Monday, August 30, 2010

Sucker DJs

  • The Monologue:
    • So the question regarding Dancing With The Stars: does it mean that The Situation is now on the celebrity level of David Hasselhoff and Florence Henderson or vice versa? Never mind, I just reread that.
    • Glenn Beck is arguing that he had 500,000 people at his rally, CBS projects somewhere just shy of 100,000. My projection is that there were 100,120, assuming the rally lasted two hours. There was one born down there every minute.
    • After she spoke out about the treatment of an activist, Iran called the French first lady a "prostitute." She responded by not giving a crap about anything that Iran says, just like everyone who doesn't listen to what Glenn Beck has to sell.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Change of scenery or no, Weeds still pretty much bores the crap out of me. I'm not especially surprised.
    • Just started on The Shield. Watching a lot of TV. Don't have much else to do lately.
    • Hard to believe that football starts in just 10 days. Preview to come.
  • Random Video:
    • The not-too-creepy John Phillips was born on this date in 1935. He loved his daughter. Actively.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

As Good As You

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • With so much time doing nothing lately, I've had the chance to catch up on a lot of shows that are returning in the next week or two, none better than Sons of Anarchy. Its second season easily ranks among the best seasons of any show in recent memory, a list that for me includes the first season of Friday Night Lights, the third season of Mad Men, and the third and fourth seasons of The Wire. Whereas I have to wait until next July for the payoff on the Breaking Bad season finale, I thankfully only have to wait until next Tuesday to catch back up with SAMCRO.
    • Two reasons why I don't watch the Emmys, besides Jimmy Fallon being the host: 1) Katey Sagal acted rings around every other woman on TV last season in Sons of Anarchy and wasn't nominated for best actress. 2) Flash Forward now has one more Emmy than Treme and The Wire combined.
    • I find it amusing that Entourage, which badly needs drama, is moving towards Vince being in rehab, while Mad Men, which can do whatever it wants, also seems to be moving towards Don getting some help for his alcohol problem. Either that or he says something he really doesn't want to say in one of his blackout-drunk periods.
    • Critic Alan Sepinwall has a running joke on his blog about how the contracts for John Slattery and Christina Hendricks should stipulate that there be on Roger-Joan scene in every episode. The producers have been obliging us so far this year. I especially liked the one in the flashback when Joan had not yet become confident enough to be anything but bowled over by Roger's advances.
  • Random Video:
    • Sure, it's Michael Jackson's birthday, but I'll point out this song, released August 29, 1964:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #54, Harry and Max

One of my least favorite type of movies is the one which deals solely with expository dialogue. There is no action, just a series of scenes between two characters -- sometimes the same two, sometimes a mix-and-match of the ensemble -- where they talk and talk and talk. The brilliance of FX's new show, Louie, has shown me that I can stand that style in short bursts so long as the dialogue is poignant and funny. Where the dialogue is poorly-written, as it is in this movie, or the plot is non-existant or confusing, as it is in this movie? Really hard for me to watch. When the barely-existant plot deals with two characters having erotic sexual exploration? Ugh. This specific movie deals with two pop stars who explore their feelings for each other through some sexual adventures and a lot of talk. Harry and Max should not be on this list because a) it was only released in one theater and made less than $15,000, and b) it is more boring than really bad. The acting is mostly not awful. So, Harry and Max is bad, but it is less horrible and more creepy.

Oh, right, did I mention that one of the pop stars is 21 and the other is 16? The part when you learn that they first had sex when the younger was 14? Or that the younger had a crush on the older since they were 7? Yikes. It made for an especially creepy part where the older goes to visit a 40-year-old former teacher of the younger who had also had relations with them. And the older pop star had no qualms in telling people about the relationship, which made the movie seem surreal in its inability to deal with the taboo of the subject, leading to a part where one of the older star's ex-lovers confronts them about why they don't understand that incest is so wrong.

Oh, right, I forgot to mention that the two pop stars were siblings? There have been a scary number of incest themes on this list so far (frankly, one is a scary number when it comes to that), but this one dealt wholly with incest and was therefore the creepiest. I'm not one to get offended, but I also don't think a movie can deal so flippantly with incestual pedophelia.

