Friday, November 28, 2008

zombie wrapping

In honor of Black Friday (of which I am not participating), I bring you the best commercial of the holiday season (thus far). Here is Game Stop's new advertisement, and I have to say, I kind of want a zombie for Christmas now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

HIMYM: 50 reasons to have sex

On Monday night's episode of How I Met Your Mother (read Alan Sepinwall's review here), Ted and the others are introduced to the philosophy of The Naked Man -- where, if you haven't a chance for a second date, you should lose your clothes because your date will just laugh and half sex with you -- and, of course, Robin sleeps with The Naked Man creator, Mitch. Marshall "calls slut" and believes that the only reason to have sex with someone is for love. Well, his lovely lady proves him wrong with "50 Reasons to Have Sex." Here they are below for your viewing pleasure.

Some highlights:
#8: Nothing good on TV.
#13-14: Diet/exercise, and then to celebrate recent weight loss.
#23: Just shaved legs.
#30: She wants to.
#39: Damn, your calves look good in those cargo shorts. (I wish this one had been explained on the show!)
#40: Called/texted the wrong person but she was into it anyway. (This is totally an addition from Barney.)
#50: Love. (Aww, Marshall and Lily are so cute.)

episode: chuck, "chuck vs. the gravitron"

There was a lot to recommend about this episode, though it's probably one of the weaker episodes of the season (but it's been a really awesome season). Here, Jordana Brewster's three-episode arc ends, and I have to say, I appreciated her casting as Chuck's ex-girlfriend Jill because I really did believe that Jill would leave being a Fulcrum spy for Chuck. Brewster did a good job deceiving me convincingly, and I think her being carried away in handcuffs allows for her return in later episodes, though hopefully not any time soon. The episode was too much plot and not enough dorkiness, but I did enjoy some smaller moments of the episode like Morgan's subjective slo-mo of Ellie cutting the turkey (is fantasizing about Ellie or the turkey?) and Chuck's note reading "Unleash the Casey." I can picture that line sprawled on t-shirts.

One question about this episode: Was Jill's text message about "Uncle Tobias" a reference to Arrested Development's Tobias Fünke? The writers are certainly dorky enough (they had a Vogon poetry reference last week!), so I hope this was intentional.

I am worried about the Sarah-Chuck storyline, though, because Chuck intelligently showed the audience that Chuck and Sarah both realize they can't be with each other, despite their feelings. But it seems like Sarah's feelings are starting to compromise her job, and I fear that the will-they-or-won't-they dynamic will come back. The they-can't-but-they-want-to dynamic is much more interesting, namely because it's character-driven rather than plot-driven. If the story is going where I think it's going (and hope it's going), Sarah will be put on a leave of absence to get her act together (which allows for Tricia "Number Six" Helfer to appear as Sarah's temporary replacement). This will be good so that Chuck and Sarah can have relationship issues outside of one another. They've been handled appropriately this season with Sarah's high school identity and now Jill, but there should always be an outside source that causes each other to pine for the other.

Quotes were scarce, but here are some highlights:
Ellie: The Awesomes are coming, and they make their son look Mildly Impressive.

Chuck: (to Jill) You already broke my heart. Do you have to shoot it too?

Chuck: You're under arrest, Jill, and I'm breaking up with you.

Morgan: (after wishing for Chuck and Sarah to patch things up, Chuck and Sarah walk through the door together and he realizes his "Christmas miracle" powers) I can ask for anything... (looks at the door in anticipation) a DeLorean, a flying DeLorean...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pics from luhrmann's australia

The following images are from Baz Luhrmann's upcoming film Australia, and the images are courtesy of Glam, which I can only assume is a fashion magazine.
Australia is an epic and romantic action adventure, set in that country on the explosive brink of World War II. In it, an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) travels to the faraway continent, where she meets a rough-hewn local (Hugh Jackman) and reluctantly agrees to join forces with him to save the land she inherited. Together, they embark upon a transforming journey across hundreds of miles of the world's most beautiful yet unforgiving terrain, only to still face the bombing of the city of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor. With his new film, Baz Luhrmann is painting on a vast canvas, creating a cinematic experience that brings together romance, drama, adventure and spectacle.

And from Film School Rejects, here are some more images -- but I have to wonder, is the cinematographer Steve McCurry? (Answer: No -- but the styles are certainly similar.)

movie blog's top 100 movies based on books

John at The Movie Blog took on the daunting task of listing the Top 100 Movies Based on Books. The list is quite extensive, but below are a few of the notable picks:

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 86%
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
John’s Thought: Iconic film with some of the most quoted one liners from a horror film in history.
My Thought: The movie's fantastic, but it's not very close to the book...

