Friday, July 30, 2010

No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure

  • The Monologue:
    • Ellen is leaving Idol. So are we all.
    • They claim this is the world's biggest tent. I claim it's a female condom for Snooki.
    • Ravens rookie Sergio Kindle injured himself falling down stairs in the middle of the night. Now, they're saying it might be narcolepsy. Right... Narcolepsy... I had a narcolepsy and Coke just last night.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Yes, I watched the season premiere of Jersey Shore. I didn't watch any of the first season, but I was curious and the clips I had seen looked fun to mock. Well, color me hooked. It's maybe more stupid than I had feared, but it is a lot funnier than I had hoped. They are dumb. They say lots of funny, dumb things. A few highlights from the season premiere were Snooki getting a spray tan because Obama is taxing tanning salons because, she claims, he is already dark-skinned; Snooki falling in love with fried pickles; lots of funny dancing; and The Situation saying my favorite line, "I'm bringing Jersey to the MIA, which is Miami."
    • By the way, probably the first time I've turned on MTV in at least five years.
    • Why do all lists suck? Someone comes out with their list of the top ten foreign films of the last decade, but includes a rule that they can only have one film per language. So even though Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pan's Labyrinth are easily two of the top films, only Pan's Labyrinth made their list. City of God was number one and it is fantastic.
    • Another list dealt with the biggest gay badasses on TV. Omar wasn't number one. Let me make this clear: Omar is the number one badass, gay or not.
  • Random Video:
    • 44 years ago today, Cream made its onstage debut, at a club in Manchester.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And Soon: The Amish Industrial Revolution

  • The Monologue:
    • Amar'e Stoudemire signs with the Knicks and then discovers he's Jewish. On an unrelated note, the video of Eddie Murphy as Jesse Jackson singing, "Don't let me down, Hymietown," is nowhere to be found on the internet.
    • In the extortion trial of Karen Sypher, Rick Pitino said they had sex "very briefly." There's a shot clock! It was the famous Louisville gun-and-run offense.
    • This story is my favorite of the day. I picture buggies being caulked and Lukas Haas dying of snake bite or dysentery.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • This year is Bizarro Entourage. Every story line stinks except for Johnny Drama's. I bet they can make it all better by just throwing in a few more NFL cameos!
    • I still need to watch the Mad Men season premiere again, but here's a good interview with Matthew Weiner where he talks about what he was trying to do with certain parts of the episode.
    • Daniel Craig is going to play Mikael Blomkvist in the (much feared by me) Hollywood version of the Stieg Larsson's series. I can live with that. The big question is who will play Salander. The three names I've seen floated so far have been Scarlett Johannson, Natalie Portman, and Carey Mulligan. Of those, Mulligan is the only one I find even close to acceptable. I don't care if Fincher's directing the movies; I don't have high hopes.
  • Random Video:
    • More of things based on video games:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


  • The Monologue:
    • The cast of Jersey Shore rang the bell at the NYSE today. In other unrelated news, the market sucks. Oh, non-sequitirs.
    • Oh. My. God. This movie is going to be so exciting. "A-6, motherf***er!"
    • Here's a sentence from that last story. "Michael Bay is planning to produce a movie centered on Ouija boards, and Ridley Scott is attached to direct a 'Monopoly' film." Seriously, what the hell. I'm just ending the blog post there for the night before I get to anything about Entourage or links to Mad Men articles. I give up.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • They are making a movie about "Monopoly" and Ridley Scott is directing it.
  • Random Video:
    • I'm not kidding, I quit on life.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spoiler-Free Sneak Preview: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In watching the bad movies, I've pontificated at length on the misery that is movies based on video games. To recap: there are a bunch on the list, many are directed by Uwe Boll (perhaps the worst director of all time), the most critically-acclaimed video game movie ever is the not-so-great Mortal Kombat. Video game movies usually take themselves too seriously and fail by having to stick to story lines that are not generally feature film quality. So, maybe it should not come as a surprise that tonight I saw the best video game movie I can remember seeing and it is a) made by a director who is known for not taking anything too seriously and b) not actually based on a video game.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series (which I have not read, but skimmed the plot on wikipedia to see where the movie differed), dealing with a Canadian slacker (here played by Michael Cera) who tries to find himself through an American girl (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be in a relationship with her, he has to deal with his current 17-year-old girlfriend, his nosy roommate and sister, and -- most of all -- defeat the girl's League of Evil Exes by besting her seven former significant others in battle.

I recognize the movie doesn't open for almost two weeks, so I'm not even going to go near any spoilers. Instead, I'll focus on the art of the movie. Cera is not nearly as annoying as he's grown to be in most stuff lately. Winstead, who I vaguely remember from Final Destination 3, is really good. There are some nice performances from Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Brie Larson, and Jason Schwartzman, among others (and some cameos that are fun to pick out). Besides Winstead, the actor who steals the movie is Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate, with some great lines and deadpan sarcasm. The music is great, with a lot of video game themes (a lot of Zelda, specifically -- I think Link to the Past) and some nice original stuff from Beck, who wrote all of the music that Scott's band plays.