So by the time I tell you that both siblings are boys, the gay part of the movie really means nothing. It could be heterosexual incestual pedophelia and it would still be just as creepy. Unless you're Aaron and Nick Carter or Donnie and Mark Wahlberg watching it. Then, you might be extra weirded out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


My post from November 13, 2009, now has 228 comments, 226 of which are in Japanese. I continue to try to reach out to those commenters. You can translate (I can't promise it will re-translate coherently, though it may be fun to guess my original meaning) by pasting the text in here.
  • 独白:
    • ブリストルPalinは星と踊ることにある。 私達はPalinがSituation'のサラを持っていることの夢に近い方の1つのステップである; sの義母。
    • Glennの小川は土曜日の彼の主に白く、狂気の聴衆、"の記念日のための再結集を保持する; 私にDream"がある; リンカーンの記念物のスピーチ。 強打が値されたら…
    • 今日はwomen'を保証した第19修正の第90記念日である; s選挙権。 憲法は企画者が意図したようになかったり、お茶会を言わない!
  • 任意大衆文化:
    • 無秩序の息子は例外的である。 私はそれについての大きい事を聞いたが、計算されてバイカーの一団についてのショー私の速度は。 それはTVのベストとして最も重大絶賛される6のグループで完全に示す属する: 無秩序の息子、悪い状態、デキスター、家、およびTremeを壊している気違いの人。
    • 私はずっと夜遅くの看護の間にTVをそんなに見ている。 Netflixは新しい親に予約購読を押すために人々に産科病棟で時を過ごしてもらうべきである。
  • 任意ビデオ:
    • 台紙富士のための上昇の季節の終わりに印を付ける現時点で毎年祝祭がある。 1年の今日からの性能はこの祝祭前ににここにある。

Get It Started

I've been watching a lot of TV lately, way more than usual. Side effect of being up for 45 minutes or so every two or three hours all night. Nothing much to do but watch stuff to stay awake. I'm now completely caught up on Breaking Bad (and it is freaking tremendous) and have moved on to the last of the best shows on TV that I don't watch, Sons of Anarchy (really good so far through the first three episodes; as thematically like The Sopranos as Mad Men is artistically). Trying to catch up on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and, starting tomorrow, Parks and Recreation. I've been watching a lot of TV. How did we ever live without Netflix?

Anyways, there has been a renaissance lately of great opening credits sequences. Here are my top 5:
  • 5. Human Target -- Pretty bad-ass.
  • 4. Mad Men -- Love the music and the style. Can't embed so here's a link.
  • 3. Sons of Anarchy -- Video can not be found anywhere online. What's up with that?
  • 2. Treme -- The pictures are great, but it's all about the music.
  • 1. Dexter -- The undisputed champion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24

Back to pop culture tomorrow. Special birthday on August 24. Happy 50th.

Worst of the Worst: #40, Down to You

Down to You begins the second half of my quest to watch the one hundred worst movies of the last decade, according to Rotten Tomatoes. It is a poignant tale of two mentally-challenged students at a New York college who fall in love in spite of their obvious cognitive deficiencies. Their facial expressions and reactions to other people are good facsimiles of how a highly-functioning adult may act. They speak in cliches and cheesy monologues and, while their grammar is weak at times, they somehow manage to get their point across and socialize with others. They document the ups and downs of their relationship and even though some details are glossed over, one has to be impressed with how they have overcome their massive disabilities to lead normal, if relatively empty, lives.

The characters in Down to You aren't actually mentally-challenged. They're just written that way.

Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Julia Stiles star as two college students who narrate their hit-and-miss relationship. Their narrations are delivered in some of the worst monologues ever put on screen. When they are together, they speak in some of the most stilted dialogue ever put on screen. Not only is the writing bad, but the editing and direction are also very weak. Dialogue consists of a series of back-and-forth close-ups that don't last the right amount of time. Scenes end a second or two too late. To add to the other problems, the acting is pretty awful. Even with recognizable co-stars such as Rosario Dawson, Ashton Kutcher, and Selma Blair, I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the screen. Not even Henry Winkler can save the movie. Not even Henry Winkler!

All of this adds to the movie being funny bad. Actually, it's not just funny bad, it's possibly the funniest-baddest movie I've seen on the list to date. I laughed and laughed out loud as I watched the crap unfold. I yelled at the screen. I asked questions out loud about things that didn't make sense (for instance, Freddie Prinze tries to kill himself by drinking shampoo in his studio apartment where he lives alone, but ambulances come to get him immediately). In short, I just had a lot of freaking fun watching this movie.

