Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Into The Territories

On vacation and not much going on other than nightly Jeopardy viewings (we all laughed out loud when the first question in one of the categories tonight had to do with a Russian classical music piece). Went to see True Grit yesterday and it is as enthralling and beautiful as you would expect. Jeff Bridges is brilliant, as are the writing and cinematography. I know that not everyone who reads this blog liked No Country for Old Men and I still can't understand that, but True Grit may be more to most people's likings. There is plenty of symbolism and there are things to talk about, but it is a more straightforward story.

I'll do my best of the year over the next few days, but tomorrow it's off to Charleston. One hundred and fifty years ago on this date, the Union soldiers stationed in South Carolina had consolidated in a small fort in the middle of Charleston's harbor and they would stay there until April 12, 1861. I'm excited to visit what was the first focal point of the secession to see how the modern residents of Charleston are marking the anniversary. I've already seen some Confederate stuff on cars. Odds are I blow up Twitter tomorrow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #58, Christmas With The Kranks

I'm now about two-thirds finished with my quest to watch the one hundred worst movies of 2000-09, according to Rotten Tomatoes, so I expect to finished long before this time next year. Therefore, I took the opportunity to watch the third and final (and worst, in my opinion) Christmas movie on the list, Christmas with the Kranks, based on John Grisham's novel, Skipping Christmas. Judging by my main problem with the movie, Grisham should maybe stick to the formulaic lawyer novels.

There is plenty not to like about the movie-making here. Tim Allen seems to sleepwalk through every movie role he has and it has only ever really worked in Galaxy Quest, where his character was supposed to be disinterested. Granted, the writing in Galaxy Quest is also quite strong, whereas this script was a disaster. Joke after joke that miss, both one-liners and slapstick. The camera work is pretty bad, as each conversation turns into a close-up fest that makes it seem that no two actors were ever in a room together. The editing is probably the worst technical thing about the movie as there are three separate plots that do not happen simultaneously, so the eighty-something-minute film feels like it is three hours long. Of course, it's also pretty boring, which doesn't help.

The worst part about the movie, though, is the message. The plot deals with a couple who, when their daughter joins the Peace Corps and will not be home for Christmas for the first time, look at how much money they usually spend and decide to skip Christmas, opting instead for a cruise. They refuse to decorate, buy anything Christmas-y, or participate in any of the neighborhood contests. I am again reminded that very few Christmas movies involve neighborhoods that have any Jews because everyone is aghast at the plans to skip Christmas. The neighbors protest and even the local priest is upset that the couple is not buying anything decorative. When the daughter decides to surprise everyone by coming home, they then rush to put together an appropriate Christmas and learn that they should be neighborly (read: conform). The third plot deals with a robber and Santa Claus. Don't ask.

Anything missing from that Christmas movie plot above? Hint: it starts with a 'J' and ends with an 's'. Yes, even the priest is unhappy that the family is not celebrating Christmas by buying stuff, there is no mention of them ever going to mass. The religious aspect of Christmas is not mentioned once in the movie. Believe me, I was listening pretty hard for it after a while. So, I was ready to scream anti-Semitism because the movie is about people being incredulous that anyone would ever want to skip Christmas, but it turns out to be anti-Christian, too. It sings the praises of materialism and conformity which, granted, are important aspects of Christmas in our society, but they probably shouldn't be. The only mention of Christ in this movie was as the first half of a compound word ending with 'mas'. I hate a preachy religious movie as much as anyone, but "mas Christ" is exactly what this hateful film could have used.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas

Reposting the same video I post every year -- my favorite Christmas one -- while being happy that a Jeopardy champion comments on this blog.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #78, Deck The Halls

This would be the 2006 Deck The Halls about a small-town rivalry between Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito. I looked at the guide on my cable system at one point last week to see the movie was on Lifetime, so I DVR-ed it to watch it later. Little did I know that Lifetime was actually showing 2005's Deck The Halls, a movie starring Gabrielle Carteris as a widow who finds love and learns the spirit of Christmas from an unlikely stranger. I almost watched that one, because how could you not, but decided instead to find the one I was supposed to watch.

Last Christmas Eve, I watched #91 on this list, Surviving Christmas, starring Ben Affleck and Christina Applegate, and wrote this:
There's a lot of schlock thrown around this time of year. More than half of the kids shows that the networks run are beyond garbage. Most of the music is crap compared to real music. People get sucked up in the season and are willing to put up with what seems like almost anything. You end up with these sentimental family movies. Christmas stuff can only be compared to Christmas stuff, because if you compare Christmas stuff to non-Christmas stuff on an even playing field, Christmas stuff gets its collective holly-decked ass kicked.
I may as well just use that because it fits Deck The Halls to a "T." And that "T" stands for terrible, trivial, trifling, and trite. I have rarely seen a Christmas movie that is such a pure piece of tinsel-covered poop wrapped in a bright, red bow. CBS has their crappy Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, but this one was a major release! Starring Broderick, DeVito, Kristin Davis, and Kristin Chenoweth! The two main characters portray family men and neighbors. Broderick is Steve Finch, a man who loves Christmas but has growing kids who are trying to pull away from family traditions. DeVito plays Buddy Hall (Get it? Deck the Halls?!), a guy deeply in debt who can't hold down a job and has never amounted to anything, even though he has a beautiful family. Looking at what is essentially Google Earth, Hall sees that he can't see his house from space because it's much smaller than his neighbors' homes. Absurd, because that's not how that site works, but whatever. He decides he's going to mortgage his entire life to put up enough lights that his house can be seen from space, but the lights bother Finch, who goes crazy trying to fight back. In one dramatic moment, he even goes so far as to call Hall a "screw-up!" If you guessed that both men get so obsessive in their rivalry that their families move out and they have to win them back in a touching display of Christmas spirit that involves people from all over the town bringing enough lights so that Hall's house can finally be seen from space, well, I'm not going to spoil it for you.

