Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tropic Thunder & Iron Man, or Why Robert Downey Jr. is my secret boyfriend

I'm not a comic book reader, so I neither know, nor care, when a comic book becomes a movie and then doesn't stay true to the cannon that has been 20 years of history...blah blah blah. It's a movie now, get over it.

However, we just bought the Iron Man DVD with the extra disc full of special features, and this is one DVD that actually gives you an entire disc of special features. It is amazing.

Of course, we liked the movie enough to buy the DVD regardless. My husband Scott was quite worried that Robert Downey Jr. was "all wrong" for Iron Man, that he could never be Iron Man, blah blah blah, see earlier references to blahs above.

Then we saw it. I think Scott developed a man-crush on Robert Downey Jr. during the movie. Apparently it was more than Scott ever could have wished for.

And the movie was fun. It was a good movie.

I highly recommend picking up the DVD with all the extras because you will see so many cool behind the sceens things about making the suit, flying, and seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau doing their thing and I have to say if you never knew a thing about either of them, or didn't worship them before, you will after you watch it. Either that or you are a complete moron - because these are people who live for their craft - and it is an amazing thing to see people who are so passionate about what they do.

Tropic Thunder... where to begin...
When the previews came out I thought, "this has so much potential and will probably be an epic failure" - so I delayed seeing it. But the opening weekend brought amazing reviews, and the commercials were just too funny... I couldn't resist.

So much has been written about this movie so I won't go into detail and rehash it. I will say this: I laughed all the way back to the car.

Perhaps you didn't quite understand.

We sat through the entire credits, and I was still laughing.

I went to the ladies room, and laughed while I peed. This is both difficult and uncomfortable, I do not recommend it.

I laughed all the way to the car.

All. The. Way. To. The. Car.

We're talking a good 10 minutes for credits, bathroom, and parking lot and I was still laughing.

When I told my mother how funny it was she went to see it. Now she didn't laugh as much as I did, but she did agree that it was "silly" and most importantly, she agreed that Robert Downey Jr. owned that movie.

I cannot think of a time when I have seen him on screen and thought, "he's just phoning it in" or "wow he sucks" or anything remotely negative about his performance. If anything, I find that he is always in danger of stealing the movie out from under everyone else.

If you haven't seen Iron Man, Tropic Thunder, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, or Chaplin, see it - hell, go back and rewatch them all. If you aren't in love with him by the time you've seen them, then you are brain dead.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Movie Reviews: 21, Departed, Tombstone

I’ve got three movie reviews for you – one now in theaters and two rentals. It’s unfortunate that I saw these back to back because two are stellar and one is what we in the writing industry refer to as “ho-hum”.

21
If predictability is your favorite movie quality then this is the movie for you. If edge of your seat, nail biting suspense is too intense for you, then this movie is really right up your alley. You will find yourself feeling like Nostradamus himself as each line of dialog leads you to know with absolute certainty how the plot will inevitably progress.

My next problem is with casting. Someone must explain to me the appeal Kate Bosworth is supposed to have. She is so very vanilla, in a way that is almost insulting to vanilla (it is insulting to say Haagen Das French Vanilla, but not to say, generic/store brand, freezer burned vanilla). She is plain, her acting is blah, and concocting a scene in which guys stop playing basketball to all turn and drool and comment on her fantastic beauty is complete bull. I call shenanigans. This is a girl that could walk through life completely unnoticed. How she got into film in the first place is beyond me. And really, she already destroyed Lois Lane, so don’t get me started on the lameness that is Kate Bosworth.

And finally, Mr. Kevin Spacey. Sigh. I count Usual Suspects among my top five favorite movies of all time. This is a movie I can watch over and over. I love it. Kevin Spacey is a man who can command a role, the screen, the movie – he has it within him. This role? He was phoning it in. I dare any of you to say otherwise. I dare him to say otherwise. The best defense I could hear from him is that the role was underdeveloped (yeah, blame the writers, they certainly have a lot to apologize for in this movie anyway). But seriously, he knows how to bring it, and this was just – well, not just predictable, but thin. There are maybe 2 really good scenes with him – one where he is working with the kids to teach them to count and they can’t keep the count, and one at the end where he actually playing. [SPOILER: Spacey gets into disguise to play in the casinos again – and it was like the disguise liberated Spacey to act.]

So, if you want to see this, wait to rent it.

The Departed
I initially shied away from this movie because of the casting and the hype. I am a mystery/thriller buff and I thought this was overpromising and could only under deliver. I was dead wrong.

The acting was fantastic. Mark Wahlberg, an actor I normally cannot stand, was perhaps my favorite performance in the movie. Not just because he was written so absurdly, but because he pulled it off convincingly. I found myself thinking that he was the 2nd most likable character in the movie (the first was Martin Sheen, just as a nice guy foil to Wahlberg). His scenes were enjoyable and well formed – his character was so intense and absurd that more than a few minutes of screen time at a time wouldn’t have worked – and it was written and edited perfectly.

Let me tell you why I didn’t want to see this movie: DiCaprio and Nicholson. First off, I liked DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can, and I liked him in the Aviator. But there is something about his face, some smugness or something that whenever I see him in a preview I think “oh hell no”. But when I see him act I forget all of that because the man has serious acting chops. He can hold his own in any scene with any actor or actress. I still think Catch Me was the perfect role for him – but if I was in casting I never would have signed him up, I would have said “DiCaprio? That smug asshat? Not in my movie!” and I would have been the dumbass. Same thing here. His role is completely unlikable (there are hardly any likable characters in this movie) but he plays it so convincingly, that from time to time I literally forgot it was DiCaprio, and that is the thing I respect most about his acting – as big a star as he is I can see him as his characters and not as DiCaprio.

Nicholson – not so much. Jack is just Jack. Seriously, when was the last time Jack played someone other than crazy Jack? I cannot remember a movie he has made in my lifetime that he wasn’t just Jack playing Jack. And seriously, it seems like people just say to him “Now in this scene, just you know, act kind of crazy, and be an ass, and we’ll film you – ACTION!” Reading the trivia on IMDB.com (if it is to be believed) our boy Jack got to do a lot of improv in the movie. Basically he was given his character arc and told to be crazy Jack – and to get crazier as the movie progressed. I’m not saying anyone plays crazy Jack better than Jack, but I’ve lost all interest in seeing crazy Jack. Sure, the role was perfect for him, and sure you probably couldn’t have had anyone else play batshit crazy as well, but I would pay good money to see that man play a scene with subtlety.

Matt Damon is one of my favs – he is easy on the eyes, I think he is underrated as an actor as well. His body of work has some really nice diversity, and I regularly forget that he is the punk from Good Will Hunting. His role selection is about the extreme opposite of Nicholson – think Damon’s role in The Good Sheppard – talk about total control and subtlety. And then there’s Bourne. He ping pongs back and forth and all over the place. He may be highly recognizable, but like DiCaprio, I give him major props for always becoming his characters.

I really can’t say a bad thing about this movie. The writing was fantastic. The acting was incredible (yes, Jack annoys me, but he was the right guy for the role) – people were able to maintain those crazy Boston accents the whole way through – and only Matt Damon had a home field advantage there to my knowledge. The editing and cinematography were both spot on. You can’t watch this movie and not be riveted.

Rent it. Watch it. Love it.

Tombstone

This is my throwback review. This puppy popped up on cable the other night and I sat down and watched the whole damn thing. When it was over I said, “I really like this movie” and the hubby said, “I know you do, because whenever it is on you watch it – all the way through.” He’s right. I always do.

Here’s what’s awesome about this movie:
The acting. The acting is really spot on. Again, there are some medium to big names in this flick (certainly they were big when it was made) and they are still deep enough in character that you can forget that they are famous actors. They are believable. Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, Dana Delany, Thomas Haden Church, Jason Priestly, and even Charlton Heston are in this one. Really though, the ones to watch are Russell and Kilmer, and damn are they good in this.

Russell has great chemistry with Delany, and he really plays a convincing loyal brother and friend and tough lawman. And the man can wear the period outfits. You believe him when he is calm, enraged, when he is in mourning, when he is happy and in love. He plays it all the way through. And he is likable. He does some horrible stuff in this movie (spurs should not interact with faces, is all I am saying) and yet you root for him the whole way through. I am convinced it is because Russell plays him so well.

But really, to me the movie is stolen by Kilmer. Wow. His Doc Holiday is something to behold. Kilmer really is a fantastic character actor – which is a compliment in my book. His ability to master this character, to breathe complete life into him, made him more the legendary character (to me). Throughout the movie I always find myself thinking how lucky Earp is to have Holiday for his friend. Amazingly, if you listen to Holiday, he will say that he is the one who needs the friendship. But watching Holiday win at cards (clearly cheating by his ability to win so much) and walk away from so many problem scenarios, you see his intelligence and resourcefulness. If not for his illness, you can imagine him living a long, very dangerous life. His insight into the human character, in summing up their nemesis Ringo makes me pause to wonder if he is describing himself. But whatever the scene, whenever Kilmer is there, you feel his presence, and the movie is better for it.