Writer/director Kris Isacsson made his feature film debut with this one and has gone on to direct only direct-to-TV movies afterwards (including Husband for Hire, which had the scene of Mario Lopez dancing shirtless that was played so often on The Soup). He should be lauded for taking a movie that could have been simply inane or boring and turning it into a film that screams of schadenfreude-laden entertainment. Whether you like nonsensical side plots regarding budding porn actors or mullets or you like romantic scenes that are so creepy that they are legally prohibited from handing out candy on Halloween or you just plain enjoy seeing Freddie Prinze and Julia Stiles unload fake facial expression after fake facial expression, there is something for you in this movie. Down to You, a movie with a title that makes absolutely no sense until you hear some random song during the end credits. Such an abject failure that I am seriously considering buying it on DVD. Bravo, Mr. Isacsson. Bravo.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Only Thing

  • The Monologue:
    • What a boring, uneventful week off. On the bright side, I'm now one-eighth of the way to being Antonio Cromartie.
    • Ahmedinejad calls Iran's new bomber drone an "ambassador of death." He's crazy, but that's bad-ass. Even if he ripped it off of some Stallone movie about diplomats.
    • Lady Gaga now has more Twitter followers than Britney Spears. Oil spill what? Afghanistan war who?
    • Rima Fakih, Miss USA, is going to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. As a Muslim, she can represent the USA so long as the competition doesn't occur in lower Manhattan.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • My, my, but Mad Men was a bit racist this week. I feel like they were using Roger's hatred of Japanese to make another modern-focused political statement about something or other. What's going on right now that has something to do with people immediately hating a whole group because of something that some of their members did years ago? Anyway, there's got to be something.
    • Someone somewhere had a theory last season that Betty's father once molested Sally. That certainly seems to be a possibility, if not the direction they're going.
    • It's hard to remember because the show has been mostly weak on and off since the second season, but this season of Entourage may be its best. It's much more dramatic, but still manages to be funny. They reinvented Vince and Ari and made Johnny less cartoonish and it's all really clicking.
    • Skipped the bad movies for a minute because I was really busy, but they will make their triumphant return tomorrow.
  • Random Video:
    • Some good birthdays today with Tori Amos and Layne Staley, but we'll go with a guy who turns 52 (52!) today, guitarist Vernon Reid. He co-wrote the first single and track from Vivid, the debut album of Living Colour. It's an okay song.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Wasn't going to post, but I'm really feeling this song right now. I think this album, no matter how much praise it gets, is continuously underrated. Which is sad, since she disappeared and is maybe only now making a comeback.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Awesome, Li, Bad

Went to see The Expendables this morning. In a movie like that, one can easily graph the correlation between awesomeness and badness. The worse the movie, the more awesome it is. I had very low expectations. The problem is that while some parts were really bad and some parts were even more awesome, the movie was not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Stallone directed it and he does a pretty nice job of giving probably 90% of the lines to the only people that can really act: himself, Jason Statham, and Eric Roberts. Mickey Rourke, barely in it, has the one teary monologue. Steve Austin has maybe two lines the whole time, same for Randy Couture. The other action stars get to deliver the funny lines as they kill people, but that's pretty much it. The camera work is a little weird and the timing in some of the talking scenes (primarly the one with Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Stallone) is awful. Overall, though, not really that bad. The last thirty minutes or so are actually quite good as the team of five mercenaries fights an army of two hundred and does so quite awesomely. Maybe Jet Li is a little underused for most of the movie and maybe there aren't enough really good action movie-type lines, but it has its moments. Worth seeing on DVD, unless you have nothing better to do and you have the stomach to sit through the really bad parts to get to the really awesome ones.


Not quite sure if I'll post much over the next couple of days, due to something or other going on in my life. I've always intended this blog to be about pop culture and humor, so let's say, I don't know, my wife was going to have a baby in the next forty-eight hours or so -- that kind of thing would be more for Facebook or Twitter. Unless I could find a reason to make it funny and work it in with like Knocked Up or the Steve Martin baby outtake during the credits of Cheaper by the Dozen 2.

And if, for instance, my wife were about to have a baby in the next forty-eight hours, it would most likely mean I'll miss Mad Men and Entourage tomorrow night. Sacrifice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Seedy Underbelly Of Pop

Nostalgic for songs from the '70s and '80s? As I listen to old music -- remember that I don't know anything new that doesn't have Snoop Dogg rapping and Candyland being played -- a few choice things pop out at me. I'm crying foul!

