Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm All A-Twitter!

It's only Monday and I already feel like I've accomplished everything I need to accomplish this week. Because, see, I've been informed that I have successfully turned one of my friends on to the late, lamented WB series Popular, and in particular its demented southern belle Mary Cherry (played by the incomparable and underemployed Leslie Grossman).

To celebrate this occasion, here's a YouTube clip. Some industrious fan has finally done the inevitable and condensed the show into just the Mary Cherry parts. Take a gander and then let's go club some baby seals!

Capsule Review: Stop-Loss

Movie: Stop-Loss

Director/Studio: Kimberly Pierce / Paramount

10 Word Review: Well intentioned movie spreads itself thin; speaks a lotta truth.

Best Thing About It: Even with the country having finally shifted to firm opposition of the war, its position on the troops is as supportive as it ever has been, so finding an Iraq movie that's sympathetic to their situation isn't a challenge. But Kimberly Pierce may have made the first of these films that feels truly empathetic, that's dug itself a hole right next to these soldiers and puts their faces, their wounds, and their fears in front of our faces and doesn't let us look away. There is a strong heart to this film and it is constantly breaking.

Worst Thing About It: The film's reach ultimately exceeds its grasp, particularly during a middle stretch which, at times, feels like Ryan Phillippe's character is taking a tour of the major talking points of the war "issue." It's not fatal to the film, but it does lend an air of "well-intentioned lecture" to certain parts. It's tough to imagine that any one movie can touch on everything that this was has done to the country and its citizens (not to mention, obviously, the Iraqis); the total cost has spread itself wide, across the breadth of this nation and beyond, and its seeped into every crack and corner. You'd need to cast and impossibly wide net to capture that all in one film, and this one would have been better served by a tighter focus.

Best Performance: The leads all acquit themselves fairly well. Ryan Phillippe has become an actor I very much enjoy even if he's not perfect here. Channing Tatum actually seems to inhabit his role more naturally (he's given a lot less to do, of course), and if Abbie Cornish had somehow been allowed to shed a Texas accent that she was no match for, I'd have been raving about her because she's awfully good. But best-in-show honors go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who gets the least screen time of the four but manages to create the film's most impactful character. There's no longer a doubt in my mind that he's one of the brightest lights in his generation.

Oscar Prospects: Nil after that negligible box office showing. Which, okay, time to talk about that. Once again, an Iraq movie opens and no one shows up to see it. This one managed good reviews, a hefty ad budget, sexy co-stars, snob appeal, redneck appeal, mainstream am I finally ready to shut up and admit that America don't care for movies about the war? I suppose. It certainly doesn't speak well of a population getting ready to choose its next president, though, does it? Of course, I'm coming at this from a selfish position that says the world is better off with Kimberly Pierce as a profitable and in-demand director and with the message that thoughtful, empathetic movies about the greatest ongoing tragedy of my generation are worth watching.

Grade: B+

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Winter Movie Preview, Part 4

[Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

Movie: The Ruins (Carter Smith)
High-Concept Synopsis: Spring Breakers wander from Cancun into the Mexican jungle, coming upon some overgrown Mayan ruins. That was their first mistake.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who read and enjoyed the tense, swiftly moving novel by Scott Smith (A Simple Plan). People looking forward to seeing Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, and Joe Anderson sweat and suffer. Environmentalists eager for all the vegetation porn.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People confused by the vagueness of the forces working against our heroes/victims. Kids not looking forward to freaking themselves out before they head to Mexico themselves. Mel Gibson, who thought he got to make the most violent movie ever associated with Mayan architecture.
Why I'd See It: The book was tight and I can't wait to see how it's rendered onscreen. And "rendered" is probably a good word, considering...well, I don't want to ruin it for anyone. April 4

Movie: Nim's Island (Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin, and Gerard Butler star in a fantasy/adventure/comedy about a little girl whose imagination houses a vast fantastical universe of some sort.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Old school Neverending Story fans looking for a fix. Jodie Foster fans eager to see her onscreen and not blowing street thugs away. Little Miss Sunshine fans eager to see Breslin through her awkward phase.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Narnia fans who feel territorial about any fantasy product crowding in on their favored Jesus lion. Moviegoers too busy making "Thithhhh ithhhh THHHPARTA!" jokes at Gerard Butler's expense to actually go see a movie. Viewers pissed that this movie is not, in fact, a sequel to the 1982 animated movie The Secret of NIMH.
Why I'd See It: Ummm...if I end up seeing it on (free) cable some afternoon when I'm particularly unburdened with anything better to do? April 4

Movie: Shine A Light (Martin Scorsese)
High-Concept Synopsis: Now that he's won that Oscar, Marty's free to direct concert films again, this time featuring the Rolling Stones.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Stones fans who don't care how mummified Mick and Keith are looking these days. Young folks drawn in by demo-baiting special guests like Jack White and Christina Aguilera. Fans of Scorsese's seminal concert film, The Last Waltz (hi, Dad!).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Non-fans of the Stones. Non-fans of Scorsese. Audiences turned off by the sight of Mick feeling up on Xtina. Hands off, Grandpa!
Why I'd See It: Eh. I love the Stones and all, but the big screen is no place to stare at those craggy mugs for an hour and a half. The fact that this is screening in IMAX theatres makes me afraid for the well-being of those who attend. April 4

Movie: Leatherheads (George Clooney)
High-Concept Synopsis: The Hudsucker Proxy but with footballs instead of hula hoops, is my best guess. Clooney plays an aging gridiron star while John Krasinski plays the young upstart and Renee Zellweger plays Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Rosalind Russell.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The not inconsiderable throngs of women who'd do just about anything for George Clooney. The not inconsiderable throngs of men who'd do just about anything for George Clooney. Fans of Clooney's work with the Coen Brothers, since he's borrowing pretty liberally from some of their aesthetic.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Coen fans who don't like such overt style-biting. The Office fans who refuse to see anything that suggests Jim will end up with Bridget Jones and not Pam. Bondage folks who were momentarily misled by the title.
Why I'd See It: Clooney and Krasinski both seem to be having fun, and it'll be interesting to see if Clooney can handle screwball comedy as a director. April 4

Movie: Smart People (Noam Murro)
High-Concept Synopsis: The producer of Sideways brings forth yet another tale of a hopelessly dysfunctional intellectual who gets his life shaken up by Thomas Haden Church. Ellen Page and Sarah Jessica Parker co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Sideways fans who are cool with swapping Victorian literature for fine wine and Dennis Quaid for Paul Giamatti. Juno fans looking to see Page make with the sass-mouth again. Sex and the City fanatics who feel like they're going to need to wade back into Sarah Jessica Parker's orbit, lest they die from SJP shock when they finally see Carrie Bradshaw on the big screen.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Sideways fans who found a whole lot of that movie's appeal to have been in Alexander Payne and Paul Giamatti. The Juno backlashers who are ready to trample Ellen Page's burgeoning career under their feet. Anti-intellectuals.
Why I'd See It: It looks amusing enough. Truthfully, it looks every bit the poor-man's Sideways that it's been billed as, and if you were going to pick one of that film's actors to carry over, Thomas Haden Church would have been my last choice. April 11

