Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'Round Springfield XXIX

Links from everything you missed on the blogs yesterday:

Towleroad posts Jay Brannan's music video for "Can't Have It All," one of my go-to "in a funk, so listen to someone being clever about being in a funk" songs.

/Film passes on word of a stage adaptation of my beloved neo-noir movie Brick. If I was ever in a high school cool enough to put on this play, I would never stop being smug about it.

For a trip to bizarro world, check out My New Plaid Pants urging you not to miss Heroes. Oh, the things we do for our Bryan Fuller crushes.

The Film Experience continues to review episodes of Dollhouse; the episodes he's reviewing are sitting unwatched on my DVR, so I haven't read the post yet, but I'm nonetheless confident of its quality. And, yes, I realize this is the stretch where the show is supposed to get good, and I intend to watch, but every time I see them on my list of recorded programs, I can't seem to work up a desire to hit the play button. That's right, Dollhouse has sapped my will to watch TV.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Of Disco and "Lady and the Tramp"

I just updated the sidebar with thoughts on Duplicity, I Love You, Man, and Sunshine Cleaning. I liked them all, to varying degrees, but not one of them made me nearly as happy as I was rewatching The Last Days of Disco, as I did today.

Vulture pointed me in the direction of Hulu, which just added Whit Stillman's near-masterpiece of delightfully verbose yuppies as they managed to ignore everything about the disco era that extended beyond the tips of their noses. God, I love this movie.Nearly every line of dialogue is so perfectly precious I'd like to wrap it up in a bow and give it to myself as a Christmas present, year after year. These sound like backhanded compliments, but honestly, Stillman knows exactly the kinds of stereotypes he's working in, and by playing up to them, he's able to craft some great verbal comedy. Some of the elements have since become cliche, in part because of this movie -- the post-modern dissection of Lady and the Tramp being the most glaring example -- but it's fun to remember when those elements were fresh.

This is also the movie that had me turned around on Kate Beckinsale for years. This was the first thing I'd seen her in, and her sharp, caustic performance made such a strong impression that, for years, I maintained that Kate Beckinsale was a great actress just struggling with poor material. I think it took me until Van Helsing to realize I began with the Beckinsale exception rather than the rule. Van Helsing! [Other performances subject to the Beckinsale Effect: Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight and Heather Graham in Boogie Nights; I still haven't made up my mind on Geena Davis, but hers would be Thelma & Louise.]

Anyway, come for the dialogue and the holy grail of Kate Beckinsale performances, stay for Chloe Sevigny trying out a proto-Nicki Grant character (and alongside her TV-brother-to-be Matt Ross), Matt Keeslar's adorable pro-disco testimonial, Chris Eigeman doing that Chris Eigeman thing, the compendium of classic disco music, and the once-in-a-lifetime sight of Mackenzie Astin and Robert Sean Leonard in the same place at the same time. It's like spotting a wan, milquetoast unicorn!

It's interesting -- I liked this movie the first time I saw it, but I totally fell in love with it this time around. Has that ever happened to you, so many years apart?

That Other Amazing Race (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lipsynch for My Life)

So here's where I talk about RuPaul's Drag Race like I've been promising to do all week. And I don't know where to begin. I'm not lying when I say that this show makes me feel like I did when I caught up to the first season of Project Runway, specifically that this show is going to blow up huge, far beyond the intense cult love it's receiving now. This is a show that has the potential to cross over and -- if you've never seen the show this is going to sound weird, but it sounded weird about PR in season 1 too -- really make an impact on the American culture.

You can watch the show on as many (or as few) levels as you'd like, of course. If you're merely looking for a really great parody of America's Next Top Model, you'll find it. If you're looking for crazy drag queens to cut up and be all catty with each other, you'll find it (though not as much as you'd think). But if you're also looking for a very sharp metatextual take on the reality genre, one with true self-awareness, unexpected sweetness, real insight, and pure joyful fun, you will most definitely find it, as I did a week and a half ago.

That last part is important. If I'm making the whole thing sound like a thesis on reality TV in the age of Obama, don't mistake me. This has all the fun of your favorite guilty pleasure show; I'm just here to tell you you really don't have to feel guilty about it. The idea of RuPaul doing her best Tyra impersonation, from behind a camera lens so gauzed out you might as well be at the gates of Drag Heaven, is brilliant enough. Incredibly, everybody is in on the joke, and yet they still take the competition seriously.

I honestly don't think you could strike this balance with anyone but drag queens. After all, drag queens by their nature are knowing artificialities, and completely serious about being nonserious. This is how you can have Ru issuing a challenge calling for the queens to parade in "executive realness" ensembles and have the ensuing walk-off be hilarious and totally impressive at the same time. It's that sense of humor that doesn't demean the contestants or their talents that is Drag Race's best asset.

Also, as with any great reality show, it was impeccably cast. Bebe Zahara Benet and Nina Flowers just became household names (in certain households) and gay icons, and for good reason. They were so completely fabulous and original that you could be forgiven for missing the fact that they were also two of that rarest of species: the completely likeable reality show contestant. As was the stealthily awesome Ongina, who started off impish and weird but who ended up becoming endearing and poignant. Then there were the "villains": bitchy, aloof Rebecca Glasscock was (to borrow a quote I read somewhere but can't remember) the Wendy Pepper of this season; Shannel with the stunning blue eyes, defiantly Vegas attitude (seriously, bitch breaks out the Vegas cred like she was in the shit in 'Nam) and complete lack of self-awareness; Akasha, the one truly stereotypically bitchy queen; and the walking hot mess that was miss Tammie Brown (above), who will see you in the magazines.