It’s a good movie. Well written, excellent costumes and action sequences. The interactions between the characters is always believable. It’s absolutely worth renting.

So there you have it folks. Two movies full of fantastic performances and dialog. The other, well, if you like predictability and generic vanilla ice cream, then you go see 21.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

DVD Review: The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Get Your Nostalgia On


You always hear people talking about “the good old days” – usually referring to something within their childhood, like when movies cost a nickel or sodas were a penny, or when it was safe for kids to talk to strangers.

It’s those same people who usually do the “kids today” sigh. Kids today have no sense of history. Kids today don’t appreciate how good they have it. You know the story.

Last night I took it one step further.

When I was a kid there was something magical about the comedians my parents watched – their peers. I fell in love with all of them for all their different charms. They had something that I don’t see in today’s comic screen talent. Have times changed? Has the audience forsaken the talents of days gone by? Or have we just forgotten what talent really looks like.

It was no masterpiece script I was watching. It was The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. It wasn't the script that made the movie. It was the acting. It was the comedic timing.

I was laughing at pratfalls and slapstick – things I normally eschew – because of the way they were carried out. I was mesmerized by each performance – because each actor deserved to be on screen, and no one took away from anyone else.

When I was a kid, I was madly in love with Gene Wilder. Not, “He’s so sexy, be my boyfriend” love. I adored him. I wanted to spend time with him. I always felt like I was in on the joke. When I watched him on screen there was always something about his performances that made me feel like he understood my sense of humor. I always wanted to hug him and have him tell me jokes.

I was also madly in love with Madeline Kahn. Her beauty, her wit, her timing, her everything. I wanted to be her. She could be the beauty, the strumpet, or even the over bearing hausfrau that made Barbara Streisand the beauty. She embraced every role – she could sing, dance, act, she was beautiful and funny.


So there I was, watching my childhood loves, laughing hysterically, appreciating them, and Marty Feldman, and Dom DeLuise (oh my god there is not a moment that man is on screen that he does not make me laugh) and it suddenly occurs to me that I cannot remember when I laughed so hard at a movie this ridiculous.

So here’s my challenge to you, dear reader:

Name a comic talent of today and compare them to Gene Wilder in:


  • The Producers

  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

  • Blazing Saddles

  • Young Frankenstein

  • Silver Streak


Or to Madeline Kahn in:

  • Blazing Saddles

  • Young Frankenstein

  • History of the World Part I

  • Clue

And tell me you would rather see your guy against my guy in any performance. To quote Sigerson Holmes Consulting Detective, “LIAR!”

Say what you will about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother - it’s not Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, but the performances can’t be matched by today’s comedic talent, and that still makes it a better watch than any drivel in the new releases section.

AV Rating: 4/5 Stars

Friday, November 24, 2006

DVD Review: An Evening with Kevin Smith

I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Smith’s writing. I know, technically he is thought of as a director, but for me it’s really the dialog that makes his movies – the things his characters say are so smart and outlandish that the true pleasure is really in listening to Smith’s movies.

So I was prepared to watch An Evening with Kevin Smith to hear the wit I have come to know, love, and admire. I have to tell you, I felt incredibly ripped off.

The Kevin Smith of “An Evening” has proven to me that Smith is smarter and funnier than any of his movies, and I take personal offense that the son-of-a-bitch and I have never crossed paths and had a cup of coffee and discussed any fucking thing in the universe.

It’s an amazing thing to watch a celebrity talk to college students, answering their throw-away and serious questions with a ready wit: mocking stupid questions, encouraging the few bright ones and creating a dialog with the questioner, and generally telling hoards of college jocks and stoners the truth.

He doesn’t hold back. When he is asked a question he doesn’t blink or blush or flinch. He tells the story. He talks about having a gay brother, and what it means to him as a filmmaker to include storylines for the gay community, because his brother mentioned early in Smith’s career that mainstream movies don’t offer much to anyone outside the boy-girl love story. He talks about his influences, his choices, his relationships – everything is fair game.

Smith is so frank, in fact, that several times I felt myself squirming over the volume of detailed information provided. Not in the length of the stories. Not in their telling –for surely Smith is a gifted story-teller. The details themselves though…my god the things this man is willing to share about his life and his penis are quite impressive.

I cannot imagine that Smith has a handler of any sort, because Smith just comes out and gives straight answers. There’s no dodging. There’s no sugar-coating. I can’t imagine any A or B-lister ever getting up on stage and telling hoards of college boys to suck his dick, or describing in detail about his first time sleeping with his wife – it would be an Oprah couch moment.

And maybe that’s a huge part of Smith’s charm. He’s a regular guy. Only he’s smarter than most of the people I encounter, and he’s damn funnier. Listening to Smith reminded me of being back in grad school, having late-night coffee chats at an all-night diner with my friends, talking about everything from 17th century literature to various sexual techniques and preferences. There’s something about spending time with an old friend who makes you laugh so hard you think you’ll simultaneously vomit and pee. Good times.

An Evening with Kevin Smith is an evening well spent. Like all Smith offerings, I give it a 5/5 on what you will hear – don’t focus on the production values.


AV Rating: 5/5 Stars

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Book Reviews: Echo Park and Born in Death

My pleasure reading of choice has always been mysteries. While I’ll watch any genre when it comes to movies or tv, I’m all about the mysteries when I spend my time actually reading. I’m generally pretty fussy about my mysteries, they need to be well written, compelling stories and/or characters.

Easily one of my favorite mystery writers, long since passed, is Mr. Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe series. The thing about the Nero Wolfe series that made it the ultimate indulgent read was the dialogue. It still ranks supreme among the mysteries I have read (heck, it ranks up there with the likes of Shakespeare, and this is in the not-so-humble opinion of a former literature teacher). The mysteries may have been thinner than the meatier fare demanded by a society bombarded with true crime 24/7, but the character development and dialog still made them by far the best of the best. No matter how far fetched the ending, Wolfe’s intellect and Archie’s street-wise, determined nature made each ending satisfactory.

Of course I read the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when I was in 8th grade, and no one can dispute the excellence that is Sherlock Holmes.

But Doyle and Stout, having left this mortal coil, leaving behind stand-in writers who carry on their characters on a lesser scale, can only be read so many times before you need something new to sink your teeth into.

Years ago, in my pursuit of new blood, I found Michael Connelly and J.D. Robb, two very different mystery writers, and authors that I now read voraciously.

These are their latest releases:

Echo Park, by Michael Connelly

Echo Park continues the work of Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, detective in the Open-Unsolved unit of the LAPD.

Harry Bosch is a good cop and a good character. He’s flawed. Damaged. Viet Nam vet. Drinker. Relationship problems. Rule bender. Stands up for victims.

We like Harry because he has problems with authority figures, solving the case is the most important thing, he’s smart, methodical, and he’s damn good at his job. In every way that he is screwed up as a person, he’s great at figuring out the ins and outs of a crime, putting it together, and making sure justice is done.

Bosch is Connelly’s cop. Connelly has a retired FBI agent too. Flawed in different ways. Connelly writes good, flawed characters that you respect, but know you’d never get involved with.

I like Bosch. Connelly has been consistent in developing Bosch across the series of books, so you trust the character. His behavior is consistent. You trust his judgment. You know the mistakes he will make will be in his personal life, or will be in arguing with his superiors, but will never be with evidence or with solving the case. Is he always the most ethical? That’s debatable.

But while the treatment of Bosch is handled well throughout Echo Park, the rest doesn’t really jive for me. There’s something uneven about the plot – too many layers to the conspiracy – too many misdirections.

Still, the writing is solid and Bosch is done right.

AV Rating: 3.5/5 stars, there are better Bosch novels.

Born in Death, by J.D. Robb

Born in Death is the 25th installment of the “In Death” series by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb.

Maybe it’s due to my recent car accident and subsequent medicated state, or maybe it’s due to the bombardment of “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb” commercials on TV these days but I just want to say this: shut up.

Here’s the thing: Nora Roberts is a romance novelist, J.D. Robb, her pseudonym, is a mystery writer.

I’ve got to make the distinction, because when I hear this stupid commercials reminding me that Nora Roberts is writing as J.D. Robb, I cringe, because I don’t read romance novels. I hate them.

Before I knew that J.D. Robb was a pseudonym, I picked up the first In Death book, read it, liked it, and picked up the next one. I had probably read half the series before I figured out who the heck Nora Roberts was.