Movie: Street Kings (David Ayer)
High-Concept Synopsis: The writer of Training Day and Dark Blue and Harsh Times and S.W.A.T. ventured into the uncharted waters of the LAPD and its daily street war against crime and corruption. Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, and a cast of thousands star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who saw and enjoyed Training Day and Dark Blue. Fans of the kind of far-flung casting that puts Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Common, and Cedric the Entertainer in the same movie. Speed fans who know the comedic potential of casting Keanu as a cop again.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who saw Harsh Times and S.W.A.T. Audiences who will swear to having seen this movie before. People who prefer their James Ellroy stories (L.A. Confidential; The Black Dahlia) to be set in the seedy L.A. of the 1940s.
Why I'd See It: The cast is actually interesting to me, even if none of them seem like they should be in the same movie. But man, does this story seem tired. April 11

Movie: Prom Night (Nelson McCormick)
High-Concept Synopsis: TV director McCormick directs a whole bunch of TV actors in a horror remake about high schoolers getting menaced at the prom. No one ever said the basics didn't work.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Horror fans eager to see a remake that isn't taking a beloved classic of the genre and crappifying it. (Prom Night was crappified to begin with!) People who come to see Idris Elba, a.k.a. Stringer Bell from The Wire because, I don't know if you've heard, but The Wire fans are kind of hardcore. People who come to see Scott Porter, a.k.a. Jason Street from Friday Night Lights because, I don't know if you've heard, but Friday Night Lights fans are kind of hardcore.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Everybody currently thinking of emailing me all aghast that I'd consider the original Prom Night "crappified." Movie snobs who won't see something so dominated by small-screen talent. High schoolers who tell their parents they're going to the movies after their real proms but are actually going to a house party to drink and have sex.
Why I'd See It: It won't take much to get me to see a crappy horror movie. Of course, it won't take much to get me to blow off a crappy horror movie either. We'll leave it up to fate. April 11

Movie: The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy)
High-Concept Synopsis: Writer/director McCarthy casts Richard Jenkins as the kind of sad old New York intellectual who either imparts wisdom or has wisdom imparted unto him. It's the latter here, as he finds a pair of illegal immigrants squatting in his apartment and strikes up an odd friendship.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone who's ever been enchanted by Jenkins in his countless bit parts and supporting roles and are ecstatic that he's gotten a lead. Fans of McCarthy's The Station Agent, which was similarly about very different people gravitating towards each other. Fans of the boring-white-people-learn-about-life-from-brown people genre.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People annoyed by the boring-white-people-learn-about-life-from-brown-people genre. Folks who find themselves staunchly opposed to both New York intellectuals and illegal immigrants (who will all probably be at a McCain rally that weekend). Audiences who confuse "Richard Jenkins" for "Roscoe Jenkins" and run screaming.
Why I'd See It: I'm a huge Richard Jenkins fan, if you haven't caught on to that, and I was also a big, big fan of The Station Agent, so while this looks like it could be trite, my hopes remain high. April 11

Friday, March 28, 2008


Some self-promotion, followed by some other-promotion:

First off, you can check out my latest American Idol recappery here, here, and here.

I've also started lending a helping hand to the weekly TWoP video -- my segment this week is on The Hills, believe it or not -- which you can check out right here.

And while we're on the subject of TWoP, you guys have to go check out Drunken Bee's recap for The Real World/Road Rules Challenge reunion episode. Because, did you guys see that? The season itself was super boring, but that reunion was the greatest thing I've ever seen, thanks mostly to the ruthless verbal dominance of Katie Doyle and Coral Smith. Love those girls!

Jason at My New Plaid Pants passes on some valuable advice about Run, Fatboy, Run that you really should heed. Trust me.

Finally, if you're in any way looking for a pick-me-up as you wait for the week to end, allow Linda to introduce you to the Friday Dance Party.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

EVEN MORE Ill-Advised Brain Activity

Wow, how could I have forgotten to include The Hills on my list of things I'm disproportionately preoccupied with? Specifically last Monday's "this season on The Hills" preview montage. No one should be having a twelve-minute conversation about why it looked like Spencer's sister was hanging out with Lauren, and does that speak well of her or poorly of Lauren, and how it's actually going to be awesome because Lauren is totally Spencer's arch-nemesis. And then another twelve-minute conversation about how Lo is always -- ALWAYS! -- the voice of reason. And then...well, then I kind of yelped when I saw Stephen (yes, Laguna Beach Stephen, I know!) show up for like three seconds. Sadly, I couldn't work up much of anything about Whitney leaving Teen Vogue. She's a sweet girl and all, but the position of Lauren's probing-question-asking, sensible-advice-giving sounding board has long since been filled (Lo!).

You guys, don't judge me. I'm also watching John Adams. I'm doing my part to stay informed on the election. Let me have my guilty pleasures!

My Brain Today

Sorry 'bout the sparse posting lately. Easter and work craziness and all. Plus my brain's been lingering in the stangest places lately. Like for instance...

...this Chace Crawford/JC Chasez thing. Way, way too much of my headspace is occupied by this are-they-or-aren't-they, well they probably aren't, but how long is too long to spend alone in a cabana, and they sure are awfully attractive, but is this really any of my business, and yet they're public figures and what's the harm with some innocent speculation, and maybe this will get more people to watch Gossip Girl, and how is it that N Sync was even gayer than we thought it was?

-- The casting for Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. This one's neither surprising nor all that guilt-indicuing. Eliza Dushku back on TV. Joss Whedon's chance to redeem himself in my eyes? Plus all this talk of further Buffy alums getting cast (no James Marsters, please), and also Helo? Man, there's no way this can live up to expectations.

-- Yelling back at my TV during those more-annoying-than-ever ads. I've turned hating ads into something of a full-time hobby, on par with hating PETA in terms of utter vitriol. But, yeah, if you hear someone screaming "I'll give YOU the Magical Amount, asshole!" that's probably me.

Anyway, I'm going to try to post more during all this mental confusion. Promise.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Night's Lost


Sorry, I just hate the Michael character SO much, and it took about five minutes of last night's show (plus the previouslies) to remind me of that. Yeah, yeah, you're monomaniacal about your son and you want to kill yourself and blah blah blah. Tell it to Anna Lucia (who was oddly not in any of his hallucinations, and when I say "oddly" I mean "because Michelle Rodriguez holds a grudge") and Libby, dude.

The stuff at the end with Carl and Rousseau and Alex took me by surprise, I have to admit. I'd forgotten about the "someone dies" thing by then, and when Carl got shot I was literally like, "Carl?! He's the death?? That is so lame! I mean...ohhhhhhh." That's when Rousseau got it. That was sad, I thought. This is why you never tell your children how much you love them before you try to escape a hail of bullets.

Interesting that they pulled the trigger on the "Tom's a gay" thing (am I crazy or hadn't this been hinted at in some way previously?), but it's kind of very shitty for the one, at long last, gay character on this show to be literally a walking corpse.

I can't believe we didn't get any Zoe Bell in this episode? After all that hoo-ha, are they really going to limit her screen time to reading a book and jumping off a boat?

I really like the idea that Ben and his people see Widmore as the great evil out to destroy them all and Widmore's people see Ben as the great evil out to destroy them all. Is it really just a childish game of "Mine!" between these two over the world's bestest toy? And is Locke ready to throw his hat in the ring as well?

Sorry, I still love Miles. That little shit. Anyone who can get under Sawyer's, Locke's, and Jack's skin so easily is automatically a fave.

Also, you gotta figure this time-moves-differently-on/off-the-island thing is for real, because there's no way Michael had time to get home, have a nervous breakdown, convalesce, get recruited, and go out to sea in the span of however many days last season lasted.