And that's not even getting to the catchphrases, my god, the catchphrases. There are no less than a half-dozen of them, each more than worthy of the t-shirts that Logo is apparently declining to produce; because who needs a license to print money anyway? Every single person who has watched this show would buy a shirt boasting the show's criteria of fabulousness: Creativity, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. Or Ru's kiss-off line "Shantay, you stay [on the front]; Sashay away [on the back]." Every fag you or I know would be wearing that today if Logo got their act together. Logo is also maybe dropping the ball by not planning Season 2 to air until 2010. Strike while the iron is hot, Logo! This is your crossover shot!

Which brings me to my final point: that Drag Race is the next evolutionary step up for the gay-themed reality show. We sat up and begged for a treat with Queer Eye and showed we could work a trade with Project Runway and agreed we'd all only talk about Manhunt in private social circles. Now we get to stand up proud and with a sense of humor. It feels like straight America has turned a corner with gay acceptance; we may not have the rights yet, but for the first time in my life, it feels like a majority of Americans want to get there. Even if they're not voting that way yet, they're willing to walk down that road. And the mainstream embracing of Drag Race seems like the logical next step, me, where forward-thinking straight folks from between the coasts get past their last remaining gay-panic trigger and realize that drag queens aren't scary. Or they are, but only in the same way that Celine Dion is scary. (Weirdly enough, now I totally get what Roommate Mark was talking about re: Adam Lambert.)

Of course, on a more basic level, this show works because it's an absolute riot, an EXTRAVAGANZA of camp. Bebe's ridiculous wig alone (above) deserves its own retrospective. Shannel and her insane snake-clad hooters! Akasha lipsyching so fiercely as to make Michelle Williams start crying at her own song! Guest appearances by Charo, Lucy Lawless, and Maria Conchita Alonso! My darling Nina Flowers completely revamping my vocabulary (you are fabulous, Loca!).

I haven't even touched on everything there is to talk about. Like the complex psychology of Rebecca Glasscock, who played the tired old "not here to make friends" reality TV game and lost big time. Or the show's decidedly low-budget aesthetic, which was such a big part of its charm. Seriously, $20k and some MAC cosmetics as the grand prize? I'm pretty sure one of the weekly prizes was a wig (custom-fitted!). Glorious.

You guys, if this is still available via marathons on Logo (or VH1) or on Logo Online, you know what you need to do. If you already have, hit the comments already.

Annnnnd What?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Programming Note

I should have mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but American Idol Rewind is covering Season 4 currently, and they've actually managed to find a good balance between covering one week at a time (and dragging on) and speeding through seasons at a blur (like they did with Season 3). So now one hour covers two weeks.

Anyway, Season 4 was when I started following the show for real, so this Rewind is reminding me of some things. Four most prominently: 1) Carrie Underwood was totally awesome, even in the days before she figured out how to move onstage; 2) Constantine still makes me want to shower, barf, and chug some penicillin; 3) I still go "Aw!" whenever I see Anthony Fedorov; and 4) Nadia Turner was the greatest thing on this whole season and she got totally and continually dicked over and nobody talks about it anymore.

Where was Nadia's name when Ryan Seacrest, in introducing this season's Judges' Save, listed all the former Idols who were eliminated before their time? Not that Ryan's whole spiel that night wasn't 90% lies anyway (the Judges' Save wouldn't have kept Daughtry or Tamyra around, and Michael Johns's exit was actually a few weeks too LATE). But nobody talks about how she went up every week, blew the competition away, and then got yelled at by the judges for picking obscure songs. I wonder how Nadia's weirdo interpretation of "Time After Time" would have fared in the post-Blake, post-David Cook, Adam Lambert era where fucking with songs for sport is considered a good thing. There's an interesting conversation to be had there, only no one will have it, because no one remembers her.

Well, I do. And Idol Rewind is bringing her back ... or they were. This week's episode covered her ouster. Damn it, Nadia! Even your Crystal Gayle waterloo was awesome!

Free These Actors!

You know, I was totally cool with the ABC mid-season cop show The Unusuals when it looked like a Harold Perrinau/Adam Goldberg buddy-cop series that I'd be comfortable ignoring. I like Harold and Adam fine, but not enough to watch them in a mid-season buddy cop series, and not enough to raise much of a fuss when I see them in a dead-end series. They'll find other ones.

But now I see that not only 28 Weeks Later cutie Jeremy Renner has been caught in this show's vortex of failure, but Amber Tamblyn as well. Not good news, guys. Renner needs to be in movies -- he's already gotten heaps of kudos for the upcoming The Hurt Locker -- not on barely-promoted mid-season cop shows. Tamblyn works better on TV, but you have to figure she can do better than this.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You're Not Fooling Me, "Dubai"

Via Towleroad comes this shot of that extravagant land development/experiment in how far the world's wealthiest can push the rest of us before we storm the Bastille and take Bora Bora for our own. "The World" (the islands at the top right) is a series of man-made islands intended to be the most exclusive of resort communities.