None of the jokes in this movie work. None. The kids have gags, the adults have gags, there is slapstick, there are one-liners, there is more horrible slapstick. Don't miss the scene where they have a wacky speed-skating race with a German-accented Fred Armisen! All falls flat. Then, after the movie has failed and failed and failed, the director wants you to understand that Christmas is a time for love. Even though, the two guys hate each other and have cost each other thousands of dollars and put each other into debt to the point that Hall jokes about never being able to use his credit cards again! But, hey, the two guys made sweet potatoes, so it's cool.

Lucky for the men and all of the rest of the people of their Massachusetts town, their Christmas spirit doesn't have to bogged down by any Jews or any other minorities! There are absolutely none in the town until the female Asian reporter shows up from MTV to see if the house can be lit up enough and throws it to the scientist in charge of the Google Earth-ish site, played by Kal Penn. Even when the townspeople are (or are not, spoiler-wise) bringing lamps and other lights to light up Hall's house, they couldn't have snuck in a token menorah? I guess all the Jews were too busy counting their money to come see the show and Lord knows there are no black people where it's cold! Speaking of the cold, when the house finally can (or cannot) be seen from space, it's snowing. So there would be cloud cover. But I guess the brilliant Indian scientist figured out how to get past that so that the white people could all celebrate their love-filled (read: no annoying people not like them who don't celebrate Christmas) holiday.

Seriously, this is the kind of movie that makes me hate Christmas. I don't mind that there are no minorities in It's A Wonderful Life. Minorities (except for the drunk Italian, Martini) weren't allowed in Bedford Falls in 1946! A sad chapter in upstate New York history, to be sure, but I'm sure that once George kicked old Potter out, a synagogue and an AME church went up within weeks. But in 2006 Massachusetts?! Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis had led the Red Sox to a Series win by then and Troy Brown had led the Pats to a few titles. I can only assume that Deck The Halls (not the one where the woman who played Andrea Zuckerman played a Christian woman, mind you) took place in a KKK enclave. Burning crosses can be seen from space, gentlemen. They can be seen from space by God.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Lost Cause

Nothing else today is as important as remembering that 150 years ago on this date, a state cut itself free from the country because its government felt its right to own other people was threatened. People in South Carolina may lament "Northern Aggression" or talk about states' rights, but any celebration of this time in their history has to be seen for what it is: self-deception. It's not a time to be romanticized or celebrated. On December 20, 1860, the people of South Carolina betrayed their country in order to continue the systemic subjugation of black people.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #7, Strange Wilderness

There is a point at the beginning of Strange Wilderness where Jeff Garlin, playing a TV network executive, watches some video that Steve Zahn, playing the stoner host of an inherited wildlife show, gives to him. The video shows stock footage of random animals and people and Zahn does a voiceover that says wacky things. I snorted. That snort immediately puts the Happy Madison-produced Strange Wilderness out of the class of comedies ranked around it on this list, like 3 Strikes or National Lampoon's Gold Diggers. The fact that I even gave the slightest response means this movie is infinitely funnier and a credit to the writer, who coincidentally also wrote Grown Ups.

No matter that the rest of the movie elicited no such response, that I watched it stone-faced and tried to shut my brain off so I didn't have to work to figure out what semblance of a plot there was. No matter that I yelled at the TV when I realized there was still a half hour left in the movie when I figured an eighty-six minute long movie would fly by. No matter that I now hate Jonah Hill because he is so historically awful in this one. They go in search of Bigfoot and then shoot it with machine guns for no apparent reason? There's a gag that seems endless regarding Zahn getting his genitalia stuck in a turkey's throat? Justin Long's stoner character gets eyes tattooed on his eyelids but then the tattoos are gone in the next scene?

I almost started to laugh once, so none of the rest of the skin-crawlingly bad attempts at what passes for comedy in an Adam Sandler world matter, right?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Facebook? Serious. No, That Doesn't Seem Quite Right.

  • The Monologue:
    • The Jets have begun to lose as Mark Sanchez throws interception after interception. Antonio Cromartie is upset because he's never seen something miss its target this often before.
    • The new inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be Neil Diamond, Darlene Love, and Alice Cooper, or, as they used to be known, The Beach Boys.
    • Mark Zuckerberg was named Time's Person of the Year. Runners-up include DiCaprio's character in Inception and Woody the Cowboy.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The nearly non-stop hilarity of Monday's How I Met Your Mother only goes to illustrate how often that show misses lately.
    • Maybe the three Survivor contestants on the outs -- and how could they not have known this was the case -- should have forced a tie, since they have almost nothing to lose at this point. Prediction for Sunday: Holly wins easily. She's exactly the type of player that's won lately -- the kind that does nothing all game.
    • I've actually been reading much more than TV lately. Entertainment Weekly had The Hunger Games as its #13 thing in entertainment in 2010 and the book is not only good, but a lightning-quick read because it's for young adults. I've gone through the first and half of the second book in less than a week. It took me months to finally get through The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (which, I have to admit, was actually really good).
  • Random Video:
    • The Beatles released Beatles '65 on this date and it included "I'm A Loser" and "I Feel Fine" but also this cover of a classic Chuck Berry song. The song was featured in a movie that was released in Australia twenty-two years ago this month, Young Einstein. Think about that... There are kids out there who can drink that have never heard of Young Einstein. I mean, if that doesn't make you feel old...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dead Serious

