Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Good: Two A Days
The best of the new shows has to be the second season of Two A Days. Back in fall I praised this show as one of the best MTV has put out in recent memory. It follows the Hoover Alabama high school football team throughout their season. Football in Alabama is like football in Texas except these folks have a slightly different accent. Last season the team won it's fourth straight state title and entered this season as the #1 team in all of the country. Last night's first episode was all about the set up. New year means new players and we got to meet them all (and the new cheerleaders as well). The producers decided to start off the show four games in and when we first get a glimpse of the Bucs on the field it's in a shocking loss. This leads to a genuine moment from Coach Rush Probst when he tells his team that he got caught up in all the hype of the national attention and he let his team down. It might be coach speak but as he says these words you see the players in the locker room empathize with him. When last season wrapped, I hoped the show would come back but focus on a different school in a different state but if Tuesday's premiere is any indication I'm glad we stayed in Hoover.
The Eh?: Bam's Unholy Union
Thanks to MTV's incessant repeats and marathons I've probably watched at least a part of every show Bam Margera has ever been on. Of course he started on Jackass and then was later given his own show Viva La Bam. This time around he's back and instead of annoying his mom, dad, and accused statutory rapist Uncle Vito, he's terrorizing his bride to be and her family. This shtick would get old real fast if it wasn't for the fact that Bam has a natural charm and wit that Tom Green would kill for. His fiancée Missy has been in the background on a lot of previous shows but has never really been a victim of Bam's pranks. This will give the show fresh legs for a while but in the end it's more of the same.
The Bad: Road Rules '07-Viewer's Revenge
MTV put the Winnebago on hiatus a few years back when they realized they got hire ratings recycling the old cast members on all the various Real World/Road Rules challenges. Eventually though they realized a good idea is a good idea so they brought back the Winnie and 6 strangers to travel across the US in order to obtain a handsome reward. Except they didn't. MTV has tried to make the show more "now" by adding an interactive option where viewer's will nominate who goes into a one on one challenge where the cast member will be facing a newbie fighting to get on the bus. Confused by that, try watching the cast members figure it out as the host explains it. Speaking of the cast members, MTV also thought better of putting all new kids on and instead recycled 6 "All Stars" from previous shows to start out the journey. While I'm glad it's back and lord knows I'll end up watching I wish MTV had just left the original formula alone.
The Ugly: Wrestling Society X
Most of you are aware that I'm a wrestling fan. However right now there isn't a single wrestling program on TV worth my time so I consider myself retired. However, I thought I'd give MTV's new foray into pro wresting a chance. The debut episode featured a group of has beens, could bes, and should've beens. The wrestling itself was ok but the set up was horrible. MTV plans to have a musical guest every week and that I can get behind. What I can't get behind is a ring announcer who belongs in a POD video and gimmick matches that have explosions and electrical currents. Really MTV is that what you think is missing in the wrestling world? If you've never liked wrestling then stay away from this show and if you do like wrestling I think you'd be better off watching Ric Flair's greatest matches on DVD.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I think one of the best feelings we can experience in this world is being surprised by something’s quality despite the fact you already had high expectations. Such was my experience with The Departed. Martin Scorsese has crafted a film that will stand the test of time as one of the finest of his career and that’s saying a whole lot. I think this might be the best editing work I’ve seen in one of his films. There are so many intense conversations and he cuts back and forth on all the right moments. When the only complaint I have about a movie is Jack Nicholson’s here today, gone tomorrow accent, you know you’ve done well. Plus, since its Jack I’m willing to let him get away with it. It should go without saying, but all the performances are of a high quality. Not that he cares, but I want to apologize for disputing Marky Mark’s Oscar nomination on this blog last week. He gives a performance that not only provides comic relief but also provides the moral backbone of the pic. At 150 minutes in length you’d think you’d get tired of the cat and mouse game all the characters are caught in but if anything I wanted more. It reminded me of the great 80’s thriller No Way Out where Kevin Costner was a double agent in US intelligence. However in that film it begins to drag and you are ready for the conclusion and can almost predict where it will end up. The Departed always keeps you in the moment, never allowing you to look ahead. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for the second film I saw this weekend.
I’ve been on a roller coaster ride with Babel. When I first heard about it I was excited, after all this was from the same creative team that brought us the amazing 21 Grams and it had Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Then the reviews started to come in and I lost interest. “Too many storylines with flimsy connections,” was the cry that stuck out to me the most. After sitting through Crash last year and having that film deteriorate in mind over time I wasn’t sure if I wanted another experience like that. Then once the nominations came out I cleared out my mind and focused again on how much I loved 21 Grams. By the time I hit the theater on Sunday, I was excited again…then the lights dimmed and it all went so horribly wrong. Babel is not a terrible movie, but it certainly is not good. Where The Departed is a character focused thriller that keeps you planted in the moment, Babel looses it’s path and becomes a film focused on events and what ifs. I have nothing against depressing movies, as a general rule I tend to enjoy them, but Babel is so soul crushingly depressing that you need to pop some uppers once you leave the theater. Perhaps it is telling that in a film that features multiple storylines the best storyline is the least connected. The story of the deaf mute girl in Tokyo features the film’s strongest performance but fails to connect strongly with the larger picture. Also, even though I enjoyed that the story the most I was still caught up in what could happen while I watched it as opposed to what is happening. Strong acting and seamless technical work certainly help the movie seem better then it is but I can not recommend it whatsoever.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
If you had told me in 1999, that Hilary Clinton was not only going to run for President in the next decade and that she’d actually have a chance to win I would have kissed you. At the time I loved the Clintons . Even though I was already beginning to realize that Bill had really not made any long term fixes to America , Hilary was still golden in my eyes. She seemed like the real liberal in the family. Unfortunately that changed when she joined the senate in 2000. She has become even more conservative then her husband and her hawkish attitude on Iraq is inexcusable. I’m not stupid enough to believe we’ll actually get a candidate that shoots straight with us in 08 but I was hoping we could avoid having a Democratic front runner who comes off as phony as she does now. In the other corner you Obama. A young inexperienced Senator who’s got enough charisma to make you forget he’s being phony. Problem is except for Iraq I don’t know where he stands on anything. I know he’s hopeful for America and that he believes we as a nation we can do anything but there doesn’t seem to be much substance behind his pretty face.
