Saturday, October 29, 2005

Weird, You Guys

So I was watching Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" yesterday. Yes, "again." It's really, really good. And it's pretty much on all weekend, so you should try to TiVo it if you haven't seen it, although for some dumb reason Bravo is still airing its usual block of West Wing episodes on Monday, like, HELLO it's Halloween, make with the scary, already, and ... I've digressed.

ANYway, I'm watching the 100 Scariest special, and they're showing the clip from The Sixth Sense with the creepy girl who busts in on Haley Joel's tent, and the girl looks oddly familiar. Was that ... was that Mischa Barton? Yes. Apparently it was.

And, check it out, y'all: apparently Mischa's mom is still Munchausening her soup with Pine-Sol or whatever, because girlfriend looks as sickly as ever. Mom's even taken to poisoning Mischa's friends.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Capsule Review: North Country

Movie: North Country (2005)
Director/Studio: Niki Caro / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Authentic looking, mostly good true-life movie buoyed by a stellar cast.
Best Thing About It: The art direction and cinematography complement each other quite well. The story takes place in a Minnesota mining town (meaning: poor, rural, snowy) in the late-1980s (the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill era, if you can call that an era, and I think you can, because hoo-boy, those were the days! Pubes on a Pepsi can, that takes me back!). So the period detail, such as it is, is very specific and subtle, but every nuance says "low-income industrial town." And the photography captures that art design perfectly. As distasteful as some of the subject matter is, it's rendered wonderfully.
Worst Thing About It: The ending, hands down. It's brutal – predictable, uninspired, and sappy in all the worst ways. Caro works so hard throughout the movie creating a movie that – while intense in its cruelty to the main character – still seems credible. The ending undermines that, badly.
Best Performance: Charlize Theron is very good, and cements her standing as a for-real dramatic actress, but Frances McDormand is still the all-pro in the lineup. It's to her credit that she makes such a strong impression before her character gets saddled with the somewhat-gimmicky fatal illness. She never lets the gimmick get the best of the performance. She rocks.
Grade: B

Notes From My Clogged Sinuses

So between starting my new job this week and getting a wicked head cold to boot, I haven't had much time to blog for myself. So, in order to make up for my absence, I offer a hodgepodge:

-- For starters, last night's Prison Break was awwwwwesome. [SPOILERS, duh] Best episode of the series, thus far. Tons of plot lines came together, lots of mini-climaxes, and the story went in about six new and different directions. In short, our investment in the setup has started to pay off. And they killed the cat! I never thought they'd have the balls to do that. And Patricia Wettig is the Vice-President, which I had considered, and which leads to a whole slew of further questions. I just loved the entire hour. Well done, show.

-- So, okay, at what point did I miss the memo that Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was set to experience a cultural renaissance? It's a great song, and certainly emblematic of my mid-90s "new rock alternative" music tastes. But outside of my media player, I hadn't heard the song in years. Now, all of a sudden, it's in the Stay trailer, in last week's episode of Supernatural, and getting name-checked in Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column. It's like Filter's publicist was just awoken from a ten-year cryogenic slumber and decided she's get back to marketing the hell out of their song.

-- If you haven't been already, y'all have to read the InsidePulse columns from my brothers in the fraternity known as J.A.M. [Rush Week, November 7-11 – better bring a poncho.]

First off, Mathan Erhardt, who wishes death upon Lost characters, turns on a dime when Nip/Tuck disappoints him, and is able to alter the Grey's Anatomy storyline AT WILL.

Meanwhile, Aaron Cameron asks for feedback, and feedback he shall have: he starts us off with some bagel-and-cream-cheese humor, which is relatable and accurate. Strawberry and garlic just do NOT get along, especially at breakfast. He then mines some fine comedy out of well-worn racial slurs, a staple of the Cam'ron comedy style. I can't repeat it here, but the laughter, she was audible. Next up, an inside-jokey slam at a former colleague. My favorite kind! He then dips into some Foxy Brown (eww, not like that!), a spot-on Kanye West commentary (complete with the "George Bush Doesn't Care About ___" construct that I adore so much), and keeps his "consecutive weeks mocking Fantasia Barrino" streak alive. I keep waiting for him to make a "Duhh, stay outta Riverdale" joke, but alas, there's only so much Fantasia news to go around. Really, the only black mark against our Aaron? No extended AIM conversations with me! What gives, dude? IP couldn't handle the increased traffic last week?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 4

Part four of four. Done.

Movie: All the King's Men (Steve Zaillian)
High-Concept Synopsis: Sean Penn plays a southern political demagogue, with Jude Law as his reluctant accomplice/enabler. Patricia Clarkson, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins, and Mark Ruffalo co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of good, old-fashioned political drama. Fans of the ridiculously talented cast. Fans of Sean Penn's "You, sir, are no Jude Law" speech from last year's Oscars.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone, at least this year. It just got moved to 2006.
Why I'd See It: The cast is stunning, and while it's a remake, it's also an adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and the story is damn good.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have to listen to Sean Penn extol the virtues of another one of his co-stars.

Movie: The Producers (Susan Stroman)
High-Concept Synopsis: It's a movie! It's a musical! It's a movie about the musical about the movie! Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who wanted to see it during its blockbuster Broadway run, but the price was high and New York was far away. People curious to see if Nathan Lane uses his "inside voice" now that he's not singing to the back row. Whatever is left of Mel Brooks.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who lost their hearing due to Nathan Lane long ago. The Zero Mostel Society For the Perpetually Bug-Eyed. HBO subscribers who think it won't be the same without Larry David's awful acting and off-key warbling.
Why I'd See It: I hear the Broadway production was great fun. And I do like Uma Thurman. But those leads . . .
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Lane and Broderick in an off-Broadway version of Oleanna. [And the award for strangest non-sequiter goes to …]

Movie: Fun Dick and Jane (Dean Parisot)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni are a married couple who become oh-so-comical thieves to make ends meet.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who are really, really tired from all the Christmas shopping and need to get off of their feet. Badly.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who have found Carrey's overt style of comedy rightly irritating. People who have found Leoni's stalwart devotion to pointy-faced irritation somewhat off-putting. People who haven't been seen since a screening of the trailer created a black hole of unfunny.
Why I'd See It: Bribery. [*Hint*]
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get trampled to death by the holiday mall crowds.

Movie: Freedomland (Joe Roth)
High-Concept Synopsis: A white lady (Julianne Moore) says a black guy jacked her car and drove away with her kid in the back seat. Sound familiar? Samuel L. Jackson is the cop on the case.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The Susan Smith Society For Racist Child-Killing Bitches. The unflappable Julianne Moore fan base, who are practically begging her to make a good movie again. Drunken college meatheads yearning to scream "Mmm, mmm, bitch!" at Jackson's every appearance on screen.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone who takes too close a look at director Joe "America's Sweethearts / Christmas with the Kranks" Roth's CV. People who have turned to dust waiting for Moore and Jackson to get their careers back on track. Holiday audiences looking for a better time than "Mom gets her kid abducted and may or may not have killed him herself."
Why I'd See It: It's a great role for Moore, who I still have faith in, and the subject matter and trailer look promising.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Christmas with the Kranks. Ever.