The winner here is Edgar Wright's direction. I already love Wright for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and, most of all, Spaced. These two movies and one TV show were all about self-irreverence and rapid-fire pop culture references. He brings that to Scott Pilgrim and gets a lot out of his actors while still working in multiple sight gags and one-liners. The movie is really, really funny and that doesn't work without there being heart to the less wacky scenes. The wacky scenes are really wacky -- I wouldn't recommend this movie to someone who either hates video games or isn't just a little nerdy -- but they still fit with the rest of the movie.

I've been pickier lately about what movies I buy on DVD because I rarely watch them, but this is the kind of movie I could see getting. It's got a ton of great lines, it's really fun visually, and it's the kind of movie that would be great to put on at a party. It obviously pales in comparison to Inception, but it's a niche movie. You like quirky movies? You like video games? You should enjoy this one.

The Winner Of The Ham Battle Is You!

Yes, the time stamp is right. It's almost 2 (2?!) in the morning. Had to make an airport run. So, my grand plan of analyzing Mad Men is on hold, though not only for the late hour. Tonight's season premiere was similar in tone to last season's finale, which is to say that it was unlike every other episode of the show. I was initially put off a little bit by the light, comedic tone, but that tone made sense as the show went on and we learned about where Draper is in his life right now and what he (thinks he) has to do to overcome that situation, whether it's being an asshole or being roughed up by prostitutes. So, a second watching is in order so I can see how the tone jives throughout. I wouldn't do that with most shows, but Mad Men, the best show currently on TV (yeah, I put it a notch ahead of Breaking Bad) merits that.

I also went this morning to see Salt, after hearing a lot of surprisingly good reviews, and I can add mine to the list. It's a hell of a lot of fun. It's pretty much like the Bourne movies with a quick pace and a few nice twists and turns. Also, like the Bourne movies, you have more competent acting than you'd see in most action films; here with Angelina Jolie and a really, really strong performance from Liev Schrieber. It's going to be a franchise and I think it has the origin story to merit that. Inception is on a different level from every other movie this year, but I think Salt is my favorite summer popcorn movie thus far. Iron Man 2 was entertaining, but really easy to nitpick. Maybe everything in Salt falls neatly into place as the plot unfolds, but that lack of loose ends means there's nothing there to pick apart.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #90, Dragonfly

There's really not much to say about Dragonfly because it is really, really boring. Probably more forgettable than bad. It deals with a doctor, played by Kevin Costner, whose wife disappears after a bus accident in Venezuela. This happens during an opening credits sequence where Costner looks TV movie-ish melodramatic and you can't quite figure out if he's also in Venezuela or not. He grieves her and starts hanging out in the area of the hospital where she worked as a child oncologist. The kids, even those who didn't know her, start having near-death experiences or comas where they see Costner's wife and tell him that she has a message for him. He starts seeing visions of her and of dragonflies, which she told him is the animal she would like to be after reincarnation. The visions eventually lead him to go to Venezuela to confront where the accident happened, leading to an ending so cheesy that it has been outlawed in seven states.

One has to wonder about Kevin Costner. He's been in some great movies and even won an acting Oscar, but he can be so wooden. This is a movie about a guy who lost his wife -- who was pregnant, by the way -- and he has a really hard time getting the emotions across. The movie takes place in Chicago and he started out with either a really bad Boston accent or a worse Chicago one, but he dropped it after a little bit, to his credit, I guess. The Untouchables is my favorite movie of all time and it doesn't get there if Costner, as the lead, isn't a big part of that. But, he's been so bad over the last, what, decade? More? He's a non-entity as an actor now and it's hard to believe that anyone would have cared enough about this movie one way or the other to bother reviewing it to get it on this list.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Up In The Air

  • The Monologue:
    • It's really just the picture in this story that is funny. Looking like a hip-hop Bugsy Malone.
    • And speaking of weird-looking pictures, Orlando Bloom has apparently married a 12-year-old.
    • Some woman is suing Simon Cowell for being mean to her on a reality show. Yesterday, in the same court, the cast of Jersey Shore sued MTV for robbing them of their dignity.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Louie is really, really good. Really, really smart. For instance, for someone to say, "I am a fan of you," is technically bad grammar; it should be "yours." Louie had a skit where one of the main jokes was someone from Alabama saying over and over, "My sister is a fan of you." Subtle, but so smart.
    • Last week's Entourage was actually really, really good until the last half of the episode dealt with all Vince and Turtle. It went from enjoyable to dead stop in a second when Vince saw Adrian Peterson at an auction for no apparent reason. There's hope there, but it's slim.
    • I said the other day that Inception is the best movie I've seen in a couple of years, which means that I think it's better than Avatar. It probably is, but I realized that's saying a lot. The plot is much better, but I still think the latter gets slept on in terms of overall quality.
    • So many like Inception (and so few people dislike it) that Roger Ebert has been on this kick of movies that everyone likes. It's a pretty good question and one to which I may give some thought. He threw out Pulp Fiction and WALL-E, but I know that's not true because a certain someone I know didn't really like either. Other possibilities include Casablanca (duh), Back To The Future, E.T., and Jaws.
  • Random Video:
    • There's animal cruelty and then there's animal cruelty, and this... Well... It's one of those two things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hard To Get By Just Upon A Smile