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 96%
Full Metal Jacket begins by following the trials and tribulations of a platoon of fresh Marine Corps recruits focusing on the relationship between Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and Privates Pyle and Joker. We see Pyle grow into an instrument of death as Hartman has forseen of all of his recruits. Through Pyle’s torment and Joker’s unwillingness to stand up against it the climax of part one is achieved with all three main characters deciding their fates by their action or inaction. The second chapter of Full Metal Jacket delves into Joker’s psyche and the repeated referal to the fact that he joined the Corps to become a killer. When his mostly behind the scenes job as a combat correspondant is interfered with by the Tet offensive he is thrust into real combat and ultimately must choose if he really is a killer.
John’s Thought: Not many people agree with me, but I think this was easily Stanley Kubrick’s best movie.
My Thought: If by "easily" the best John means most accessible, then I can agree. But 2001, The Shining, Spartacus, and Dr. Strangelove are all classics in their genre for a reason.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 72%
Forrest, Forrest Gump is a simple man with little brain activity but good intentions. He struggles through childhood with his best and only friend Jenny. His ‘mama’ teaches him the ways of life and leaves him to choose his destiny. Forrest joins the army for service in Vietnam, finding new friends called Dan and Bubba, he wins medals, starts a table tennis craze, creates a famous shrimp fishing fleet, inspires people to jog, create the smiley, write bumper stickers and songs, donating to people and meeting the president several times. However this is all irrelevant to Forrest who can only think of his childhood sweetheart Jenny. Who has messed up her life. Although in the end all he wants to prove is that anyone can love anyone
John’s Thought: A movie of a less than ordinary person who lives an extraordinary life. Great film, but no way in hell it should have beat out Shawshank Redemption for best picture that year.
My Thought: First, I didn't know this film was based a book, and second, I understand that Shawshank is sort of the new Godfather for men, but Forrest Gump is beyond brilliant.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 84%
A burn victim, a nurse, a thief, and a sapper find themselves in each others company in an old Italian villa close to the end of World War II. Through flashbacks, we see the life of the burn victim, whose passionate love of a woman and choices he made for her ultimately change the lives of one other person in the villa. Not only is this film a search for the identity of the English patient, but a search for the identities of all the people in the quiet old villa.
John’s Thought: A lot of people found this dry and slow, but I thought it hit every note perfectly.
My Thought: Again, one of my favorite movies, but not that close to the book... the book is all about Hannah, who has very little screen time (compared to K, that is).

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 83%
A noir send-up. A narrator introduces himself at a Hollywood party: he’s Harry Lockhart, a thief from New York, in L.A. for a screen test. He meets Gay Perry, a glitzy private eye who’s to school him for his role; there’s Harmony Lane, a wannabe actress whose time has passed; the host is an aging actor who starred in detective movies, plus his daughter, with starlet looks and a choppy past. The next day, Gay and Harry stake out a house where Gay is to take surreptitious photographs for a client - what they find is a corpse. From there, twists and connections abound and bodies pile up. Who’s double-crossing whom? And, has Harry found Harmony too late to save himself from misery?
John’s Thought: This movie ranks right up there with Bubba Ho-Tep where the fact that it never got a wide release should be considered a crime against humanity. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer were both just amazing in this flick.
My Thought: Easily one of the best films of the 2000s. This was Downey's starring vehicle for his big comeback, and his performance here beats Tropic Thunder and Iron Man -- oh, yes, I did just say that.

#30 - 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 91%
This movie is concerned with intelligence as the division between animal and human, then asks a question; what is the next division? Technology is treated as irrelevant to the quest - literally serving as mere vehicles for the human crew, and as a shell for the immature HAL entity. Story told as a montage of impressions, music and impressive and careful attention to subliminal detail. A very influential film and still a class act, even after 25 years.
John’s Thought: There are parts of this film that still confuse the hell out of me.
My Thought: I've said this before and I'll say it again... the death of HAL is the saddest death in the history of cinema. "Daisy, daisy..."

#19 - DIE HARD
Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 96%
Tough New York cop John McClane finds himself in a tight situation when an office building in Los Angeles is taken over by terrorists. Apart from himself, everyone else in the building - including his wife - is held at gunpoint while their captors spell out their demands. The F.B.I. are called in to survey the situation, but John McClane has other plans for the terrorists…
John’s Thought: Betcha didn’t know this was based on a book. Yeah neither did I at first.
My Thought: Nope. I didn't know that. I wonder if the book is in first person?

Rotten Tomatoes Rating - 95%
When the lovely Buttercup is kidnapped by a ghastly gang intent on fermenting an international incident they find they are pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts who just might be Westley, her one true love. Also after everyone is nasty Prince Humperdinck to whom Buttercup is now betrothed but who seems to care little for her continued survival. The stage is set for swordfights, monsters, and tortures - but will Grandpa be allowed to finish telling the story with all these kissy bits?
John’s Thought: One of the most special movies ever made that is nothing short of pure magic. Holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of people.
My Thought: The interesting thing about this film is that it's about a sick boy whose grandfather reads him a story. And yet this film replaced storytime for me when I was sick. This film about a book (and based on a book) ushered in a new medium for preferred imagination.

And then not surprisingly, John puts all three of the Lord of the Ring movies in his TOP 5, and puts The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption at numbers 2 and 3, respectively. LotR: Return of the King took the #1 spot... which underwhelms me... what a predictably masculine choice.