  • The Monologue:
    • What a horrible headline. The story has almost nothing to do with what the title says.
    • Three of the top Twitter trends of 2010 had to do with the World Cup, or "Americans aren't as big a percentage of Twitter users as we think they are."
    • Scarlett Johansson, Ryan Reynolds, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Zac Efron, and Vanessa Hudgens, all broke up with their respective other. I'm calling it "Black Tuesday" but only if TMZ is the new black.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Speaking of Hall and Carpenter, their scene with Julia Stiles towards the end of the Dexter season finale on Sunday was quite a good scene. Another strong season, cementing the show's place among the elite.
    • Thor trailer. It looks fine, but I should have faith because the latest Marvel movies have been so good.
    • The team that should have won The Amazing Race won. That's as good as anything else about the season, no matter how lame the last leg was. And the preview for the next season looks great, so long as they don't actually include all of those teams so that Nick and Vicki don't again get rewarded for trying to quit.
    • Jay Cutler gets a lot of press for being a dick, but other than him I can't remember a successful QB with as awful body language as Matt Schaub has. All last night, he just looked like he'd rather be anywhere than on that field.
  • Random Video:
    • The #1 song from Billboard 50 years ago today. This is from a live special eight years later. He had a voice, that's for sure.

Dance, Dance

If you'll excuse the brevity because of a just-slightly-longer-than-anticipated Ravens victory, here is a great video that you have missed if you don't watch The Soup. A family goes on the Today Show to discuss the father who died in the Armed Services. Hilarity ensues. Hilarity ensues?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Forget About The Movement

  • The Monologue:
    • Senate Republicans voted to deny special medical care to firefighters who responded to 9/11. Who can make a joke about that?
    • The Senate voted against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," thereby telling homosexuals they should stay in the closet where they belong. It works for half of the religious right, so why not?
    • Where can I buy stock in "The 32-year-old Cliff Lee will sign a seven-year deal, the biggest in baseball history, and get hurt in his second season of the contract?"
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • There may not be a show on TV that is as versatile as Community. They try all different types of themes and formats, including tonight's stop-motion Christmas special, and they nearly always succeed.
    • There were some killer lines on tonight's 30 Rock ("Say what you will, but my son, Spiderman, is doing fine." "Abused women, be quiet! There is a man speaking!"), but the joke that took me by the most surprise was the quick shot of Alan Alda's book that had a cover depicting a family that consisted of Alda, a witch, a women in a burka, and an African-American kid in a wheelchair.
    • Hehe. Yeah, it's coming.
  • Random Video:
    • Maybe we'll wrap this up tomorrow, maybe over the weekend. You're sick of music from 1992? Well, never forget that your anger is a gift.


30th anniversary of John Lennon's death, so here are a few covers of his work:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Word To Your Moms

  • The Monologue:
    • A picture is worth a thousand words so I don't need to write any.
    • It got ridiculous on the Jets' flight home last night when someone asked Mark Sanchez to pass a blanket and a New England player intercepted it.
    • I'm not saying the Jets' defense had trouble with the Patriots' offense last night, but I've seen Montezuma's Revenge slowed down more effectively.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Not a surprise with its very low ratings, but Terriers was cancelled. I still strongly recommend that people watch it. The season wrapped so well that you could think of it as a miniseries or even a visual novel of sorts. Really amazing show; the next entry in the "brilliant, but cancelled" legacy.
    • The Jimmy V Foundation night on ESPN is for a great cause and it's cool that they show his ESPYs speech every year, but keep it to halftime or between games. I'm trying to watch basketball and they keep talking about how great Jimmy V was. He seemed like a great guy, I get it, but I'm trying to watch a game in progress.
    • For the record, on December 7, Pearl Harbor is a surprisingly close second to Auschwitz for most unsettling place I've ever visited. It is much, much, much, etc., more powerful than I ever imagined it would be.
  • Random Video:
    • We're getting close to the end of this 1992 thing, I promise, by the end of this week. I'm not going to give you the video for the far-and-away biggest single of the year, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, but I'll give you this one, which is quite a bit more enjoyable.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Somehow, I suddenly feel better about the Ravens' loss last night.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #81, Extreme Ops; #82, Supercross: The Movie

A double review because these movies are both a) similar and b) useless. Both have very poorly constructed plots with bad acting and horrible dialogue that are there to connect scenes of extreme sports. It's X-Porn.

Extreme Ops deals with a group of extreme daredevils who are shooting a commercial that requires someone to ski in front of an extreme avalanche. This after they had kayaked over an extreme waterfall and rode their snowboards behind an extreme train (as the tracks went from being clear to snow-covered from shot to shot in an extreme continuity error). When they get on the mountain, they discover an extreme Serbian gun-runner (name of Pavlov or Pavle, depending on the point of the movie that they said his name) and his extreme gang. There is much gunfire and extreme action before they escape and blow up a helicopter with no actual weaponry. To be honest, I didn't really follow the plot all that well other than the gunfire and the extreme sports, and only barely followed the sports. This one gets an edge over Supercross: The Movie because the actors are slightly better with big names like Rufus Sewell, Devon Sawa, and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.