Movie: Mrs. Henderson Presents (Stephen Frears)
High-Concept Synopsis: Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins become burlesque club proprietors in WWII London.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of randy period comedy from across the pond. Folks looking forward to Judi Dench's star turn. People looking for boobies!
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Prudish socialite types who clutch their pearls and drop their monocles at such tawdry behavior. Audiences who mistake the plot description as a promise that Dench and Hoskins will be the ones going Full Monty. Janet Jackson, jealous that her tits aren't the only that can cause a stir.
Why I'd See It: It's a maybe Oscar contender, particularly for Dench and Hoskins. And it's not out of the question that I'd enjoy it.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have that dream where I show up to the burlesque revue fully clothed. How embarrassing!

Movie: Munich (Steven Spielberg)
High-Concept Synopsis: After the Black September murders at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israeli Mossad agents set to the task of tracking down the perpetrators and seeking their vengeance.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Spielberg devotees anxious for a look at his latest awards-grab. People – like me – who are fascinated by the subject matter. Oscar watchers who will need to see the movie that's been touted as a front-runner since before it began filming.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People put off by the political content of the film. People put off by the pre-ordained "Best Picture" status of the film. People who don't think "happy ending" Spielberg can do the story justice.
Why I'd See It: It's the 800 lb. gorilla in the 2005 Oscar race. Everyone who's anyone will need an opinion on it. Plus, the Munich games are terribly, sadly, fascinating to me.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Amistad, the last "important" film Spielberg tried to spring on Oscar at the last minute. And that one didn't work.

Movie: The Ringer (Barry Blaustein)
High-Concept Synopsis: Johnny Knoxville plays an ethically impaired debtor who tries to make some quick cash by fraudulently entering in the Special Olympics. Like, can we send Mossad agents after him?
Who Will Be Seeing It: People desperate for a comedy … any comedy … this winter. People who buy into the Farrelly Bros. (who are producing) party line that if they make fun of everybody, it can't possibly be offensive. People who have never heard of South Park and are thus unaware that they did an episode with the exact same plot.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who are rightly offended by the plot. People who found the trailer to be painfully unfunny. Brian Cox fans who are holding strong on their "tough love" program of ignoring him when he makes bad movies.
Why I'd See It: Dudes, South Park did this exact same story! Except theirs was funny! It's not like the Farrellys are courting a different audience here. Morons. Plus, they haven't been actually funny in a dog's age. But … okay, it's got Katherine Heigl. Still, no.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Heigl and Cox rescued from the flaming wreckage of this film with a helicopter and a rope ladder. Oh, wait. I'd rather see that.

Movie: Casanova (Lasse Hallstrom)
High-Concept Synopsis: Heath Ledger plays the legendary lothario. Err, well, not the legendary Lothario. More like the legendary Don Juan. No, that doesn't work either. Look, he plays a guy named Casanova, who boned a lot of women in his time. His time being mid-18th Century Venice. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Lena Olin co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The cult of Ledger, which now included both the swooning and those who respect his talent, now that it appears he has some. The Lasse Hallstrom brigade who figured what Johnny Depp was to Chocolat, Heath may be to Casanova. Namely, an easy orgasm. The Lena Olin Fan Club, who will take what they can get these days.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who figure if they want sex fiends from several hundred years ago, they've got Johnny Depp in The Libertine to tide them over. People who wouldn't see a Lasse Hallstrom movie if you paid them. Prudish high society types who flip their powdered wigs at … look, I've made this joke like three times now. Some people just won't see a movie with sex in it. Or, at least, won't see that kind of movie with other people in the room. *Ahem*
Why I'd See It: Meh. It's almost definitely a wait-for-DVDer. Too many other good movies around.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Study up on the semantic differences between "Casanova," "lothario," and "Don Juan." Although, come to think of it, that might be some interesting research, right there.

Movie: Match Point (Woody Allen)
High-Concept Synopsis: Set in London, this is a tale of infidelity, seduction, and greed stars Scarlett Johansson, Johnathan Rhys-Myers, and Emily Mortimer, and is directed by … Woody Allen??
Who Will Be Seeing It: Movie fans who are dying to see Woody try something so outside his usual wheelhouse. Audiences relieved to find that, even after casting Scarlett Johansson as his female lead, Woody resisted the temptation to write himself into the script as her love interest. People who would gladly fork over nine bucks to stare at Jonathan Rhys-Myers for a few hours.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: The Woody Allen Society for Nebbishy New York Jews, who are upset that the Wood-man took his latest film across the pond. The Woody Allen Society for Horndog Old Geezers, who are upset at Allen for failing to capitalize on his ScarJo opportunity. The Woody Allen Society for Crappy Woody Allen Movies, who are upset that Soo-Yi's husband seems to have actually made a good film for a change.
Why I'd See It: The trailer suggests an exciting step out of Allen's old standbys. Johansson and Rhys-Myers look sizzling together.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Anything Woody directed in the last ten years or so.

Movie: The New World (Terrence Malick)
High-Concept Synopsis: John Smith and the rest of the Virginia company stomp into the New World and make friends with the indigenous people they find there. If by "make friends," you mean kill off and take their nubile young daughters back to England to marry them. Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, and Christopher Plummer star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: American history fetishists, Colin Farrell groupies, and the Cult of Malick, who are eagerly awaiting to cream themselves over this latest, sure to be, masterpiece of cinema.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who bet on the Farrell pony and lost last year with Alexander. People who tend to find Malick's movies, while beautiful, insufferably slow and ponderous. The Mayflower Society, who are pissed that their colonial exploits aren't being memorialized on film. They massacred the Indians, too, you know!
Why I'd See It: It will undoubtedly look beautiful. And the Farrell, Bale, Plummer triumvirate certainly have it in them to deliver.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: The Thin Red Line, for Pete's sake. Life's too short to spend half of it watching Ben Chaplin daydream.

Movie: Rumor Has It (Rob Reiner)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jennifer Aniston kind of freaks when she finds out that her family's life was the basis for the book and film The Graduate. Which makes her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) Mrs. Robinson. Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo, and Mena Suvari.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Post-modern enthusiasts who will love the meta-textual nature of the plot. People magazine readers who want Aniston to succeed after Angelina Jolie's irresistible powers of seduction broke up her marriage. Dustin Hoffman, who figured the six-degrees relationship he holds with this film might be the closest he'll get to success in a while.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Audiences squicked out by a possible Aniston-Costner onscreen pairing. People who have vowed to just stop seeing Mark Ruffalo in romantic comedies anymore. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who will be too busy fornicating and adopting babies to care.
Why I'd See It: Despite my initial misgivings, the trailer suggested perfectly acceptable mainstream comedy. Even Kevin Costner – playing himself for the 811th time on film – doesn't bug me the way he used to.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Exhume Anne Bancroft's corpse for a comparison study with MacLaine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Weekend Update

Part 4 of the Fall Preview should be up and running tomorrow. And my new column at The Film Experience should be up on Sunday.

So, to tide you overuntil then, please ruminate on the fact that Halle Berry has six toes. [link via Defamer]

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 3

The third in a four-part preview of the Noah-worthy flood of movies the next two months and change have to offer.

Movie: The Ice Harvest (Harold Ramis)
High-Concept Synopsis: John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton do the quirky, darkly-comic heist flick. With the law of averages being what it is, this was inevitable.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Cusack fans who haven't given up the ghost yet. Fans of The Ice Storm who will mistakenly think this is the sequel where Elijah Wood comes back from the dead to "harvest" his oblivious parents. People with no imagination whatsoever.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who see Oliver Platt and Randy Quaid's names in the credits and run away in fear of being eaten. People who already saw this movie the previous seven hundred times it's been made. Those of us who still find Billy Bob Thornton, while a good actor, endlessly creepy.
Why I'd See It: I probably won't. But if I did, it would be to see just how far Cusack has fallen.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Freeze to death while in the company of Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, and Randy Quaid.