The biggest problem I have with the two is that they are already off and running and playing to the middle. Did the Republicans win the last two presidential elections by playing to the middle? Hell no, they fired up their gun toting, immigrant hating, Jesus loving base. Why can’t the Democrats do that? Appeal to people who support universal health care, true environmental reform, tax increases on the rich (for the last time if you make over $100,000 as an individual you are rich), social equality (which includes but is not limited to gay marriage) and the right to choose. Every poll shows that the majority of Americans are "liberal" when it comes to 2 or more of those issues. If that's true then it should be enough to carry an election. I want to be fired up. I think there is a huge group of people out there just like me who are waiting to be energized and approached and no, Dennis Kucinich does not count. But no, instead we’re stuck with more of the same old, same old and we’ve still got 21 months of this crap to go.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Biggest Surprise: No Best Picture Nom for Dreamgirls
Last summer, when Dreamworks started the train rolling on the Oscar buzz for this movie, I was convinced it was destined for a nomination. When the movie premiered to mostly positive reviews and respectable box office, I was convinced it was destined for a nomination. On Christmas Day when I saw the movie and enjoyed it far more then I expected, I was convinced it was destined for a nomination. At the Golden Globes when it took him Best Musical or Comedy, I was convinced it was destined for a nomination. Now I sit here in complete shock. I didn’t expect it to win and I’m guessing after I finally see The Departed I would not have wanted it to win but still to see what everyone thought was a sure bet miss the cut is really leaving me dumbfounded.
Second Biggest Surprise: Mark Wahlberg beats out Matt, Alec, Leo and Jack
I haven’t seen The Departed (2/13 on DVD) but I can’t believe that Marky Mark, who is a decent actor, was able to outshine 4 previous nominees and/or winners. There was a lot of confusion over whether Leo and Matt were both in leading roles or supporting roles so I’m guessing that’s part of it. Still I thought Jack would be a shoe in.
Biggest Snub: No Best Actor Nom for Borat
Here’s another case where I did not expect Sacha Baron Cohen to win but I thought the Academy would have the balls to at least give him a nomination to acknowledge his amazing work. This just further shatters my faith in the nomination process.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Children of Men picks up 3 nominations
Again I was well prepared for the fact that despite the rave reviews, 2006’s best film was going to be snubbed from the major categories. However I am very pleased that it picked up nominations in 3 categories were it actually has a chance; Cinematography, Editing, and Adapted Screenplay. If it doesn’t take home Cinematography then they shouldn’t even hold these awards anymore.
Most Competitive Category: Best Picture
Since I’ve only seen one of the films and it’s the one I’ll guarantee won’t win (Little Miss Sunshine), I’m in for a busy month and I don’t think I’m alone. There seems to be no sure fire frontrunner this year. Sure Babel won at the Globes but it’s come up short in many of the Critic’s awards. Letter from Iwo Jima has won a number of awards already but will its lack of English be a hang up for voters. The Departed is the most mainstream film nominated and while it’s got the pedigree to win, its lack of art house cred may hurt it. Finally you have The Queen which has gone the Walk the Line route and managed to snag a best picture nomination on the strength of its performances.
Least Competitive Category: Best Supporting Actress
If Jennifer Hudson wasn’t already a shoe in, the backlash over the lack of a Best Picture nomination for Dreamgirls is sure to lift her to victory and deservingly so.
Biggest Disappointment: Realizing it’s not a dream and Ellen is still hosting
Still it could be worse and we could be doomed to another 3 plus hours of Whoopi freaking Goldberg.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Speaking of the Buffy musical, I’m committed to organizing a screening of the Buffy musical in Minneapolis sometime this year. I’ve been reading about a group that puts them on all over the country complete with goody bags and Buffy-oke. I think there would be something extremely rewarding about singing and dancing with 200 other fans.
One last thought about the Buffy musical. I learned this weekend that until I can see the above mentioned screening come to fruition, there is nothing wrong with doing a two person interpretation of the show for a smaller audience. Except for the fact that when you haven’t done it in a few years you forget a word here and there and your body feels much pain in the morning. Also you must have a great partner who’s willing to totally commit to the performance (which luckily I did).
