Saturday, October 31, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #86, Pavilion of Women

So far, in the seven of these movies that I've seen, I've watched either a comedy or an action movie. The temptation every week is to watch an action movie. Bad action movies are great because they tend to be the funnier bad ones. Bad comedies are awful because they aim at being funny and miss. More than anything, I have dreaded watching the dramas on this list. I'm fairly picky when it comes to dramas and, since I hate even mediocre ones, I know the bad ones will be pure misery. In order to get through the list, I was going to have to watch one some time or another, so why not start getting them out of the way so I don't end up only having them at the end? This afternoon, I bit the bullet and watched not only a drama but a period drama, Pavilion of Women, #86 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst movies of this decade.

Based on the Pearl Buck novel of the same name, Pavilion of Women deals with a family in China, right before the Japanese invasion of 1937. As the wife turns 40, she decides that her sexually-demanding husband deserves a younger woman and contracts with a matchmaker to get him a second wife. Her youngest son is itching to join the Communist Army, but she makes him study with an American priest who lives in their town. She and the second wife join in the studies and she falls in love with the priest, while the son falls in love with the second wife. As the family deals with these secrets, the Japanese attack and everything is thrown into an uproar. Good enough plot.

Since it takes place in China, you might expect that it would be in Chinese with English subtitles, right? No, it's in English. Okay, well at least they'd use Asian-American actors then. Nope, they use native Chinese speakers, a very few of whom moved to America at some point. So the actors are almost all native Chinese speakers who have to deliver their lines in English. Hello, train wreck. Let's say you know Spanish or French pretty well. Would you be able to not only speak them, but to act in them in a movie about emotions?

The answer is obvious. The acting in this movie is beyond atrocious. The line delivery is stilted and most of the characters are trying so hard to get the lines out right that they are incapable of any physical acting. So bad that it feels like the director got a bunch of people together and said, "Okay, folks, go act as poorly as you possibly can and I think this movie could actually work!" To be fair, three actors in the movie are not horrible. One is screenwriter/star Yan Luo and the other two are the only recognizable (to me) actors in the movie, John Cho and Willem Dafoe. Yan had lived in America for a bit before writing the movie, Cho moved to the US when he was six, and Dafoe is American. Amazing that the people who would actually be the most comfortable in English would be the ones who could act in the language. In fact, Dafoe is so much better than every other actor in the movie that it actually looks like he's overacting, leading to some unintentionally funny scenes. And if you think the adults were bad, there are a number of kids in the movie who either didn't know English at all or had barely learned it, because their line delivery sounded like a Hooked on Phonics tape. Accoring to IMDB, the movie was simultaneously filmed in English and Mandarin, so it's possible that there is a Chinese version that is a bit better, though it's hard to imagine Korean Cho and American Dafoe doing really well in Mandarin.

Beyond the acting, it's just sort of lame. It's very soap opera and it seems like there is a huge occurrence -- a woman dying in childbirth, a fire, a Japanese flyover, the Japanese invasion -- happening every other second. If living in this village means this much drama, they really should consider moving somewhere else. The dialogue isn't so great and the husband is shown to be a sexually-demanding pig by having him what seems like constantly forcing his wives into performing oral sex on him. In fact, I don't think anyone has any other kind of sex in the movie except for a brief (like 1 second) rape scene with the Japanese, so who knows what kind of fetish was going on there.

The movie isn't so much horrible as extremely lame. That's why it's only in the eighties in the rankings. The most enjoyable moment of the film is the last twenty or seconds. An orphan delivers a line so poorly that my dog could do it better, the main character says something that even a 90210 writer would find overwrought, the two hug, two other main characters run in, and all of the orphans surround all of them for a big group hug. The music swells and the camera pulls away and up to show the group and the surrounding land. Problem is that they obviously switched cameras from a crane over the group to a plane or helicopter flying over, and you can tell because almost immediately the shot of the group goes blurry. They screwed up the focus on higher camera and didn't get the right contrast on the close-up before pulling away. Great attention to detail. The scene was so deliciously cheesy that, after watching it, I went back to that point and paused it so that my wife could come watch just that bit and laugh at it, which she did. So maybe the Japanese raped and slaughtered the people of the village except for the few that were lucky enough to hide, but at least we had a laugh at the end. Not the worst of the eight I've now seen, but still pretty bad.

All The Joy Within You

I'm punting tonight's post other than a few notes:
  • Didn't have the chance to watch my bad movie today. It'll come tomorrow. No idea which one it will be yet, but I feel like I have to get into the dramas so that I can leave some more fun ones for later. Period piece, perhaps? Yay...
  • I did get out to see the Coen Brothers' new film A Serious Man, their study of American Jewish life in the late 1960s. I actually would write something about it, but it's going to take a while (probably a second viewing) to get my thoughts together. It's really, really good, but it has any number of possible messages that resonate greatly with me and I have to decide which one I think it's really trying to get across. It's an absolute must-see for anyone interested in Judaism.
  • With so many Blockbuster's going out of business recently, I've been thinking about which movies that came out this year are must-buys on DVD. Which am I guaranteed to watch multiple times? So far, I can only come up with Star Trek, The Hangover, Inglourious Basterds, and maybe A Serious Man (but for different reasons).
  • Last night's episode of Community was the best one yet. All-around great.
  • Last night's 30 Rock was maybe my least favorite episode of that show. Still a lot of good jokes, but the "Real America" running gag is running thin.
  • Last night's Grey's Anatomy, while a little over-stylized, was very good. They eschewed the usual soap opera in favor of a tense character study of their best character, Derek.
  • The song at the heart of the Coen Brothers' movie. There's a deeper meaning in here somewhere...

Friday, October 30, 2009


  • The Monologue:
    • By now, I'm sure you've heard of Andre Agassi's autobiography, in which he admits that he lied to tennis officials about being clean and was taking crystal meth. Not to be outdone, Jennifer Capriati released a book saying that she too was lying and she in fact was sober all along.
    • David Spade is defending a DirectTV ad that shows him with Chris Farley. Some people are saying the ad is disrespectful to the dead. Since when were people so concerned with disrespecting David Spade's career?
    • A report shows that West Virginia is the state with the highest proportion of people reporting little sleep. It's hard to count sheep when they're only in your bed one at a time. I mean, seriously, bigamy is just wrong!
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Jaison's a loser. Russell finally cracked because his tribe is losing so much. Even with the merge coming up next week, it's still hard to see how someone from Galu -- probably John or Erik -- doesn't come out on top.
    • What can you say about Game 2? The umps blew two more calls and Charlie Manuel blew a couple himself. Have to send the runners to break up the double play in the eighth inning and have to take Pedro out after the sixth. It was very Grady Little of him. We have a series, as expected, and it goes back to Philly on Saturday night.
    • Pettitte pitched against the Phillies in New York this year, giving up four runs in seven innings and getting a no-decision when Lidge blew the save. Hamels pitched against the Yankees in New York in a different game, giving up two runs in six innings and getting a no-decision when Lidge blew that save.
    • A-Rod is 0 for 8 with 6 Ks in the Series. Since K-Rod is already taken by Francisco Rodriguez, I propose calling Alex 0-Rod (with a zero).
  • Random TV Scene:
    • A blog today posted this video and got into a discussion about iconic TV moments and whether they are still possible since there are so many channels out there. I think it's more about whether iconic moments in regular TV shows (i.e., not news) are possible. What was the last one? If not this one, then "The Contest" on Seinfeld? My wife took exception to me saying the video below was iconic, because there are probably lots of people who didn't see it and wouldn't know it. Uh-uh. This s*** is iconic. One of the top TV moments of at least the 1980s.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1 Down, 3 To Go