People in the comments have noted the absences of Jurassic Park, Gone with the Wind, Fight Club, To Kill a Mockingbird, and American Psycho, all of which I agree need to be on this list. But I don't recommend reading the comments because most of these people are idiots and do not know how to intelligently criticize a list. Also, where is Atonement?

Monday, November 24, 2008

more mad men illustrations

I am going through some major Mad Men withdrawals -- Season 2 doesn't come out on DVD until July 2009, so AMC better start showing reruns soon. In the meantime, I'm converting J&G and Chad to the show, so hopefully rewatching Season 1 will soothe my eager heart. But lately, I just can't get enough of these Mad Men illustrations from Nobody's Sweetheart. It may just be me, but I think the following illustrations have improved since the ones I posted a while back. These are more Mad Men-specific, and the blocking is really quite beautiful.

For those who might be interested (ahem -- J&G), the Mad Men calendar is for sale (and is 40% until November 27th!). I plan to purchase the calendar in addition to the Hotel Babylon print (last one above). It's such a beautiful and haunting image, matching the scene from the series.

arrested development movie in the works?

News broke out at the end of last week about Mitch Hurwitz and Ron Howard closing the deal on making an Arrested Development movie. This is one of those things that goes into rotation every six months -- along with a Serenity sequel or a Veronica Mars movie -- but now there seems to be concrete evidence that this will happen. According to Kristin at E!, someone's holding out on signing, and all signs point to Michael Cera, but truth be told, as much as I adore the character of George Michael and his glorious awkwardness, I wouldn't miss Cera terribly. This show really is about the adults. Would the movie be a hundred times funnier if Cera was in it? Yes. But the movie will already be ten thousand times funny, so what's another hundred added into the mix?

Arrested Development is one of my favorite shows -- in fact, I think it's surpassed The Office as my favorite comedy. (Sometimes having a shorter life can actually help benefit a program. No one ever tired of Arrested, and I'm getting tired of The Office, especially after this past week's episode.) So in honor of this mind-blowingly awesome news (and I do mean awesome in the Godly sense), here are some clips. If you have not been converted, perhaps these will bring you over to the side of awesomeness.

My favoritest scene from television. Seriously.

Mrs. Doubtfire meets Mary Poppins

"You're killing me, Buster!" My second favoritest thing.

Justice cannot be blind... Okay, my third favoritest thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

paul rudd on conan o'brien

I heart Paul Rudd like whoa. Here, he's promoting his film Role Models... except he doesn't show a clip from that movie...

episode: 30 rock, "gavin volure"

I watch Grey's Anatomy during the Thursday 9pm slot (and perhaps one day I'll get around to defending Apparition Denny's storyline), so normally I read Alan Sepinwall's 30 Rock recaps before I watch the episode. I tend to rather agree with him, so imagine my surprise when I discovered I disagreed with his disappoint in the episode "Gavin Volure." Was Steve Martin underused? Absolutely -- but he's been underused since the mid-90s. Is the show stronger when they focus on the variety sitcom or inner workings of the business? I certainly think so. But unlike last week, this episode didn't have recycled material. Gavin Volure isn't an agoraphobe -- like the most recent guest star on House (how awkward would that have been?) -- but a man on house arrest for embezzlement and... arson. Also unlike last week, this week's guest star, Steve Martin, did not overtake the episode. But like last week, this episode really downplayed Alec Baldwin, and that's always a shame.

The unfortunate thing about this episode is that the storylines were disjointed. Liz and Gavin's romance had nothing to do with Tracy's patricide paranoia (I loved the line "Stop patriciding!" -- as if patricide could be a verb), and Kenneth's family financial issues were only a catalyst for Jack investing and then finding out Gavin's secret. But despite this, the individual scenes were quite wonderful, and this episode had a lot of throw away gems (my favorite kind of comedy). The two stand-out moments include (1) Kenneth talking about his family's meals, indicating that squirrel tails and rock soup were part of the family's wealthier dinners, and (2) Gavin mentioning that he spent all of Jack's money on disguises -- only to appear later in the episode disguised as a set painter, complete with hat and sunglasses. (Where'd the other thousands of dollars go?)

The show opened poorly, but it did allow for new information about Jack. When Liz asks him about writing historical fiction, his completely serious response is "What if the Germans had won the war, Lemon?" But the show ends hysterically with a parody of the More You Know commercials -- and it involves Tracy's Japanese sex doll.

Some highlights:
Jack: (giving advice about Liz's date with Gavin) You're going to go to Gavin's and work this thing like a Chinese gymnast -- wear something tight, force a smile, and lie about your age.

(Possibly one of my favorite scenes from the show -- Tracy's Japanese sex doll is sitting in a chair)
Liz: Tracy, get out of the hallway!
Tracy: (pops out of his dressing room) Or am I?
Liz: Oh, no. Not this dream again.
Tracy: That's not me. That's the Tracy Jordan Japanese sex doll. You can tell us apart because it's not suffering from a vitamin deficiency.
Jack: Other than the natural inclination to make love to yourself, why did you get this?