I was really disappointed to see Payton Manning and the Colts make their way to the Super Bowl yesterday. Maybe I’m just a mean spirited person but I’ve rather enjoyed watching the Colts come up short year after year. It was the kind of thing you could set your watch to. Plus while I’m not a Patriots fan per say, I love to watch them play as they get more done with little then any team in the history of the NFL. Good thing Prince is doing the halftime show because otherwise I’m not too jazzed for a Super Bowl that features a hated division rival and a team whose only appeal to me is to watch them lose.
Speaking of teams that come up short when it comes to Super Bowls, my Minnesota Vikings continued their downward spiral this weekend when ladies man and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin left the team to accept the head job in Pittsburgh. Tomlin was really the only thing this mismanaged organization had going for it so in typical Vikings fashion, while our defense took one step forward last year, it just took 2 giant steps back.
SNL rebounded from their horrible outing last week thanks to a strong performance from Jeremy Piven and the cast. The news segment called “Really with Seth and Amy” about Michael Vick’s drug smuggling water bottle had me falling off the couch Sunday morning.
It’s a good few weeks to be a TV geek. Between last week’s 24 and Battlenerd premiers, tonight’s Heroes and Studio 60, and the looming return of Lost, it feels like Christmas in January.
After reconnecting with an old college friend through MySpace recently, I wonder if the legacy our generation leaves behind will be web based networking as opposed to say ending Global Warming or figuring out peace in the Middle East. Of course if don’t solve those two there might not be anyone to leave a legacy too. (Wow what a positive thought to start your week out with.)
Friday, January 19, 2007
On Truth by Harry Frankfurt- My first year of college I came in knowing I was going to be a journalism major. Of course then I got exposed to many things and my focus changed. My favorite short term major idea was philosophy. I loved the idea of sitting around and picking apart how real things are and so on. In the end of course, I went with a more practical major (film) and left philosophy behind. However, in the last two years, Mr. books have rekindled my interest. His best seller On Bullshit was a great treatise on the difference between lies and BS and the insidious nature of the later. His latest, On Truth, is almost a prequel as he delves into truth and why it is an essential function to society. His writing is simple, he keeps the reader engaged, and he publishes them in pocket sized editions with shiny covers which really is what attracted me to philosophy in the first place.
Thank You for Smoking- If you’re looking for a film that sheds light on big tobacco go rent The Insider. If you’re looking for a film that skewers our PC culture then rent Thank You for Smoking. While it certainly does not promote smoking, you certainly can’t call this an anti smoking film. I’ve gotta believe it’s also the first film that makes you cheer for a lobbyist. Aaron Eckhart has made a career out of playing the charming evildoer and here he excels again. The ever reliable JK Simmons (best known as JJ Jamison in the Spidey flicks) also steals the show.
Bump’s Blog- Dan Barreiro is probably my favorite sports columnist of all time. The only problem is that he stopped writing his column in the Minneapolis/St Paul StarTribune about 4 years ago. Faced with the decision between his successful radio show and his column in a dying media, Dan chose to go with radio. As someone who at the time lived outside of Minnesota I was crushed that I’d be missing out on his musings. Thankfully, about a year ago, Dan discovered blogging and ever since has been publishing a column with about the same frequency as he did in the paper. He is cynical, sarcastic and seems to view the world in shades of grey. He’s never afraid to rip on the home team or anyone else for that matter, he gives praise where deserved, and everyone gets equal treatment. One benefit of the blog is that he’s not handcuffed by editors who want him to stick to local stories so he offers up plenty of takes on national stories as well. Once in a while his politics come into play and while I don’t always agree with his views he certainly presents them in an entertaining and logical way. I firmly believe that if he was in a bigger market we’d have seen Dan achieve the same type of notoriety as the folks on PTI and Around the Horn.
The Hills (MTV) - Last spring I covered this show intensely on the blog much to the chagrin of some readers. At the time I couldn’t wait for the second season but perhaps due to time or the lackluster new season of Laguna Beach , my excitement faded. Still I was there Monday for the second season premiere and now I’ve got my groove back. I know it’s just one episode but it appears that in many ways our girls are growing up. LC lamented her idiotic move to pass on an internship in Paris , Heidi got promoted to her dream job at the event planning office, and Audrina scored an even better reception job. Of course there is still drama. Heidi has downgraded in the boyfriend department trading in her nice guy idiot from last year to a bad guy idiot for this year. She and Audrina are on the outs because said boyfriend is pulling their strings and playing them against each other and of course neither of them are smart enough to figure that out. The joke may be on the boyfriend in the end though as one of them closed out episode 2.1 by taking a pregnancy test.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Once again you three have managed to set the web abuzz with your show and for once it’s for activities off screen that don’t involve drunken driving. Your recent panel discussion about the future of the show has captured our imagination once again. During the panel you shared some information that brought both great joy and great sorrow to my heart.
The burning question on the mind of most Lost fans has been how long will we have this show around for and at said panel, it appears you gave us some idea. First of all, I think all of us Losties appreciate the fact that you are being as honest about this as possible. You noted that while some shows have a path planned out that will last for only a certain amount of seasons, you three are more or less at the mercy of the ratings and the network. If you keep your ratings strong ABC has committed to 7 seasons of the show. I again praise you for the fact that you admitted to giving us mostly half answers to the key questions as a way of somewhat satisfying the fans and giving you options to further explore the answers way down the line if the show lasts that long. You also admitted that if the show gets an early wrap sign, you three have agreed on how to give us answers fast and furious. In short, it seems like you have your act together in terms of planning the long term future of the show.