  • The Monologue:
    • The senate approved the bill that will restore unemployment benefits. Just in time for some of them to cash in on those after the elections.
    • An independent candidate for the Wisconsin state assembly was not allowed to describe herself on the ballot as "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch'." It's going to be very difficult for her to differentiate herself from her opponent, Ted Thewhitemansbitch.
    • Nick Saban is angry at the NFL. It's mutual, Nick.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Jimmy Johnson, the former Dallas Cowboys coach and current Fox NFL co-host, is going to be a contestant on Survivor: Nicaragua, airing this fall. Not a joke. How could he possibly ever win?
    • I'll probably gush more about Mad Men, returning this Sunday, later this week, but I have to go back to another AMC show, Breaking Bad. The first season was really good. The second is absurd. There's an episode called "Peekaboo" that has to go up on the short list of greatest single episodes of the last ten years or so. Other candidates: "College" from The Sopranos, "The Constant" from Lost, "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." from Mad Men, "Hamsterdam" from The Wire, "Final Grades" from The Wire, "Broken" from House.
    • And, madre de dios, Breaking Bad is freaking bloody.
  • Random Music Video:
    • The Tea Party may hate him solely because of his adopted name, but Cat Stevens turns 62 today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I've been working a lot lately, so I haven't had much chance to watch or read anything the last few days. So, rather than commenting on anything, I'm more wondering if anything important happened today in history. Anything?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thanks In Advance For Your Laughter

  • The Monologue:
    • On the good side, the stars of Jersey Shore are getting huge raises. On the bad side, all of that extra money means it's just a matter of time until they replay the tanning bed death scene from Final Destination 3. (Here is the really NSFW scene, if you want.)
    • This doesn't even need a joke. It's just great. Bill Murray voiced Garfield because he thought that it was written by the Coen Brothers.
    • One has to wonder what a Coen Brothers Garfield movie might look like. Garfield is angry because Jon stole his lasagna, so he enlists Odie to hunt down the pasta. On the way, Nermal mistakenly gets run over by a car and Odie gets shot. Garfield finally gets his lasagna back after a big monologue about how he doesn't "f***ing roll on Mondays!"
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I've thought of a bunch of different ways to review Inception, but the movie is so original that it's not fair to anyone to actually say anything about the plot or what makes the movie so great. Some of the best things about the movie are so cool that they would seem spoiler-ish. One thing that stood out to me is that, after re-watching Avatar last week and talking about how movies are trying to re-create that magic, Inception's best action sequences involve a startling lack of CGI. I'll leave it at that so you'll have to see it to understand. And see it, you should, as it's not only the best movie that Christopher Nolan has ever made, but it's the best movie I've seen since probably WALL-E two years ago. I'm seriously considering going to see it again this weekend.
  • Random Video:
    • Parrot vuvuzela, folks.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Long Day

I'm saving up a review of Inception for tomorrow. It's, um, pretty good, I guess. I didn't hate the time I spent watching it. I'll stop being coy. In the meantime, today is the 71st birthday of one Dion DiMucci, who recorded this song solo (the title of the video is wrong) in 1961. He had a pretty good voice.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #74, Envy

When I watched Swept Away, I said that Guy Ritchie was the best director on the list. That was a mixture of assumption and not having reviewed the list closely. I was wrong. Assuming there are no surprise Spielberg movies on the list, the best director is actually Barry Levinson, who directed Envy. In fact, the pedigree of most of the people involved in Envy is quite high. The movie has five main characters, portrayed by Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz, Amy Poehler, and Christopher Walken. How could a movie with those people involved make any list of the worst movies?!

There have been a couple of movies (Broken Bridges and Boat Trip come to mind quickly) that I've said haven't really belonged on the list. In each of their places, I have said that I would put the movie Year One. That is a movie that also has a strong pedigree -- written and directed by Harold Ramis, starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, and a ton of other greats like David Cross and Paul Rudd -- but just didn't work. There were no laughs to be found. Something in it missed the mark, as if the movie had jumped the shark before it even began. With each horrible second, the chances of laughing at anything got longer and longer. Just a big miss. Year One seemed to me to be one of the worst one hundred movies I had seen in the last decade.

Envy is a million times worse than Year One.

Stiller and Black play best friends who work at 3M and try to come up with new inventions. Stiller is more grounded than Black and a little more successful. When Black comes up with an idea for a spray called Va-Poo-rize that makes dog poop disappear, Stiller laughs at him. Black's invention is a rousing success, leading to him getting millions upon millions of dollars. Stiller gets jealous and it ruins his life. After losing his family and job, Stiller ends up in a bar, where he meets a vagabond (Walken) who befriends him and tries to help him... do something... I'm lost right there. There's a plot, but I never quite understood Walken's role. More importantly, not one person in the entire movie acted the way one person in the entire real world would actually act. It's fiction and it's exaggerated for comedy's sake, but it becomes so difficult to relate to anyone in the movie that you just wish that the movie would break and they'd leave you alone.

