Friday, June 29, 2007

TONIGHT - My Short Film Screens! More on Benoit, and MORE.

Aaaaaaaaaaand I'm back.

So, I wanted to get a quick post up to inform / remind everyone of some cool news. TONIGHT (Friday, 6/29, for those keeping track), a short film that I co-wrote and developed will screen as part of the 48 Hour Film Festival in LA! The film, titled "So, Like, Once Upon A Time," is a funny satire of fairy-tale characters - Disney meets Family Guy meets Fables meets The Real World, is one way of looking at it. The idea behind the 48 Hour Fest is that the films are written, shot, and edited within a single weekend, under assigned guidelines that dictate the film's genre as well as certain characters, dialogue, and props that must be included in the film - so not only is it a fun if exhausting excercise, but it forces your team to actually have a finished product in a very short time, which is pretty cool. The screening is tonight in Beverly Hills at 6:30 pm, so if anyone in LA is reading this and wants to come, email or call me for more info! The more that come to support our team the better, because there is an award given out based on audience votes!

I'm pretty excited about this, urge you to come, and if you can't make it, don't worry - I hope to get the film online and on MySpace, YouTube, etc within the next few weeks! For pictures from the shoot, check out my Facebook profile.

I'd also like to give a shout out to all past and present members of Boston University's OVEREXPOSED student sketch-comedy TV show. I basically approached this film like a more intricately-done comedy sketch, and my Overexposed writing experience was crucial in getting it done quickly and done well. The style of humor is definitely straight outta Overexposed as well, so it was nice to get back to the sketch-comedy roots for this one.

Tonight's film fest is my last hurrah here in in LA before jetting off tommorow for a week in the EAST COAST. I am looking forward to much sleeping, seeing old friends, possibly hitting up New York and Boston, catching up on some movie-watching, videogame playing, and reading, defeating my brother Matt in basketball, eating a slice or two of real pizza, and just generally kicking back. If anyone is around from June 30th to July 8th, don't hesitate to contact me. For those in LA, I'll be MIA until July 9th, and I welcome the chance to get away from the daily grind, and hope to be sitting in front of a computer as little as possible. So, apologies if I'm incommunicado for a bit, but there's some big things in store for the latter part of the summer (ComiCon in July, concerts in August, etc) and I'm psyched to get back to LA as well after some much needed downtime.

- What else...?

- Just a few quick thoughts on the Benoit case. It's been ridiculous lately, turning on the news and seeing every blowhard and talking head wailing away about Benoit while making the stupidest statements ever. I've heard everything from "he was depressed about a demotion" (not true - if anything he was due for a renewed push) to "Kevin Sullivan could be the murderer of not only Benoit but of Sherri Martel" (interesting consipiracy theory, but extremely far-fetched with zero evidence to back it up). So after listening to tabloid "journalists" like Nancy Grace and Geraldo talk out of their colelctive asses, it was great last night to flip on FOX News and see Chris Jericho correcting Nancy Grace on many of her ill-informed points, and doing so while being totally well-spoken and articulate. Thank you, Chris Jericho, you are a credit to your profession. And thank you also to the great Bret Hart, for whom it must be unfathomably painful to appear on all these shows and talk about Benoit. Bret once again shows his class in all of these interviews, and is careful in his words and even patient to a fault with these streams of media pundits. On the other side of the spectrum are idiots like Lex Luger, Chyna, and Vince McMahon himself. Last night I saw Chyna on CNN and almost couldn't look at her - she looked 100% different than I remembered her and looked like a poster-child for why NOT to get extensive plastic surgery. Very freakish. Meanwhile, McMahon's Today Show interview was to me very crass and insincere. It's like Vince doesn't know how to talk in any manner other than his in-character PT Barnum-esque hyperbole. He called Benoit a "monster" at every chance he could, painting everything in WWE-style good guy vs. bad guy shades of black and white, repeating ad nauseum that a WWE performer's only job was to "put smiles on people's faces." I don't know, I think on one hand Vince has a point that he can only take so much responsibilty for performers not under a WWE contract. At the same time, does he ever take ANY responsibility for anything? Vince is George Bush like in his inabilty to ever admit when mistakes were made or that he needs to do better.

Meanwhile, there continues to be a small but persistent theory that there is more to the Benoit case than meets the eye. Could it have been a setup? A frame? Were other parties involved? I'd like very much to believe this - as people like Hart and Jericho have been saying, Benoit was NEVER someone who struck even his closest friends as someone who was remotely capable of such an act. But realistically, the simplest answers are often the correct ones, and it just seems too out-there and too much of a stretch to seriously consider some nefarious plot as a possibility here. But who knows. Let's just hope it's a thorough investigation and more answers are on their way ...

- Anyways, hope to see some of you tonight at the 48 Hour Film Fest - stay tuned for updates on how our film does, and hopefully soon I'll have it up here online. Until then, have a great weekend, and the next blog will likely be coming to you live, from Bloomfield, Connecticut!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Final Word On Chris Benoit ...

More and more facts continue to come to light on this bizarre and shocking case, and yet even as new pieces of the puzzle are revealed, the tragedy of Chris Benoit only becomes increasingly confusing and difficult to process.

48 hours ago, if you told anyone that Chris Benoit had passed away, then the eulogies that would have poured out would have been much like the one I wrote last night. We'd all be mourning the loss of one of the all-time greats, a man who stood for honor and respect and compassion and was a role model and hero to many.

Right now, I simply have no idea how to reconcile the Chris Benoit that I've followed and been a fan of for over ten years with the Chris Benoit that has been portrayed in the media over the last 24 hours. Again, I cannot emphasize enough just how shocking this is, how by all accounts, fierce exterior to the contrary, Benoit was the LAST person that anyone would have ever pegged as being capable of murdering his own family. And now, how can anyone look at someone like him the same way? The man had to have been sick, demented, mentally ill. But this goes against so much of what we knew about him - all the testimonials that came in immediately after he was found dead, testimonials from close friends and colleagues, hailing Benoit not only as one of the best wrestlers ever to step inside a ring, but as a consummate pro, a family man, a man who people like Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero and Bret Hart considered like a brother. How could THAT man be THIS man whose face is now splashed across CNN and NBC and FOX?

And it couldn't be more ironic that Benoit was always defined as an underdog, always just one step away from grabbing the spotlight away from his flashier peers. Now, a guy who was NEVER about movie deals or record deals or anything other than the craft of wrestling finds himself front and center in the media, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

And here I am, still talking about Benoit like he was "The Crippler," "The Rabid Wolverine." How can you suddenly hate and despise and crucify a man who you've looked up to for a decade? I know that's what I should be doing, but somehow I can't fully do it. Wrestling is a tricky beast, as it walks the line between reality and fantasy, and the distinctions are often blurred to the point where no one is quite sure what is real and what is just a part of the ongoing storyline. Of course, Benoit's death occurred just as the WWE was in the midst of a ludicrous "Who Killed Vince McMahon?" angle that was in poor taste even before this incident, given the very real deaths that have put a black mark on the wrestling business in the last several years. However, to some extent it's easy to separate someone like Vince McMahon from his on-air "Mr. McMahon" persona (though even that is basically an extension of his real-life personality to some degree). But for as long as most American fans have known him, Chris Benoit has simply been Chris Benoit, someone who like a Ric Flair or Bret Hart essentially "lived his gimmick." And even beyond his ring persona, everything I've seen of Benoit up until now has only pointed to him being a decent, humble human being. In the "Hard Knocks" documentary, he comes off as soft-spoken, passionate about his profession, humbled to be carrying on the legacy of people like the Dynamite Kid. If the warning signs WERE there that Benoit had something like this in him, I don't think there was a single fan, and maybe not even a single one of his peers, who saw them.

Now, however, there is this horrible, ugly reality to deal with. Again, the Benoit fan in me refuses to beleive that this was a black and white case of cold-blooded murder. Benoit must have been mentally ill to the point where he literally had no idea what he was doing. Perhaps he was delusional. Maybe, in some sick twisted way, he imagined he was protecting his family from some unseen danger. Of course, there is no excuse, no jusification for this atrocity. But I'm not going to be one of those people who screams and yells and hopes that Benoit is burning in hell for what he did. The man was sick, there was something off, and it's clear that whatever moment of psychosis that overcame Benoit, when it passed, he had to have been so overwhelmed with the horror of what he had done that he couldn't stand to live with the knowledge of it. More than anything, this is jsut a terrible, terrible tragedy. A tragedy that took the life of an innocent kid. A tragedy that took the life of a trailblazing performer in her own right, Nancy Sullivan, and a tragedy that in one fell swooped virtually erased and negated the remarkable career of Chros Benoit, that may have killed millions of great memories and shattered the belief of all of us who looked up to the guy. How could this happen? How could Chris Benoit, of all people, be a murderer?

I will say this: I do not fault the WWE for airing a tribute special last night before the facts of the case were fully known. Personally, even if it looks crass in retrospect to air a tribute to a murderer, I for one am grateful that we were given one last moment, before all the horrific facts were brought to light, to remember the Chris Benoit that all of us knew, or thought we knew. Call it sheer denial, but it was nice to have that tribute, just as it was nice to write my own here on the blog, in that brief moment when I simply thought that we had lost a champion and a future Hall-of-Famer.

