Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Week in TV

I'm in the middle of a sidebar updating session, but here's a roundup of what was halfway worth paying attention to on TV this past week. Chat it up in the comments, y'all! (Yes, I'm using my Paula Deen voice. Yes, there's a reason.)

True Blood (6/28)
I remain incredibly impressed with the way Alan Ball has developed Jessica -- in the span of three episodes -- into one of the most compelling characters on the Bon Temps map. Really love her pairing up with Hoyt -- sweet, curious Hoyt, the only character who's as much of a little boy as Jason. Speaking of whom, I forget whether I mentioned last week my contention that Jason Stackhouse's entire storyline is pretty much every porno fantasy you have ever had, come to life. That continues this week as he and the Newlins enter Stage 1 of their inevitable threeway of repressed Godliness.

Harper's Island (6/27)
Once again, I will sit here astonished and admit to you that this show has gotten legitimately awesome in the last few weeks. For a network show -- on CBS, no less -- there's some actual tension, and the kills remain more visceral than I ever expected. There was bone-crunching this week! And for the second-straight episode, the kill of the week packed an emotional punch. I know! In preparation for the July 11th two-hour finale, I'll let you in on who I've been saying is the (other) killer for weeks and weeks: Trish, the bride-to-be. I worked out a whole internal logic to it, too. Let's see how it pans out! (Spoil me and you die.)

Web Soup (6/26)
This aired in place of The Soup this week (it'll normally air on G4), and I have to say, my initial skepticism was somewhat won over. Mostly that had to do with host Chris Hardwick, who -- while my classmates were all whacking off to Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out back in the day -- I was quietly ogling as her put-upon co-host. He's cuter, grungier, and funnier now. The old redneck laughing about the guns was a little forced, but overall the show has promise.

The Real World (6/24)
Jesus, a Cancun season. We all should have seen this coming. First impressions? Bronne seems okay but is trying WAY too hard to be the offbeat Isaac of the group. CJ -- the "free agent NFL punter" (ha!) who is enjoying the freedom of not being tied down to a team (HA!) -- pulled a douchey move spooning with the already-irritating Emileeeeee. But CJ's body will forgive a multitude of sins. Pretty much all of them, really. CJ's body forgives ALL the sins. Then there's the one who looks like Rihanna, the one who talks like Shavonda, the Girl Without a Consonant, Piercy O'Clap-Magnet, and cute gay Derek who so far is a marked improvement over J.D. in that he doesn't seem to have deep-seated emotional trauma that makes him act like an asshole. So far, the season's all about puking and making out with cougar moms, but I'll take it over last season's dominant motif of "pranks we learned at summer camp."

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Reunion (6/24)
My working theory is that Danielle tried to get someone from Dina's past to release a sex tape of him and Dina. But I'm willing to hear other ideas.

NYC Prep (6/23)
Okay, I'm definitely going to watch it. And I definitely agree they're all awful, though that pale-looking one has a bit of that Elle Woods crazy drive in her eyes that I respond to. And P.C. might be just awful enough to love. But they all just look so YOUNG! It made me suddenly go happy that Gossip Girl is a show where twentysomethings plays teens who act like thirtysomethings. Because watching actual teenagers who look their own age? Is incredibly creepy. I don't want to say "kiddie porn," because that devalues how evil kiddie porn is, but ... I bet watching actual kiddie porn would only make me feel 15% queasier than when I watch NYC Prep.

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (6/15)
I'm a week behind schedule, but that Paula Deen episode may well have been the greatest D-List episode ever. I adore Paula, and clearly Kathy does too. And man, Paula is so secretly raucnhy! I love it! And drunk gay assistant Brandon was a total hoot. Honestly, I say this about a lot of celebrities but I've never meant this more: I wish Paula Deen were my gregarious southern aunt who I could visit every month or so and laugh at eat ho-cakes and be scandalized when she said something like "circle jerk," but by some miracle of medical science I would not be related to her two gorgeous sons. Get on that, universe.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Low Res Double-Oh Trailer Tournament: This Is Our Last Dance

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I'll be posting two matchups per post, with multiple posts each day. Remember there will be TWO polls per post in which to vote.]



The GUMMO Region

1. Sin City (2005)
I can't tell you how excited I was the first time I saw this trailer -- and for someone who had zero familiarity with the books, was only so-so on Robert Rodriguez, and thought the cast was an unwieldy mess, I was not a terribly easy get. The whole thing is executed perfectly, from setting the mood, to introducing the three main characters (Rourke, Willis, Owen), and by the time we get to that laundry list of a cast, I was in. The music was good enough to make me download that song by The Servant -- a mistake, but a fitting one since this trailer seemed to make everything look a bit better than it was.



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score




VS.


16. Identity (2003)
A smart little trailer for a smart little thriller, there's nothing overtly groundbreaking about this clip, but it's a perfectly calibrated tease for a murder mystery packed with recognizable faces, if not names (Clea DuVall, John Hawkes, John C. McGinley -- character actor's bonanza!).