As you can tell from the above, the script is awful. Awful. It was written by Steve Adams, whose big previous jobs had come in the 1970s (Donny and Marie) and 1981 (Fridays, which also, granted, helped start people like Larry Charles and Larry David). Adams fails. None of the jokes are funny. The lines are so bad that they actually disprove the theory that you can give anything to Walken and he'd make you laugh just by his delivery. The movie tries too hard to be like a Farrelly Brothers movie and falls way, way short. Of the Farrelly Brothers. When poop is involved in a major plot point, you know you're in for a rough time (Andy Dufresne's escape through the sewers excepted, of course). The movie isn't as poorly-directed as others on the list, but Levinson has to take blame for a) none of the actors clicking with anything and b) the movie just flat-out sucking. No homages to Animal House or Strangers on a Train were going to fix that.

I had a discussion the other day with someone over School of Rock and whether that was all Jack Black or if it was more of an ensemble movie. That doesn't really matter when you take this movie into account, because this one is an ensemble that fails, making you wonder if Tropic Thunder was more the exception than the rule when it comes to comedies with Stiller and Black of late. Anyways, I bring up School of Rock because it plays into the only thing you really need to know about Envy. Envy was made two years before it was released. It had tested so poorly with audiences that it was planned for direct-to-DVD release. When School of Rock became a huge hit, the studio saw the opportunity to release this film and sell it on Black's name. The movie, which cost $40 million to make, opened with a $6 million weekend. Word of mouth was so bad that it lasted only three more weeks in the theater and brought in $12 million total. It flopped so miserably that the studio ended up releasing it straight-to-DVD in Europe after all. Later that year, Black and Dreamworks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks made the movie) went to the Cannes Film Festival with A Shark's Tale. At Cannes, the mecca of international film, the two did something that few movie-makers ever do -- they publicly apologized for ever making Envy.

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

I happened to be awake and heard a rumbling, then felt the house shake. The epicenter was like 3 miles from here. I've now lived through an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tornado. I'm a tsunami away from the natural disaster EGOT.

So now DC, in the last 7 months, has had the two biggest blizzards in history, the hottest June in history, and an earthquake. Either God isn't happy with America or Strasburg really is the Second Coming.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Revisiting The Classics: Avatar

I saw Avatar in 3D in the theater and was blown away, of course, but I was curious to see what the movie might be like in 2D. I'd heard the colors were brighter and I wanted to know how the experience changed. I got the movie from Netflix a few weeks ago, but let it sit on top of the TV the whole time. It takes some commitment to give two hours and forty minutes, but I also had in the back of my mind that the movie might not hold up on a smaller screen. If the whole point of the movie was the experience, I'd probably be disappointed and it would taint my original viewing.

Finally, tonight, I had enough time and I was sufficiently motivated to get any kind of value on my Netflix membership, Watch Instantly aside, that I popped in Avatar and sat back to watch it more critically. No 3D to blow me away, I know the plot so I know what's coming, I have the ability to pause or rewind a little. So, did it hold up? Absolutely.

The plot is better than people made it out to be -- what isn't derivative? -- and the performances are pretty good. It's essentially a fairy tale, so the dialogue flirts with cheesy at times, but manages to escape going all the way. The action sequences, which make up pretty much the last hour of the movie, are really exciting. There's nothing wrong, especially in a fairy tale, with black-and-white good guys and bad guys and it makes rooting easy. The most important thing is that the script and the acting don't get in the way of the technology.

I think I could watch the movie a hundred times and still be dumbfounded by the technical achievement. The effects are so realistic down to the smallest details (my wife pointed out the embers falling when the Home Tree is destroyed) that, even on the small screen, the movie looks like nothing else I've ever seen. The motion capture is amazing to the point that the acting might even be better among the Na'vi than among the humans. The most striking thing is how Cameron was able to achieve what he did with 3D. When you can look around the screen without focusing on the action, you notice that almost every shot has real depth to it. Everything either takes place in a big room with the action in the extreme foreground or background or in a space in the forest where there is a clearing or the trees are way in the background. This lends so much of a grand scale to pretty much every scene that it feels like 3D even without the glasses. As every movie comes out in 3D, Avatar makes it glaringly obvious that movies not specifically shot for 3D will never approach any kind of value in that medium. They can charge extra to see The Last Airbender to make a decent amount of money, but there's a reason that Avatar has made well over double what, say, Alice in Wonderland has made. Some people will pay to see anything, but people know quality.

I'm happy I saw the movie again, happy enough that I'm thinking about buying the movie, and I'm not joking with the title of this post -- Avatar is a classic. It has revolutionized the experience of seeing movies in the theater. It will be very interesting to see what movies will build on Cameron's work and how that will look. It will be even more interesting to see how Cameron tops himself when Avatar 2 eventually comes out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Problem With Lists

I'll spare you the "ESPN is running a program tonight called The Decision where Jim Gray will sit down with St. Peter to find out if George Steinbrenner is going up or down"-type jokes to bring you the problem with lists. I enjoyed the states and movies projects, but as you get into more and more things, the universe you're pulling from gets so large that you're bound to miss stuff. So, it's much easier to do things like, "So, LeBron, where are you headed?" "Well, and this is tough to say, I'm going to take my talents to--" "Wait, LeBron, and I'ma let you finish, but I had the most narcissistic moment of all time!"