They're not fooling me, though. "The World" is just there to distract us from those two other developments protruding out into the gulf. What are they? Can't say for sure. But do they remind you of anything familiar?

That's right. So when Hillary Clinton makes a diplomatic trip to Dubai only to remove her mask and reveal she's The Baroness, declare the Middle East for Cobra, and demand the surrender of all the major world governments, don't say you were never warned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Week in TV

[NOTE: Edited to include 30 Rock.]

A bit late on this, but it's worth discussing regardless. In addition to this list, I've also been catching up on RuPaul's Drag Race, which is maybe the best thing I've seen on TV since The Paper. I wasn't able to fully catch up in time for last night's finale (though I know who the finalists were and who won), but once I do, I should get a post up here. So many wonderful things happening on that show.

Brothers & Sisters (3/22)
It's weird -- I'm still annoyed by it, but I'm more interested now. I think I'm happier following inconsistent writing where Ryan keeps sticking it to Justin and Tommy's a felonious schmuck than inconsistent writing where Holly is demonized and Robert gets to be an asshole with impunity.

Kings (3/22)
I've really enjoyed the first two episodes. Ian McShane is, predictably superb, and he's playing a morally ambivalent character, which is right in his Al Swearengen wheelhouse. I think the operatic tone works for a show like this, and I'm intrigued by Gossip Girl's Sebastian Stan playing, essentially, a gay Chuck Bass. Imagine the implications of that. Here's hoping we can get a full season before NBC pulls the plug.

Big Love
Now that it's the last HBO drama standing, is this the year Big Love makes the Emmy leap? It'd totally deserve it. What a fantastic season of television, wrapping up with Nicki's return to the fold (and, equally important, Barb's welcoming her back) and Bill's frankly beautiful decision to start his own church. Sure, there's a good chance next season Bill lets that whole self-made-prophet thing go to his head, but for now, this is where I'd hoped the Henricksons would wind up. With their respective religions failing to meet their needs, they settled into their own. That's exactly right.

Battlestar Galactica (3/20)
I can recognize some of the problems people had with the episode -- often when going for portent, the episode settled for bad writing -- but with action scenes that superior, that awesome shot of the Final Five at the end of the Opera House sequence, Boomer's tragic end, Adama's goodbyes to Kara and Lee, and that Roslin/Cottle scene, I ended up quite satisfied with the show ending on its own terms. God, the angels, and all. The one thing that truly didn't sit well with me was The Bad Death of Tory Foster. An undignified end for an underwritten character, and it played way too much like an applause scene for my taste. For a show that has respected the humanity of such scumbags and mosters as Gaius Baltar, Tom Zarek, and Admiral Cain, it felt ... I don't know, cheap.

30 Rock (3/19)
Best episode of the season, give or take the Oprah one. The "bubble" storyline was Seinfeldian in the way it heightened a very realistic social phenomenon, and Tracy's subplot was super strong, but it was the numerous quotable moments that really pushed it over the top. Liz breaking out the Baldwin voice, Dot Com once again being the smartest person in the room, the true meaning of BFF ("why would you celebrate that?"), Jon Hamm shaking Liz to keep her from choking (nice callback to season 1 there), "My girl has a fat neck," and most especially (see clips below) Kenneth's accent and Tracy's kids. Maybe the funniest half hour all TV season.

The Office (3/19)
Good seeing Michael stand up for himself, even if what he's standing up for is his right to be egregious. Even better seeing Jim get taken down several pegs; I love the character of Jim, but he needs to get checked every few episodes. I like that there's an actually respectable character (Idris "I still haven't seen The Wire but I do realize he played Stringer Bell" Elba, who was excellent) who doesn't like Jim.

Make Me a Supermodel (3/18)
Once again, happy to have Gabe stick around despite his poor performance. Keep walking around in your undies and we'll be cool, pouty-boy. So Jonathan's my favorite because he's the best, Brandon's my favorite because he's so dumb and because they're turning him gay, Salome's my favorite because she doesn't know anything, but actually my real favorite is Kerryn because she is awesome. And because she has very real intentions on taking Colin's virtue.

Lost (3/18)
Even more so than with the last episode, I am shocked by how much I really love the Sawyer character. I never, EVER thought that would happen. Chalk it up to seeing a petty, angry, stupid boy actually mature and evolve into a confident, thoughtful, decent man. I'm going to end up terribly annoyed by it all because clearly he's going to end up back with Kate, but for now? Watching him completely embarrass Jack and show him who's in charge, quietly and without overt bravado? I could watch that twice a day for the rest of my life.

Maybe I'm Just a Sucker for Brackets

First there was the utterly divine Fug Madness over at Go Fug Yourself. Year Two of the tournament is proving to be even funnier than last year. And now, Best Week Ever has just created the most awesome thing ever: '90s Movie Madness, a 64-movie bracket competition set to determine the most '90s movie of all.

Taking a quick spin around the brackets, I'm faced with the following IMPOSSIBLE choices:

Cruel Intentions versus Speed?

