Sunday, May 31, 2009

Internet Commenters Are Awesome

Do yourselves a favor and check out this post on Deadspin, where they announce that they'll be trimming the ranks of their commenters. So much on display there, from the typically flouncy behavior of the commenters as they decide to quit before they get fired, to the whole "this isn't just a web site, it's a community" line of thinking, to the kneejerk bashing of the Deadspin editors/Gawker media/etc.

The Deadspin commenters have always had an inflated vision of their own importance to the site -- an attitude that was repeatedly enabled by the site's editors. The comment threads over there have long since devolved into a swamp of weakly offensive non-sequiters. Like open mic night for nerds who always wanted to be jocks. So it's kind of funny to see everyone over there realize all at once that their awesomely hilarious Gay-Rod jokes haven't made them quite as indispensable as they thought.

Not To Keep Flogging Idol, But ...

I encourage you guys to peep the latest crop of Idolatry videos, with Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert.

Adam kind of annoyed me right off the bat by playing the coy game (yet AGAIN) and being so incredibly conspicuous about not saying the "g" word (and all so, what he can have this "exclusive" coming out via Rolling Stone? It's all a bit crass, for me). It was doubly frustrating because in all other aspects, he was incredibly, refreshingly honest. To the point where he basically told people who said he was "disrespecting" Johnny Cash with his "Ring of Fire" cover to suck it, AND he just might have thrown a retaliatory shot or two at Gene Simmons. Which makes the peekaboo game -- all while he continues to reap the insanely enthusiastic support of gay fans and blogs everywhere -- all the more irritating. But for the most part, he's incredibly likeable.

As for Danny, and I swear I'm not piling on, and I like to think I'm not reading too much into things, but he's either a complete liar or incredibly stupid. I give him a pass for everything to do with promoting the "dead wife" issue -- that was really never in the top 10 of things that most annoyed me about Danny. But, like, talking about how he didn't know any of the songs he performed until the week he had to perform them? Or continuing to insist that he just couldn't stop laughing after The Scream incident even though he had just admitted he was the same kind of Anoop tantrum-thrower after he didn't do well? Or changing his answer about why he sang "Jesus Take the Wheel" about halfway through? He comes across like a politician, and not a terirbly good one either.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Capsule Review: Terminator Salvation

Movie: Terminator Salvation
Director/Studio: McG / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Ehh. Not terrible, but less than sum of its parts.

Best Thing About It: The Marcus Wright character, as a concept, is a great one, and almost certainly worthy of a movie all to itself, without being saddled with the John Connor baggage. There's a fantastic article up on CHUD about a Terminator Salvation that might have been, with a nearly absent John Connor and focus on Marcus and Kyle Reese. Anyway, the whole idea of Marcus as a Terminator who doesn't know he's a Terminator is an excellent idea, and it allows us a protagonist who we haven't spent three movies and one TV series ketting bored of.

The great idea isn't executed as well as it could have been, unfortunately. We already know he's a Terminator given the opening scene, so when the reveal happens in the story, our focus should be on Marcus's reaction to it; instead we get a tight closeup on Connor, which makes it seem like McG thinks the audience is just figuring this out now. Also, the function Marcus ends up serving for SkyNet felt weak and anticlimactic. But the character -- and Sam Worthington's capable performance -- was a keeper.

Worst Thing About It: Besides the final-act cameo that elicited guffaws throughout the theater and by all rights should have Californians asking for their tax dollars back? I'm going to be the asshole and say Christian Bale (this is gonna earn me some hatred, and probably an anonymous comment or two telling me to get a life). It's not that he plays the part badly, it just that he -- and the Connor character -- are just so goddamn UNINTERESTING that it brings all the energy down to sea level every time he and Common go out to test weapons out in the desert (not a euphamism). I fully admit I've never been as big a fan of the guy as most, and I'll also admit that his on-set outburst put him in the same category as the loathsome Russell Crowe, but I promise you I'm being straight with you: Bale/Connor is a snooze.

Best Performance: Much as Worthington is getting lauded for his "star-making" performance, I remain just the slightest bit dubious. He's perfectly fine, but I'm not sure he's there yet. No, I am shocked to be here telling you that my favorite performance in the whole movie was Anton Yelchin's. I KNOW! Yes, he still looks like a half-formed tadpole, and yes, I still completely do not get people who find him in any way attractive, and I hated him in Star Trek and Charlie Bartlett and Alpha Dog, BUT! Here, he managed to play a teenaged Kyle Reese with an age appropriate vulnerability while still making you believe he'd grow up to be a bit of a badass. He's not given nearly enough to do in the film's latter half.

Oscar Prospects: The reviews have been unkind, the box-office unremarkable, and the summer-blockbuster tech category slots will likely all go to Star Trek, so probably nothing.

Grade: C+

Okay, We Get It: Susan Boyle

You know, Adam Lambert got a lot of crap all season on American Idol for the way the show kept promoting him, naming him the presumptive favorite from very early on, giving him the coveted "pimp spot" time and again, and reserving the "You Are Watching a Superstar Now" lighting and stagecraft only for him. All that being said, at least Idol producers managed to refrain from presenting Adam as Our Lady of Fatima:

Here's the full performance, which apparently cuts off before she touches her finger to earth and springs forth a stream whose waters will cure the sick:

p.s.: Is it me, or was this performance kind of not all that? I mean, don't tell the Boyle Brigade I said so, but given the attention this lady's been getting, it's not that awesome, right?

p.s. #2: Writing about this on SOAPnet today, I used the phrase "frumpy chanteuse" to describe Susan. My question is this: would that not make a excellent drag name? "Please welcome miss Frumpy Chanteuse!" ... No?

p.s. #3: It freaked me out enough when Betty Buckley, dressed up like a mangy but human-sized cat, promised "If you touch me, you'll understand what happiness is." Susan Boyle imploring the same is ... well, I don't want to think on it anymore. Creepiest lyric ever!

Blogging the 2009 Upfronts: A Viewer's Guide

Sorry about crapping out mid-week on the upfront announcements. The CBS and NBC presentations bored me to tears, and while The CW has a few cracked-out shows in the pipeline, I was mostly grumbling about how that Gossip Girl prequel got denied after what I thought was a fun backdoor pilot. (As always, The Futon Critic is an invaluable resource for the upfronts, TV schedules, premiere dates, and everything else I use to keep my nerd lists updated.)

Anyway, like I did last year, I'm going to give you an peek into the perverse house of horrors that is my fall TV schedule. If you feel like calling the local authorities on behalf of my DVR, I wouldn't entirely blame you. I present this as both an exercise in showing y'all what new shows I'm giving a shot, and which old shows I'm dropping (this season, it was quite a few -- and I'm usually the last person to give up on a show); and also to give you all someone to feel superior towards in terms of your TV watching habits. Since I did drop quite a few shows over the last season, I feel like I'm a bit more streamlined than usual, but it's all relative.

To the grid! (new shows in bold)

8 PM: How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
8 PM: Gossip Girl (CW)
8 PM: Greek (ABC Family)

I dropped Heroes, and while I'd like to say I'm dropping The Hills, you and I both know that's probably not true. Sigh.

8 PM: So You Think You Can Dance (FOX)
9 PM: Melrose Place (CW)

I've gushed about the fall season of SYTYCD already. The lowdown on Melrose 2.0: Sydney Andrews is alive, no one seems to feel the need to explain how, Michael Mancini is back, and Sydney has some kind of sexual past with his son. AWESOME. Also, Colin Egglesfield from All My Children will make you all very, very happy.

8 PM: So You Think You Can Dance (FOX)
9 PM: Glee (FOX)
9 PM: The Modern Family (ABC)
9:30 PM: Cougar Town (ABC)

I've also already gushed about Glee, and these two new ABC sitcoms. Missing from this list: America's Next Top Model, which I've dropped (see you in hell, Tyra) and Top Chef, which will most likely get slotted at 10pm for the fall.