Movie: The Libertine (Laurence Dunmore)
High-Concept Synopsis: Well, I can't do much better than the IMDb capsule: "The story of John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), a.k.a. the Earl of Rochester, a 17th century poet who famously drank and debauched his way to an early grave, only to earn posthumous critical acclaim for his life's work."
Who Will Be Seeing It: Drank and debauched! Who won't want to see this? There's Depp's fans, who cross age, gender, and sexual preference lines. There's highfalutin' costume-drama fans who like a little kink in their corsets. And I'm sure there's some folks out there who will get a kick out of the syphilis.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Okay, most people will be repulsed by the syphilis. And I'm sure Depp isn't loved by everyone. And it's not like Geoffrey Rush's Quills - the last costume drama that married debauchery with powdered wigs – lit the box office on fire.
Why I'd See It: Depp :Rush :: Winning the lottery : Finding a quarter.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Find a quarter. Or get syphilis.

Movie: Rent (Chris Columbus)
High-Concept Synopsis: Living the boho life in AIDS-ravaged New York, there are songs to be sung, lessons to be learned, and pretty people to get sick and die. Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Adam Pascal, and Idina Menzel star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fundamentally sound cynics who will see it and scoff. Self-hating faux-cynics who will see it, be affected by it, and hate themselves. The jazz-hands crowd.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Folks with an aversion to all musicals. Folks with an aversion to this musical. The national association of landlords, who anticipate some sass in the tone of the title.
Why I'd See It: It both attracts and repulses me. Even with my doubts about Columbus as a director, I'll be there, ready to embarrass myself.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Pay ten times as much for the play.

Movie: Syriana (Stephen Gaghan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Middle Eastern oil politics has never been this entertaining! George Clooney is the CIA agent, Matt Damon is the oil broker, Jeffrey Wright is the lawyer, and this will all make sense in the end.
Who Will Be Seeing It: TV news junkies. A certain Texas family with ties to oil looking for a few hints (and no, not the Ewings). People who hope Gaghan can bring that Traffic magic to another hot-button issue.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Those who would rather look at Middle Eastern oil politics with a "la la la, I'm not listening!" attitude. People who are a little sick of Clooney's "let me tell you something about America" smugness. People terrified of Jeffrey Wright's awesomeness.
Why I'd See It: I loved Traffic, and if this is anything close to that kind of quality, I'm in.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Listen to Clooney tell me why it's important that I do see it.

Movie: Aeon Flux (Karyn Kusama)
High-Concept Synopsis: Charlize Theron steps into the thigh-highs of the Liquid Television animated assassin. The futuristic actioner co-stars Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, and Jonny Lee Miller.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Old school Liquid TV fans. Horndog anime fans anxious to slobber over Charlize in spandex. Audiences sick and damn tired of all these serious year-end movies.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anime purists who can't accept a live-action adaptation. Folks who were scared off the trailer by McDormand's "little orphan Aniie after an electrical socket mishap" hair. Sifl and Olly, who are royally pissed that they didn't get to ride their MTV nostalgia trip to a movie.
Why I'd See It: Looks like a cool, fun action diversion.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: A big-screen version of Dead at 21. No, wait, that's a complete lie. I would LOVE a big-screen version of Dead at 21.

Movie: Transamerica (Duncan Tucker)
High-Concept Synopsis: Felicity Huffman plays a pre-op transsexual who is shocked to discover she had fathered a son, who is now a teenage hustler in New York. Ahh, only in December.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The prettiest ladies with adam's apples you ever did see. Desperate Housewives fans with NO idea what they're getting into. Audiences curious to see what Huffman's pre-lauded performance will be like.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone in between the coasts. Folks who think Cillian Murphy makes for a prettier gender bender. People who live in cities where this won't even appear on a screen. Damn you, New York and L.A.!
Why I'd See It: Huffman's performance is supposed to be something special, and I've always been a fan of hers anyway. Plus, co-stars Finoula Flanagan and Elizabeth Peña are both excellent.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Eva Longoria take on a similar role.

Movie: Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
High-Concept Synopsis: Gaaaayyyyyy cowboys in looooove! It's probably the easiest film concept to summarize all year.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone eager to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make with the bucking bronco already. Audiences eager to see what's shaping up to be the film of the year. Ang Lee fans wondering "is there anything he can't do?"
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Oh, the usual "it offends my family values" crowd, naturally. But I'll also leave room for good, open-minded people who still don't have much patience for wide-open-spaces prairie romance.
Why I'd See It: The buzz, she is deafening. This movie came out of Toronto with a wave a superlative reviews. Ledger, particularly, is supposed to be great, something I'd have found hard to believe if he didn't make lemonade out of his Brothers Grimm role. The Annie Proulx story upon which this is based is heartbreakingly beautiful.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Almost any movie this season.

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson)
High-Concept Synopsis: Four children travel through a wardrobe, and find a lion and a witch on the other side. Damn, no wonder I did so well on the SAT reading comprehension!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Any of the hordes of people, young and old, who grew up reading C.S. Lewis's books. Folks looking for the natural successor to the Lord of the Rings fantasy epic throne. People who made their decision on what movie to see by looking up directors in the phone book, starting with "A".
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Defensive LotR fans who don't cotton well to usurpers. People potentially turned off by the heavy Christian overtones in the story. Fraidy-cat children who can't deal with lions and witches. Wussies!
Why I'd See It: I didn't think I'd want to. I never read the books, and I've largely outgrown movies about children having mythical adventures. But the trailer looks wicked cool, and everyone I know who has read the books raves about them. And . . . everyone else will be. Why feel left out?
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Feel left out. Oh, so sad and lonely.

Movie: Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ziyi Zhang goes from poor rural child to the most famous Geisha in Japan. Ask your mom. I guarantee she read the book along with everyone else back in 1996.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Costume drama aficionados. Japanophiles positively giddy over such a high-profile adaptation. Fans of the kick-ass cast, which includes Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, and Michelle Yeoh.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People put off by the "Japanese characters speaking English for no reason" thing that we've seen in the trailer. People put off by the fact that this very Japanese story got cast with Chinese actors. People too confounded by the "is it Ziyi Zhang or Zhang Ziyi" thing to even leave the house.
Why I'd See It: It looks purty. Really, really purty. The cast is excellent. And I thought Rob Marshall didn't get the credit he deserved for marshalling (see what I did there?) Chicago to that Best Picture win.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Work in a public library during the Memoirs of a Geisha / Angela's Ashes craze. Again.

Movie: King Kong (Peter Jackson)
High-Concept Synopsis: He's a big, giant fucking ape. She's a tiny blonde. Can these two crazy kids make it work? Not with all these dinosaurs around! Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who thought Jackson's last films – these tiny arthouse flicks by the name of The Lord of the Rings -- were pretty okay. Fans of the cast – Watts, Brody, and Black tend to rock. People who just love apes. I mean love apes.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who were grossed out by that last sentence. Kong purists who like their monsters stop-motion animated, consarnit! "Dinosaurs? Come on!"
Why I'd See It: There's a fascination to see just what Jackson will do to try and top LotR.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Try to live up to the expectations Jackson has in front of him.