Now I know, so now every little romantic or sexual thing that happens in one of the mysteries makes me stop and think, “does this belong here?” – like is this some romance novelist playing mystery writer, or does it really fit the story? Usually I conclude that it does, but let’s be honest, it’s distracting.

As to the latest installment, Born in Death, again, I’m on a regular diet of pain meds at this point, so when I say that the book was slow, that may have just been the drugs.

Then again, when the second crime was introduced, I knew instantly that it was linked, because puh-leaze. Also, I was doing the equivalent of checking my watch by counting pages left every so often.

This was undoubtedly my least favorite of the In Death series. The plot seemed weak, the secondary storyline seemed contrived, and what seemed like a promising beginning wound up seeming very thrown together.

Again – to be fair – pain pills.

AV Rating: 2/5 stars. I would actually skip this one and read any of the others.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Movie Review: Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors is based on the book of the same title by Augusten Burroughs. It’s his memoir, and my god, what a childhood he had.

From the previews you might believe the mother to be a drama queen and the father to be a bit of a drinker. This is simply too much of an understatement.

This movie is simultaneously hysterically laugh-out-loud funny, painfully disheartening, and disturbing.

The cast has done a superb job of making each character real, believable, flawed, lovable, and despicable:

  • Annette Bening: here’s an actress who is willing to take on ugly roles and put her all into them. Her performance is stellar. She embraces her role as the self-absorbed, mentally unstable, overly dramatic mother. Like her American Beauty role, she’s the mom you love to hate. Only here it’s less about glamour and more about self-absorbed poetry.
  • Brian Cox: Cox could get away with just using his amazing voice to be a convincing therapist, but his delivery is so spot on that you’ll have moments of wanting him to be your therapist. You really don’t, but you might be tempted to at least engage him in conversation so he will take you on a tour of his masturbatorium.
  • Joseph Cross: Our protagonist, while looking a bit older than the 13-15 years he is supposed to portray throughout the movie, is otherwise stellar. His ability to hold his own in scenes with Bening and Cox will make you forgive the obvious age discrepancy.

The rest of the cast includes such notables as Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gabrielle Union. All did an outstanding job.

Since this is an autobiography, it’s character heavy, not plot heavy, so the one thing that was hard for me was the pacing and the limited plot (I always want something to happen). Still, it’s worth the price of admission and the 2 hours of your life.

Forget your childhood trauma. Your mother never gave you away to her therapist, did she?

AV Rating: 4/5 stars

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    TV Reviews: "Lost" Wannabes

    When I start reading a new comic book, I will give it four issues before I decide to keep reading or drop it. Some books start strong, some start slowly and four issues is generally about the right amount of time to judge where a title is going.

    The new shows of the fall season have passed their fourth episodes, which I found leading me to my Tivo Season Passes to decide what stays, what goes, and what is on thin ice.

    Jericho
    Genre:
    Suspense Drama
    Channel: CBS
    Premise:Residents of a small town in Western Kansas see a nuclear explosion that destroys Denver and find themselves cut off from the rest of the world, unsure of what's happened.

    Take "Lost" and replace the island with a midwestern town and the Others with government agents posing as "regular folks" and you have "Jericho." Early episodes have tended to revolve around the people of Jericho trying to accomplish every day tasks without the help of the technology they normally have. Episode 3 was almost entirely about finding gas for the generators at the hospital to keep both a baby on a ventilator and a mysterious man with radiation sickness alive.

    Often I find myself having trouble keeping storylines and backstories straight. I'm not sure if this is because the show is too boring to hold my attention or if it's being written to give a feeling of jumping into the middle of everything. For example, Skeet Ulrich has a conversation with his mom about how he hurt her and his dad, but if this had been mentioned or indicated, I guess I was more interested in trimming my toenails at the time and missed it. Likewise for the story about the guy who wants to leave his wife, the IRS woman who's come to foreclose on a guy's farm, and just about any other story arc that doesn't directly relate to the cause of the nuclear explosions and the top secret plan involving Lennie James and a bunch of other moles pretending to be our neighbors.

    Verdict: Thin ice. I like the concept enough to give it 3-4 more episodes, but if the execution doesn't pick up, it'll be purged with pleasure.

    The Nin9
    Genre:
    Drama
    Channel: ABC
    Premise:Following the lives of nine people taken hostage for 52 hours when a bank robbery goes bad.

    This is another show that's being sold like "Lost"--and there are similarities--but this is not "Lost." The mystery is what happened during the 52 hours and every episode gives us a small glimpse. The most recent showed us the bank manager's daughter, who was in the bathroom when the robbery started, trying to find a place in the bank to get cell phone service to dial 911. That's five minutes of the 52 hours, so at this rate, "The Nin9" could last 1040 episodes and that's assuming we don't get any "here's a sequence we've seen before but from a different character's perspective"... which, now that I think about it, is pretty much what the daughter in the bathroom scene was.

    The rest of the show deals with the post-robbery lives of the nine hostages. One was a cubicle-dwelling pencil pusher contemplating suicide who now is a hero and wants to embrace all life has to offer. Another is a cop who's having to cover up mistakes made by the police and the FBI during the stand off to protect himself and his friends. The bank manager's daughter doesn't remember anything between the time she dialed 911 and when they were let out of the bank and is struggling to remember.

    While it's interesting, we need to start getting some results.

    Verdict: Keeper. I don't know where this show is going, but I like the cast enough to stick with it. Like "Jericho," I hope they get more into explaining what happened during the stand off as I'm already tired of hearing people mutter on and on about "everything that happened in there" without knowing what happened in there.

    Heroes
    Genre:
    Drama
    Channel: NBC
    Premise:Some people have superpowers and the New York is going to be blown up in a nuclear explosion in a few weeks.

    If you read comics, all you need to know is Jeph Loeb is one of the writers for this show. If you don't read comics, all you need to know is Jeph Loeb isn't a very good writer.

    Oh, and it has Milo Ventimiglia, who will forever be "complete asshole Jess" from "Gilmore Girls." That guy could star in "Jake Gets Free Blow Jobs from Hot College Girls if He Watches this Show" and I'd still change the channel halfway through.

    Verdict: Purge.

    Where all these shows fail is that they all overlook two enduring aspects of "Lost" that have made it the hit it is. First, while "Lost" is full of mysteries, we get answers to questions. Questions on "Lost" prove to be like the hydra--for every one question we answer, two more take its place--but questions are constantly being answered. These shows all seem to have one or two mysteries that are out there and hinted at, but never explained. Two of them are "What happened?", the other is "What's going to happen?", and every episode amounts to the characters shaking their heads and not learning nor revealing anything.

    Secondly, "Lost" gives us in depth glimpses at the characters. "Jericho" and "Heroes" have given us some one-dimensional backstories for some characters, like the guy who wants to leave his wife or the Japanese guy who's... from Japan and acts all Japanese-y, and imply there are interesting histories and mysteries for others--like Skeet Ulrich's secret "other life" that hurt his parents so much or the single mom, internet stripper who blacks out and kills people while unconscious--but never seem to pay them off.

    It's also worth mentioning Lost goes out of its way to make characters who are obviously different from one another. You'll never confuse Jack with Sayid nor Kate with Sun nor Locke with Sawyer. Outside of "the black guy," "the black guy's faux daughter," "the guy from Scream," "Major Dad," "nerdy kid," "shopkeeper Southern lady," and "oh... where do I know her from... she like the poor man's Dianne Wiest... crap, I'm going to have to look her up on IMDB... hey, he was on couple episodes of 'Simpsons'... Kindergarten Cop! That's where I know her from!"-lady, I don't know what's supposed to differentiate one "Jericho" character from any other. For that matter, when all those recognizable characters stand out only because of their race, stereotype, or previous acting gigs, that's not saying much about the diversity of the characterizations.

    It could be argued these shows are still early in their runs and characters may be developed down the road, but for the purposes of comparison to "Lost," there simply is no comparison.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Movie Review: The Illusionist

    So, I finally got to go out and see a movie I wanted to see, for the third time this year. Lucky for me, it was only two months old, so there weren't many people in the theater.

    Of course, that could also be due to the movie's premise, which goes something like "Edward Norton is a 19th century stage magician in Austria who loves a duchess".

    Actually, I'm conflicted about this film. It's good --- I think --- but it doesn't quite satisfy. And I think that's OK.

    See, it's not about a magician doing cool or spooky tricks (though he does). It's a love story, and a story about 19th century Austrian politics, which I wasn't exactly expecting, and for which I am not the target demographic.

    The idea is that working-class Ed Norton falls in love with a duchess, society forces them to part ways as children, he becomes a magician, returns to Austria, ticks off the Crown Prince, tries to win the girl back, and gets continually harassed by a conflicted and confused Paul Giamatti, who plays a police inspector.