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Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; creep-tastic







The SUSPIRIA Region

8. Adaptation (2002)
I'm not saying that in 2002 "Under Pressure" hadn't yet been overused in trailers/commercials/montages, but a) it wasn't nearly as pervasive as it is today, and b) this trailer uses that song better than anything else has. It's been seven years since this trailer was created, I've seen the movie more than a few times, and yet I still get moved by this clip. I don't know how it happened, but there's an emotional arc to this trailer, and it hits me every time. (P.S. The "iconic performance" I'm citing belongs to Brian Cox, whose melodramatic delivery is the stuff golden trailers are made of.)



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; iconic performance; funny!




VS.


9. Donnie Darko (2001)
Two moments in this trailer tell you everything about this movie you need to know. One is obvious: Frank, the man-sized rabbit in the mirror. The other, though, is when Donnie cheerfully tells Jena Malone: "Oh, I have emotional problems too! What kind does your dad have?" That's the whole tone of the movie, right there: darkly comedic, strangely innocent. I'm not in love with the tagline, but I do enjoy the way the music fades out into atonal ambient noise while the stars get their credits. Self-consciously Lynch, but in a good way.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance; creep-tastic





Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

The Low Res Double-Oh Trailer Tournament: In a World...

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I'll be posting two matchups per post, with multiple posts each day. Remember there will be TWO polls per post in which to vote.]


The SUSPIRIA Region

5. Comedian (2002)
Truth be told, I never saw this movie, so take that implication on the effectiveness of its trailer however you will. But as a standalone piece of comedy, this trailer killed. And then got copied about a half-dozen times in the ensuing years. None of those had "an outpost on the edge of space..."



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; funny!




VS.


12. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Just brilliant parody from minute one. It packs a few laughs (that monkey joke surprises me every time) without giving away the farm, but most importantly tells you exactly the kind of movie to expect in two and a half minutes. Plus, Timothy Dalton cackling "Here come the fuzz.." delights me for somewhat unclear reasons.



Awesome trailer attributes: great tagline; funny!







The BLAIR WITCH Region

2. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Justifiably praised for its high-concept-via-low-concept strategy of simply presenting one scene, in full, that completely lays out the movie without voiceover, text, or really much of anything. It's a great baiting strategy -- HA! You've already started watching! Gotta see how it pans out!

[Embedding Disabled; click link above]

Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance




VS.


15. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
I was recommended this trailer in the blog comments, but I didn't remember very much that was remarkable about it. Nor did I see anything in the first minute and a half that triggered my memory. But then came Shelley Duvall's voice squeaking out "He Needs Me" and I remembered.



Awesome trailer attributes: Cool song/score


The Low Res Double-Oh Trailer Tournament: Introducing James Blond

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I'll be posting two matchups per post, with multiple posts each day. Remember there will be TWO polls per post in which to vote.]



The BLAIR WITCH Region

3. Match Point (2005)
Coming at what was probably the low point for Woody Allen's career, this clip -- amping up the thriller aspects a smidge beyond what ended up on the screen and featuring some incredibly sexy ScarJo/Jonathan Rhys-Meyers footage -- absolutely blew everyone away, shocking anyone who thought crap like Anything Else was all Allen made anymore, and completely reinvigorated his career. All from the trailer for this movie. I'm not saying the movie wouldn't have done the trick anyway, but by the time it hit theatres, Woody's career was already on the rebound.



Awesome trailer attributes: misdirection; iconic performance




VS.


14. Zodiac (2007)
You wouldn't think that a Rod Stewart song could pull together the period detail, ominous mood, and precision filmmaking of a David Fincher thriller so well. At least I wouldn't think so. And yet here we are.



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; creep-tastic





The GUMMO Region

7. Casino Royale (2006)
From minute one, Daniel Craig's Bond was introduced as not just an evolutionary leap on the sex-bomb scale (though that's certainly emphasized -- at the one-minute mark if you're impatient), but also darker and more brutally violent. This was the moment where all that silly "James Blond" hand-wringing about Craig went right out the window.



Awesome trailer attributes: iconic performance




VS.


10. The Stepford Wives (2004)
Too stylized to be an actual commercial -- which makes you sit up and take notice -- but the perfect creepily-corporate way of advertising what ended up being a ghastly film.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; funny!; masking crap



Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

The Low Res Double-Oh Trailer Tournament: And So It Is

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I'll be posting two matchups per post, with multiple posts each day. Remember there will be TWO polls per post in which to vote.]


The GUMMO Region

2. Closer (2004)
Artistic but not oblique, this trailer is an absolute masterpiece. It wisely holds on to the film's stellar opening scene/intro for Natalie Portman, letting the Damien Rice song do what it does. It then adds Suzanne Vega's "Caramel," creating one hell of a one-two punch. The whole thing plays like a dance with partners getting swapped at every transition. The rhythms are seductive.