Gavin: (talking about where Jack's investment money has gone) I spent it... on disguises.
Jack: What about Sunstream?
Gavin: It's not a real company. If you ever watched our commercials, we never said what we did.
(Cut to a commercial displaying the words Innovation, Tomorrow, America, Sunstream with images of an eagle, a bulls eye, and a building)

Gavin: Toronto is just like New York... except without all the stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

cancelled: pushing daisies, eli stone, and dirty sexy money

What everyone's been anticipating was made official today... Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, and Dirty Sexy Money were cancelled today.

Now, I was an original fan of Pushing Daisies, but the show hit soap-opera status by making Aunt Lily Chuck's mother, and all of the characters annoyed me -- even Lee Pace's pie maker, which is heartbreaking because I absolutely adore Lee Pace. But the show needed to go. Was it fanciful? Yes. Was it imaginative and pretty? Yes. Were the storylines good? No. Was the pacing good? No. (I hate exposition, and no show has ever been so blatant as to summarize an episode with a line like "The facts were these...") And most importantly, did I care about the two leads as romantic interests? No.

And sadly, I understand and slightly agree with the cancellation of Eli Stone. In fact, I wouldn't mind forgetting that Season 2 ever happened. The first season is so close to perfect that I want to ignore the missteps of Season 2. Characters were constantly shifting between believing Eli's divine prophecies and calling him a crackpot, and it ignored continuity in favor of fitting that week's narrative. And then the firm broke up. They should have kept Jordan as a mean old obstacle for Eli -- a la Mr. Potter -- because Jordan never should've taken the place as Eli's absent father. (Plus, Victor Garber is so good at playing ambiguous evil, like on Alias.) Also, making Taylor pregnant was a mistake because her character wasn't developed enough for me to care about her fears and doubts about having a kid. And then Maggie had to go and confess her love for Eli -- again -- to know response. But I enjoyed this show. I enjoy Johnny Lee Miller, and I enjoy the show's balance between logic and faith. It's not a preachy show and they don't take the religious aspects too seriously. And one could very easily watch the show and think that Eli does not receive these visions from God -- and I am one of those. But I like the ambiguity. I like the sincerity and the way they handled the morals. And yet... I understand why it was cancelled.

As for Dirty Sexy Money... never watched it. Didn't care for the premise. Won't even realize it's gone.

mad men haikus

Normally I detest reading posts on (people write such hateful things online -- perhaps because they are hidden by a removal from personal interaction?), but I came across a thread for the awesomest awesome that ever awesomed, Mad Men, and found some delightful haikus. Of course, some of these won't make sense if you are not caught up on the episodes, but perhaps they're still enjoyable simply for being haikus. You can read the entire thread here.
Jane writes poetry.
She is so "old with wisdom."
STFU, Jane.

Have fun out West Don?
Was your tryst with Joy worth it?
Oh... Kurt's a homo.

Fred Rumsen loves scotch.
The soothing warmth down his throat
or is that... his leg?

Paul, the ascot, pipe
and the beard make you look like
a pretentious ass.

Mad Men's done for now
How are you coping without?
My TV sits blank

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

favorite trailers: revolutionary road

I absolutely love movie trailers. In fact, I could spend two hours at the theater just watching movie trailers. Trailers have to construct a narrative, develop relatable (or at the very least intriguing) characters, provide visual representation of what the film experience will be like, and lure in the audience in a matter of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I think in today's ADHD society -- and I completely blame MTV -- people overlook the wonderful creative process of editing and sound mixing. Thankfully, trailers are recognized by the Golden Trailer Awards (they have categories for Best Voiceover!), so not all is lost. Below are four of my favorite recent trailers.

Revolutionary Road: I'm not even going to explain what this movie is about because I feel like the first trailer already provided that information (you can read a good synopsis of Richard Yates' 1962 novel here at Wikipedia). But how brilliant is the split screen? Go back and rewatch it. Pay attention to what's being shown on each side in juxtaposition with each other. And Cat Powers' "Sea of Love" song is perfect for this trailer -- it's dreamy, uncomplicated, romantic... and yet, secretive, nostalgic, and haunting. Sam Mendes, you may have won me back.

Little Children: Two words -- choo choo. That child's train is one of the most suspenseful things I've ever seen in a montage of this nature. The movie is about an affair in suburbia... but it's so, so much more, and this trailer definitely alludes to the type of experience you'll have while watching this movie. This film gets better on repeat viewings, as does this trailer.

Watch more The Fountain videos on AOL Video

The Fountain: My all-time favorite trailer... for one of my favorite movies. I swear, this movie was made specifically for me. Just me.

Australia: I heart Baz Luhrmann. I heart Hugh Jackman. I heart beautiful cinematography. Other than The Fountain, I can't think of a single trailer that has really reminded me of why I love films so much, why I'm making them part of my career. Movies can be great -- they can be cathartic, they can imagine better realities for us, they ask questions and sometimes provide answers -- but, specifically, I love films because of their universal humanitarian themes. Love and nature. Difference and likeness. Old world and new world. Of course, these themes are held together by a really strong story, and Australia definitely has all of these. It is going to be -- and I do not use this word lightly -- epic.