    There's a little murder, a little conspiracy, and a whole lot of Ed Norton trying to act mysterious and cool and tormented but utterly failing to pull it off.

    So on that level, it doesn't work. But the performances by Giamatti and Rufus Sewell as the inspector and the Crown Prince are absolutely worth the price of admission.

    And yeah, there's a big trick at the end that you pretty much see coming, until the movie goes out of its way to convince you that it's not coming, so you still end up a little surprised.

    And it's got a semi-happy ending! Which I ended up enjoying more than I thought I would.

    It's not a thrill ride, it's a movie that takes its own sweet time getting to where it's going, and it ends up being more about redemption than anything else.

    And for a movie I thought was going to be about just spooky magicians, that in itself is a nice trick to pull off.

    Recommended For: Fans of period pieces, Paul Giamatti, or magic. People who haven't seen The Prestige yet.

    Not Recommended For: People who demand action, people can't sustain their disbelief of Ed Norton's goatee for two hours straight.

    A/V Rating: 3/5. Less clever than it wants to be, better than it has any right to be. A solid rental or matinee.

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    This Week in Equalizer

    Just in case you "have a job" and can't stay home to watch syndicated TV shows from the 80's, here's what you missed.

    Victims helped:
    • Divorced mom whose son is dealing drugs.
    • Foreign woman who accidentally ran over a mugger and is being hunted by his two friends.
    • Housewife who nearly gets raped and is saved only when the would be rapist chases and murders a witness to the attempted rape.
    • Inner city clinic doctor tormented by street gang.
    • The tennants of a slumlord who is planning to kill his ex-wife.
    Guest Stars who weren't really "stars" at the time: Christine Baranski, Adam "King Ad Roc" Horovitz, Alex Winter, Charles S. Dutton, Mark Linn-Baker, Meat Loaf, Roma Maffia, and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson.

    Cases of legal system impotence:
    • Vice cops scoff at very idea of trying to go after drug dealer because he knows karate.
    • Two murderers freed because eyewitness might be too scared to testify, go on to admit they did it because the old man "called them."
    • Cop resorts to becoming vigilante after seeing too many criminals let go by prosecutors.
    • Two muggers let go after bungled mugging attempt leads to the following exchange:
      Cop: I know what you would have done... a little mugging. A little rape...
      Mugger: Aw, what's the big deal?
    • Police refuse to investigate murder when witness can't provide apartment number where it happened.
    • Street gang drives around streets of New York in Road Warrior-ed out Oldsmobile with members sitting on hood and roof, jumping out to beat up shopkeepers, steal stuff, demand protection money, beat up a man trying to take his sick baby to a health clinic, fire a pistol into a crowd of people. Police have no idea where to begin building a case.
    • A landlord trying to force people out of their rent-controlled apartments can't be touched by police because he "always makes sure he doesn't do anything illegal'... except the building has no sprinklers, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, or fire escapes. Oh, and he hires an arsonist to burn it down.
    Other notable moments:
    • McCall gained access to a miraculous high tech device that could tell him the name and phone number of anyone who called his phone within a matter of minutes.

    TV Reviews: Survivor & Amazing Race

    Survivor: Cook Islands
    Genre:
    Competitive Reality
    Channel: CBS
    Premise: A bunch of people are stranded on an island to fend for themselves, fight with each other, compete in tests of mind, strength, and endurance, and play politics well enough to ultimately be voted winner of a million dollars prize.

    The thing that set apart this season's episode of "Survivor" was the highly controversial decision to split the tribes according to race. However, just as last season's division of four tribes instead of the standard two led to an early reshuffle and merge, after three episodes we were back to the standard two tribe set up with everyone mixed together.

    Overall, that last sentence really shines a spotlight on what's wrong with "Survivor." Everything has happened before. When Chris went from almost being voted out the first week for his inability to walk across a balance beam to the million dollars two years ago, you could almost feel the show deflate. The only new tricks only serve to disappoint, such as the editors clearly setting up a Terry/Cirie showdown for two months and giving us Aras and... the girl everyone kept in the game because they knew if they took her to the final two they would win or bringing back Stephanie and Bobby Jon so they could be revered by their fellow competitors.

    A few people I've talked to have sited the "carry a bunch of weight while trudging around in a circle trying to catch the other team" competition as their breaking point. Last season, it was a fresh idea, but repeating it so quickly just illustrates how few ideas the producers have left.

    The Amazing Race 10
    Genre:
    Competitive Reality
    Channel: CBS
    Premise: Teams follow travel around the world, completing tasks and gathering clues that lead them to a million dollar finish line.

    Unlike "Survivor," Amazing Race's competitions remain fresh because they are centered around the cultures of the places being visited. For some reason, though, this season has found itself mired in Asia. After five episodes we've been to China, Mongolia, Vietnam, and India, spending two entire shows in Vietnam.

    We're also waiting for the breakout stars. No one has stepped up and screamed, "We're likeable!" yet. It's clear that Peter, the doctor who is dating his amputee patient and contantly berates the one-legged woman for not running fast enough, is the villain, but there's not really anyone to root for. Brothers Erwin and Godwin may eventually fit the bill, but haven't done anything to grasp that brass ring.

    Side notes on other racers: I can't believe the redneck coal miner and his wife are still in this. I had them marked for elimination by the second episode.

    I sure hope Tyler and James will compare the challenge of this race to the challenge of kicking heroin in this upcoming episode! It helps us understand their friendship since they helped each other get clean and now help each other try to win a million dollars.

    Personalitywise Lyn and Karilyn could also be the heroes of this season, but I don't see the two chubby, single moms lasting to the end.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    There but for the Grace of God go I

    My daughter handed me a Passport (identity card) of someone who lived through the Holocaust, when we entered the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Her name was Alexandra but she could have been me or you, or anyone. That is the spine-tingling, generation bonding, kinship of kind that brings the Holocaust to your soul. It seeps into your skin. Could I have been the mother in Sophie's Choice, or the child with the big eyes looking into your very heart with despair and hunger and disbelief. Was that tattered garment one I wore in another life? That man who would shoot me, or rape my mother or torture my brother; could he be that cruel to his family? Or were they robots blind, jaded and closed?

    I started reading about the Holocaust when I was 11 or 12. Anne Frank spoke to me through her diary. I had to know why she died, and who betrayed her. I had to know how close she came to the end of the horror of almost making it back to the real world. Then I read other stories. Other people who hid in the forest like animals, and some who were part of the resistance.

    I read about the Danes and how the King put on a Jewish Star and wore it when the Nazi's said the Jews had to wear them. I read about the Catholic families in France who hid the children. The trains and abbey's. The good people who were humane first and foremost. I saw movies and read about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and the parachuters - Hannah and the others.

    But there was always the precise disciplined annhilation of a people. They were Jewish and I was Jewish. They were Polish and lithuanian and Russian and I was all of that. THey were human and I was Human. If my grandparents hadn't have left the old country when they did; if like in a child's dream they dropped my hand and I was left behind. How can anyone
    man or woman; intellectually or emotionally not think this could have been them.

    I wanted to be that brave to stand up to the Germans. I wanted to be that Spiritual and unselfish that I could have saved the downtrodden. But just as I say there but for the grace of god go I - would that be true of me and the SS and the Nazi's

    there is always the philosophical - which team do you play for? This happened without any Rhyme nor Reason. Presented with the facts of the Holocaust Museum it is up to us to remember - and Hope if ever we are asked to make choices we can do them with Dignity and Grace and Honor for the Good of Humankind not its Evil.

    Read SaraJ's Review: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

    TV Review: The Equalizer

    Genre: Action Drama
    Channel: Spike
    Season: 4 (Syndication)

    The Premise:Robert McCall is a former agent of an unnamed government agency who decides to use his expertise and resources to help the common man get justice when he's get a problem and odds are against him.

    A few weeks ago at Ye Olde, I referenced a comic book ad that epitomized the mid-80's in every way. While almost anyone will agree Knight Rider and The A-Team do that for television action shows, The Equalizer deserves to be put on equal footing with those iconic visions.

    While I remember The Equalizer being on when I was a kid, I never watched it until Monday, when Spike aired the pilot episode. By the first commercial break, I was hooked, though I have to admit I probably never would have enjoyed it as much twenty years ago as I do today.

    While the premise is a good one--a middle-aged, retired wetworks agent who'd used to working above the law uses that experience for good--the execution is done in a time when karate was considered an exotic, mysterious thing that middle America feared instead of being a class your kids could take at the Y. In other words, the action sequences aren't the most convincing thing you've ever seen. In truth, just as we enjoy watching B.A. Baracas shoot at bad guys feet to make them run away instead of killing them, there is equal joy to be found in seeing a clumsy middle aged man in a bullet proof vest fighting Asian men in a way that's been carefully choreographed to make sure their fists and feet get nowhere near his face.