Supercross: The Movie offers only Robert Patrick, Robert Carradine, and three extreme lines from Channing Tatum. The main actors in the film are no-names and for good reason. The dialogue here is considerably worse (one review pointed out that you know you're in for a bad movie when the opening line is, "My name is Trip Carlyle."), but the action shots are considerably better. In fact, the movie was produced by Clear Channel and is effectively an extreme ad for their Motocross coverage. Probably really exciting for someone who gives an extreme darn, but I neither care for extreme sports nor understood a single thing that happened in the races because they never explain the strategy. The plot in Supercross: The Movie was great. Super original. The synopsis said that it's about two brothers who compete in racing while remembering their father who was killed mysteriously. The father is mentioned twice in the entire movie and there is never any hint about how the death happened, much less that it was by nefarious means. Instead, you have two brothers racing, one sells his soul to the bad guys who aren't that badand then redeems himself by winning after his brother makes an extreme sacrifice that leaves him in the hospital. Groundbreaking.

Of the two, Supercross: The Movie is probably better. Its race scenes are more coherent and better shot, while its script is more extreme, by which I mean extremely laugh-out-loud funny. So good for them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some Of That Funky Stuff

  • The Monologue:
    • The 2022 World Cup will be in Qatar instead of the United States. American soccer fans say, "Where?!" You see, neither of them did well in Geography.
    • John McCain is fighting a study that says that homosexuals serving open in the military would not be a big deal. Of course, he's defied conventional wisdom before by picking the Governor of Alaska to be his running mate, so he's a got a great track record with this stuff.
    • I don't even know what to say about this. Caden?
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The writers of Community sure are not afraid of taking chances. Tonight's episode was very dark and more poignant than funny, but it was still funny all the same.
    • The jokes about Donald's business names on 30 Rock were funny, but for me nothing topped MechaGodzila hitting Godzila (one "l" for copyright reasons) in the groin.
    • I think one of the things that make me laugh the most is a gag where people have some sort of showdown with a small animal. Sunny had one tonight where Frank had a stare-off with a bunny.
  • Random Video:
    • The single was technically released in 1993, but the album just barely snuck in on December 15, 1992. In such a great year, arguably the cream of the crop.

Winners Don't Quit; Quitters Don't Win

  • The Monologue:
    • The NCAA ruled that Cam Newton can in fact play in the SEC title game. In other shocking news, DC traffic was nightmarish when it rained this morning.
    • I think one of the reasons I don't like college football -- besides the lack of competitive balance and the chance for only a handful of predetermined teams to win in any given year -- is that the NCAA turns its back on principle for money as much as the pro leagues do, but speaks platitudes about integrity at the same time. Sure, Calipari and others in college basketball get off easy, but it seems to happen more often with football, probably because there is so much more money.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The near-perfect first -- hopefully not only -- season of Terriers wrapped up tonight. It closed so cleanly that, even if it were to not be renewed, people should watch the show because the season is so beautifully self-contained. Really, check it out on Hulu, if it's there, or on iTunes. Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead are very good, but they don't come that close to the brilliant writing and acting of Terriers. A blend of humor and drama that one rarely sees. Best show on TV besides Mad Men and maybe Breaking Bad.
    • It is perhaps fitting that Survivor ended almost exactly as The Amazing Race did this week, but that Survivor dealt with people wrestling with the decision to quit with much more appropriate scorn. Of the two shows, Survivor is the one that treats the game with more respect, whereas The Amazing Race has a bunch of vague rules. Think about the fact that it is entirely possible that Nick and Vicki could win one million dollars after deciding to quit the race. On Survivor, Jane, of whom I have not been a fan all year (though she is clearly the favorite right now), made the best speech of the season with a dead-on monologue about how no matter how tough things seem, you're on a freaking reality show while people around the country are unemployed.
  • Random Video:
    • The look at 1992 music rolls on.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The King Is Gone But Not Forgotten

  • The Monologue:
    • Drew Brees won Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award, the most shocking news since the sun came up this morning. (For the record, I wanted Josh Hamilton.)
    • To protest a rule that low-income people could not use WIC to buy white potatoes, a man in Washington ate only potatoes for two months. The U.S. Department of Agriculture responded by not caring.
    • Interpol is searching for the head of WikiLeaks. If only there was some sort of organization that could release information on where he's hiding...
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • After a relatively weak (or, more appropriately, meandering) season, the Sons of Anarchy finale was outstanding. The whole episode was good, but the point from when SAMCRO was waiting for the Russian Mafia on? Great music, great camera work, great twist, satisfying ending down even to the setup for next season. Bravo.
    • Thursday night, 8PM, TNT: Heat at Cavs. I won't watch the whole thing, but I'm sure as hell watching the beginning and tuning in a couple of minutes early.
    • I'm going to have to see this movie at some point after this spectacular review. The best is the director's Uwe Boll-esque -- minus the curses -- sentiment at the end.
  • Random Video:
    • More from 1992. It was a sick year. At some point, I'll list the albums that came out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Heat Went 1-2 Since My Last Post