  • The Monologue:
    • The person of the week is Susan Finkelstein, who not only became the butt, so to speak, of a lot of jokes, she also landed herself tickets to the game. And she didn't have to sleep with a stranger to get them!
    • Here is the text of the now famous Schwarzenegger letter. It would be a lot more impressive if he could have made it spell verpiss dich (NSFW).
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • It's all about Game 1. Some notes below, although there isn't much to say other than Cliff Lee was brilliant and the Yankees have some serious bullpen issues.
    • Lee's behind-the-back snag of a grounder was great, but I'll take this catch any day. Maybe the funniest non-blooper I can remember since Chuck Knoblauch duping Lonnie Smith back in 1991.
    • I still can't quite figure out how Lee made that lineup look that bad. A-Rod looked completely lost and the Yankees were coming up empty all night. Eric Karros pointed out on the postgame show that nine of Lee's ten strikeouts were swinging. Yes, Lee locates as well as anyone and, yes, his spiked curveball (the grip looked similar to Mussina's knuckle curve to me, but I'm sure I'm wrong about that) is super nasty, but still.
    • Girardi strikes again. It doesn't help when his bullpen pitches so poorly, but he totally wasted Phil Hughes by having him only face two batter, both switch-hitters. How did he not have Marte come on to face Rollins and then go to Hughes for Werth? He got very lucky when a) two Marte pitches to Utley were called strikes when they were way off the plate and b) Raul Ibanez rolled over on a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded.
    • For all of the deserved crap they've taken this postseason, great job by the umps to decipher that difficult double play when Rollins almost let the ball drop. The big goat on that play is Hideki Matsui, who took a couple of steps towards second then hung his head and slowly walked off the field, letting himself easily be tagged for the second out.
    • Why didn't Ronan Tynan come out in the 7th inning stretch to sing his twenty-minute-long version of "God Bless America"? I asked this question on Twitter and someone replied with this story -- he was fired for an Anti-Semitic remark.
    • It's only one game, but Yankees fans can't be feeling too good right now. Trying not to get too excited about that.
  • Random Music Video:
    • It's all about baseball right now. Did you ever want to see Orel Hershiser dance? Ladies and gentlemen, your 1986 Los Angeles Dodgers!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall Classic?

The last competitive World Series was in 2002, when the Marlins topped the Yankees in six games. The previous two World Series had gone all the way to seven, including that epic 2001 championship. Since then, none has gone more than five games and three of the last five have been sweeps. I think that trend is going to change this year. This year's matchup between the Phillies -- the defending champions -- and the Yankees -- the team with the best record during the season -- promises to be very, very close. How well do these team compare to each other? Let's take a look:

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz (PHI) vs. Jorge Posada/Jose Molina (NYY)
Ruiz is not a strong offensive player, but is a career .296 in the postseason, including .346 this year. He has a very little pop, but is good with his pitchers and fairly strong defensively. Posada is a much better hitter, but not as strong in the field as Ruiz, to the point that he is replaced by Molina for any of A.J. Burnett's starts (Game 2, for instance). Molina is a non-factor at the plate.
Edge: Yankees, but not by as wide a margin because Posada doesn't play every game.

First Base: Ryan Howard (PHI) vs. Mark Teixeira (NYY)
Each player led his respective league in RBIs this year. Their offensive numbers for the season were very similar, with Teixeira getting the edge in average and OBP. However, in the playoffs, Howard is the most feared player on the Phillies while Teixeira struggled until the last couple of games of the ALCS. Defensively, Teixeira appears to be the best at first since Jeff Bagwell. Howard actually had a better range factor during the season (9.04 to 8.77).
Edge: Phillies, by a very, very slight margin.

Second Base: Chase Utley (PHI) vs. Robinson Cano (NYY)
Cano has some pop, but let's be honest. One is a perennial MVP candidate.
Edge: Phillies, huge.

Third Base: Pedro Feliz (PHI) vs. Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
If A-Rod keeps hitting the way he did in the first two rounds, he's the best player in this series.
Edge: Yankees, huge.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (PHI) vs. Derek Jeter (NYY)
Both are their teams' leadoff men and both are the heart and soul of their respective offenses. Jeter had fallen off in the postseason since his early days, until this year. Rollins is a bit stronger defensively.
Edge: Yankees, only because someone would cry foul if I said it was even. It couldn't be closer.

Left Field: Raul Ibanez (PHI) vs. Johnny Damon (NYY)
Both veterans, both relatively weak defensively, Ibanez a better hitter at this point, Damon a lot more postseason experience.
Edge: Even

Center Field: Shane Victorino (PHI) vs. Melky Cabrera (NYY)
Cabrera's good in center and all, but Victorino comes up big time and time again. How does .360 with three homers and a .478 OBP in the NLCS sound?
Edge: Phillies, huge.

Right Field: Jayson Werth (PHI) vs. Nick Swisher (NYY)
Each team has played nine games this postseason. In that number of games, Werth has five homers and Swisher has four hits.
Edge: Phillies, huge.

There will be a DH in the AL park and the Yankees have a good one in Hideki Matsui. After that, they have little bench to speak of unless Molina starts the game and Posada can pinch-hit. The Phillies have strong pinch-hitters in Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs, but I'd imagine the DH (for at least Game 1) will be Ben Francisco. It's really hard to look at the Yankees roster and see who besides Matsui might be a passable pinch-hitter in the NL park.
Edge: Even, because of the DH factor.

Overall Lineup:
There's no better first five in baseball than the Phillies' Rollins-Victorino-Utley-Howard-Werth. The Yankees have a huge advantage at DH, but a lot less speed and not that much more power. It's really hard to say the Yankees are definitively better.
Edge: Even.

Starting Pitching:
C.C. Sabathia is clearly the best pitcher in this series. He'll go in Games 1, 4, and 7 and A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte will go in 2/3 and 5/6. Cliff Lee has been outstanding so far in his first postseason (2-0, 0.74 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 20-3 K/BB), however he is a career 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA against the Yankees (1-1 with a 3.00 ERA this year). After Lee, the rotation is deep but has a lot of questions. Pedro Martinez was great against the Dodgers but can he keep it up in cold weather? Cole Hamels starts out well but then implodes after a few innings; can he get back to where he was last year? Joe Blanton, shaky, and J.A. Happ, unproven, round out the starting possibilities.
Edge: Even, because of the Phillies question marks, otherwise I give them the nod on their depth.

The Phillies came in to the postseason with a lot of questions, particularly about closer Brad Lidge. Lidge has been fantastic though. The Phillies have also gotten great relief pitching from Chan-Ho Park (seriously!). For the Yankees, it's all about Mo Rivera. If they can get him the lead, they win. Period. Other than the fact that I don't know that there's much faith left in Joba Chamberlain right now, their setup men are also strong, but did not look nearly as good against the Angels as they looked during the season and, well, we'll get to Joe Girardi in a second.
Edge: Yankees, but not by nearly as much as it looked like it would be two weeks ago.

Both of these teams are so deep and talented that a manager doesn't have to do a whole lot to be successful. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel did a great job in putting Lidge on the mound to rebuild his confidence. Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a total mess of the ALCS, overmanaging on a number of occassions. He gave up the DH at one point! He handles his bullpen very poorly, using up pitchers quickly. Can you imagine how bad it might get in Philly when he has to pinch-hit for the pitcher and double switch?
Edge: Phillies. No matter how confident a Yankees fan may be in their team, just say, "Yeah, but what about Girardi?," and watch the look on their face.