    By far, my favorite part of the show is the unfettered impotence of the police. Within four minutes of the crisis d'jour, the cops will throw up their hands in dismay and tell the victims they are probably better off just forgetting about justice. In one of the first season episodes, a sixteen year old Iowa girl visiting New York gets kidnapped and chained to a bed in a whorehouse (that's run by Adam Ant!) that caters to diplomatically immune foreign government type who want to do things like have sex with sixteen year old Midwestern girls who are chained to a bed. The police tell her parents A) if the girl hasn't been missing for 24 hours, they cant do anything, B) since the girl walked out of the hotel room of her own free will, they can't consider it a kidnapping, and C) that sixteen year old girls run away every day and they can't be bothered trying to find someone who doesn't want to be found.

    The following episode is about three crooked cops who killed their former partner and the "Lady Cop" (the title of the episode) who doesn't approve of their nefarious ways. Her father, an honest policeman who she grew up admiring so much she decided to follow in his footsteps, advises her to just take her cut of the blood money they collect and keep her head down and mouth shut.

    Further driving home the awesomeness of the series is the number of recognizable stars--like Luis Guzman, David Alan Grier, and West Wing and Studio 60 star Bradley Whitford--who show up, often as extras, twenty years younger than you're accustomed to seeing them.

    If you were a fan of The Equalizer in the past or if you've never watched it, I highly recommend trying it again for what will certainly be a different experience than you might have expected.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Still Not Dead

    We're working our way back from lots of life events. While you're looking for something to read, check out:

    Or drop us a comment and let us know something you're dying to see a review of.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    We're Not Dead - We're Just on Holiday

    Due to Chris' most excellent birthday, we're slacking.

    We'll be back. Stay tuned.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    TV Review: Friday Night Lights

    Genre: Drama
    Channel: NBC
    Season: 1

    The Premise: A small town in Texas revolves around its high school football team, which is ranked #1 in the state and lead by the #1 recruited quarterback in the country, so anything less than a state championship is considered failure.

    I have to admit I am probably a bit prejudiced against Friday Night Lights. As a sportscaster in small town Florida, I've had enough of people giving a rat's ass about high school football to last me ten lifetimes and in the case of this show, and many of the small towns I covered, people do much more than give a merely rat's ass.

    The production of the show is excellent and the cinematography and editing of the football games are beyond reproach. The story, however, is pretty straight forward and involves fairly cliched characters, none of whom I really found myself liking, much less caring about.

    The entire show can be epitomized by one story arc. As soon as the star quarterback who all the kids in town admire and expect to be better than Peyton Manning was introduced, along with his back up who is teased by teammates for his lack of playing time, the producers might as well have just put a timer in the corner of the screen counting down "32:00 Until Star QB Gets Crippled."

    Sure enough, the kid breaks his spine, the back up comes in to win the game, and life goes on.

    Rating: 2/5 yawns

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    TV Review: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Original)

    Genre: Drama
    Channel: CBS
    Season: 7

    The Premise: Crime Scene Investigation. Heck, if you don’t know what CSI is by now, you’ve been living in a cave, under a rock, encased in 12 yards of bubble wrap.

    WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

    This season opener pissed me off to no end. Over the years I’ve put up with William Petersen shaving his beard, with George Eads messing with his hair and making himself less pretty, and with the characters generally doing dumb things in their personal lives, but this one takes the cake.

    There must be some unwritten rule in Hollywood that if a show is on over 6 years a principle character must be raped. WTF? Seriously, I know the rape statistics, but is the only way to avoid them in any outlet in the world to stop watching a show after season 6? Is that the rule?

    And if that isn’t bad enough, the woman is a CSI, and she violates all the rules of collecting evidence, so nothing she gathers is admissible in court, which means that she, an officer of the law, thinks that the law is of no use to her in resolving this. She’s going vigilante.

    So, we’re supposed to believe that this ex-exotic dancer, street-wise, and now law-enforcement savvy tough intelligent woman falls prey to a date-rape drugged drink. That it takes only 2 sips, and then the next thing you know she wakes up naked in a hotel room.

    Even if I buy all of that, I am supposed to buy that her humiliation trumps her common sense and her desire for justice? I am supposed to buy that all her years as a CSI, counseling rape victims on the importance of gathering evidence and facing their accusers, is now going to perform her own rape kit with a tampon?

    And if the character hypocrisy isn’t bad enough, I’m sickened at the thought of how many women watched that, and if god forbid they are raped, they will walk into a police department with a tampon, nail scrapings, and the stuff the combed out of their pubes and say, “I was raped and here is the proof”. No, you’ve just erased the proof. This is not admisibile in court.

    How the hell did this episode get written and shot? I mean, did they send all the real-world CSI consultants and all the female writers out of town for a week and then not let them see this till it aired? Because seriously, if I was a writer on this show, and someone told me we were going to totally violate the CSI cannon – the CSI evidence gathering rules (not to mention an actual CSI tech) there’s no way I’d play along.

    Not only is this the worst CSI episode ever – it may be the one that turns me off for good.

    AV Rating: 0/5 Stars. Shame on you, CBS.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    TV Reivew: Smith


    Genre: Drama

    Channel: CBS

    Season: 1

    The Premise: Normal, traveling cup salesman, family guy is actually a master criminal.

    Why this should be good: Other than a few liberties, this is based on a true story. There really was a guy, living in suburbia, who seemed to have it all. His neighbors loved him. Women envied his wife for having such a great husband, men envied him for being the perfect husband, dad, scout leader, etc.

    Also: Virginia Madsen. I think I have had a girl-crush on her since I saw her in The Creator in 1985 opposite Peter O'Toole, Mariel Hemingway, and Vincent Spano. Is it the hair? The voice? I don't know, but I've always thought she's had the 'it' factor. So why is she regulated to a minor boring existence in the pilot? The real wife actually knew what her husband was doing, does Virginia Madsen know what Ray Liotta is really doing on his business trips, or does she think he is having an affair?

    What's not working: It's slow. I've never been more disappointed that they skimped on commercials. Seriously. I needed more breaks. Also, Ray Liotta will never be a guy other guys want to be and women wish they married. When was the last time anyone every looked at Liotta and said, he's such a nice guy? Hell, his nicest role was Field of Dreams, and he basically said next to nothing and he still seemed like he'd kick your ass half the time.

    And, this amazing crew still had a lot of things go wrong. Is that the suspense? That these guys are going to screw up periodically, so it's not a question of will they screw up, but when will they screw up, and how serious will the screw up be?

    I swore I'd give it a second episode. So, here's the deal, I'm rating this now, and after I see the second episode, I'll come back and tell you if my opinion has changed.

    AV Rating: 1.5/5 Stars. Skip it.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    TV Review: Vanished

    Genre: Drama
    Channel: FOX
    Season: 1

    The Premise: The wife of a Georgia senator is kidnapped. Wackiness ensues.

    I've watched 4 episodes of this new show now, and believe me when I tell you: if you haven't caught "Vanished" fever, then brother... you're probably someone with good taste.

    From FOX:

    "Sara Collins, the beautiful young wife of prominent Georgia Senator Jeffrey Collins, has inexplicably vanished.

    As the search for Sara unravels one of the nation’s most prominent families, it also exposes evidence that could rock the foundations of American society. In VANISHED, nothing is as it seems. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone has a secret. And no one is safe."


    OK, at what point did this conversation occur?

    FOX EXEC #1: You know, there's another kidnapping show coming out this year too.

    FOX EXEC #2: Blast! We've got to do something to separate ourselves in the mind of the viewer!

    FOX EXEC #1: I know! Instead of just being about the kidnapping, we'll also rock the foundations of American society!

    FOX EXEC #2: Brilliant! Plus, we'll have a completely charmless lead... it's great counterprogramming to that Timothy Hutton and Jeremy Sisto!

    FOX EXEC #1: It'll be the breakout show of the season! That'll teach Fox not to fire us from 24!

    ALL: BWA HAH HAH HAH HAH!

    No seriously. That's what had to have happened here.

    The good:

    1) Ming-Na? Hawwwwwwwt. I have a serious crush on that girl. Too bad she's reduced to playing Captain Exposition.

    2) The show is set in Atlanta. Having been born and raised there, it's nice to see a drama not set in New York, Chicago, L.A. or a deserted island.

    The bad:

    Virtually everything else. The show screams low budget 24 knockoff, from the repeated use of extras in different roles, re-use of sets, to the bargain-bin actors populating the series. The Georgia senator, in fact, is played by the same dude who was the bad guy in last season's 24 for the first six episodes.