Awesome trailer attributes: Cool song/score




VS.


15. Big Fish (2003)
It's seeded so low because I only included it for the final third. Up until that point it's kind of a standard whimsical-movie trailer featuring the dubious Southern accent of Ewan McGregor. But at the 1:37 mark, things start to swell, and when Danny Elfman's "Edward Scissorhands" score kicks in, I become putty. I could talk about how smart it is to sell the new Tim Burton movie with the music from the best Tim Burton movie (and it is), but this is purely a gut call.



Awesome trailer attributes: Cool song/score



The SUSPIRIA Region

3. Shortbus (2006)
Everything I loved about Shortbus in three short minutes. And I loved Shortbus a LOT. The John Cameron Mitchell intro (and home-video Cannes footage) reflects the verite frankness you'll find in the movie, and the trailer proper totally captures the comedic heart at the center of all that fucking. Plus, some of the best use of pull-quotes ever, from Roger Ebert, Richard Corliss, and of course the one I'll always love: "...plays like Woody Allen's Manhattan with money shots." Mmm hmm.



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; funny!




VS.


14. Panic Room (2002)
The textbook example of how to deliver a thriller trailer. Never colors outside of the lines but manages to remain exhilarating and visually audacious. Hey, just like the movie.




Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wimbledon, Mid-Fortnight

Once I finally figured where to find ESPN2 on the labrynthine ABC in-house television lineup, I was able to ease into Wimbledon 2009 ... which is kind of how the tournament has gotten started thus far. Nothing mind-blowing yet, but more than enough top players have survived on both sides of the draw to set up quite an exciting second week, Nadal or no Nadal. (And believe you me, I'm feeling the lack of Rafa here; that grass is just a little less green with him gone.)


You can take a peek at the draws here:


[click to make 'em all big and readable-like]

So... anything shaping up that might pose a challenge to R0ger Federer or Venus Williams? I'm unconvinced, as of yet. BUT, there does look to be a whole lot of great tennis along the way. Venus/Ivanovic, Serena/Hantuchova, and Murray/Wawrinka already look like the matches of the tournament thus far (despite Brad Gilbert's smug insistence that Murray won't lose a set -- like I was rooting against Murray hard enough). A Roddick/Hewitt quarterfinal would be a hell of a lot of fun, and while I don't think he'd win exactly, I'd love to see giant serve-machine Ivo Karlovic shoot aces at Federer in the quarters.

It's not all sunny, of course. At least not in the women's draw. I'm not seeing much in the way of an obstacle to another Williams/Williams final. And while I thought their match last year was a marked improvement over previous matchups in Grand Slams, there still wasn't the emotional intensity I'd like. But who would be more compelling in the finals? Safina? Azarenka? American upstart Melanie Oudin?

Anyway, I know tennis talk has proved popular around these parts in the past. Feel free to use the comments in these post to talk Wimbledon as the week goes on.

The Low Res Double-Oh Trailer Tournament: Come On Ride the Train

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I'll be posting two matchups per post, with multiple posts each day. Remember there will be TWO polls per post in which to vote.]


The BLAIR WITCH Region

6. Little Children (2006)
Completely artful and tantalizing (and not just because it makes a point of ogling Patrick Wilson just as much as the film does) despite giving away virtually NONE of the plot. That train conceit is killer.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance




VS.


11. The Dark Knight (2008)
Much like the film it was repping, the Dark Knight trailer is very good, not quite great, overstuffed, gives a little too much away, and is entirely boosted by the performance of Heath Ledger.



Awesome trailer attributes: iconic performance




The INDEPENDENCE DAY Region

3. The Hours (2002)
Whenever I talk about how much I love it when a difficult-to-market somber drama cuts a trailer that sells it as a tense thriller, The Hours is always the movie I'm talking about. It's not about lying, or showing something that isn't there; it's about selling Laura Brown's crisis of maternal confidence as a life-or-death race against time. (Which, incidentally, it was.) It's mighty effective. I loved The Hours on its own, considerably more low-key terms, but hearing the music ratchet up, and Meryl Streep tell me she's unraveling, and the strings screech, and then Nicole Kidman turns roundabout on that staircase with some kind of murderous scowl on her face? AAAAHHHH! Gotta watch! Gotta see who she kills!



Awesome trailer attributes: iconic performance; misdirection




VS.


14. Rent (2005)
Look, you're either susceptible to Rent or you're not. Like typhoid, kind of. If you were, this trailer likely had you out of your seat in anticipation. I chose this second trailer rather than the first teaser because I like the finale song ("no day but today...") better than those 525,600 minutes in "Seasons of Love." This song is more the call to action a trailer needs, and the emotionality in each successive flash -- especially for pre-existing fans -- builds quite nicely.

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Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; great tagline






Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.