The short term future of the show seems to be the one giving you guys fits lately and that was further evidenced by your harebrained scheduling idea that was revealed at the panel. Instead of airing Season 4 in fall of ’07 you announced that you are going the 24 route and won’t be starting until January ’08. Before I start ranting let me say I actually have enjoyed your mid season break. Sure I’ve missed the show but I really only notice it when an ad airs or it comes up at a dinner party. In reality I think the break has been good for fans and hopefully for you as well. Let me also say that I have no problem with idea of a January premiere for some shows. 24 rarely ends on a cliffhanger and even when it does, like last year, it’s not so much of a mystery but more of a lead in to the next season. However you guys thrive on cliffhangers and dangling answers. I think your ratings would have been even worse then they currently are if you had waited until January of 07 to show us what happened to the people in the hatch. (Ok bad example since you did come back in the fall and still haven’t really shown us what happened to those fools in the moments after the white out.) My point is that waiting for answers is part of the fun of the show but to unecessicarily wait due to scheduling whims is another. Oh and don’t look now but you aren’t exactly ABC’s pride and joy anymore and you leave yourself open to being stuck in a crummy time slot when you come back in the middle of the TV season. Please reconsider this maneuver, for I believe if you stick to it, you’ll have to start writing that series finale sooner then you think.
Elliot the Self Loathing Pop Culture Fanatic
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
2. The term “Jack’s back” has a whole nother meaning now.
3. No Kim or Audrey in sight makes me a happy camper.
4. I wonder how many cars Jack has stolen over the years.
5. Could they give us an org chart for CTU. I can never tell who Chloe is under and who she is in charge of.
6. The Doctor from Deep Space Nine is the best looking terrorist since naked Mandy from season 1 and 4.
7. Was Milo really the only old cast member they could think of to bring back to CTU that’s not dead or evil?
8. Doesn’t Jack have jet lag after that long flight from China?
9. Anyone else thinking there may be some kind of Manchurian Canidate thing with Jack later this year?
10. I wish Peter McNichol would bust out his Ghostbusters II voice and tell the President all about Viggo the Destroyer.
11. Umm…that thing Jack does to escape in hour one was shocking, disgusting, and awesome all at the same time.
12. Kind of nice to see Jack have flaws and break down in front of other people. Chinese prisons tend to have that effect.
13. Middle East terrorists as the villains? Looks like we’re back to the same old same old after a year of Russians and evil Presidents.
14. Does every supporting character have to date or marry each other?
15. The last 10 minutes of hour 4 were quite possibly the most surprising in the history of the show and that’s saying something.
16. Jack is the worst friend ever. Either he get’s you killed or kills you himself.
17. I wish Faith was part of Principle Wood’s administration.
18. I do like Kumar playing the anti good kid from season 4.
19. LA is kind of played out and bombed out, let’s get Jack on to bigger and better cities.
20. I hope the President toughens up as the season goes on. Remember this guy was a semi badass last year.
21. With the Superdad story, 24 once again created a compelling short term story that furthers the plot but stands on it’s own.
22. I have no dislike of Regina King the actress but it feels like she hasn’t found her voice yet as Sandra Palmer.
23. Anyone else thinking that the character Rick Schroeder is playing will be the new head of field ops?
24. I always doubt whether each year the show can come up ith another compelling day and every year they sell you on it within the first few hours. Kudos 24, you’re the tops.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
• Ugly Betty taking home best comedy is a travesty since first and foremost it’s not a comedy. Any show that’s based on a telenovela is by definition a drama.
• The only redeeming aspect of Betty’s America Ferrera winning Best Actress, was the awkward non-interview with Maria Menudos afterwards. The interview featured America waiting while Maria babbled about the lifetime achievement award, America walking away then coming back 2 seconds later, Maria insinuating that America was lucky to have been cast because the network hated her, and of course this gem of a wrap up by Maria: “The Globes rolls on to…more wins for you.”
• Is it just me or did the foreign press tend to reward foreign nominees all night except in the foreign film category where they gave it to a Yank named Clint.
• I was shocked that The Queen took home best screenplay. By all accounts the film is average except for the performances so to see it win a non-acting award was a shocker.
• Never bet against Pixar even when there’s a swarm of animated penguins breathing down their neck.
• I felt like I was watching the NFL playoffs during the Tom Hank’s Presents the Cecil B. DeMille Award to Warren Beatty segment. Seriously there were like 5 graphics on the screen with 3 picture in picture windows.
• Do you think Tom Hank’s spent all night making that tribute on iMovie?
• Did I mention recently that I hate Tom Hanks?
• Eddie Murphy shocked me by not giving some kind of shout out to the recently passed James Brown, especially since his character and performance borrow heavily from the Godfather of Soul.
• I’m embarrassed that I own 2 Justin Timberlake songs after the guy showed no class and made a short joke about Prince. (Actually I was already embarrassed but this just adds to it.) If I were him I’d watch his (sexy) back.