8 PM: Survivor (CBS)
8 PM: Flash Forward (ABC)
8 PM: The Vampire Diaries (CW)
8:30 PM: Parks & Recreation (NBC)
9 PM: Fringe (FOX)
9 PM: The Office (NBC)
9:30 PM: Community (NBC)
10 PM: Project Runway (Lifetime)

Oh, Thursdays. As insane as ever. 8PM looks like a bloodbath, which could (ironically) doom my chances of seeing Ian Sommerhalder looking pale and sexy (...some more) in The Vampire Diaries. From what little I understand of the plot of Twilight, this is exactly that. With Ian and the eyebrows guy from that season of Everwood where Amy debuted the Bangs of Sadness. Kind of sad to see Fringe moved away from its old time slot (and eventual Idol lead-out), but hopefully it's built a loyal fanbase who will follow it). Oh, and Community is the NBC sitcom starring Joel "The Soup" McHale.

9 PM: Ugly Betty (ABC)
9 PM: Dollhouse (FOX)
10 PM: The Soup (E!)

Here's also where Southland is set to air, in the suddenly super-competitive 9PM slot. So if I end up catching up and liking NBC's cop drama over the summer, I'm gonna have some decisions to make.

8 PM: The Amazing Race (CBS)
10 PM: Brothers & Sisters (ABC)

In addition, the following cable shows are set to air this fall:
Mad Men
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Top Chef
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
The Bad Girls Club

And it's until 2010 for:
30 Rock
Better Off Ted
United States of Tara
Friday Night Lights
Big Love
RuPaul's Drag Race
Day One (NBC)
Happy Town (ABC)
and of course the dread behemoth American Idol.

...Wait, did I say "streamlined" up there? Was I possibly high?

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Hamburger with AIDS

Since it was far too disgustingly humid to do anything outside yesterday, god forbid, Nathaniel came over and I caught him up on some True Blood (back on HBO for Season 2 June 14th!). I keep telling people how delightfully trashy and filthy and grimy it is, but watching the episodes again, I realized I'd been leaving out how it's also hilarious and deceptively well-acted (Rutina Wesley may struggle mightily with that bayou accent, but the girl can turn on a dime from world-weary and pissed off to childlike and hopeful). And it's chock full of great actors, down to the smallest of roles -- I really hope we get to dig into Todd Lowe's Terry Bellefleur this coming season.

Anyway, lucky me, I was able to find the following scene on YouTube, which I present to you as my single favorite scene on any TV show this season.

Now, help me decide here, what's my favorite part. Is it:

-- Lafayette removing his earrings once Arlene tells him the rednecks returned the burger because it "might have AIDS."

-- Arlene's "Oh fudge!" faux-despair that she's caused something dramatic to go down. (Seriously, Carrie Preston for all sorts of win.)

-- Lafayette licking the mayo off the redneck's AIDS-burger.

-- Lafayette wrecking holy hell like some kind of super commando trained in the art of fool-stomping.

-- Jason Stackhouse, high as you please on V, giggling like a child and snapping his fingers in approval.

I think they're all winners, don't you?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance Season 5 Premiere

Sorry it took me a few days to get this up; hopefully a two-day delay won't become a habit. And contrary to what you might think, no, I didn't have to wait two days because I passed out from excitement. Though I might have! The other thing is that I get pretty disinterested in the audition episodes, even moreso than with the Idol auditions (which I also don't care for). At least with the Idol auditions, you stand a chance at picking out favorites in the auditions. With Dance, I feel like I don't have any sense of how good they're going to be until they get their partners at Top 20. Last season, the only dancer I was able to spot from minute one was Courtney Galiano. That turned out pretty well, though.

So look for these early posts to be more slipshod and haphazard than most. And likely more focused on my deep and abiding love for Cat Deely.

I guess first and foremost we should talk about the big ol' Nigel Hates Fags controversy. I ended up taking a more moderate position than I expected, given that the bug up Nigel's ass regarding masculinity has long been my biggest pet peeve with the show. So the first thing is that FOX was being gross before we even got to Nigel with that "It's Raining Men" crap. That time could've better been spent seeing how this Gay Guy/Straight Guy partnership works -- particularly because Straight Guy seemed perpetually bewildered, like he's not quite sure how we ended up here.

So obviously Nigel was going to hate them. I don't think that's any surprise to people who have been watching the show -- and in fact, he soft-pedaled more than I was expecting him to. I think it's shocking to people who have never seen the show before, which is fair. He shouldn't get points for desensitizing us fans of the show to his bag of bullshit. But then there's the whole doublespeak issue of "I'm criticizing effeminance, not gayness" thing, which is disingenuous hair-splitting in most contexts, but stands the most chance of not being so in dance. Because so much of dancing (particularly the partner dancing featured on this show) is based on traditional gender roles, masculinity (or at least the illusion of it) IS important. It took me a good season and a half to accept that as a part of the artform and not just bigotry.

So when the judges (including Mary and Sonya, neither of whom seem homophobic at all) said the male/male vibe was shorting their circuits, I believed them. They need to evaluate on criteria that was being blurred by the dynamics on stage (also because Misha & Mitch were really, really not good). Of course, Nigel managed to be the only judge to drone on about how he just doesn't approoooove of that kind of dancing. And he also has that whole hangup about "Fathers will see that and forbid their sons from taking up dance," which is both a blame-the-victim stance that completely absolves these hypothetical fathers for their own bigotry and ALSO definitely makes me wonder what went down for poor Nigel during his formative years. Alas. So I guess my bottom line is that Nigel's a dick, though not as big a dick as it seems at first glance, but still kinda living out his childhood trauma, probably.

WOW that's a lot of talk about one segment I didn't care for at all. Which means we're down to bullet points for the rest of the episode.

-- Like I said before, it's very hard for me to pick out the true diamonds among the good auditions, but I will say that my favorites from Thursday night were: Igor, he of the cha-cha where he spun his partner around like a washing machine. I was sad poor Nina didn't make it, but her equilibrium probably got blown out by all that spinning. Well spun done, Igor. Kayla, the contemporary dancer with the adorable crying grandparents. Peter, the conspicuously straight tap-dancer -- the latter makes it a challenge for him to break Top 20 but the former makes him pretty irresistible from the show's standpoint. And Gabby Rojas, the contemporary-dancing circuis performer with arthritis.

-- As for the much-celebrated Brandon and Natalie, who were both the final dancers cut before last season's Top 20, I thought they were lovely, but I wasn't falling out of my seat about it (Sonya) or weeping like a crazy person (Mary). Maybe their overreactions made me underreact as a response, but I don't know. I remain slightly chilly to them both. (Clearly, Gev and Katee were the right choices last season.)

-- Much as I do understand why the judges didn't advance Tiffany Geigel, she of the deformative spine condition, I have to say I thought she was absolutely beautiful and graceful on the stage. Kind of made up for the overt sentimentality of the segment.

-- Not so bullish on Kellan the Crying Umbrella Guy, but I thought the same thing about Katee the Crying Waffler last season, and look how well that turned out!

-- I could have done with another half-hour on Elias and Enoch, the youngest-of-14-children (Mormon?) twinky looking brothers who slept in the same bed until some indeterminate date and look like they've never been to an R-rated movie and yet ended up being pretty good at breaking.

-- I ended up like Sonya as a judge even if she came across as a GIANT flake. There are things I embrace in the context of a dance show that I wouldn't otherwise. Most of those things are wardrobe-based. The rest have to do with people being GIANT flakes. But dig the hostility coming Sonya's way from Mary and Nigel! Awkward!