Every ounce of pressure in this series is on the Yankees. They're the team with the $200 million payroll. They're the team that hasn't won it all since 2000. The Phillies are cool under pressure and have turned everything up a notch this October. The best analogy I've heard is to the Florida basketball team that won back-to-back national championships. Nobody picked them in their second tournament, even though they returned everyone, because they looked shaky at times during the season and because they just weren't new. But when the tournament started, nobody came close to them and as they cut down the nets, we all thought: "Wait, why didn't we pick them? How could we be so stupid?"
Edge: Phillies

This is probably the best Yankees squad since 2001, if not 2000. This Phillies team is the best team the Yankees have played in the World Series in this run that started in 1996. It's going to be a classic.

Prediction: Phillies in 7.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Don't Know, I Just See The Bald

  • The Monologue:
    • The pilots that missed the Minneapolis airport were reportedly on their laptops and lost track of where they were. Thankfully, this was one of the rare times when Windows didn't cause something to crash.
    • Mark McGwire will be the new hitting coach for the Cardinals next year. He's expected to really supplement the coaching staff.
    • Mark McGwire, new hitting coach for the Cardinals, is expected to give them a real shot in the arm.
    • Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN. Some lady in the unemployment line or a McDonald's somewhere is about to get lucky.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • My wife often has a problem with Curb Your Enthusiasm. She thinks Larry's antics are too unrealistic. So when she's laughing throughout an episode, you know it's good. Indeed, this past Sunday's Curb has to be one of the best episodes in the run of the show. It wasn't laugh-out-loud throughout like the vacuum-seal episode a few weeks ago, but it had a perfect story. Not so coincedentally, like the best episodes of Seinfeld, this one had different story lines that all blended together perfectly to lead to the ending. In the meantime, you had a store owner who couldn't tell the difference between a bald white guy and a bald black guy; you had maybe the darkest ever episode, including a graphic murder and a near-suicide; you had Larry doing something unspeakable to a religious item. More important than anything else, you had the chemistry between Jerry and Larry that drove the episode. It's the kind of smooth back-and-forth that shows why Seinfeld was such a classic show.
    • Dexter has also gotten really good. This week's episode gave us the best part of the show, Dexter doing detective work to find his victim. It also had yet another shock ending. They had done so much to set up Trinity as a sick, lonely man, that the fact that he's very much like Dexter changes the whole season.
    • The big question on Amazing Race this week has to do with whether or not Canaan was abusive with Mika. I don't think so. He definitely went a bit far with trying to pry her hands off of the bar, but I think they made it seem like he was physically pushing her a lot more than he actually was.
  • Random Question:
    • For those of you with a DVR (or I guess who tape shows on VHS, whatever that is), my question is: which shows, if any, do you have to watch the night they air? I watch a number of shows on my DVR or online as I have time, but there are some that just need to be watched before the next day for various reasons. My only three are Lost (too many people talking about it in the office and online), Mad Men (same as Lost, but more for the online discussions), and American Idol (the performance shows once it goes live, of course, because it's not really worth watching once you know who gets voted out).

Will I Ever Know The Sweet Hello

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • We didn't learn much this week in the NFL. You still have this middle class of teams -- count Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and Cincinnati among them -- where a team can either blow a team out or get blown out at any time. No rhyme or reason. Weird year.
    • You can probably say that Favre cost the Vikings the game with the two turnovers that went for TDs in the last few minutes. The most questionable call though was in Brad Childress calling timeout with four seconds left and the Vikes down ten. They literally could not tie the game at that point. Instead, Favre gets sacked hard on the last play.
    • Went to a play at the Shakespeare Theater downtown tonight, the first in an annual subscription, so I didn't really get to see anything except Mad Men, which I will always stay up to watch no matter how late.
  • Mad Men Thoughts:
    • I gush so much about this show that when one episode is better than the others, I can't find the words to sing its praise. This one was better than the others.
    • Last week, I said that I was coming around on Betty. No reason to stop that this week. She was smart enough to figure out that Dick Whitman wasn't just some random guy that was in pictures Don had. She also went far beyond what I would give her credit for and was entirely straightforward with Don. I think this is because the option of divorce was eliminated for her by the lawyer. At the very beginning, when she's leaving for the trip, she asks Don for cash, knowing full well that he has the stash in the drawer. That's the sort of passive-aggressive Betty I've come to know and love. But when he stops by the house and she's there, she is of one focus, telling the kids to go upstairs and confronting Don about the drawer.
    • That's where the greatness of the episode came in. At first Don was defiant, but once Betty shows him the keys, the "Don" melts away and all that is left is poor Dick Whitman. Jon Hamm played it perfectly. All of the life left his face and he sat down, in shock, in the kitchen to tell Betty the truth (or mostly the truth, since he didn't tell her he switched dogtags with Don Draper in the trench in Korea). The discussion at the kitchen table reminded me of the last scene of the second season when, after Don's return from California, Betty told him she was pregnant and they sat at the table, staring at each other. But this time, Hamm had a bleary-eyed thousand-yard stare going on. Just painful to see, but it got more painful as they went upstairs and Don/Dick went through the pictures and finally opened up about his brother Adam. A "wow" sequence.
    • Interesting that, upon waking, Don saw the pictures and the shoebox on the dresser, picked up the pictures to put them back in the box, and then realized that everything was in the open and left them out.
    • Also interesting that Suzanne was afraid for her job when Don called her in the morning. I think the assumption was that she would have no hesitation in wrecking Don's life if he screwed her over, but it's obviously more complicated than that. Again, sucked to be a woman back then.
    • And rape-y Dr. Greg is going to get killed in Vietnam. A good point that I read in a review of the episode -- Roger's story had to do with love lost during World War II (the Casablanca stuff was great), Don's story had to do with his catharsis during the Korean War, and Joan's story had to do with how her life is going to be changed by Vietnam.
    • And in thinking of Vietnam, it's yet another example of how setting this in the past lets the writers include implicit themes because of famous historical events. The episode ended on Halloween night, 1963. November 22 is bearing down on them like a freight train and they have no idea how the world is about to change, but we do.
  • Random Music Video:
    • There's really no other choice. "Who are you supposed to be?" Fade to black. And then this song:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Suck Of The Bay

Before I get into rant mode, let me give you a positive review of a movie. After watching Transformers 2 this afternoon, I watched the Sam Mendes film Away We Go. I really can't recommend it enough. Mendes' last film, Revolutionary Road, was great but soul-destroying. This one is very much the opposite, a short, sweet, funny film about two expecting parents and their cross-country trip to find a place to settle. Funny is an understatement, it's actually hilarious in that subtle chuckle-to-yourself kind of way. The script is very good and the filmmaking, as you might expect from someone of Mendes' talent, is exceptional. The kind of film that you watch after a bloated blockbuster to regain your faith in the art form.

But that bloated blockbuster... When I first saw Transformers: ROTF(L) back in late June, I ranted a little about how stupid it was. It's on DVD now, so I grabbed it from Netflix to watch again. While some movies -- The Hangover -- are even better on second watch and some -- Face/Off -- are worse, I felt the same way about this movie that I did when I first saw it. It's a chaotic piece of crap. I tried to watch this time with an eye for what exactly it was that didn't work. I've liked some of Michael Bay's movies in the past, like Bad Boys or even the first Transformers, so why is this one so inane? The answer is "impulse control."