But I will also say this: this is yet another wake-up call for the WWE. They have active and retired wrestlers dropping left and right in their 30's, 40's, and 50's. It was only a week ago that Sherri Martel passed away. Over the last few years the list is long of those who went too early: Eddie Guerrero, Owen Hart, Ms. Elizabeth, Curt Henning, Davey Boy Smith, Rick Rude, Hawk, Ray Traylor, and the list goes on ... Too many of these deaths have been from substance abuse, be it alcohol, painkillers, or steroid abuse. This has got to end. There needs to be mandatory time off for these guys. There needs to be stricter drug-testing, better health-care, and mental health screenings. Someone like a Jesse Ventura or Schwarzenneger needs to step in ASAP and voice these concerns, and McMahon has got to act without hesitation. This is just ridiculous. And no, I am not saying that the Benoit incident had anything to do with substance abuse per se, but even so, these issues persist, and it's just remarkable that, if there was a serious, ongoing mental health issue, that it was never addressed before this.

In any case, this whole tragic incident honestly makes me feel sick to even think about. Last night and today it was constantly on my mind, and I was morbidly fascinated with this case, because all I could wonder, like so many others, was "why?" This is one of those true "Say It Ain't So, Joe!" moments. It's the equivalent of finding out that a Larry Bird or a Roger Clemens or a Wayne Gretzky was in fact a vicious killer. I just cannot wrap my head around it.

I stand by my earlier tribute, but only as applies to the Chris Benoit that I knew and was a longtime fan of before this incident. I realize now that I and my fellow fans likely had no idea who Chris Benoit really was, and after this, I'm not sure I want to.

- For now, this is my last word on the subject, and sorry to write so much on such a depressing topic. I actually do ahve some really cool and good stuff to share here, so stay tuned tommorow for a very welcome change of pace. - Danny

It's a Messed-Up World

Please, please tell me this isn't true ...

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Tribute to "The Crippler" Chris Benoit


As I sit here to type this, i, still, am in shock. Chris Benoit is dead, and as facts begin to trickle in, this strange case gets more and more surreal. Benoit, the Benoit I've watched for over a decade, was a man who commanded respect. A man who never relied on gimmicks. What you saw was what you got - and what you got was 100% badass, a man who was born and bred to wrestle, a machine, who honed his craft, emphasis on CRAFT, to the point where for the last decade Benoit was undeniably the best in the business. From all accounts, he was a consummate professional, a man who was a role-model for many, a connection between wrestling's colorful past and its future.

Chris Benoit, to me, exemplified GREATNESS. In the wrestling ring, he was a modern day Bruce Lee. The sheer artistry that he brought to a fight was breathtaking to behold. The fire in Benoit's eyes was almost scary to see. I don't know if any one person better embodied the word "intensity." Benoit was a wrestler that us fans who were passionate about the business quickly singled out as one of the true greats. Not only was he a master ring technician, but Benoit had an in-ring style that was violently beautiful. When Benoit delivered a knife-edge chop, it was with a resounding force that echoed across the arena. For anyone who scoffed at wrestling and dismissed it as "fake," I would hold up any Chris Benoit match. When you see Benoit deliver a chop, there is NO WAY to watch his hand smack some poor sap's chest and not see just how much that had to hurt. When Benoit delivered a snap suplex, he did it with just the right snap that made the move seem all the more effective. His moves were high impact to the extreme. The triple-German - devastating. The flying headbutt - had to have hurt like hell every time. The patented suicide dive - hardcore before hardcore was cool. The crippler crossface - one of the classic submission maneuvers, simple yet effective, when it was locked in, an opponent was guaranteed to tap out.

I first noticed Chris Benoit back in the mid-90's in WCW. At the time, WCW was rising to prominence on the backs of 80's legends enjoying a second act. Big, epic storylines dominated the day - Hulk Hogan and the NWO. Guys like Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Roddy Piper were wrestling in the main events, and they brought boat loads of charisma and the nostalgia-factor to be sure, but equally if not more exciting was the undercard at the time, which was bursting at the seems with up and coming talent. Every Monday, my brother and I tuned in and, even as we watched guys like Hogan and Randy Savage, we were introduced to a whole new crop of superstars in the making - Chris Jericho, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko - and Chris Benoit. Benoit was just sick, and I mean that in the best way possible. He was "silent but violent," "the Rabid Wolverine," "the Canadian Crippler." His actions spoke loud and true. And he was so good, so fun to watch, that it didn't matter if the show as a whole was good or not, as long as there was a Benoit match on the card, there was something to look forward to.

I can't even count the number of superstars who when you look at their careers, one of their Top 5 matches, if not their best match, came when facing Chris Benoit. Benoit had the amazing talent that few others have ever had - like a Ric Flair, Bret Hart, or Shawn Michaels, he could have a great match with ANYONE. If you couldn't have a god match with Benoit, it was time to reexamine your career choice. Offhand, so many great matches come to mind. Fights against Booker T, Steve Austin, The Rock, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, and the list goes on and on and on. The sad part is that in many ways Benoit was the last of a dying breed. He grew up in Alberta, Canada idolizing the stars of Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling, most especially the legendary Dynamite Kid. In fact, Benoit's style was an ongoing tribute othe Dynamite, and the similarities between them are remarkable to watch in a side by side comparison. But Benoit was a true disciple - he studied in the real-life School of Hard Knocks - Stu Hart's infamous Dungeon. And Benoit carried on the amazing tradition of Dynamite Kid, of Stu Hart, of Bret Hart - a mastery of technical wrestling, a pride for tradition, an "excellence of execution," to borrow a phrase. Not only was he a student of the Dungeon, but Benoit was a Horseman. In WCW, when the legendary faction reformed under Ric Flair and "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson, there was only one guy on entire WCW mid-90's roster who was a 100% legitimate and natural fit for the prestigious group - and that guy was Benoit. He embodied everything that made the Four Horsemen legendary - class, prestige, technical excellence, hard-nosed toughness and ruggedness. I think that, over they ears, Flair and Anderson had a lot of resentment for some of the guys that were shoehorned into reformed incarnations of the Horsemen. But if there's one guy that both accepted into the group with open arms and the utmost level of respect - again, it was Chris Benoit. Seeing Benoit as a member of the Horsemen is what cemented him for me as a legend in his own time.

But while many of us hardcore fans long respected and "marked out" for Benoit and his five star matches, there was still a tremendous glass ceiling that prevented him from attaining the top spot in the business. But still, slowly but surely, Benoit could not be ignored. After Owen Hart died, Bret "The Hitman" Hart decided to return to the ring and put on a special tribute match to his late younger brother. Without hesitation, Bret chose Benoit as his opponent for the tribute. I vividly remember watching this bout on Monday Nitro and being in total awe of what I was seeing. In the wake of a tragedy, us fans were treated to a reminder of what was great about professional wrestling, not to mention one of the all-time great contests between a legend, Bret Hart, and a then-legend in the making in Chris Benoit.

Benoit continued to defy his critics by going to the WWE along with his fellow "Radicalz" from WCW and garnering even more title wins and racking up an increasing number of amazing matches. But the pinnacle was at Wrestlemania 20, when Benoit beat two mainstream stars in Shawn Michaels and HHH to win the world title on the grandest stage of him all. The show ended with Benoit celebrating in the ring, joined by his longtime friend Eddie Guerrero. For years, both had been fan favorites, but huge underdogs. They were undersized, underhyped, and held back by politics, red tape, and bad business. To think of the emotion of that moment now, with both best friends now deceased, is just unbearably sad. But the fact remains - that climactic moment of Wrestlemania 20, with Benoit finally, FINALLY a world champion, is one of the all-time most memorable moments in the history of the business.

The list of classic Chris Benoit matches and moments goes on and on and on. Here are some of the best that come to mind immediately, some of my personal favorites:

- Chris Benoit vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. This match, on free TV, was one of the best I've ever seen. The crowd was going nuts for the hometown hero, and Benoit delivered, pulling out an amazing sequence that saw him deliver TEN consecutive German suplexed to Austin.

- Benoit and Chris Jericho vs. Stone Cold and HHH - This match was just symbolic of the underdog vs. the establishment. As Benoit and Jericho sought to pull of the upset of the year, you could almost feel the glass ceiling shattering. The heat for this match was off the charts.

- Any Benoit vs. Malenko match - In WCW, any time these two fought, it was a total treat. Malenko was a master technician on par with Benoit, and every match they had was like a chess match of holds and counter-holds.

- Benoit vs. Booker T, Best of Seven series - In WCW, these two had a classic rivalry that delivered, every week, an instant-classic, tat left fans on the edge of their seats wondering who would come out on top, and how. A lot of times its boring to see the same two guys go at it over and over, but not in this case.

- Benoit vs. Angle in a cage - When Kurt Angle came to WWE, he was clearly a legend in the making, and the clear dream match was Angle vs. Benoit - the Olympic Gold medalist vs the Rabid Wolverine. These two had a number of matches that were just SICK, none more so than their RAW cage match, which saw suplexes, headbutts, and moonsaults from the top of the cage, and just brutal, bloody, classic battles.

- Benoit vs. Bret Hart - the two had one of my all time favorite matches when they locked up in tribute to Owen - the match is textbook perfect - it builds to a crescendo, tells a story, has a great finish, and elicits genuine emotion. The two also had a great match for the WCW title that saw Bret Hart win.

- Benoit vs. The Rock - it was an awesome image - Benoit with the Great One locked in the crossface, screaming "tap! Tap! TAP!" and The Rock screaming in pain. This match made even fans who had dismissed Benoit stand up and take notice.

- Any Benoit vs. Flair match - From the WCW days to WWE, these matches always had a "passing of the torch" type feel as the two Horsemen tied up. The thing with both Benoit and Flair is that they give you 110% whether it's a PPV or a C-list show like the old WCW Saturday Night.

- Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. HHH at 'Mania - One of the all-time classics, this match was the crowning achievement in Benoit's illustrious career, the match that finally saw Benoit recognized as The Best, as World Champion. When Benoit ascends that top rope, with championship gold in his eyes, man, you get chills every time.

- Benoit vs. Anybody - Benoit had great matches with ANYONE. From William Regal to Eddie Guerrero to Shawn Michaels to Edge to Jericho to Devon Storm, any Benoit match - you knew he'd deliver the goods, night in night out, the man was a machine, a workhorse, a prodigy. At only age 40, he was already one of the greatest of all-time, and never had a bad match with anyone.

It's just so sad, so tragic, so surreal, to see sucha consummate professional, a man who was a Champion in every sense of the word, go so suddenly. A guy who had the Heart of A Champion, a sense of pride and class and dignity, who quietly and without unnecessary flash ascended the ladder and became The Best. I saw Chris Benoit perform in person many times - at house shows, at Wrestlemania, against Eddie Guerrero and in his first WWE pay-per view as part of the Radicalz, in Hartford, CT. But man, I wish I could see him one more time. A true legend, Benoit was real, legit, and quite simply The Best.

Oh God ... Chris Benoit ...

Oh my god.

I am in total and utter disbelief right now. Chris Benoit is apparently dead, along with his entire family. Details right now are nonexistent, but I just am completely in shock. I can't even think right now. For those who don't know, Benoit was one of the greatest wrestlers to ever compete, a guy who was a legitimate badass, yet one of the rare athletes who exuded dignity and class and commanded respect. He was by all accounts a great man. Call it cheesy, I don't care - the man was one of my personal heroes - and right in the prime of his career, he's dead? This is just completely surreal. I have no idea what happened, what caused this. All I know is this is a total, utter tragedy.

I'll try to write more later.

For now I am just sad and in disbelief.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer --- "Excelsior!" or "Meh ..." ?!?!

- Well, it was a crazy weekend as expected, as the 48 Hour Film Festival shifted into high gear. Friday night, I worked on the script for our film into the wee hours of the morning. Since it was a somewhat collaborative process, there were moments of slow-going, but mostly, I worked pretty quickly and settled on the main characters without too much problem. The genre we were assigned was "fantasy," never an easy topic for a no-budget short film, but luckily we had worked out in advance a pretty clever little idea that would subvert fairy-tale characters and satirize their stories into a kind of mock-Real World / Judd Apatow-ish comedy - think the comic book Fables meets Family Guy. So the writing part went as smoothly as can be expected for this type of shotgun script writing. Then, Saturday I attended the shoot, which was a lot of fun, since there wasn't much pressure on me to do much at that point excapt to observe and lend a comment or two. The real fun was seeing the actors and crew come together to actually film the script that I had written only hours earlier. It was a good group and I think they did a great job (I will reserve my final judgement until I see the finished, edited film, but I am hoping for an awesome finished product).

And yeah, I am still freaking out about when the screening will be held (I still haven't been able to change it to Friday), and again, it's one of those frustrating situations where all of the universe's cosmic forces seem to be conspiring to not allow this to work out. I am still waiting on the final word, so pleaaaaaaaaase lord let us be able to scree on Friday rather than Saturday, when I will be flying home to Connecticut. Sadly, the guy from the 48 Hour fest says chances for a switch are not very good. We shall see, my friends. We shall see ...

So, anyways, last night I was slightly stressing about all this and was jones-ing for a movie to take my mind off of everything. Now, all signs pointed to the Fantastic Four sequel being a steaming pile, but the geek in me just had to see the silver Surfer brought to big-screen life for myself. So ...


- Let's put this out there first - The original Fantastic Four movie (from a few years ago, not the Roger Corman one ...) was a piece of crap. The best thing I can say about it is that it wasn't a total loss, because at least there seemed to be a decent cast in place to continue the series with, hopefully, a better director and writing team. But after a string of good to great comic book movies that preceded it (Spiderman 2, Batman Begins, Hellboy, etc.), Fantastic Four burst onto the scene with a total lack of awareness that the bar had been raised in the comic book genre. This was a movie that would have been considered poor even if had been released in the dark days of Spawn and Batman Forever. The writing was atrocious, the plotting disgraceful, and the way that the classic stories of Lee and Kirby were simply $%#* on, with a total lack of artistic vision or purpose, was actually pretty nauseating.

Somehow, some way, however, this movie made money - lots of money. And a sequel was quickly put into production. As a review in The Onion said - "this was that big summer movie that everybody saw and nobody liked."

Well, I'm happy to report that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is definitely better than the first one. It looks a lot better, with some decent action and great f/x for the Surfer. It has a litle bit of actual humor. And, overall, it feels a bit more like a real Fantastic Four movie.

Still, what we have here is by no means a great or even good film. It's still a pretty sub-par offering that has little to nothing to add to the comic book mythos. There's lots of cringe-worthy acting, terrible characterization, a totally bare-bones plot, and still no real visual imagination or vision excepting the pretty cool-looking Surfer.

Let's talk about the film's plotting. So, here's the thing - the one thing the movie has a pretty good handle on is the dynamic between the Fantastic Four. The interplay between Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm feels mostly right, and even though it's hamfisted and overly sitcom-ish, the movie's biggest strength is probably the amount of fun with which it handles the family dynamics of the Four. Granted, the writing is basically no better than a typical Saturday morning cartoon, which is especially disappointing since I grew up with some pretty badass Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer cartoons. But, I can see how kids would get into the bickering and sense of friendship that the Four engage in. This aspect is at least handled decently.

What is totally mucked up is the rest of the screenplay. I mean, so much of the focus is on the family dynamics of the Four that everything else is basically an afterthought. So that means that the Surfer, DR. DOOM, and the biggest threat of all, GALACTUS, all get the short shrift so we can spend more time hearing Sue pine for Reed to pay more attention to her. What made Lee's comic book sagas memorable were the moments of characterization sprinkled between the huge, cosmic action. Here, despite a plot and characters that beg for something big and epic, we get only small moments where there is any real dramatic tension or sense of scope, and the promise of those little moments is NEVER followed through on. For a moment - one brief moment - when the Surfer began explaining his origin to Sue, I was 100% in. This was it - Norrin Radd, the power cosmic, the coming of Galactus ... and then, nothing. The fate of the world is only ever actually at stake for about half a second, and the Surfer has a lot of scenes where he looks cool, but says or does little else. Galactus is, for all intents and purposes, not in this movie, only alluded to as some vague planet-eating threat, who we only see as some kind of swirling space-cloud. And that's it. The big climactic moment is the Surfer flying into the center of said cloud, doing something defiant (what, exactly, he does ... I have no idea), and somehow the threat of Galactus is over and done with. At some point Dr. Doom gets involved, too ...

Now, Dr. Doom, as played by Julian McMahon is possibly the worst and most disappointing aspect of not only this movie, but of the entire franchise. For one thing, McMahon is totally wrong for this part. Dr. Doom is, ideally, a crazed, Darth Vader-esque science experiment gone wrong. Here, he looks the part when behind the iron mask and cloak, but sounds like some yuppie upset that someone dented his new ferrari. Now, Dr. Doom is supposed to be the Four's archnemesis, one of the most evil, freakish, scary dudes around. As lame as he was in the first movie ... here is is, well, I won't say he's worse, just useless. Totally useless. He's brought in by the military to help with the Surfer's capture ... for no good reason. He then (surprise!) goes rogue. His big plan is, apparently, to steal the Surfer's board, ride around on it for a bit, and then get beaten up by the Human Torch and get punched into the ocean, presumably never to be see or heard from again ... Basically, one of comic's greatest villains is, once again, a total joke, miscast, and written so haphazardly that I honestly have no idea why he was even included in this movie.

McMahon isn't the only one who deserves criticism here. All of the other characters are treated like one big joke as well. Now, I appreciate that this is a light-hearted story that will have some comedic moments. But here, The Thing is a walking punchline. As is Johnny Storm. Even Mr. Fantastic follows Spiderman's example and has a goofy dance number. As with Spiderman, the tone is so off if only because the plot, in theory, should be tinged with darkness and pathos. We have a herald of a planet-eating despot, aimlessly soaring the galaxy, forced to prepare worlds for destruction in order to preserve his own - I mean, that's some potentially heavy stuff. Well, not here it's not ...

As for Jessica Alba. Well, Iaon Gruffold, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis may be the victims of some lame writing, but at least they feel very natural in their parts. Alba has felt wrong from the start, with her oddly-dyed hair and fake blue contacts, her look is some weird attempt to appease comic book fans who want a blond, blue-eyed Sue Storm. And her acting, well, it's just not very good. Alba has shown a few glimpses of talent in movies like Sin City, but she has a lot to prove if she wants to make the argument that she has the chops to pull off a leading lady action role like this one.

Luckily, the cast is to some extent overshadowed by the Silver Surfer. All I can say is - Doug Jones is a phenomena. While the Surfer has a shiny coat of CGI that brings him to metallic life, its Doug Jones physical acting that makes him really shine. As he did in Hellboy, Jones imbues the surfer with this otherworldly personality that feels real and tangible but fascinatingly alien. The voice of Lawrence Fishbourne is appropriately cool and mysterious, but it's Jones who is the real star of the show. So yeah, if there's any one aspect of the movie that lives up to the hype, it is definitely the visual of the Surfer, one of the few areas of the film where a classic Jack Kirby visual was brought to life in a manner befitting of the King.