Clueless versus Showgirls??


Why not ask me to choose between my nonexistent CHILDREN??

Seriously, though, head on over and vote. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead should be beating Hackers by WAY more than it is.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of Kneejerks and Ryan Phillippe

The latest installment of the A.V. Club's consistently excellent New Cult Cannon series focuses on the underrated Christopher McQuarrie film The Way of the Gun. I thought the movie was unfairly maligned/dismissed back in 2000 due to the easy Tarantino-ripoff meme that was circulating among critics at the time. (The same thing happened to the even more superior Go, in fact, though that movie has managed to salvage its rep through sheer force of awesomeness.)

It's a fine article, but the real value comes in the comment section, which I normally decline to read (the A.V. Club boasts probably the most disproportionate ratio of site quality to comment quality on the entire internet). But I'm glad I did this time, else I'd have missed the discussion which started out as your standard kneejerk Ryan Phillippe bashing that you'd expect from comment threads and message boards and other places where pretty people are loathed. But as the thread progressed, there were grudging admissions that Phillippe was pretty good in Gosford Park. Not that anyone likes the guy, but he held his own in Breach too. And Crash, even though he usually sucks. And Igby Goes Down, but only because it played into the douchebagginess of his personality. Cruel Intentions, too, if we're going down that road. I clicked out of the thread before people started questioning their sudden desire to kiss him on the mouth. That was bound to get ugly.

It did my heart good, though. I've been of the mind for a while now that Phillippe, while not Olivier, is very effective more often than not. He knows how to perform in an ensemble (Gosford Park), he's able to shine with bad material (Crash), and most importantly, he knows exactly what his charisma is and how to control it (everything, but most obviously in Cruel Intentions). Which is such an undervalued trait in an actor and why I continue to respect Angelina Jolie's work, among others.

Am I alone on this? Or has the world not caught up to my pro-Phillippe worldview yet? In case you're on the fence...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dear Fired Up:

On behalf of Embarassing Movie Wednesdays, I would like to thank you for being exactly what was called for tonight.

P.S. Thanks also for keeping my Nicholas D'Agosto crush alive and well.

'Round Springfield XXVIII: Because It's Wednesday

Roommate Mark reminds you that there used to be a little network called VH1 that had content about music, and they let Melissa Etheridge duet with four proto-Lillith women and it was so much better than you're imagining right now.

Towleroad passes on this delightful story about reality trainwreck Eric Nies doing something nice (but weird) for a dog.

Jezebel passes on this delightful story about reality trainwreck Kenley Collins doing something awful (and weird) with a cat.

Finally, worlds collide as Friend of Low Res Jason blogs at Friend of Low Res's blog The Film Experience, paying homage to the various hotties of Battlestar Galactica. I'm pouring one out for dear, departed Crashdown, but that's just me. (Remember, Crash tried to kill Cally before killing Cally was cool. We should remember him that way.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trailer Trash Tuesday (Part 3): Wolverine

Okay, fine: X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2: Cruise Control -- Claw Harder. Shit's called Wolverine, folks. Anyway, this is my other Big Dumb Summer Movie I Am Drooling Over.

Truthfully, I hope there's not as much "Logan rides a motorcycle and mopes over his dead lady friend" than this clip suggests, but if they can keep that crap down to a shout, I will be all set. Two things, neither of which are about Ryan Reynolds or his arms (I know, right?):

1) Cyclops as a teenager looks like it's the area where this movie most clearly establishes itself as outside the original X-Men movies (I mean, this is a prequel, but Scott would have remembered Wolverine when they met as adults). And honestly, who cares? More importantly: isn't a teen Cyclops perfect? Isn't that the only way Cyclops should ever be presented? These mutants are metaphors, after all. And what does Cyclops do whenever he's unrestrained by his repressive goggles? He shoots uncontrollable laser beams in every direction. Without any control or stamina.

2) Taylor Kitsch as Gambit gives me a lady-boner. I realize that I am not a lady and I can get a normal man-boner just like all the other boys in school. But there's something about Taylor that seems pointed directly at all the ladies in the room. And I want in on that action.

I'm saying.

Trailer Trash Tuesday (Part 2): Star Trek

I wrote about this movie a bit in my 2009 preview, and I don't want to belabor the point, but the more I see about this movie -- and the less it reminds me of actual Star Trek -- the more rabid I get about wanting to see it. Yes, trailers can be deceiving and make a movie look more exciting than it is. Come to think of it, that's the trailer's job.

But if the movie being promised ends up anything like the movie being sold, I am so totally in. I can't believe they were ever thinking of opening this in December -- this is a summer movie if I ever saw one. Sometimes, I'm just looking for a movie to throw the kitchen sink at the screen, have Eric Bana scream "Fire everything!" and have planets sucked inwards by Romulan black holes. That's all. It can't be stupid or boring (...Transformers), but I don't need the prime directive in order to feel like I'm getting everything I want out of a Star Trek movie. Cannot wait.

I will now hear objections from the fanboy community.