Movie: The Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
High-Concept Synopsis: Joes both directs and stars in a tale of a ranch hand who buries his friend. A lot. Barry Pepper co-stars.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of sepia-toned Mexican meditations on death. Fans who cannot get enough of Tommy Lee Jones – I'm talking the people who paid to see Space Cowboys. Fans of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros; 21 Grams).
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who found Amores Perros and 21 Grams to be soul-suckingly depressing and self-consciously tricksy. People intimidated by Barry Pepper's confident good looks. All the poor souls forever lost in the crevasses of Tommy Lee Jones's face.
Why I'd See It: Jones is supposed to be superb, and I'm interested to see if Arriaga's work strays from its past tendencies with a new director.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get buried. Three times.

Coming this weekend: Southern politicians, Israeli assassins, and here's to a new Mrs. Robinson.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 2

The second in a four-part preview of the umpty-billion movies set to open before the year ends.

Movie: Where the Truth Lies (Atom Egoyan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth are an amazingly successful 1950s comedy team. They perform, they have three ways, and they may have killed a girl way back when. Alison Lohman is on the case.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Kevin Bacon enthusiasts who didn't get enough Bacon meat in Wild Things. A certain sect of Martin and Lewis fans who always thought there was a little something else going on there. Folks who can't get enough of that Egoyan "feel bad" style.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who seem more than a little put off by how nonspecifically creepy Colin Firth comes off in the previews. People who wish Alison Lohman would just pick an age and go with it. The other sect of Martin and Lewis fans who are patently offended that anyone might thing there was something else going on there.
Why I'd See It: Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter is one of the two greatest "that flick was fantastic, I never want to see it again" movies I've ever seen (make room, Requiem for a Dream).
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have lived it.

Movie: Chicken Little (Mark Dindal)
High-Concept Synopsis: Zach Braff voices the little chicken who thinks the sky is falling. Animated hijinks ensue.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Children for whom Jarhead just aint gonna cut it as Saturday afternoon entertainment. Fans of Braff who dig him even in animated form. Disney executives desperate not to look bad in comparison to Dreamworks and Pixar.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Zoological purists who will bore the shit out of you, insisting the word "chicken" in the title means it's a girl, not a boy. Pissed off chicken advocates who object to the term "little" demeaning their status. PETA, most likely. Those shrieking harpies never have any fun.
Why I'd See It: The voice cast is pretty great. There's Braff, Steve Zahn, Amy Sedaris, Joan Cusack, Harry Shearer, Patrick Stewart, Don Knotts, Wallace Shawn, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Adam West, and Patrick Warburton. Love to see the animated movies casting for actual expressive voices and not just "name" stars.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Another Shrek movie.

Movie: Jarhead (Sam Mendes)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jake Gyllenhall's a new recruit in the first President Bush's army, and thus gets to experience Operation Desert Storm with a sardonic eye. Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, and Chris Cooper co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone who has seen the stellar trailers. Fans of the novel of the same name upon which the movie's based. People who would rather their war films with a bit less rah-rah.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: A certain administration who would rather not have unpleasant reminders about war in the Middle East. A certain administration who isn't all that psyched about Kanye "Somebody Hates Black People, and I Know Who" West's "Jesus Walks" in the trailer. People whose admiration for Mendes's work (American Beauty; Road to Perdition) has paled over the years.
Why I'd See It: From the looks of it, it could contend for my own personal "best of the year." I love Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard, and their both supposedly excellent. I think this is a movie that's going to have something to say.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Watch another staged Q&A with the President.

Movie: The Dying Gaul (Craig Lucas)
High-Concept Synopsis: Peter Sarsgaard plays a screenwriter involved in a twisted love/lust/betrayal triangle with Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who have just been dying to see Campbell Scott and Peter Sarsgaard in some dude-on-dude seduction scene. All four of them. Supporting actor enthusiasts who see the Sarsgaard/Clarkson pairing as the Bogie-Bacall of American second bananas. Fans of director Lucas's previous screenwriting efforts The Secret Lives of Dentists and Longtime Companion.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Actors who would like to see Lucas give someone other than Campbell Scott the chance to star in one of his movies, for once. Idiots who for some reason don't like Patricia Clarkson. Senator Rick Santorum.
Why I'd See It: Sarsgaard and Clarkson. It's a perfect storm of acting, if you ask me. And Scott's no slouch himself.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Sarsgaard in anything like Flightplan ever again.

Movie: The Family Stone (Thomas Bezucha)
High-Concept Synopsis: Dermott Mulroney brings his uptight fiancé Sarah Jessica Parker home to meet his laid-back family, populated by Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Craig T. Nelson, and Luke Wilson.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People desperate for a romantic dramedy about family that is actually funny. People won over by the quite winning trailer. The teeming hordes of Dermott Mulroney fans. You know who you are.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Sex and the City haters who are sick to damn death of SJP. Rachel McAdams haters who are pissed at how incredibly awesome she is. Oh, and also: Anyone. Since it's opening the same weekend as King Kong. Dumb ass studio.
Why I'd See It: The preview looks great, with Keaton and McAdams looking particularly awesome.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Dare I say . . . King Kong? People, it's an ape fighting a dinosaur!

Movie: Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jane Austen hits the screen again, as Kiera Knightley does the whole I-love-you-I-love-you-not thing with Matthew McFayden. Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, and Judi Dench co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Costume drama enthusiasts, Jane Austen book club members, and people who liked Kiera Knightley in that movie where she's the flat-chested soccer player.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who would rather eat a Jane Austen novel than read it. Folks who are rightly horrified at the present condition of Donald Sutherland's face. Colin Firth, who thought HE was the definitive Mr. Darcy and thinks Matthew McFayden has a stupid face.
Why I'd See It: If it's done well, I can enjoy a good costume drama. And Jane Austen really is a pretty snappy writer.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get bound up in a corset.

Movie: Zathura (Jon Favreau)
High-Concept Synopsis: Like Jumanji, except in space. And no Robin Williams.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who liked Jumanji well enough, but thought it could use Dax Sheppard as an astronaut. People who liked Jumanji but thought it could use a little less of Bonnie Hunt's wry wit. Jon Favreau's family.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Robin Williams's vulgar, sweaty stand-up comic persona. Robin Williams's PG-rated funny-voices film comedy persona. Robin Williams's sappy sweet very-special-drama persona.
Why I'd See It: . . . umm . . . well . . . the thing is, I'm not going to see it. Really. Not.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See above. Aint happening.

Movie: Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Cillian Murphy leaves his orphaned existence in small town Ireland to become a celebrated drag queen in 1960s London.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Midwestern farmers and Catholic nuns. Who do you think is going to see it? Drag queens, trannies, and anyone who thinks pink. Also: anyone who's been suitably impressed with Jordan's stellar filmography and/or Murphy's burgeoning career.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Midwestern farmers and Catholic nuns. That one you can keep.
Why I'd See It: Neil Jordan absolutely rules. And Cillian Murphy aint so bad either.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Any other Irish orphan drag queen movie opening in November.

Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell)
High-Concept Synopsis: In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter deals with rival magic schools, a death-defying tournament, and Ralf Feinnes as Voldemort.
Who Will Be Seeing It: If you've been reading the books and seeing the movies so far, why would you ever stop before this most pivotal chapter?
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Those of us who have lost the child within. Oh, okay, I won't hold it against non-Potter fans. But y'all are missing some great storytelling.
Why I'd See It: Take a look at the trailer. This could very well be the best Potter flick yet.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Breathe. Okay, that was a little extreme. I'll go with "breathe for an hour."