-- And finally: LAUREN! Yay! Sure, it was sad that Travis Wall (TRAVIS!) couldn't return in the role of audition-round choreographer (if only so we could hear "Shut Up and Drive" a dozen more times), but I like and have missed Lauren. To tide you over until Tuesday's episode, here's my favorite memory of Lauren on the show.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Challenge Chat, Part 3

I can't devote any more mental real estate to American Idol. So instead, I'm turning to the show that requires absolutely zero mental real estate at all. Once again, my girl Sarah Blackwood joins me to discuss the latest developments on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Duel II

Sarah: I have time if you have time.
Joe: I didn't watch yet! Argh!
Sarah: You are lucky. SO BORING!
Joe: i wonder if it's online
Sarah: Why is it so boring?
Joe: Because they got rid of all the interesting ones WITH A QUICKNESS. And so we're left with Paula and Brad and Landon making lists
Sarah: But listen: there HAS to be interesting stuff going on. Jenn and Rachel? Hot lesbian sex? But no, we had to watch ANOTHER ENTIRE HOUR about Paula and Dunbar. It's getting kind of black box theater-y.
Joe: I can't believe right after we were like "Watch, they'll probably get rid of Isaac and Ruthie next" they TOTALLY DID!
Sarah: I know. Sigh. It's really bad this year. I'm longing for Bananas?
Joe: I'd take WES.
Sarah: I mean: I'd even take SHAUVON back.
Joe: i think we're realizing that the format of the Duel is really boring, and we got bailed out on the first season by Svetlana being a crazy all-star.
Sarah: Svetlana my blingy bitch.

Sarah: It's true the Duel is so boring. It's even more popularity-contest-y. This show has helped me understand the fine distinction between "popular kids" and "reality show stars" though.
Joe: First of all, they should be forced to do the begats RIGHT AWAY. Because these fools trying to think on their feet = automatically funnier.
Sarah: Why don't they just do it like Survivor? Team challenge; individual challenge.
Joe: here's my main question: That Kimberly/Dunbar hookup; who's getting the worst end of that deal?
Sarah: Dunbar explained why he enjoyed her company last night: because they can talk about South Carolina together. So really, I think S.C. gets the raw deal there.
Joe: YES. Oof.
Sarah: Can you imagine Kimberly in bed? First of all: no. Second of all: that VOICE?
Joe: I did appreciate the whole fire and ice dynamic. Where Paula makes Hulk angry all day, then Kim soothes the savage beast with backrubs.
Sarah: I love how Paula could make him so mad by just laying in her bunk and saying: "Nobody likes you." Seriously: why was she ALWAYS laying in her bunk when she'd be poking him? (What did I just write there?)
Joe: Also? I don't think the show has ever been quite so upfront about the daddy issues these girls have as they were when Kim talked about liking Dunbar because he's big and makes her feel safe.
Sarah: I KNOW!
Joe: Like, that's usually dealt with via metaphor.

Sarah: The previews for next week look like there's a big lesbian throwdown, so YES! The only thing that can save this show is the lesbians at this point. The Meat Necks are super non-amusing w/out the Bananas/Kenny dynamic
Joe: Besides Brad and Tori and their Amazing Technicolor Snoozefest, Jenn's the only one I like.
Sarah: I'm with you. I really loved when Tori was confusing Brad so much with her "emotions." That girl is so super annoying. I can't wait for them to get divorced. She's such a prig.
Joe: See, I kind of respect Tori in the context of the show. She at least wants to eff up the natural order and get things all dramatic. Brad's just like "Can we not make waves until we're voted out in 4th place according to the plan?"
Sarah: But she DIDN'T!!! She's no Davis.
Joe: No, but that's on Brad, I think. Do you want to make that man sad? I know I don't.
Sarah: No. Oh my god NO a thousand times. Can you IMAGINE Brad sad? I don't think I ever even considered it until you just said that.
Joe: Right?
Sarah: His brow furrow turning a little crumpled? The lip trembling a bit? A shuffling foot kick?
Joe: He would look so CONFUSED as to the salt water on his face.
Joe: I seriously love how Dunbar just has no friends.
Sarah: It is great. His only friends are the walls that he punches.
Joe: God, this group: Paula, Diem, Brittni? Oy.
Sarah: Uhgaaaa...
Joe: And Aneesa! You have NO EXCUSE to be this boring!
Sarah: I know!
Joe: I also love how there's this undercurrent of "Dunbar can't be friends with a girl without her wanting him uncontrollably."
Sarah: Well girls do love rage issues. He is kind of interesting how obsessed he is with talking about whether someone is being a good friend or not.

Joe: Oh good, MJ's chaw is back.
Sarah: Family man, you know.
Joe: He is the grossest. Grosser than Evan's fetal alcholol-ness.
Sarah: I love how Evan grew INTO his fetal alcoholness rather than out of it.
Joe: YES! WTF? Maybe when he forsook Coral on Gauntlet III she placed a curse on him.
Sarah: Science needs to study this. B/C actually this happens to a lot of galoots after college. Though of course we can't count Coral out. I love how you remember what season was named what. I totally don't remember. (Gauntlet III=The Palapa?)
Joe: I was totally guessing. I do remember that Gauntlets are rookies-v-vets and Infernos are good-v-evil.

Joe: Question: Is Derek's mohawk desperate? Or desperate?
Sarah: Hmmm, let me think about that for a second....YES.
Joe: Like, you played defensive tackle on your community college football team; you're fooling zero people.
Sarah: What do you think he is even trying to signify with the fauxhawk? Isn't that only gay hair nowadays?
Joe: His is spiked too high for the gay fauxhawk.
Sarah: True. It's like twentysomething crisis hair. Like the porsche for the 50 y.o. man, I guess.
Joe: He's just never gonna be the Derek/ick we want.
Sarah: It's so sad. But derrick is busy trying to feed and house his family the past year on that $10,000 he won.

Joe: Do you feel kind of satisfied that Bitchy Overcomeptitive Rachel is back? Rather than weird, anti-social turban-headed rachel?
Sarah: Yes, but I wish we could get a little of the best of both worlds. I liked her angst, and did enjoy puzzling over those turbans. I do like the overcompetitiveness though b/c it will allow for some "Aging Lioness" drama
Joe: It's just too bad the young lioness in that storyline is ... Brittni
Sarah: Who?
Joe: Indeed.
Joe: Seriously, what is compelling about this evan/landon/mark alliance?
Sarah: Nothing. Mark is no Timmy. Evan is Evan. Landon is a sparkling my little pony.
Joe: I'm kind of learning to love the way he speaks. Two parts gay, one part kid at Christmastime all full of wonder.
Sarah: Yes! I love Landon.
Joe: Me too?

Sarah: Why is it so unthinkable for the producers to make challenges that are slightly less physically based? I mean, let's not imagine that the other challenges need to be intellectual...but certainly we could make it so you don't HAVE to do steroids to make it to the end?
Joe: I know. Particularly when all your muscledudes are the boring ones.

Joe: Wow Dunbar vs. MJ. I SO CARE.
Sarah: Heh.
Joe: Actually, i do, I need Dunbar to stay. And clearly, via the rules of shitty, obvious editing, Aneesa is so toast.
Sarah: I can tell you are on the edge of your seat!
Joe: Is Dunbar giving a tutorial on wall-punching? Is that what's happening here?
Sarah: Helpful, that boy! And also saying something like how he "puts the fire" into the wall? I think? I don't know, I was recapping late and after beer last night.
And then our work lives kept us from talking about stupid TV further. But Aneesa DID win! And sent stupid Paula home! Alas, Dunbar didn't survive, robbing us of weeks of medium-simmering rage and sad shots of him looking friendless and alone. Another one bites the dust!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another Finale on the Show That Never Ends

I'm not gonna get to watch the Idol finale until later on tonight, and no matter who wins, I doubt I'm going to be moved enough to want to post about it. I'm pulling for Kris, but I'll be just as fine with Adam. I'm actually pulling even harder for some performances on the level of last year's Carly/Michael duet. If those rumors about Cyndi Lauper and Allison Iraheta turn out to be true, I might not be able to type anything anyway. So I figure I'll get my thoughts out on my first recap-less season of Idol in four years out of the way now.