• Even though he won the Globe I’ve got this sinking feeling that Scorsese is still going home empty handed Oscar night.
• Until the bloated Beatty/Hanks segment the show was making great time and had not cut any speeches short, however thanks to them we had to see the only good speech of the night by Sacha Baron Cohen get played off.
• Nice to see Cohen take home an award. Hopefully this will help him lock up an Oscar nomination.
• I didn’t know Gillian Anderson was still alive let alone working.
• Despite all the missteps I was pleased to see the HFP recognize Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock. Hopefully next year we can see the actual show get a nomination.
• Why is Jennifer Hudson supporting and Beyonce leading? They have about equal screen time and it’s clear that Hudson is the star of the pic.
• Speaking of Beyonce, didn’t she look fit to be tied after not only loosing twice but then having to watch Hudson claim her prize?
• Think of how short the show would have been if they didn’t bother with clips for all 10 best picture nominees.
• Isn’t it a foul to have someone from the actual movie introduce the film as Jamie Foxx did? I wonder if he was a last second replacement.
• While the Globes can give some indicators towards the Oscar’s they don’t usually mirror each other. That being said it certainly appears that Babel and Dreamgirls are likely to battle it out for Best Picture.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Wow Bob Wow! As I briefly mentioned earlier in the week in an aside, this is the kind of movie experience where you leave the theater feeling both emotionally and physically affected. What largely appears to be a depressing dark film is actually a statement on the potential of the human race. Clive Owen is fantastic and once again manages to shine through a layer of dirt and grime. His ability to turn from a cynical ex-activist who believes in nothing to a vulnerable man who’s full of regrets and then back again, all in the matter of 30 seconds is amazing to behold. The supporting cast is quite good as well. Michael Cain shines as a drug dealing hippie leftover from the 80’s (yes I said 80’s). Also, Chike Owkafor who co-starred in the Whedon’s Serenity does another amazing job of playing a character who has many layers.
In fact, the word layers applies to every aspect of the film. It’s not like an onion layer that you peel off and throw away. These layers are more like the Russian stacking dolls where you can reveal a layer and then quickly cover it up with the outer shell. The movie is at once a drama, then a commentary on our society, then an action film, all wrapped in the outer casing of a sci-fi film. Conceptually the movie is brilliant and all too real for a sci-fi pic. The art direction manages to give the future just enough modern touch ups that they feel plausible if not inevitable. Last but not least, there is the cinematography which was the second thing that grabbed me during the extended preview. Cuaron and his cinematographer give you a depth of action in every shot that is fascinating to behold. Their verite approach to action scenes has been done before but never better. While I feel like I’m not the only one who let this pic sneak up on them, I’m secure in my belief that the cinematography will at least get recognized by the Academy. Of course I’ve already released my best of 2006 list (such are the risks you take when you adhere to a calendar date cutoff) but that won’t stop me from retro naming this the best film of last year (after all it’s my site and I make the rules) and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the best film I end up seeing in 2007 either.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Originally uploaded by narrativeboy.
5. Dillinger Four- CIVIL WAR (Late Spring)
If Against Me, whose upcoming release appeared earlier on the list, is my second favorite band then these guys are numero uno. After what seems like an eternity Minneapolis ’s own punk prodigies are back with their second release on Fat Records. It’s been over half a decade since their last album but I think it’s safe to say you can expect more of the same from D4 (i.e. super clever lyrics and power punk pop that makes you want to turn it up until your ears bleed).
4. Spiderman 3 (May)
Growing up I was more of an X-men fan then a Spidey fan. I think I always felt like Spidey was just too damn good and that he didn’t have any darkness to him. My opinion changed drastically when I picked up the issues where he changed to the black suit. Not only was it one of the great stories in Spiderman history but the ending spawned one of the greatest modern comic book villains. Now Sam Rami is bringing that story to the screen. Rami had always said that he didn’t like the black costume or Venom but I’m guessing that was all subterfuge to confuse the media and fans. The trailer looks great and Topher Grace is perfectly cast as Eddie Brock. I’ll be curious to see how Rami is able to pull off so many storylines at once as it appears we get Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church cashing in on that Sideways fame), more Green Goblin Jr. (the ever brooding James Franco), and the introduction of Spidey’s true lady love Gwen Stacey (the ethereal Bryce Howard) into his relationship with MJ (the bored looking Kristen Dunst). Spiderman 2 was an amazing movie and this one could either top it or take the franchise back a step if Rami can’t juggle all these balls.
3. Harry Potter & the Deathly Gallows (Summer)
Three years ago you could count me as a Harry Potter playa hater. The idea of reading about some little kid wizard and his zany adventures did little for me and the horrible first movie only strengthened my resolve. Eventually though I succumbed to peer pressure and read the first book and then the second and so on. By summer of 2005 I was all caught up and salivating over the final book. If you put all the magic crap aside, Potter is actually one of the best coming of age stories I’ve ever read (Judy Blume would kill to write this stuff). I’m sure there are scholars out there who can write much better then I on all the metaphors that JK Rowling uses in the books so I’ll leave it to them. Final chapters in an ongoing tale are always problematic. Will she kill Harry? Will she answer every dangling question that’s been left from previous books? I’ll say no and no, but the thing about this series is that you haven’t been able to figure out where it’s going next and that’s probably reason number 1 why this hardened critic has embraced Harry and his crew.