Thank God the show returns April 24 with more episodes, because this would have been a total letdown as a season finale.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What He Said

So you know I'm obsessed with FourFour like a stalker from afar, but today he gives a terrifically joyous review of Neil Marshall's festival o' glorious garbage Doomsday. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, with a bag over my head, after being drugged, and held at gunpoint, with threats made against my loved ones, to go see this movie last night. It's a terrible film, to be sure, but a SPECTACULARLY terrible film at times. I totally enjoyed it in spite of myself. I could offer up a review of my own, but it'd only be me mentioning the 6,000 times Marshall ripped off Mad Max, so I'm simply linking to the FourFour review, because...basically yeah. One thing I will add is the fact that David O'Hara was clearly told at some point that his Scottish accent was making his lines completely unintelligible and was asked to speak as slowly as possible to compensate. There's no other explanation for the way that guy talked in this movie, other than an additional chromosome.

Monday, March 17, 2008

'Round Springfield II (Stuff I Just Now Came Across)

Best Week Ever presents its mytharc-focused review of HBO's John Adams and while they don't specifically ask if the Smoke Monster was behind the Boston Massacre, the question is strongly implied.

Finally, I cannot tell you how much joy this new development in the McGreevey scandal is bringing me. Ever since I saw Dina Matos McGreevey on Oprah, hawking her book, wringing the audience for every drop of sympathy, completely (and predictably) freaking Oprah the hell out, because nothing scares Oprah to her bones more than husbands who turn out to be gay. I just...fucking HATED her, and yet I still had to somewhat feel for her because she did get the rug pulled out from under her and she had to feel pretty betrayed and blah, blah, blah. WELL NO LONGER! Thank you, threesome-happy-but-still-kinda-cute campaign staffer! I love how this guy is as grossed out by Matos's hypocrisy as I am. As always, freaky sex is never the crime -- bald-faced hypocrisy is.

'Round Springfield

So after a weekend in which my sister ended up photographed marching with the president of Sinn Fein (...sigh), and as I sit here watching the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade march on by outside my window, I feel like I should give props to this, the whitest of all holidays. It's weird because when I was still in Buffalo, I didn't attend the St. Patrick's Day parade much, and I'd grown weary of the drunk-a-thon in recent years (not that I don't enjoy a good drunk-a-thon, but 10 AM 'til closing time, in 20-degree weather, isn't know, fun). And I've set aside the practicing Catholicism almost entirely. And yet today, I felt the twin urges to both go to church (!) and then head down to 5th and watch the parade go by up close. It's still in my blood, I guess. Bagpipes and line dancing still pull some triggers.

Anyway, elsewhere on these internets:

Kenneth In The (212) ponders the fate of Paul Walker, which is something I've been doing ever since I saw the Never Back Down trailer and that blond guy doing that stock Paul Walker role seemingly better than the original. With that in mind, I do think it's kind of cruel that they invited him to the Never Back Down premiere so he could watch himself be made redundant in person.

Jason at My New Plaid Pants has finally seen No Country For Old Men enough times to offer up an opinion on it. The verdict? See for yourself. Spoiler: it doesn't drink a certain other film's milkshake, to my chagrin.

Finally, m'boy Nathaniel over at The Film Experience is running his second annual Actress Psychic contest to predict next year's Best Actress Oscar lineup. It don't cost nothing to enter but an email, so I urge you to place an entry. And if you really want to make my (and his) day, your ballot will include Drew Barrymore, Rachel McAdams, Kate Beckinsale, Catherine Keener, and Sophie Okonedo. Nat needs some dark horses.

Encyclopedia Galactica

I was getting all set to scold SciFi network for having Battlestar Galactica premiering in less than a month and yet not making with the marathon airings to catch us up, but it seems like they are running the last half-dozen or so on Tuesday, but regardless: this is a network that runs movies about giant insects every four hours. There is no reason they shouldn't be running all three seasons' worth of episodes, multiple times. There's a lot of information there and the fanbase could maybe do with some refreshing of our memories, don't you think? I mean, this is great and all, but we need more than 8 1/2 minutes.

I caught up on the last few episodes myself via Hulu (a.k.a., Why Nobody's Getting Anything Done Ever Anymore) and I condensed all the Need To Knows for the new season into a handy list:


01 - There Are Four New Cylons (And They're Way Into Hendrix): So Tigh, Tory, Anders, and Chief all followed the sounds of "All Along The Watchtower" towards the revelation that they've all been Cylon sleepers from the beginning. With Tigh and Tory at the right hands of Adama and Roslin, plus Anders and the Chief pretty well placed in the military, that's gonna mean some things. However...

02 - The Rest Of The Cylons Don't Know This (Yet): Supposedly the only Cylon who's seen any of the vaunted Final Five was Three (a.k.a. D'Anna Biers, a.k.a. Xena), and she followed that up by: a) getting shot, b) going crazy, and c) getting boxed. (I haven't heard anything about Lucy Lawless coming back this season.) Six may or may not have seen the Final Five in a dream at the end of last season, but the screen went blindingly white at the time. So that's four new Cylons out of the Final Five, which reminds me...

03 - Starbuck's Alive (Again): When it first appeared to us that she died, Kara Thrace was dealing with a whole bunch of visions, premonitions, and out-of-body experiences having to do with her Cylon stalker/captor/would-be lover Leoben as well as her deceased monster of a mother. Does this refusal to die mean she's a Cylon? The evidence seems to suggest it, which means that she's probably not, but something must've happened since she came back saying she'd been to Earth and wants to bring the Fleet (and Cylons?) there. Yeah, about that...

04 - Starbuck's The Usher Of The Apocalypse (Or So Say The Precogs): In the Battlestar movie Razor, we learned from one of the Cylon Hybrids (those things that live in the bathtubs full of goo and speak nonstop gibberish) that Kara Thrace will lead humanity to its destruction and they really shouldn't follow her. Next time, the Hybrid might want to tell this to someone who doesn't subsequently die alone. So Earth, then...

05 - There's A Road Map To Earth (If By "Map" You Mean "Scavenger Hunt"): The Arrow of Athena led to the Temple of Apollo, then there was the Eye of Jupiter, and now the fleet has jumped to the Ionian Nebula, which made all the power go out. If the fleet eventually shows up and Earth hasn't made it to the electrical age yet, I really think they ought to turn around and go back.

06 - Roslin's Cancer Is Back (And It's Really Bad Timing): Yeah, so apparently that miracle blood transfusion from Baby Hera didn't take, because Laura's dying again. Now that we're so close to the end of the series, the chances that she won't make it to the end alive have just increased. Not that she's going to go quietly.

07 - Roslin's Having Dreams Again (Space Chemo Is Trippy, Man): Like the last time she was sick, Laura's treatment is giving her visions. This time, they're about a golden temple of some sort, and she, Sharon, and Six are all desperately seeking Hera so that they may protect her. I'm already kind of pre-disposed towards non-traditional families, but seriously, with those three as your moms, nobody would ever fuck with you. Not ever. Hera was always going to bring the humans and Cylons together, so maybe this is how that happens. Oh, and speaking of which...

08 -There Are Two Cybrid Babies Now (Because Remember The Hendrix?): Yeah, so now that Chief Tyrol is a Cylon, that means his and Cally's baby is our second known human-Cylon hybrid. The child's newfound importance in the grand scheme of things nevertheless gets me no closer to remembering his name.