Monday, November 17, 2008

episode: 30 rock, "the one with the cast of night court"

"The One with the Cast of Night Court" was funny enough but still only a mediocre episode of 30 Rock. I definitely preferred guest star Harry Anderson to Jennifer Aniston, mainly because I have a difficult time disassociating her from her celebrity persona (but perhaps that's just me?). I think this episode suffered from an overdose of Jennifer Aniston -- as opposed to Oprah last week who only appeared in a few minutes of the whole episode -- and, more importantly, less Alec Baldwin. He's absolutely the best reason to watch this show, and this episode did not showcase his hilarity properly. Baldwin shines best against Tina Fey, either as an insulting ultra-conservative boss or as a puppy who seems to have lost its way. In this episode, we saw bits of the latter with Baldwin acting as a sex junkie and Fey acting as his addiction coach.

But don't get me wrong. This episode still had a lot to offer: Kenneth folding his old page uniform like the American flag and then saluting it; Liz's awkwardness when talking about sex ("he gave me... 'the business'"); Jenna's casual mention that she had hand reduction surgery (what could that possibly entail?); and the ending provided a wonderful homage to the style of Night Court episodes. I just think the storylines were recycled material (from, umm, every TV sitcom ever?) so there were forced jokes where there shouldn't be jokes (like Kenneth's freeze frame scene).

Some highlights from this episode:
Liz Lemon: (about her old roommate) She's like a human Macarena -- something everyone did at parties in 1996.

Tracy Jordan: I hate to see you like this, Ken doll. It's like an owl without a graduation cap -- heartbreaking.

Tracy: (regarding the name of the show Night Court) Court? At night? I'm already laughing! Tell me more.

Kenneth: I haven't been blindfolded since I played piano for that weird masquerade party...

Liz: Hey, did you see our shout out in Variety? They called us a comedy show!

Tracy: My boy Ken has written a masterpiece. I should know; I use that word a lot.

Tracy: Ken's going through some tough times. He's being forced to wear a coat that's different from his other coat.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"we're the dancers..."

Justin Timberlake... how are you so awesome?

Friday, November 14, 2008

mid-season TV review: part II

Here's the second round of the TV season reviews...

30 Rock: Well, considering there's only been three episodes thus far... I always enjoy myself during this show. I think the characters are fantastically hyperreal and yet entirely relatable and understandable. But this show is great for it's sight gags (see clip above -- is that... a claw?) and it's one-line jokes (typically from Jack, Tracy, and Kenneth). Speaking of Kenneth, how great was this line: "I don't believe in hypotheticals. It's like lying to your brain." The goods: I loved Will Arnette in the premiere (but I missed the world's shortest robe). The Oprah guest stint was well played out -- but only because Liz Lemon was talking to who a 12-year-old who, due to her drugged out condition, made Lemon think she was sitting next to Oprah. So far, the best part of the season was a throw-away line from Jack. He mentioned that he met his assistant Jonathan while drugged out on a plane trip, and he thought he was actually sitting next to M. Night Shyamalan. The bads: Jenna's character still isn't fleshed out very well (though her "black walk" while singing The Wiz was hilarious).

Dexter: I'm just not into this show, and I can't believe Showtime ordered two more seasons. I can honestly say that I probably won't watch them. I'm getting annoyed with the (now) seasonal theme redundancy. Dexter-the-serial-killer finally finds someone who knows his secret and still loves him -- in Season 1 it was his brother, who he had to kill, and in Season 2 it was his girlfriend, who he also had to kill -- and now it's Miguel Prado, a blood-thirsty DA. Is there any doubt that Miguel will die at the end of the season? He's a bit too eager to kill, and I don't think that will sit well with Dexter. The goods: Michael C. Hall's performance is why you watch this show. The bads: The writers keep telling us that Dexter can't feel emotions -- as evidenced in most of Dexter voiceovers -- and yet Dexter had showcased genuine emotion on multiple occasions. Also, there's way too much drama with the supporting characters. They're supposed to be fun characters. Why is Deb's constant cursing no longer funny?

Eli Stone: Honestly, this is one of my favorite shows. I'm not religious, so I don't watch this show for the faith aspect. Season 1 was great in that it balanced between Eli lacking faith and needing science to explain his prophetic visions, and in Season 2, Sigourney Weaver played God's assistant (?) and told Eli that his visions are in fact from God, and this was pretty much accepted as fact because if Eli didn't have the visions then his brother Nate did. Johnny Lee Miller is so fantastic as the lead, and he's so engaging and interesting that I want to follow him. The other characters are getting better as well, especially Jordan and Taylor, neither of whom I cared for last season. But why is Maggie still here? She's beyond annoying. The goods: The building collapse episode was well done, and it allowed for a natural shift for Jordan to branch out into his own firm. I also loved this week's episode where Matt Dowd grew a conscience but couldn't handle it. "I like to sleep at night," he said, knowing full well what he was walking away from. The bads: Maggie. Maggie. And, at this point, everyone involved with Eli has experienced his visions directly, and yet, depending on what the narrative calls for, everyone seems to switch between believing him and calling him a crackpot. For me, I think only his brother Nate should believe him. Everyone else should be skeptical. Oh, and I don't like Maggie.