2. (tie) Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet on DVD (2007)
There are certain films that you see in your life that can affect not only your mind but your body after you see them. I remember seeing Hamlet on the glorious 70MM screen at Uptown Theater in Minneapolis and literally walking out feeling more alive then I had ever felt both physically and mentally. Only two films since then have left me that way since: Requiem for a Dream and Children of Men (more on that over the weekend). Anyway Hamlet quickly jumped into my top 10 list of all time but the DVD release has been tied up in all sorts of legal muckity muck for years. Thankfully Warner Brothers has finally seen the light of day and are not only releasing this triumph but cleaning it up as well. From the acting, to the cinematography, to the art direction, Hamlet is a true masterpiece. Oh, and the writings not bad either.
2. (tie) Twin Peaks : Season 2 on DVD (April)
My second favorite TV show of all time finally finishes its run on DVD. The first season came out about 4 or 5 years ago in a great set that included some fun extras and most importantly, a cleaned up picture and soundtrack. Up until that release the only Twin Peaks available was on a sub par VHS set that literally looked worse then if you saw it in the 90’s on a TV with rabbit ears. Anyway after the first release sold very well, everyone anticipated the second season would arrive shortly. Well we waited and watched the rights to the show be passed from studio to studio, year after year. Paramount finally landed the rights last year and has worked with David Lynch on new transfers to make the second season look better then ever. For me the second season of Twin Peaks was when the show hit its high as we were allowed as an audience to focus on something other then Laura Palmer’s murder. The season 2 finale ranks as one of the best episodes of television ever thanks in no small part to the multiple cliffhangers that remain to this day unanswered. The only thing that could top this is if there was some kind of a new season to my favorite show of all time but since it’s off the air that would never happen…right?
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Season 8 (March)
Lost, 24, Heroes, these are shows that excel in my favorite television genre, the mythology drama. Still while I think it’s a great time for TV I find myself thinking everyday, for at least a moment, about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No show has ever produced more memorable moments for me then this one. I thought that when it went out, it went out on top and in fitting fashion yet I still longed for more. Now my prayers have been answered as we are given Buffy Season 8. Ok yes it’s a comic book but please don’t stop reading. This is not some comic book that is meant to supplement the existing Buffy lore, this is how Joss Whedon envisioned the 8th season of Buffy if the actors and network had wanted to continue. Whedon is running this book just like he did every season of Buffy. He’s written the first story arc and will oversea the rest of the season while handing off the daily writing chores to his Mutant Enemy writing staff and a who’s who of comics’ best writers. Whedon has said that like the breaks between previous seasons, season 8 will pick up about 6 months after the destruction of the Hellmouth. The new season will explore Buffy’s new role as den mother to a whole world of slayers and will feature all the characters we know and love. At one point Whedon talked about doing a series of movies following the end of season 7 but lack of money from the studio and a demand for money from some cast has rendered that option obsolete, so while a comic book season can never be the equal of a live action one, we’ll take what we can get.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
It’s rare that I’ll write about my excitement over a period piece but then again it’s rare that Paul Thomas Anderson makes a film. Yes one of America ’s great filmmakers finally returns to the screen this year with a tale of the early American oil industry. Based on a popular book, PTA supposedly has taken some serious liberties in adapting the story to fit his vision and as such not much is known about the final product. What I do know is that Magnolia is one of my top 10 films of all time and Punch Drunk Love is one of the most underrated. PTA has tapped Daniel Day Lewis to star so this flick has the stench of 2007 Oscar buzz all over it.
9. Sopranos (April)
This is the end my friends. Say goodbye to Tony, Dr. Melfi, Carmella and the kids. I probably will have to wait for the DVDs next winter but those of you with HBO can buckle up for the show’s final run this spring. Nothing has leaked about the final plotlines but I’m guessing we’ll see AJ attempt to become part of his father’s business and see some kind of resolution to the ongoing problems between Tony and his New York equivalents. Plus, we can watch Christopher either fade away into addiction or become a big Hollywood producer. All speculation aside I think one thing we can expect is no giant finish. This has always been a show about family and they have done a great job of making a show that doesn’t rely on cliffhangers or huge twists. In the end I’ll expect we leave them much the same way we found them; dysfunctional, emotional and violent.
8. Drive (March)
Tim Minear has made a career out of making great TV that doesn’t last long. First he worked with Joss Whedon on Angel which was cut short a year or two before it’s time. Then came Firefly which Fox cut down half way through its first season. Last summer it was The Insider, a dark, twisted, character driven, crime show that was actually different from the procedurals that dominate our airwaves. This spring Minear picks himself up and works with Fox again (uh…glutton for punishment anyone) to bring us Drive. Described as a fictional Amazing Race meets Lost, the show follows a group of people involved in a cross country race that has some kind of prize that will help each of them solve their mysterious problems. Sounds promising but really if they said it was four guys sitting in a room it would probably make my list. Bonus geek points get added due to the last minute recast of the lead role and filling it with Nathan Fillion of Buffy, Firefly fame.