  • The Monologue:
    • I realized I hadn't posted in almost a week. Not doing posts for almost a week?! I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...
    • A Spider-Man musical? What a great idea!!!
    • Giving info to WikiLeaks is treason and treason has to be punished! Just ask Scooter Libby and, um, whoever it was that had him out Valerie Plame!
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The end of last night's The Amazing Race pissed me off, big time. Absolute BS.
    • Human Target revamped itself with some new characters and a slightly new premise. It was probably the most fun show on the air last year and it will take some time to find itself, but a lot of the pieces are there.
    • Season finales this week for Sons of Anarchy, Terriers (hopefully not the series finale), and The Walking Dead. TV gets a lot less entertaining next week.
  • Random Video:
    • Okay, I'm officially obsessed with the "Class Reunion 1992" station on my Yahoo Music app. Let's do some music from 1992, a great music year, for a while.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ears Bleeding Like The Guys In Star Trek II After Those Bug Things Crawled Out But Maybe In More Pain Than They Were In

I didn't post last night because all I did was watch college basketball until the wee hours. Duke looks very good. Kentucky and Washington set the bar for most entertaining game of the early season. To make up for it, here's a great new song that all the kids will be talking about. It's Angelina from The Jersey Shore!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An American Tragedy

No need to harp on the lowest common denominator humor to which a lazy How I Met Your Mother writing staff can sink, nor to talk about the obvious Stephen King influences in the writing of The Walking Dead. No, it's November 22, forty-seven years to the day that President Kennedy was assassinated by no fewer than two people in Dallas. The only way to pay homage to such an important date in American history is with one of our national treasures, Bret Michaels, performing the Star Mangled, er, Spangled Banner.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #13, Constellation

After an opening flashback that is so schmaltzy that my laptop veritably oozed, the main character of Constellation -- played by none other than Billy Dee Williams -- walks through an airport concourse. He's finally back home in Alabama after having been away for a long time, drawn because of the death of his sister. He goes towards baggage claim, passing the Starbucks and gates that you'd see in an airport, teeming with passengers. And, as he passes these lines of people, some of the extras turn and stare at the camera. It was at this point that I got a big grin on my face and knew that I was in for something special.

Constellation, recipient of the rare Rotten Tomatoes "Blutarsky" (0%), is perfectly bad. The rare good moment is so incongruent in this film that it, itself, seems bad. The movie follows a family coming together for said funeral. The sister who passed had a long-kept secret; she had a love affair with a white man in the 1940s and paid the price for it. To be fair, I couldn't tell if the rednecks raped her, just beat her up, or merely cracked their knuckles, because nobody ever discussed what happened and she didn't seem to be bruised at all after the event. Just sad. So, so very sad. This sadness is apparent in the constant voice-over narration in the movie from the young version of the sister, played by Gabrielle Union, who was apparently going for some sort of Best Overactor award. When the family comes together -- along with a whole heck of a lot of random white love interests who nobody seems to say anything about even though they are afraid to speak of the dearly departed's one-time affair -- they hash out old problems between them. Lucky for them, none of them actually have even the slightest modicum of animosity towards each other, so the tension is extraordinarily low for a drama movie. Wonderful for the bereaved, but incredibly boring for us.

They all have names that are supposed to be folksy, but nobody actually has in real life, and the director gives us a great treat each time they meet each other. While the script is so cheesy that I couldn't eat meat while I was watching the movie, there is a smattering of ad-libbed scenes as the characters eat meals or have drinks. Chemistry between actors can be a powerful boon -- look at Swingers or Terriers -- but there is no chemistry here. They either talk over each other or wait way too long to make sure the other isn't still going to speak. One of the best laugh-out-loud moments of the movie happens during one of these ad-libs. The movie is rated PG13 and the director seemed to be shooting for that, given the violence that seemed to be cut from on-screen, but not explained. PG13 only allows for one "f-word" in the entire movie and that one occurrence comes in a big dramatic spot. So, later when one of the actors is ad-libbing and drops the "f-bomb," the audio cuts out. Better to not waste money on another take!

The music sounds like it came from someone's keyboard, and not someone horribly skilled at writing music. This music is used for background in one of the many, many, many scenes where characters stare at each other or just into space, thinking about how they can fix their lives. I assume that's what they're thinking since, again, there's little exposition as to what they learned from staring into space and what resolution there is in the end doesn't make much sense with the rest of the movie.

Billy Dee Williams is at his I-just-don't-give-a-crap best as he does the Billy Dee Williams chuckle and then stares into space. There are other actors that I recognized, but I won't embarrass them here. I will point out that Zoe Saldana acts circles around the rest of the cast. She came into her own last year with a good performance in Star Trek and a great -- and very underrated -- one in Avatar. She's so good in this movie that it makes you wonder if it could be only half-bad if everyone else was up to par with her. Unfortunately, because she is so much better than everyone else, it actually makes her parts not work at all because she doesn't fit with the rest of the garbage performances put up.