I want to do something on my favorite songs, but how do you possibly narrow it down? So here, off the top of my dome, are my five favorite what-I'd-consider classic rock songs of all time. I'm sure I'm leaving something even out of these:

5. "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

4. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police

3. "Little Wing" (Stevie Ray Vaughan cover): There are live videos on YouTube, but I'm specifically talking about this album version. It's the most raw, pure tone I've ever heard anybody get out of an electric guitar on a recording. Yes, it's better than even Hendrix's original. If you've ever touched an electric guitar, this recording is practically a religious experience.

2. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles: The lead guitar (played by Clapton) is amazing on this song, considering how The Beatles revolutionized electric music, but the bass line is almost equally amazing. There's an urgency to it that makes it feel very heavy for a band not thought of as particularly heavy in a time, 1968, when heavy music was still relatively new.

1. "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones: When you say, "Rock and Roll," I think this song.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fugitive Slave Found In New York City

  • The Monologue:
    • There are some killer articles on the LeBron situation. And, yes, it's a "situation" at this point. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is always great on Bill Maher and here is a pretty good piece from him under a truly great title.
    • LeBron got booed outside of Carmelo Anthony's wedding in New York over the weekend. He then got booed inside when he waited for Jim Gray to show up before he would announce whether he was having the chicken or the fish.
    • Switzerland refused to extradite Roman Polanski. Taking a stand is a shocking reversal for them.
    • I'm sure I don't find this funny at all, but there's probably a twelve-year-old somewhere who would, unfortunately, laugh at this headline.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • This, from the NCAA, is better than I could have hoped. Two play-in games between the lowest four automatic bids, two between the lowest four at-large teams. Could be a lot of fun (or at least half of it could be).
    • IFC channel is showing the full run of Freaks and Geeks. It's so good. I know I don't have to sing its praises. But it's so, so good.
    • Chad Ochocinco's VH1 dating show is sitting on my DVR right now. I know I rarely call out my wife, but, dude...
  • Random Music Video:
    • Sure, today marks the anniversary of the debuts of both The Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, but they're both old! Who remembers them?! Instead, I'll point out that Robin Wilson, the lead singer of the Gin Blossoms, turns 45 today:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #20, Crossover

When it comes to Chappelle's Show, I imagine that most people would point to the Rick James episode as the popular favorite. My favorite episode is the second-to-last episode of the second season, when Wayne Brady took over the show, leading to a) the line when Nick Cannon says to Dave, "Your son needs a working actor in his life," and b) the classic Training Day spoof as Dave and Wayne drive around LA. (Chappelle's Show is on Netflix Watch Instantly and I just took a break to watch that skit again. Back to the review.) The opening credits sequence of Crossover, the 20th worst-reviewed movie of 2000-2009, according to Rotten Tomatoes, involves Brady, as a street agent, driving around Detroit and collecting bets for a big streetball game later that night. He even has the goatee like he had in that skit. At one point, a cop pulls Brady over to give him some money and I was ready for Brady to jump out, sing "I Say A Little Prayer", and break the cop's neck. It's an unintentionally hilarious beginning to what turned out to be an unintentionally hilarious movie. Crossover is not only the 46th movie I've seen on the list, but it is the most entertaining.

The film follows two youngsters in Detroit, both with great basketball skill. One is working on his GED, having just gotten out of prison. The other just finished high school and is waiting to hear about a basketball scholarship to "California University of Los Angeles" so he can go to school and eventually become a doctor. (I'd be remiss if I didn't point out here that both the Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210 kids went to a California University in LA, so there is great tradition there.) Brady, the agent, fixes streetball games in Detroit and is trying to get the high school kid to go pro so he can get a percentage. The kids lose a game, need to make some money, there's some drama with women, they need to play a big game to win their dignity, etc. All very cliched.

The true joy in this movie comes in two things: a lack of attention to detail by the director and a really, historically awful script. First, the lack of attention. As I've seen in a lot of these bad movies, the director tries to make the movie look cool by using really quick cuts. That's totally the way to make a movie awesome, since nobody ever raves about long shots like the one to open The Godfather. The cuts mean that there is a decent amount of back-and-forth between wide shots and closeups. The director didn't always make sure that people were in the same position during those cuts, so you end up with a number of scenes where it looks like somebody's body jerked two inches to the side. The two main actors themselves are too old to be believable in their roles. Anthony Mackie was 27 and Wesley Jonathan was 28. Brady himself was only 34, so they don't look younger enough than him. With those three actors, you actually have some talent -- Mackie broke out in a big way last year in The Hurt Locker, Jonathan was one of the main characters on the TNBC show City Guys (and therefore had a lot of experience), and Brady's talents are well-known. The rest of the actors in the movie are awful. So bad that I even sensed some misogyny as the female characters are portrayed poorly in the story and acted even worse.