On the DVDs for The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M. Night Shamalayan talks about the editing process and how hard it is to cut certain things out of movies. A director has a good idea, the scene seems to work, but it has to go because it doesn't actually advance the story at all. Transformers 2 is the prime example of a movie that fails at this restraint. At two-and-a-half hours, nothing got trimmed. And almost all of it does not advance the story because, hello, there really is no story in the movie. The plot: the All-Spark wasn't totally destroyed, there's an ancient Transformer that controls Megatron and wants to activate a machine to destroy the sun, there's a race to find the Matrix of Leadership that can power this machine. That's all. You could knock that out in considerably less than 150 minutes. First of all, the movie would be a lot shorter if half of it wasn't in slow-motion, but it really comes down to that restraint.

I imagine that the writing of this movie went like this: "Okay, we're going to make a billion dollars no matter what we put on the screen, so let's have some fun. Dogs humping each other? Let's do it. Mom eats pot brownies and freaks out? Put it in! A scene at a frat party so that we can do an obscure Revenge of the Nerds homage? Yes!" That's just in the first thirty minutes or so of the movie. You end up with racist robots (the writers were racist, not the robots), multiple scenes of characters that seemingly have no place in advancing the meager plot, and a lot of really stupid jokes. Like John Turturro ruining his career by standing underneath a robot's scrotum. The kicker is that on top of all that fluff, the main bad guy, who seems to be moderately kick-ass, only shows up in a battle for like three minutes before he is easily dispatched. Also, they made a huge deal about Devestator, right? He could have been completely cut out of the movie and nothing would have been missed. He doesn't even kill or significantly wound one main character.

There is some ridiculous geography. I know that I got overly sensitive about 24's liberties with the District, but Bay just poops on the atlas. The characters go to a desert in Egypt, all wearing jackets and sweatshirts the whole time, and then drive to Giza, but they have to go to Petra to find something. Good thing Egypt and Jordan share a border! So they drive from Giza (outside of Cairo) to Petra and back in, oh, two minutes. The final battle takes place in Giza -- with shots of Luxor thrown in for good measure -- and the characters rush to it from Petra by coming down from a hill. They even talk about Egypt and Jordan. Is Michael Bay anti-Semitic, too? Does he just not recognize that Israel exists? Or maybe he failed Geography in school because he was too busy wondering what his teacher would look like in slow-motion with harsh sunlight shining on her.

Also, Shia LeBeouf dies and goes to robot heaven where Optimus Prime's ancestors talk to him. So, yeah, it's pretty awful. Can't wait to see how much lazier they get for the third one.

NFL Week 7 (8-6 last week, 54-36 overall):

  • Minnesota (+5.5) at Pittsburgh: I think the Steelers are going to win, but I've done very well going against them with the spread.
  • New England (-14.5) vs. Tampa Bay (in London): My favorite line of the week was from, I think, Bill Simmons regarding how the people in London should hate New England because the idea of Patriots is, by definition, anti-British.
  • Kansas City (+5) vs. San Diego: Would not be surprised to see the Chiefs take this one outright. I have no faith in San Diego's ability to not crap the bed.
  • Houston (-3) vs. San Francisco: Not really believing in the 49ers after that shellacking by Atlanta.
  • Green Bay (-9) at Cleveland: The only chance the Browns have is if they can give their swine flu to the Packers.
  • Indianapolis (-14.5) at St. Louis: The best team in football versus the worst.
  • Oakland (+7) vs. New York Jets: How are the Jets possibly giving seven to anyone at this point?
  • Carolina (-7) vs. Buffalo: This is a big ol' who cares game.
  • Atlanta (+4) at Dallas: Nobody believes in the Cowboys. When Wade Phillips is your coach, Wade Phillips is your coach.
  • Chicago (PK) at Cincinnati: This opened up at Bengals +2 and swung hard.
  • Miami (+7) vs. New Orleans: Miami coming off of the bye, at home, with their ball-control offense. I'll take a touchdown.
  • Arizona (+7) at New York Giants: Thinking this will be a close, exciting game.
  • Philadelphia (-7) at Washington: Tough, because it's a division matchup, but who can pick the Skins?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #48, Bloodrayne

German director Uwe Boll is famous for two things: 1) making movies based on video games and 2) making some of the worst movies of all time. Coincedence? Doing some research, I found that according to Metacritic, the best reviewed movie based on a video game is Mortal Kombat. To repeat, Mortal Kombat is the best ever movie based on a video game. One of those movies, not directed by Boll, is #1 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst movies of this decade, but Boll does show up four times, including with Bloodrayne, the 48th worst movie of the decade and the seventh movie on the list that I have seen.

I've hated all of the movies I've seen on the list, although I've actually seen The Adventures of Pluto Nash twice because I had to believe how incredibly bad it is. The movies have spanned from boring to inane to, as you may remember from last week, downright infuriating. But... Get ready.

Are you ready?

You have to see Bloodrayne. Have to! Don't spend any money on it, Lord no, but you can catch it on Watch Instantly on Netflix. It's horrendous, but some parts are so bad that they are must-see. I'll get into some more detail, but I wanted to lay that groundwork up front. Bloodrayne is, thankfully, the first of these movies that I enjoyed watching.

The film is about Transylvania in the 1700s, a Transylvania where everyone speaks English, but in different accents (we'll get to that in a bit). The vampire king is terrorizing the land and can only be stopped by his daughter Rayne, a half-human/half-vampire, and only if she can obtain two talismans to help her. A band of humans, also out to kill vampires, meets up with Rayne and they join together to slaughter lots and lots of bad guys and stop the king. Pretty simple plot. At the end -- and I'm so sorry to spoil it -- Rayne kills her father and, with every other character in the movie dead around her, ascends to the throne. And when she sits in it, there is a montage of what happened throughout the movie! An actual montage, showing the bloodiest scenes and some that weren't shown earlier, and then it comes right back to her on the throne and the movie ends after the camera leaves the castle and focuses on some random hillside for what seems like thirty seconds.

Those bloody scenes are what make this movie worth watching. Peter Jackson's zombie film Dead Alive is the gold standard for cartoonish gore. Zombies get chopped in half, run over by a lawnmower, beheaded, and so on, as the blood spurts as powerfully as possible. Jackson clearly means it as a joke -- and it informs a lot of the humor in Shaun of the Dead -- even using pink and green blood by the end of the movie. In Bloodrayne, Boll uses the same sort of gore, but in a serious manner. So when there's dramatic music playing and the characters are fighting for their lives, you have people's top halves sliding off of their bottom halves or their bodies being split lengthwise. According to this movie, people's guts just look like a bunch of chunks or something or other and everyone has at least 500 pints of blood that must spurt as violently as possible.

Some of the other scenes are puzzling. Rayne says that the king raped and killed her mother, followed by a flashback to what happened. No rape, just killing. Later, there is a huge setup between two characters and their ability to fight each other with swords. How do they fight? Entirely underwater. They wrestle underwater for a couple of seconds until one of them comes to the surface and the other climbs out and immediately kills them. Exciting and easy to follow. Even the one sex scene in the movie is shot weird and almost hard to follow.

Kristanna Loken (the robot in T3) stars. Other prominent actors include Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, Meat Loaf, Billy Zane, and Ben Kingsley. Wait, isn't this the second of the four movies I've watched since I started this quest that included Kingsley (A Sound of Thunder being the other one)? Madsen is one of my least favorite actors of all time -- note that my two favorite Tarantino films are ones he isn't in -- but at least he's never in anything. His IMDB page lists him as appearing in 38 things in 2009 alone! Zane -- who is credited as making a "special appearance" -- has lines that make no sense and he delivers them in the most unbelievable way possible. His presence in the film is completely superfluous. And Meat Loaf? He plays a vampire that hangs out with a harem of naked women, so try to get that image out of your head.