Trailer Trash Tuesday (Part 1): Away We Go

Movies this trailer reminds me of:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Garden State
Drop Dead Gorgeous
The Squid and the Whale
All the Real Girls
The Darjeeling Limited
Little Miss Sunshine

Now, here's the thing: I really like all of those movies, and a few of them I outright love. And while I fully realize that the culmination of elements from all those movies will, for some, constitute the hipster-pocalypse, none of that really bothers me. But the fact is, it all feels like I've seen it before, and for a movie with this much talent behind (Sam Mendes) and in front of the camera (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels, Jim Gaffigan), I'm expecting much, much more than a retread.

It's only a trailer, so there's no saying that the finished product won't be a more fulfilling whole than the sum of its parts. From what we see here, I'm definitely interested in seeing the Kraskinski/Rudolph chemistry play out. But the onus is on the filmmakers to produce something original and prove this trailer is merely a marketing tool seeking out an audience.

[BTW, first step would be getting rid of those binder-sketch animation interstitials. You get quirkily animated credits
OR the sad, bearded tones of the Alexi Murdoch song, but not both.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Winter/Spring Movie Preview '09, Part 4

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Movie: Duplicity (Tony Gilroy)
High-Concept Synopsis: Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play corporate spies looking to put one over on their respective companies ... or each other?
Who Will Be Seeing It: Julia Roberts fans happy to see her in a real role again rather than as a poorly accented wig stand. Audiences thrilled to see Roberts and Owen together again for the first time since a called her a fucked-up slag in Closer. Fans of director Gilroy, who proved with Michael Clayton that he can make something great out of well-traveled genres.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who won't pick up such a ridiculously generic title on a marquee. Stubborn audiences who won't accept anyone but Clooney in this kind of movie. People who wonder if you replaced Owen with Nick Nolte you wouldn't have I Love Trouble.
Why I'd See It: I never really considered myself a huge Julia Roberts fan, but I'm suddenly thrilled to see her apparently back to doing what she does best. I loved her and Clive Owen in Closer, and the trailer for this one suggests a sexy, fun movie. What more can you ask for this time of year? March 20

Movie: I Love You, Man (John Hamburg)
High-Concept Synopsis: Paul Rudd has no guy friends; needs to find one so he can have a best man for his wedding to Rashida Jones. He finds one in Jason Segel. J.K. Simmons and Andy Samberg co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Straight guys whose ongoing fascination with the "bromance" concept won't end until they all decide to bite the bullet, get drunk, and make out with a dude already. People who realize that director Hamburg is the guy who wrote Zoolander. People who kind of want to be friends with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in real life.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences whose enthusiasm for the Extended Apatow Family has begun to wane. Crazy people who don't like Paul Rudd. People who realize that director Hamburg wrote Meet the Fockers and Along Came Polly.
Why I'd See It: I'd be rolling my eyes at the whole concept if not for Rudd and Segel who, even among the awesome Apatow stable are probably the most likeable and hilarious. Plus, who doesn't love J.K. Simmons? March 20

Movie: Knowing (Alex Proyas)
High-Concept Synopsis: A found artifact appears to predict past and future catastrophes with numerology. Nicolas Cage has to warn people before it's too late.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Everyone who got sucked into thinking the numerology in The Number 23 was intriguing. Proyas fans who went into a coma soon after Dark City came out. Disaster-porn enthusiasts.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Everyone who got sucked into the numerology of The Number 23 but now knows better. Proyas fans who were all too conscious for I, Robot. People who stopped reading this writeup after the words "Nicolas Cage."
Why I'd See It: The whole thing reminds me of that book "The Bible Code" that was so popular when I used to work at the public library. That, plus Nicolas Cage, plus Proyas (the bloom is pretty much entirely off that particular rose) doesn't add up to much worth watching. March 20

Movie: Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jesse Eisenberg takes a post-graduate step backwards by taking a job at an amusement park in 1987 middle America. Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Martin Starr co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Mottola's Superbad who think this has the same kind of sentimental, sophomoric humor. Fans of the cast, who are all kind of to the left of who you'd expect to see in this kind of movie. 1987 nostaglists crossing their fingers for a soundtrack full of Guns N Roses and Debbie Gibson.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who find Eisenberg too twitchy to take for a whole movie. People who actually did work at amusement parks in their youth and don't need the flashbacks. Twilight fans unwilling to accept Kristen Stewart as anyone besides that vampire-fucker she plays.
Why I'd See It: I like that this didn't turn into Superbad 2 with Jonah Hill in the lead and such. It seems like a throwback, with a different tone and cadence than the Apatowian comedies today. Plus, Martin Starr looks fantastic, like Bill Haverchuck graduated high school and traded a tiny bit of his nerdiness for a sardonic wit. April 3

Movie: Fast & Furious (Justin Lin)
High-Concept Synopsis: Eight years after the original movie made their careers, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker return to hopefully get new ones. As do Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of fast-car/hot-guy movies, of which this has become a genre unto itself. People who enjoyed Justin Lin's re-boot of the series, Tokyo Drift. The international cabal of businessmen, lesbians, and Illuminati who keep trying to make Jordana Brewster happen.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of the series who are crushed to find out that the movie wasn't titled 4 Fast & the Fourious. Tyrese fans pissed that Vin Diesel took the lead role back. People who somehow don't like to watch movies simply to make fun of them.
Why I'd See It: Sometimes I like to watch movies simply to make fun of them. April 10