This, the review for the sixty-second film I've seen on this list, is one of the longest I've written yet and there is so much to love/hate about this movie that I could keep going. Like many funny-bad movies, the awfulness ends up taking over so any humor wears off. By the end, most of the things I had laughed at in the beginning became merely boring. Still, the humor that I found here was not only rich, but because I had never heard of this movie it was a surprise, which goes a long way. I like laughing at bad movies, and overwrought writing, bad acting, and poor direction? It works every time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

High-Fiving A Million Angels

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Even with no Shirley and only a very strange two-second appearance by Pierce, tonight's Community may have been the best non-paintball episode of the show. Everything fit together perfectly and there were many -- many -- laugh-out-loud moments.
    • 30 Rock was funny throughout, but it can be summed up in one line from Alec Baldwin. "It wasn't the feces, it was the poorly-scribbled hand-written notes that said, 'Help me.'" Monkey escape, indeed.
    • House has taken a big step back from last season. It's not having a season anywhere close to as good as Grey's Anatomy is having. Ugh.
    • Forget the fact that they always find a way to choke in the tournament (I've been burned by picking them too many times), #4 Pittsburgh is way overrated.
  • Random Video:
    • I hadn't actually seen or heard the Palin/Situation video until today. It is even worse (read: better) than any of us could have imagined. Best part is Bristol talking about why she's saving herself for marriage. Sex doesn't count if it results in a freaking out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Can't Be More Direct -- Watch 'Terriers'

  • The Monologue:
    • Best line from this article: "U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday's verdict confirms that the Obama administration's decision to try Gitmo detainees in civilian courts 'was a mistake and will not work.'" Also not working for Rep. Hoekstra: the 14th amendment.
    • The Air Force is warning its troops not to use FourSquare or Facebook Places. Private Johnson is now Mayor of Fallujah! (@Fallujah with 13,999 others)
    • Bristol Palin and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino teamed up to make a PSA in favor of abstinence and safe sex. That video is so like a black fly in my Chardonnay.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I can't say it any more clearly -- FX's Terriers is the best show airing on TV right now, by far. It's funny, sad, suspenseful, and brilliantly acted and written. I can't recommend it enough.
    • Now the two best players in this season of Survivor -- it's all relative -- are out and it's wide open between six of the remaining nine contestants. A big twist in tonight's episode shows that even in an off-year, the format still works.
    • Human Target returned tonight. No better mindless fun on TV. Hawaii Five-0 is a distant second.
    • I was playing with my Yahoo Music app and I found that with its new Pandora-like format, you can get stations called "Class Reunion" that let you pick only songs from a specific year. Now I can totally avoid any new music.
  • Random Video:
    • Wherever does Lady Antebellum get the ideas for their music?

Grizzly Spice

  • The Monologue:
    • DeSean Jackson said a dumb thing. Reading his statement totally made me feel like I got hit in the head and knocked out.
    • Bristol Palin is going to the finals of Dancing With The Stars. To be fair, we knew this would happen when her mother backed all of her opponents.
    • Why do people in the US still care at all about the British royals? Do they still have the power to cut off anyone's heads? No? Eh.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The major plot twist in tonight's Sons of Anarchy was an egregious cop-out. They start out the episode with this amazing scene and it means nothing two minutes later. Lots of good stuff on the show still, but it's been a pretty weak season. What would have easily been the best show once Mad Men is gone has dropped to at least #4 and isn't even close to the best show on its own network.
    • Lots of college basketball today. A great game in Baylor-UConn, a dominant performance in #5 Ohio State pounding #10 Florida in Gainesville, what -- at the time of writing -- is on its way to a great game in San Diego State-Gonzaga (I loved SDSU as an 11-seed last year that lost its 1st round game by 3; they return all five starters). I don't just like Michigan State to win it all, I love them. Experienced, talented, a team that usually peaks in March to begin with.
  • Random Video:
    • Spice hit #1 on the UK charts on this date in 1996. I still can't often shake the urge to zigazig ha.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Laughing Matter

  • The Monologue:
    • The Washington Redskins.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I realize I haven't done those TV rankings in a bit, but The Walking Dead would be quite high. Not only is it beautifully shot and pays fitting homage to Romero, but the second episode contained something I'd never seen before on TV. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.
    • I liked the "Space Teens" part of tonight's How I Met Your Mother, but after that they just tried way too hard for joke after joke. And when they're trying too hard and I'm not laughing, I notice the laugh track. And once I notice the laugh track, I'm done for the show.
    • A few shows are really on fire this year. Dexter is having its second-best season to last year. Grey's Anatomy is having their best season in quite some time. Ditto 30 Rock. Terriers is still the best show airing right now, by quite a bit.
  • Random Video:
    • I like this song fine, but there are some awful, awful rhymes. "Old piano" and "I don't know"? "Morning" and "talking"? More coherent than Stone Temple Pilots lyrics, but still...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #41, Zoom: Academy For Superheroes

When you mix Tim Allen trying to recapture the magic that he found in Galaxy Quest with producers trying to cash in on the success of The Incredibles, the result is going to be predictably bad. Allen plays a washed-up superhero who is ostensibly a drunk, though you only know that because he is unshaven -- not only do you never seen him drink alcohol, he makes a milkshake at some point and what was supposed to be alcohol came from a regular water bottle. When his former archnemesis -- it doesn't matter that it's also his brother, but it goes to show how cheesy the movie is -- threatens to return and do something bad, I guess, though they never say what it is, he is called into action to train a group of misfit kids with superpowers and form them into a team. After the requisite fart and booger jokes, the kids sweetly find acceptance within their own group -- now a family -- and have to fight the bad guy. "Sweetly" was sarcastic there.