Second, we have the script. I can't knock the overall story because there have been some very good movies (Avatar, Remember The Titans) that have been chock full of cliches. The fun here is in the details and in the dialogue. One dramatic scene involves a showdown at a shoe store where we learn that the main character can't add in his head. I'm not oversimplifying that. He is very embarrassed and it's supposed to be some huge moment. Another big plot twist is when we find out that one of the girls was lying about her pregnancy and that, instead of it being by one of the heroes, she was actually pregnant by the big villain of the movie. The biggest plot twist of the movie happens off-screen. As in, one scene the facts of the movie are X and then, in the next scene, one character tells the other that Y happened and the entire plot has changed. And then, of course, we have the dialogue.

Here are some actual quotes from the movie. I played them back and wrote them down. It was hard to remember them when I was laughing so hard:
  • "Look, the World Series and the NBA Finals are the two most bet-on games in the country..." (Not only not true, that makes no sense)
  • "But this ain't horseshoes, this is streetball. Want to know who the winner is? Count your paper at the end of the game."
  • "Look, I can't front. I'm feeling you." "I can't front, neither. I can't speak to tomorrow or the day after, but right now, I don't want to be with nobody but you."
  • "So she got you open like the freeway at four in the morning."
  • "Cruise might not be able to play ball with a bad lung... but he sure as hell can be a doctor."
  • "Vanessa's from the D, through and through. She was born with larceny in her heart."

There's more where that came from. Bad actors delivering awful lines is bad, but actors with even a little talent delivering them is laugh-out-loud funny. Instead of rolling your eyes, you actually get to appreciate the lines as written. Crossover has just enough good in it to make the bad stand out and that's what makes it so darn entertaining.

Saturday Night

Bad movie to come tomorrow. In the mean time, I'm all about playing Beatles Rock Band, which I finally picked up and is super fun, and catching up on the best show this summer, Louie. It's like a dark Seinfeld and, while not as funny, it's still very funny in its own right.

Anyways, Arlo Guthrie turns 63 today. For a guy who grew up in the shadow of a true national treasure, he did alright by himself. His most famous song is "Alice's Restaurant" but my favorite of his is this one, written by Steve Goodman:

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I DVRed it and then deleted it once I saw on Twitter that the news was as expected and he was completely unemotional and unapologetic to Cleveland. So, the Heat now make me sort of care about the NBA -- I'll be rooting hard for them not to win. If they play the Lakers in the Finals, I'll root for Kobe. Honestly.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sneak Preview: The Kids Are All Right

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly ran a story about how box office numbers are down and it's quite possibly because the quality of movies is down. This, of course, was before Toy Story 3 came out and was both fantastic and hugely successful. One of the points in the EW article was that, at this point last year, five of the ten eventual Best Picture nominees had already been released, including the eventual winner. This year, no movie had yet come out which had any prayer of being nominated. Again, before Toy Story 3, which I think has a decent shot. Anyways, a lot of hope for the first (or second) really great movie have been put on the first big-hype indie movie of the year, The Kids Are All Right. It opens July 16, but I was able to catch a sneak preview tonight.

Wherefore the hype? The movie stars three talented can't-miss actors in Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot is intriguing, dealing with a same-sex female couple with teenage kids. When the older kid turns 18, she finds out who the sperm donor was that her mothers used, and the two kids (both from his seed) meet him clandestinely out of curiosity. When the moms find out what the kids have done, they welcome the man so that the kids' curiosity is satisfied. Dramedy ensues. The acting is great -- Bening and Ruffalo could be the first actors I've seen this year that merit Oscar nomination talk -- but the hype should end right there.

It's good. It's entertaining. I enjoyed seeing it. Deep inside The Kids Are All Right, there is the kernel of a very, very good movie. The problem is that the outside is merely (mostly) good. It just misses and those are the types of movies that are a bit frustrating. You can easily pick apart a few things and that makes you wonder why the film makers couldn't see those flaws as well. There seems to be an editing issue, where there are a number of nice scenes that don't necessarily add to the overall movie and, therefore, take away from the flow. More than anything, I feel like the movie doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

I'm fine with a "slice of life" movie where the story arc is subtle, but some of the characters' actions are a little unnatural for it to be that type of movie. I'm fine with a "message" movie where everything is pointed towards getting across a specific theme, but there are too many superfluous actions and hanging threads. I didn't love where a couple of the characters went. I didn't love part of the ending. It, overall, left me frustrated.

I could go on a rant about how some of the movie is too liberal (I call it having "Rachel Getting Married disease"). Ruffalo's character is supposed to be a man's man, but he has an organic farm. It's just so California. Not really, but that's what the stereotypes say, just as well as Larry The Cable Guy's stereotypes speak to Southern culture. There's a scene where one character rants about how some liberal things are too phony and, while seeming a bit forced, it at least made things a little more realistic. People who are more familiar with same-sex relationships than I am may have an issue with one thing that happens during the movie, as well. I don't need to nitpick to that point, though, because of the fundamental thematic flaws. I'm a big Ruffalo fan and he's great. Bening and Moore are also great, though Moore suffers from being saddled with some of the cheesier lines and, even though she has the great monologue at the end, her best-written stuff feels a little forced (also, I was thrown by the fact that she doesn't have a thick Boston accent in this movie, but that's beside the point). So, yes, I enjoyed it, but I'm still searching for a second Best Picture-caliber movie.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Will He Just Say, "Chicago," Really, Really Slowly?