So, overall, I found enough to enjoy here to justify my ticket, but that is me speaking as a fanboy who was chomping at the bit to see the Surfer brought to life. Ultimately, I can't help but resent how bland and dumbed-down these movies feel. For all the criticism that a movie like Pirates 3 gets from some corners, I think most would agree that it'd be nice if Fantastic 4 had a fraction of that movie's creativity and visual / stylistic punch. Simiarly, the script here is just so underwhelming. It's one thing that the dialouge and characterization is flat and paper-thin. But let's face it - Stan Lee has never been known for sophisticated dialogue or nuance. He and Kirby made their names on characters that jumped off the page and stories that were modern mythology - epic sagas that overflowed with far-out ideas and classic twists. Here, one of those great pieces of modern American myth - the Galactus story, is reduced to a mere afterthought, an excuse to get the Silver Surfer onscreen and broaden the scope of the franchise. Instead, introducing these potentially epic elements only serves to EXPOSE how weak and limited the talent behind the franchise is. There are just too many weak links, in the cast, in the writing, in the direction (please, replace Tim Story on any future sequels!), to successfully create a great comic book adaptation. Servicable? Maybe. But far, far away from being anything close to "fantastic."

My Grade: C

- Alright then, I'm out of here. Let me know what you think, as always. Anyways, now I can turn my attention to some summer movies that may actually be GOOD - Ratatouille, Superbad, Stardust ...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another 48 Hours ...


That is all I can say about the last few weeks. After a great time in Vegas, I was exhausted and ready to wind down for a week of idle relaxation. But that was not meant to be, as tonight begins 48 hours of the 48 Hour Film Fest. I am part of a large group that is putting something together for this weekend's fest. That means that tonight, I will be writing a script for our short film based on the genre we are assigned, which will also include an obligatory line of dialogue and prop as given to us. Tommorow the script will be shot, and edited on Sunday. In 48 hours, we will have a completed film.

Of course, I am quickly reminded of the trials and tribulations of putting together a diverse group of creative people who are coming from radically differing wavelengths and sensibilities. Anyone who knows me (or even reads my blog), knows that I have a pretty unique creative sensibility, one that some people get, and others don't. So it'd be one thing if this was a team that I assembled filled with people who shared my specific sense of humor or perspective on drama. But this is far from that, so it's going to be interesting to see how this pans out and how much of my voice makes it into our end product. Suffice to say, I am slightly freaking out.

Actually, most of my freaking out right now is due to the following dillemna: All this time, I've been under the impression that our films would be screened following the deadline to turn them in this Sunday. In fact, our group has been assigned to a screening set to take place next Saturday. Problem is, next Saturday morning I am scheduled to be on a plane heading home to Conencticut for a week! Sonova ...

I HATE this kind of thing. All I needed to know was a simple itinerary - a list of relevant dates for this filmfest. And the one crucial date, that of the screening, was somehow NEVER conveyed to me. Dammit. What I'm hoping for now is that our group can pull of a last-minute switch and change our screening to next Friday. Of course, as I attempt to do this, it feels like every force in the universe is conspiring against me to prevent this from happenening.

Anyways, I am chomping at the bit to see which genre we are assigned. It could be anything from comedy to sci-fi to romance to superhero, so this is a project that could potentially go in a number of different directions. Let's hope we can pull it off.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Danny gets KNOCKED UP

So, finally, I saw KNOCKED UP ... My Review:


- Right now, Judd Apatow has become something of an unlikely super-producer in Hollywood, and after seeing Knocked Up, it's very easy to understand why. The guy just gets comedy, in a way that many others out there now making these movies fail to grasp. Apatow always places a premium on character above all else, and his characters become fully realized thanks to a combination of great dialogue and great casting. When you take naturalistic, free-flowing dialogue and give it to relatable, talented actors not cut from the usual Hollywood cloth, you automatically have a winning formula, and Apatow has now perfected the art of taking the unremarkable and making it funny, sweet, and a step above the dumbed-down, condescending nature of the by-the-numbers comedy.

For me, it all comes back to the seminal Freaks and Geeks. It was one of those instantly magical shows that was so far above almost anything else on TV at the time, it's no big shock to see why then-network execs were simply clueless as to how to handle it. For me, it was one of those shows that I was so impressed with, that it instantly made me a fan of anyone involved with the show. Whenever anyone from the cast pops up on TV or film, I am happy to see one of the old Freaks and Geeks gang again (Arrested Development is another that falls into that category). And because of Freaks, and then Undeclared, I am forever interested in anything that bears the stamp of one of the show's creators, chief among them Apatow, who now seems to be the go-to guy for taking what COULD have been run-of-the-mill fare and giving it a unique, down-to-earth spin.

Such is the case with Knocked Up. This COULD have been crap, based on the somewhat gimmicky premise. But although it is, of course, a suspension of disbelief to see frumpy Seth Rogan with knockout Katherine Heigl, so much of the movie feels real and authentic that rarely are you left thinking "aww, that would never happen." Instead, we get a movie where every character, big and small, is drawn so naturalistically that you'll see something of your friends, your coworkers, your family, etc, in each of them. In Freaks and Geeks, part of the magic was that rather than being some glamorized Hollywood version of high school, it WAS high school. Here, again, this isn't really some candy-coated version of young adulthood - the humor isn't funny because its contrived, but because it rings true. All of the little asides about growing up, about friends, about family, about being forced into a situation with someone else under the most awkward of circumstances - all of that observational humor feels spot on, and this is where many of the film's funniest moments come into play.

The banter between Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan, particularly their mushoom-laced trip to Vegas. The scene where Heigl and her sister are unable to bypass the line for a nightclub, and chew out the doorman. Rogan and his roommates bantering about the merits of the Jewfro. Jonah Hill's Stephen Hawking impression. Katherine Wiig being passive aggressive. Rudd and Rogan bonding over DeNiro impressions.

These are among the many scenes that capture this film's style of humor so well - low-key, underplayed, the kind of banter that really occurs between people. And again, so much credit has to be given to this troup of actors. For one thing - Seth Rogan. He is one of those guys that has always been a standout, but who, really, expected him to carry a movie like he does here. Well, those of us who saw the classic Freaks ep where Rogan thinks he might be gay when he finds out his girlfriend is a hermaphrodite - WE knew how great he was. Rogan has that dry, stoner sense of humor, but he has an uncommon ability to elicit pathos as well. Watching him, he instantly feels like a guy you'd want to hang out with, and you really feel for him when things start to get crazy. If anything, Rogan makes his character her a bit TOO slovenly. In Knocked Up, the guy is not just an overweight slacker, but a total loser with no job, no money, and a tendency to blurt out inappropriate remarks, like when he tells Heigl's niece the meaning of the term "prick." I expected Rogan to play the shaggy everyman, but I admit, I was slightly surprised at how far out-there his character was. But don't get me wrong - this is a career-defining performance for Rogan, and he does an awesome job at being funny, empathetic, and multi-dimensional.

Rogan is surrounded by an awesome band of stoned-out misfits, many of them Apatow alums. It's great to see guys like Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and Jay Baruchel again. Segel in particular is hilarious as Rogan's right-hand man. Jonah Hill is another nice addition to the cast. You've gotta love these guys as they all feel legit. These are the guys who in college sat around getting high all day and then move into some house together, subsisting on Ramen and planning get-rich-quick schemes. You've met these guys, I've met these guys. And hey, even James Franco makes a funny appearance as himself, giving props to his Apatow roots.

Paul Rudd is one of those guys who I almost want not to like, just because so many people seem to blindly love him just because it's the cool thing to do. But what can I say - Paul Rudd is awesome. He's one of the funniest actors out there right now, someone who can do broad (Wet Hot American Summer), or, as with Knocked Up, he can play the everyman, the straight man, the put-upon married guy who really just wants to get away to meet with his fantasy baseball league. I also love the man-crush dynamic between Rogan and Rudd, and what their relationship reveals about Rudd's character. As with Freaks and Geeks, Apatow makes a great point about how these good-looking, seemingly-happy people who appear to have it all figured out can be just as miserable and directionless as anyone else. The parallel drawn between Rudd - who got married, had kids, and settled down in the traditional manner, and Rogan, who did everything ass-backwards but may have inadvertantly met the woman of his dreams, is handled really well. Both are equally on the verge of freaking out but for very different reasons.

Meanwhile, Leslie Mann almost steals the movie as Heigl's frustrated older sister. Her character is bitchy, whiny, a know-it-all, and obnoxious - not very likable at all - but I think that's the point. I think she kind of represents every guy's fear of what a woman might eventually become, and every woman's fear of what they are really like. I love the complexity of this character - like so many people I know, she is on the surface, all grown up. She is aging, and looks it. She has two kids, a husband, stability. But her attitude is immature, her views are shallow. She swears like a kid who just discovered the f-word, overloads on red bull, and feeds her fragile ego by trying to bypass the lines at nightclubs. In many senses, she is the most immature character in the movie. Again, Apatow creates these contrasts and subtley gets at some really interesting truths through his humor - pretty cool for a comedy of this nature.

Katherine Heigl - I've never seen her act in anything else before Knocked Up, but she is instantly likable. As I said, she's a knockout, but she has that air of approachability, a slight sense of dorkiness that is very endearing. Heigl does a really great job here, no doubt. My one complaint is that her character is just a bit ... ambiguous. I never felt like I 100% got who she was, why she worked in television, why she was so quick to like and then love Rogan, who was so over the top in his loser-isms as I metioned above. I guess she almost HAD to be kind of this amorphous every-woman, or else it would have been too difficult to write her as a real match for Rogan. But there was never exactly that one moment where you were like "oh, okay, I see why they are clicking and why she falls for him."