This movie was a pure cash grab. The writing is horrible, with Allen cracking non-sequitir one-liner after another -- and practically looking at the camera as he does it. One great example of bad writing is at the beginning when, upon being told about the threat, Rip Torn says, "I speak Greek, not geek!" He doesn't look thrilled to be saying it. With such a bad script, the acting is bound to be weak as Allen and co-star Courteney Cox look as if they're giving almost no effort. Why bother, when what you're saying is going to be so poor?

It's not just the dialogue. They really do never explain why the bad guy is so dangerous and any confrontation with him is over quickly with a we-don't-know-what-we're-doing-so-pay-no-attention-to-the-actual-action flair. As with many kids' movies, the protagonist kids end up playing pranks on the grown-ups that may make them seem cool to kids, but to me it just makes them seem obnoxious. Throw a guy with no powers into a room and hit him with a tornado! Hilarious!

There are maybe one or two one-liners that connect and that, at least, makes this better than many of the other movies on the list. Because this is a kids' movie, I grade it on a lower scale, as well. Would I stick my kid in front of this movie when I need babysitting? I'd probably rather she watch Aladdin, but there are worse things out there. This isn't evil, it's just lazy.

The best example of the laziness comes in a scene when Kate Mara, as the teenage girl hero, comes into some sort of dance that the kids are holding. There are only four kids, mind you. She's supposed to be 17, but she was 23 when this came out. She's wearing a dress that Cox's character gave her and wants to look good for the teenage boy hero. Allen and Cox greet her at the door and when the boy comes over, they leave. As they walk away, Tim Allen absolutely looks back and checks out Mara's ass. They left it in the movie. I googled to see if anyone else had noticed it, but there's no mention in any other review that I could find. It's clear as day; I rewatched the scene three times. The cheesiness of Zoom makes it slightly enjoyable, but something like that is comedy gold.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Perils Of Fandom

It's very easy to say the Ravens should have won tonight because the refs screwed them on the no-call on blatant pass interference. However:
  • they spotted the Falcons an entire half of football;
  • they were awful on third-down defense all night;
  • Ryan could have spiked the ball three times from where he was on that last play and the Falcons win because they were in field goal range.

But still, that no-call was awful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Word To Your Very Old Republican Mother

  • The Monologue:
    • This article cracks me up. Republicans like more popular shows than Democrats. Democrats like better ones, but also some really stupid ones. Surprised that 30 Rock wasn't higher on the Democrat side. I like some from both lists, but most of my favorites are on the Dem side. This also makes me think of a Def Comedy Jam-style routine...
    • Republicans are all like, "We like The Mentalist. CBS is great." Democrats are all like, "CBS is for old people. We like the Kardashians!"
    • No, seriously, a lot of the shows on the Republican side are on CBS, which dominates the "nearing the afterlife*" demographic.
    • This one is sweet, but the teaser on Yahoo read: "Bay Area bear is a war vet," which, you know, could mean a number of things.
    • *If you believe in an afterlife.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Sons of Anarchy did get a lot more focused this week after biding its time plot-wise all season. I especially like that they brought back the main plot from the first season of Jax questioning the direction of the MC. They had strayed way too far from that.
    • I'm basically ripping off a Kornheiser rant from the other day, but he's right. Tina Fey won the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, awarded by the Kennedy Center to the person who best symbolizes comedy for their time. The past winners include Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Carl Reiner, and Richard Pryor. Fey is certainly one of the great current comedy minds. Here's who hasn't won: Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and many others. Fey's comedy, from 30 Rock to the Palin impersonation, has reflected today's society, but I'd argue that Woody Allen is the greatest living comedy mind. I know the Kennedy Center is trying to get press, but put aside even Rock and Seinfeld; Tina Fey does not deserve any non-gender-specific award for comedy that Woody Allen or Mel Brooks hasn't yet won.
  • Random Video:
    • Twenty -- twenty -- years ago today, To The Extreme hit #1 on the US charts and stayed there for sixteen weeks. There was a list of the top 100 rap songs somewhere on-line (so bad that I don't feel like looking for it) that had, in its top ten, two Beastie Boys songs, two Eminem songs, and this song. I think we'll revisit this rap song thing in the future, but until then... Yo, VIP, kick it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The First Step To Hating Black People And Immigrants

  • The Monologue:
    • By going to Indonesia, Obama finally confirmed that he's a Muslim. It's a relief that we know, at least. Now if he'll only visit Kenya, so we can prove that he's a foreigner, too.
    • Adam Sandler gave Mazeratis to each of his co-stars in Grown Ups. Rob Schneider finally has a house, which is great.
    • San Francisco is banning toys from Happy Meals. Railing against government doing parents' work is going to make me sound like I'm in the Tea Party. Maybe people should teach their kids that some food is bad for them, no matter how much the kids cry for a toy. Or does San Francisco want to ban Cracker Jack, too? Damn, this makes me mad.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Finally getting around to going through the second season of Steven Seagal: Lawman. The over-earnestness, the ego. So unintentionally funny.
    • One of the cops on the show described a rain shower that lasted all night as "a mini-Katrina." Is that how they do rain in New Orleans now? "It's going to be sunny on Tuesday, but we're looking at a microscopic Katrina on Wednesday morning, so the commute may be rough."
    • Also, watching A&E gives me commercials for the show Psychic Kids. How have I still never watched that?
    • People are treating that Wheel of Fortune video like it's super hard to solve that game. One letter is hard, of course, but there have been plenty of times that I've watched it, gotten a hunch on a solution, and had one or two letters make it clear to me. Not the hardest game show of all time. It's just that the contestants are usually dim-witted enough that it makes the show seem hard by comparison.
  • Random Video:
    • What about these Happy Meal toys? They're good for kids!