  • The Monologue:
    • LeBron James will announce his free agency decision with a one-hour primetime special on ESPN on Thursday night. I'm going to have a one-hour special in my basement to decide if I'll watch him or not, but I can save you a bunch of time by saying, "Hell, no."
    • LeBron James will announce his free agency decision with a one-hour primetime special on ESPN on Thursday night. You'd think, with the way ESPN is treating him, that the FCC would only allow any special involving him and the network to be aired on Spice.
    • Seriously, a one-hour special to release his stupid decision? One hour?!?
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Finished the first disc of the second season of Breaking Bad. It is so freaking good. Mad Men is the best drama airing right now, but I think Breaking Bad and Treme are tied for a close second.
    • Not sure if the new radio show premiering tomorrow morning on 105.9, Kirk McEwen and Mike O'Meara, will be only a talk show (I assume they'll play some records), but I already changed the preset for my alarm. I'll flip to the Junkies during commercials in the car, but I am unhappy enough with them lately that I don't find the need to listen all the time.
  • Random Music Video:
    • The single greatest music act of the 20th century died today, thirty-nine years ago. The single greatest. Of the entire century.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Full-On Double Post

Yes, it's a special double post, because I forgot something before and I don't know how many people have seen this. This is the funniest video on YouTube right now. When I first saw it two days ago, it had 571 views. It now has over 431,000.

Snopes? Where We're Going, We Don't Need Snopes.

  • The Monologue:
    • JaMarcus Russell was arrested for possession of codeine syrup, the main ingredient in something I just learned about called Purple Drank. We never knew that those Sunny Delight commercials were a "Just Say No" spot.
    • You think the Smurfs teaser trailer (I'm not linking to it) looks bad? How about this picture of Hank Azaria as Gargamel?
    • It's hot outside this week. How hot is it, you ask? It's so hot that Satan got confused and now he won't get off my lawn.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • You may have seen a bunch of people write on Twitter or Facebook today that July 5, 2010 is the date in Back To The Future to which Doc Brown set the DeLorean when he was talking about the future. This is the dumbest urban legend ever. A) He never set the date, he just mentioned going twenty-five years into the future and then the Libyans came. B) The movie takes place in October, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to set the clock to July, anyway.
    • Into the second season of Breaking Bad now and the show is really frustrating. Not the quality -- it's absolutely tremendous -- it's frustrating because they end all of the episodes with a cliffhanger, which is going to seriously threaten my sleep time.
  • Revisiting The Classics: The Godfather
    • I went to see The Godfather on the big screen today at the AFI Silver. It is the greatest movie of all time. Every single second is 100% perfect. See why it's more fun to review bad movies?

Worst of the Worst: #38, Happily N'Ever After

As I watch these movies, it is easier to pass judgement on some genres than on others. For instance, I can confidently knock comedies and action movies. I've seen any number of these in my life and I get them. On the other hand, I don't like most romantic comedies, so I can't tell if I'm too tough on that genre. Along those lines, you wouldn't think that I could fairly evaluate kids' movies. I don't watch them often, if at all, and since I'm not the target audience it's not entirely fair to say the movie is bad if it fails to reach me. You wouldn't think that, but the quality of the best kids' movies, especially CGI ones, has been so high as of late that many adults -- me included -- have gone to see them. Rather than going to see Eclipse yesterday, I went to see Toy Story 3 for the second time (it definitely holds up, as an aside). I saw at least the first Shrek in the theater and have seen the others on DVD (besides the one that just came out, of course). I've watched every Pixar movie and own a number of them on DVD. I even pop in Aladdin and The Lion King every so often. The best kids' movies have been pretty good lately. The problem is that I'm only watching the best. In front of Toy Story 3, there are a lot of previews for movies that I had no desire to see. Disney apparently kicks out a lot of straight-to-DVD stuff, most of which I have to assume is fairly mindless garbage. So, there are a lot of weak offerings, but Happily N'Ever After, the 38th worst-reviewed movie of the last decade on Rotten Tomatoes, has to be among the weakest.

At least the first couple of Shrek movies were pretty good and Pixar puts out great film after great film. These movies didn't really have to be good, though. Maybe Pixar doesn't make $226 million in two weeks if Toy Story 3 isn't as ridiculously good as it is, but they could have made an awful lot of money by putting Woody and Buzz on the big screen and not really trying that hard to entertain. One imagines that the fact that the movie opened to $110 million was enough to make it a success financially.