09 - Gaius Baltar Has A Cult (And Hopefully They've Got A Couch He Can Crash On): Baltar was found not guilty of treason in the season finale, and while the decision was all controversial and riot-making, he managed to win the admiration of a bunch of squirrelly-faced people who threw a cloak over his head and spirited him away to their isolated prairie compound. Cult life shouldn't be too much of a shock to Gaius's system, seeing as he already had a bunch of group sex in Season 3.

10 - We're At 20 Episodes And Counting (I Know, I Know): So this fourth season of Battlestar will indeed be the last. The twenty episodes will be split in half, with the first ten airing this spring and the final ten...sometime in the future. Gather ye Cylons while ye may, and all that.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Watch With Me

Three shows premiering this week that I plan to watch. You should totally watch them too! So we can talk!

John Adams (HBO, Sunday, 8 PM): Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney in a seven-episode miniseries based on that book your mom was reading a couple years ago. Or maybe just my mom. I've been drifting away from HBO since Deadwood, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos ended, but this kind of thing is what HBO is uniquely suited to do: giving seven hours to adapt a long-ass book and providing a decent budget to do so. I'm going to try to watch this when it airs on Sundays because if I don't, I can see it sitting on my DVR for a while.

The Riches (FX, Tuesday, 10 PM): I've written about this show before, so you already know how psyched I am for the second season premiere. In the past, when I've watched full seasons of shows on DVD, I've ended up losing patience with the one-week-at-a-time nature of watching it in season (this is what happened with Dexter, and why I'm going to watch that season again in one glut). Of course, that's not always the case (Battlestar Galactica, among others), so we'll see how this goes.

Miss Guided (ABC, Tuesday, 10:30 PM): Lucky for this show my Tuesday schedule is virtually empty. So Judy Greer plays a high school guidance counselor even though she was a dork in high school, and it's an ABC midseason comedy, which means I'll like it and nobody else will watch it and it'll get cancelled. But Judy Greer! And Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-! Give it a go, huh?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Separated At Birth?

(...and raised by families with very different ideas about hair care?)

Top Chef 4's Richard


The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters protag Steve Wiebe

I know, I know. I think all white people look alike.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tonight's Lost

If you haven't seen tonight's episode yet, don't read this post. Obviously.

So I get to play Aaron Cameron tonight and say that I saw both of this episode's major twists coming for the entire hour. Not that it was all that impressive a feat. As soon as I heard it was a Jin/Sun episode, I made the guess that one would be revealed an an Oceanic Six and one would not -- and it would probably be Sun who survived since this show has been flirting with killing Jin since Season 1 -- and so I watched the episode with that in mind throughout. Not that it was that hard to suss out anyway: Jin's running all over town and nobody recognizes him as Oceanic Six despite all the other survivors (including Sun) getting recognized as such? Plus, it just seemed like the logical thing for the show to do.

As for the Michael "revelation," the internet's been all over that one for weeks. I can't exactly claim credit for that one.

Of course, don't confuse "easily figured out" with "bad," because this episode was a dandy, as most of the Jin/Sun episodes have been. It was heartbreaking by the end, and I'm glad that only Hurley was there with Sun at the end. That moment didn't need Jack and Kate around making it all about them. As with the best revelations on Lost, it gives answers (Sun is O6; she and her baby survive the pregnancy) while asking new questions (how did Jin die? Is he even really dead or just presumed dead? How funny was the doctor on the boat when he saw that splatter of blood on the wall and was all, "Well that shoudln't still be there, SIGH."?).

As for the rest of the episode, I like the idea that the people on the boat are essentially telling the truth, and even Naomi's initial Big Lie (that it was Penny's boat) isn't really that big of a lie now that we know it's her dad's boat. I like the idea of the Boaties being secretive but ultimately truthful (the "look, we were just sent out here to fuck Ben up and we come upon you presumed-dead survivors" stuff) while Ben is the one spinning the web of lies and paranoia.

As dastardly a maneuver as it was (and I would've slapped her too), I love that Juliet went there in revealing Sun's affair to Jin in order to get them to stay. That's the Other in her coming out. Her "Ben" side. Hardcore, but after all she's been through -- every patient she's seen die -- you can't entirely blame her.

Clearly Regina didn't actually kill herself by jumping off that boat, or else what a terrible waste of Zoe Bell. At first I thought it was another case of Desmond seeing the future, but it was never made clear whether Sayid (or anyone else) saw her jump, too.

Just a great episode, overall, and one that presents the most pressing question of all...

Does this count as the Island DUI Curse claiming another victim?

Of Local Interest

Okay, so if you don't live in New York and take the subway, this will probably mean nothing to you, but regardless I feel like I have to give props to the good people handling marketing for Jameson Irish Whiskey, because their ads totally cracked me up on the train home yesterday. The tagline is "Maybe It's Just The Taste," which seems kind of generic, but the ads all offer other "Maybe it's..." options, most of them being very specific to the NYC subway experience, including my favorite: "Maybe it's because the ads give you something to stare at. So the guy sitting in the map seat can get a break." Because OH MY GOD FOR REAL. I remember when I first moves here and I'd be sitting on the subway and getting really weirded out that people seemed to be staring at me. Was it my hopelessly Upstate clothing? Were they trying to initiate a knife fight? Until I realized I was sitting in front of the subway map and those people were staring at that and not me. It's happened dozens of times since then, and every time I'm like, "Why is that person star...oh, right. Map seat."

I was also happy to find that another blogger had the same take I had about another iteration of the Jameson ad: "Maybe it's because there are nine wrong ways to swipe your [subway] card. But no wrong ways to enjoy a Jameson." I spent the better part of the trip back to Brooklyn trying to add up all the wrong ways and could only come up with seven. Seven! What are the other two ways, Jameson? HUH??

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh, Governor Spitzer, Really!


We had been doing so well with all the major recent sex scandals being perpetrated by Republicans. Republicans!

My Current Televisual Obsession

When it comes to my favorite shows on TV, I am largely a fickle bitch. My favorite shows one year get...well, not tossed aside exactly but de-emphasized in favor of the new, shiny thing. Doesn't mean I don't love Friday Night Lights and Big Love and Brothers & Sisters anymore, but they're not as surprising to me as they used to be. (Of course, the exceptions to this rule -- Battlestar Galactica! Returns April 4! -- are all the more impressive.)

Anyway, the show I'm currently freaking out over is FX's The Riches, which everyone told me I would love but I waited for the DVDs to come out rather than picking up the first season in mid-stream. Anyway, if you've seen or read about the show, you know it's about Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a pair of Travellers (American gypsies, essentially) who take their family, flee from the Traveller fold, and assume the identities of a recently-killed and fabulously wealthy family (the Riches).

The show reminds me of Big Love in the ways that it reveals a family unit whose roots are in a subculture completely hidden from mainstream America, and also in the ways that comedy and drama blend within the show. Instead of the constant jockeying for power that takes place on Big Love, however, The Riches concerns itself with its characters seeking to define and redefine themselves while their environment is constantly fluctuating around them. Eddie Izzard's a good fit for Wayne Malloy/Doug Rich, as he always seems to be putting you on even when he's ostensibly playing it straight. But the real thrill of the show, for me, is watching Minnie Driver thrive in the role of Dahlia/Cherien. There is a certain stratum of actors and actresses who sort of bounce around Hollywood waiting for that one perfect role that's going to let them shine. One of the great benefits of living in this so-called Golden Age of television is that actresses are finding these kinds of roles more and more -- Jeanne Tripplehorn on Big Love, Elizabeth Perkins on Weeds -- and Minnie Driver has absolutely found that role on The Riches.