Movie: Walk the Line (James Mangold)
High-Concept Synopsis: Johnny Cash walks the line. Johnny Cash fell into a burning ring of fire. Johnny Cash is played by Joaquin Phoenix, while Reese Witherspoon plays his wife June Carter.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Cash's hordes of true fans. The depressingly significant hordes of poseur Cash fans who really only know "Ring of Fire" but think it was cool that he dressed in black, played a prison concert, and sings about shooting a man just to watch him die. Not that they'd know the song that line comes from anyway. Anyone who's heard the deafening hype for the lead performances.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Fans of Mangold's Girl Interrupted who don't think they'd really fit in with the Cash crowd. People who have a visceral anti-Witherspoon reaction. People who find Phoenix to take himself a liiiittle too seriously.
Why I'd See It: The performances are supposed to be really, really good. And while I don't claim to be some big fan, I tend to like Cash and am interested in his story. [How's that for covering some bases?]
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Be killed in Reno, just so someone could watch me die.

Coming up next: The singing Bohemians of Rent; Lions, Witches, and Wardrobes, and Johnny Depp's got syphillis!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 1

Better late than never, eh? Sure, all the major entertainment media decided to get their fall previews out of the way at the actual beginning of fall. Pfft. Slaves to convention, every one of them. Rare is the writer who will preview the fall slate mid-way through October. The crazy thing is, even after limiting myself, there are still a staggering forty-two movies set to open between now and New Year's Eve that I find worth talking about. That's amazing.

Since that's a fucking lot of movies to preview, I'm splitting this up into four parts, one to run each day for the rest of the week. Take a gander, and marvel at just how many hours my ass will have to be in a movie theatre for me to see all of these. I'm off to buy me a cushion.

[P.S.: I've linked to each movie's page on, where you'll be able to find cast lists, photos, and movie trailers. Enough to satisfy the more info-hungry film fan.]

Movie: Domino (Tony Scott)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kiera Knightley is Domino Harvey. She is a bounty hunter. Tony Scott came to play with sepia tone and hald-held cameras. "Enjoy!"
Who Will Be Seeing It: Knightley's fans eager to see the pixie-ish starlet get all violent and vulgar. Pop cult vultures who won't be able to resist a cast featuring Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Mo'Nique, and Brian Austin Green in the same movie. Fans of junk cinema.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who see Tony Scott's name on a movie and involuntarily begin trying to stab their eyes out. Donnie Darko purists upset that screenwriter Richard Kelly is working on a film that makes hardly any sense, rather than one that makes no sense at all. The late Domino Harvey.
Why I'd See It: Kelly's script and a once-in-a-lifetime cast are enough to spark an interest, although Scott will likely fuck it up.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Man on fucking Fire

Movie: North Country (Niki Caro)
High-Concept Synopsis: Charlize Theron blazes a trail of sexual harassment litigation in a Minnesota coal mine. Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek, and Woody Harrelson co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Filmgoers curious to see if Theron can give another award-worthy dramatic performance. Fans of Silkwood, Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, and other female crusader stories this movie is emulating. Lesbians continuing to hold a torch for Charlize, post-Monster, their logic being that the femullet factor trumps the Stuart Townsend factor.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who find the trailer a little too . . . blatant. Men who enjoy a little ass slapping in the workplace every now and then. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.
Why I'd See It: When she's good, I enjoy Charlize Theron. I always enjoy Frances McDormand. And I have an odd soft spot for this kind of men-bad-women-good she's-Charlize-hear-her-roar emotional manipulation.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get sexually harassed.

Movie: Shopgirl (Anand Tucker)
High-Concept Synopsis: Claire Danes works the glove counter at Saks. Steve Martin is smitten with her. A scruffy and unexpectedly adorable Jason Schwartzman completes the triangle.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who enjoyed Martin's novel of the same name. Romantic comedy fans who dug the hell out of the rather excellent trailer. Members of Schwartzman's family not currently dealing with the fallout of one of them naming their freaking child "Kal-El".
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People so completely opposed to the RomCom genre that even Steve Martin in an actual good role doesn't do it for them. Embittered My So-Called Life fans who still think Danes's movie career put the kibosh on that show. Kal-El Coppola Cage.
Why I'd See It: Great cast, all of whom are enjoying a renaissance of some sort. And the trailer suggests a Lost in Translation vibe that I can get behind.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Watch Steve Martin in that abhorrent-looking Pink Panther remake that got pushed back to 2006.

Movie: Prime (Ben Younger)
High-Concept Synopsis: Uma Thurman winds up dating Bryan Greenberg, the young-ish son of her shrink, Meryl Streep. Awkwardness and un(!)comfortability ensue.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People like me, who see the pairing of Streep and Thurman as a kind of leading lady mecca, for some (gay) unknown (gay) reason. Krista Allen and that other chick from Unscripted, in a show of solidarity to their fauxcumentary co-star Greenberg. Demi Moore, who plans to bring a "You Go, Uma's Character!" placard.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Hetero males who need Uma to be hoovering blow or slicing some Yakuza limbs off in order to enjoy her. Streep's hairstylist, who must be personally offended at her recent choice of on-screen coifs. Math geeks who are pissed that this movie isn't about prime numbers like they hoped it might be.
Why I'd See It: Umm . . . Uma and Streep? Are you new?
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Watch one more second of Unscripted ever, ever again.

Movie: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Shane Black)
High-Concept Synopsis: Val Kilmer is the buddy cop equivalent of Kevin Spacey's character in L.A. Confidential, with Robert Downey, Jr. as a petty theif and counterpart.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The kind of film nerds / guy's guys who tend to dominate conversations at websites like Aint-It-Cool-News and C.H.U.D. 80s throwback enthusiasts who love to revel in memories of Iceman and Less Than Zero. The people who insured this movie, who must have made an absolute mint with celebrated fuckups like Kilmer and Downey onboard.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People sick to death of buddy action movies, even if this one is billed to be better than most. People who made the mistake of seeing Kilmer's last eleventeen movies, or however long it's been since he made a good one (y'all, I think it was Heat). The "Max Power Memorial Society For Totally Obvious Pseudonyms" because even they can't buy "Shane Black" as a name given by God and/or his momma.
Why I'd See It: Even when he sucks, Robert Downey, Jr. is ridiculously watchable.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Work on the set of this movie.

Movie: Stay (Marc Forster)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ryan Gosling sees dead people. Ewan MacGregor and Naomi Watts deal with it in some fashion.
Who Will Be Seeing It: MacGregor fans willing to give him a second chance after The Island. Watts fans willing to forgive and forget after The Ring Two. Scary movie fans looking to see something around Halloween, considering the only other seasonal offerings are fucking Saw II and The Fog.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Scaredy-cats. Filmgoers who can't quite get past Marc Forster delivering something so godawful as Finding Neverland. Rita Moreno, who's pissed that, with BD Wong's appearance in this movie, every former Oz cast member has found work except for her and the guy who played Rebadow.
Why I'd See It: Creepy plays well with me in October. And I keep waiting for Gosling to get that one breakthrough role.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Saw II or The Fog

Movie: The Legend of Zorro (Martin Campbell)
High-Concept Synopsis: Antonio Banderas wears a mask, while Catherine Zeta-Jones rocks a bodice. Again!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Melanie Griffith. Michael Douglas. That one guy who liked The Mask of Zorro.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Me, and You, and Everyone We Know.
Why I'd See It: Ummm . . . well, I enjoy CZJ in pretty much everything, but . . . come on.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Die. Probably.