The acting isn't just bad because the director does such a poor job of making any sort of coherent film at all. No, they attempt to put on British accents because this takes place in Europe. Well, some of them do. Madsen just talks in his normal New York accent because it's obvious that he put no effort into this movie whatsoever. That might have been best though, because I do not exaggerate when I say that Michelle Rodriguez in this film does the worst British accent I have ever heard in a movie. You have to watch the movie just to hear it.

Something that really stands out, but often doesn't in movies, is the hairstyling. The hairstyling? Well, since this takes place in 1700s Transylvania, everyone has to have long hair. There are a variety of hilarious wigs -- every male character has to have some sort of ponytail at the very least -- but none funnier than Michael Madsen's mullet. It's the first thing you see in the movie and it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Want a reason to watch Bloodrayne? Feast your eyes on this!

Pounding Fists Is Not Locking It Up

  • Revamp:
    • You may notice the new widget to the left that says "Latest Tweets." I started a tweet just for this blog -- @RBabbles -- and the last five are listed. With a tweet, I can micro-blog, adding content when I think of it rather than waiting until the nightly post, and hopefully I can promote this a bit more. So far, the Leno tweet is my favorite. Please follow if you're so inclined.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • A crazy, fantastic night of emotion on two fronts on TV, but before that I need to note that on Survivor, one of the contestants made a reference to how lame the Heart Ring was on Captain Planet. So true!
    • First, on the aforementioned Survivor, you had what seemed to be the closest any contestant has ever come to dying on the show. Going into the episode, the two contestants I felt the show could least stand to lose were the two Russells. Evil Russell is the single most important person on the show this year, obviously. The other Russell, as leader of the purple tribe, was the heart and soul of half of the contestants and it could be seen tonight as he took on too much and paid the price. His collapse and subsequent removal was scary, but it led to the emergence of a new leader in the game. With two tribes side-to-side at tribal council for the first time in show history, Eric amped up the tension with trash talk and an impassioned speech that had me ready to jump off of the couch and hit someone. "Every drop of sweat that Russell gave, we're bringing it to you." Wow!
    • But that tension was a mere blip compared to what came after, the 9th inning in Anaheim. Facing elimination, Angels closer Brian Fuentes got a quick two out and then intentionally walked A-Rod, who had killed him -- and every other pitcher -- during the postseason. But then, Fuentes walked Matsui and hit Posada to load the bases. He got ahead of Nick Swisher 0-2, but Swisher worked the count full. 3-2, two outs, one-run game, bases loaded. On the next pitch, every runner would be going. Baseball is great because it's a game of anticipation. Every pitch, every second builds towards what might happen in big moments of the game. Those moments don't happen in every game but they happen more often in the playoffs, and when they do happen, it's as good as sports gets. Swisher stood in and then backed off twice, messing with Fuentes' timing. The pressure kept building and building, even with nothing happening. Finally, Fuentes came with a fastball and Swisher popped it up. Fuentes immediately started cheering. I melted, sweating. It took me so long to stop shaking that I poured myself a drink to calm down, something I rarely do. Game 6 is on Saturday.
    • If the Angels can send it to a seventh game, by the way, the Yankees are in trouble. Not only would it mean that they could actually lose the series, but they'd have to use Sabathia. Pitching Sunday, he would be unable to go Wednesday in Game 1 of the World Series and, hence, unable to go in 4 and 7 also. A huge loss for the Yanks if it happens.
    • Bill Fagerbakke, Dauber from Coach, showed up briefly as a patient tonight on Grey's. Considering Don Gibb is now reduced to playing second banana in a freaking Capital One commercial, it's disappointing that our big goofy '80s/'90s actors have fallen so far.
    • Did you see this article about the musicians complaining about the use of music during sleep deprivation torture in Guantanamo Bay? As Tony Kornheiser put it, they may not want to dig into this too deeply. How good does it make them look if one of the prisoners cracked because they just couldn't listen to No Code one more time?
  • Random Music Video:
    • I'm into this "released on this date" thing I started last night. Seven years ago, the Donnas dropped the album Spend the Night that included this, one of the more underrated kick-ass songs of the decade.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Know What I Got

  • The Monologue:
    • The Dodgers and Angels are both getting embarrassed in their respective series. I haven't seen LA collapse like this since the movie Volcano.
    • Cops in Florida (isn't it always Florida?) lost a bag of cocaine in a hotel room. It reminds me of the motel I once stayed at in San Diego; turndown service included a little bit of crystal meth under the pillow.
    • It's been so warm after a bout of cold, rainy weather. This is one crazy Native American Summer.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I know the New York Post is what it is, but I don't think I'm cool with them publishing the letter from Steve Phillips' mistress.
    • There are some really awful parts of the new season of Dexter (cough, Batista and La Guerta, cough), but the last twenty minutes or so of this past episode was the show at its best. The dialogue with his victim was tremendous and the cliffhanger, while you had to know something was going to happen to Lundy, was still fairly shocking and mysterious enough to make me very excited for the rest of the season. If Dex went nuts when the cop threatened his family, how crazy will he go now that someone shot Deborah?
    • There was a hoax on Twitter today about Kanye West being dead. Why does that sort of rumor tend to spread so frequently lately? It's not funny -- not because it's offensive, because it's just not funny -- and people can't really be that stupid, right? Ok, well, I take that back.
  • Random Music Video:
    • The Beach Boys' album Little Deuce Coupe was released 46 years ago today. Even though the song appeared on an earlier album, it was the title track for this one. This is a great video, how dorky the band looks (including Mike Love's quickly receding hairline), how hard a time the crowd has with clapping on beat and the styles that they are wearing. But the boys could sing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who, Indeed?

  • The Monologue:
    • Two South Carolina Republicans made an anti-Semitic remark in an op-ed piece. To be fair, they did apologize, admitting that they were "drunk as Irishmen" when they wrote the piece.
    • The headline says: "Biden to reassure Poles during European trip." When he was president, Clinton liked to let female advisors reassure the poles for him.
    • I think I meant that as a stripper pole joke, but I guess it works on a few levels.
    • Uganda's new king was serving as a nurse's aid in the US. This is the most shocking turn of events since that prince who was hiding as a worker at McDonald's, I mean McDowell's.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Snoop Dogg turns 38 today. I'm sure he's doing something to celebrate, but I can't for the life of me figure out what.
    • TV critic Alan Sepinwall tweeted his dream House team today: Kutner, Amber, Chase. I'm just not feeling Kutner there. He was fine, but I don't think the show lost so much when he killed himself (maybe it even added because it was a mystery that House couldn't solve). It's hard not to just go with Foreman, Cameron, and Chase, but I'll go with Foreman, Amber, and Chase. You can't have the show without Foreman, end of discussion. Amber was the good comic foil, as disapproving of House as Cameron is but funnier and nastier about it. Chase is fairly obvious as the perfect weasel who potentially sabotages House's crazy style.
    • Sarah Palin is going to appear on Oprah. Who else is excited? It's yet another reason not to watch Oprah. And, similarly, yet another reason to not watch Sarah Palin on TV.
    • Today marks the DVD release of the latest Transformers movie. I can't recommend enough that you watch it, assuming you have Netflix or Blockbuster Online. Don't actually spend any money on it. It is a fascinating film because it is flawed in so many ways. I'm actually getting it tomorrow from Netflix so that a) my wife can see it and b) I can write the in-depth analysis I promised (threatened?) I'd write back when I first saw it.
  • Random Video:
    • Sure, we want to beat the crap out of the entire family, but anyone who takes a cable news guy down a notch gets a point in my book.