There are a billion things I love about the show, from the trio of rather excellent young actors playing Wayne and Dahlia's kids (and the fact that they're all pretty well fleshed-out as characters), to Margo Martindale tearing shit up as the joint-smoking, gay-husband-abiding, doesn't-miss-a-trick Nina, to Kaitlin Olson stepping out of her It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia shell to play a one-armed snooty bitch. But Dahlia's the emotional center of the show for me, and Driver has never failed to bring every piece of her -- angry, loving, funny, ignorant, protective, overmatched -- to the forefront, every episode. She's shockingly good.

Anyway, The Riches comes back for a (strike-shortened) second season on March 18. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Beyond Actor-Dome: The Finals

64 men enter. One man leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actor have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actors have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) since watching boys fight is something you can see at the closest downtown bar, this time around we're judging by who would prevail in the most time-tested of competitive activities: The Walkoff (Motherf*cking Walkoff).



In Damon's corner:
The Rainmaker; Good Will Hunting; Rounders; Dogma; The Talented Mr. Ripley; Ocean's Eleven; Gerry; Will & Grace; The Bourne Identity; Eurotrip; The Bourne Supremacy; Ocean's Twelve; Syriana; The Good Shepherd; The Departed; The Bourne Ultimatum.

In McKellen's corner:
Gods and Monsters; Apt Pupil; X-Men; Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; X2: X-Men United; Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; The DaVinci Code; X-Men: United.

Advantage: Matt Damon


In Damon's corner:
Detective Sergeant Colin Sullivan, desperate and devious undercover bad guy within the Boston PD, blah blah blah, we've all seen The Departed. Damon gives the best performance in the film, despite nearly everybody else in the cast getting singled out before he did. How someone who's been as high profile as Damon has been for ten full years can be so underrated is kind of mind-blowing, but it happens to him time and again: in Ripley (Jude Law gets the Oscar nomination), in Ocean's Eleven and Syriana (Clooney nabs the Oscar for the latter and an evergreen public persona for the former), in Eurotrip (the recent Sarah Silverman video wasn't his first foray into "I fucked your girlfriend" musical performance). Anyway, he's the shizz in The Departed and not enough people seem to want to recognize that.

In McKellen's corner:
Frankenstein director James Whale, whose bittersweet final days were performed perfectly by McKellen, in a performance for the ages. Let's take a little trip back to 1998, then, and the Best Actor race at the Oscars. We have McKellen, whose performance I have yet to shut up about, Nick Nolte in Affliction (another career-best performance that took the six or seven people who saw that movie by storm), Edward Norton in American History X (a shocking, frightening performance that cemented Norton as the premier actor of his generation at the time), a Tom Hanks performance in Saving Private Ryan that was admittedly a place-saver but still admirable, and then...Benigni. The Holocaust clown. Who thought winning an Academy Award was quite the spicy meat-a-ball. Are you feeling the anger anew? I know I am.

Advantage: Ian McKellen

Fake Oscar Nods: McKellen: 2 (Gods and Monsters; LotR: The Fellowship Of The Ring); Damon: 2 (Ocean's Eleven; The Departed). Push

Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.

Reader Vote: Matt Damon takes it by a one-vote margin. Shoulda voted, disgruntled Anglophiles!

Motherf*cking Walkoff: So McKellen's been cleaning up in this category, what with his "suave old man on the make" routine, and rightfully so. Damon's been getting by on his Sexiest Man Alive thing, which we all know isn't quite the case, but we forgive it anyway because he's, what, Top 5? 10? He's up there. They both always look presentable on a red carpet. Neither would act all too-cool-for-school about throwing on some Armani for a charity fashion show. They're the best. Except ever since he's been fucking Sarah Silverman, Damon's got a bit of a swagger to his step and a sparkle in his eye. Could that be enough?

Advantage: ...Matt Damon

Winner: Matt Damon 3-1

So thanks to all readers, commenters, voters, and that special class of you that's all three. I know it took me for-fucking-ever to finish this thing, so I thank you for your patience...and I'll thank you in advance for your patience the next time I do one of these things.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

2008 Oscar Predictions, Pt. 2: The Picks

So, like I said, if I get one or two correct in each category, that'll be about as good as I ever do on these. Here's a little secret: even the people who are really good at this kind of thing don't do much better . (These are ranked in order of most likely.)

01 - Milk (Focus)
02 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount)
03 - The Reader (Weinstein Co.)
04 - Defiance (Paramount Vantage)
05 - Changeling (Universal)

Next Five: Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage); Body of Lies (Warner Bros.); Frost/Nixon (Universal); The Argentine (Focus); Miracle at St. Anna (Disney); Australia (20th Century Fox); The Soloist (Dreamworks).

01 - Gus Van Sant (Milk)
02 - David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
03 - Edward Zwick (Defiance)
04 - Fernando Mierelles (Blindness)
05 - Clint Eastwood (Changeling)

Next Five:; Stephen Daldry (The Reader); Ridley Scott (Body of Lies); Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road); Spike Lee (Miracle at St. Anna); Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon); Steven Soderbergh (The Argentine); Baz Luhrman (Australia).

01 - Sean Penn (Milk)
02 - Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
03 - Benicio Del Toro (The Argentine)
04 - Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) (or Body of Lies)
05 - Daniel Craig (Defiance)

Next Five: Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Viggo Mortenson (Appaloosa); Ralf Feinnes (The Reader); Jamie Foxx (The Soloist); Will Smith (Seven Pounds); Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt); Hugh Jackman (Australia).

01 - Meryl Streep (Doubt)
02 - Kate Winslet (The Reader) (or Revolutionary Road)
03 - Angelina Jolie (Changeling)
04 - Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria)
05 - Rachel McAdams (The Lucky Ones)

Next Five: Kiera Knightley (The Duchess); Julianne Moore (Blindness); Nicole Kidman (Australia); Anne Hathaway (Dancing With Shiva); Natalie Portman (Brothers).

01 - Josh Brolin (Milk)
02 - Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
03 - John Malkovich (Changeling)
04 - Liev Schrieber (Defiance)
05 - Ed Harris (Appaloosa)

Next Five: Jamie Bell (Defiance); Alan Alda (Nothing But The Truth / Diminished Capacity); Tobey Maguire (Brothers); Robert Downey Jr. (The Soloist); Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight); Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).

01 - Amy Adams (Doubt)
02 - Viola Davis (Doubt)
03 - Kathy Bates (Revolutionary Road)
04 - Annette Bening (Dirty Tricks) (or The Women)
05 - Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria)

Next Five: Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button);
Renee Zellweger (Appaloosa); Franka Potente (The Argentine); Helen Mirren (State of Play); Kerry Washington (Lakeview Terrace); Amy Ryan (Changeling).

01 - Milk (Dustin Lance Black)
02 - WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
03 - Synecdoche, NY (Charlie Kaufman)
04 - Changeling (J. Michael Straczynski)
05 - The Lucky Ones (Neil Burger; Dirk Wittenborn)

Next Five: The Soloist (Susannah Grant); Hamlet 2 (Pam Brady; Andrew Fleming); Seven Pounds (Grant Nieporte); Nothing But The Truth (Rod Lurie); Australia (Baz Luhrman; Ronald Harwood; Stuart Beattie; Richard Flanagan).