Okay, fine, you know you want it now. What is MJ wearing?!

This Post Offends Me

  • The Monologue:
    • I'm receiving word this evening that Wade Phillips was fired as coach of his Madden franchise quickly into his unemployment when his team quit on him after an 0-3 start.
    • From this article: "Duncan has said the constitutional amendment was not intended as an attack on Muslims but an effort to prevent activist judges from relying on international law or Islamic law when ruling on legal cases." In order to be fair to Muslims, the amendment will be revised so that Oklahoma courts can also not rely on the Code of Hammurabi or the Art of War. Bible? Still okay. Love how every right-wing crazy in the country knows the phrase, "Sharia Law." Obama's bringing it to the country, don't you know.
    • I'm sure this is true of all extremes, but I'm going to pick on my own ilk here. The difference between liberal and too liberal is when you start taking things so seriously that you can't laugh or use certain things as satire because of political correctness. Just because one makes a joke does not mean they don't care. If anything, said joke can be used to shine a light on the injustice at which the joke itself is prodding (see: Beavis and Butthead and others). This isn't a rant based on anything that happened to me, just based on observation.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • When did Jon Miller and Joe Morgan become worthy of being fired? And how did they get booted from ESPN before any of the approximate 90% of their workforce who has been involved in sexual harassment claims?
    • Finally caught the pilot episode of The Walking Dead. Wow. There is some ridiculously good TV being made right now.
    • I meant to do some midseason NFL rankings at some point, but everyone knows where the league stands. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England, and the Jets, are the top four. Everyone else is fairly far behind. The Ravens are probably the best, as Pittsburgh has some questions about their line and secondary, New England has questions about their big play ability, and the Jets are looking like they could go into a free fall at any moment. I don't believe in the Giants as being elite. Going on a roll against Carolina, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, and Dallas? Eh.
  • Random Music Video:
    • This song entered the UK pop charts on this date in 1969.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #23, The In Crowd

Nobody has ever heard of this movie. It is from 2000, right after teen thrillers were a really big deal, so someone decided to make a teen thriller. Girl gets out of a mental hospital and goes to work at a posh country club. The "it" girl at the club takes said former mental patient under her wing and brings her into an exciting life of playing "I Never" on the beach, drinking, date rape, and implied homoeroticism between hot women. The "it" girl has a dark secret that she uses to terrorize her friends. Mental patient is made to feel crazy because she starts to find the secret, but then exposes the evil "it" girl and saves the day before becoming friends with the less attractive (but still attractive, because it's a movie) friend and the guy with some sort of developmental disability played by someone who should never, ever play a guy with some sort of developmental disability (see: Holton, Mark; Leprechaun). The film makers couldn't find anyone famous to be in the movie, so the "it" girl sort of looks like Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, the mental patient sort of looks like Jenny Garth, and the cute and concerned guy sort of looks like Matthew Lillard.

As I'm sure I've said in the past, some of these movies work up hatred and anger, some work up puzzlement, some work up schadenfreude at the film makers' extreme failure. Some of these movies, The In Crowd included, work up absolutely nothing. I watch it and just wonder why anyone even bothered. Everything about it -- the music, the acting, the script, the plot, the direction -- is bad, but just bad enough to be flat and not funny in any way. The movie is flat and boring enough that I ended up turning it into my own MST3K; because the only way the poor actors could generate angst was through frequent dramatic pauses, I added my own dialogue. It didn't make the movie any more entertaining, but it did keep me from falling asleep. Until the end, that is, as I slept through the climactic fight scene. After realizing that I didn't know how the ending came to be, I went back and watched the scene. Meh. I wish I had just settled with sleeping through it. The In Crowd. Catch the excitement.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Once I Blog This, It's Out There Forever. I Get It.

  • The Monologue:
    • Former Dallas offensive lineman Nate Newton has lost 175 pounds. This marks the second time he's lost this much as he once lost 213 pounds. Of marijuana from his van.
    • George Bush said that the aftermath of Katrina -- specifically what Kanye West said about him -- was the low point of his presidency. Similarly, lots and lots of people thought the aftermath of Katrina was the low point of their lives.
    • A United Nations study shows that Norway is the happiest country in the world and Zimbabwe the least so. In Zimbabwe, the per capita income is 176 dollars. On the good side, there's not much food to spend that on.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • With a rare (as in once in the last three months) night to myself, I went to see The Social Network. It is overall a pretty good movie, visually stunning at times. There are flashes of true brilliance in Sorkin's script, but there are also some really confounding moments of preachy dialogue. Really preachy. Definitely worth seeing, but not the masterpiece I thought it might be. It's a clear third among movies this year after, in some order, Toy Story 3 and Inception.
    • I already have a front-runner for Christmas movie this year (assuming I get to a movie on Christmas). True Grit (trailer here) is going to be awesome.
    • I thought Community tonight was really, really good. They don't all have to be big productions like last week's zombie episode.
  • Random Music Video:
    • This popped up on Pandora as coming from Del Amitri's "Greatest Hits" album. Which is a single? And isn't this video a little creepy, since it seems it's possible that they are all flirting with their erstwhile mothers? Anyway, 132 seconds of perfection.