Movie: The Weather Man (Gore Verbinski)
High-Concept Synopsis: Nicolas Cage is a weather man who just flew in from Chicago, and boy is his hairpiece tired. He's also maybe on the edge of a breakdown? Michael Caine plays his dad.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Weather men. Those poor suckers whose deals with the devil stipulate they see every Michael Caine movie, not just the good ones. People who liked The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean, but always hoped Verbinski would eschew genuine entertainment for cloying sap.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anybody who's seen Nicolas Cage in a movie, ever. Sports anchors whose rivalry with those pompous weather men has reached a fever pitch. Me.
Why I'd See It: Well, I won't. But if I did, it would be to see what Verbinski can do without a cool horror concept or awesome star turn to fall back on.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Wear Cage's wig.

Movie: The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are getting divorced. Their two sons are having a rough time of it.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone who caught the stellar buzz out of Sundance or the sparkling reviews that keep rolling in. People who loved young Jesse Eisenberg in Roger Dodger and would like to forget he starred in Cursed. Misguided Seas Captains ("Yarr, I was misled by the title").
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Everyone who got burned by Happy Texas and thus will never trust anything approved by Sundance again. Crazy people who for some reason don't like Laura Linney. Wes Anderson fans who blame Baumbach for the fact that The Life Aquatic was something of a letdown (an offbase claim – clearly I'm reaching here).
Why I'd See It: Baumbach is great. Linney is amazing. Eisenberg shows great promise. And Daniels has quietly become a great clutch performer.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Almost anything this month.

Movie: Good Night and Good Luck (George Clooney)
High-Concept Synopsis: David Strathairn plays Edward R. Murrow, bastion of television journalism, who takes a stand against Senator McCarthy and the Communist witch hunts.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Commie Pinko Leftists who secretly want to bring America down from within. People who think George Clooney is dreamy. David Strathairn enthusiasts hoping that maybe this role will help us stop thinking of him as the child molester from Dolores Claiborne.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Bill O'Reilly. Ann Coulter. Do you need any more reason to see it than the fact that these two aren't?
Why I'd See It: I liked Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and I love the subject matter here. The trailer and the advance word have been stellar, too.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Read O'Reilly's or Coulter's books.

Coming tomorrow: Harry Potter, Johnny Cash, and a family called Stone.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

NFL Picks, Week 6: This Time, It's Official

With my readers threatening to start keeping a running tab on my win-loss record, this week's picks have a bit of addded pressure. In keeping with my winning streak, I'm picking opposite my first instincts. I haven't failed to fail me yet!

N.Y. Jets (+3) over BUFFALO [Loser is all but finished in the AFC East.]

DALLAS (-3.5) over N.Y. Giants [Eli-to-Plaxico is maybe the most exciting combo of the season.]

DETROIT (+1) over Carolina [Panthers may be a schizo kind of team, but I can't imagine the Lions will be able to string two wins in a row.]

NEW ORLEANS (+5.5) over Atlanta [Vick or no Vick, the Falcons are likely much better than the Saints, who are one struggling ball team.]

Minnesota (+3) over CHICAGO [Daunte Culpepper on grass against a very good defense? Duck and cover, Vikes fans.]

Washington (+6) over KANSAS CITY [Probably the perfect spread for this game. K.C. is the better team, but Washington gives up few enough points to make you wonder if it will be close. Very clever, Vegas. Very clever.]

TENNESSEE (+3) over Cincinnati [For the second week in a row, I'm "taking" all the teams with the points. This one could be tricky for Cincy, but they seem to be the better team.]

PITTSBURGH (-3) over Jacksonville [Oooh, switching it up on you!]

BALTIMORE (-6) over Cleveland [The Browns are not a team that's going to get blown away a whole lot this season. Of course now that I said that, watch it happen.]

Miami (+4) over TAMPA BAY [Could have flipped a coin on this one. Tough matchup for the Bucs.]

DENVER (-3) over New England [Tom Brady's phantom indignation about Schottenheimer last week may have been the "spark" New England needed. Plus, the rule is that Denver is almost never as good as they seem to be.]

OAKLAND (+1.5) over San Diego [Raiders shooting for 7-9 this year. Hope they get it!]

SEATTLE (-9.5) over Houston [Houston's a shitty team, yes, and Seattle certainly has the capability to blow them out, but . . . 9.5 is a lot for a team that's not playoff caliber to be giving up.]

INDIANAPOLIS (-13.5) over St. Louis [I actually agree with Bill Simmons here – the line is too big.]

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Every Saturday Should Be a Holiday

And yet here I sit at work. BUT, I get to tell you all about this movie I saw last night. It's this little documentary from last year called DiG!. I was actually pointed to this movie by reading this week's Gilmore Girls recap on TWoP. This is the kind of roundabout way that I've been increasingly finding movies, music, and books lately. Read a reference here, a recommendation by a friend of a friend of a web columnist there. It's random but it works out.

Anyway, DiG! (yes, the capitalizations and punctuation are wholly intentional and pretty annoying) is a doc that tracks the rise, fall, and feud of post-grunge indie bands The Dandy Warhols (who I had heard of, but not listened to prior to the movie) and the Brian Jonestown Massacre (who I had not heard of at all). It's a fascinating movie, even if the protagonists – Dandy's front man Courtney Taylor and BJM demigod Anton Newcombe – are self-absorbed, pretentious egotistical fucks. It's actually the first rock documentary that actively repulsed me on the subject of being a rock star. Not if I have to hang with people like this. Newcombe is especially insufferable, as he's this unholy combination of needy, crazy, junkie, contrarian, painfully self-aware indie "purist, and hyper-aggressive antagonist. He's endlessly compelling, as he brawls with his band and fans at numerous sparsely-attended shows, but not even a bit likeable. Taylor, for his part, is haughty about his place in the music industry and all, but at least he shows an appreciation for being able to perform his music in front of big festival crowds and such.

So the two front men craft this big ol' feud between the two bands – the hopelessly dysfunctional BJM and the "sellout" Dandies. The problem is, almost nobody in the States knows who they are, so it's an even lamer feud than the Oasis-Blur tiff that they're emulating. The high point of absurdity hits when Taylor has to basically explain the feud to a European reporter who totally doesn't know or care who the Brian Jonestown Massacre are.

One thing about the movie: even though Anton is portrayed the way he is, the big common thread in the film is what an authentic and genius musician he is. That even as he's being so petulant about the Dandies, they all agree that he's making these awesome records. And I just don't see it. It's unremarkable to my ear, not that my ear is anything to go by. By that same token, I really liked hearing the Dandies' stuff, and it's interesting to me that they're portrayed as the "lesser" band, artistically.

It just underlines the fact that I have no business being a rock critic, not that I would want to be. I don't consume music like I consume movies, or TV, or sports, or even books. I don't understand it on too deep a level. With music, I knows what I likes, and it rarely goes deeper than that. My taste in music could quite objectively be described as "awful," but it works for me, so I don't much care if it's lame or whatever. My iTunes list is some unholy amalgam of 80s and 90s pop, post-grunge alternative, girl singers by the truckload, hits skimmed from a variety of "important" bands, TV theme songs, songs I liked from movie trailers and TV shows, and hordes of tunes by Tori Amos and the Lowest of the Low. And, again, it works for me, so I don't really feel all that ashamed about it.

But after seeing DiG!, I sampled a good bit of Dandy Warhols songs off iTunes, and I really, really like them. And I don't know if that's a cool thing to do or not, these days, to like the Dandy Warhols. Considering the two songs I like best by them were made familiar to me by commercials ("Bohemian Like You" – if you don't think you've heard it, you have) and the Sideways trailer ("Every Day Should Be a Holiday"), I'm thinking it's probably not all that cool. Like how nobody could be cool and like Moby because his songs were in Microsoft commercials or something. But, again, I knows what I likes, and I likes this stuff. And, hey, any band that can sing the theme songs to both Undeclared AND Veronica Mars is okay by me.