While I did have a slight feeling of something being off about the central romance, in the end, I can't say enough about Knocked Up. How many comedies really make you think about life like this one does? From a laugh-ratio standpoint, Knocked Up knocks it out of the park - hilarious dialogue and that same funny-because-it's-true humor that Apatow brings to all his projects. Kudos to Rogan and the rest of this great ensemble for pulling this off with so much nuance and intelligence. Not perfect, but overall one of the best comedies you'll find.

My Grade: A-

Monday, June 18, 2007

Viva Las Vegas - Reflections on Sin City and MORE

So, here I am, barely managing to power through the day, exhausted from a weekend in Vegas in which I think I got about 5 hours of sleep over 2 days. This was my first time visiting Sin City, and overall I had a great time. Me, the Axe Man, G-Man, and Coach Carter had a grand ol' time. We stayed at the Luxor (home of Pharoah's Pheast), toured several of the big hotels / casinos (ranging from cool to utterly tacky), partied it up at such local hotspots as Rumjungle at Mandalay Bay and Rain at the Palms (which lived up to the hype - I mean, it had a lighting system that shot FIREBALLS), and generally took in the sights and sounds and bright lights of the big city. And even though or initial flight out of Burbank was delayed by three hours, we still got in plenty of adventure - we even had the funniest cab driver of all time (think Matt Foley inspiration speaker), whose dismissal of Vegas as "hell on earth" set the tone for the rest of the weekend (in a good way, I think ...). It was a much-needed escape from LA, and a nice way to unwind (even if we never did get to see the magic of Hans Klok featuring Pamela Anderson - that, Borg 4-D, and "Bite" are on my to-do list for next time ...). Certainly a weekend for the record books. Check me out on Facebook and MySpace where I will try to upload some pictures shortly.

- Must catch up on many movies over the next week - STILL need to see Knocked Up ...

- Have you seen Eagle vs. Shark yet? Go see it ...

- The two songs stuck in my head post-Vegas: "Dancing Queen" (which I heard in our hotel lobby and at the airport ad nauseum - make it stop!), and that one 80's disco song that's like "Don't you want me BABY! Don't you want me ... Now-ow-ow-ow!"

- On Vegas: I love how all these D-List celebrities get top billing in Vegas just because they've chosen to set up shop at one of the big resorts. I mean, everywhere we went, it was like: Carrot Top! Louie Anderson! Chaka Kahn! As if these people were the end-all be-all of entertainment! All I know is, constantly seeing these huge posters of Louie Anderson sprawled out like he's staring a plate of donuts in lust can quite possibly cause irreversible damage to one's psyche.

- On Vegas: The one thing that was slightly disillusioning is just how cheesy some of these resorts are. I remember as a kid all these Connecticut suburbanites talking about Excalibur like it was the ultimate in Vegas vacationing. Then I get there and see resort after resort that reminded me of a stripped-down version of one of those creepy Borscht Belt places that my parents used to make us go to as a kid, each with its own half-assed theme. Okay, not always half-assed per se, but most of these themed places have nothing on Disney for style and quality. So my conclusion is that Vegas has its share of cool, upscale, sleek hotels, casinos, venues, etc. But most of the Strip is CHEESY as can be.

- On Vegas: Holy lord, was it hot! The temperatures reached well over 100 all weekend, and we were sweating bullets the whole time. When I first got off the plane from LA, I was taken aback by how hot it was - I had never been outside, at night time, and felt temperatures that high before.

- My next destination - the East Coast. I will be home in Connecticut from June 30th until July 8th - so look me up.

- After that, the next weekend getaway will likely be to San Diego for my first ever trip to Comicon! By the way, I've read some good stuff lately. First and foremost has probably been Grant Morrison's early work on Animal Man, which I've been reading of late, having just finished Volume 2. Great, fun, trippy stuff, with lots of experimental 4th wall-breaking. Also gotta mention Paul Dini's increasingly awesome run on Detective Comics, which I think just reached its pinnacle thus far with this month's awesome Zatanna issue that had an amazing twist ending, one of the coolest Batman stories overall I've read in a long while, and probably one of my favorite single issues in many months.

- Finally, I'd like to mention the passing of Sherri Martel, aka "Sensational" Sherri. Sherri was one of the all-time great villains in the circus world of professional wrestling, a pioneer for females in the sport, and one of the truly great characters in a business filled with great characters. Sherri played the cold-hearted, screeching drama-queen with a mean right-hook to perfection, and rarely has there been someone who fans loved to hate as much as her. I vividly remember sitting ringside at a WWE event as a kid and listening to Sherri cut one of her trademark promos, a classic tirade that saw her cut down the crowd to the point where she was beeing booed out of the building, getting heel heat like few others ever have. My friend and I, for our part, were standing on our chairs, pumping our fists and screaming "Scary Sherri! Scary Sherri!" - Ms. Martel's most hated taunt. And then, the Sensational One looked and pointed RIGHT AT US, cocked her head back, and screamed "SHUT UP!". Suffice to say, we were smiling in giddy delight that we had drawn the ire of such a notorious villain. Sherri Martel was only in her 40's when she died this week, which makes this yet another tragic case of a sports entertainer going long, long before their time. But man, Sherri was a piece of work right up until the end - her Hall of Fame induction speech last year was one of the craziest acceptance speeches I've ever heard, made all the more surreal byt the crowd chanting "you're still hot!", showing their unwavering appreciation for the original femme fatale. Thanks for the memories, Sister Sherri, you truly were an original, and wherever you are I'm sure you're palling around with Ms. Elizabeth, breaking hearts and taking names just like old times.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lightning Round Updates: SPURS, etc.

1.) Congrats to the Spurs ... I guess. They were barely challenged by the Cavs, and I think that their true Finals was the series agains the Suns. But the Spurs showed why they are, simply, a machine, even more so now that Tony Parker is playing at such a high level. The Cavs on the other hand, played with zero chemistry, struggling to move without the ball and involve anyone not named Lebron in the offense - and even Lebron was off the entire Finals, taking ill-advised shots, shooting at a poor percentage, and not playing smartly so that he took over the game at key moments. It didn't help that Ilguaskas and co seemed to all but disappear. Meanwhile, all the talk now is about the Spurs' legacy as a legit dynasty. I don't understand why there's so much arguing about mere semantics - the Spurs are clearly THE dominant team of the last ten years. Whether or not they could beat the 90's Bulls or the 80's Celtics I have no idea, but I don't think it's out of the question - while those teams were much deeper than the Spurs, the average player in general is much more athletic nowadays and Tim Duncan alone I think ranks up there with nearly any big man in NBA history in terms of sheer skill.

Anyways, I'm happy for Michael Finlay who I've always liked. As for the perenially unlikable Duncan, Parker, coach Greg Popovich, and ESPECIALLY friggin' Robert Horry ... those guys are undoubtedly winners and champions, and I respect it, but I dont have to like it.

2.) Avril Lavigne is here at NBC right now. However due to my needing to jet early from work for VEGAS, I may or may not be able to catch her Leno outdoor concert. Just FYI.

3.) VEGAS! And no, you will most likely NOT get a full report here on the blog, but I'll see what I can do ...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WIN OR GO HOME: NBA Finals Countdown, Why Fantastic 4 will probably suck, a Mr. Wizard Tribute, and MORE

QUICK UPDATE: I've given ABC's coverage of the NBA a lot of (rightfully deserved) crap. But HOLY LORD, that intro they've been doing to the Finals with all the great moments (Jordan, Magic, Rudy T, Hakeem, Walton, Bird, etc ...) is SEVEN KINDS OF AWESOME -- just watched and I have chills - NBA, baby! PS - that iconic call of Marv Albert calling Jordan's dunk "A SPECTACULAR MOVE!" is a reminder that, WTF, he should be calling these finals, contract with TNT be damned!

- So tonight, is it going to be a SWEEP for the San Antonio Spurs? I'm going to have to predict "yes." The Cavs are basically done, you can stick a fork in 'em. Of course, you know that in some secret room at NBA HQ, David Stern is rubbing his hands together as he puts his plan into motion to engineer the greatest comeback in NBA history. Can't you just imagine Stern, surrounded by a cabal of referees, and Lebron in some kind of cyrogenic tank, crafting their insidious plot? Realistically though, the Cavs have played like crap and Lebron, knowing that he needed to have consecutive monster games for his team to have a chance, has not risen to the occasion like he should, and has relied too much on his C-list teammates who have barely shown up to play this series.

But on that last game from Tuesday ... true, the Cavs played somewhat pathetically and if ever a game they would've-should've won, THAT was it. But STILL, how was no foul called in the final seconds, when Bruce Bowen INTENTIONALLY FOULED Lebron? That foul could very well have been deemed in the act of shooting, led to three free throws, and resulted in the game going to overtime. So yeah, the Cavs should never have gotten themselves into that position in the first place, but the fact remains -- TERRIBLE call by the refs.

So then, in light of this lackluster play by Lebron and the Cavs thus far in the finals ... was all the hype about that one game vs. the Pistons overstated? I think in a way, it was warranted - we saw Lebron put on a stellar, charismatic performance that harkened back to a vintage dominating game by the likes of a Jordan, Bird, or Barkley the likes of whuch we haven't seen in a long while. But we HAVE seen similarly spectacular games over the last few years from the likes of Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, etc - and yet all of those guys have, like Lebron, failed to put on consistent, winning efforts that would catapult them into that same "great" category of those aforementioned legends. Lebron's time as a Jordan-caliber star may yet come, but unless something big happens tonight, that one game has to be viewed as something of a blip ...