Speaking purely of the contestants, it was a good year. I'd rank it up with seasons Four and Six as my all-time favorites. I was talking to Roommate Mark about why I tend to gravitate to those ones. Part of it is the contestants who are left. Not in S4's case, of course; Carrie and A-Fed made the final four, true, but faves like Nadia Turner got left by the wayside far too early. But I've always said that S6 was my favorite because they managed to whittle down to the actual best half-dozen contestants (Melinda, Jordin, Blake, Chris Richardson, LaKisha, and ... okay, Phil). Season 8 might have trumped that, even, with a Top 5 (Adam, Kris, Danny, Allison, Matt) that, give or take a Jesse Langseth or an Alexis Grace in Danny's place, is pretty much all the ones I loved best.

A less heralded reason might also be that I gravitate to the seasons where the off-stage vibes are fun to watch. S4 had the Carrie/A-Fed fake romance that led up to this. S6 had the awesome Blake-Melinda-Jordin-Gina-Chris cool-kids clique that so captivated me. This season, you could clearly catch the good vibes shooting between Adam and Allison and Kris, who all ascended from that second semifinal group and stayed tight through the end. That's what made the otherwise unremarkable Adam/Allison "Slow Ride" duet so amazing.

And despite how lackluster last night's performances were, on both sides, Kris/Adam as a final two ended up being FAR more compelling than I ever expected it to be.

Other remarkable things about this season:

-- Despite how much we may have been annoyed at Kara for the way she seemed to invoke the word haphazardly, "artistry" really did rule the day (albeit the kind of relatively-low-ceiling artistry you can manage on American Idol). The Kris/Allison/Adam triumvirate succeeded not just by belting familiar tunes but by crafting/choosing compositions that fit their styles -- styles that were pretty far removed from the days when singing country passed for "outside the Idol box." By that same token, Lil was bounced for failing to do that very thing.

-- This was also the year when we finally shed the last vestiges of relevance for longtime Idol boogeymen (boogey-sites?) Dial Idol and Vote for the Worst. The former pretty much had Kris Allen getting eliminated for five weeks straight at mid-season, while I don't remember hearing anything about the latter at all. Remember when they had everyone convinced they were powerful enough to get Sanjaya into the winner's circle?

-- This was the year when almost every change made on a production level was a disaster. Starting with their comical inability to get the show in on time -- to the point where last night Ryan made the pre-emptive strike of saying "Look, we both know tomorrow's show is running over by at least seven minutes, so DVR accordingly." I think we can also safely assume Kara won't be returning, at least not as the fourth judge. She's already been behaving, for the past few weeks, like she's on borrowed time (stop YELLING at me, lady!). I think we'll probably see the Judges' Save again, mostly because it gave us something of a "moment" with Matt Giraud there, but I don't think anyone could argue that it was worth all the fuss they built up around it.

-- Best performances this season? Start with Allison's "Give In To Me" on Michael Jackson week; Matt's "So Small"; Adam's "Mad World" (esp. last night's rendition); Kris's "Falling Slowly"; Allison's "Someone to Watch Over Me"; Jesse Langseth's "Bette Davis Eyes"; Alex Wagner-Trugman's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (YES!); Lil's "Be Without You"; and Kris's "Heartless."

[Which reminds me that here's where I once again talk about the TERRIBLE NO GOOD AWFUL things the Idol machine does to these performances before releasing them as iTunes singles. They've been doing this for years, sanding the edges off of anything cool and making everything sound like it's been dropped out of a vending machine. Previously, I'd thought the worst offenders where Melinda Doolittle's "Have a Nice Day" and David Cook's "Always Be My Baby," two of my favorite Idol performances of EVER that were turned to soup in production. Add Kris's "Heartless" to the list. And just when I had started to think they had turned it around (both Allison's "Give in to Me" and Matt's "You Found Me" made great transfers).]

-- Beyond that, I'll remember totally calling the Gokey thing from minute one, totally NOT calling the Adam thing at all, and picking Kris Allen out in the middle of the Hollywood crowd and yelling "THAT guy is totally gonna make Top 2 fucking hot!" I'll remember loving Allison and hating Anoop (really, really hating Anoop), and being very impressed by how far Jordin Sparks has come in the stage-presence department.

By the time this gets posted, the show will have already started on the East coast. Hopefully something crazy happens in the hour and 55 minutes before Ryan reads the winner's name. Then hopefully those little Archuleta girls from last season will have a reason to freak out once again when either Kris or Adam wins or loses. Sure, I'll be back next season. I'm not proud.

In the meantime SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE TOMORROW! Yeeeeeah!!

P.S. If You're Looking for Glee?

I've finally updated the sidebar, starting with the lovely and addictive GLEE! Feel free to discuss here:

Glee (5/19)
Aptly titled, since that's the feeling it's been leaving in pretty much everyone I've talked to. I really, really enjoyed it, but I'm even more interested to see where it goes from here and I don't want to have to wait til September! It reminded me of "Popular," obviously; that was another show that traded on well-worn high-school tropes while sneaking in some great comedy and camp. Matthew Morrisson is perfect, and Lea Michelle's gonna be awesome once her acting catches up to her singing. Also? How is it that I have finally ceased to be creeped out by Jayma Mays when she's clearly playing such a weirdo? I love her now.

Gossip Girl (5/18)
Okay, I still love the show and all, but where the hell did that finale come from? Storylines from out beyond left field (we're taking down Gossip Girl now? After no buildup?), others hastily slapped together (Jenny/Plastics) or resolved with a resigned shrug (Blair/Chuck, Nate/Vanessa, Lily/Rufus) or took place entirely offscreen (Georgina/Poppy). Can't blame the writers' strike for this one, guys.

How I Met Your Mother (5/18)
I hate to admit but I was underwhelmed by what the goat thing turned out to be (it was just built up too much). But Barney and Robin's dance of the emotionally retarded was absolutely brilliant and paid off spectacularly.

Greek (5/18)
The Rusty/Cappie conflict was actually very well done, and I'm glad it didn't last too long. They continue to find new and exciting ways to keep Calvin alone and sexless (not exactly a complaint -- Calvin's kind of a rag and the show kinda knows it), but I like him and Rebecca together. I like Rebecca! Where did that come from?

Harper's Island
No new episode this week, but I feel I need to talk about how much I'm enjoying this COMPLETELY STUPID show. First of all, it totally goes there, violence-wise. Second of all, there is maybe a grand total of one and a half memorable characters, and when I say "memorable" I mean "I can remember who they are from week to week." Third, CJ Thomason and Matt Barr are smokin' hot. Fourth, nobody is even a little smart. Fifth, after seeing that the latest episode was called "Thwack!" I joked that all the episodes were titled with onamotapoetics of kill noises. Turns out that's EXACTLY the case (next week: "Sploosh!"). Seriously, watch and laugh with a friend.

"No Boundaries": This Is Not Kara's Now

I'd love to talk about "Idol" in full tonight, but beyond the fact that a) I'm rooting for Kris, b) they both sounded pretty tired tonight and c) it's effing late on a weeknight, I'm only going to talk about the Kara DioGuardi co-penned coronation song, "No Boundaries." According to my scorecard, we got a "mountains" a "believe" and several "dreams." But where was "wings," Kara?? I could have had "Bingo"!

Is it the worst coronation song in Idol history? No. That honor still goes to Taylor Hicks's abominable "Do I Make You Proud?" But "Boundaries" was definitely bland, cliched, and ill-suited to the guys who had to actually sing it, enough to put it clearly in the bottom tier.

And since I need you lovely people to hold up the bulk of this conversation, I'm putting to you: Which Idol coronation song was the worst? The best (aka the least worst)? Where does Kara's ditty rank?