7. Runaways #25 and onward (Spring)
Maybe this should be re-titled top things Joss Whedon related for 2007. Last year Whedon proved that his talent transfers from live action to 2D comic books when he wrote two great arcs in the Astonishing X-Men. Sadly after 20-some issues, Whedon is walking away from our favorite mutants. Fear not though for he is just walking across the Marvel Comic hallways and picking up the pen on the best comic of the last 2 years: Runaways. Following the lives of a group of kids who runaway after discovering that their loving parents were actually super villains, Runaways is the first truly original idea I’ve read in a comic book in a very long time. According to Whedon this has been his favorite book as well and when creator Brian K Vaughn said he was walking away after issue 24, Whedon went right to the powers that be and begged for the chance to write the next run. Runaways already has a very Whedon feel to both it’s dialogue and plotting so it will be very interesting to see where he takes the kids.
6. Grindhouse (April)
What do you get when you mix Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino? You get classic pulp art. When they first collaborated they produced the guilty pleasure that is From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. Now the two friends are out to reintroduce America to the 70’s B movie and the double feature. Comprised of two films, Grindhouse features a zombie flick by Rodriguez and a chase flick by Tarantino. In between the two films are trailers for other films that don’t exist. It’s hard not to get excited by two guys that love cinema so much and want to share it with you. This might not be their Oscar reel stuff, but I’m sure we can expect a blood filled, funny, scary ride that will leave us smiling in the end. Check out the trailer for a glimpse of Rose McGowan with a machine gun leg and Kurt Russell resuscitating his career.
Monday, January 08, 2007
15. Transformers (July)
This could be the train wreck of the year. Michael Bay can be good (The Rock), bad (Pearl Harbor), and laughably bad (Armageddon). Still I love the way the guy goes for broke in every single piece of film he shoots. I grew up on the Transformers and I have a deep seeded love for the rock opera Orson Welles filled animated flick but I'm willing to take the ride for this live action flick if only to watch the journey.
14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July)
Another new director tackles one of the more difficult books in the series. The kids are older and the darkness keeps creeping in. The films have been getting better with each one especially since the first two were utter crap, so I think it's not out of place to have high hopes for this one.
13. Ocean's 13 (June)
I loved both 11 and 12 and with the addition of Al Pacino hamming it up I think this one might take them both. Looks like Julia is MIA and that's five by five with me. Steven Soderberg flips between indy cred and Hollywood fluff better then anyone. Loving the costumes the crew is sporting in trailer.
12. The Dark Tower Prequel Comic Book (February)
I think Stephen King's Dark Tower is the most impressive work of his career. The last book was a bit of a disappointment as it felt rushed and forced. Still I think the biggest disappointment was that it was over. Now we get a reprieve as King has written a story that comic great Peter David is adapting. The art is by Jae Lee whose work I don't think always translates well to super heroes however I think it will fit Roland perfectly.
11. Against Me- Riverboat Gamblers Fake Problems
Probably my second favorite band in the land comes out with their major label debut this spring and there in lies the great question: Will they "sell out" their unique sound or will they stay true to their punk folk roots? Butch Vig is producing so that adds to the intrigue.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Oh yeah, let's not forget they had the best theme song since Twin Peaks.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby- I think this is a movie I could love if I ever made the effort to see it again. The first time I saw Anchorman I thought it was horrible and a big waste of my time. Then for some reason I saw it again and the second time I saw it I couldn’t stop laughing. Ricky Bobby wasn’t horrible on first viewing and I did laugh but I just didn’t feel the flow of the flick. Glad I waited for Netflix and not the theater.
Rocky Balboa- I was so jazzed to see this movie last week. The reviews had been surprisingly positive and enthusiastic. All of a sudden a movie I was openly mocking months ago now held some real promise. I had it right the first time. Stallone has certainly created a better ending to the story then the 5th film offered but like Rocky 2,3, and 4 the majority of the movie is just filler until we get to the fight. While you watch it you feel like they’re really making an attempt to develop characters new and old and that you’re going to get a great payoff on some of the emotional issues that hang over their heads. However, in the end, everything is wrapped up without any explanation other then its fight time. It’s a fun ride while you’re in theater but don’t expect it to answer the bell when you leave. (On a side note is there anything better to wake up to on New Year’s Day then discovering your TiVo, or a friend’s TiVo taped Rocky IV?)
Jackass Number Two- If I had just seen this a few days earlier it would have made my top movies of 2006 list as at least number 8. Seriously I think there is something so brilliant about these idiots that makes this as transcendent a film as Borat. It produces such a strong physical and emotional reaction from the audience and I think there’s a great deal to be said for cinema that can do that. It’s also the rare case of a sequel surpassing an original. The gags are funnier probably because more of them are on each other and not the public which hasn’t always sat well with me. Also in the first film there seemed to be a lot of stuff where only 2 or 3 of the guys were around for a scene but this time it seems like all of the guys traveled and at least watched every scene which somehow added to the experience for me.