Putting aside his desire for completely random sex, Tone Loc sounds enthusiastically homophobic when he declares that he "don't fool around with the Oscar Mayer wiener" and that "this is the '80s and I'm down with ladies, ya know?" Well, this is the Teens, Tone Loc, and we are not down with giving women some sort of potion so they sleep with us, okay?

If I'm not mistaken, Rick Nielsen is calling his mother a whore here. His mother said, about "girls like you," "you never know what you'll catch." His father talks about how his mother knows what she's talking about regarding venereal disease because she served in the WACS in the Philippines. Nielsen then presumably takes a nap and wakes up to find his parents having sex, so he just puts on a KISS record. Child services!

The worst offender, of course, is The Human League. A catchy song about a guy trying to coerce a woman into staying with him by saying she's worthless and will be nothing without him. She decides to leave him and he threatens her, saying they will both be sorry. The Human League is from England, not from Sweden as I would have guessed. I'm presuming that all Swedes hate women, based on the books I'm reading. I can't walk into IKEA without being creeped out, but that's for another time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stand Out In The Crowd

  • The Monologue:
    • There is actually nothing funny going on right now. Even the Jet Blue guy was funny for like two seconds, but now it's overdone.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I love that Rex Ryan is not censoring himself for Hard Knocks. He's a funny guy. Still, gotta hate the Jets a bit. They talk an awful lot for a team that hasn't won anything. I hope the Jets fans feel good about their GM depressed about how their best player doesn't seem to want to play for the team, Joe Namath lamenting the bad fundamentals of their QB, Braylon Edwards talking trash about how good his hands are, and the mere existence of LaDainian Tomlinson on the team.
    • I watched Green Zone tonight and while it's fundamentally a good movie with Matt Damon doing his thing, I didn't enjoy it that much. There are too many movies about the Iraq War and since the best one, The Hurt Locker, has already been made, there doesn't seem to be much use for any others.
    • I neglected to mention The Other Guys, which I saw over the weekend. It's very funny. It's not as non-stop with the laughter all the way through like The Hangover or Anchorman, but it's nearly as funny as Talladega Nights. Part of the pace issue comes because the first twenty minutes of the film are so funny that the next bit feels slow. It's amazing that Will Ferrell can be so unfunny in so many movies, but great when Adam McKay is directing him.
  • Random Video:
    • 41 years ago today at The Daisy in Beverly Hills, Diana Ross introduced the new Motown label-mates that she had been instrumental in signing. I guess they were an okay group and I guess this song is sort of good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Some of the best, off the top of my head, of MTV's Unplugged:

To be sure, Layne Staley looks unwell here:

More Nirvana -- I think my favorite version of this song is actually the speedy punk version from Incesticide (my favorite Nirvana album, for the record):

Alanis doing a Police cover:

Pearl Jam's most underrated song. I will accept no arguments on this:

Oasis, I believe minus Liam, so, um, Noel Gallagher with a horn section behind him:

And MTV has pulled all of the video from Jay-Z's great Unplugged set with The Roots, so... Here is what the kids are listening to on Unplugged nowadays. These are just artists I've heard of, because who the hell are The Script and Phoenix? I can't believe I'm actually posting these (except I like the Paramore song and Katy Perry is awesome and I voted for Adam Lambert on Idol, so who knows).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Someone tonight, talking about an unpaid internship opportunity, used the word "funemployment." This type of wordsmithing appeals to my irascibility and has thrown me off my game for the night. Funemployment. That's what I call approaching language assholistically.

Just click on
this. A lot. Over and over.

And watch this trailer. I watched the full movie on Sunday. If you think this trailer is awesome...