Monday, October 19, 2009


  • The Monologue:
    • No joke can be funnier than this picture, a screen grab from today's Yankees game.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Crazy House episode, with potential ghosts and bodies on the autopsy table coming to life. The show keeps ticking along as strong as ever.
    • Also a great How I Met Your Mother and I'm very critical of that show. The Proclaimers, Tantrum soda, and Kenny Rogers talking about a dog being splattered by a bus.
    • I finally read Malcolm Gladwell's article about football and brain damage. Frightening stuff, though I think the dogfighting metaphor is very heavy-handed.
  • Video Embargo:
    • In honor of Joe Girardi's crappy managerial job today, I was dying to post a video of the bunt that Mariano Rivera threw away. The throw was hilarious. He threw it straight into the dirt and then fell down dramatically without reason. But, no, MLB controls all of their video, doesn't let you embed it, and they didn't have video of that play. So, sorry. Enjoy this instead, even if the person couldn't spell the city. I'll post a different one for each Halo victory. I've now seen games in 25 of the 30 MLB cities and Angel Stadium is the best in-game experience in the country. Period.

My Way Of Thinking

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I'm not writing about the NFL this week for what should be obvious reasons. Also, I'm instituting a separate section for Mad Men. I do one for Lost and briefly did one for Heroes -- which I have still yet to watch this season and I'm not sure I miss it at all -- and even if very few of you watch the show, it's cathartic to get all of my thoughts down. 'Cause, you know, if you don't write it down, you just may forget it.
    • Curb was much better this week, but the episode still didn't flow particularly well and there were still a couple of parts -- putting Wendy Wheelchair in the closet -- that seemed too over the top. However, there were some insanely funny parts and, more than anything, you had some top-notch Leon dialogue. "Did you dizzle it?" "You have to bring the f***ing ruckus to that ass." "Split it in two. Bring the bottom half of the ass home."
    • Cheyne and Meghan still have to be far and away the favorites in The Amazing Race. I'm really impressed by Brian and Erica though; I was sure they were one of the weaker teams, but Brian keeps stepping up.
    • Whatever the Phillies gave up for Cliff Lee, it wasn't enough.
  • Mad Men Thoughts:
    • A lot of parallels to earlier episodes, including Don treating the brother well because of the guilt over how he dealt with his own brother. Last week, there were two uses of the phrase, "you people," which called back to when Betty said that to Jimmy Barrett. Sure enough, Roger made a crack tonight about how Don and Betty looked like the people on top of a wedding cake, which Jimmy also said last season.
    • I think Ms. Farrell is more progressive than crazy stalker-ish. I don't doubt that she can -- and will -- make Don's life hell when he breaks it off with her, but she strikes me as a late '60s girl who's a little too early.
    • Note that in the first couple of scenes where Don was with Ms. Farrell, he was very clearly looking Dick Whitman-ish. Hair tousled, unshaven, not wearing a tie at one point. Maybe she's the only place he feels comfortable enough to let his hair down, which is striking considering that Betty discovered the shoebox that Don's brother sent -- and Campbell intercepted -- in the first season. That discovery and the way that Betty played the good wife at the end made me feel strongly sympathetic to her, which surprised me.
    • If we're trying to figure out how Joanie and, maybe, Sal come back into the picture, the impending sale of Sterling-Cooper has to be significant. To Duck's company? Back to Bert, Roger, and Bert's sister? They could be setting up a way for Don to leave and either work for Connie Hilton outright or join another firm.
    • When Betty opened the drawer to find the cash and the shoebox, I got a big flashback to The Sopranos, when Carm found Tony's stash of money in the bird feed bin.
    • I got a huge Godfather vibe from the very last scene, as Don is highlighted as the god that everyone thinks he is but Betty is left to resent him and maybe even mourn over the fact that she's stuck because of who he is. It reminded me greatly in theme of the end of The Godfather as Michael is at the altar during the baptism. I don't doubt that Weiner was shooting for that kind of feeling.
  • Random Music Video:
    • Don't think I've put this one up before, but who knows. I was just randomly thinking of this band a few days ago and checked out the video. Song kicks ass.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Radio At A Reasonable Level

Went tonight to see a 10th anniversary screening of Office Space, along with a Q&A with actors Stephen Root and Gary Cole. Really good stuff. Amazing how much that movie holds up.

NFL Week 6 (10-4 last week, 46-30 overall):
  • Kansas City (+6.5) at Washington: The Skins win this -- remember that the three O-Coordinator teams are now a combined 1-14, with the only win being Buffalo over another of the teams, Tampa -- but how do they still give close to a TD?
  • New Orleans (-3) vs. New York Giants: Coming off a bye, at home on the turf.
  • Carolina (-3) at Tampa: Kind of want to take Tampa, but see my first remark on KC.
  • Houston (+4.5) vs. Cincinnati: The Bengals love to play close games.
  • Minnesota (-3) vs. Baltimore: The Ravens can definitely win this one, but I can't predict it.
  • Cleveland (+13.5) at Pittsburgh: I took Detroit +10.5 against the Steelers last week because the Steelers haven't blown anyone out yet (the San Diego game was weird). I'll keep going that way.
  • Jacksonville (-10) vs. St. Louis: The Rams are the worst team in the league. I'm not sure that even the Raiders are that close.
  • Green Bay (-11.5) vs. Detroit: I hate this pick, but it's a home game for a team coming off a bye and an embarrassing loss before that.
  • Philadelphia (-13) at Oakland: You can't make this line high enough. Eagles get 21? Okay. Eagles get 28? Um... Okay.
  • Seattle (-3) vs. Arizona: I have no idea. The Seahawks have looked awesome when Hasselbeck has played. The Cardinals have been very up and down.
  • Tennessee (+9) at New England: A lot of points for the Patriots. They haven't clicked yet offensively.
  • New York Jets (-9.5) vs. Buffalo: The New York D has to be fired up after their awful showing on Monday. Happy Birthday, kids, it's Trent Edwards coming to town.
  • Atlanta (-3.5) vs. Chicago: Not sure I'm totally buying Chicago yet, although I'm not fully sold on the Falcons either.
  • Denver (+3) at San Diego: I think the Chargers win by a field goal, but I can't rule out them totally not showing up for the game.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #8, 3 Strikes

When an artist makes their debut with a masterpiece, they set themselves up for disappointment. Some artists live up to their auspicious beginnings. For instance, Pearl Jam and Counting Crows both followed up their great debut albums with very good ones that were not quite as good as the first but still proved that the bands had staying power. On the other hand, Hootie and the Blowfish followed up their huge first LP with one that was so weak that their fine third album was ignored. This is to get at the point that in 1996, DJ Pooh made his writer/director debut with one of the great comedies of the '90s, Friday. In 2000, DJ Pooh wrote and directed 3 Strikes, the 8th worst movie of this decade, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

3 Strikes deals with a man being released from jail for the second time. Thanks to California's 3 Strikes law, he will get 25 to life if he gets caught doing anything else. Unfortunately for him, the friend who was supposed to pick him up from prison gets sidetracked by a stripper who just happens to be walking down the street in her work clothes, so he is instead picked up by a guy in a stolen car who almost immediately gets in a gunfight with the police. The main character runs away and so begins possibly the most infuriating movie experience I've ever had.

I really mean "infuriating." Watching this film actually made me angry. As it went on, I began to decide what I could throw at the TV that would not cause any damage. By the thousandth scene where multiple characters all talked over each other, I had a huge headache. The timing of the dialogue was not exactly Smith- or Tarantino-esque and it was not helped by the fact that in one scene, one of the characters was very clearly reading from cue cards. He would spit out a sentence, pause, his eyes would flash to the same spot off-screen each time, and then he would speak again.