- I just want to point out how lame it is that Ain't It Cool contributor Memflix was fired from his day job as a projectionist simply for giving a bad pre-release review of Fantastic Four 2! What's even crazier is that this story ahs been picked up by CNN and many other major news outlets. It goes to show you how lame FOX is though. Soon after Memflix's original review appeared on AICN, a follow-up review got sent in calling BS on Memflix's bashing, going so far as to call his account of the film flat-out wrong, doubting if he had even seen it. More than likely, this was an attempt by FOX to plant a review to dmooth over the negative buzz the film's been getting.

FOX - if you don't want bad reviews then DON'T MAKE CRAPPY MOVIES! Especially movies that involve taking beloved properties and tacking them with actors who can't act and a director who has less artistic vision in his whole body than Jack Kirby had in his pinky. Look, I don't need a review to see that FF4-2 is likely going to be yet another slap in the face. Sure, the Surfer looks cool, and every fanboy worth his salt is going to be tempted to check this out just to see one of the all-time coolest character designs realized on the big screen. But, everything else about this movie screams "hack-job." There was enough wrong in Part 1 that made the jump to Part 2 to be nervous (blonde Alba, de-balled Dr. Doom, terrible writer/director combo), and there's enough bad buzz about the new elements (Galactus is a *cloud*, 'nuff said!), that this is a potential disaster-in-the-making. But dammit, they did something right and got Doug Jones to be the Surfer, and I'm sure for brief moments of coolness all is right in the world in this movie. But this is what really irks me ... people, professional critics, mostly, give a movie like this leeway by saying "it's just a comic," or "it's just a kid's movie." WTF. So a kid's movie has permission to be offensively awful, stupid, and bland? When you're talking about a property that was created by Lee and Kirby, servicable don't cut it. Kirby was one of the great American pop-artists of the 20th century - to see his characters and stories brought to life in such a bland fashion, in a way that all but ignores Kirby's boldness, flair, and style - is just a disgrace. Look at some of the comic book movies that have worked - you felt Mignola in Hellboy, could sense David Lloyd in V For Vendetta, saw the hand of David Clowes in Ghost World, the American iconography of Siegal and Shuster was there in Superman: The Movie. To translate a comic book - America's great VISUAL storytelling medium, into a film with zero artistic vision, is just inherently wrong.

- So, if anyone out there is looking for a GOOD movie to see this weekend, one that is INTENTIONALLY hilarious, please, see EAGLE VS SHARK. Check out my review below to see why it's one of the funniest films to come along in a long, long while.

- The new HULK movie is getting some amazing casting picks, which is remarkable since it's a reboot of a franchise that only a few years ago came out with a similarly well-casted entry. But adding William Hurt to a lineup that already includes Edward Norton and Liv Tyler ... well, man, this could be kind of awesome.

- I've already talked about how my most anticipated still-to-come summer movies are now mostly comedies, like Superbad, Balls of Fury, and The Ten. But as far as dramas go, tops on my list right now is easily STARDUST, the upcoming fantasy flick based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel. This looks to be an instant-classic in the vein of The Princess Bride, and I cannot wait to check it out in August.

- And oh yeah, I still really need to see KNOCKED UP.

- Annnnnd ... just saw THIS: -- SWEET. BRING THIS $#%& on!


- So this weekend is going to be ridiculous. Me, Scott C., G-Man, and Aksel are all goin' to VEGAS~! Other than a few random stopovers in the Vegas airport, I have never been - so this will be my first time experienceing the sights and sounds of Sin City. I can't wait and hope to enjoy a healthy mix of craziness and relaxing good-times.

We're flying out tommorow evening, but I'm hoping that I have a chance to stop over at the NBC lot and see AVRIL LAVIGNE in concert at the Tonight Show. This will be my third time seeing Ms. Lavigne live at the show. Again, she's someone who I have a weird fascination with, but would probably never go so far as to see an actual concert of hers - so, seeing her do a hit song or two at Leno is the perfect middle ground. (commence mocking of me ... now).

But, um, yeah - anyone have any suggestions for things to do in Vegas? We are on a limited budget, but other than that have no concrete plans. Leave suggestions!

- Also - I will now officially be on the East Coast from June 30th to July 9th. Mostly in CT but also likely in NYC for a bit, maybe even Boston if there's time. Let me know if you'll be around.

- FINALLY ... a sad farewell to Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, who passed away earlier this week. To me, Mr. Wizard was one of the truly great children's entertainers / educators, and I'd put him on that same level as a Fred Rogers. As a young kid I always loved watching Mr. Wizard's World on Nickelodeon, and while I never went on to be a science wiz, I have to think that that show was a large factor in my fascination with the ideas behind the science of things. But forget about me - this was a man who not only instilled a love of science into us ordinary kids, but who inspired kids who then went on to become top scientists themselves. A truly remarkable personality who exemplified the power of popular culture, and television specifically, to reach out into the ether and do good, worthy, wonderful things. Mr. Wizard - a guy who truly made science magic.

- Alright, that's all I've got for now - check back later, as always, for more low-calorie, all-natural goodness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Go to iTunes Right Now - Buy VERONICA MARS~!

Okay everyone,

Right now you have a chance to make a pretty interesting statement to the CW and network TV in general. If you like good TV, like bucking the system, and ESPECIALLY if you're a fan of Veronica Mars ...

Go to iTunes right now, purchase Veronica Mars, Season 3, "The Bitch Is Back," for a mere $1.99. Even if the show is dead, it's a chance to show some support for a kickass TV show that until now has rarely gotten the respect it deserves. Also, this is really the first time iTunes has been used in this way, so from that perspective it's really cool and precedent setting.

And, bonus, rumor is that Rob Thomas may even continue VM in comic book form thanks to the fine folks at DC! Niiiiice.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Baram's Thirteen: Ocean's 13, NBA, Veronica Mars, Politics, and MORE

Welcome back, ladies and gents. What's new, what's new.

If you're a fan of VERONICA MARS (and if not, why?), then these last few days have been a rollercoaster ride. I mean, up until a few hours ago, there existed a new spark of hope that the show could survive thanks to the passionate outcry of its loyal fanbase. I mean, if a second-rate show like JERICHO could get a new lease on life, then surely, the brilliant VM was eligible for a similar second-look by the CW brass. So following in the footsteps of the fan campaign to save Jericho, thousands of erstwhile Mars fans ordered up Mars Bars by the boatload (literally, since they're no longer available in the US ...), to send a message to CW head Dawn Ostroff. In addition to the piles of candy, tommorow was scheduled to see "The Bitch Is Back," the show's season / series finale, downloaded en masse from iTunes. Now, as someone more than a little familiar with iTunes, i'd estimate that it'd take a few thousand downloads to skyrocket "The Bitch Is Back" to the #1 spot on iTunes for the day. It seemed like a great plan, and, as someone who works with iTunes, it would have been cool to see the platform used in such a way where it reflects fandom so intimately.

Just hours ago though, TV Guide's Michael Ausiello reported that according to VM showrunner Rob Thomas, VM is 100% dead at the CW.


This being despite the fact that the reported deadline for CW to make a final call on the fate of the show was 6/15, hence all the last-minute effort by fans to drum up support for the cause.

So what does all this mean? Well, it's looking more and more like VM is dead as a doornail, at least for now. Sure, there could be TV movies or something, but even that feels like a longshot. But wait. I mean, sure, Rob Thomas SAYS the show is done, but as great a showrunner as he is, it doesn't seem like he's been in the CW loop this whole time, so why assume he's in the know now? What I'm saying is - don't give up yet! Tommorow, go on iTunes, and make Veronica Mars the #1 show! It's $1.99, you're getting a great ep of TV, and you're sending a message in a pretty unique way that could set some interesting precedents.

So - Tommorow (Tuesday, 6/12) - go on iTunes, shell out $1.99 for Veronica Mars, Season 3, "The Bitch Is Back," and let's see what happens!

- PS - as much as I am all for this Save Veronica Mars effort, I honestly don't get the lengths that ppl went to to save JERICHO. I feel like that type of effort should be reserved for those rare, once-in-a-lifetime shows - series like Veronica Mars, like Arrested Development, like Futurama, like Freaks and Geeks, like Undeclared - shows whose greatness was cut short due to terrible management by their parent networks. Now, I've heard that Jericho got better as it went on. But the fact is that the first several episodes were totally mediocre, and I don't get how anyone can stick with a freshman show through several episodes of crap on faith alone that it will improve. Jericho was not that great a show as far as I can tell, and I think it's a tad bit absurd that THIS is the shining example of a show that was resurrected from the brink, when there have been FAR more deserving prematurely-cancelled series in recent memory.


- So this weekend I went to the movie with the intent of seeing Knocked Up, which I've been dying to see for a while. Somehow, Knocked Up was totally sold out, so we went to Plan B and got tickets for Oceans 13 instead. I had been mildly anticipating this one, if only for the addition of Pacino to the cast, but at the same time, this franchise has always rubbed me the wrong way for the way it tends to coast along on the strength of its star power.

I was actually a big fan of Ocean's Eleven, but I had zero desire to ever see a sequel, and I avoided Twelve thanks to that lack of interest coupled with a flurry of negative reviews. Thirteen on the other hand has received pretty decent reviews, but honestly, I don't see why. To me, this was far inferior to Eleven and basically came off as a lazy, bland film that seemed all about posturing with little substance to make me care about the characters or plot.