Fare Thee Well

Tonight's Mad Men was a nice three-character play revolving around people who are very good at what they do but are trying to hold on to some sort of life outside of the office and failing miserably. Anna Draper is the only person still grounding Don, a person with whom he can still be Dick Whitman. Her cancer means that Dick is all but gone. Lane Pryce kept his wife in the U.S. to start the new firm, but now she's left him for London and he has no friends until he falls in with Don, which means alcohol and prostitutes and loneliness. Joan is great at what she does, but that keeps her from being able to take time off to be with her husband who is leaving soon for Basic Training (and then Vietnam). Even when she's home, she can't take care of him -- he eats without her and she cuts herself trying to get him to take anything from her. In other words, it was a pretty freaking sad episode. Both my wife and I pointed out at the same time that tonight's show makes us like Don and Greg, even though they took advantage of their secretary and raped their wife, respectively. The point of the show I guess, that people are neither all good nor all bad. The point of this season so far, specifically, is that there is a constant struggle between what one wants and what others expect of them. Don embodied that in the season premiere and last week's episode had loads of that theme, notably Lee Garner, Jr., forcing Roger to play Santa. My one complaint about tonight's episode is that Don actually said that to Lane at one point and it came off as heavy-handed. We get it.

After the first few episodes of Entourage this season were very weak, the last two have been very strong. I thought last week that rehab was coming Vince's way, and the end of this episode did nothing to dissuade me from that notion. You had great Ari stuff, the return of Billy Walsh, and even the Turtle plot was really funny. Next season will be the last season of the show and it's flirted with jumping the shark, but obviously not quite gotten there.

Anyways, I write quickly (not as quickly about Mad Men, but it never is) because I want to pay homage to a great American. The GOP primary for Tennessee's governor was on Thursday. The man in last place only got 3,508 votes, but he deserved more. So much more. Maybe there will be another chance for the Volunteer State (#43 in last year's
state rankings) to take advantage of this man's leadership, but for now we bid a teary adieu to Basil Marceaux (dot com).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #73, Gigli

For the last seven years, there has been one word that has stood for epically bad cinema: "Gigli." It was a movie that was pretty much doomed from the start because of all of the tabloid craze around the relationship between its two stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. To top it off, people revelled in how horrible the movie apparently was. Word of mouth led the film to be dropped from 97% of its theaters by the third week. All of its theaters in the UK dropped it after one week. It made only around $3.7 million in its opening weekend and ended up at just over $6 million total. It cost $54 million to make. Lopez made $12 million and Affleck $12.5 million. It remains the most celebrated flop in recent memory. So, with all that, how could it possibly live down to my expectations?

I know that I generally hate Affleck as an actor and, with the exception of Out of Sight, absolutely hate Lopez. The former tries to put on a tough guy New York mobster accent that sounds ridiculous even when little bits of Boston aren't creeping in, while the latter is not historically awful but not really good either. I could have easily predicted that they would have little chemistry. Of course, as the movie includes a sex scene that has less romance than anything in Basic Instinct. I didn't know going in that Al Pacino had a cameo, but had I known, I could have predicted that he would overact. Even hearing that it was a romantic comedy that is rumored to have been edited to remove a lot of violence and dark content, I could have guessed that I would find it boring. Still bad, but not bad enough to even touch my expectations.

The plot deals with Affleck as Larry Gigli, a low-level gangster who manages to screw things up all the time. When he is asked to perform a tricky job, his boss sends a lesbian gangster to help him. Hilarity and poorly-acted sexual tension ensue. What I could have never anticipated was what that tricky job entails and therein lies what turns the movie from merely bad to purely abysmal.

In order to help in a court case, Gigli is asked to kidnap the brother of a Federal attorney. Said brother is played by Justin Bartha, most famous for being Doug, the groom in The Hangover. Said brother played by Justin Bartha is mentally challenged. Boom. This calls for a quote from Tropic Thunder that I don't have to bother quoting. Bartha plays the mentally challenged brother in a performance that ranks somewhere between "Johnny Knoxville faking being challenged in The Ringer" and "bad impersonation of Rain Man for an Epic Movie-type movie." The concept behind said performance is so misguided, so impossibly stupid, that it propels the film into history. As if that isn't bad enough, the whole conceit leads to an ending that involves a poorly-played fully mentally challenged character dancing on the set of Baywatch. I'm not only not joking; I'm not doing the ending justice. It is one of the worst endings I've ever seen of any movie. Off the top of my head, it's Glitter and Gigli. That's it. That's the list.