How I Met Your Mother: I have absolutely no idea how this show's doing. I didn't start watching until this season, and I'm a bit irked that we're so far along and we still haven't met the mother -- or if we have, it still isn't known to us, which means it's also not known to the main character's kids. The show's premise is about a guy telling his kids how he met their mother, when instead it should be called The History of My Adult Love-Life (And Your Mother's Involved Somewhere). I know that I should ignore that just enjoy the storylines, but then the writers should have made the storytelling a gimmick rather than the premise. At any rate, I enjoy all of the characters -- especially Barney, always Barney -- and the quotidian situations are usually relatable enough to be entertaining (like searching for the perfect hamburger). But I don't really care about these characters. My heart's not invested in any of them. And all comedies need their Ross and Rachel, their Pam and Jim. So why is the audience rooting for Ted and "Aunt Robin"? The goods: The jokes are extremely well written, and the deliveries are even better. The bads: Why are these characters stuck in a perpetual state of growing up without becoming adults?

Big Bang Theory: Everyone loves Sheldon and he's obviously the star of the show, but why aren't the supporting characters -- and the other main character, Leonard -- spotlighted more? I think this show really excels when things take place in the workplace as opposed to the apartments. The goods: I geek out over science talk, and any BSG reference automatically wins me over. Also, Sara Gilbert joined the cast and she's fantastic -- but why hasn't she been in more episodes? The bads: I'm not sure what happened between Penny and Leonard. They went on a date but it didn't work out, and yet Leonard still pines over her? They need to have more scenes together, alone. Lately Penny's had so many scenes with Sheldon (this week's episode pitted them against one another as the A-storyline) that I wonder if the writers are going to make them closer because Sheldon's the star of the show and Penny's the only female.

Desperate Housewives: The show is DEFINITELY better than last year, and the five-year leap forward helped. I mean, how much trouble can Wisteria Lane get into every year? But I have a hard time believing that Bree's daughter Danielle suddenly came and took her son back (what a ridiculously convenient way to get rid of a child on the set), and I don't think Gaby would forget how to style her hair just because she has two kids. Yes, she might not do her hair and makeup every day, but when she does go out, I would think she would go ALL out. And Gaby's fashion sense completely went out the window. If Gaby's strapped for cash, she's going to wear a t-shirt and jeans. She's not going to wear mismatched color schemes and layer clothes that shouldn't be layered. On the plus side, Susan's anti-relationship storyline was good (but now she's committing to what's-his-face and her character's losing edge again). The goods: Neal McDonough is fabulous, but why is Mrs. McCluskey his biggest foe? Also good is Bree's marriage trouble with Orson. It makes sense that they would have trouble adjusting to both Bree's newfound fame and Orson's post-prison life. The bads: So in that missing five-year span, Tom suffered a heart attack and is now going through his mid-life crisis, and yet he tells Lynette, who went through chemotherapy and lost her hair because of cancer, that she doesn't understand? Did he forget that his wife almost died? And why don't the housewives have scenes together anymore? No one goes over for drinks or to play cards anymore? The storylines are too isolated from one another.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

mid-season TV review: part I

As promised... my totally awesome opinions of the TV season thus far.

The Office: This show used to be my favorite show on television, but in all honesty, it's lacking something. It's lacking change. I appreciate that they're going forward with Pam and Jim (aka Jam, aka PB&J), and I think the writers are handling their relationship quite intelligently (see above clip for squeal-worthy perfection), but I don't understand why Angela, the uptight Christian, is cheating on Andy and stringing him along with false wedding plans. Also, where are spotlights on the other supporting characters -- Creed, Stanley, and Oscar? Meredith and Phyllis have had their moments to shine, but this season has been dominated by Holly Flax (the fantastic Amy Ryan, who should be brought back to the show at any cost). The goods: Michael's humanization, Holly's Yoda and beatbox impressions, Kelly's tapeworm (from "Weight Loss"), and the proposal, of course. The bads: The show is too episodic, and the storylines aren't paced out as well. The storylines are too divided -- Jam over here, Dwight and Andy and Angela (Dwangelandy?) over there, and Michael and Holly somewhere else. It's like Season 1 but without the freshness and innovation.