Of course, Pixar has some built in capital with the movie-going public (and, of course, they refuse to squander that). Happily N'Ever After suffers from a complete lack of care in its execution. Even though it came out in 2006, it has CGI that is barely a step above Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" video. The characters have no, well, character to them. The film is narrated by its star, Freddie Prinze, Jr., so there you go with that. It's probably good that the main song is forgettable, because I vaguely remember it being annoying and nonsensical. The jokes fall flat and the plot itself is lazy. In "Fairy Tale Land" there is a wizard who watches to make sure every story goes the way they are supposed to go. There are scales that balance between good and evil and if someone tips the scales towards evil, as someone obviously does at some point, things go horribly wrong. It is never discussed what happens if the scales are tipped towards good. Cinderella and Prince Charming's servant (who has a crush on her, the prince doesn't seem to really care or be any kind of dramatic factor) have to make sure the scales are put right. I'm unclear, if all of the fairy tales are happening at the same time in this world, why the scales even exist. Once the stories end with "happily ever after" nobody should have to watch over them. It's confusing, but I'll leave it. Not worth caring about.

That's not to say that there aren't minor disappointments. Wallace Shawn does a voice and it's sad because he's in the Toy Story movies. George Carlin did a little part; it was his last movie ever. Two theme songs were performed by They Might Be Giants and Squirrel Nut Zippers and you'd hope that they'd have the sense to know this was going to be bad. And again, you could tell this was going to be bad just by looking at it. Maybe Pixar is leaps and bounds in front of everyone else visually, but this one really doesn't stand up at all. Happily N'Ever After cost $47 million to make and brought in $15 million at the box office. It opened to $6 million and quickly dropped off. People could tell it was weak.

Are Pixar -- and Dreamworks, to a lesser extent -- so strong that nobody else can realistically compete in quality when it comes to animated films? Probably not, when a movie like Focus Features' Coraline could be so well-received last year. There's a lot of money to go around with kids' movies and there's room for films of great quality to break through. I may not be a kid anymore and I may not yet have one and, at that point, realize that anything with a talking pig in it is worth putting on TV to get the brat to shut up. So, I may not know kids' movies in total, but I do know lazy and that jumps across every genre. I'm happy that people can see through that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I Found It!

Went to see The Empire Strikes Back tonight (after having avoided Eclipse by seeing Toy Story 3 again during the day). Something jumped out at me towards the end of Empire. As Lando and Lobot double-cross the Imperial forces to make their escape, there is one of the great mustaches ever in the background. I couldn't help but point and sit in awe. After searching forever on Google Images, I was finally to get a grainy screen capture from an illegal YouTube video. So here you go, unnamed mustachioed extra.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your List Sucks!: Right Here, Right Now

Some may think that things are really boring these days. Don't want to watch the news because the Kagan hearing is basically for show at this point and BP keeps drip-drip-dripping away. Nothing good on TV. It's hard for me to get into baseball right now because the O's are so pathetic.

But, think again!

There are plenty of great things going on. So, here are the Top 10 Reasons To Be Psyched About Right Now:
  • 10. The Heat: I'm not talking about the Miami team (yet). DC just finished its hottest June on the record books that started in 1871. Why not see how hot it can get?! When it gets back to 95 on Sunday, you should try literally frying an egg on the sidewalk. I'm going to try it.
  • 9. The New Fiscal Year: Our January to December calendar is totally arbitrary and there are parades in big cities for Chinese New Year, so why not observe Accounting New Year? At midnight last night, I put on a pointy hat that had a green visor and drank 3.96 bottles of champagne. I had 4 bottles, but I had to take depreciation expenses because I bought them over a month ago and I control my alcohol inventory using batch methods.
  • 8. NBA Free Agency: I think this might be as close as I can get to the true connotation of "trainwreck." Nobody wants to hear about it any more but it's impossible to turn away. Minnesota signed Darko Milicic to $5 million per today. Come up with great haikus to commemorate this great contract, such as: "Darko really sucks/ Darko really, really sucks/ Darko really sucks."
  • 7. Spill Along At Home: Tired of the news not paying enough attention to the oil spill? Create your own in the bathtub, using bottles of vegetable oil. Go crazy and buy a rotisserie chicken to stick in the water to get covered in oil. Unlike the Gulf pelicans, you can even cook this bird afterwards!
  • 6. Play Fantasy Suspended Football: My week one lineup so far includes Ben Roethlisberger and Vincent Jackson. I may even be able to work Mike Vick into the lineup and run a crazy offensive set. Don't let T.O. on your team -- he could actually play somewhere if anyone wanted him!
  • 5. Cinema Nostalgia: Remember past years of film fondly by taking in one of the many execrable movies playing at a theater near you right now! "The Last Airbender sure does suck, but it makes me cherish Waterworld that much more."
  • 4. Celebrate Our Nation: Go see fireworks and remember how great it is to be American. In what other place are we free to sue the government for expanding our health care coverage and listen to whatever it is that the Tea Party says on a daily basis?
  • 3. Go To The Roots: Celebrate July by honoring its namesake, Julius Caesar. Eat a salad. Get your bangs cut straight. Get an orange smoothie-ish thing.
  • 2. NBA Free Agency, Part II: Make up an NBA team and call around to see if you can be a part of any free agent interviews. I made up one called the "Charlotte Bobcats" and I got Joe Johnson to e-mail me back!
  • 1. Prayer: With all this time on your hands, you are free to get on your knees, clasp your hands tightly, and pray harder than you ever have that September comes quickly with its cooler weather, football season, baseball pennant races, and new TV.