Nacho Libre- Okay here’s another film I had put off seeing from the summer. The negative reviews really got to me despite my general liking of Jack Black and Napoleon Dynamite. It was in my possession for a week before I finally watched it last night and I’ve got to say that while I didn’t see that many movies last year, this was hands down the worst. On first glance I didn’t like Napoleon Dynamite but the night after I watched it my head was filed with thoughts and memories. Last night after watching Nacho, I slept like a baby. Jack Black is one note and his performance made me question why I ever liked him. The writing treads this line between kid’s movie and absurdist humor and takes all the worst from both genres. Even the wrestling in the movie was horrible. I’m a little bit of a wrestling freak and when I go to see a movie about Luchadores, I expect some high flying action and not midgets, fat guys, and GLOW rejects. It came off especially bad since the wrestling that’s on TV has been so bad that it’s driven many fans like me to turn it off. In the end though, I’m most disappointed in myself for not turning off the DVD before the end.
Thankfully shows both new and old start turning up tonight after the holiday break, including ABC’s critical darling Knight’s of Prosperity and a fresh hour of Real World: Denver (or as I like to call it Skankver).
This blogger is taking a few days off but I’ll be back in a few days looking ahead at what to get hyped up about (and then disappointed by) on the 2007 calendar.
Monday, January 01, 2007
My Love- Justin Timberlake (It took me months before I broke down and admitted I enjoyed Sexyback but with this track it only took a few days. This is the kind of song that makes me immediately start moving my body around in ways that resemble Michael Scott’s dance on the booze cruise episode of The Office.)
Fly Me Away- Goldfrapp (I bought a Goldfrapp track a little ways back and wasn’t sure if that was the norm or an abnormality when it came to quality. Thankfully a friend recommended I check this track out too and the results are impressive. Also after hearing it in almost as many commercials as their Strict Machine track, it sticks in your head almost immediately.)
No Easy Way Out- (When the positive reviews for the new Rocky movie started pouring in, I immediately thought of the music. Not only has the Rocky score inspired millions but the films have also featured some awesomely bad songs. This one comes from Rocky IV and will make you want to train in Siberia .)
Say it Right- Nelly Furtado (Yet another example of why iTunes trumps the rest of the MP3 sites. Every time you go to the iTunes store you’re confronted with the top 10 downloads. Most of them I can tell I’m not interested in by just reading the artist but sometimes I’m intrigued. After listening to the 30 second sample of this track I quickly snatched it up. This is yet another Timberland jewel that’s been in heavy rotation since I bought it.)
Hold on to the Night- Richard Marx (Family Guy pulled this 80’s classic out of the moth balls at Meg’s dance a couple of weeks ago and I instantly had flashbacks to mix tapes I made back in the day. I think this might enter my karaoke repertoire as well.)
ABC- Jackson 5 (Continuing to permeate the blog is Clerks II. This time it comes in the form of the soundtrack. When ABC hits for the big dance number it just feels so good that you want to get up and join Jay and Bob.)
I Want You Back- Jackson 5 (When I’m spinning the wheel of plastic at parties I usually get a lot of requests for the 5 but sad to say the only Jackson 5 I had was on a Story of Motown CD where narration often cut off the songs. About time I stock up on the greatest boy band of all time.)
Fidelity- Regina Spektor (Quickly becoming one of my favorite artists, I chose this track after it made the iTunes staff top singles list. Point of fact, the iTunes staff does a nice job of making year end lists that straddle the line between artistic vision and popular appeal.)
Hip Hop is Dead- Nas (I’ll never forget the first time I heard Nas’ debut back in ‘93. He spit a completely new flow that the world had never heard. It was truly street poetry. Over the years I think he’s slipped further and further from the quality of that debut but has still stayed relevant. The title track to his latest album gives me flashbacks to the Illmatic days and reminds us why he’s considered one of the greatest MCs to ever hold a mic in his hand.)
Black Republican- Nas & Jay-Z (The track you never thought you’d hear…until Nas signed to the Jay-Z label Def Jam. For a first effort it’s alright but when you put together the two greatest MCs alive I think you expect better. I’m guessing we’re heading towards a whole album of collaborations from the two and I hope they put in a real effort even though it will be a cash cow either way.)
Theme from Rocky- (Like I wrote above there is no score more inspirational than Rocky’s. After downloading this I felt the sudden urge to climb large amounts of stairs.)
Theme from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century- (Nothing like a spirited email exchange to drive you to download a song. While discussing the finer points of Buck Rodgers the other day, including but not limited to Erin Grey’s hotness in her white pilot outfit, my head began playing the theme song over and over again. After listening to a 30 second sample and not having that quench my thirst, I downloaded the track. It’s actually a way better theme song then a show like Buck ever deserved.)
And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going- Dreamgirls Soundtrack (If you caught my Top 10 movies blog the other day you’ll know that I wasn’t super jazzed about seeing Dreamgirls. Furthermore you’ll remember I said the first hour didn’t do much for me. However when Jennifer Hudson belted out this heart wrenching ballad the movie did a complete 180 and she stole my heart.)
One Night Only (Disco Version) - Dreamgirls Soundtrack (I used to love disco when I was in college. One of my favorite bar activities was Disco Happy Hour. As I’ve aged the disco in me died a little but when I heard/saw this in Dreamgirls it reminded me of how much I used to love to shake my groove thang.)
Listen- Dreamgirls Soundtrack (Beyonce is pretty much a pretty face for the first 90 minutes of Dreamgirls, but in the last 30 minutes she gets a chance to flex her acting chops and more importantly her vocal chops when she belts out this ballad that