    Additionally, the show is buried in cliches. The FBI kidnapping specialist who's recovering from a case gone horribly wrong? Check. Annoying TV reporter who walks a fine line between covering the news and obstructing justice? Check. Powerful white guys in suits with an agenda? Check. And because it will "rock the foundations of American society", it's a sure bet that either the Freemasons or the Knights Templar will be involved at some point.

    Look, 24 has its silly comic-book-y moments and plots you don't want to think too hard about, but it moves quickly enough and the actors sell it well enough that it ends up being a fun ride. Vanished seems like a bunch of outtakes from that show strung together without any semblance of direction.

    Additionally, with the exception of Ming-Na, who as I've mentioned I have a personal bias towards, the entire cast displays the charisma and acting chops of a tractor.

    I'll be switching over to Kidnapped tonight, and hopefully that'll go better.

    A/V Rating: 1/5. Move along, nothing to see here.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    TV Review: Studio 60



    Genre: Drama
    Channel: NBC
    Season: 1


    The Premise: Two star writers come to save a SNL-type show -- as seen from the backstage.

    From NBC:

    In the new drama series, Sorkin lays bare the backstage politics, romances and delicate balance between creative talent, on-air personalities and network executives in an instant text-messaging world. Prominent are Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet, "Syriana"), a savvy new network entertainment chief who inherits a massive public relations disaster on the series -- even before she starts her first day -- and Matt Albie (Matthew Perry, "Friends") and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford, "The West Wing"), a brilliant creative team that she wants to resurrect the program.


    The good:

    • The cast - Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Steven Weber, Timothy Busfield, D.L. Hughley, Sarah Paulson, Hathan Corddry
    • The writing - Aaron Sorkin is back, baby

    The bad:
    The music is too much in the foreground - seriously - that's it.

    I suspect that this show will follow the West Wing phenomenon - as long as Sorkin is involved, it'll be fantastic, and I'll keep watching. Once he leaves, it'll be a shell of it's former self.

    So, keep Sorkin, and you'll keep me.

    AV Rating: 5/5 Stars

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Underrated Badass of Cinema: LL Cool J

    Here’s why LL Cool J is the undisputed biggest badass of scary movies:

    LL Cool J is the only black man that EVER survives a scary movie. EVER. And he survives EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    Titanium eating, genetically enhanced, super pissed off sharks can’t stop him.

    Serial killers pretending to be FBI profilers can’t stop him.

    It can’t be done. No man, no beast, no creature great or small will ever kill LL Cool J in a scary movie.

    And only LL can deliver such pearls as these and have us still coming back for more:

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Because I carry a big stick and I'm the meanest mother fucker in the valley! Two sharks down, Lord! One demon fish to go! Can I get an Amen?
    Know this: a bunch of fools are going in, and only LL Cool J and some whiny white chick are coming out.

    Underrated Badass of Cinema: LL Cool J -- can I get an AMEN?

    Leaving a Bad Flavor

    A few weeks ago, I professed my love for VH1's "Flavor of Love." It's junk food TV, meaning that it has no redeeming value and is more than likely bad for me, yet I find myself enjoying it on a regular basis.

    At least that was the case. I think I've finally found the strength to turn this shit off.

    No longer do I debate whether this is the greatest or the worst show in history. It's pretty clear the latter is the case. Allow me to share the highlights of the season thus far (with screencaps provided by Dlisted):

    I already discussed the first episode, where Flav brought a whole new group of strippers and wannabe video dancers into a mansion we're supposed to believe is his, in my inital post. Granted, this batch of girls wasn't as classy as the last, but that's because Flav picked them out himself to weed out the gold diggers.Kla-SSEEEEE!

    So I covered all that, but now that I have pictures, I'll share so you can see the crazy ghetto bitch who is "not from Compton," but rather lives on Crenshaw, who beat the living piss out of another girl because there weren't enough beds to go around. She then prayed to God for the strength not to "beat dis bitch ass."The moment everyone talked about, though, was when Somethin took a crap on the carpet because--she claims--producers wouldn't let her go to the bathroom before the elimination ceremony and she couldn't hold it.In the weeks that followed, the girls had to clean up Warren G.'s house after a "big party." The party undoubtedly involved a bunch of VH1 production assistants dumping garbage all over a mansion, making a huge mess, and doubting that the average "Flavor of Love" viewer will have the intelligence to ask, "Who the hell throws an entire serving bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce against a bathroom mirror?"Incidentally, this challenge was won by Nibblz based on her willingness to clean a toilet overflowing with diarrhea.

    There was also a dance off in which some of the girls were taught to "krump." For the record, one of the people in this picture used to be a spokesperson for former California governor Gray Davis. Care to hazard a guess?I'll give you a clue, he's not wearing a tank top and he's not wearing a clock around his neck. And Gray Davis wonders why the electorate recalled him.

    Instead of judging them based on their ability to learn new things, their coordination, or their teamwork, Flavor just gives the prize to the team with the girl who dry humps him.Sadly, one running theme on the show seems to be the breakdown of friendships. Girls who have known each other for all of six days have found they can completely and wholeheartedly trust someone only to have it blow up in their faces. It happened to Nibblz and Toastee, who had been tag teaming Flav in his bed less than 24 hours earlier, when the latter accused the former of "bleeping" off Flav, giving him a "bleep" job. It's unclear whether the bleeps are "suck" and "blow" or "jerk" and "hand." Toastee tells the other girls she "heard noises," so Nibblz retaliates by telling everyone Toastee admitted to being a pornstar who uses the name Natalia.

    Natalia--er, Toastee flat out denies she has a past in porn. Flav calls her on her lie, showing a naked picture of her that gets completely blurred out.(Boy, if you're at work, I sure hope you didn't click any of those above links.)

    (Oh, and for the record, Toastee still denies she did "porn" as nude modeling and porn are different. If there had been another girl or a guy, she says, that would have been porn.)

    Even stupider, Nibblz makes her living by chatting with guys and taking off her clothes on a webcam. Flavor acknowledged the difference by saying the decision wasn't because Toastee was a pornstar, but because she wasn't honest with him about it like Nibblz. Then dismissed her by saying, "I ain't tryin' ta get wit no pornstar. Yer time is up!"

    Oh, and two episodes later Nibblz was cut because Flavor has kids and he can't be with someone who takes off her clothes on the internet... like
    last season's winner, Hoopz?

    Outside of that, my favorite completely stupid moment built out of an episode in which Flavor invited over a bunch of his friends--meaning has-been or mid-level rappers--so they could assess the girls and tell him their opinions. The majority of the show focused on the girls shaking their asses in the faces of the rappers......which prompted this guy from Ying (sic) Yang Twins to say, "Booty booty booty booty wazahea nazahea!" about eight hundred times, apparently because those are lyrics to one of his songs...... giving the rappers' bodyguards lapdances...... and admitting they didn't really know much about who Flavor Flav was before they came on the show but that they are completely in love and want to marry him and have his babies now.

    The upshot was all the girls are sluts, except Crazy, who is a big phony who couldn't name one Flav or Public Enemy song, and Like Dat, who everyone agrees is really cool and the kind of girl you'd really like to hang out with.

    So in the end, who gets cut? The fat girl.Much like the "dance" contest that went to the girl willing to act like the biggest slut, the "who do my friends like best" contest was lost by the girl they liked best, making the previous 55 minutes of television a complete waste of time (versus a partial waste as it usually is).

    The final straw, however, was the return of New York, the bad actress bitch from the first season who makes Omarosa look completely charming and sane. She's supposedly back and still in love with Flav. This leads her to assault the other contestants...... and run away and cry when she's told not to hit people for no reason (other than that the producers told her to).

    Ultimately, Flav decides maybe he's in love with New York (despite the episode one demand of "no more gold diggers!") after all, and reinserts her into the contest, raising the question of why he didn't just start dating her after things didn't work out with Hoopz after last season.

    New York isn't amusing, she's irritating. I can't watch this show and listen to her scripted interviews calling everyone else sluts and talking about how great she is. ("I do not apologize because I do not make mistakes"? She's the pope now?)

    Final screencap highlight that didn't fit in anywhere else: Someone wore this outfit and thought it looked good:

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    None Of Us Are Dead (That We Know Of)

    We here at AV would like to extend a heartfelt apology to all four of our dedicated readers. We have slacked, for one reason or another, which has led to a distinct lack of content.

    Underrated Badasses Of Cinema Week has been postponed until further notice.

    Ahem.

    That said, be prepared for next week, when AV again comes alive with opinions you could comfortably live the rest of your lives without ever hearing, but we're right so you're going to listen to us anyway.