Chuck: I don't know if you've heard, but Fox is looking to add House to the Monday at 8pm lineup -- yes, opposite Chuck, Gossip Girl, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and CBS's Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. As much as I enjoy these other shows (and I've watched House since the beginning -- minus the David Morse episodes), Chuck wins out. It is the smartest, funniest, and best written show on TV. It would be easy to dismiss this gem as light fluff (easy to do because it's hyperreal spy spoof comedy), but the characters are extremely well written and there are more jokes than you know what to do with. In fact, some of the best jokes are THROW AWAYS. Case in point, last week Lester says, "I was born ready," to which Jeff responds in the most brilliant deadpan, "I was born premature." The goods: This show does an excellent job of having Chuck's Buy More life mirror that of Chuck's spy world life. The smartest thing this show did was around episode 3 or 4, Chuck realizes he can't have a relationship with Sarah, his handler, and so he needs to stop pining after her. Of course, viewers are well aware that Sarah has feelings for him as well, but she also knows that he's correct. So now there's a sadness to Chuck and Sarah's relationship, but this show allows for 5 minutes (tops!) of sentimentality, and the rest is all fast-paced comedy. Also, the writers have been able to incorporate guest stars without their storylines undermining the show (ahem, I'm looking at you, 30 Rock). And lastly, Captain Awesome is completely deserving of his nickname. I love that guy. He could've been a one-note joke, but he really is just awesome. The bads: More John Casey (Adam Baldwin), please. Although, the Casey-Chuck kiss was just as fantastic as the Oscar-Michael Scott kiss.

Grey's Anatomy: This show is certainly back on track -- minus the surprise firing of Brooke Smith (can ABC be homophobic if their parent company Disney is pro-gay?) -- and the writing is much sharper. I absolutely loved the episode where Richard, the Chief, was upset that his hospital was ranked at #12 and vowed to get it (and his surgeons) back to #1 -- an obvious analogy for the way Grey's itself used to be #1 and then slipped to roughly the #10 spot. Luckily, after the first few episodes, Cristina finally told Meredith what everyone's being wanting to say ("Shut up about Derek already!"), and everything that annoyed me about last season is gone. No more Gizzie -- but without a physical relationship, can't these two still be friends? No more Derek's-a-good-guy -- because, let's be honest, he's sort of a jerk. No more Alex-the-softie. But I do find it odd that Izzie is JUST NOW coming to terms with Denny's death. She spent an entire episode crying on the bathroom floor, then had flings with both Alex and George, and THEN starts seeing Denny's ghost? I think the writers are pretending like Season 4 never happened. The goods: The writing is better. The storylines are more interesting. Bernedette Peters was involved in one of the most heartbreaking storylines: She and her two friends were in a car accident, but one friend suffered trauma and only has a 30 second memory break. She kept asking for her husband, who actually had died in the next ER. Her friends had to keep telling their friend that her husband had died... until Izzie finally smiled with tears in her eyes and said, "Yes, he's on his way. He's just around the corner." Such a good episode. The bads: Although I was not a fan of Callie and Erica together -- I didn't like the way the writers handled Callie's sexual fluidity, although I do understand the necessary juxtaposition to Erica's character -- I don't like how her character was dismissed. Also, I absolutely do not like Melissa George, who joins the show for a multi-episode arc as Meredith's old friend. (Also, Mary McDonnell of BSG fame is joining as a doctor with Asperger's... though, from what I've seen in the previews, I have a real problem with people taking her seriously as a surgeon. She looks completely spaced out.)

Bones: I was really irritated by the whole Zach's-the-apprentice-but-psych!-he-didn't-kill-anyone storyline, but now that that's wrapped up, I can focus on Booth and Bones. Cameron is also really growing on me, and there is a small part that wants her and Booth to sleep together again. Can't you picture them as casual sex partners? I sometimes have trouble with how separated from reality they write Bones to be -- she doesn't know the difference between saying "put them on bail" and "bail them out"?? -- and I'm also wary of the episodes where Bones and Booth are the comical characters, but tonight's episode, "The Con Man in the Meth Lab," was so pitch-perfect that I'm willing to excuse the other episodes. Booth is guarded and protective of his brother... Bones doesn't understand the psychology of guardedness and passes it off as a hierarchical alpha male thing... then Bones learns a little more about Booth (through evidence, of course), and at the very end, the episode closes on Booth's line: "My father drank." No justification. No opening about it. No story. Just a matter of fact statement. So perfect. Although I love me some PB&J, Booth and Bones are my favorite TV couple -- the actors are naturalistic around one another, and their dialogue is completely believable. The goods: I'm especially enjoying the inclusion of Dr. Sweets this season, and the fact that Booth and Bones don't listen to his profiling advice is just hilarious. I'm also enjoying the rotation of graduate assistants, though I do prefer the guy who rolls his eye whenever anyone talks about anything personal. The bads: I hated the episode where Bones dated two men. Seriously, a grown woman couldn't rationalize on her own why dating two men wouldn't work? I also thought Hodge and Angela's breakup was artificial -- I even forget why they broke up -- though I do enjoy their post-relationship attempts at working together.