The acting, as you can tell, is atrocious. David Alan Grier is in it, but he's not even the worst David, as David Leisure -- yes, Joe Isuzu -- also has a scene. Also appearing is George Wallace, who was also in DJ Pooh's The Wash, which I have seen and am shocked that it did not make Rotten Tomatoes' list. The worst offender is star Brian Hooks, who had gotten three acting strikes by his third scene.

At #8, 3 Strikes is the lowest (highest?) film that I have seen on the list and deservedly so. I can remember movies that have been so bad that I've felt physically uncomfortable watching them, but none that aroused such ire. It was easily the most tempted I've yet been to shut one of these movies off early, but, with the film running 82 minutes, I was able to hold on.

DJ Pooh's Friday remains one of the bigger surprise comedies of the last fifteen years. If, prior to tonight, I had seen an ad for a movie by him, I might jump at it. After all, his debut displayed how much talent he might have. But after watching this garbage, I know now that he only had the one great movie in him. One strike and he was out.


I want to include a side-note here that, because I didn't pay close attention to my Netflix queue, we received the Jack Black/Michael Cera film Year One and watched it tonight. With my weekly odyssey of watching horrible movies, I felt intense self-loathing while I was watching it. If I'm forcing myself to watch 100 specific bad films, why should I let myself watch one that isn't on the list? Year One is a boring, unfunny, embarrassing-to-Harold-Ramis crapfest. Between it and the putrid second half of Funny People, Judd Apatow is having a rough 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hot Air Buffoon

  • The Monologue:
    • What was funny today? I'm not even touching on that jackass kid.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I guess I never really give spoiler alerts, but I figure that goes without saying. It's not like I'm watching the shows before they air.
    • The opening of tonight's Flash Forward up until the credits was absolutely fantastic. The rest of the show was pretty good, too, especially the ending with the big reveal of the villain (and it's Dominic Monaghan!).
    • You're in for a good TV night when you're watching people drinking a mixture of blended jellyfish and milk and then a mixture of sea slug guts and water. Jellyfish and milk!
    • I'll catch Community and the season premiere of 30 Rock online tomorrow. Too much on Thursday nights.
  • A Heads-Up:
    • Keep an eye on Texas and next year's Gubernatorial race. Remember the New Yorker article on the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who many believe to have been innocent? Governor Rick Perry received last-minute information that could have led to a stay in the execution, but he ignored it. Well, now with the review of the execution underway, Perry has replaced the fourth member of the review board, the most that he is allowed to appoint. Cries of cover-up and corruption are starting to swirl around him and they will not help with the primary coming early next year. This issue is going to explode soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


As you can tell, I consider myself a pop culture afficionado. Some of that has to do with trying to understand why things become popular and what people, as a group, like. Some of it has to do with pure nostalgia. For instance, like many people my age, I like TV shows from the '60s, but mostly because they were on Nick At Nite. I enjoy pop culture stuff from the '90s and the Aughts. But, more than anything else, I love pop culture from the '80s. VH1 did an I Love the '70s, but did anyone actually watch it? They did two I Love the '90s. They did three I Love the '80s.

Growing up in the '80s, three of the driving pop culture factors were pro wrestling (the heyday of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, among others), video games (arcades were still around and then home gaming blew up with the NES), and '80s music. There are a lot of big names remembered from all of these, from Hogan to Madonna, but there are also those who do not get as much credit. Nobody brought these three worlds together like Captain Lou Albano, who passed away today at the age of 76.

Albano was one of the more unique stars of the WWF, a manager who taped rubber bands to his face and used them to keep his beard tight. He appeared in Cyndi Lauper's videos, most famously playing the father in "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". He was Mario in the Super Mario Brothers Super Show. Here is an Albano bit from the WWF cartoon show, the Lauper video, and the intro to the Mario show. RIP, Captain Lou.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Por Que? Por Que!

This blog had its first post on October 9, 2007, so for just over two years, I have scoured my brain and the internet, searching through that series of tubes to find you the best in comedy, entertainment, news, and things to piss Angie off.

In my search tonight, I came across this. Please to watch.

Why do those rednecks have a monkey? And why did they put it with their cat? WHY??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's times like these, when life has thrown you the curveball of a monkey making out with a cat, when you have to just sit back and utter the three words that can neatly wrap up any awkward situation:
1. Kick Do
2. It
3. Rockapella!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Moment To Arrive

  • The Monologue:
    • The corpse of Jason Giambi made an appearance tonight at Coors Field! After singling to tie up the game in the 8th, he attacked Ryan Howard and tried to take Howard's brain. Now we know why John Olerud wore the batting helmet in the field all those years. One can never be too safe.
    • A man was arrested in Denver for lying about being in combat. Oh, that John Kerry, he just doesn't stop, does he?
    • A 6-year-old was suspended from school for bringing in a Cub Scout tool. You'd think he'd be in more trouble for shanking the detention teacher.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Meanest headline ever?
    • Maybe Tigers-Twins #163 was the best game of the baseball season, but tonight's Phillies-Rockies Game 4 can't be too far behind. Backs against the wall, the Rockies rallied for three in the bottom of the eighth to take a two-run lead. In the top of the ninth, the Phillies had Victorino on with two outs and lefties Utley and Howard coming up to face right-handed closer Huston Street. When Utley came up, I felt like they had a pretty good chance. When Street walked Utley to bring up Howard, I was as sure as one can be in that situation that Howard would come through. The Phillies, as defending champs, are so clutch and Howard is the pinnacle of that attitude. Sure enough, Howard tied it with a double, Werth put the Phillies up with a single, and the Phillies advance to face the Dodgers. Should be two very good championship series.
    • Interesting how the House writers have played with the plot to get the old team back together after a couple of years apart. More shakeup to come, I'm sure, but it's nice while it lasts. And a great line: "crazy House vortex."
    • Sunday night's Curb Your Enthusiasm was one of the episodes that comes along every so often where Larry goes too over the top. It definitely had its funny moments -- Larry cursing at Jeff and Susie's daughter maybe being the top -- but it had a lot of moments -- Larry stopping the daughter from singing -- where I sat there shaking my head and saying, "Nobody would actually do that."
  • Random Music Video:
    • Audio only and pretty incredible. The most underrated Beatles song?

A Dream

I was writing jokes and thoughts in my head regarding football, Nobels, and baseball, but then Matt Weiner had to go and blow it all up with one of the darkest, most disturbing Mad Men episodes ever (and that's really saying something).

The main character, Don Draper, completely loses control. A slave to Bert Cooper and now to Connie Hilton, he's trapped and his usual self-destructive rampages can't lead to him disappearing to California for a couple of weeks. Instead, he drinks heavily -- it wasn't obvious but every time he got home, they showed him reaching for his stash of liqour -- and he turns towards what will be his most destructive affair yet. The really disturbing part, of course, has to do with his disdain for Sal. Sal, who as the closeted self-deceiving homosexual, was once the comic relief on the show, has now become a tragic figure. Don saw Sal experimenting with his sexuality in the season premiere and in this episode, a major client threatens to leave because Sal, who rebuffed the male client's advances, was not fired. When Sal tells Don what really happened, Don insinuates that Sal should have just slept with the guy, after all it wouldn't be the first time, as far as Don is concerned. When Sal insists that he's married, Don spits out (with the maximum amount of hatred brilliantly summoned by Jon Hamm), "You people."