01 - The Reader (David Hare)
02 - Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan)
03 - Blindness (Don McKellar)
04 - Revolutionary Road (Justin Haythe)
05 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth)

Next Five: Doubt (John Patrick Shanley); Defiance (Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick); Body of Lies (William Monahan); Appaloosa (Ed Harris; Robert Knott); Miracle at St. Anna (James McBride).

01 - Blindness (Cesar Charlone)
02 - Milk (Harris Savides)
03 - Defiance (Eduardo Serra)
04 - The Reader (Chris Menges)
05 - Australia (Mandy Walker)

Next Five: Miracle at St. Anna (Matthew Libatique); Appaloosa (Dean Semler); Revolutionary Road (Roger Deakins); The Dark Knight (Wally Pfister); Doubt (Roger Deakins).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

2008 Oscar Predictions, Pt. 1: The Films

Time for me to embark upon the foolish and silly task of trying to predict the Oscar nominations nearly a year ahead of time. The predictive success of these things is always very low, but last year I can say I called the nominations of Atonement, Michael Clayton, Daniel Day-Lewis, Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard, Tom Wilkinson, and Cate Blanchett. Small victories. Anyway, before I actually toss up the predictions, here's a list of films I think will have a major impact on the awards races this year. Lots of good-looking films on this list, along with quite a bit of the ol' Oscar bait:

Dir.: Steven Soderbergh. Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Franka Potente, Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Soderbergh's first of back-to-back Che Guevara pictures. The biggest wild card in the Oscar race, I'd say.

Dir.: Baz Luhrman. Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham.
Luhrman's big fat historical epic. Those kinds of movies haven't been what they used to be to Academy voters, but if anyone can jazz up the genre, Luhrman can.

Dir.: Fernando Meirelles. Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover.
Meirelles's films (City of God; The Constant Gardener) have done reasonably well with Oscar but have come short of Best Picture nominations. This time he adapts Jose Saramago's novel about an epidemic of white blindness and the chaos that ensues. Could be visually astounding but too severe for awards attention (I keep thinking Children of Men).

Dir.: Ridley Scott. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Carice Van Houten.
It seems like The Departed crossed with The Kingdom, by the plot description, and while it deals with the Iraq War, it seems to do so in the most Jason Bourne-y way that it could be about just about any war with significant CIA activity, so it may surpass that whole America-don't-care-for-reality thing.. Ridley Scott's been knocking on the door of another Oscar nomination (he still hasn't won yet) for a while, and American Gangster came close enough that this could be a consolation prize.

Dir.: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan.
With three Best Director nominations (and one win) in the past five years, there's no reason to think Clint Eastwood has fallen out of favor with the Academy establishment. Can he bring Angelina Jolie to the Best Actress nomination that eluded her this year? From the sounds of it, a missing/returned child drama certainly gives her sufficient material to work with.

Dir.: David Fincher. Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, Elias Koteas, Julia Ormond.
Fincher's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story about a man who ages in reverse could also be Fincher's turn to finally get some recognition, particularly with the Zodiac cold shoulder providing an aura of "overdue" around him. Pitt's been snubbed for his last two Oscarable films (Babel and Assassination of Jesse James), which either means he's overdue as well or else the Academy just isn't impressed by what he does. Come to think of it, that could hold true for Fincher as well.

Dir.: Edward Zwick. Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schrieber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos.
Zwick turns his focus to white people helping themselves in this escape-from-the-Nazis movie. His movies have proved to be hits in the acting categories but not so much in Picture/Director. Has the time come? Craig and Schrieber seem like they're about at that Oscar-nomination point in their respective careers right now, and who knows if anyone remembers Jamie Bell almost getting nominated for Billy Elliott.

Dir.: John Patrick Shanley. Cast: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis.
Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Catholic school and innuendo and surely a whole lot of heavy issues. Streep takes the role that won Cherry Jones a Tony, and Hoffman an accused priest. Shanley directed the Broadway play as well.

Dir.: Ron Howard. Cast: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Matthew McFayden, Toby Jones, Oliver Platt.
Big-time Broadway adaptation by a big-time director, feature the reprisal of a big-time Tony-winning performance by an actor who's been on the verge of a nomination for a couple years now. Langella will swing a big stick in the Best Actor race; it remains to be seen whether he can pull his film along with him.

Dir.: Gus Van Sant. Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Victor Garber, Diego Luna, Dennis O'Hare.
Well, here we are again with another Big Gay Oscar Contender: the story of gay rights pioneer and slain San Francisco city politician Harvey Milk. It'd be nice if this could be just another movie, and I'm sure we're in for a whole lot of "If this were a movie about a straight civil rights activist seeking equal treatment under the law for straight people, would it be that big of a deal?" comments, which I can already tell will all be rather charming in their ignorance. After a decade of mostly art films where he's been able to sharpen his auteur's eye, Gus Van Sant seems poised to re-enter the mainstream as a stronger director than he's ever been. This would be the film to accomplish those ends.

Dir.: Spike Lee. Cast: Derek Luke, John Leguizamo, Joseph Gordon Levitt, James Gandolfini.
It's finally the union of Spike Lee and World War II that we've been waiting for! Is this finally what the Academy needs to throw Spike a bone in the Best Picture category? I've long put forth this scenario: Spike and WWII. Here we are. The thing holding me back from predicting big Oscar things is that Disney is the studio behind the film. They've flubbed many a live-action picture in their time.

Dir.: Stephen Daldry. Cast: Kate Winslet, Ralph Feinnes.
Daldry's already 2/2 with Best Director nominations (Billy Elliott and The Hours), and this time he takes on a romantic drama that also deals with a post-WWII war crimes trial, starring two actors with seven previous nominations between them.

Dir.: Sam Mendes. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates.
Domestic marital strife has historically been an Oscar-friendly genre, particularly when adapted from an acclaimed book. But recent trends are going to have to swing away from gritty, violent auteur-driven movies for this to click. Not to mention how frontrunner movies (which this has to be) have been so mercilessly beaten down in recent years. But the pedigree is strong, DiCaprio really seems to have found favor with the Academy, and Winslet's gotta win one some time, doesn't she?

Dir.: Joe Wright. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Jamie Foxx, Rachael Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton.
Wright (Atonement; Pride & Prejudice) directs a script from Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich; In Her Shoes) about a homeless schizophrenic who dreams of playing concert piano at Walt Disney Concert Hall. "The Piano of Happyness"?

Dir.: Charlie Kaufman. Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Dianne Weist, Robin Weigert.
After award-winning scripts for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman finally directs his own work in this story about a theatre director beset by lady problems (all the women in the cast, it seems, are current or former lovers? Is that correct?) who embarks upon constructing a model of New York City in a warehouse. Plus lots of weirdness.