Movie: Observe and Report (Jody Hill)
High-Concept Synopsis: Seth Rogen plays a bi-polar security guard who is determined to save his mall from the scourge of a serial flasher. Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, and Michael Peña co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of dark comedy - it kind of looks like Bad Santa without the mirth. People who were tired of Seth Rogen being a vaguely unlikeable happy guy and are clamoring to see him as a completely unlikeable jerk. Anna Faris fans, and how could you blame them?
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who feel the mall-cop movie debate has already been answered with Mr. Paul Blart. People who like Anna Faris fine but aren’t crazy that she kept those inflated House Bunny lips. People who, strangely enough, like Seth Rogen even less when he's trying to be a smug jerk.
Why I'd See It: I don't really have a problem with Seth Rogen, and while I think there's as good a possibility I will totally hate this movie as I will love it, I'm kind of excited to see where it shakes out. April 10

Movie: Case 39 (Christian Alvart)
High-Concept Synopsis: Renee Zellweger plays a beleaguered social worker in what sounds like a (supernatural?) thriller.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Whoever out there is ringing the bell for a Renee Zellweger comeback. Fans of past "A-list actress slums it in genre fare" movies like Dark Water, The Skeleton Key, and (credit where it's due) The Others. Fans of the admittedly great supporting cast, including Ian McShane and the blue-eyed hotness duo that is Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben!).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who subjected themselves to movies like New in Town, Leatherheads, and Miss Potter and have now made t-shirts for themselves that say "NEVER AGAIN!" Deadwood fans who are dead certain McShane's talents will be wasted in some bureaucratic role or another. People who honestly don't think social work and case numbers add up to much of a thriller.
Why I'd See It: On a bet? A dare? This looks almost guaranteed to bore. April 10

Movie: State of Play (Kevin MacDonald)
High-Concept Synopsis: The 2003 BBC miniseries swaps out the Brit guys you've never heard of for Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe as a U.S. Congressman and his college buddy (ha!) reporter who end up embroiled in scandal, murder, and a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top! They've also replaced Kelly MacDonald, Bill Nighy, and Polly Walker with Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, and Robin Wright Penn, respectively. Now watch them try not to fuck it up!
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who would have watched the BBC miniseries if not for those awful English accents. Fans of the original who are happy to see the story cross the pond into the American idiom. Fans of director McDonald's previous, acclaimed output (The Last King of Scotland; One Day in September).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of the original who stopped reading at "Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe." Sharp-eyed observers who see three credited A-list screenwriters (Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray, Matthew Michael Carnahan) and think not "Dream Team!" but "Rewrites!" People who can't make it to theatres as they're incapacitated by laughter at the idea of Affleck and Crowe as college roomies.
Why I'd See It: I saw the original miniseries very recently and I ADORED it. It seems like there is nowhere for this American remake to go but worse, and even the cast members that I love (Mirren, McAdams, Jason Bateman) are taking on performances that couldn't have been better. I can't see what Mirren will be able to do to top Bill Nighy. And they seem to have written out James McAvoy's character altogether, which, as a casualty of reducing six hour to two makes sense, but I'm still sad. And Sy! With his investigative powers of gay seduction! I like Kevin MacDonald, so I'll totally give this a shot, but, fair or not, it's getting a short leash. April 17

Movie: 17 Again (Burr Steers)
High-Concept Synopsis: The 500th variation on the Freaky Friday/Big theme, where Matthew Perry makes up one morning as his 17-year-old self (played by Zac Efron). Then he has to figure things out about himself and such. Leslie Mann and Michelle Trachtenberg co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Zac Efron's band of merry pranksters and box-office crashers. Fans of director Steers, whose debut film, Igby Goes Down, was deeper and rougher around the edges than this seems to be. People who remember their teenage years fondly.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Efron haters. People who won't have time to see it because they'll spend the whole weekend puzzling over how Matthew Perry is still headlining major studio movies. People who hated their high school years and now spend all their time hating Zac Efron and making fun of Matthew Perry.
Why I'd See It: Efron's cute enough these days, but this seems like an HBO movie at best. April 17

Movie: The Soloist (Joe Wright)
High-Concept Synopsis: Reporter Robert Downey Jr. becomes fascinated with homeless, schizophrenic cellist Jamie Foxx. Catherine Keener and the faded hopes of an Oscar campaign co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who saw the trailers back last fall and have been waiting patiently through a release date change. Fans of mentally ill musicians like the ones who play on the D train or Mariah Carey. Fans of the admittedly wonderful Downey and Keener.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who read the release-date change as tacit admission that the movie is crap. Joe Wright haters who still haven't stopped misreading Atonement. People for whom overt Oscar-bait like this gives them rage, even in the springtime.
Why I'd See It: It seems like this movie's moment has already passed, right? RDJ got his Oscar nomination for something else, and Joe Wright has moved on to his India movie. What's the point of a movie that looks like something I wouldn't like anyway? April 24