For the record, my list would look like:

1) "A Moment Like This" Kelly Clarkson (Fond memories of Kelly breaking down probably inflate its appeal some, but it's still the only one that managed to earworm me as a radio single.)

2) "I Believe" Fantasia Barrino (Probably the coronation song most elevated by the winner's vocal performance. Miss 'Tasia really broke it off on a song you really shouldn't be able to break anything off with.)

3) "The Time of My Life" David Cook (Perfectly adequate and acceptable. Which, yes, puts you in the top 3 of this sorry bunch.)

4) "I Want to Be Inside Your Heaven" Carrie Underwood (Hear me out! Yes, the lyrics are beyond ridiculous, and kind of creepy in an ecclesiastical way. But it manages to be SO bad that it's almost campy and as a pop melody it's really not bad.)

5) "This Is My Now" Jordin Sparks (Ah yes, the contest-winning viewer-penned song that killed Blake Lewis dead on the stage. Jordin's rendition managed to make the insipid lyrics tolerable for a minute or two.)

6) "No Boundaries" Adam Lambert/Kris Allen (Still waiting for "wings" damn it!)

7) "Flying Without Wings" Ruben Studdard (See! This crappy-ass song had "wings"! Right in the title!)

8) "Do I Make You Proud" Taylor Hicks (As with everything Taylor-related, this is the worst ever.)

You guys?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blogging the 2009 Upfronts: ABC

Day 2! And I'm actually more well-informed than usual! Read on for the ABC fall lineup and my thoughts after seeing the upfront presentation. New shows in bold.

8pm: "Dancing with the Stars" (two-hours)
**8pm: "The Bachelor" (post-DWTS)
10pm: "Castle"

8pm: "Shark Tank"
9pm: "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show"
**9pm: Scrubs (post-DWTS)
**9:30pm: Better Off Ted (post-DWTS)
10pm: "The Forgotten"

8pm: "Hank"
8:30pm: "The Middle"
9pm: "Modern Family"
9:30pm: "Cougar Town"
10pm: "Eastwick"

8pm: "Flash Forward"
9pm: "Grey's Anatomy"
10pm: "Private Practice"

8pm: "Supernanny"
9pm: "Ugly Betty"
10pm: "20/20"

8pm: "Saturday Night College Football"

7pm: "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8pm: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9pm: "Desperate Housewives"
10pm: "Brothers & Sisters"
- - - - - - - -

Super happy to see "Better Off Ted" back on the schedule, albeit not until DWTS is finished (though ... doesn't that show do spring AND fall seasons? Will we only get "Ted" during December and January?).

Moving "Ugly Betty" to Fridays seems to cause a bit of rhubarb, but I think it's fine. That's a show that's been spending more and more time sitting on my DVR anyway. The only issue is that with "Betty," "Dollhouse," and NBC's "Southland" (which I've been told is good) all on Friday night, I may not be able to follow them all. (Though hungover Saturday viewing is gonna be stellar.)

It's also interesting to see the Wednesday lineup of entirely new shows. ABC has done this before -- the last one I can remember was 2007 with Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Dirty Sexy Money on Wednesdays -- and it's kind of sink-or-swim for the shows.

Speaking of the new shows, ABC has a lot of them. I saw footage of most of them today, so here's a semi-quick rundown (I'm skipping "Shark Tank" and "The Forgotten," which I didn't see):

"Hank": Kelsey Grammer traditional sitcom -- verrrrry traditional sitcom given the "highlights" I saw. Grammer plays a canned CEO who is forced to move to the sticks and spend time with his pampered family. Oh so timely and whatnot. Won't be watching.

"The Middle": Patricia Heaton plays an ultra-harried wife and mother in middle-America (get it?) Indiana. The idea might have promise if they'd cast an actress who can really go there as the mom. Won't be watching.

"Modern Family": We got to see the entire episode, and I will tell you I laughed a lot. It's not quite "Arrested Development," but in its best moments it's on the same wavelength. I was reminded most often of the VERY short-lived ABC series "Sons and Daughters," only this had more big laughs (and obviously ABC is hoping it'll do better with viewers). It's basically a Big Family comedy revolving around three couples linked by family. Highlights for me were Ed O'Neil (semi-crusty dad dating Sofia Vergara, who ABC has apparently decided is GOING TO HAPPEN GOD DAMN IT), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (as one half of an adopting gay couple -- I have a feeling the easily offended may take offense, but funny trumps a lot, and they got the funniest bit of the pilot) and Ty Burrell, who plays husband to Julie Bowen and plays him as completely, wonderfully bizarre. This might be too weird to succeed, and it still needs to develop every character so they work, but I am very much looking forward to it.

"Cougar Town": Look ... whatever, I am really looking forward to this one. Yes, it was ridiculous to see Courteney Cox pinching at her stomach like she's worried she's getting fat. Yes, there are numerous ways to offend women given the premise. But the footage I saw seemed to walk the line between having fun with the idea of a fortysomething single woman trying to shake things up in her life by dating young hot guys without having fun at her expense. And it was funny, not that I'm surprised with Bill Lawrence at the helm. Also, I am a big, big fan of the cast: Courteney Cox, Busy Philipps, Christa Miller, Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, and Carolyn Hennessy. Sold.

"Eastwick": Remake or "reimagining" or whatever of The Witches of Eastwick. On the bright side: They've brought Veronica Cartwright along for the ride. On the not-so-bright side: everything else. I like Rebecca Romijin just fine and I heard good things about Lindsay Price on "Lipstick Jungle," but when you invite comparisons to Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer, you are going to lose. (Seriously, what were they thinking having Romijin -- the Cher analogue -- attempt the slapping scene from Moonstruck??) Looks bad, you guys.

"Flash Forward": Apparently they showed a good chunk of the pilot, but I missed it. Luckily, this is the show I knew most about going in. It's based on this novel, and basically: the entire population of Earth blacks out for 2 minutes and experiences events from 21 years in the future. Then, just as suddenly, they're back in their own lives, left to deal with what they saw. The cast is decent (Joseph Feinnes, John Cho, Jack Davenport, Sonya Walger), but it's the premise that has me totally geeked. They want to make this the new "Lost," but I'm not sure I like the 8pm Thursday time slot.

"The Deep End" (midseason): It seems like TV tries to make this show every year: Hot young lawyers! Sexy! Principled! Swimming with sharks! The clips I saw seemed spirited enough, and lord knows I love Tina Majorino, I don't see this standing out enough to make much of a ripple, particularly not at midseason.

"Happy Town" (midseason): Creepy small town drama, looks like a Stephen King adaptation. Something about a town with some terrible events in its past ... but which may be coming back to haunt them. I'm making it sound worse than it is -- it shows promise. Not enough Amy Acker for my taste (certainly not enough to justify keeping her away from "Dollhouse"), but it could end up being a better version of "Harper's Island." (Not that I'm not currently LOVING laughing at "Harper's Island" every week.)

"V" (midseason): The ballyhooed remake of the celebrated sci-fi miniseries doesn't have any nostaglic campiness that I can see. Which is bad news for loyalists but good news for everyone else because this shit looks like it might be AWESOME. Yes, they outright steal the "spacechips hovering over every major city on Earth" thing from Independence Day; and they outright steal the logo shot from Lost, but it looks like a high-action thriller with a brain from where I sit. Can't get enough of those. Plus: Elizabeth Mitchell, Scott Wolf, Morena Baccarin, and Alan Tudyk. Not too shabby.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blogging the 2009 Upfronts: FOX

I have absolutely no time to be devoting blogging time this week to the upfront announcements. So obviously that's what I'll be doing. FOX was first out of the gate today (new shows in bold):

8:00-9:00 PM HOUSE
9:00-10:00 PM LIE TO ME

8:00-10:00 PM SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE Performance Show

8:00-9:00 PM SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE Results Show
9:00-10:00 PM GLEE

8:00-9:00 PM BONES
9:00-10:00 PM FRINGE

8:00-8:30 PM BROTHERS
8:30-9:00 PM 'TIL DEATH
9:00-10:00 PM DOLLHOUSE

8:00-8:30 PM COPS
8:30-9:00 PM COPS
11:00 PM-Midnight THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title)

7:00-8:00 PM THE OT (NFL post-game)
9:00-9:30 PM FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM AMERICAN DAD

Okay, so we can safely ignore Saturday and Sunday nights, though good for Wanda Sykes for getting her own show.