Dir.: Bryan Singer. Cast: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard, Terrence Stamp.
Tom Cruise's big Nazi project. Still trying to figure out which (if any) of the supporting actors nabbed any juicy, awardable roles.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Trailer Trash: Movies I Thought I Was Too Good For

Watch, then discuss (because I'm now taking my life advice from VH1 reality shows):


I totally thought I was immune to the whole Sex and the City thing. I kind of watched the series, I thought it was okay, I thought making a movie was a bad idea because I don't recall the series finale leaving all that many loose ends...I really thought this particular cultural phenomenon would pass me by. But every time I've seen the teaser trailer in theatres (the teaser, not the full-length trailer that I believe got released last week), I feel this almost magnetic pull towards the screen and I ultimately say -- to whomever I'm with or no one in particular -- "I'm totally seeing that movie." I don't get it. I've even turned the corner on ol' Sarah Jessica Horseface. Maybe there is a gay gene and it's finally kicking in with regard to this show. But if I start calling my friends Mirandas and Carries, you have permission to slap me.


UFC: The Movie. Yeah, not exactly in my wheelhouse. Particularly not starring Sean Faris and Amber Heard. But after seeing that trailer...tell me you don't want to grab 5-10 of your closest friends, head on down to the theater, and laugh your ass off. All the fun of a Step Up style dance movie but with fighting! This could be the comedy event of the season. "Ryan -- he's got crazy skills!" And co-starring two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Honsou! How can you beat that? That guy who's playing the bad guy is going to get cast as the bad guy in every youth-skewing movie for the next six years. As Tara said to me, "Paul Walker, you have just been made redundant."

Capsule Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

Movie: The Other Boleyn Girl
Director/Studio: Justin Chadwick / Focus Features
10 Word Review: Terribly scripted, inconsistent performances, and a ton of wasted potential.

Best Thing About It: The story. There's a lot to be told about this story -- not just Anne Boleyn's story in general (that's been told, though not overly so), but this particular take on the story, where we see how a woman advances herself when the only agency she has lies in her ability to turn the head of a powerful man, and whether it's worth it to even try. Particularly with a man so fickle as the way Henry VIII is depicted here. Of the two Boleyn sisters, Anne is the ambitious one while Mary the virtuous one who desires only a simple life, and in the course of the story their paths divert and reestablish themselves again, and it all could have been something worth telling.

Worst Thing About It: The script. That God-forsaken script. I haven't winced so much at dialogue in my life. It takes this story that's flush with possibility and gives it all the depth of a Gossip Girl episode. A really bad Gossip Girl episode, not one of the ones you secretly enjoy. It's not just the leaden, uninspired, period-unsuitable dialogue either, it's the way the story gets boiled down to Anne getting punished for being a cocktease and Mary being allowed to be the golden farmer's daughter for the rest of her days. I kept waiting for a subversive undercurrent to sweep in and let me know this isn't just the same story we've seen told a thousand times before. Yes, women pay for their ambition, and they certainly did in 16th century England, but to boil the story down to "Anne Boleyn tried to be a maneater and she ended up paying for it but good" is a total waste of time.

Best Performance: Kristin Scott Thomas, I suppose, whose Elizabeth Boleyn kind of gets the Tina-Fey-in-Mean-Girls role as she constantly tries to tell her daughters they really don't have to whore themselves out and turn on each other for the benefit of the men in their lives. I'm a sucker for those steel-and-sadness portrayals. Though I should mention that Scarlett Johansson has a good handle on her character and does a fine job. Particularly when compared to an inconsistent Natalie Portman (who really suffers from the script's shortcomings) and Eric Bana's perma-glower.

Oscar Prospects: Nil. Ain't the season for it, for one thing, and also because it's crap. Unless it's a really weak year and Sandy Powell has nothing else to get a Best Costumes nomination for.

Grade: C-

Raul, Come On Over For Dinner

A couple weeks ago, I had recorded PBS's Great Performances series, which this month featured the recent Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Besides being knocked out by the musical itself -- something I haven't been by either the movie nor the available clips of the stage version of Sweeney Todd, I have to say -- and immediately buying the soundtrack and listening to it, on repeat, for a solid week, I also emerged with an appetite for all things Raul Esparza. I already know some of my more Broadway-savvy readers (and fellow bloggers) have to be stifling a snicker as I'm all, "Dude, have you heard of this Raul Esparza kid? He's going places, I can tell!" But what do I know, I'm still new to this whole Broadway game. But he's really just phenomenal as the lead in Company, with a booming-yet-vulnerable voice and this deep, inside-out portrayal that's necessary for the show to work.

So of course I had myself a YouTube binge and am inviting you to follow me down the rabbitt hole, because if Kerry Butler is my Broadway girlfriend, then Raul is my Broadway boyfriend, and it's all terribly scandalous (though I hear Raul is bisexual, so I'm sure he's cool with it):

[Esparza's Tony Awards performance of Company's closing song, "Being Alive"]

[There isn't much Esparza here, but Heather Laws is so awesome on "Not Getting Married Today"]

[And here's Raul at some cabaret thingie singing "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, and its very calculatedly offhand but it's also inescapably delightful. Siiigh.]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Samantha YOU!

Hey, so remember earlier today when I directed you all to the Dewey Donation System? Well generosity just got cooler: you can now enter an auction for the chance to win a visit to the set of Samantha Who?, courtesy of the lovely and talented Pamela Ribon. Dude, how cool is that? Go and bid! And when you win (think positive! spend big! you're totally gonna win!), tell Pamie I say hi, and tell Melissa McCarthy I thought she was fantastic in The Nines.

'Round Springfield

First off, I've been meaning to link to this for some time, but Glark and Pamie have the Dewey Donation System up and running again, so if you're looking to feel better about yourself (and if you're Catholic, you could use some bonus points for Lent) or just looking to fortify some libraries, please do head on over and donate some money and/or books. I hear there are prizes and everything.

Next, please head on over to The Film Experience and give my boy Nathaniel props on his sweet new featured appearance in The Advocate. The gospel of Michelle Pfeiffer has reached dizzying new heights!

Also in this month's Advocate, it seems, Alec Baldwin takes born-again brother Stephen (currently dickwadding it up on Celebrity Apprentice) to task for his newfound views on gay marriage. As if I needed more of a reason to officially forgive him for all that "rude little pig" stuff from last year. She probably is a rude little pig!

THEN, take a hop over to My New Plaid Pants and encourage Jason as he takes his first few tentative steps out into the world as a self-confessed fan of Bob Fosse. I, too, saw Cabaret for the first time last week, and while I wasn't on the record as hating all musicals like some people I know, I wasn't expecting to love it nearly as much as I did. What an awesome movie! Seriously, Liza Minelli may be crazy, but crazy talented as well. And all those bi-curious Nazis, too. I actually think I liked the movie parts more than the music parts (though "Life Is A Cabaret" is a showstopper, for serious). Anyway: awesome.