Movie: Fighting (Dito Montiel)
High-Concept Synopsis: Terrence Howard recruits Channing Tatum for his underground fighting ring in New York City. Fighting and the doffing of shirts ensue.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the Channing Tatum oeuvre, which includes such films as Channing Tatum Dancing (Step Up), Channing Tatum Playing Soccer (She's the Man), and Channing Tatum Sweating in a Wifebeater (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints). There are no other people who will see this.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who see this movie as Never Back Down only more self-serious, which kind of takes all the fun away. Non-fans of Terrence Howard. Non-fans of Channing Tatum, aka straight males.
Why I'd See It: I worry about the self-seriousness, but a movie whose logline is basically "Hot boy fights" had already earned my twelve bucks. April 24

Lazy Sunday (Well, Monday)

Please forgive the extremely lazy nature of this post, but there are a few things I'd like to talk about, and at this late hour, I really don't have the time to write up fully fleshed-out posts about them. So consider the following and please talk about them in the comments:

-- I didn't think it was possible, but Big Love has absolutely picked up the mantle that The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire left behind as the best show on television.* Though, I guess part of the stature of The Sopranos was that everybody you knew watched it and had an opinion on it, so in that sense I guess it hasn't reached that kind of cultural permeation. But it has absolutely stepped up its game in its third season, and every Sunday I walk away absolutely knocked out. Who else has been watching?

*Know that when I say "the best show on television," I do it with a heavy heart and the assumption that Battlestar Galactica is vacating this slot as of Friday. You guys! The tears!

-- Is anybody else put off -- or at least puzzled -- by the sneering, gloating tone that has greeted the big Watchmen box-office drop-off? I understand that this movie rubbed a lot of people the wrong way -- lord knows I thought it had its problems -- but I really don't see how its box-office shortcomings are something to celebrate. This wasn't some cynically engineered piece of studio pap; like it or hate it, this was an ambitious work and an honest-to-God movie. Cheering while it crashes at the box-office seems strangely classless.

-- I've updated the sidebar (through last week at least), so please comment here.

-- Any NCAA basketball fans with visions of bracket pools dancing in their heads? I managed to peg this year's bubble teams exactly correct, and as always, I'm in the market for some upset picks in the first round. More importantly: I'm looking for reasons not to pick all four #1 seeds to make the Final Four. I don't like to do that, but the 2 seeds all seem profoundly weak. Sell me on some sleeper picks, will you?

Monday, March 09, 2009

You Guys?

Cheyenne Jackson is going to be on Glee, too.

I...don't even know.

(It's only a one-episode guest appearance, so far as we know now, but it certainly portends a whole bunch of fantastic tendencies. This might be the greatest show ever. For seven glorious episodes.)

So now the flood gates appear to be open, as far as Broadway-style guest stars. Who else do we want to see? I might kill someone for a Chenoweth/Idina Menzel Wicked reunion. What about y'all?

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I liked it. Some minor quibbles, some significant problems, but also some really great, gorgeous stuff, and on balance I definitely liked it. But I would not recommend this movie to anyone who isn't already seeing it this weekend, and I certainly would not recommend this to anyone who hasn't read the book. This isn't meant to be an elitist thing. I just don't know that it has anything to offer people who aren't already familiar with the story and characters.

As a companion piece to the book, it's very good, and maybe that's the best a Watchmen movie could have hoped for anyway. You've probably heard this from all corners lately, but it's true enough that it bears repeating: What makes the book so great are specifically the tangents, the action happening at the margins, the small character touches. The movie gets some of them (the McLaughlin Group; Dr. Manhattan pretty much entirely), but it would have had to be five hours longer to get them all. So it's only Watchmen readers who will get the impact of the news vendor and his best customer clutching each other, seconds before Armageddon. Or the Gunga Diner blimp's constant presence (which I did find a bit indulgent, to channel my inner Simon Cowell).

But there are some aspects to the film that are unquestionably triumphs. The opening credits sequence is a gem, achieving probably the best balance between "love letter to the fans" and "doing what a standalone movie needs to do." During the course of Bob Dylan's "Times, They Are A-Changin'," we're presented with an alternative version of history, from about 1920 onward.

It's glorious to look at too, don't you think? The Silhouette re-staging the V-J Day kiss with another woman was definitely a highlight.

The whole movie, in fact, is a visual gem, achieving the heightened feel of a superhero world without taking the easy way out and making it all look like an actual comic book. All due credit to Zack Snyder there.

More credit, also, to a trio of really fine performances by Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Billy Crudup. Crudup gets Manhattan's otherworldly malaise exactly right, Haley actually adds notes to the Rorschach who was on the page, and Wilson is able to sell Dan as a beaten-down schlub without the benefit of prosthetics. Which, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but Patrick Wilson is kind of a handsome man. I also want to shout out Carla Gugino, who is totally gaudy and hilarious and in a completely different universe than everybody else in the movie. Which is kind of how Sally Jupiter is, so it works. Though, again, for those unfamiliar with the book, I can see her being really irritating.

As for my problems with the movie, as I said, they fall into two categories: quibbles and issues. I want to keep the quibbles seperate, because they really aren't dealbreakers and are more just the nitpicks of a fan who wants to do a bit of armchair quarterbacking.