    Thx,
    Management

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Underrated Badass of Cinema: Samantha Caine/Charly Baltimore

    Back when Samuel L. Jackson was a badass [when he screamed Fuck You Motherfucker! You knew he would Fuck. You. Up. Watching trailers of Snakes on a Plane with him screaming Fuck You Motherfucker! at snakes is somehow less effective] he was in a movie in which, while still a badass, he was the 2nd fiddle badass to one Samantha Caine (a.k.a Charly Baltimore) in The Long Kiss Goodnight.

    One day Samantha Caine is a nice single-mother, suffering from some amnesia, and she doesn’t remember anything before her daughter’s birth. A Christmas Eve car accident with some head trauma starts letting the old Samantha (Charly) resurface. First she's beningly chopping veggies for dinner and then she is expertly throwing knives at targets across the room! Throwing knives is dangerous!

    Then she changes her whole look - she goes from long, curly, brown mousy hair, totally wholesome Walton's looking to bobbed platinum blonde with tons of eye liner and a leather jacket with a bullet hole. How many women do you know that would cut off 6-12 inches of long hair by themselves, and make it look awesome? None, that's how many.

    She expertly shoots badguys while they are in a car and she is on ice skates! Ice skating assassin!

    When trapped by the bad guys and facing death with her daughter, she never gives up:

    Caitlin: Mommy, am I gonna die?
    Charlie: Oh, no, baby, no. You're not going to die. They are. Cover your ears. Hey, should we get a dog?

    In the end the bad guys are dead, the good guys are free, and Samantha has found a way to balance her mommy and assassin instincts.

    Samantha/Charly: Underrated Badass of Cinema!

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Underrated Badass of Cinema: Quint

    First off, can we all agree that Jaws is just a fantastic movie? Actually, screw it, I don't care if you agree or not; just know that if you don't agree then you're wrong. Because Jaws is just a fantastic movie.

    I could make the case that Jaws rocks the house because of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, the shark, the dialogue, the direction, the characterizations, blahbity-blah-blah-blah.

    But no, my friends. Jaws is megasuperterrific because of one man: Robert Shaw in the role he was born to play, as Quint the Crusty Old Shark Hunter.

    Quint is such a badass.

    Quint's the kind of guy that scrapes his fingernails down a blackboard to get the whole room's attention, even though said room is about the size of a broom closet, and a simple "HEY!" would probably have done the trick.

    Quint's the guy who knows that a shark's been eating people, and says he'll find the shark for $3000, but he'll catch it and kill it for $10,000. That's right: at heart he's a bidnessman!

    Quint will stand there looking at you like you're a total moron, eating crackers with a slight smile on his face that seems to say, "You're a total moron."

    He's also got his own boat, mounts shark jaws on the wall, laughs at the end of the movie Moby Dick, and apparently has the ability to not instantly dislike Roy Scheider, an ability many common mortals do not possess.

    More importantly, Quint is willing to CHASE FUCKING JAWS. The sheer ballsiness of that cannot be overstated.

    Oh, did I mention that Quint underwent Horrific Badass-ifying Trauma in his past? Yessir, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was part of Quint's WWII tour of duty. Watch this clip:



    Now just try and tell me that Quint isn't a badass. He never wears a life jacket. That is just unsafe, people!

    (Also: that 3 minutes of acting by Robert Shaw may be the finest monologue committed to film in the last 30 years, and you all can take your stylized hipper-than-thou Pulp Fiction and suck on it. I don't even want to hear it.)

    Yes, Quint ends up getting et in half by the shark. Still: you think that shark blows up at the end of the movie because Roy Scheider hit a million-to-one shot on a scuba tank?

    Hell, no!

    The shark blows up because the shark's stomach literally cannot physically contain Quint's utter badassedness. I'm serious. It was totally in the first draft:

    SHARK: (swims)

    BRODY: (aims)

    HOOPER: (floats)

    QUINT: Ha! Even in the bowels of this shark, my disembodied torso contains enough badassedness to rip apart the beastie. Begone!

    SHARK: (BOOM!)

    Roll credits, bask in awe.

    Quint: Underrated Badass of Cinema!

    Underrated Badasses of Cinema Week!

    This may or may not work, but I am all about the theme weeks, even if they start on a Friday. So my particular theme next week: Underrated Badasses of Cinema!

    Yes, yes, we all know about your John McClane , your Jules Winnfield , your Indiana Jones, and your Ripley.

    (Incidentally, if you actually click that Indiana Jones link above because you're not familiar with the character, well... let's just say the odds are good that you're not exactly this blog's target audience.)

    But this week (for my posts, anyway) is dedicated to the Underrated Badasses of Cinema --- the characters that despite not being super mega action heroes/heroines or starring in gazillions of movies, managed to create enduring badass characters worthy of emulating in office meetings, deep-sea expeditions, or public restrooms.

    "But Chris," you're probably thinking, "What exactly is an Underrated Badass of Cinema? And how can you read my mind?"

    Obviously, the character has to be underrated. By that I mean that one must apply Holly's Law Of Underratedness, which states:

    When Movie X is discussed among friends, if Character Y is the third or fourth discussion point brought up and prefaced by the sentence "You know who was good in [Movie X]? [Character Y]." then Character Y has the property of Underratedness.

    Additionally, the character must be a Badass, where we apply Holly's Law of Badassedness, which states:

    If Character Y makes it plain through dialogue or action that he, she, or it is clearly better than you and could probably give you a heart attack just by glancing in your direction, Character Y has the property of Badassedness.

    So, this (next) week I'll be celebrating Underrated Badasses of Cinema! Oh, and more than likely Sara, Scott, and Jake will have some actual critical reviews as well if you get tired of my self-aggrandizing.

    Not that I ever do.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Book Review: Phantoms

    My genre of choice is Fantasy and one of my favorite authors is Terry Goodkind. I just finished reading the much anticipated and long awaited Phantoms.

    The Ugly: I would hope that I would not need to have an ugly category but in this case I must and hopefully I will not need it again. As I mentioned Goodkind is a favorite author of mine and when I found out that he was producing leather-bound, numbered, and signed copies of Phantoms I had to have one. You see Goodkind has been writing a series called The Sword of Truth for over a decade, I've anxiously waited for each book to come out, and Phantoms is the second to last book in the series. I figured that leather-bound commemorative copies of the final two books in the series would be awesome to have. However, as I was reading it I became disgusted and then finally as it hit me disappointed because this book is riddled with copy editing mistakes. These errors run the gamut from misusing a characters name, misspellings, and homonym errors. This is the ugly part of the book, and frankly I think it is becoming more and more prevalent, so if you often notice copy editing errors be prepared to notice one almost every chapter while reading this book.

    The Bad: As I mentioned Phantoms is the second to last book in a series that has been going on for over ten years and has spanned 10 books so far, including Phantoms. Normally this wouldn't be a big issue where Goodkind is concerned as he made great efforts in each book to recap relevant points from previous books so that the book was a stand-alone book. This changed when Goodkind decided to conclude the series and realized that in order to wrap the story up he couldn't tell it in one book he was going to need to write a trilogy. This trilogy began in book 9, Chainfire, (I would review Chainfire but it has been over a year since I read it so all I would be able to say is read it, love it, read everything else by Goodkind.) so picking up Phantoms without having read Chainfire would leave you a bit confused in places.

    Also Phantoms involves a massive fanatical army, millions of people, that is all about raping and pillaging those people and places that do not share their beliefs and Goodkind doesn't shy away from graphically writing what this army does to those people. While the bad of this is that it isn't pleasant reading, and I can't imagine it was pleasant writing, it does what it is supposed to do.

    The Good: Goodkind writes compelling stories and he knows how to tie chapters together so that you don't want to put the book down. I have heard many people tell how they couldn't put one of his books down and they finished it in a couple of days. Phantoms holds well to this tradition as I often found myself reading multiple chapters when intending to read just one, I am a slow reader and I would probably starve if I attempted to read it all the way through.

    Phantoms harkens back to the very first Sword of Truth book, Wizards First Rule, in numerous cases and things that you thought were facts or irrelevant details are brought into new light.

    Phantoms continues the storyline begun in Chainfire where one of the main characters, Kahlan, is kidnapped and a spell is cast that removed her existence from the world. The spell wiped the memory of her from almost everyone’s mind, including her own, including where she was referenced in prophecy. We find out more about the spell as the other main characters research and work to reverse it. We learn more about Richard, Kahlan's husband, and we see his despair as he is finally reunited with Kahlan - while both of them are captives. Goodkind weaves joy and happiness with pain and sacrifice. His story illustrates a couple of different views in the value of life – Richard and Kahlan fight for everyone’s right to live and prosper in their life while their enemies believe that life is worthless and all about sacrifice for a better afterlife.

    Recommended for: Anyone who has read another Terry Goodkind book (but you were going to anyway), people who have read a fantasy novel and enjoyed it, people who are willing to read anything good.