Bartha has gone on to some fame in The Hangover (and in the National Treasure series). Lopez will likely be a judge on American Idol and be fairly competent at that. Affleck has become a very good director and his new movie, The Town, looks fantastic. Good for all of them. This movie is a tedious and infamous piece of garbage. It is a fitting movie to hit my halfway milestone. Fifty movies down, fifty to go.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Nothing tonight from the shame of getting Pat Smear's birthday wrong. It was actually today. The Portsmouth Sinfonia plays us out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gone 'Til November

  • The Monologue:
    • Prop 8 was overturned today in California. Coincidence that the judge ruled that gays could marry the day after Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston broke up? The straights have screwed up marriage enough. It can't get any worse.
    • Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home run today. The ball is worth lots of money as all of his other home run balls had decomposed in the time it took him to reach the milestone.
    • Some Republicans want to do away with the clause in the 14th Amendment that gives citizenship to people born in the United States to non-citizens. It is co-sponsored by every Native American ever.
    • Trust me on this and don't click on this story. It's gross. It actually ran in the Post this morning.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • In 1996, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt; Snoop Dogg released his second album (and last with Death Row), The Doggfather; and the Fugees released The Score. Let's say you got in a time machine and told 1996 you that in 2010, Jay-Z would be the CEO of the universe, Snoop Dogg would be rapping on a pop song with a Candyland-inspired music video, and Wyclef Jean would be the president of Haiti. Would 1996 you laugh, or believe it because you can't make that up?
    • Have I raved about the Mike O'Meara Show Bonus Show yet? It's so freaking good. The regular show is funny, but with the uncensored bonus show you can tell that they can just have a conversation without holding back in any way.
  • Random Video:
    • Weak day for music birthdays. Pat Smear turns 51. He played guitar on the Foo Fighters' first album and on Nirvana's Unplugged special. This, which is my favorite song from that special, makes me think of doing a post at some point of the best performances from Unplugged. Back when MTV showed things besides guidos, gorillas, and spray tans.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Deal With It

It's not worth making fun of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston. I tried watching that Percy Jackson movie and shut it off after 45 minutes. Louie is pure genius, but nobody is probably watching it. Just watch all this instead. I miss these freaking kids.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Trying To Get A Nut To Move Your Butt

  • The Monologue:
    • Lindsay Lohan is out of jail after thirteen days. She had a hard time fitting in there at first because Rachel McAdams kept mocking her friends.
    • I know that wasn't funny, but nothing funny is going on, okay? Gosh!
    • Okay, with Mean Girls and Napoleon Dynamite, I'm a Crash joke away from the 2004 trifecta.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I knock it mercilessly, but I have to give credit where credit is due. This past week's episode of Entourage was one of the funniest in the show's run. Everything clicked. I almost spit out my soda when Ari kicked the mail cart for no apparent reason. And the last scene between Eric and Sloan was just ridiculous.
    • Random Tweet That I Censored Myself Before Sending: At thirty-four, I'm like two seventeen-year-olds. I'm Roman Polanski's fantasy.
  • Random Video:
    • There are a lot of great birthdays on August 2, including Kevin Smith, Peter O'Toole, and TV's hottest mom, Mary Louise Parker. Not much in the way of music though. Today does mark the 40th birthday of one Zelma Davis. She's the woman seen, but not heard because she was famously lip-syncing, in this video.