I will point out that I was slightly soured in my opinion of the movie thanks to the two moronic women sitting next to me in the theater. EVERY time Clooney or Pitt came onscreen, they were loudly giving "mm-hmmm's" and "ooohs", to the point where I had to turn to them about 25 minutes in and politely tell them to STFU. I'm tellin' ya - men will see an attractive lady onscreen and give a quick nod to their buddy next to them, while women can just be incapable of staying quiet when they see one of their favorite leading men onscreen. Who's with me on this?

Anyways ... I felt that the real saviors of Oceans Thirteen were the senior members of the cast. Carl Reiner for one was really great, and he gave a stellar performance full of zip and humor - truly one of the greats who you never see phoning it in. Similarly, Elliot Gould has been one of my favorite actors since a professor in college showed us The Long Goodbye, and he's once again great here - charismatic and funny as Ruben, who is, early on, betrayed by Pacino's character - a betrayal that serves as the impetus for Clooney to reassemble his gang and avenge their compadre.

Meanwhile, a lot of the new additions to the cast come in with a ton of potential, but never have a chance to do anything of note thanks to a breezy script that is short on characterization and big on random attempts at humor and short, self-contained scenes. Ellen Barkin is a welcome addition as Pacino's right-hand woman, but she quickly devolves into a cartoonish cougar-on-the-prowl, whose only real purpose is to be seduced by a pheremone-sporting Matt Damon. Another welcome face was Super Dave Osborne himself, Bob Einstein, as Matt Damon's father. Thansk to recent stints on Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm, I have a newfound appreciation for Einstein's comedic talents. Here though, he was very underused and barely got off a good line or two.

Then there's Pacino himself - basically, the man was wasted here, plain and simple. It's like the producers thought it'd be enough just to have the legendary actor APPEAR, and never bothered to give his character any substance, any memorable dialogue, nothing. Pacino is just there, playing Pacino-lite, bugging his eyes every so often and playing a totally stock character - corrupt Casino Owner #8. If you were excited about the great Pacino being in this movie and mixing it up with other bigtime stars, trust me, there's little to get excited about.

And as for our main crew of stars that make up Ocean's band of thieves ... I mean, more than ever I felt like most of the people here were simply on screen playing themselves. If you went into this film not having seen the previous entries, you would have little reason to believe that Clooney was playing a character other than George Clooney. In Eleven, the movie was anchored by the central romance between Danny Ocean and Julia Robert's character. Here, there is only the flimsiest of plots holding the movie together, and only scattered bits of characterization that seem thrown in like afterthoughts. I THINK there was some loose thread about Clooney and Pitt growing older and more mature, but I couldn't tell you for certain. There was a semi-amusing plotline about Damon and his father, but again, never fully developed. Casey Affleck has some good moments, Bernie Mac is good for a laugh or two. Bu then people like Don Cheadle and Andy Garcia seem totally useless.

So yeah, there really isn't much to this movie unless you get off on scenes of Clooney and Pitt standing around and getting choked up at Oprah. If that's your idea of humor, you might get a kick out of Oceans Thirteen. For me, the whole thing just felt bland and half-assed, and basically, this wasn't much of a movie.

My Grade: C+

- NBA Finals: Well, Cleveland is now two in the hole and has dug itself into a pretty massive ditch to climb out of. It might be an impossible task. Tommorow's game is definitely do or die. Should be interesting ...

- Great article in this month's Rolling Stone about Rudy Guliani. It speaks to the concerns I've always had about the guy - that he is a publicity-hungry guy who has been ver, very lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and has inexplicably achieved favorable public opinion despite a history of being a bully, a guy of questionable moral character (VERY questionable), and a guy who has REPEATEDLY done everything he can to use naitonal tragedy to further his own agenda and fatten his own wallet. Anyone who is blindly supporting Rudy needs to read up on him and seriously consider if THIS is the guy they want in office.

Read the implicating article here:

- Alright, I'm out -- keep fightin' the good fight and break on through to the other side.

Friday, June 08, 2007


So today I'm going to give you a little rant about everyone's favorite celebutante, Paris Hilton.

Just kidding, that would be lame, because who gives a crap about useless mongoloids like her?

Let's talk about some real stuff, baby.

- First off, let me take a moment to say Happy Birthday to my brother Matt. Matt is 21 today, menaing that, according to Jewish law, he's been a man for eight years. According to Baram law though, I'm the Man, and since there can only be one Man, what, exactly, would that make Matt? My brother is currently living it up in NYC, which means that he was once again the recipient of our annual long-distance birthday phone calls, in which one of leaves a birthday voicemail for the other that amounts to crazed rantings of Ric Flair-inspired one-upsmanship, random songs, and lots of brotherly birthday trash-talking.

- On the NBA Finals: Man, this is going to be an uphill battle for the Cavs. The Spurs, as boring and lame as they are (sorry, Fowzia), are a total machine, and right now they look to have the Cav's number. I'm sure Lebron felt all strange inside when he drove to the basket only to be soundly rejected by Time Duncan, and that's a scenario that will happen more than once if some of the other Cavs don't step up, put some pressure on Duncan, and create some offensive threats from the post and the three point line. For the Cavs to win, either Lebron has to explode for another dominant game, or people like Ilgauskas (sp?), Gibson, Gooden, etc need to step up bigtime and have the games of their lives. Last night, neither happened, and Cleveland never really looked like they had a chance in the second half. Also - Cleveland has got to create some better offense that involves something more than hoping Lebron will bail them out of a play with 5 seconds left on the shot clock. They are way too stagnant and clumsy on the offensive end, whereas the Spurs are a well-oiled machine.

- I will likely be in CT and / or NYC the first week of July, if anyone is around.

- Check out yesterday's post for a review of the sleeper comedy of the summer -- Eagle vs. Shark!

- Aaaaaaaaaaaand ... I'm outta here. Short entry today, I know, but it's Friday and I'm hoping to be outta here soon. PEACE.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Funniest Movie You Haven't Yet Seen: EAGLE VS SHARK

Yo yo yo. It's a big day today - CAVS VS. SPURS in the NBA Finals, baby! More on that later, first off I'd like to talk about one of the sleeper movies of the summer, which I was priveleged to see a special screening of the other day -- EAGLE VS. SHARK.


This is a movie that, I hope, will soon get a big following thanks to great word of mouth and positive buzz. Other than a few scattered internet ads and one or two early reviews from Sundance, I hadn't heard much at all about Eagle vs. Shark, but, I'd heard enough that I was interested in attending a free screening on Tuesday in Hollywood that would see the New Zealander filmmakers in attendance for a Q and A. Even though Tuesday was a workday from hell, I braved terrible traffic and exhaustion to make it the Sunset Laemlle 5, where I had the pleasure of seeing this hilarious movie. One item of note: due to that aforementioned traffic, I ended up missing the very beginning of the film, which I was really upset about, but through the magic of YouTube I caught some of the key scenes that I missed the first time around.

The very, very easy comparison to make here is with Napoleon Dynamite, as the two films have a number of stylistic and narrative parallels. Like Napoleon, Eagle vs. Shark features a squinty, low-talking outcast who speaks in abrupt declarations and is fascinated with things like martial arts. In Eagle, this character is Jarrod, who is kind of like a more grown-up Napoleon who is much more self-aware of his own odball traits. Jarrod is an awkward sort of guy who plays videogames, sculpts decorative candles, and has his heart set on tracking down a bully who tormented him in high school and beating the crap out of him with this work-in-progress martial arts skills. Jarrod goes to a videogame-playing party where everyone has to dress up as their favorite animal - he goes as an eagle, and he soon bonds with the equally awkward Gordon, a geeky girl who is unusually good at videogames, enjoys hula-hooping, and speaks in a droopy monotone (she goes as a shark, hence the movie's title). The two quickly realize that they're a match made in nerd heaven, and Gordon decides to accompany Jarrod back to his small New Zealand home town where he plans to carry out his mission of revenge on his former high school nemesis.

And that, there, is the basic premise of Eagle vs. Shark. However, while Napoleon Dynamite was almsot strictly random and light-hearted, never fully exploring the hints of darkness that at times seeped into the screenplay, Eagle vs Shark is a much more well-rounded tale. It's consistently hilarious, but it also has some real moments of sadness and sweetness, since it is, at its heart, a love story - a Napoleon Dynamite-style twist on the romantic comedy with a bit of tragedy and triumph that reminds one of Wes Anderson's tragi-comedies like Rushmore or Life Aquatic, and even a bit of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punk Drunch Love. Much of the sadness as well as humor comes from Jarrod's family,who is every bit as colorful as Kip, Uncle Leo, and the grandma in Napoleon Dynamite. There's Jarrod's sister and her husband, who wear matching nylon tracksuits at all times and are always trying to shill their line of cheap ripoff products to anyone in sight. There's Jarrod's younger brother, a wannabe metal-head who plays guitar in a band with an angelic ten year old girl. And, oh yeah, this little blonde girl, inexplicably, is Jarrod's daughter (one of the most random aspects of the entire movie - we are never given any insight into their relationship or if she is in fact truly his daughter!). Jarrod's friends are an equally oddball bunch. His best friend / sidekick is this hilariously awkward guy who Jarrod claims is a crack computer hacker - this guy gets some of the best lines in the movie, especially when, in a moment of courage, he asks out Gordon, only to be thoroughly rejected to great comedic effect.