    Not Recommended for: anyone who is dead.

    AV rating: 4/5 (5/5 without the ugly). The bad wasn't bad for me as I have read and own the whole series but the ugly is a real disappointment and something I worry about becoming the standard in the industry. I have started a few people on reading Goodkind and they love his works, so go read one and enjoy (start with the first one and enjoy them all).

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    TV Review: Weeds


    Genre: Drama
    Channel: Showtime
    Season: 2 currently airing; 1 on DVD

    The premise: Widowed mom sells pot to support her kids and ultra suburban lifestyle.
    The result: Mixed bag

    Let’s start with the good:
    The acting is superb all around – Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon are the primary actors. They do an amazing job – especially as such recognizable personalities, they are still able to be completely believable in their roles.

    Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) is a complex character. She is a devoted mom, she won’t deal to kids, and she hides her ‘job’ from her kids.

    Nancy is a good friend to a bitchy alcoholic (Elizabeth Perkins) with breast cancer. Even still, she won’t let Perkins show her boobs off to her kids. She’s a dealer, but not immoral.

    The mixed:
    The pilot jumps into her already widowed and already in her ‘career’. We don’t see what the process was for her choosing to deal, when she started, etc.

    The show lacks common sense. She’s living in an upper-class suburban area. She could sell her home, live in smaller place without the maid, and probably get a regular job that could support their new lifestyle. I’m not talking about going from rich to poor – I’m talking about well-off to middle-class. A downgrade? Sure. But, a stable way of life that doesn’t involve drugs, drive-bys, and cover businesses.

    The bad:
    I don’t think there is any bad per se.

    Overall, I recommend a viewing, but so far after the first half of season 1 I am not hooked. If it’s on, sure, I will watch it, but I am not squawking about the TiVo eating an episode of Weeds.

    AV rating: 3.5/5

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    TV Review: 30 Days

    Genre: Documentary Reality
    Channel: FX
    Season: 2 currently airing; 1 on DVD

    Morgan Spurlock is best known as the guy who ate nothing but McDonald's for a month and made a movie documenting his resulting deteriorating health called Supersize Me. He applied the same idea that you can change you life and your views in just thirty days to the show called... well, "30 Days."

    The show finds people of an extreme viewpoint and has them live with someone from the opposite side of the spectrum. It's akin to throwing someone into a cold pool, knowing the initial shock will wear off quickly and he'll be able to enjoy a nice swim he wouldn't otherwise if he'd just stood on the edge, dipping his toe in all afternoon.

    Wow, how about that similie?

    So the bible thumping homophobe goes to live in the Castro district for a month and the border patroling Minuteman lives with a family of eight illegal immigrants in a one bedroom apartment in East LA.

    Sometimes, the show really makes a good point and you genuinely see change in the subject. For example, the Minuteman who was able to go to Mexico and see the "house" where his host family used to live--if you call three walls and a corrugated piece of metal for a roof a "house." By the end of that episode, he admitted he still opposed illegal immigration, but that he understood why most illegals come to America and said he'd no longer patrol the border but instead use his time to fight for better immigration laws.

    More often than not, the show misses the mark for one of three reasons.

    1. Ignorance. Since the show is trying to use average people, you don't get scholars who can really debate the two sides of an issue. Tonight's episode was about an Atheist who went to live with a very devoted Christian family. Unfortunately, the Christians couldn't understand what Atheism was--at one point a guy asked, "What did Jesus ever do that was so bad in your opinion?"--and the Atheist couldn't really explain herself nor her lack of beliefs. The show tried to make up for it by having some interesting facts (Atheists are the least trusted minority in the country, behind Muslims, recent immigrants, and gays) and some interviews with experts on both sides, but every time we went back to the dumbass host family and the braindead subject, I just had to pause the Tivo, get up, and walk around about a dozen times.

    2. Stupid Plans. Somethings just can't be understood by doing them for thirty days. Last season, a mom who was concerned about her college-aged daughter's drinking decided to binge drink for a month. She went from having an occassional glass of wine to drinking four or more drinks a day. First off, this would be like me making a documentary about myself running a marathon, collapsing after two miles, and making the focus of the story that running is bad. You can't go from rarely drinking to drinking heavily every night. You have to ease into it. Further, if you're a wine drinker, you can't slam two shots of tequilla, down a beer, and finish your night with a screwdriver.

    The flawed nature became apparent whenever she talked to her daughter about the experiment. The mom would go on and on about how awful she felt and how terrible this must be for her daughter, then she's tell her "I had two margaritas and two Budweisers" and her daughter would laugh hysterically at what a lightweight her mom was. It would be like me telling Duane Wade he shouldn't play basketball anymore because I played for fifteen minutes and my heart was pounding and I couldn't catch my breath.

    Finally, the show really tried to drive home the negative impact of binge drinking by showing how the mom wasn't getting any housework done. There were shots of laundry piled up and a scene where she tried to vacuum, but instead just crashed on the couch and fell asleep. There were parts where her ten year old son cried as he watched his mom, who looked like she was dying, making herself a drink at one in the afternoon after just waking up. All these scenes did was prove that binge drinking is best left to people who don't have kids to watch and a household to maintain. People like college students!

    3. Pointlessness. The third flaw is also probably the most common one: episodes that end with viewers asking, "What are we really supposed to get out of this?" All the episodes want to open viewers eyes to a world they may not otherwise see, but I pretty much knew Muslims are descriminated against by a lot of Americans. Maybe I'm just better informed than most people, but I was aware that there is a high level of poverty in India. Last season's episode about people living "off the grid," driving cars that run on recycled oil from fried food, building solar-powered huts, and not shampooing their hair, was mildly informative, but mainly left you thinking the hippies were weirdos and the subjects were whiners. In the end, even the subjects were hard pressed to find something "life-changing" to say about the experience. They were much more interested in being able to finally use hair dryers again.

    Unfortunately, the key element that is missing episode in and episode out is the characters. In an attempt to get fairly average people, the subjects of the show and their hosts tend to have pretty bland personalities.

    RECOMMENDED FOR: Shut-ins, people who don't know what's happening beyond three houses down the street.

    NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who don't care about anything outside their particular worldview, people who are very interested and informed about things outside their personal worldview. Think of this show like a starter packet for learning about new things.

    A/V RATING: 2/5. I still watch hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again, but can almost guarantee with a remaining lineup this season with titles like "New Age," "Pro-Life/Pro-Choice," and "Jail," I'm not holding my breath.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    TV Review: Life On Mars

    Sorry about the lateness of the last of my Summer Shows I'm TiVo-ing Week, but I see that Sara and Jake valiantly came to the rescue to keep y'all entertained! Last entry for me on this particular theme: another friggin' English show!

    #5 Life on Mars
    Genre:
    Sci-Fi-ish Crime Dramedy
    Channel: BBC America
    Season: 1 currently airing

    Anyhoo, Life on Mars is a weird show.

    The premise is that a cop gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Everyone seems to know him, he's got a job as a detective still, and absolutely nobody believes that he's from the future.

    And neither do we, because along the way we get not-very-subtle indications that all this is the creation of his mind, trying to keep him alive while he's in a coma.

    As the main character Sam Tyler explains in the opening voiceover: "Have I traveled back in time, am I in a coma, or have I gone mad?" It's pretty clearly either #2 or #3, possibly both.

    Which means that the premise itself doesn't really leave a whole lot of mystery, since the show constantly hits us over the head with, um, "This is all in his head" signs.

    It's a good thing that the show is brilliantly acted and surprisingly hilarious.

    See, Sam's boss in 1973 is in, um 1973, and certain crime drama procedures like "lineups behind two-way glass", "DNA evidence", and "not planting obviously fake jewelry on suspects to arrest them for murder" haven't quite made it to the forefront of police procedure.

    So, much of the humor comes from Sam and his boss being at odds with each other over the other's methods of policework. In addition, they happen to absolutely hate each other, which in one episode makes for an entertaining extended fistfight in a coma patient's hospital room.

    (See? There's that subtle "HE'S REALLY IN A COMA" symbolism I was talking about.)

    John Simm and Philip Glenister portray Sam and "Guv" (I call the boss character "Guv" because everyone else does. I'm not even sure he has a name, to be perfectly frank) wonderfully, and their scenes together crackle.

    Factor in a cool '70s soundtrack (but with good '70s songs) that's not too overbearing, genuinely interesting setting, and yeah: it's a pretty good show.

    RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of "retro" shows, The Prisoner, or anyone who thought to themselves, "Starsky and Hutch would have been a really good show if it had been set in England".

    NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who can't stand shows that think they're cleverer than they actually are (I'm lookin' at you, Lost.)

    A/V RATING: 3/5. Quirky, entertaining, good acting. One viewing will tell you whether you're going to like this or not.