Your Weekend Reading Assignment

You guys, the entire first half of Aaron Cameron's Bootleg column is cut-and-pasted IM chats we've had over the past, oh, year. Good times. Go check it out. Come for the Joe, but be sure you stay for the Aaron, because you will find some of the more sublime pop cult references ever published on the Internet (and, yes, I'm including all Bill Simmons references to The Karate Kid). I mean . . . The Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Show! This needs to happen, like, yesterday.

And to complete the J.A.M. triumverate, give Mathan's TV column a look. He gives Lost what-for, praises Nip/Tuck and Grey's Anatomy (both faves of mine), and also - privately - is incredulous that I wouldn't have ever seen The Warriors (as I admitted in my latest Film Experience column, which you should also read).

What, did you think the weekend was for relaxing? Get reading!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

This Week's "Lost" Kvetch

Okay, so this week's Lost was pretty good. Funny how that generally seems to happen when Jack is pushed to the margins, doesn't it? We got good progress on the Adebisi's Others front. Hurley's flashbacks were actually quite entertaining, even if the underlying message was horribly underwhelming (you mean money changes people??). But of course, it wouldn't be an episode of Lost these days without an excruciatingly drawn out and increasingly stupid plot line designed to waste some time so we can stretch the season's storyline out.

Because, seriously: Hurley spends the entire episode trying not to be the guy in charge of the food – to the point of wanting to blow the food up with dynamite – when all he had to do was hand the damn reigns over to someone else! God. "But Locke said he couldn't!" Look. Locke aint the boss of anyone, much less Hurley, and if the big man was so insistent on not being Food Guy, to the point that he was willing to blow shit up with dynamite, then maybe his little rebel streak could have included giving effing Charlie a key to the food room and let the hobbit distribute the grub. And this wasn't even the subplot! This was the main plot. Damn. As if last week wasn't irritating enough with the "you push the button," "no, YOU push the button" stuff.

In other, better, TV-related news, Veronica Mars was pretty killer last night. Although that chick-ass slap fight that went down between Logan and Duncan may have unintentionally been the funniest moment of the season so far.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ten Word Movie Reviews: On Steroids

I really, really liked condensing my movie thoughts into ten words. When I write about movies, one of my negative tendencies is to bloat things out too much with unnecessary words, and at times I lose track of what I'm trying to say. At times, movies bring out the poet in me, and I may be many things as a writer, but I suuuuuuck as a poet. The ten-word format really forces me to boil my thoughts down to their most simple and direct, and I like that a great deal. So rest assured that I have every intention of sticking with the format.

That being said, we're well into October and almost all the movies I'll be seeing from now until February are going to be . . . not necessarily better (although after the dismal first half of the year, I damn well hope so) but certainly worthy of a deeper discussion. So for the time being, I'm going to write capsule reviews of the fall/winter movies, just so I can say a little more.

This week: A History of Violence; Corpse Bride; Serenity; In Her Shoes; and Proof.

Movie: A History of Violence (2005)
Director/Studio: David Cronenberg / New Line
10 Word Review: Probing, lean, expertly acted. Makes its insights without loud declarations.
Best Thing About It: The editing and pacing. Cronenberg really makes this thing move, without making it feel like it's racing along. Scenes are allowed to play themselves out at their leisure, but there is so little fat on this film that the scenes strung together end up forming a bullet train.
Worst Thing About It: It's not really bad, per se, but I was expecting something more out of the much-buzzed William Hurt cameo. To me, there just didn't seem to be all that much going on. Maybe I'm missing the boat.
Best Performance: Viggo Mortenson completely rocks his role as the small-town diner owner who finds his (or someone's) past has come back to haunt him. It's quiet, but it's quite complex. Honorable mentions to Maria Bello as Viggo's sexy, loyal wife, and young Ashton Holmes as a son coming to his own terms with violence.
Grade: A-

Movie: Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
Director/Studio: Tim Burton / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Beautifully animated stop-motion gothic folk tale. Distant, but sparklingly voiced.
Best Thing About It: The animation. It's so pretty to look at. Burton paints in grays as well as anyone I've seen (see also: Ed Wood; Sleepy Hollow). The characters are vividly drawn at varying degrees of roundness/angularity, and are all quite expressive.
Worst Thing About It: I just . . . couldn't connect with it. Burton's films have always had a heart buried beneath all the artifice that would draw me in, and I just wasn't feeling it here. The exception would be Helena Bonham Carter's Emily (the Corpse Bride herself), but the pair voiced by Johnny Depp and Emily Watson just don't do enough for me to make me care.
Best Performance: Aside from Bonham-Carter's charming turn, Christopher Lee makes his imperious presence felt in a big way.
Grade: B-

Movie: Serenity (2005)
Director/Studio: Joss Whedon / Universal
10 Word Review: Unsuccessful TV series makes for unsuccessful movie. Financially speaking, natch.
Best Thing About It: Full disclosure: I liked the Firefly TV series when I caught it on DVD. And maybe some of my dissatisfaction with the movie is borne out of a fan's futile desire to see all the loose ends and possible plot lines addressed in one two-hour movie. I will say, however, that the action scenes are very skillfully done, ranging from exciting to artful. And, dammit, I still have a soft spot for Whedon's quippy dialogue.
Worst Thing About It: I will brush past the numerous issues I have with the film itself (clunky, overly-expository dialogue; inability to make Mal an effective hero or antihero; anticlimactic plot twists; and unearned character deaths) here and point a finger at Joss and the fandom for a moment. Because the "Browncoats" have been downright obnoxious during the hype for Serenity, and especially during the aftermath of its box-office underperformance. And Joss, much as I've loved him, really needs to get over himself a bit. Sniping back at Internet columnists in "defense" of your loyal cabal of worshipers? Come on, dude.
Best Performance: Summer Glau, no contest. She really comes into her own as River Tam, although if they'd actually used Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk to their full potential, maybe Summer would have had a run for her money.
Grade: B-

Movie: In Her Shoes (2005)
Director/Studio: Curtis Hanson / 20th Century Fox
10 Word Review: Mostly successful "chick flick" that allows Toni Collete to shine.
Best Thing About It: I really enjoyed the film's commitment to making Cameron Diaz difficult to like. I come by my distaste for Cameron honestly, but I will accept that she is able to curry favor with a good chunk of the audience by flashing that coat-hanger smile and goofily shaking her ass. She doesn't do that here. She could have taken any number of routes in her performance that would have softened Maggie, but she didn't, and the film is all the better for it.
Worst Thing About It: I'm not sure if I want to blame the source material (Jennifer Weiner's novel of the same name) or the screenwriter (Erin Brockovich's Susannah Grant), but the script – while well-plotted and put together – is rather pedestrian when it comes to dialogue. I was expecting something with a little more snap to it. The performers certainly could have handled it. Also, there's a fairly wide streak of Old-Jewish-Lady-humor, whose amusement/annoyance factor will likely depend on your tolerance for such humor, or your mood at the time. Me, I didn't mind so much.
Best Performance: Toni Collette, who remains one of my very favorite actresses, and who certainly came to play. She's endlessly likeable, she's charming, she's funny in a way that can come out of nowhere at any time. And she's of an unconventional beauty that I, for one, think the filmmakers knew exactly what to do with the entire time. Which must have been nice.
Grade: B (bordering on a B+)