What struck me about this schedule was how strangely well-matched it was. FOX is usually pretty bad about this kind of thing, but they managed to pull it together here. House and Lie to Me are both quirky procedurals with strong lead performances. Bones and Fringe are both stealthy hits whose audiences might end up bleeding into one another. Sure, their Friday night makes no sense, with two sitcoms paired with Dollhouse, but by renewing Dollhouse in the first place, they clearly realize nobody watches their Friday shows on Friday.

And then, what else? Oh yeah: FALL SEASON OF SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE! And the Wednesday results show is followed by GLEE! I have no idea why FOX is being so nice to me after all the awful things I said about them, but whatever I'm not gonna jinx it by asking too many questions.

I still think it's stupid to premiere Glee this week and then make us wait three whole months (at least) before we can see it again. (Why not just start it as a summer series and if it works, set the back end for January?) But pairing it with a known success like SYTYCD (albeit a known summer success) might make it a better call.

Five from the Home Team

It's apparently TV catchup week for me, because after plowing through the full season of Dollhouse, I'm almost entirely caught up with the full season of United States of Tara. (Via completely legal means of course.) It's a fairly brilliant show and not half as gimmicky as it might've seemed in the pilot. I said it back then that if Diablo could just calm down with the quirky dialogue that her really fine character work would shine through. And for the most part, it has. The daughter is still the least compelling character, partially because she gets most of the Juno-speak and partially because she's a heinous brat. But the show acknowledges the latter and gives me hope that she'll grow. And Toni Collette and Rosemarie DeWitt are total stars and deserve Emmy nominations I doubt they'll get.

But most of all, I am so loving the Marshall character, both for who he is -- he manages to be culturally wise beyond his years without it feeling false or losing the emotional core of the character -- and for what he represents. That's be one of the few examples of young, out gay characters on TV. And by "few," I mean "two," by my count. And even that's stretching it, since Justin on Ugly Betty is kind of the Adam Lambert of reality TV: he knows, we know, everybody knows, but actually saying it would break the spell that keeps the boycotts away. But Marshall's right out there, open and kissing (unrecognizable) Lawrence brothers.

So is Marshall my favorite gay character on narrative TV? I guess I have no choice but to answer that question in list form!

My Five Favorite Gay Characters on TV
*Current dramatic/comedic TV shows; no reality.
**Note of apology: there are no lesbian characters on this list. Is that an indictment of me or the state of current TV? You make the call.

1 - Marshall Gregson (Keir Gilchrist) -- United States of Tara
For all the reasons stated above. The low-drama, matter-of-fact way Marshall's gayness is handled within the Gregson family can be frustrating in its perfectness, at times. Is it more wish fulfillment or a sign of changing times? Probably a bit of both. But Marshall's got enough drama to deal with at home, and the show has the balls to make his romantic life not only prominent but integrated into the show itself. And I can't say enough about what Keir Gilchrist brings to the role. He's perfection.

2 - Marc St. James (Michael Urie) -- Ugly Betty
Increasingly, the only reason I find myself watching Betty these days. Marc's evolution from stereotypically bitchy assistant to layered, sympathetic (but still bitchy and stereotypical, as befits the style of the show) character has been one of my favorites on TV. Marc never had to tone himself down to play for sympathy with the audience, which makes it so rewarding every time he gets a chance to show vulnerability, or unexpected kindness, or loyalty, or anything that reveals how deep his waters run. Bonus props to the show for the handful of times they've had Marc and Justin interact, the rare occasion on TV where gays get to act as role models for other gays.

3 - Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) -- Brothers & Sisters
I honestly didn't think Kevin would make the list, despite his former status as my favorite TV gay, because he really hasn't had a ton to do this past season. But I guess there aren't as many good gay characters on my favorite shows as I thought. Plus, despite a season languishing as Robert's ... press secretary (?), he still manages to to be a three-dimensional character who doesn't need to sand off his edges for acceptance.

4 - Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis) -- True Blood
The warrior of this list, neither asking for permission nor apologizing for taking up his own agency. The best gay characters on TV get to be just as complicated and complex as everyone else on their shows, and drug-dealing, hustling fry-cook Lafayette is just as mired in the Louisiana muck as everyone else in Bon Temps. And he goddamn well better not be dead!

5 - Dot Com (Kevin Brown) -- 30 Rock
Okay, fine, so they mentioned that Dot Com is in love with Grizz's fiancee (or whatever) a few episodes ago. But is that sufficient proof that he's het? No. So it's not too late, Tina Fey! I've been reading Dot Com as 30 Rock's secret gay for about a year now. Think about it: He's the mother hen of Tracy's entourage, he's the one who cooks for Tracy, and he's so cultured that his intelligence threatens even Jack. It's perfect! Make it happen, Tina!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Capsule Review: The Brothers Bloom

Movie: The Brothers Bloom
Director/Studio: Rian Johnson / Summit Entertainment
10 Word Review: Buoyant, clever genre mishmash confirms my high regard for director.

Best Thing About It: Rian Johnson's Brick was one of my very favorite movies of 2006, and it's encouraging to see that he's still toying with genre conventions and blending tone and time without rehashing Brick's old-timey dialogue gambit. (Basically, it's a grifter movie cross-pollinated with Wes Anderson's sense of humor; though I'd say he swaps some of Anderson's intellectual detachment for something more emotional. And bonus homage points go to the Ricky Jay-narrated opening sequence which recalled my favorite part of Magnolia.) I think Brick is the better film, but if that was a home run, Bloom is a solid double. And more importantly, it shows that Johnson -- as director and screenwriter -- has a gift for light, breezy comedy. The first hour of Bloom has some of the funniest moments on film this year.

Worst Thing About It: Maybe it's because the first half (or even two-thirds) of the movie is such a delight, but the final third get bogged down in the actual payoff of the various con jobs. It's the only part of the movie that feels pedestrian. The other problem is that years and years of watching movies about con artists has trained the audience to be so distrustful of everything we're seeing that it's hard to build up an investment in the proceedings. To Johnson's credit, he seems to realize this, and the very end of the movie pays it off quite well.

Best Performance: This is a tough one -- all four principle cast members (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi) are really fantastic. Ruffalo gets the least to work with of the four, but I always love him, and his sad-eyes are a perfect fit for the older brother character he plays. Speaking of sad eyes, Brody manages to play the mopey, tortured Bloom without making him a frustrating killjoy. Kikuchi is a marvel with the nearly-mute character of Bang Bang. If she's anywhere in the frame, that's where you're looking -- her reaction shots are sublime. But I'm giving the nod here to the sparkling Rachel Weisz, who is SO incredibly funny and charming and ... bizarre. She's totally not afraid to make Penelope as big of a weirdo as she can, to the film's benefit. That big expressive face of hers tells a billion different stories whenever she's onscreen, and with this movie I can move her up into the top echelon of actresses I will see in anything.

Oscar Prospects: Given the lukewarm response and the realities of the calendar, probably nil. But in a perfect world, it'd be a contender in supporting actress, costumes, art direction, and screenplay.

Grade: B/B+

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Can't Believe It

But it sounds like they're actually going to renew Dollhouse. That is FANTASTIC news! Of course, "drastically reduced budget" (as per Ausiello at EW) sounds ominous, and I can't help but wonder how that'll happen. But whatever, more episodes of this doomed little show that got great!

