extract info from some poor sap by cutting off his fingers, giving him MORE CC'S of liquid pain, etc ... Creatively, the writers have to realize that putting Jack in a situation where he has to go medieval on a terrorist to extract some time-sensitive info has become a huge narrative crutch on the show. Cochran and Surnow should take a lesson from their own La Femme Nikita, where every time those two weird Euro-perv torture team people went to interrogate a hostage, well, you knew that business had just picked up.

But back to my original point, Jack has just become too robotic of late. In Season 1 he was a normal family man prone to dole out James Bond-like bouts of superhuman ass-whupping. Now, we get a Jack who finds out that his dad and brother were at the forefront of a conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of President Palmer ... and Jack doesn't even bother to ask for details? I couldn't believe that Jack was sitting in a limo with Logan and never once asked about the hows or whys of Logan's shady partnership with Jack's brother Graham. Like I said, I love anti-terrorist machine Jack Bauer as much as anyone, but would it kill the writers to have him show a bit of humanity, like, maybe stopping for a moment to flinch at the revelation that his dad and brother are EVIL?

Those complaints aside, this ep of 24 did a good job of steering things back on track, and setting up a great confrontation at the Russian consulate. The most interesting thread is that the VP is himself a right-winger interested in enforcing near martial law. Does this mean that Jack will now be given carte blanche to avert the terrorists by any means necessary? Hmm, it will def be interesting to see if the show follows up on the idea of Jack working with a very conservative Prez. This ep though did a great job of adding some intrigue to the whole conspiracy / Tom Lennox storyline, and Lennox turning the tables on the conpirators was a great twist. Similarly, this ep reminded me why President Logan was so great in the first place, huge improvement over last episode in terms of giving Logan some great dialogue and fun moments.

So yeah, 24 right now still has a few big-picture problems, some of which seem to be on track to be addressed soon (new field ops leader at CTU, Martha Logan and AARON F'N PIERCE return next week), and some of which seem to be expanding by the episode (is this show even in real time anymore? the VP said his plane was landing in a few hours ,then 5 minutes later he was on the ground!). But, in the short-term, we have some new characters stepping up, some old faves returning, and both lead storylines (Jack held captive, conspiracy in the White House) are reaching the boiling point of intensity. Problems and all, thank Jack for the greatness that is 24.

My Grade: B+

- Last night's PRISON BREAK ... okay, for a long time now I've defended this show against those who call it ridiculous by praising it's totally over-the-top, campy sensiblities as being more fun, crazy, and intensely absorbing than any other show out there. But this week, even I did a double take at the show's latest twisted revelation. Now, correct me if I misunderstood this, but did they actually imply that ... (SPOILERS) ...

... The President and her brother had an incestuous sexual relationship?!?!

... if I understood that little plot point correctly, then ... wow, okay, that is a BIT much, even for Prison Break. And this little revelation wasn't exactly revealed with any degree of subtlety or grace either. I don't know, just kind of lame. Meanwhile, I think fatigue with this show's neverending series of near-captures / near escapes is starting to sink in. Every con is alternatively a master escape artist or a complete moron. I don't know ... I mean T-Bag's storyline was pretty interesting and now he's on the run again? Fernando was seriously going to go after T-Bag's money when he had finally found happiness in Mexico?

Anyways, this ep had the usual awesomeness from William Fichtner, and there were some great scenes with Michael held captive by that one guy. Man, that guy (you know who I mean) is SO freaking evil. The way he constantly smiles every second makes you want to see him get punched out so badly. Great villain who you can't help but love to hate (but I don't know the character's name, just that he is really evil). Otherwise, some of the subplots this ep took a decided turn for the laaaaaaaaaame.

My Grade: B -


- Howsabout this whole Scooter Libby trial? Following its ins and outs is like trying to make our way through James Joyce's Ulysses, but man, if anything, this whole thing just seems to lend credence to the idea that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove went out of their way to pad the case for the War in Iraq, and that Libby is basically the fall guy who is going sown for their wrongdoings. This is one of those cases that may bever be fully demistified, but on the other hand it could unravel and really become a Watergate-like scandal in which people at the highest levels are implicated. It's funny - the whole thing is so complex that I don't think the average person realizes what this case means. It means that Cheney's right-hand man just got indicted for exposing an undercover CIA operative in an effort to falsely verify documents claiming that Iraq had WMD's. This debunks the Bush admin's case for war in Iraq. This implies that Cheney lied and made his case by compromising national security. This validates the idea that the war was started under false pretenses. Again I ask ... is it '08 yet? Seriously though, is it? No, seriously, I hope that this case does get unraveled and anyone who deserves to be is implicated and tried. As Fox Mulder said, "The Truth Is Out There."

- Borat is out on DVD today! I can't wait to see some of the extras, as some of S. Baron Cohen's best moments inevitably come in material left on the cutting room floor (see deleted scenes of Da Ali G Show for evidence of this). I've gotten so much traction out of my Ali G dvd's that Borat is pretty much a must-own for me.

- I'm kind of getting into Arcade Fire lately, and am looking forward to hearing more of their latest album. Anyon e with me on this?

- Man, the NBA is really becoming up for grabs. The West will be interesting with the Suns at full strength and the Spurs and Mavs still gunning, and with D Wade out for Miami, the East SEEMS to belong to Detroit, but it will be interesting to see if a team like Cleveland or Chicago steps up.

- Let us all bow our heads in mourning at the gross TRAGEDY that is the Pussycat Dolls reality show airing tonight in place of Veronica Mars. Ugh. Please for the sake of Western Civilization, do not watch that crap.

- No I have not watched last night's HEROES yet.

- Who's excited for WHEN THE WIND SHAKES THE BARLEY? Most epic movie ever? Bwahahaha....

- Alright that's all I've got for now. Nice! How much?