However, the plotline that really gives Eagle Vs. Shark much of its depth is the relationship between nerdy Jarrod and his dad, who has been a self-imposed vegetable ever since Jarrod's jock older brother committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. Throughout the film Jarrod tries in vain to emulate his beloved older brother and bond with his glassy-eyed dad, who watches videos of his dead son's track and field victories over and over again, and who uses a wheelchair despite being able to walk with no problems. Meanwhile, the love story between Jarrod and Gordon goes through many twists and turns, and even though the two are such oddball characters, you really become invested in them and root for them to end up happy. In another movie, Jarrod would come off as an unlikable lunatic, but thanks to the depth given to him and his family situation, you really begin to feel for the guy, and get mad at him when he begins to let Gordon slip away.

Again, Eagle vs. Shark is hilarious, but it really has this kind of serene sadness to it thanks to the artful cinematography of director Taika Cohen. The locations are beautifully shot - the beaches, plains, suburbs, etc of Wellington, New Zealand come alive here, and are made all the more interesting by the great soundtrack that accompanies the movie, which is full of atmosphere-setting songs and intrumentals. There are also these cool little stop-motion animation sequences sprinkled throughout the film that I really enjoyed - they could have been cheesy if overdone but I thought they added to the film's surreal quality and even worked nicely as a kind of metaphor for some of the themes in the movie.

Now, this is a pretty artfully-done film compared to what one might be used to from most American comedies, but, don't get me wrong - it can be flat-out hilarious as well. Jarrod's thick New Zealander accent combined with his low-pitch Napolean Dynamite-esque speech makes nearly every line out of his mout both funny as hell and instantly quotable. When he's not bumbling arund plotting revenge, he's lamenting about how "intense" and "complex" he is, or else donning a 1980's headband and "training" for his impending fight. This character, as played by the film's co-creator Jermaine Clement, is drop-dead funny, even if he will remind you more than a little of Napoleon Dynamite.

Basically, I'd urge anyone to forget about some of this summer's overhyped blockbusters for a minute and make an effort to go see EAGLE VS. SHARK, which I think is a cult-classic in the making. It inevitably suffers a bit for being a bit similar on the surface to Napoleon Dynamite, but the movie is so funny and different enough from anything you've ever seen that it is 100% worth a look.

After the film, we were lucky enough to hear a brief Q and A with creators and lead actors (and real-life couple) Taika Cohen and Jermaine Clement, and I was blown away when I saw them in person. I guess I was expecting people who, like Jon Heder, were seemingly only a few notches away from the characters they played. In fact, they were barely recognizable as the actors behind Jarrod and Gordon, which is a credit to how great their acting is in the film and how fully they immerse themselves in these quirky characters.

Anways, go seek out Eagle Vs. Shark. It's one of the funniest and most offbeat, original movies you'll have seen in a while.

My Grade: A -

- Still have to see KNOCKED UP. Kind of curious about Oceans 13 but there's something about the whole movie that turns me off. I guess I just to see all that talent going out there and giving it 75%, cashing in on the novelty of all of them being in the same movie rather than going out and making an A-list movie to match the A-list talent.

- Gotta love the wave of 80's nostalgia that is sweeping Hollywood. Thundercats and He-Man are now both official. Jessica Biel as Cheetarah?

- Okay I've got more but I'm out for now. It's crazy around here and lots going on - check back tommorow for more. And ... GO CAVS.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Award For Best Movie Released By the Parent Company of MTV Is ...

So, anyone see the MTV Movie Awards last night? Don't worry, if you missed 'em, something tells me MTV might, and I stress, MIGHT, air them again at some point in the near future.

To me, the Movie Awards and the Video Music Awards are basically the last bastion of old-school MTV. I've ranted enough on here about how useless and pathetic the network is these days, and I think anyone with half a brain realizes what terrible shape it's in. So, I won't go into it again now.

But on last night's awards show, just an odd mix ... on one hand there was kind of an old-school feel. Sarah Silverman would have fit right in as a host in MTV's heydey - she's the kind of semi-edgy comedienne who helped give MTV much of its initial street cred (well, that, and like, you know, they MUSIC they played). And Silverman was pretty good, the highlight being her opening monologue in which she slammed Paris Hilton to her face, to which I say "bravo." Get that worthless waste of oxygen out of the public spotlight, away from MTV, away from youth culture. Celebrate people who are out there doing music, doing comedy, whatever, but don't give any more face time to someone with nothing to contribute to pop culture other than her latest tabloid scandal. So I liked that Silverman let loose and didn't pull punches, and it was cool to see a staple of the old-school MTV, Mike Myers, get some recognition as well, reminding me of the period when he was probably my #1 comedy idol, pre-Shrek and Cat in the Hat. There were some funny bits as well courtesy of Will Ferrell and Sascha Baron Cohen, and seeing a loaded-up Jack Nicholson accept an award while being one step away from passing out was pretty amusing.

On the OTHER hand, while I found the show generally enjoyable, in some ways I'm sad to say this was a new LOW for MTV, especially in the realm of corporate shilling. Not only was the show a near constant promo for Transformers, but the show went so far as to award the movie with a "Best Movie You Haven't Seen Yet" trophy. Yes, I'm serious. This is probably smart marketing, and I have no doubt this movie will be HUGE, now that MTV's army of braindead pre-teen viewers are as psyched about it as us nostalgia-feuled twenty-somethings. But, this is semi-EVIL and just plain ridiculous. I mean, sure, it's not like the MTV movie awards have ever really been legitimate whatsoever, but this is, like I said, a whole new low, with Michael Bay even coming out and accepting this award, which is pretty freaking absurd.

- I would just like to take a moment and issue a warning to those on Facebook who have added the "Movies" application to their profile. This is possibly the most addictive thing ever. Basically a random movie pops up and prompts you to rate it from 1 to 5 stars. Sounds simple, but wait until you find yourself playing Ken Tucker and rating movies left and right, just hoping that Robocop will turn up soon so you can slap it with the 5-star rating it so justly deserves ...

- By the way, these Facebook applications are nuts, I don't have time to waste on any more of these things ... and yet ...

- On the NBA: Man, I am actually excited about the Finals for the first time in a while. And what a win for the Cavs on Saturday over Detroit. It was so nice to see a team like the Cavs prevail. Personally, I've never liked Detroit whatsoever. I think Rasheed Wallace is mentally ill the way he argues EVERY foul called against him as if someone just insulted his mom. It's one thing to play with emotion, it's another thing to be a complete moron and get yourself ejected from a game for no good reason just because you can't control your impulse to scream and throw a tantrum whenever you hear a whistle. Then, there's players like Chauncey Billups who just seem to have this unfounded arrogance about them. He, Rasheed, and Rip Hamilton all have a ton of potential, yet none have taken it to the next level and emerged as a superstar. I'm just happy to see Detroit's thuggish, obnoxious team taken out from contention and usurped by a bright young Cavs team that plays with a lot of class and is fun to watch. The Cavs are certainly overmatched against the Spurs, but it's going to be a lot of fun to watch them go for the upset. When you have the overall best player on the floor, I don't think you can ever be totally counted out, and I think right now Lebron is pretty clearly in that lofty spot of being The Man.

- Alright, I'm out for now. Had a good weekend - some good times on Saturday and even got in a little beach volleyball (!) on Sunday. My arms are still kinda sore from all that volleying but hey, it was a nice change of pace. Looking forward to another busy week ...

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Coronation of King James

I would like to take a brief moment and talk about last night's Pistons vs. Cavs game.


With one game, I felt like the NBA had entered a time capsule and it was 1992 again. LeBron James was simply off the chain. What an amazing, memorable performance. 48 points. Total dominance in the 4th quarter. Big-time, money shots with the game on the line. Just when it seemed like these playoffs were done, I suddenly couldn't be more excited for Saturday's game. This was big-time basketball, and with one fell swoop, Lebron became the player we all thought he might become, and the NBA was back, baby.

Now, after the game, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Reggie Miller were having a lively debate about the nature of this performance as relates to Detroit's usually tight defense. Of course, this resulted in lots of comedy, since all three have decent points to make yet are TERRIBLE at expressing what they're trying to say in an articulate fashion, meaning that you get a lof of screaming and yelling about nothing, with things eventually degenerating into lots of jabs and tangents. Classic.

But as to who was right - well, both sides had a point. To Reggie's point, some of Lebron's shots WERE tightly-contested shots that came as the shot clock was winding down. They were trick shots, fadaways, impossible shots. If they hadn't gone in, we'd all be talking about Lebron's poor shot selection. But they did, and when shots like that are falling, there's nothing anyone can do about it.

On the other hand, Charles and Kenny also had a valid point. With Lebron going all "raging inferno" as Charles put it, Detroit had to adjust and get the ball out of his hands, which they didn't do a very good job of at some key junctures, even playing zone D at some points in which Lebron just tore them apart. Yes, Lebron made some tough shots while facing tenacious defenders, but Detroit dropped the ball when it came to making the necessary adjustments to compensate for James' play, and they didn't make enough of a concious effort to get the ball out of his hands BEFORE he was in position to eat the Pistons alive.

It's funny though, it's like the game almost comes too easy for Lebron, and he needs to make himself work for a tough shot to get into a rythm -- the shots he tends to miss aare the wide open jumpers and free throws - it's really pretty crazy. I mean, he is just huge and overpowering despite being 20 years old. This guy is seriously a freak of nature.

What a game though - 2 OT's, a performance for the books for King James, great play-calling from Marv Albert and the TNT crew, and a series that is now, really, a SERIES. Things just got VERY interesting in the NBA ...