Back to being a bummer, though: "drastically" suggests to me that cast members may have to get cut. Which is doubly worrisome to me, considering that with the exception of Olivia Williams, my favorite cast members (Enver Gjokaj and Amy Acker, a.k.a. Team Scarface) sit closest to the cut line. It's too bad; Topher's not well liked, Boyd doesn't seem to have found his purpose yet, and Ballard's a snooze, but all three are far more central to the plot, so they're not going anywhere. (Not that I would in any way want to lose Harry Lennix, who has been fab.)

I guess these are questions for another time. For now? WOO HOO!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Embarrassing Movie Wednesdays: Fighting

Look, I don't think I'm the kind of person who's always reading into things. I get creeped out by slash-fic, I don't think Frodo and Sam were hot for each other, Simon and Ryan aren't secretly fucking (that's Simon and Paula). None of that. So I think I've earned enough credibility to be able to say right now that Fighting is a movie about hardcore gay sex. With mentally retarded people.

Hear me out!

So let me just lay out the situation for you: 1) Channing Tatum looks like Channing Tatum. 2) After finding a life of hawking fraudulent Harry Potter books in Rockefeller Plaza to be insufficiently lucrative, he runs into Terrence Howard, who appears to own 1-3 young men, whose ages range from say 15 to 26, who sometimes steal stuff for him but usually just hang around him even though he's 35 (or 45 ... or 29 ... man, Liz Lemon was right). 3) Terrence Howard speaks slowly and almost exclusively in whispered nonsequiters and repetitive explanation of what he's doing and what just happened. 4) Like any sane person, Terrence Howard stares at Channing Tatum intently at all times. 5) Terrence offers to help Channing make a lot of money based on his meager but god-given talents. 6) This money can only be made in back rooms, wood-paneled basements, and Asian bathouses. 7) Terrence parades Channing out in front of other slow-talking, possibly retarded men who stare at Channing even more than Terrence does. They ultimately agree that they have a guy who they could pair up with Channing and have them go at it hard; this will make them a lot of money. 8) After Channing and the other guy go at it hard, Terrence gives him his cut of the money, then offers to let Channing stay at his place. 9) Where he has turquoise satin sheets. 10) And tickets to every show on Broadway.

And that's just the first 40 minutes! I seriously think Fighting started as a movie about a guy who makes it in the big city as a hustler, then somewhere along the line someone decided to make it a major studio release, so the gay stuff was replaced by fighting. Seriously, like they did a search/replace where "fighting" replaced "fucking." And "jacket" replaced "condom." Don't ask me why they felt they had to keep repeating what borough they just went to, though.

I'm not kidding about Terrence Howard being retarded either. Something was going on there. He kept repeating things and stating the obvious and speaking in slow sentences full of short words.

[EDIT: Check out Tara and Will trying to work this all out on]

On the other hand: Channing Tatum.

Ain't nothing wrong with that.


Previously in the Embarassing Movie Series: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Obsessed, 17 Again, The Hannah Montana Movie, Monsters vs. Aliens, Fired Up!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idol Top 3: Too Late to Apologize?

Predictable but still sucky that they had to cut it from 9 songs down to 6 this week because they have no ability to rein in the critiques, timewise. When Kara doesn't get brought back for next season, this is the reason they'll give. They won't be wrong, exactly; it's just won't be the entire reason.

One song chosen by the judges, one chosen by the contestants this week. Not sure if anything can keep Kris around for next week, but I can hope.

Danny Gokey
"Dance Little Sister" (chosen by Paula)
"You Are So Beautiful"
Paula always has the most interesting song choices at this stage, even if they're not necessarily the best. The first performance was energetic and fun, the second was boring and emotionally needy. Both were screamy in a way that I don't think he'll be able to sustain throughout a summer tour, much less a career. But he wasn't awful.

Kris Allen
(chosen by Kara and Randy)
First of all, Kara can kiss my ass with that "I didn't like the arrangement of that song I chose for you" bullshit. I thought only Randy Jackson would ever have the balls to call song choice on a song he chose. So with a poorly chosen song, Kris was unimpressive. "Heartless," however, was my absolute favorite performance of the night and I will be buying that shit from iTunes most definitely. Shrewd song choice, too -- from the break, he had a better than 60/40 shot at outsinging the original. If the stupid judges/audience would've shut the hell up for a second, Simon's praise might've had a chance to sink in. If he does go home tomorrow, I at least think he'll be able to put out a commercially viable record by, like, Friday. (Which is something I don't think I'd have said 5 weeks ago.)

Adam Lambert
"One" (chosen by Simon)
I'll still say about Adam that he has a ridiculously powerful instrument, and from time to time he employs it in a way that I find compelling and enjoyable (sometimes one and not the other but still). He also seems like a hell of a sweet guy, and I would rather see what kind of album he puts out than Danny, Lil, Anoop, or pretty much anyone that went out before the judges used their save. That being said ... I really hated that performance of "One." The beginning sounded pretty, if possessed of that self-aware "emoting" that Adam does that tends to keep me at a distance. But once the acrobatics started, any semblance of melody went completely out the window, and he just lost the song entirely in a haze of crazy vocal tricks. He usually has a much tighter grip on his horses. "Cryin'" held together much better, I thought -- a fine entry from the early Aerosmith songbook.

Best of the night: Kris's "Heartless"
Worst of the night: Adam's "One"

Going home: Kris (and, eventually, Kara)
I wish would go home: Danny (and, ideally, Kara) (and Randy) (and Paula)

Trailer Trash Tuesday: Whatever Works

After returning from my Star Trek screening and the trailers beforehand (trailers that leaned WAY towards the kiddie set, which should tell you just what the studios think of the new Trek fanbase), I was all set to write about the clip for the Transformers sequel. But by that third lingering closeup of Megan Fox writhing atop a motorcycle in booty shorts, I figured the marketing strategy was to actively repel me from seeing this movie. And then I remembered how insanely boring the first Transformers was and I was fine with being repelled. So instead, let's talk about Woody Allen!

So we all know Woody's been on something of a hot streak lately, with two very good movies (Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona) and two not bad movies (Scoop, Cassandra's Dream) in the last four years. It seemed like the common denominator for all those successes was a sense of reinvigoration that came with Woody going abroad and tackling characters that -- while they may have remained obsessed with the usual Woody themes like fidelity, lust, paranoia, and guilt -- seemed to fall outside of his usual scope. Certainly, working with actors like Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Colin Farrell, and new muse Scarlett Johansson has broadened the scope a bit.

Which is all going a long way to say that Woody's return to the neurotic streets of New York makes me worry about regression. It's interesting that so much of the advance word on this film has been talking about how Larry David absolutely does NOT deliver a Woody Allen impersonation in this movie, as has been the common trap with actors playing the Alvy Singer role, so to speak. So, no, Larry David isn't doing a Woody Allen impersonation. He is doing his very best Larry David impersonation, however. With a splash of Jack Nicholson's character from As Good As It Gets thrown in. (Even the title, Whatever Works, makes it seem like a spiritual sibling to that James L. Brooks movie, which has been called overrated so many times I think it now might be a bit underrated.)

So, yeah, I can't say as any of this feels in any way fresh -- that Spanish breeze that swept through Vicky Christina Barcelona (which made my top ten from 2008) is completely gone. I suppose the whole Southern angle could be something we haven't seen out of Woody before, but Evan Rachel Wood looks to be playing the same naive young thing grossly paired up with the creepy old protagonist. It even puts a damper on what objectively looks like a fun Patricia Clarkson performance. And then there's the whole issue of Henry Cavil being in the movie and yet only barely, if trailer screen time is any indication.

On the bright side, the trailer suggests an amusing movie that, even if it's nothing new, could be a pleasant enough couple hours at the movies. It's just too bad it comes after we'd all been reminded that Woody Allen can do more than that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Claaaaassic Peg!