"You people." It's the theme for the episode in a lot of ways and it left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mad Men has mostly dealt with gender roles and has generally stayed away from civil rights associated with race and sexual orientation. But tonight not only featured Don's disdain, but also included the period from August 28th to September 17th of 1963, with the "I Have a Dream" speech on the radio and a TV report on the funeral of the girls murdered in the church bombing in Birmingham. In talking about King's speech, a suburban housewife says that she can't believe the only way "Negroes" can be heard is to descend on Washington. Carla, the Drapers' African-American housekeeper, is obviously disturbed by the girls' funeral and Betty remarks on it by saying that with all of the violence, maybe "this" isn't the right time for civil rights to happen.

Think about it. This episode dealt with the acceptance of a gay character and how he's treated worse than a woman (it's hard to believe that Don would have been annoyed at Peggy for not sleeping with a client). It dealt with civil rights and how people who do not see how they are directly affected by the struggle are eager to avoid any unpleasantness. It dealt with a march on Washington.

Do you see where I'm going? It dealt with all of these things on the day of a huge march for gay rights in DC.

Could it be coincedence? Perhaps, but this episode was co-written and directed by two people who worked on The Sopranos, a show notorious for being planned out to the smallest detail. It's entirely possible that Matt Weiner didn't mean to show an episode about civil rights and a march on Washington on the day of a march on Washington about civil rights. But, that would be a heck of a coincedence, wouldn't it?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unchecked Cynicism

Went to see The Invention of Lying, Ricky Gervais' film, yesterday. It's very funny in the beginning and a little less so towards the end. Gervais is great as always and there are a surprising number of amazing cameos by huge actors (and also ones by Stephen Merchant and Shaun Williamson of Extras). It says a lot about the esteem a writer is held in when so many stars are happy to take bit parts in their movies. Gervais is definitely worthy of that esteem. The biggest thing about this movie though is that, as a twist on the premise, the plot becomes somewhat anti-religion. Well, "somewhat" in that Bill Maher would be jealous of how scathing this film is in its own way. That's not to say that it doesn't show some benefits of religion, it's just that those benefits are much more hidden than the mockery which is as blatant as can be. Overall, worth a DVD rental, good date movie, worth seeing if you're a Gervais fan. Word is that he is co-writing his next film with Merchant, the same team that brought us not only Extras, but The Office (the revolutionary British one, of course).

While pondering how the Cardinals won as many games in the postseason as the Nationals, Pirates, and Orioles combined (and very well soon to be Boston as well), on to week 4 (8-6 last week, 36-26 overall):
  • Minnesota (-10) at St. Louis: I believe I heard this week that St. Louis is 5-32 in their last 37 games.
  • Cincinnati (+8.5) at Baltimore: Division game feels close to me. Don't think we would have foreseen this game as being for first place in the AFC North.
  • Carolina (-4.5) vs. Washington: The Panthers are coming off of their bye week, but part of me expects the Skins to play better now that everyone has completely written them off.
  • Detroit (+10.5) vs. Pittsburgh: A lot of points to give. Don't really know on this one.
  • Kansas City (+7.5) vs. Dallas: Any reason to think the Dallas team that we've seen on national TV the last three weeks can cover more than a TD on the road.
  • New York Giants (-15.5) vs. Oakland: Eli's playing. So is Russell.
  • Philadelphia (-15.5) vs. Tampa: How bad is this game going to get with McNabb coming back?
  • Cleveland (-6) at Buffalo: Cleveland's bad. But the three teams that fired their offensive coordinators in the last week of the preseason are a combined 1-11 (with the only win being Buffalo over one of the other teams, Tampa). I said it last week to great success: Buffalo is way worse than everyone thinks they are.
  • San Francisco (-2.5) vs. Atlanta: Don't get this line. On a neutral field, the Falcons would be favored by 1/2 a point? A Falcons team that barely beat Carolina and looked sluggish against the Patriots? Favored against a team that's a freak play away from being 4-0?
  • Jacksonville (+1.5) at Seattle: Hasselbeck should be back, but I'm a believer.
  • Arizona (-5) vs. Houston: If you take fantasy football out of it, doesn't anyone care even the tiniest bit about this game?
  • Denver (+3.5) vs. New England: Keep making them home dogs, I'll keep picking them, especially if I'm getting more than a field goal.
  • Indianapolis (-4) at Tennessee: Well, I guess the Titans really are a lot worse than we thought. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning is playing some of the best football of his career. I bet against him on Sunday night a few weeks ago in Arizona. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, we won't get fooled again.
  • New York Jets (-2) at Miami: Great rivalry, big division game. Wouldn't be surprised to see this go in the other direction.

Worst of the Worst: #94, The New Guy

Do you remember that scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back when the two main characters, running through a Hollywood backlot, stumble on the set for Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season? They see Affleck and Damon shooting a horribly written scene and when Affleck asks the director for guidance, Gus Van Sant is sitting in the corner, counting his money, and yells out, "I'm busy, Ben." While I wouldn't think that he made so much money, I can imagine that the director of The New Guy, the ninety-fourth worst movie of the decade accoring to Rotten Tomatoes, paid as close attention to the shooting of his crapfest.

The scene that proves this happens towards the beginning, as the main character, portrayed by DJ Qualls, has inexplicably landed himself overnight in a maximum security prison for not doing anything wrong. His cellmate, portrayed by Eddie Griffin, is teaching him how to be feared by other prisoners. Throughout the film, Griffin constantly plays with a lighter, flipping it open and lighting it over and over. In the scene in question, Griffin, talking, flips open the lighter, hits the wheel, and it doesn't light. Then, still talking, he closes it, flips it open again, and lights it successfully. To put it plainly, Griffin screws up during the take and the director still put it into the film.

Such is the norm in a movie as bad as The New Guy. To be honest, it flirts with awesomely bad. There were a few moments that made me laugh out loud because they were so bad. However, there were more moments during which I looked at the time to see how much was left and questioned why I had undertaken this ordeal in the first place. In other words, kudos to Rotten Tomatoes. So far all of the movies I've seen on their list are truly awful.

The story is lame and the jokes fall flat, but the real abomination here is the acting. Qualls and Griffin are as bad as you might expect. Qualls was funny in Road Trip and actually pretty good in Hustle and Flow and the one Lost episode he did, but not here. Griffin is, well, Griffin. You would also expect bad acting from Eliza Dushku and Lyle Lovett (Lovett is offensively bad), and the movie has actual speaking parts for such accomplished thespians as Gene Simmons, Kool Moe Dee, Jermaine Dupri, Tommy Lee, and Vanilla Ice. With that Augean Stables-esque heap of atrociousness, the travesty comes in the form of Zooey Deschanel, just one year before her breakout in Elf. The recent cotton commercial aside, it's painful to see such a huge talent wasted in the part of the non-threatening female friend.

The plot of the movie is that a big loser goes to jail and learns how to be the kid that everyone fears, so he gets himself expelled from his high school, moves to another one, and becomes the school bad-ass. What results is a gross-out teen comedy, but it's rated PG-13. There is no edge, no joke so gross that you can't help but laugh, and absolutely zero intelligence. What kind of person likes a movie like that? Here's one of a frightening number of 10-star reviews on imdb:

"If you are expecting another teenage gross out film, you'll be surprised to
find out that this is a cleverly disguised sweet movie about trying to fit in
that cold cruel world called high school. This movie is filled with surprizes
for movie buffs...and keep your eyes open for alot of surprize cameos. And when
the credits start to roll, stick around for the out takes. You will smile all
the way home. "

Right, so... This is number ninety-four. How many worse comedies are on the list? Soldier on. Five down, ninety-five to go.