Movie: Proof
Director/Studio: John Madden / Miramax
10 Word Review: Sharply written, strong performances. Could have been . . . more, directorially speaking.
Best Thing About It: The acting is just superb. I've loved Gwyneth a grand total of twice in her entire career (Royal Tenenbaums and Shakespeare in Love, and really that second one is pushing it), but she is on her game in this movie. Jake Gyllenhaal and Hope Davis are brilliant and the best things about the movie. And Anthony Hopkins uses his stagy bellow to excellent effect.
Worst Thing About It: I was about two steps ahead of the plot the entire time, not having read or seen the play its based on before. And John Madden doesn't do a whole lot as a director, beyond creating a kind of displacement in which every scene begins without giving the viewers many clues as to when in the timeline it's occurring. Which is, admittedly, a nice touch.
Best Performance: It's a three horse race between Paltrow, Gyllenhaal, and Davis, but I think I'm going to give it to Jake, who fluctuates between levity and urgent drama with a skill beyond his years.
Grade: B

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Three Thoughts on a Finished Baseball Season

01 – The Yankees lost to the Angels and are out of the playoffs. Confession time, guys: I haven't blogged about the Yanks since July 15th (A-Rod and Mariano's "Toepick!" photo). There was a reason for that. I don't know if you were made aware by the constant media harping, but the Yanks had a very up-and-down season. And it seemed like every time they were up, I'd pop on here to rave about them, and like clockwork, they'd take a downward spiral. Me being the ridiculously superstitious sports fan that I am, I pledged not to jinx my team by writing about them. Alas, this strategy (and, okay, some pretty gutsy play by the actual athletes) only took them so far, and the season is over. Naturally, irony would have it that now that I'm free to speak at length about A-Rod's awesome (and yet, probably not MVP-worthy) season, Randy Johnson's anger issues, Mike Mussina's legacy of bad playoff hoodoo, Hideki Matsui's pathological lack of clutch play (SEVEN runners left on base last night!), or my deep and abiding love for Robinson Cano, I don't really want to. Because I am sad. Of course, the sadness has been tempered, somewhat, by one fact . . .

02 – The Red Sox got swept. Thank freaking god. And El Duque was the guy who slammed the door on them. Good for him. In the end, though, I wouldn't have cared who did what to whom, just so long as this failed experiment in BoSox success came to an end. So, good-bye to Curt "It Probably Wasn't Ketchup on the Sock, But It's Fun To Make Sox Fans' Heads Explode By Suggesting It Was" Schilling, Johnny "Pert Plus is My Co-Pilot" Damon, Mike "Your Stern and Unfunny Uncle" Timlin, Edgar "You Bring the Headlights, He'll Bring the Deer" Renteria, Manny "I Will Pull This Contract Shit Until the Day I Die Because I'm Good at Hitting a Ball" Ramirez, and David "I'm More Afraid of Him Than the Grim Hand of Death" Ortiz. See maybe one of you when the Yanks play at Fenway next year!

03 - Bartolo Colon? "Cheers" called. They say your barstool has been empty for a few weeks now. They hope you'll be back soon. Alternatively: Since you've already clearly stolen Horatio Sanz's face, body, and posture, here's hoping you at least left him with his raging weed habit, unprofessional inability to keep a straight face in skits, and general unfunniness. Or else, what will he have left? Finally: Thanks, Bartolo. You've just convinced John Travolta that he's in good enough shape to star in baseball movies.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

NFL Picks, Week 5: This Week's Special? Half Off!

Crap! Forgot to make my NFL picks this week! Okay, well I can still make my picks for the 4pm games. As always, reverse psychology is the rule.

SAN FRANCISCO (+15) over Indianapolis [You'd think home field would be enough for the Niners to lose by two touchdowns or less. You'd think.]

ARIZONA (+3) over Carolina [Neil Rackers is a fantasy football god.]

DALLAS (+3) over Philadelphia [Lots of home underdogs this week. That should probably give me pause.]

Washington (+7) over DENVER [Seriously, Redskins? Undefeated? Don't you think your raising expectations a bit too high?]

Cincinnati (+3) over JACKSONVILLE [Cincy seems awfully banged up, on the road. Tough road to hoe for an undefeated team.]

Pittsburgh (+3) over SAN DIEGO [Okay, I'm "picking" all underdogs this week. Suddenly, I'm very afraid.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bob Loblaw

God, Arrested Development was so funny last night. I can't stop saying Scott Baio's character's name. Bob Loblaw. Bob Loblaw. Bob Loblaw. Come on, it's fun!

Also funny? How Tobias billed himself as a combination analyst and therapist: an analrapist. Heeeee hee. Awesome.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Week 4 NFL Picks: My Own Worst Enemy

Before I get to the baseball picks, let me get this one baseball comment in: Why, Yankees, why? Why decide to pitch Jaret Wright in tomorrow's game against the Red Sox? Pitching Wright (whose ERA is something like 45.63 at this point) is as good as conceding defeat. And, yeah, they've clinched, but wouldn't they rather take their shot at maybe knocking Boston out of the playoffs with one game, rather than face them in a seven game series? Especially when our pitching is apt to fall apart at any time? And the excuse: to rest Mussina. Rest him for what? So he can give up 8 runs in the third inning of the Division Series opener? But even then, he's a better option than Wright, in what I still think remains our best chance at beating the defending champs. One game, one win, and we can put Boston in a one-and-done scenario against Cleveland. Isn’t that worth taking a shot?


Picking against my better instincts worked out pretty well for me last week. If you think I'm screwing with what's working, you're crazier than Randy Johnson after a pitch inside is called a ball.

NEW ORLEANS (even) over Buffalo [Let's just say this Opposite thing makes it easier to pick against my boys. It's called a complete pass, JP. Look into it.]

San Diego (+3.5) over NEW ENGLAND [The Job-like string of injuries (yeah, that's the last thing Boston sports needs – an actual persecution complex) is the only thing giving me pause that the Pats won't put a big hurt on San Diddy.]

Denver (+4) over JACKSONVILLE [Hell, you try and figure out the AFC West teams. I give up.]

Houston (+9.5) over CINCINNATI [It's as much because Houston sucks as it is because Cincy's good.]

Indianapolis (-7) over TENNESSEE [Maybe this is how the Colts will win all season. Low-scoring, defensive struggled with Edge carrying the load. Dammit, fantasy football starter Reggie Wayne!]

KANSAS CITY (-2) over Philadelphia [Okay, KC, which team is it?]

Detroit (+6.5) over TAMPA BAY [Winner wins by a TD, either way.]

St Louis (+3) over NY GIANTS [Lots of offense, I'm thinking. And maybe here is where I pay tribute to my latest fantasy ball Starting White Wideout: Kevin Curtis.]

Seattle (+2) over WASHINGTON [Every Skins matchup I see just looks ugly. Yet we get them on TV here all the time! What the hell, FOX?]

NY Jets (+7) over BALTIMORE [Yeah, I can't exactly argue with the Jets falling apart here. Still, sticking with the formula.]

ATLANTA (-6) over Minnesota [I see Atlanta as inconsistent, while I see Minnesota as ]hopefully) finding their footing.]

Dallas (+3) over OAKLAND [The Raiders have to win some time, right?]

Arizona (-2.5) over San Francisco [No freaking idea.]

Green Bay (+7.5) over CAROLINA [Carolina is maybe the hardest team to figure out in football. Seriously. You sort them out.]