Not surprisingly, everybody's talking about the Justin Timberlake-hosted SNL this past weekend. Rightfully so, too -- the "Dick in a Box" redux (with Susan Sarandon and Patrica Clarkson!) was good and the immigrant sketch was pretty great too. Hell, you know I love Justin Timberlake in pretty much all contexts, so I'm not a hard sell.

But nobody's talking about my favorite sketch of the night! I already love Kristen Wiig's Target Lady even though it's pretty much always the dumbest sketch of the night. But my kind of dumb. Anyway, this time around Target Lady is joined by her pal Peg, and Peg? Is a classic. The sketch goes too long, but it's totally worth it for bringing Classic Peg into my life.

Star Trek the Next...First Generation

Full disclosure: I never watched the original Star Trek series, very little of TNG, none of the subsequent series, and while of course I watched Wrath of Kahn as a kid, it's been years. I don't hate Trek, I just never got into it. If this invalidates my opinion, so bet it.

That opinion is that the new Star Trek is pretty darn good, and I'm already looking forward to the next in the series. It didn't rock the entirety of my world or anything, but I'm already willing to follow this new Enterprise cast into the sequel, and probably the one after that. For a cast that was pretty well maligned for being too young, pretty, and whatever else the fanboys threw at it, this crew was pretty well solid.

I found Anton Yelchin to be an annoyance as Chekov, but that's a minor point (and friends have told me I'm being too harsh on that point besides), and Karl Urban could have stood to ease up on the gas with the DeForrest Kelly impersonation, but everybody else shines. John Cho makes for a rather badass Sulu, Zachary Quinto gives Spock some interesting new shadings, Simon Pegg is an enthusiastic Scotty, and my personal favorites Zoe Saldana and Chris Pine managed to bring a rather scorching sexuality back to Trek. The whole movie, in fact, restored a '70s swing feel to the story without seeming self-consciously retro.

Oh, also? I don't know where this whole perception that the new film is hostile to longtime Trek fans comes from, because this flick is CHOCK FULL of callbacks to the most iconic elements of the series. It's all there, from "I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!" to the Vulcan nerve pinch, to the Green Alien Girl. (Green Alien Girl was played by Rachel Nichols, one of a handful of JJ Abrams loyalists -- Amanda Foreman is another -- who cameo. This summer, Nichols gets to play Green Alien Girl and Scarlett in G.I. Joe -- quite the iconic double feature, that.)

All that and a Winona Ryder cameo? Can't lose. I'll be down to boldly go where every movie franchise has gone before in about 2-3 summers.

I Caught Up to the Dollhouse

And just in time for it not to be renewed, too!

The plan was to wait for the summer and then watch through to the end of the season at my leisure. I mean, I had already fallen hopelessly behind as it was, so what was the rush? Also, just between you and me, I wasn't really expecting to enjoy it. I'd watched the first four episodes and my initial enthusiasm turned to deflated disappointment and finally to perturbed indifference. Yes, yes, there was the fabled Episode Six that was supposed to save the franchise and make everything all better, but I didn't see how any one plot twist could make me interested in a series that had bored me to tears.

But chalk it up to a lazy Saturday (and a rapidly bloating DVR) that I figured I'd bite the bullet and knock off a few of these episodes. I skipped episode 5 altogether and got right to The Mythical and Celebrated Episode Six. And while it didn't turn the ship around all at once, it ... well, you know how I hate to admit I'm wrong. It's because it's so rarely necessary that I do so. But I'll cop to this, because the changes implemented in E6 really did herald a new urgency in the show, and within the next 2-3 episodes, Dollhouse became one hell of a compelling ride. Here's how:

[It should be noted, I'd kept myself mostly ignorant of the developments in the eps I hadn't watched. I inadvertently spoiled myself on two counts where I really wish I hadn't -- the actor who plays Alpha and the identity of "Whiskey" -- but everything else was totally new to me.]

They Solved the Personality Void at the Center of the Show: It had become impossible for me to care about a show where the main character, Eliza Dusku's Echo, wasn't a character at all. Yes, the fact that she's a cipher is the whole point of the show, but that didn't make it any easier to care about her. The show tackled this problem on two fronts: One, Echo's personality/memories/character began to bleed through even after the memory wipes, and more than a few episodes have called on her to essentially play "Caroline." Two, the show became more of an ensemble, with focus on Ballard, Boyd, and even DeWitt.

They Developed the Other Dolls: Not just Sierra and Victor -- though their development was the most crucial -- but also the introduction of November and the various others. As with Echo, the more their personalities began to bleed through, and especially the more they were tied to the other characters in the ensemble, the more I started to care. Here's also where I should rave about Enver Gjokaj (Victor), who turned out to be an outstanding actor and chamaleon (who knew you could even do a Reed Diamond impression?) and one of the absolute highlights of the cast. People that pretty shouldn't be allowed to be that talented.

They Took Olivia Williams and Reed Diamond Out of That Godforsaken Office: I know people who were raving about Ms. Williams since episode one, but I found myself completely adrift during those monotonous scenes in that isolated office where her Adelle and Diamond's Dominic would trade short, ominous sentences. Once we started to learn more about the Dollhouse, those scenes became less and less necessary, and they were actually allowed to enter the environment of the story. That episode where Adelle and Topher are tripping balls in his office flipped the switch for me, and the later episode where her "romance" with Victor is revealed took the cake.

They Made Ballard's Arc Twisty but Forward-Moving: The Mellie reveal was great, but I was glad to see Ballard made aware of it within a couple episodes. He's far from the most interesting character on the show, but I'm glad he keeps within 1-2 steps behind the Dollhouse at all times.

It was beyond just the plots twists in Ep Six that made the show click. It's an unsexy mandate, but it remains true: Develop the characters well, and I'll be interested. Even the standalone plots got more interesting; the storyline where Echo stands in for the dead millionairess was pretty throwaway, but her scenes with DeWitt made it worthwhile. By the end of the season, I was actively gasping (not Victor's FACE!) as the season charged to its finale.

Of course, the show wasn't perfected. Among my lingering concerns:

I Fucking HATE Topher: I'm not sure I'm even supposed to like him, but boy don't I. It's not just that his character does evil deeds -- so does DeWitt and I love her. It's that he manages to be completely obnoxious in a way I think I'm supposed to find cute or charming. I hated Xander Harris enough when he was painstakingly heroic. That's the other thing -- I get that Joss has a house style, but a Xander/Andrew hybrid just does NOT work in the Dollhouse universe. It's a clash of styles that made it hard to completely dig Alan Tudyk's character -- at least early on.

It Still Doesn't Quite Make Sense: I am not a nitpicker with my dramatic TV shows. Not if they're delivering the goods, anyway. But it still seems that at the center of the show, some of the missions they send the Actives on end up as complete logistical wind tunnels. A minor enough complaint.

Ballard Really Is Fairly Uninteresting: God love Tahmoh Penikett and his chest of granite, but if Helo became kind of a Captain America in Space on Battlestar, Ballard is an even duller version here.

Alpha Ended Up Being Kind of Underwelming: I won't elaborate, but ... a little bit, yeah. It has to do with the actor, sad as I am to say it.

And so now, save for an unaired 13th episode that'll surface on DVD at some point, it's all over. That's kind of a bummer -- the show's gone before I even realized I was hooked on it. Even more of a bummer that it's going away just as it had righted its ship.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Farewell, Scrubs

I haven't been following this season as closely as I'd have liked to, but I felt the need to tip my hat to a terrifically underrated show. With a terrifically underrated cast. Zach Braff gets all the headlines, sure. But here's to the hilarious Sarah Chalke

(bonus bajingo clips)

the smooth as hell Donald Faison

and the devastating Judy Reyes

(there are probably better Carla clips but this one gets me every time I watch it)