FINALLY, allow the TWoP blog to remind you about kickass shows that are returning to television. Kickass shows like...Frisky Dingo. Have I mentioned how awesome this show is? Highest recommendation to download the entire series to date and watch it all. This will take you approximately four hours and fifteen dollars. Who are you to turn that kind of entertainment down?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Winter Movie Preview 2008, Part 3

Movie: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (Bharat Nalluri)
High-Concept Synopsis: In 1930s London, a dowdy governess (Frances McDormand) gets swept up into a glamorous American movie star's (Amy Adams) whirlwind lifestyle. Lee Pace and Ciaran Hinds co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the two leading ladies, whose combined powers are formidable indeed. Fans of fizzy, humane English comedy as performed by two American women. People who may have wanted to see Mrs. Henderson Presents but are kind of glad Bob Hoskins and the naked ladies have been replaced by Lee Pace.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Indignant Brits who are pissed to see two Yanks in the leads. People who are allergic to the word "zany" since this seems kind of...well, zany. People who note that screenwriter David Magee wrote the dull, toothless Finding Neverland.
Why I'd See It: Frances McDormand is, perhaps you've noticed, a favorite around here. And now that I've seen Enchanted, I'm officially sold on Amy Adams as well. So just try and keep me away from a movie that puts two great actresses front and center and lets them have a little fun. March 7

Movie: Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
High-Concept Synopsis: High school skateboard punk gets wrapped up in a murder. Van Sant's examination of blank, affectless teenagers continues.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Van Sant's examinations of blank, affectless, murderin' teens. People who trust what they hear out of Cannes, where this was a huge hit. Filmgoers whose favorite Van Sant movie is Elephant.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The skater punks who the film is nominally about. Actual professional actors, who will be voting with their wallets and seeing Milk at the end of the year in the hopes that Van Sant will quit working with amateur teenagers. Filmgoers whose favorite Van Sant is Finding Forrester.
Why I'd See It: I'm not 100% into the low-fi Van Sant efforts, and I am much more in anticipation of Milk, but he's become an increasingly vital director and this very well could be every bit as brilliant as they thought at Cannes. March 7

Movie: Snow Angels (David Gordon Green)
High-Concept Synopsis: Interconnected small town story of "love and loss" that basically boils down to Beautiful Girls meets The Ice Storm, with The Sweet Hereafter thrown in to taste. Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Angarano, Olivia Thirlby, and Amy Sedaris co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of David Gordon Green's poetry of the American shithole. People willing to give Kate Beckinsale one last chance as she's supposed to be pretty good. Juno fans whose appetites for teen dork romance could be sated by the Angarano/Thirlby storyline.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon and won't be quite so psyched about a movie full of depressing winter vistas. People who are waiting for Pineapple Express for their David Gordon Green fix. Audiences who don't feel like wallowing in small-town misery.
Why I'd See It: Of the two films he's releasing this year, this is the one that fits the bill of "a David Gordon Green-type movie." After All The Real Girls and Undertow, I'm excited to see what he's done next. And Beckinsale or not (and my fingers are crossed that she'll be good), the cast looks wonderful -- I've been waiting for Angarano to break out ever since Almost Famous and Will & Grace. One of my most looked-forward-to of the season. March 7

Movie: Funny Games (Michael Haneke)
High-Concept Synopsis: Shot-for-shot (more or less) remake of Haneke's own German-language film of the same name regarding a home invasion by disturbingly self-aware sadists (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett) and the hell they put Naomi Watts and her family through, all for our enjoyment in the audience. Tim Roth co-stars.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Haneke's controversial, oft-infuriating original. Poor saps who will see the movie thinking it's your average big-name-actress-in-peril movie. People who hated the original and would like to be able to hate this one without being called on not having seen it.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who violently hated the original. People who loved the original but are morally opposed to remakes, even if it's the original director doing it. People who listen to the poor saps who mistakenly saw it thinking it was your average big-name-actress-in-peril movie and walk out hating it.
Why I'd See It: The original is clever -- bordering on too clever -- and I'm curious to see what Haneke thinks needs to be said by translating the film into English. I'm even more interested to see how it'll be received by the American moviegoing public. March 14

Movie: Never Back Down (Jeff Wadlow)
High-Concept Synopsis: Sean Faris decides to turn his pretty ass into a bare-knuckle UFC-style street fighter. Think Step Up 3: The Fists. Djimon Honsou, Amber Heard, and some chiseled piece of meat called "Cam Gigandet" co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Whoever might still be curious about Sean Faris, who rates as the last person to be declared "the next Tom Cruise" before it stopped being complimentary to call people that. Anyone who's seen the promo photos floating around online and are wondering who decided to make a movie about an Ambercrombie & Fitch photo shoot in a back alley. Folks looking to see some pretty faces messed up.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anyone who had the misfortune to watch Faris's two previous TV outings, Life As We Know It and Reunion. Anyone who had the misfortune to watch Amber Heard's "acting" on Hidden Palms. Folks who can't bear to see some pretty faces messed up. Jared Leto in Fight Club was bad enough.
Why I'd See It: I'm not kidding about the Step Up 3 stuff. If dancing movies can be such a guilty pleasure, can't punching movies be that way too? I say yes. March 14

Movie: Drillbit Taylor (Steve Brill)
High-Concept Synopsis: Owen Wilson gets hired as a bodyguard to high school geeks.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People whose sense of shame meant they couldn't see Semi-Pro. People who still believe in Owen Wilson's ironically laid-back persona. People who believe in Leslie Mann as the comeback romantic lead of the past ten years.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who can't see Wilson as Johnny Good Times after that suicide attempt. People who like their high school kids to appear over 21 like God intended. People who will only accept Adam Baldwin in the personal bodyguard archetype.
Why I'd See It: Against most of my better judgments, I've laughed my ass off at the trailer. And I'm willing to support the Owen Wilson reclamation project. March 21

Movie: 21 (Robert Luketic)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kevin Spacey takes a gang of you card sharks to Vegas to play blackjack and swindle casinos. Can't see how that can go wrong. Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, and Laurence Fishburne co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Filmgoers who have not given up the ghost of Kevin Spacey as a legitimate leading man. Audiences whose appetites for gambling drama remains unsated. Folks who saw Sturgess as the only good thing to emerge from Across the Universe (he wasn't, for the record).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anyone who saw the last film Spacey and Bosworth co-starred in, Beyond the Sea. Viewers who feel like if they want to see people getting swindled for large amounts of money, they'll wait to pay full price to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Folks who don't feel like spending an entire movie wondering if that's Kate Bosworth hiding behind that playing card turned sideways.
Why I'd See It: I didn't see Lucky You, I'm not seeing The Grand, and the only parts of Casino I liked were when Sharon Stone was all cracked out in a shag. So...probably not. March 28

Movie: Run, Fat Boy, Run (David Schwimmer)
High-Concept Synopsis: What if they took the next great Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright Brit comedy and let the whiny guy from Friends direct it? Pegg decides to run a marathon so he can score Thandie Newton, is the plot.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Runners. People who would like to make fun of runners. Anyone who's seen Pegg in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Shaun and Fuzz fans waiting for Pegg to hook back up with Edgar Wright again. People who effing hated Ross on Friends. Jason Mewes, who finds it insulting that this movie took his one great line from Mallrats and bastardized it so.
Why I'd See It: Simon Pegg flailing about while attempting to run makes me giggle. Plus it seems like it's got a killer blister joke. March 28

Movie: Stop-Loss (Kimberly Pierce)
High-Concept Synopsis: Soldier from the Iraq War gets called back into service despite his tour being over, and his struggle with the idea of going back to war. Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who have been eagerly anticipating Kimberly Pierce's follow-up to Boys Don't Cry. People who have been waiting for a movie about the war in Iraq to speak to them (these people have to exist somewhere, right?). Fans of the rather lickable cast, Cornish included (after seeing Elizabeth: The Golden Age, I'll agree: she's a peach).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Serious-minded audiences frightened off by the MTV Films label. People who have allowed themselves to be fooled into thinking they don't have to care about the war or its implications. People without functioning hormones.
Why I'd See It: I've made my case for this movie often enough, haven't I? I'm hanging a lot of expectations on it, fair or unfair, so I'm really hoping it doesn't disappoint. March 28

Previously: Part 1, Part 2