House: I loved the way the season started because I really needed to understand why in the world Wilson was friends with House. He's a misanthropic jerk who always put his entertainment before the betterment of others, including Wilson, so I needed the funeral episode in order to appreciate their friendship and how they work together. I also loved the private eye, Lucas, and would love to have him back on the show. He was like House's conscience, but much hornier and funnier. I still can't stand Thirteen and feel like she's more of a gimmick than an actual character, which is a shame because I like the actress, Olivia Wilde. I didn't care about Cameron or Chase -- until this Tuesday's episode where I realized how well Cameron's incessant goodness was a perfect recurring obstacle for House's amoral methods. His new peons are just boring and don't stand up to House. And shouldn't Foreman be doing more? But yes, the kiss between House and Cuddy... it was a long time coming, and I'm one of the few people who really loved how it unfolded. House would never kiss Cuddy. Cuddy would never kiss House. It had to happen when both of them were vulnerable. It had to be awkward and uncomfortable. Were people really hoping for a romantic kiss? And the writers developed the post-kiss reactions very realistically. House would never ring Cuddy's doorbell and admit his feelings. (Though I feel bad for Wilson -- he was serious when he talked about always having feelings for Cuddy, wasn't he?) And Cuddy would shrug it off and assume that House & Wilson would be playing games with her (she wasn't entirely wrong). The goods: House is developing as a character. He's not necessarily progressing to being a better human being -- as he was with his ex-wife Stacey -- but he is developing into a three-dimensional misanthrope. I like Wilson more now, especially post-Amber. I do miss Amber. She was an interesting antagonist for House. The bads: Seriously, I can do without Chase, Cameron, Foreman, Taub, Thirteen, and... Kal Penn's character. What's his name? Doesn't matter. They're boring. They're all boring.

The Mentalist: The episodes are still not as perfect as the premiere, but dang, I love Simon Baker and Robin Tunney on this show. This last Tuesday's episode was particularly amusing. Patrick bought everyone gifts with money he won at Black Jack (where he counted cards), and even though the girls gave back their jewelry and the guys noted how ugly their watches were, the guys wore those watches the entire episode. Yay, continuity! I also like this show because the red herrings are actually good, and everyone's suspicious of committing the crime for different reasons. Sometimes they look at Patrick weird, and he knows they did it. Other times, they do or say something, and Patrick knows. So as the audience, we never know what he picks up on. I do try to figure out the ending, but not too hard because I do like for the narrative to unfold before me. (I ruined The Prestige for myself by figuring most of it out by the end. That's what I get for being an active audience member...) The goods: Simon Baker and Robin Tunney? Yes? Also, the episodes have enough heart and humor to help me through. I tend not to like procedural shows (other than House and Bones, and even then I have difficulty with them sometimes) because they're so formulaic. And The Mentalist is definitely formulaic, but Baker is so hypnotic that you completely believe that he is a psychic and a master of psychology. Also, the supporting characters have just enough to do to keep me interested in them. I don't think any of them should be spotlighted any time soon; I definitely appreciate the one-line quips they provide. They support the structure of how their group is organized. The bads: The other female character (don't remember her name) irks me a bit, but I can't pinpoint why. And the episodes are uneven in their storytelling. I don't think that the show casts the killers very well...

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

i heart spoilers and making fun of meg ryan movies

Yes, I've been absent for a week and a half, but this is the busiest time of the semester for me, and I'm only now just catching my breath. Tomorrow I plan to take on the huge task of giving a mid-season review of my favorite shows -- Chuck, House, The Mentalist, Bones, The Office, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother (yes, I do watch a lot of television) -- so you will have that to enjoy tomorrow. As for NOW, however, enjoy this absolutely delightful Youtube video of two guys spoiling the ends of movies. Most people know that I don't mind spoilers -- going to the movies is about the experience of show-telling, not about the end result of the narrative -- so I don't think spoilers actually "spoil" the emotional impact of a film (at least, they shouldn't). But if you don't mind spoilers or you've seen a lot of movies, I highly recommend watching this. My favorite part is, as is mentioned in the title, them making fun of Meg Ryan romances, but I also enjoyed all the ways Kevin Spacey dies in his movies. Very well structured.

Update: My friend Jessica has informed me of some incorrect information. In City of Angels, Meg Ryan dies -- not Nicolas Cage. Still, the segment's funny. (P.S. Nicolas Cage sucks.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

star wars: an a cappella tribute to john williams

Every now and then, something so amazing comes along and blows up your brain. It's November, and this video trumps every bit of viral awesomeness from this past year (the sexy costume video is from years ago). This guy, who appropriately calls himself Apprentice A, sings a four-part a cappella harmony about Star Wars but to John Williams' theme songs from E.T, Close Encounters, Jaws, etc. (It'll make sense when you watch it.) If you're a fan of Star Wars, you will geek out like you've never geeked out before.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

liz lemon + don draper forever

Have my prayers been answered? From The Ausiello Files, Jon Hamm is in talks to star in 30 Rock for a multi-episode arc as a *gasp* love interest for Liz Lemon. Supposedly, he will play Liz's neighbor, and I can only hope he'll be more like Jon Hamm and less like Don Draper -- although, let's be honest, either would be absolutely fabulous.

On a side note, word on the street is Tina Fey will be receiving Entertainment Weekly's coveted Entertainer of the Year spot...! It's about time that a woman is celebrated for comedy... for intellect... and for being nonsexual. Is Tina Fey hot? Yes. But she's so, so much more.