The issues, however, are my actual, substantive problems with the movie. There is a manner of dialogue that you can get away with in a comic book (particularly a superhero comic) and it works -- broad, obvious language where everyone talks like they're in a John Wayne movie -- that just grates on a movie screen. It doesn't pervade Watchmen, but it pops up often enough to be a problem. Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a monster on the page, but on the screen, everything he says is so on-the-nose that he just becomes an exposition machine.

My other major issue was that the structure of the film hewed so closely to the book that it felt very episodic. Blake's story, followed by Rorschach's story, followed by Manhattan's story, et cetera. It gave the whole film the feel of a miniseries ... and that doesn't help dissuade from the opinion that this might have worked better as a multi-part HBO series. (Also, not to pile on with what everyone else has been saying, but Malin Akerman wasn't very good (with a neutered Laurie character), and Matthew Goode, much as I love him, was probably miscast as Ozymandias. And his accent showed up about halfway through the movie and never left.)

As for the quibbles: The fight sequences, while uniformly great and exciting, were probably too slick. At the very least, Dan and Laurie's alley fight functions as a way to remind them how exhilarating crimefighting was in the old days; it would have been nice to have that altercation take on a more old-timey feel. I also missed Hooded Justice's digusted "put on some clothes" after Sally's near-rape. Such a great, nasty bit of color. I also think we could have done without so much Nixon. He'd have been just as effective (probably more so) shrouded in shadowy long shots. The film's oppening scene could have done with, maybe, one lingering close-up on the smiley-face button rather than three. We get it, Zack, you're a fan. Similarly, while I thought 80% of the pop-song music choices were fairly inspired ("Ride of the Valkyries" and "Unforgettable," especially), I don't think there should have been so many of them. Things began to take on a Gump-style sonic wallpaper feel. Snip "The Sounds of Silence" and "All Along the Watchtower" and go from there.

My biggest quibble ends up being the least consequential one. But it drives me crazy. I had read a few weeks ago that Warner Bros. brass had passed down the order from on high that Laurie, and indeed all characters, would not be able to smoke onscreen. This was apparently a dealbreaker, because in a movie where people rape, kill, molecularly disintegrate, and break shin bones seemingly at will, smokers are just beyond the pale. Blah, blah, it's hard out there for pack of Marb Lights. Whatever. But then, imagine my dismay during the movie when I realized that one of my favorite scenes in the book, when Laurie accidentally sets off the flamethrower on Dan's owl blimp, is robbed of its greatest punchline -- Laurie hit the button with the flame on it because she was looking for the cigarette lighter. Damn you, anti-smoking mafia!

But enough quibbling, Like I said, on balance, I really liked it. Characters like Nite Owl and Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan were brought to life on celluloid, and I'm not sure if I ever quite thought that was possible. I liked the new ending (it manages to give Manhattan an even bigger stake in the story, for one thing). Billy Crudup's big, blue CGI wang didn't pull too much focus (though Patrick Wilson's butt, as always, did). And the geeks in the movie theatre only geekily applauded mid-movie a couple of times. Good stuff.

But seriously, if you're not already a fan, I probably wouldn't bother.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How Did This Slip By Me?

EW passed on word, today, about Victor Garber and Kristin Chenoweth ... and you know by then I was already hooked. Anyway, the news was that our friends Jack Bristow and Olive (or Glinda, I suppose) have been signed on to recurring roles on an upcoming FOX series called Glee. Get a load of this shit:

Ryan Murphy (Popular, Nip/Tuck) is doing this show about a high-school teacher trying to salvage the world's worst glee club at a once-prestigious high school that has since fallen to scandal. ...Okay? I'm already in, but it goes on: In addition to Matthew Morrison (Broadway star/hottie), Jayma Mays (poor man's Anna Faris), and Jessalyn Gilsig (whose best role was on Murphy's Nip/Tuck), the cast includes recurring turns by Garber, Chenoweth, Debra Monk, Jane Lynch, and Stephen Tobolowsky playing a character named "Sandy Ryerson." This show might be the greatest thing ever.

...Or it might last two episodes on FOX. But it's supposedly got great buzz, and Ryan Murphy does great TV (Nip/Tuck's best seasons were when Murphy was in full control), and it's gonna be all musical-theater-spazz crazy! Can't wait.

Have you all known about this show and not been telling me? Shame.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Conversation about Eliza

Joe: "Okay, here's the thing about Dollhouse. I love Eliza Dushku like a crazy person, but I completely don't care about this show."

Jeff: "You're such a straight boy."

Joe: "Why?"

Jeff: "Seriously, I like her too, but when she's on TV, I'm automatically like, 'Uh, straight boy show.'"

Joe: "But do straight boys even know who she is? I feel like she's a parody of a straight boy fantasy who only gay boys know about."

Jeff: "Hmm, that could be true."

Joe: "Like, straight boys don't know about Faith and Buffy."

Jeff: "So she's the gay boy's version of Jessica Alba in Dark Angel."

Joe: "Yes."

Jeff: "Like, instead of her being a gay man in a straight girl's body, she's a straight girl as invented by the gay mind."

Joe: "And exclusively appreciated by the gay mind."

Jeff: "Interesting thesis, Herr Reid."

Joe: "I may put that on my blog. Because that's how cool I am."

I've got my thoughts on this week's Dollhouse (and the rest of the week's TV) in the sidebar. Feel free to comment on them all right here.