Mad Men -- Lots And Lots To Discuss

Thoughts on what was one of the better episodes of Mad Men, to say the least:
  • No, seriously, how did they fit all of that into just one episode? It was a total roller coaster. I watched the first half with a big smile and then, mid-way through, it turned extraordinarily dark.
  • I love Freddy Rumsen being back. It allowed them to work AA into the script slyly, especially as we see that maybe the drinking is getting to Roger and Don a bit. There was also some good stuff as his absence from the office meant that he is not up to speed with Peggy's role.
  • Which will take us to Peggy and her own Dick Whitman-ish demons. Flashback to the, er, flashback in season two when Peggy remembers that Don visited her after she had the baby and tells her to forget that anything ever happened. "It will shock you how much it never happened." She's now erased that and last season's female sexual empowerment phase out of her life and is pretending that she's a virgin. She doesn't seem to be as good as Don at lying to herself, which isn't a bad thing.
  • Remembering her baby brings us to Pete and his weasel-y (and egged on by Trudy) offer to be Santa if that's what the all-powerful Lee Garner, Jr., wants.
  • In the end, the episode ended up being a lot about power. Garner's power forced Roger to overspend for the party and then made a fool out of him in forcing him to be Santa. And Garner knew it, too. It was a show of power that was mirrored later in the episode, if more overtly and despicably, by Don. We'll get there. Roger was also involved in one of the best-shot scenes of the episode, when he was talking to Joan -- who, as always, kicked ass in running the office -- and, as he sat down, the camera stayed with him so the only things in the frame as Roger toyed with his feelings for her were him and her curves.
  • Sterling leads us to Cooper and his discussion about civil rights and how the country will fall apart if Medicare passes. You'd never expect Mad Men to include a dig at the Tea Party, huh?
  • Two quick detours, first to Glenn. His mother was the original neighborhood divorcée, so while I'm surprised to have seen his character come back, I can't be too surprised. We knew that Sally would be rebelling against Betty, I just never guessed that it would come so soon. It certainly makes Betty's story a lot more interesting.
  • The second detour is to Don's apartment building and his neighbor, the nurse. I was a bit taken aback when she first showed up; the last time we saw the actress, Nora Zehetner, her character had just been shot between the eyes in a storage room at Seattle Grace at the very beginning of last season's shocking Grey's Anatomy finale. They don't pick a recognizable actress and put her in Mad Men if her character isn't going to show up again. She seems reminiscent of the teacher from last season, or maybe I'm just seeing a young, single potential girlfriend for Don and mixing the two up.
  • Which brings us back to Don. I was going to say that this episode was a continuation of his descent that started at the end of the season premiere, but it's not like he's ever been a great human being, right? He's just becoming more obvious about his dark side. His facade is only an inch deep, as seen by his refusal to take the personal quiz and risk having to deal with any of his own feelings. He plays the company man briefly for Lee Garner, Jr., but then escapes to his apartment. His extreme drinking is finally taking a toll on him as he all but passed out, unkempt and unshaven, in the hallway and then went after his secretary. I can't say that it's a surprise that Don was so wrong, but it was still painful to watch him go down that road and her reluctantly give in. It was not a surprise that he wanted nothing to do with her in the morning and handled her so badly, giving her a $100 bonus that all but turned her into a common prostitute. Mad Men is often compared to The Sopranos and Don's last scene was a Tony Soprano moment if I've ever seen one.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #17, Twisted

For many of the movies on this list, there is not much surprise that they are going to be bad. Master of Disguise? It's a wacky kids movie with Dana Carvey and Brent Spiner. Corky Romano? Stars Chris Kattan. Battlefield Earth? Someone let John Travolta make a movie of a poorly-reviewed L. Ron Hubbard book. But how do you explain a movie like Twisted? It stars Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, and David Strathairn. It's directed by Philip Kaufman, who, among many big-name projects, wrote and directed The Right Stuff and with George Lucas conceived of the story for Raiders of the Lost Ark. That group has four Oscar nominations between them. Nobody doubts that each of them is talented. What happened?

One major thing that went wrong is writer Sarah Thorp, whose only other major feature film was The Bounty Hunter, which at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes is one of the worst-reviewed movies of this year. Her script manages to straddle the line between inane and tedious. I found myself getting more and more bored as the movie dragged on and the plot became more and more ridiculous. It deals with Judd as a cop who, after some laugh-out-loud kung fu movies in the opening scene, gets promoted to Homicide. She drinks a lot and has sex with random guys and later, after blacking out from drinking, the guys turn up dead. She's not sure if she has been killing them and she has to get to the bottom of it all. After no apparent detective work is done, it's all resolved in a completely unbelievable final scene that includes cops showing up to a deserted pier after nobody actually called them.

Judd's performance is really bad. Garcia's isn't much better. Kaufman doesn't seem to care, turning his location shooting in San Francisco into a contest to work as many landmarks into each shot as possible. Besides, any mystery shot in San Francisco has to draw comparisons to Hitchcock and, thus, start out behind the eight-ball. None of the other actors are big enough factors to save the day, even with pretty good character actors like Camryn Manheim, Richard T. Jones, Leland Orser, and -- in a weird twist of casting considering this movie came out in 2004 -- Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver. You may know them as Jacob and the Man In Black. They don't have any scenes together, but their names are next to each other in the credits.

One usually assumes that big stars can carry even a mediocre movie to quality. Get a bunch of them together and one assumes the movie is can't-miss. How many movies like this with big stars either get released with little fanfare to DVD, are hidden in the middle of winter, or never get released at all? This one came out in February of 2004 and I had never heard of it before I watched it. At least it's boring enough that I won't really remember it.